Here’s a fun “what if” game, play along with us: What if the boss gave you $10,000 to improve your brand’s email marketing ROI? How would you spend it? What would you do? Well, for us that was a no-brainer. But before we tell you how we would spend that $10k, and why, let’s cover some basics.

First, just to be sure that we are all on the same page, when we say “ROI”, we are talking about a Return on Investment (stay with us here, we don’t mean to insult your intelligence).

Second, let’s assume that your brand is in business to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even the most altruistic of organizations need to make money, otherwise they would have to close their doors.

Now that we have that out of the way, it’s not hard to see that your brand’s email marketing efforts are a natural extension of that need to generate income. This is the ‘R’ of the ROI.

Where some people get tripped up when it comes to email marketing campaigns is the ‘I’. In fact, to many people – perhaps even people in your own organization – the ‘I’ is nearly invisible. So invisible, that people sometimes think that email, and hence email marketing campaigns, are essentially free.

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“Investment? What investment? You just type up some words, slap in a couple of graphics, and hit ‘send’. It’s practically free!”

Not so. Not by a long shot.

Even the smallest of organizations pay a real price – invest real money – in their email marketing campaigns. There are the salaries for the marketing or marcom people who have to create the content. There are the costs associated with the email servers. There are the fees paid to the ISPs through which the email is sent, or, if your organization sends out its email through an email service provider (ESP) such as MailChimp or Aweber or Constant Contact, that’s another layer of expense.

And then there are the non-monetary investments: your brand’s reputation generally, and your brand’s email reputation specifically.

Think about that. Every time your organization sends out an email marketing campaign, a little bit of the heart and soul of your brand is poured into that email. That email in that campaign is your brand’s emissary, going out into the world, representing you like a little brand ambassador.

That’s an investment too.

But what if your email doesn’t actually get to its destination? What if your little brand ambassador gets to the door of the inbox and…. access denied!

All of that investment – the mail servers, the ESP, the time and money spent on the creative and content, the effort to strike just the right balance, and to represent your brand just so… all for naught, because the people to whom you are sending that email may never see it.

That is not only a zero return on investment; that’s a negative return on investment!

Now, you can spend more money, more time, more effort, on changing the content, changing the creative, even changing your ESP or your mail server software, or hardware, or host. But if your email is not getting through – if you haven’t addressed your email deliverability, you are not going to boost your ROI. In fact you are likely to decrease your ROI, as you pour more money into email that is not being optimally delivered.

So, back to our original question: What if the boss gave you $10,000 to improve your brand’s email marketing ROI? How would you spend it?

Well, here’s what we would do: we would spend no more than half of it either bringing in an email deliverability consultant, or getting our email certified with one of the companies that does email reputation and accreditation, Validity (formerly known as ReturnPath) or ISIPP SuretyMail (that’s us!). Because that investment will not only net you an immediate return, but a lasting return, across all future email marketing campaigns.

And then, with the rest of the money? We’d throw our customers the best customer appreciation party you’ve ever seen. Because without customers, you’ve got nothing.

And after that party, and the next time you send out an email marketing campaign? Those happy, appreciated customers will be so receptive to your email – which they will receive because you have optimized your deliverability – that they will be much more likely to take whatever action your email asks of them.

Now that’s how to get a real return on your investment!

Is Your Email Marketing ROI Suffering from Hidden Costs?

[NOTE: This piece was originally written by ISIPP SuretyMail CEO Anne Mitchell for and published on the Only Influencers Email Marketing Newsletter site. We reprint it here with their permission.]

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