This Is Why Email Is Broken (And How You Can Fix It)

At Drift, we’ve been focused on reinventing marketing and sales.

Because we realized that the traditional approach was ignoring the most crucial asset marketers and salespeople have:


Today’s buyers want to be able to talk to businesses on their terms, using the same channels they use to have conversations with their friends and family.

And when potential buyers are live on your website, checking out your product, guess what? They want to be able to ask you questions in real-time.

So that’s what we’ve been focused on solving over the past year.

But as we’ve seen more and more businesses adopt conversational marketing, we discovered that conversations don’t just start and stop on your website.

And for a lot of teams, email is still an effective channel for getting new conversations going (and for continuing conversations when you’re not able to chat in real-time).

The only problem with email?

As Rapid7 CMO Carol Meyers put it at HYPERGROWTH:

Email sucks.

Why Email Marketing Is Broken

The limitations of using email for marketing and sales was a common theme at our HYPERGROWTH conference.

(A quick search of the #HYPERGROWTH17 hashtag on Twitter will reveal a few gems.)

For years, marketers and salespeople have been in love with email. I know because I helped build the email systems they fell in love with.

And while these systems could help you hit company-driven goals, the overall experience for customers was miserable.

Think about it: We’ve been bombarding lists of contacts with untargeted, impersonal content that’s disconnected from the rest of our marketing and brand messaging. That’s been the playbook.

It’s not that people have stopped using email, it’s that they’ve started ignoring marketing and sales email.

To quote another HYPERGROWTH speaker, growth expert (and GrubHub and Pinterest alum) Casey Winters:

“People don’t hate email. They hate useless email.”

Ultimately, the traditional approach to email for marketing and sales has begun to fail for three key reasons:

1) Email isn’t real-time.

Email isn’t a real-time channel, but that doesn’t stop marketers and salespeople from treating it like it is.

They blast out emails at all hours of the day and night, hoping they can reach their prospects at the right time.

But without any context around what your prospects are up to (e.g. Are they on your site right now? Did they just open one of your earlier emails?) you’ll never be able to engage at the right moment.

2) Email gets abused.

Marketers and salespeople relied on email for so long mostly because it was the only tool they had.

As more and more people stopped answering cold calls (when’s the last time you answered a call from an unknown number?), marketers and salespeople started leaning more heavily into email.

Now email has simply turned into a numbers game. It’s the “spray and pray” approach.

Want to increase the amount of responses you’re getting? Just send more emails.

3) Email isn’t smart.

This might be the worst problem of all when it comes to email:

Email isn’t smart.

As a result, companies end up sending leads and customers emails from multiple departments. In a single day, a customer might get a top-of-the-funnel email from the marketing team, a product update email from the product team, and an email for a sales rep.

With the traditional tools, you’re almost guaranteed to deliver a bad experience. And that in turn leads to bad results for the business.

The Future of Email Marketing

In order to address these problems, we’re building the next generation of email here at Drift — email that’s real-time, email that doesn’t get abused (because you get better results with fewer sends), and email that’s smart.

Imagine if a prospect could click a link in your email and automatically be connected with a virtual assistant on your website. And that virtual assistant would be there to say hi and answer that prospect’s questions, and it could even schedule a demo for that prospect on one of your sales rep’s calendars.

You’d finally be bringing that real-time touch to a channel that’s never been real-time.

And imagine if email didn’t get abused because for the first time ever, email would be connected to your website.

Marketing and sales teams wouldn’t have to worry that their messages weren’t being seen, and they wouldn’t have to worry about missing a connection. As soon as a prospect opened an email or landed on their website, marketing and sales would know about it and could engage right away.

And finally, imagine if email was smart.

Imagine if instead of every team at your company competing for a lead or customer’s attention, messages could be prioritized based on what’s actually happening with that lead or customer at that very moment.

Imagine if you could have context around all of the ways people are communicating today.

You’d be able to have more conversations and see better results with fewer emails — and that’s exactly how we picture the future of email for marketing and sales.

Final Thought: The Next Phase of Email Is Here

While a lot of what I’ve been describing is our dream for email here at Drift, we’ve already started to make that dream a reality.

Tomorrow, we’ll be dropping a brand new email feature — something I teased at HYPERGROWTH.

It’s our first step toward building an email solution that optimizes for driving conversations, not just open rates.

So be sure to drop by the Drift blog (and Product Hunt) tomorrow in order to see exactly how we’re planning to reinvent email for marketing and sales.

In the meantime, check out the slides from the presentation I gave at HYPERGROWTH — it offers a more in-depth look at the problems modern companies are facing (and what we can do to solve them).

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