Business Insights

Business Insights


Have Social Media And GDPR Killed B2B Email Marketing?

Social media is an undeniably crucial part of any modern B2B marketing strategy and as the halcyon days of ‘Myspace’ have given way to the Facebooks and the Instagrams, it’s understandable that businesses would scramble to grab a piece of every pie and establish a presence on every popular platform possible.

With so many businesses investing so heavily in social media and with recent GDPR legislation making it more difficult for them to gain actionable data ‘the old fashioned way’, is B2B email marketing dead in the water? We don’t think so.

Many millennials who rarely check their email accounts might be under the impression that social media has killed off email marketing and a great deal of these naysayers have probably had their opinions reinforced by certain portions of the media. However, 73% of consumers still say that email is their preferred marketing channel, even with concerns about the effect of GDPR laws (of which 90% are now aware).

The truth is that social media and GDPR might have had a noticeable impact on larger B2C brands who rely on blanket marketing practices, but for smaller B2C and B2B brands, email marketing is still a legitimate avenue for marketers who see a greater value in targeting those that matter than spamming everyone and hoping for the best.

The GDPR of it all

Following its initial implementation in 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation caused email marketers untold levels of anxiety as they were understandably worried about how the new regulation would affect whom they were allowed to contact and how they were allowed to contact them. The memories of the hundreds and thousands of panicked emails we all received in the lead up to May 2018 are probably still fresh in our minds and chances are, we all ignored the vast majority of them.

However, now the dust has settled, many of the fears that clouded the judgements of so many marketers have been dispelled and in some ways, it has actually had a positive impact on email marketing. So, has GDPR saved email marketing? All GDPR really did was make sure that email marketers refocused on best practices and made their practices that more transparent to consumers. Even if your contact database took a beating, the vast majority of contacts are probably those that wouldn’t even have clicked on your emails anyway.

Think of GDPR as a guardrail that not only gives your subscribers a better understanding of how they’ll hear from you and the kind of content they’ll be receiving but gives businesses a better understanding of how subscribers actually want to communicate with them.

What is the ePrivacy regulation?

Of course, when discussing GDPR, there’s also the matter of ePrivacy regulation, which is causing a lot of noise at the moment and is perhaps one of the reasons why the question about the “death of email marketing” is being floated around again. However, the regulation is unlikely to come into force before Brexit (whenever and if that even happens now) and the laws are unlikely to affect B2B marketing.

Is email marketing still effective?

There’s no doubt about it, email marketing certainly still holds a valuable place in the marketers’ toolbox as long as the messages remain relevant and tell a story that consumers want to get involved with. GDPR has yet to have a consistently negative effect on consumer opinion towards the practice and has actually meant more marketers are working harder to make sure the right messages are being promoted at the right time to the right people.

Insight from DMA shows us that 99% of us check our emails every day - some as many as 20 times. That’s an incredible resource by anyone’s estimation. With email, you also know exactly whom you are talking to, and you can manage exactly what they see: it’s completely personal and you know if they’ve read what you sent. None of this is true of most social media activity.

Is there a downside to email marketing?

There are downsides to all marketing tools, of course and email marketing is one of those that it’s tricky to master but very easy to do poorly: Bad data, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, results not being tracked properly, over sending, under sending are all practices that many marketers have been guilty of in years past. Email marketing is ultimately not about the highest opening rate and click throughs; it’s all about the conversion.

Email marketing is ultimately not about the highest opening rate and click throughs, it’s all about the conversion

You need to focus on the downstream activity, what you want people to do with your email once they’ve opened it and what journey you want them to take. Email marketing services like Constant Contact, MailChimp and GetResponse make it possible, even easy, to do that effectively by giving you a single platform from which you can manage your emails lists, contacts, templates, calendars and more besides. Many businesses are also using AI, machine learning and predictive analytics to improve their email marketing, with companies that have implemented AI platforms in their email marketing seeing dramatic changes in their ROI and engagement levels.

Why are B2B businesses so excited about social media?

Marketers always talk about “push and pull” and “outbound and inbound” - sending outbound messages to a known audience or putting out messages that pull previously unknown customers in. Email is a push technique, whereas social media mainly a pull one; both are great ways to have a conversation with prospective customers and in this sense, they are quite complementary.

Social media used well with other marketing techniques is often very effective. The problem begins when social media marketing is the only thing that a business does and they fall out of touch with a large portion of their audience. Indeed, in the US alone, over 85% of adults send and read email compared to only 63% who actively use social media networking and despite the popularity of social media amongst teenagers, 78% of them still use email and consider it a “part of everyday life.” So, perhaps social media and email marketing shouldn’t be seen as opposing forces.

Why do agencies push social media?

There is both a reasonable and a cynical answer to this question. The reasonable answer is that a good, long-term social media and blogging approach, integrated with PR and associated with great web content, will contribute to brand-building and lead to increased sales, some of which will come directly from the social activity.

The cynical answer is that, depending on experience level, agencies can charge thousands of pounds per month for a weekly blog post and associated social media activity, and they need to do this on a monthly basis for it to have any real impact. For them, that’s a seriously good income for what is actually very little work. Building and sending email campaigns is much less remunerative for them, but much more rewarding for you, with email delivering a 21% ROI compared to 15% on social media.

Why should businesses consider email marketing?

Like anything in marketing, email marketing will only work if you put the hours in and make sure you’re sending relevant and interesting content to the people that actually want it. GDPR has gifted us with a rare opportunity here - to change our ways and focus our energies on improving our email marketing practices across the board. At the end of the day, email marketing is not going anywhere soon. It’s controllable, it’s measurable, it works, and the ROI is good. So what’s not to love?

The Marketing Centre provides proven part-time Marketing Directors to ambitious businesses – the effective, economical alternative to marketing consultants. Not sure how your marketing activity is performing? Take our Marketing 360 Healthcheck to find out.

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