At the beginning of the year I spoke to a group of businesswomen who were at various stages in the development of their businesses. My topic was email marketing.

At the beginning of my talk, I asked how many of them had checked their email before coming to the 7:30am breakfast meeting. The answer? 100% of them.

Email marketing has the highest ROI of digital marketing tools. One study suggests that for every $1 invested in digital marketing there is a $38 return. That seems hard to believe, right? But it’s almost possible to prove this out for when you have an email list of 50 people, or when you aren’t leveraging your list by communicating effectively with your list.

One thing we know is that email marketing is a relatively low-cost investment. Your email platform is relatively inexpensive or free (although once your list gets above a certain size you will pay more). Beyond that you have content creation, design, campaign planning for basic email marketing. If you aren’t a pro at this yourself, you can outsource this and that will cost money. Regardless of these relatively minor costs, even if you do half as well in terms of your return on investment, email marketing is worth doing.

To that end, I shared tips with this group on how to get started and maximize the impact of email marketing and I will share a few of them here:

Use an email tool that will support you in using best practices in managing your email campaigns. This includes making it easy to unsubscribe and not permitting emails to be sent to those who have unsubscribed.

Focus on having a clean layout for your email. Most good email tools have templates you can use, and you have the ability to customize these templates for your business. A good layout helps the reader consume your content and creates a positive impression about your business.

Don’t take it personally when people unsubscribe from your list. If your content is not for them, accept it and move on.

You should always be adding to people to your list. Ideally, ask them if they mind being added to your list when you get their email contact information. Or, send them a welcome email and let them know that you won’t be upset if they unsubscribe.

Over time you should look at your list and see who is or isn’t opening your emails. If someone hasn’t opened one of your emails (assuming you are emailing routinely), consider eliminating them from your list. It feels great to say, “I have 5000 people on my list,” but if only 3000 of them have never opened your emails, that 5000 is not a real number (plus remember that inactive people may increase your email cost due to list size.)

Purchasing email lists is not considered a “best practice” and will definitely put your emails at high risk of being designated as SPAM. According to CAN-SPAM, the email legislation passed in 2005, people on your list should have “opted in” – which is why you would ask them when they share their contact information, or why you would send the welcome email giving them the option to opt out.

We know from experience that significantly more time and money is spent on other aspects of digital marketing – such as website development, advertising campaigns and SEO – than is spent on email marketing. Yet, if you look at the data on ROI, you should make sure you don’t neglect email marketing. If you have challenges in determine how to use email to market to your audience reach out to a marketing professional for help in optimizing your approach.

WSI Marketing Edge is a digital marketing consultancy. We create and execute practical plans for business owners who are looking to grow their companies. Contact us at: