How can your email campaigns get an 88% open rate and a 68% click-through rate? There’s only one way I know: build a time machine and send them in 2003.

A colleague at Croud cited those statistics to me from when he was running consumer marketing campaigns, thirteen years’ ago.

What can you expect now? Email marketing platform Mailchimp reckons you’re doing well if your open rate is 25% and you get a 3% click-through. The daily assault from email campaigns has destroyed their efficacy over time. Consumers are better tooled to filter email with spam filters and intelligent inboxes. Marketers have had to invest in technology to deliver campaigns and follow more stringent regulation.

While still a worthwhile tactic, email has become less effective and more expensive.

I first started practising paid search advertising back in 2002. Clicks for keyword traffic cost pennies on auction platforms like Overture and Espotting. The same year that Google moved AdWords to an auction driven cost-per-click model. (It used to be CPM, can you believe it?)

Fast-forward to the present day, and the prospect of penny clicks is laughable. A recent study cited “play live blackjack” as the most expensive keyword on Google UK at £148.51 per click. I don’t understand how anyone makes money at that price. Except Google of course. The market can stay irrational longer than a marketing director can stay employed.


The search marketplace has reduced to just two players, Google and Bing. The available ad space for paid search listings has shrunk. The shift to smartphones is part of this. Google’s initiatives like removing ads on the right hand rail also contribute. All this has driven up costs.

Search is an essential marketing weapon, but it has become less effective and more expensive.

I could cite (Read more...) examples. Social media promised fan communities that could be marketed to, sorry, engaged with for free, in perpetuity. Facebook’s careful control of what appears in its users’ newsfeeds means once more, marketers have to open their wallets before they can open a conversation with their own fans.

I’d encourage any advertiser to invest budget into social, but it’s getting less effective and more expensive.

So what to make of this? It’s the circle of digital marketing life. New opportunities are discovered, but they are quickly saturated.

For marketers figuring out what to do with the next opportunity, it’s simple. Don’t debate. Don’t worry about being wrong. Don’t reminisce about being the way it used to be. Just try it. Now. And before it gets less effective and more expensive.

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