Email marketing is a lot like selling Bibles.
I already know what you are thinking: "How is he going to possibly connect those two things?!" Well, first you need a little back story.
I was having drinks recently with my old boss Tim Suther, CMO of Acxiom. (Faithful readers of this column will recognize that name, as I have mentioned and quoted from in the past.) I was making the point that marketers in general pay way too little attention to attribution despite the variety of tools available today to better track a consumer's conversion path. Tim responded that it is "easier to sell Bibles than it is religion." In a minute, I'll get to what he meant by that regarding attribution. In a broader sense, the point he was making is something that every single marketer needs to understand and take to heart, whether they are a simple email marketer or a CMO.
The point Tim was making is that it is easier to convince a religious person to purchase a Bible than it is to convert someone to a particular religion. A religious person will understand that a Bible is a good thing to possess, so your job is simply to convince him or her that your Bible is the right one. On the other hand, selling a non-religious person on religion is another whole level of effort, with a much lower chance of success than selling that Bible to the already converted. (It's interesting to note here that marketers also use the word "conversion" when acquiring a new customer).