Does Email Equal Free Money?

does email marketing equal free moneyWe regularly hear about the ROI of email, and how it still dominates in the marketing space as the leading way to generate the highest return per dollar spent. But does that mean email equals free money?

Hardly.

Like anything else, you get out of email what you put into it. The reality is, the more time and money you invest into your email marketing program, the higher your return on investment will be. Simply buying a list of 100,000 names and blasting those poor folks mercilessly is not how one obtains the high ROI email is known for.

The costs of doing email right
According to a recent study, email is generating a 246% return on investment for mid-sized businesses. Yes, that’s a three-digit number, not a typo: 246%. That number does not materialize for free, however. Major investments were made in order to generate an ROI that high.

That’s because there are costs to doing email right, and it’s only by doing it right that you can hope to achieve such a fabulous ROI.

Just a few of these costs are listed below. Note that there are two kinds of costs here: the outlay of actual money (for example, for the ESP), but also the costs of human resources, as real-life people strategize, create, send and monitor your email marketing campaigns:

  • Your staff
  • Your email service provider
  • Your design and content providers, whether in-house or outsourced
  • Your email analytics
  • Your integrations with other cross-channel marketing platforms
  • Your email acquisitions

This is a short list of costs. Yours is likely longer. Then there are the costs of doing it wrong, as well, in the form of spam complaints, unsubscribes and black listing, all of which hurt your deliverability and therefore bottom line.

If email is easy, you’re doing it wrong
In my opinion, email is like a gentle giant quietly toiling away while everyone is off admiring the handsome prince, whether that prince is social media, in-app ads, or some other new marketing medium. (Giants and princes: Can you tell I’m the father of two little girls?!) Email is not sexy. Email is not new. Email is not doing anything earth-shattering. But email is always there, always working—efficiently and cost-effectively. And it will continue to be so.

But email is not easy. If it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong. Effective email marketing requires strategy, a list built for quality over quantity, in-depth email analytics, testing over and over and over again, data you can access and use, integration with other technologies, and much, much more.

Is a 246% return on investment a doable goal? According to the research cited, it is. But remember that email doesn’t equal free money. To get a payback that big, you gotta go big…or go home.