Email marketing is often frowned upon; indeed with the constant rise in spam messages, people are wondering if email is a viable communications method at all. Some people have latched on to a recent report from Jupiter Research which suggests email is losing its effectiveness as a marketing method. However, if that’s the case, corporates have got it wrong; Brand Week reports that email marketing is now the most popular form of direct marketing.

Surely, big companies are only going to invest in something if there is a return? The fact that more and more companies are focusing their direct marketing on email suggests that it works for them – in spite of studies by Jupiter. The problem with the Jupiter study is that it asked consumers about their habits – and one thing that’s for sure in surveys is that not everyone tells you the truth. So, even though consumers may say they are responding less to email marketing campaigns, the increase in use by companies would point us to a different conclusion.

Part of the problem here may be that as we see more and more email marketing messages we think we are responding less because we interpret it on a proportional basis. However, what remains clear is that email marketing works. In heaps. Indeed, one private research study I looked at showed that for this large corporate, email marketing was FIVE TIMES more effective than its web site in generating sales. So ignore email marketing at your peril.

A study published by the Direct Marketing Association showed that the return on email was the best you will get. For every dollar invested in email marketing the return is more than $50. However, other forms of Internet marketing only return $21 for every dollar spent. Such figures were confirmed to me last week when I spoke at a direct marketing conference in London; one of the other speakers was an expert in web site metrics and he agreed with the kind of data that I was talking about – email marketing is the BEST form of online marketing you can do.

Perhaps that’s why some people are actually going to increase their email marketing budgets – in spite of the impending recession. Interestingly, this study also shows that attitude to email is important. If you think email is just a cheap form of communication you are unlikely to invest in its potential. However, if you think that email is a powerful tool you will probably spend more on email marketing.

In other words, if you want to gain huge extra benefits for your business in times of economic hardship all you might need to do is change your attitude to email. Think about it as a powerful marketing tool, rather than a quick and cheap message system, and you will be able to reap the benefits of a much higher return on your investment. And I’d wager that you’d get more return on a well executed email marketing campaign than any amount of tweaking your web site or search engine optimisation.

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