The Value of Email Marketing

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On average, email marketing generates an average return of $51.45 for every dollar spent in 2006, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

If that statistic alone doesn’t convince you of the value that email marketing can add to your business, nothing will! Of course, there are heaps of reasons why email marketing is so popular — it’s extremely cost-effective and timely, it helps build lasting relationships with specific segments, sub-segments, and even individuals within your audience, it integrates well with other marketing tactics, including viral marketing, and so on — but that statistic really should make anyone who operates online sit up and take notice.

Are you making that kind of money from your email marketing efforts?

This was the first question that came into my head when I read that DMA statistic in the opening chapters of the recently released Email Marketing Kit. I mean, we’ve been conducting email campaigns for more than six years now — longer if you take into account our electronic newsletters — and I think we’ve got it down to something of a fine art. This is not to say that we know everything and can write top-notch email first time, every time, but we do realize the value of tactics like test-sending emails, setting campaign break-even points and realistic response goals, tracking and analysing campaign results, and trialling different email types, among other things.

The thing is, we’re not making $51.45 for every dollar we spend on email marketing.

Now, that figure is the average — it’s not the ROI you need to generate in order to consider your campaign a success. But by the same token, it’s not the greatest ROI that was generated by the companies surveyed for the DMA report. It’s just the average.

Obviously, there’s room for improvement in what we’re doing here at SitePoint. And while I can see a few areas in which that improvement can take place (including the hiring of a dedicated online marketer), the very first chapter of The Email Marketing Kit provides a few hints that certainly gave me food for thought.

First up is that point about building relationships. Jeanne Jennings, the author of the kit (who, I might add, is a leading email marketing consultant with more than a decade of experience in this industry) points out that it’s easier to build relationships through email than through the more traditional channels. And this is definitely something that we try to do with our email strategy. But I think we could do better, particularly in terms of our Book Buyers’ Club, which usually gets second billing on the To-do list after book-specific email campaigns. We don’t really track the responses from that list as well as we could, either, even though the Book Buyers’ Club is often where our customer relationships begin — before purchase, with interested prospects.

Jeanne’s discussion about the fact that email is quick to produce highlights another area that I think we could focus on. Sure, when you compare it to a print ad or TVC, direct email can be quick to develop, test, and get to the customers. But then, if I compare that with our blogs, or the power of word of mouth in the SitePoint Forums, I can’t help but wonder if we’re really producing campaigns as swiftly and effectively as we could. Of course, the fact that email marketing makes audience segmentation so easy means that we see each new campaign as a great opportunity to test new things and hone ideas that we learned from previous campaigns, and developing those new concepts can take time. But even still, I think there’s room for improvement there.

Finally, chapter 1 of the kit makes the point that, as a marketing tool, email plays well with other tactics — it’s easy to use email to remind customers about a physical mail piece you’ve sent them, for instance, or to complement print advertising you’ve taken out. Practically all of our books marketing occurs online at present, so this suggestion really got me thinking. Would our campaigns be more effective if they were integrated with offline promotions? Our recent mentions in local newspapers here in Australia have certainly boosted our profile locally, so I’m seriously thinking about the possibilities for the United States and the UK, where our largest audiences lie.

Any marketing technique that generates an ROI like that of email marketing deserves our consideration. But you and I know that it takes skill and know-how to get those kinds of results. What are you doing to improve your email marketing campaigns at the moment? And, after reading this, are there any additional areas that you think you might have been overlooking?

Matt MickiewiczMatt Mickiewicz
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Matt is the co-founder of SitePoint, 99designs and Flippa. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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