Unlike certain predictions, it turns out social media and instant messenger haven’t killed email after all. In fact some would argue that the use of collaborative tools for work projects and instant messenger for both business and pleasure has actually allowed email to stand out as an even more effective channel for engagement. After all, in email you have the readers largely undivided attention, compared to social media which constantly distracts with an endless and often hectic stream of content.

The good news is that it continues to work for both sender and recipient. Recent figures suggest that 86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. Even tech-savvy millennials identify email as their preferred means of business communication. What’s more, email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.

When it comes to the B2B brands sending marketing emails, 31% say it has the biggest impact on revenue of all their digital marketing tactics. And if we want to apply the all important financial metrics to matters, then estimates suggest that in the UK, every one pound spent on email marketing has an ROI of 38 pounds.

86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes.

To suggest you integrate email marketing into your strategy would be to tell you to suck eggs which you will no doubt have been sucking on for a decade or two. However, email marketing programmes have become such a reliable channel over the years that they don’t always get the attention they need. Whether your email programme is a little dusty or you simply want to fine tune things and optimise your response rate, there are a number things to consider as you plan for the year ahead.

Personalisation is well worth the effort (but keep expectations realistic)

Personalising subject lines can increase open rates for consumer products and services by 41%, while for B2B emails this is noticeably lower at just 13%. Comparisons aside, if you could improve your open rates by 13% with relatively minimal effort you’d do it right away wouldn’t you? As this MyCustomer feature points out, including a name check may not be new, but it is effective and just by doing that alone you’re likely to meaningfully improve your open and engagement rates.  A further and perhaps more effective way to personalise emails is to do so through your data. Segment and share targeted content depending on things like gender, geography, shared interests and even previous behaviours. Be smart without being intrusive and you may reap the rewards.

Optimise for mobile – a few practical steps can make all the difference

This is a drum which we’ve all been beating for many years now, but optimising for mobile only continues to become increasingly more important as usage continues to grow and evolve. More emails are now read (54% of total) on mobile devices than desktop computers and web-based email programmes. Perhaps worryingly, 17% of marketers admit they have no strategy for mobile emails, while 34% feel they have the basics in place and just 21% claim to have a robust strategy for mobile email.

54% of emails are read on mobile devices instead of desktop computers and web-based email programmes.

A recent post on MyCustomer.com shared some practical tips on optimising for mobile: including reducing image file size (mobile download speeds are still somewhat slower than desktop); increasing the size of links and call to actions (to help with those who have small screens, but large fingers); and the use of responsive email templates.

It’s okay to be plain – in fact it may be an advantage

The default for almost all marketing email formats is HTML and with good reason. It can be more measurable and certainly allows for more exciting, eye-catching things from a visual perspective. However recent data suggests plain-text emails may produce higher open rates – with some tests indicating HTML receives a 25% lower open rate. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that when you send emails to family or co-workers you don’t do it in HTML! Be careful that snazzy formatting doesn’t get in the way of itself when it comes to your open rates and campaign success.

Use marketing automation tools to nurture prospects by email

In B2B sales it’s not uncommon for prospects to drop out of the cycle so it’s important to consider emails which can re-engage and provide improvements and solutions. As this MyCustomer.com feature points out, education is a key part of the early buying process, but B2B cycles can be long. Gently nurturing by email with relevant content may help pique interest as your prospect moves through the purchase process. Read more on marketing automation and how it can boost your marketing bottom line in our report ‘Advanced Techniques for Effective Lead Generation’.

Continue collecting email, but be aware of your compliance obligations

Email will no doubt be one of the core pieces of information you gather in a demand generation campaign and, as we mentioned at the start of those post, the fact that it is so freely given is a result of the continued desire from the prospect to hear from brands using this channel.

To optimise this brands must ensure they are capturing the data at the moment of highest intent, but they must also do so in a transparent manner. Remember, this transparency is the key principle of the GDPR, which will have significant implications for email marketing – and may even lead to a resurgence of such campaigns. To discuss more about GDPR and data obligations will risk dominating this post, but watch this space for more in-depth, practical guidance on preparing for the GDPR.

Email marketing isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and for as long as that’s the case it must not be taken for granted. It may already be a successful channel for your business, but programmes should be reviewed as there may be enhancements, perhaps like those above, which can be applied to generate greater campaign success.