Email Marketing: Low Cost, High Impact

Lately, there’s been much debate about email marketing. Many people may wonder: “Is email marketing a thing of the past?” “Haven’t things like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs replaced the role of email?” “Isn’t email marketing too old-fashioned to be effective?”

The short answer to all these questions is decidedly, “No.” In fact, according to Mequoda Daily's Email Marketing Consultant, email marketing offers the highest ROI of any direct marketing channel, generating roughly $42 per dollar spent in 2010. (Search Engine Advertising came in second with around $22 per dollar spent.) In early 2001, 72% of respondents to an Econsultancy survey described email’s ROI as either excellent or good. Only organic search marketing scored higher.

And there’s something to be said for certain advantages that email marketing has over social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. While social media is a great tool for most businesses, it has its limitations, especially for B2B companies. Email messages can contain a lot of content, whereas people tend to go to Facebook and Twitter for quick updates and short little snippets of news. While that works great for announcing promotional offers, it’s not the most effective way to communicate lengthy or detailed news items. Email can also be a more efficient way of keeping in touch with your existing clients; it requires less effort to simply open a message that’s already in their inbox than to seek-out a company’s Facebook fan page and scroll through all their wall posts to look for relevant information. (Unless of course, your page is already so popular that your every status update pops into all your fans’ newsfeeds. But even then, you’d have to post it at a time of day when the story won’t get pushed too far down the list by more recent posts from all their other contacts.) Plus, don’t forget that people primarily use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends, typically on the weekends or when they’re at home. Reading long newsletter-like posts may seem like work. That’s not to say that you should replace your existing social media efforts with email – you’ll get the best results by using them in tandem.

For all its impact, email marketing is incredibly affordable. You can build your own email list for free by asking clients and prospects for their permission to add them; offering to sign-up contacts you meet at tradeshow booths, speaking engagements, networking events, etc.; and/or by placing a sign-up link right on your website. Many companies can use existing in-house resources to plan or compose messages, and services like Constant Contact let you manage your mailing lists, design and send emails for as little as $15 per month. Even if you decide to hire outside help to create a customized e-mail template or write articles for your e-newsletter, email marketing typically costs significantly less than other interactive and direct marketing techniques like catalogs, direct mail, or banner ads.

Email Tips

The effectiveness of email marketing is largely dependent on the quality of your messages. Here are some things to consider when crafting promotional emails or e-newsletter:

Make your email campaigns more likely to succeed by using attractive subject lines.
Think about this: would you be more likely to open an email called “Dresses for Summer,” “Sale on Select Items from XYZ Outfitters,” or “Email Exclusive! Save 30% on our Most Popular Summer Dresses”?

You need to entice your subscribers with your subject line, and give them a reason to open your message. You also may want to consider including your company’s name in the title, so that people won’t think it’s unsolicited spam and delete without opening. (For example, “Investment Tips from [Name of Your Accountant]” sounds much more trustworthy than simply “Investment Tips”) For best results, keep the subject direct, to the point, and under 60 characters.

Track your open and unsubscribe rates, and learn from your mistakes.
Web-based email marketing services like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp make it easy to see how many people opened, forwarded, or clicked on links in your message, as well as if any recipients unsubscribed from your mailing list. If one email has an especially high unsubscribe rate, look at it and determine what makes it different from other messages. Find the problem, and fix it. (Likewise, look at what you did with the subject lines for those with high open rates; keep up the good work!)

You can also try out different style subject lines. Send one to half of your list, one to the other half. Monitor the results closely, and remember that things vary based your target audience. For example, while younger audiences like exclamation points, older ones don’t. Test it out. When you put exclamation points in your subject lines, are they more or less likely to be opened?

Keep the content relevant and messages brief.
People get intimidated when they open an email and see a lot of text right off the bat. For longer articles, just use “teaser text” in your email, and include a link to the full article online.

Give your readers a reason to act quickly.
Limited time offers have a better click-through rate than standard promotions. Mainly because people tend to see the email, and think to themselves, “Oh, I’m busy right now; I’ll just get to it tomorrow.”  But when tomorrow rolls around, they’ve forgotten all about it.

Think about how many times you’ve gotten an email that seemed interesting, but you were too busy to read or act on it immediately, so you figured you’d get to it in a couple of days when you had more time.

Odds are, you never did get back to that email, did you? By including a limited time frame or even a limited supply (think: “the first 100 people to enter the promotion code”) you give the message a sense of urgency, getting people to act on it right away rather than shelving it for later.

If you’re interested in email marketing, but don’t know where to start, the experts at Brave River can help. We offer customized email template creation, training on using Constant Contact, copywriting/content development, and e-newsletter management. If you have any questions, email or call us toll-free at 888.828.0011.


Article by: Lindsey McColl


  • In the US, 95% of online consumers use email, and 93% are subscribed to at least one permission-based email a day.* 

  • Only 18% of US online consumers say they never open emails from companies, while 70% of US online consumers report always opening emails from their favorite companies.* 

  • Over half of internet users check their email daily.*

  • Forbes Media’s 2009 Ad Effectiveness Survey placed email marketing as the second-most effective online marketing tactic for generating conversions. (OnlySEO scored higher.)

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