Todd BoucherAccording to the Direct Marketing Association, the Return on Investment (ROI) was $40 for every dollar spent on email marketing. While investment in marketing strategies like video, social, and content marketing continue to rise, email marketing remains an essential component of any startup’s marketing strategy.

When we were first considering investing in email marketing, I was apprehensive about both the recurring fees (most services require either a monthly fee or a fee-per-email) and the opportunity cost we would absorb to commit internal resources to building and executing the strategy. However, the benefit of email marketing is that it is highly measurable. A good email marketing solution will provide detailed analytics on your campaigns and a well-integrated strategy will allow you to easily calculate ROI on your investment.

Many of the startups we speak with at Live Free & Start ask about building out an email marketing strategy. While the strategy varies significantly based on your business, the evaluation of an email marketing tool is a common challenge that you will have to undertake as part of the process. In our business, we have used a variety of tools – Constant Contact, GetResponse, Vertical Response, MailChimp, Salesforce, Sharpspring, and more.

Based on my experience, here are 3 things to look for when selecting an email marketing platform for your small business:

  • Analytics & ReportingHaving access to relevant analytics and reports from your marketing campaigns will not only help calculate your ROI, it will help you get better. The more you email, the more you will learn about your user base, their preferences, and what types of content resonate with them. When evaluating tools, it is critical that you review the types of analytics that will be available to you to ensure that they provide you with the specific data you need to make decisions on your investment in email marketing. More importantly, dedicate the time or internal resources required to review these analytics so that you can make informed decisions about your strategy.
  • Integration – We have found that integration – the ability for the data from your email marketing tool to ‘plug in’ to other tools – is critical for both tracking return on investment and minimizing the time it takes to build and send a campaign. For example:
    • We use Salesforce as our CRM and when we started with email marketing we had to manually export a list from our CRM and upload it to our email marketing system each time we wanted to build a campaign. It was cumbersome. When we found a solution that integrated with our CRM, it reduced the time it took us to create a campaign by over 50%.
    • Because our business does not have an e-commerce component, we cannot see a direct tie between email marketing ‘clicks’ and a purchase on our website. We have to convert email marketing leads into new customers through a traditional sales process, which means our CRM has to be configured to track which sales originated from which marketing campaign. When selecting an email tool, map out how you will calculate ROI on your campaigns and ensure that your email system can integrate with any additional tools required for you accurately determine that ROI.
  • Automation – For any startup or small business, team members wear multiple hats. Maximizing the value of the time spent on email marketing and the associated sales efforts will be determined by the quality of the leads that your campaigns generate. Using automation capabilities of an email marketing tool can help you do this. For example, if an email campaign generates 500 ‘opens’, you can use automation to generate an additional message to those users asking them to take additional action (revisit the site, reach out to you, download content). Those that do should emerge as more qualified leads for your team.

Using email marketing successfully continues to be a journey of ups and downs for our business. The best results are tangible in the form of sales directly tied to an email campaign. However, there are other results that are more intangible, like meeting someone who tells me that they “always look forward to our monthly newsletter.” Email marketing is a great, scalable strategy for any startup and small business – selecting the right tool is an important first step in that journey.