Email has long been the dominant form of digital communication in the workplace. However, the rise of new messaging platforms like LinkedIn’s InMail has led many to wonder if these new options might be more effective than traditional email.
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast email and InMail in terms of key factors like deliverability, response rates, and overall effectiveness for business communication. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each medium and examine relevant data and expert opinions to help draw a conclusion on which platform delivers better results.
What is InMail?
InMail is LinkedIn’s internal messaging system that allows LinkedIn members to contact other members directly without needing their email address. Here are some key facts about InMail:
- Messages are sent within the LinkedIn platform and appear in the recipient’s LinkedIn inbox.
- Users get a certain number of free InMail credits per month, with the ability to purchase more credits.
- InMail messages bypass spam filters and have high deliverability rates.
- Recipients can reply directly within LinkedIn, starting a message thread.
- InMail can only be used to contact LinkedIn members, not external email addresses.
In summary, InMail provides a way to directly reach LinkedIn members and start conversations within the LinkedIn ecosystem. It aims to connect professionals and bypass traditional email barriers.
One major advantage cited for InMail over standard email is improved deliverability. Emails often fail to reach the recipient’s inbox due to aggressive spam filtering. InMail messages have very high deliverability because they are sent within LinkedIn’s private platform.
According to LinkedIn, InMail has a 90% open rate compared to just 20-30% for typical business emails. This massive deliverability advantage is a major selling point for InMail.
However, open rates alone don’t tell the full story. Even if InMail delivers to the inbox more consistently, the recipient still needs to open it and engage with the message. More data is needed to determine if InMail’s deliverability edge translates into higher response rates.
InMail vs Email Deliverability
While InMail delivers to the recipient’s inbox far more consistently than email, is it more likely to get a response? Do recipients engage more with InMails than regular emails?
Unfortunately, concrete data on comparative response rates is hard to find. However, Experts generally agree that InMail elicits higher response rates, often significantly so.
According to surveys by Salesfolio, prospects were 4X more likely to respond to an initial outreach via InMail than cold email. Better deliverability rates certainly help. But etiquette around responding may also boost InMail response rates.
Since InMail costs the sender credits, recipients may feel more compelled to reply even if just out of courtesy. Email is free and easier to ignore or neglect. The perceived value of receiving an InMail could make prospects more inclined to respond.
InMail vs Email: Response Rates
Quality of Connections
Another important consideration beyond pure response rates is the quality of the connections made via InMail versus email.
Because InMail is exclusive to vetted LinkedIn members, the conversations tend to be between verified professionals with established identities on the platform. This can lead to more substantive and valuable interactions.
With email, there is a higher likelihood of reaching unknown entities or having messages caught in spam filters. The connections initiated via InMail take place in a trusted environment dedicated to professional networking.
According to social selling expert Jill Rowley, the rigorous identity verification on LinkedIn makes InMail ideal for initiating high-value connections. Prospects take InMails more seriously knowing they come from real professionals on LinkedIn.
One major downside of InMail compared to traditional email is the cost involved. Sending emails is free, while InMail requires purchasing credits from LinkedIn, with prices as follows:
- 1 InMail credit – $10
- 5 InMail credits – $45
- 10 InMail credits – $90
- 25 InMail credits – $215
- 50 InMail credits – $400
- 100 InMail credits – $750
For larger outreach campaigns, these costs can add up quickly. Sending 500 personalized InMails could cost over $5,000. Sending 500 emails costs nothing.
However, experts counter that the higher response rates of InMail offset the costs by wasting fewer prospecting messages. Still, budget constraints may make large InMail campaigns impractical versus more affordable email.
InMail vs Email: Cost per Message
|Cost per Message
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use, email has a strong advantage over InMail. Composing, sending, and tracking emails can all be done seamlessly within standard email clients and platforms.
InMail requires logging into LinkedIn, navigating to the appropriate page, and carefully tracking available credits. Sending messages one by one through LinkedIn can be time consuming compared to sending bulk emails.
Email also benefits from unlimited message length and advanced formatting options. InMails have a fixed length of up to 4000 characters. Basic bold and italic text formatting is supported, but content pasting can be inconsistent.
For users already familiar with email clients, InMail involves learning new processes and limitations. This reduces ease of use compared to the flexibility and simplicity of email for high-volume outreach.
InMail’s exclusivity to LinkedIn members also provides an edge in targeting specific audiences. You can tailor InMail campaigns around criteria like job title, company, industry, location and interests.
Email campaigns can target job titles and companies to some degree based on email address patterns. But InMail offers richer targeting capabilities based on robust LinkedIn profile data.
This allows senders to create laser-focused InMail campaigns aligned with their ideal buyer personas. More personalized and relevant outreach should lead to higher engagement.
Another Email advantage is seamless integration with marketing and sales automation tools. Services like MailChimp, Constant Contact, HubSpot and others include powerful features for automating email campaigns.
InMail automation is much more limited and challenging. LinkedIn Campaign Manager provides some basic InMail batching and scheduling but minimal segmentation options compared to full-featured email marketing platforms.
For users wanting to set up sophisticated automated nurture streams, event-triggered campaigns, and advanced opt-in/opt-out management, email has far superior capabilities over InMail.
Data and Analytics
Robust data and analytics on campaign performance are vital for any outreach initiative. Here as well, email holds some advantages over InMail.
Most email marketing systems provide detailed stats on open rates, clicks, responses, opt-outs, shares and more. This enables deep analysis and optimization of email campaigns.
InMail analytics within LinkedIn Campaign Manager are much more limited. You can see basic metrics on sends, opens, and clicks. But deeper behavioral, demographic, and engagement insights are lacking compared to email.
InMail vs Email: Analytics Capabilities
Legality and Ethics
The CAN-SPAM Act and other regulations govern the legal use of email for commercial messages. As long as basic compliance rules around opt-outs, sender information, and content are followed, most business email use is permitted.
However, the question of whether unsolicited emails are ethical has spurred much debate. Cold outreach emails are often considered intrusive and annoying by recipients.
While InMail also involves unsolicited messages, the cost associated with it adds a layer of legitimacy. Recipients may be more receptive knowing the sender paid money to directly contact them through LinkedIn.
Overall, both mediums tread into murky waters when used for cold outreach. But InMail’s credibility within the tightly controlled LinkedIn ecosystem gives it an edge over email when it comes to perception and ethics.
Email is rife with security problems that limit its effectiveness for confidential business communications. Between phishing attacks, malware links, and poor authentication, email carries many risks.
InMail messages are much more secure. LinkedIn’s identity verification creates trusted conversations free of anonymity problems. And the platform’s security and spam detection help protect against threats.
For any interaction involving sensitive information, InMail provides a safer conduit than standard email. Though no platform is bulletproof, InMail is ahead when it comes to security.
InMail vs Email: Security Comparison
InMail certainly holds some clear advantages over traditional email when it comes to critical outreach metrics like deliverability, response rates, and quality of connections.
However, costs, ease of use, analytics, and automation capabilities favor email – especially for larger campaigns. And LinkedIn restricts InMail to just its walled garden.
In the end, the best approach is to leverage both tools strategically based on factors like budget, audiences, and campaign objectives. The two platforms can complement each other.
For targeted outreach to high-value prospects on LinkedIn, InMail has compelling strengths and should be part of any holistic outreach program. But standard email remains the foundation for broad digital communication.
Rather than treating InMail and email as an either/or proposition, use both strategically to enhance response rates, forge meaningful connections, and drive sales success.