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Let’s put to rest something that cheapens our industry by making what we do look easy.
I have been in email marketing for over 16 years, and the one stat that has consistently been brought up on blogs, conferences, and webcast to show the value of email is that of DMA’s figure of 4,300% ROI for the channel.
But who cares?
When someone uses or believes in that stat, dollar signs tend to appear in their eyes, and they declare themselves email-marketing consultants (or agencies, even). Problems arise when inexperienced or rogue marketers (e.g., spammers) don’t understand or ignore the long-term consequences for a brand.
Conversely, established brands sometimes see this stat and believe, because they already have a “name,” they can cash in without backlash, even when sending sub-par content.
The problem with both situations is that the true value of email is marginalized, and thus some people tend to have a negative perception of just how awesome email can and should be.
We are a culture that believes certain things come easy, fast and cheap. You can stream a 1080p movie at Starbucks. You can turn your lights on, shut your garage door and change what music is playing on your stereo from your cell phone, even if you are 1,200 miles away.
What that 4300% statistic lacks in terms of explanation is that, in order to even come close to or exceed that ROI, you have to work really, really hard and consistently stay on top of the basics of permission, testing, auditing, evolving, innovating, and optimizing your program. Nothing comes easy in email — you need to fail and fail. Only then can you optimize and optimize to get it right. Then, just when you think you’ve hit your stride, you need to start the refining process over again.
Using a stat of 4,300% without context and then trying to take the easy road to get there is a path that many try to take, and many fail miserably. Let’s not diminish the craft of email marketing by throwing up some meaningless stat to show how awesome email is.