With the massive growth of social media over the past few years, email newsletters have been getting little to no attention as a marketing and communications tool.

It’s pretty clear why:

  • Email newsletters are not sexy
  • The newsletter concept is old, reaching as far back as pamphleteers during the U.S. Revolutionary War
  • Email is old; the first emails (a good history is here) as we know them were sent in 1982, when I was in high school
  • HTML emails are very hard to code; Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has refused to support email standards

The reality is that email newsletters are powerful, motivating, and highly useful vehicles for all kinds of communications. For all of the exact reasons above, e-newsletters work:

  • People read them because they have opted in; it’s a marriage not an illicit affair
  • The concept of the pamphlet has legs–almost 300 years of leg history
  • Email is not going away, despite the gnashing of teeth among prognosticators
  • Like basic website templates, basic e-newsletters have become WYSIWYG (and pre-tested) in many instances

From a client perspective, an email newsletter provides tremendous control over content, timing, delivery, design, and audience. For very little ongoing cost and a small upfront investment in design and development, an email newsletter provides clients with rich data about their subscribers. This cannot be said of websites; despite Google Analytics’ recent addition of its real time reports, allowing you to see how many people are visiting a given page at that very moment, the data is not easily actionable. Facebook’s business page analytical tools undoubtedly useful but one still needs to get visitors there in the first place.

It strikes me that email newsletters perform three business functions very well and simultaneously. They communicate a message or set of messages, they motivate decisions or spur action, and they provide rich sets of data on subscriber behavior.

Emails newsletters may be the ugly stepsister or stepbrother of shiny social media. But they provide a valuable and too often overlooked vehicle. Every client that uses their email newsletters on a regularly basis also regularly loves them.