Email is not free - Budget tips for the attention economy

We’ve all heard the term “Attention Economy” and we know that it means we are competing to win the eyeballs, hearts and minds of our prospects and customers. Yet, we tend to think of this as some ethereal concept with no hard costs. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Attention is very real and finite. Each person has a limit on the attention they can give each day and much of it is already accounted for by important things such as personal care, family, friends, and work.

Do we consider than when we email our audience asking for more of that precious attention? Often the answer is no. As marketing and sales professionals, our job is to convert that attention into pipeline and revenue. It’s natural to play the numbers game. We know our click-through-ratio and conversion rates, so if we increase the size of our database we increase our changes of gaining that attention. We also increase the number of emails we send knowing that although there may be a point of diminishing returns, we will still get some new clicks and conversions.

However, with the attention economy, there isn’t just a point of diminishing returns—There is a cliff of overexposure. With each email you send, ask yourself “Is this worth a potential unsubscribed or [worse] getting blacklisted?” We’ll save getting blacklisted for another day so lets focus solely on the unsubscribe.

Once a person unsubscribes they are gone forever. It’s like the people who were dusted at the end of Infinity War. Gone forever unless Earth’s Mightiest Heroes step in. Seems like silly metaphor, but that’s literally how infrequently people resubscribe. You would need the Avengers to get involved. According to a recent poll I ran on LinkedIn, no one could offer documented cases of people opting back in. That’s how rarely it happens.

Here’s my advice for budgeting this precious resource:

  1. Start tracking the date of a person’s Most Recent Marketing Activity - Namely website visits, form fills, and event attendance, both virtual and in real life. (Ignore email opens because they aren’t reliable and ignore email clicks because 99% of the time that click takes them to your website)
  2. Identify your ‘active’ audience. Depending on your sales cycle, this may be a person who has been active within the last 3 months, 6 months or 12 Months.
  3. Send emails only to your active audience
  4. Create valuable content on your social media channels and via your own staff, so that people are choosing to voluntarily interact with your digital content
  5. Eventually, if they don’t engage, consider removing them from your database.

Remember, when a person gives you their email address they are trusting you with their future time. Your database isn’t a collection of targets - it’s a group of humans who trusted you with their contact information. Honor those people’s trust by considering the value of their time. And, let’s not forget the golden rule of engagement marketing which goes first. Create good content.