While many businesses are guilty of chasing the latest digital marketing craze, good old email marketing is still the killer app to beat when it comes to ROI for businesses. Indeed, a 2016 study released by marketing consulting firm Clutch found that email marketing still has the highest ROI of any marketing channel.

Eighty-three percent of the companies Clutch surveyed said they were using e-newsletters to make new sales. And more than 70% were using stand-alone emails and follow-up emails to nurture nibbles of interest from customers.

Moreover, Campaign Monitor, an email marketing firm, released a similar study last year. It found businesses can look forward to a $38 return for every dollar they invest in email marketing.

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Henry Hyder-Smith, CEO, Adestra, an email marketing service provider and consultancy, confirmed the trend in a study his company conducted with Econsultancy. Those researchers found that 73% of 1,100+ marketers interviewed said email was their No. 1 marketing channel in terms of ROI. The study “points out that companies investing at least a fifth of their marketing budgets on email are eight times more likely to see sales attributable to it in excess of 50%,” says Henry Hyder-Smith.

Potent option
The reason behind email’s potency? Despite all the buzz over social media, 58% of Internet users say the first thing they check on their computerized device each morning is email, according to a study by Exact Target. “Here’s the truth: When you have someone’s email, you’re allowed to communicate with them when you want, how you want,” says Derek Halpern, owner, Social Triggers, an online marketing consultancy.

Halpern conducted his own informal test recently, pitting email against Twitter. He sent out a post on Twitter with a link he wanted prospective customers to click-on. Then he sent out the same post and link via email. The result: 50 of his Twitter followers clicked on the link, while 1,200 of his email subscribers clicked on the same link. “Yes, my email list might be twice as large as my social media following, but it generated about 24 times more clicks,” Halpern says. “That’s the power of email.”

Also helping email’s cause has been all the work IT departments have been doing to block spam from getting to company email boxes.

Overall, those safeguards have significantly decreased the amount of spam businesses users get as compared to just a few years ago. Consequently, email open rates are looking healthy. On average, 17.6% of emails are now being opened by recipients, according to IBM’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark study.

Of course, getting email marketing right involves more than simply knowing it works. Here are the 10 most popular best practices for email marketing, based on insights from the Econsultancy/Adestra survey:

1) Engage in basic segmentation. Seventy-eight percent of companies said they’re doing basic segmentation with their email marketing. Essentially, that means they’re creating slightly different versions of the same email marketing message to cater to different segments of a company’s customer base. Some customers in the Southeast, for example, might get a slightly different message than customers in the Northwest.

2) Optimize for mobile. Sixty-four percent of companies said they’re ensuring their emails are optimized for mobile. In practice, this translates into using single column email designs that allow for easier resizing, using responsive design that automatically resizes an email based on screen size, and eliminating content in mobile emails that is ordinarily displayed on full-sized computers.

3) Clean your list regularly. Fifty-four percent of companies surveyed said their email marketing success also hinged on ensuring they cleaned their mailing list regularly of emails that were bouncing back as no longer valid. They also are quickly removing email addresses from the list when customers request it.

4) Encourage sharing of your email on social networks. Forty-seven percent of customers surveyed said they got more mileage from their marketing emails after asking their customers to share those emails on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks.

5) Use your transaction emails for marketing. Forty-three percent of companies said they had a standard practice of inserting marketing messages into transaction emails. In practice, that meant they might pitch another product when confirming a purchase by email. Or, they might offer a coupon via email when confirming a sign-up for the company’s e-newsletter.

6) Include video content. Forty-two percent of companies said adding video content to their email was critical to the potency of those marketing messages. Given that YouTube, the online video sharing service, is the No. 2 most popular site of the Web, the move sounds like a no-brainer.

7) Do re-marketing. Forty-one percent of companies surveyed said they regularly use emails to remarket to customers. A customer abandoning a shopping cart, for example, might be re-marketed with another offer for the product. Or, a Web visitor who failed to confirm their new subscription to the company e-newsletter might be prodded again by email to confirm that sign-up.

8) Personalize your email. Thirty-seven percent of companies surveyed said personalization of emails was also key to their marketing success. The personalization of emails went beyond simply addressing a person by first name. Instead, other personalized data was included in the email, such as the person’s birthday, acknowledgement of previous goods and services purchased by the recipient and similar qualifiers indicating the company truly knew who they were emailing when they put together the message.

9) Use emails for lead nurturing. Thirty-five percent of companies said once they received a nibble on an offer by email, they regularly followed-up with additional emails to try and close the deal.

10) Combine email with multichannel triggers. Thirty-one percent of companies said once contact was made by email, they followed-up by reaching out to the customer via other channels, including Facebook, Twitter, telephone and old-fashioned snail mail.

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