Email as a Brand Platform, not Simply a Marketing Channel

When you think about your marketing channels…

No doubt you think about email – the weekly newsletter, the drip campaign, the company updates you send your customers. Yet Annemarie Dooling of the Wall Street Journal suggests we take a deeper look at email as a platform, not just a channel.

“At the Journal, we’ve shifted our thinking to consider the inbox as a platform just like Apple News, Facebook or Instagram,” Dooling writes in Medium. “Writing and developing for email is a specialty, just like designing a great email template. And, emails don’t automatically appear in the inbox after sending — as with other platforms, numerous factors influence what is seen. In email, everything from sender address, to volume, to past reputation can impact whether or not someone receives your email and where it lands in the inbox.”

Dooling, who was hired by WSJ in 2018 to manage their newsletter product, says there are some important things to consider when looking at your brand’s email efforts … starting with your reputation as a sender.

“A sender’s reputation is affected by a number of things, including their spam score and whether or not subscribers interact with your emails. With a high number of readers ignoring sends, or hitting the spam button, senders run the risk of ending up in the spam folder or being completely blacklisted,” she explains.

Improve your reputation and engagement rate

You can improve your rep with a good list cleaning, removing dormant readers and inactive accounts, and managing removal requests quickly. This can also improve your engagement rate, to give you a better idea of how well your copy is actually resonating with your audience.

“If we consider the email open to be akin to a unique visit to a web page, then focusing on opportunities to dive further into discussion with the reader is a good way to create habit and loyalty (i.e. return visits),” Dooling notes. She recommends prompting your readers to share pieces of your email, or participate in discussions or other active elements to create more engagement.

Engagement rates can also suffer if you aren’t taking into account the various devices your audience will use to access their email.

“We ask ourselves questions like: does our email work for someone who is on a wifi-less commute, or waiting in a long line? Does it read well on smaller devices, or is it built for a large screen?” she notes.

Things like too many links, multiple CTAs or flashy graphics don’t translate well to the mobile platform, and can in fact lead to almost immediate deletion by the user.

Take a Holistic approach

The best way to move forward is to take a holistic approach to your email platform.

“Our goal is for our readers to see our content as a utility that helps them in their day-to-day. There are a number of ways to approach this,” Dooling explains. “One method we’ve used is to investigate what other apps our readers use on a daily basis. For instance, we help readers use their calendars by placing a reminder to our calendar product within emails. Conversely, we promote our newsletters in those calendar products.”

All good advice as we reach out to our customers during this pandemic … and beyond. Yet let’s not forget that even the most holistic email platform doesn’t stand alone. Engage your audience across all their behavioral touchpoints to build a truly engaging audience experience.