Consumer Use of Email Declines, but Association Deployment Remains Constant

In a time when some data indicates that email usage is declining, it appears that the use of email in membership marketing has remained stable this past year.

The 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review Report showed that “Web-based email is waning: Total usage of web-based email dropped 9% in 2010 with more precipitous declines occurring among younger age groups, particularly teenagers. It’s clear that communication is shifting not only to other platforms, but to other devices. (If you plan to email your kids and you want a response, be sure to send them a text.)”1.

In our 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research, we again asked where email was used in the marketing process. Respondents reported a small increase in using email to build awareness among prospects. They showed little change in using email to engage or onboard new members and support renewal efforts from the previous year. This follows a substantial growth in the use of email from 2009 to 2010.

Obviously, these two studies are drawing from completely different sets of data. However, if the trend line for web-based email is in decline, and since there is such a heavy reliance on email in membership marketing, it may be a warning that alternative channels need to be developed.

For example, the use of somewhat newer online marketing channels is taken advantage of by a minority of membership organizations. Only 13.6% of respondents report that prospective members become aware of their organizations through search engine ads and only 11.9% of respondents used paid advertising on other organizations websites to build awareness.

What results are you seeing in email usage for your organization? Feel free to share.

1. The Top 10 Digital Media Trends of 2010, By Linda Abraham - February 9, 2011


Scott Oser said...

Hey Tony,

As I look at these numbers one big question comes to my mind--Why? Why is email usage increasing? As you know I try to go to as many idea swaps and talk to as many association professionals as I can. I am really surprised at how many times I have heard association professionals say they are using email because it is cheap. Because something is cheap is not a rational reason to market using that technique. In marketing, whether it be for membership recruitment and retention, conference attendance, participation in your certification program or whatever, the key analytic is cost per order. If something doesn't cost much to do but brings in no orders then you do not achieve your goal. What any marketer should want to do with something that is meant to drive response is get as many responses as they can for the least amount of money. I worry that people are using email simply because it is cheap and easy to do and they are not getting the responses they need to be successful because email is not necessarily the best way to get people to respond.

Tony Rossell said...

Scott -- You make some good points. We use email as a compliment to most of our direct mail campaigns and we use it as a follow up to our online lead generation programs. So like you, I am not at all anti-email. It should be used as one of many tools in marketing not just an inexpensive way to check off having done a marketing project. Tony

Jeff Hurt said...

Could it be that associations are using email more because their emails are not working? I know of several associations that are interuppting their members with up to 10 emails a day. When you ask them why, they say they need to get their members attention and the previous emails didn't work. They are playing the more is better game.

Just thought I'd add another ancedote to the discussion.

Tony Rossell said...

Hi Jeff -- Thanks for the comment. I have heard the same thing. Tony