6 Reasons Why Email Marketing Tools Don't Work for Employee Comms
— March 21st, 2023
Respected, impactful, efficient, strategic. These are four words that every Internal Communicator would endeavor to be associated with.
But have you considered whether your choice of Internal Communication (IC) tools actually supports you in these areas?
One of the biggest mistakes I see Internal Communicators make is choosing tools in their armoury that are not fit for purpose or don’t offer strategic value. This is especially the case when it comes to using email marketing tools.
As the name suggests, email marketing tools are the software and applications used in email campaigns. They’re often used to gain some level of email scheduling, design, and analytics functionality with the hope of boosting engagement.
The Strategic Role of Email in Employee Communications
They’re commonly (and you could argue, misguidedly) chosen because they are seen as affordable, easy-sign-up options.
However, for any Internal Comms professional who has ever used an off-the-shelf email marketing tool—myself included—the limitations, inefficiencies, and risks soon become apparent.
To save you the trouble and pitfalls upfront, here are six reasons why email marketing tools are harming more than your professionalism, impact, efficiency, or comms strategy.
Problem 1: Content Distribution
Effective communication begins with distribution. If it’s not shared, it’s not communicated. And this is the first hurdle that email marketing tools can fall over. Not a great start!
In order to send emails to others using these kinds of tools, employees either have to self-subscribe and agree to be sent emails, or be manually added as a contact which creates an extra step before even beginning the communication process.
Then there’s the matter of manually keeping the audience or distribution list accurate and synchronized within the email tool, plus the fact that subscribers can unsubscribe at any point they don’t want to receive your emails anymore. Definitely not good, or what you need!
Using email marketing systems also carries a higher risk of emails being delivered straight to spam folders or being blocked entirely. Simply put, there’s hurdle after hurdle to overcome before you’ve even written some copy to send!
That’s one of the real plus sides to using Poppulo—it integrates with the organization’s email system and distribution lists, rather than being separate. No unsubscribers, always-current distribution list usage, and emails that land in people’s inboxes seamlessly, means that distribution is never a problem (provided you keep your own distribution lists up-to-date, of course!)
Problem 2: Lack of Customization
I must admit that one of the reasons I personally began using an email marketing tool was that it offered a creative template to help make my emails stand out.
However, any seasoned comms practitioner knows that the most effective comms don’t just look ‘pretty’. Meaningfully reaching and connecting with every employee is difficult, which is why IC needs tools that enable inclusivity and connection beyond the imagery.
We know that to be truly impactful emails need to be targeted, tailored, and personalized. Email marketing tools are typically designed to send bulk messages to a large audience, without much customization.
In an age where employees need and expect targeted, relevant messages, the use of such tools can undermine the efforts and impact of IC especially if your strategy is to reduce email overload and stand out in busy inboxes.
The Poppulo Harmony platform, on the other hand, has customization at its core because it understands how fundamental email can be in building an informed, productive, and engaged workforce.
Its audience segmentation functionality enables messages to be created and sent to specific employee groups based on factors like location, department, or job role-while its A/B split-testing can provide real insight into what works best for your audiences and continually improve your communications.
These capabilities ultimately help ensure that employees receive relevant information that is tailored to their needs and feel more valued and engaged through a highly personalized and thoughtful approach.
Problem 3: Security Risks
Online security is a serious concern and risk to every organization today. Using external marketing tools may not meet the security level requirements your business needs, putting your people and organization at risk of data breaches or information leaks and being vulnerable to hacking.
Internal communication tools, like Poppulo, offer more secure, enterprise-grade security features, such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and data protection, that are designed to keep your internal communications and personnel data safe and secure.
This is particularly important to consider if you share sensitive internal communications via email such as HR updates, financial reports, or confidential company information.
Problem 4: Integration Problems
Standalone products like external marketing tools are often not designed to integrate with your other internal communication channels, making it difficult to manage or monitor communications easily and centrally across different platforms.
From personal (and painful!) experience, I can vouch that it takes a lot of time, effort, and double-checking to cohesively pull data and insights from across your comms channels to become that trusted advisor with trustworthy data at their fingertips.
One of the key features of Poppulo is its channel integration functionality, which allows users to easily create, distribute and monitor their communications across multiple channels, including email, digital signage, mobile, web, social media, and other digital channels.
This capability means that employees can be reached through the channels that work best for them, driving up productivity and engagement levels. Plus, this takes the stress out of monitoring and understanding what is or isn’t working across your comms channels and content by having a holistic view.
Problem 5: Limited Collaboration
Long gone are the days when communication (and email) was merely a "push", one-way approach. Communication, by its very human nature, needs to be inclusive and participative to be effective and engaging.
Email marketing tools are often designed for one-way communication with limited options for collaboration or feedback. This can make it difficult for employees to engage in meaningful discussions, feel heard or provide feedback on important company issues.
With human and business needs as a core driver of Poppulo’s platform it offers tools for collecting employee feedback, understanding employee sentiment, and engaging with your audience in real time.
This can help IC identify areas where communication may be breaking down and take action to address those issues to enhance both the employee experience and business outcomes.
Problem 6: Inability to Measure Effectiveness
Ironically, one of the major reasons an email marketing tool is used by IC is for its perceived analytical capabilities with the aim of filling a measurement gap. From a growing need to demonstrate the value of IC, I can admit to falling into this trap in the past, before we got the Poppulo platform.
Marketing email tools are designed to track metrics such as open rates and click-through rates but this is often where their capabilities end. Offering zero-to-limited insights into audience behavior, preferences, and engagement can make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of internal communications campaigns or make informed decisions about future messaging, content, or channel usage.
Poppulo offers comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities that go way beyond your average email marketing tools. This includes detailed metrics like employee engagement rates, message effectiveness, and content performance, which can help you make more informed decisions about your internal communication strategy, and measure the success of your internal communications efforts.
It’s always wise to do your research when choosing your IC tools and hindsight means I’m able to share personal lessons so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
However, the overarching message is: do your own due diligence and choose internal communication tools that are fit for purpose, meet your needs and those of your employees, as well as supporting your long-term organizational comms and engagement strategy.
If you fail to plan, then plan to fail, as the famous quote goes!