What is ‘Keep in Touch’ Marketing?

Levitate is a North Carolina-based software company that just raised $6 million to build out an AI-powered software platform that is being touted as a smarter version of email marketing.

Notably, email doesn’t have an innovative reputation. While major platforms like Mailchimp, AWeber, and others have greatly evolved the capabilities of email over the years, the basic product has remained largely the same.

Lately, however, companies have turned their focus to hacking email, a tool we all use, but none of us particularly love.

A couple of companies have recently tried to tackle re-inventing the basic form of email. For example, Basecamp’s HEY and the startup Superhuman are trying to re-imagine email as if it were being built from scratch.

Levitate, founded in 2017 as a CRM company, wants to reinvent email as a small-business marketing channel.

Here is what Levitate says on its website, with hyperbole appropriate to its ambitions.

“We got tired of seeing business owners send mass blast emails no one reads and pumping out content no one sees, so we started our own marketing movement.”

“Keep in touch marketing” is a marketing concept that Levitate is branding (though we have seen this terminology used as far back as 2013) as a quality over quantity approach to email. However, unlike the OG version from 2013 (or earlier), Levitate’s  “keep in touch marketing” 2.0 platform is powered by AI.

Less Is More Marketing

Levitate is really arguing for a less is more approach to email. Sending out less content to fewer people, guided by AI to send the right message at the right time. And in an authentically personalized manner. It’s about nurturing contacts in a manner that never seems intrusive to the subject. At least that’s the plan, according to Levitate’s website.

Levitate is basically a set of email marketing tools for marketers priced as a subscription service (ranging from free to upwards of $200/month). The toolset has some nifty features. For example, it automatically updates contact details with information from LinkedIn.

To support its case, Levitate shares data showing email is essential. And fundamentally broken. And the company argues that personalization is a difference-maker in email. This doesn’t strike us as a new idea. But it’s all in the execution. The company touts a 60%+ average open rate.

Here are some of the stats it cites (with sources where supplied).

  • “97% of people say email is essential to their lives over texting and social media” (Twillio)
  • “80% of emails across all industries sent with mass-blast tools end up in a junk or spam folder” (Mailchimp)
  • “77% of organizations that exceeded revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy”
Exaggerated Reports of Email’s Death

We don’t doubt stats that show email is both essential and flawed as a marketing channel. But our sense is that email has remained a stubbornly effective marketing channel.

In an interview about the state of email marketing back at the beginning of the COVID crisis, David Mihm, who runs the email platform Tidings, stood up for email’s resilience. He was referring specifically to the bump in email engagement during the crisis, but also to the medium’s staying power.

“I don’t think this changes its future. You might get more people to sign up for your newsletter or loyalty program right now. So don’t abuse that privilege,” David said.

“If Facebook or Instagram didn’t kill email marketing, then I don’t think Slack or anything else will kill it either.”

However, the companies coming after email now are not trying to replace it with messaging. They are trying to make it faster, smarter, more effective. Even email marketing’s biggest fans would admit there is room for improvement.

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