Email marketing may trump other channels when it comes to ROI.

Brands are fixated on gaining more information about customers, but email marketing doesn’t get much respect, despite its ability to promote brands and provide companies with useful data, according to the Harvard Business School.

Forget TV, ads, PPC- Consider email

The business world spends its funds on TV, print ads and internet advertising as resources are funneled into hiring the best and brightest for these campaigns. Email marketing spend and attention falls substantially behind. Although the amount of money spent makes sense from a financial perspective (emails aren’t particularly expensive to send), marketers should readjust their content marketing focuses to consider what email can offer. Creating custom content to populate compelling email marketing campaigns can contribute to increased brand visibility and generous ROI.

Brands can use email marketing to promote their brands at a low cost. Direct mail costs about $600 for one thousand mailings, while email messages have no cost at all. Arthur Middleton Hughes, a contributor to the Harvard Business School Blog Network and the vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, reported that a retailer he works with recently conducted a study to find out which marketing campaign works best – email or direct mail.

A retailer analyzes print versus email and finds results

The retailer took a large sample, 105,000 loyal customers, and divided them into three groups. One group received both email messages and direct mailings, while another received only email. The third found direct mailings in their at-home mailbox.

The retailer found that when costs are considered, email-only marketing campaigns see the best results. By comparing how many dollars went into mailing a print or email message against the number of sales made, email emerged as the clear winner.

“Once you factor in your off-email multiplier, it’s a very safe bet that email will beat all your other marketing methods in terms of return on investment. As email marketing gains more respect, marketing intelligence will meet customer intelligence.” – Arthur Middleton Hughes

Email marketing initiatives grow

Brafton recently reported that the use of email marketing is rising, despite Hughes’ claim that the channel is sometimes neglected. In 2012, retailers sent out 19 percent more emails than they did the previous year. Additionally, more than half of consumers reported that the majority of the messages in their inbox – 50 percent or more – came from newsletters, promotional emails and other messages from brands.

Emma Siemasko is a former member of Brafton's editorial team. Emma has experience with blogging, travel writing, industry news, SEO and content marketing. She used to live in South Korea, where she mastered the art of using metal chopsticks.