Extract More ROI from Your Email List: $36 for Every $1 Spent

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Episode 3 | Built to Market Podcast

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Did you know the return on investment (ROI) on email is $36 for every $1 spent? That’s right - for every dollar you spend on your email strategy, you get $36 back. If you’ve never capitalized on your contact and customer lists, then today’s episode is for you.

We all have it. We all spend hours a day dealing with it. In fact, we spend about 28% of our days dealing with email, according to our friends at McKinsey. I know I spend way more time a day dealing with email than I want to admit.

Email is what I would call a digital marketing and sales "OG." Marketing and sales professionals have been sending emails since the days of dial-up. And they are still one the most effective tools you can use for your business today. But too often, our contact lists live solely on our phones, email programs, or spreadsheets.

And what good are they doing for our companies there?

If you’ve never thought about how to leverage your list of contacts or if you are looking to up your email game, I’m sharing how you can extract more ROI from your existing contact lists, including trips and tricks to grow your email list if you don’t already have one. I will reveal systems we use to manage email lists and what emails you should send regularly to cash in on that 3600% ROI.

It starts with your list

Everyone has an email list. Even if you don’t think you have an email list - you do. Emails hide like photos stuffed in wedding announcements and holiday cards. So let's go on a treasure hunt and discuss the places to look to find your complete email list.

First, let's start with (hopefully) the obvious: your company’s CRM, or Customer Relationship Management software. A CRM is a centralized place where all your company’s leads and customer contact information is stored. Usually, your CRM is cloud-based software, such as Zoho or Salesforce or HubSpot.

The next place to look for your email list is in your accounting software, such as QuickBooks.

If you are a B2B or business-to-business company, such as a commercial real estate brokerage or commercial contractor, you may use bidding software like Procore or SmartBid. You’ll find leads and customer contact information there.

If you have an ERP system, then chances are a lot of your contacts live there. That's the good news. The bad news? ERPs are notorious for being finicky about playing well with other types of software. Your best bet to start if you have never managed an email list is to export the data from your ERP for cleaning and upload into your CRM.

Do you receive inquiries on your website? Those inquiries should be accessible through your website’s content management system. And of course, your company may manage leads and customers on a spreadsheet. Lastly, emails and contacts lurk in our phones and, of course, our own email systems.

So now that you know where to find all your contacts, how do you get them into one centralized, organized location? Honestly, this is usually where the wheels fall off the bus. Data entry is just not fun for anyone. Let's discuss some tools we use to make email list management a breeze.

Contact form "Fields of Dreams"

Before you jump into a spreadsheet or sign-up for a new CRM, I encourage you to define the MVP fields that are must-have minimums for your database. Here is our list of MVP data fields:

  • First Name and Last Name as separate fields
  • Company Name
  • Email Address
  • Relationship to Us
    This field is custom to our database and is where we define via a dropdown selection how the contact is related to us. Are they customer, lead, or vendor, for instance? This really comes in handy when we are trying to segment our lists.
  • Focus Industry
    This is another custom field in our database. Segmenting by industry is hard to do in a list, so we segment ours by our four focus industries: Manufacturing, Distribution, Building and Professional Services. Sure, there are many sub-categories, but these four buckets make it easier for us to do targeted marketing and data reporting. 

Notice there are a lot of fields missing from our MVP list, such as address or phone number? That's okay! Here are some tools you can use to get that information faster than you can say AI:

  • Swordfish.ai is cost-effective, highly rated, and accurate. I also love that it integrates with different CRMs.
  • RocketReach is a nice budget solution offered by buying credits when you need them versus a monthly subscription, but from personal experience, I can tell you sometimes the data isn't always 100% accurate.
  • ZoomInfo is not as cost-effective, but it definitely is a popular solution for many companies.

A note on duplicates: sometimes, they happen. Some CRMs, such as HubSpot, have duplicate detecting built into their software. Apple’s iCloud and Google also have this functionality. If you are looking to handle duplicates in bulk, try Dedupley.

Now that you have all your emails collected in one place and the data is verified, it's time to put them to work for your company. But first, let's bust some myths about email for good.

Email mythbusting

It's time to bust some of the marketing myths about emails.  This first myth is the most common one I hear about.

  • Myth: Email is dead.
  • Bust: The ROI doesn't lie. 

If you're still reading, I hope you have realized that email is not dead at all.

As we mentioned, it's estimated that email generates $36 for every $1 spent—an astounding 3600% ROI. On the other hand, social media generates an estimated return of $2.80 for every $1 spent.


  • Myth: If we get unsubscribes, that means we should stop emailing. We can’t sent too many emails.
  • Bust: Not all unsubscribes are bad.

I hear you here - as consumers and buyers, we get bombarded with offers via email. I, too, unsubscribe from emails. But hear me out - not all unsubscribes are bad. Seriously.

That email unsubscribe doesn’t mean you have pissed off your customer or lead - here are some common reasons:

  • They only opted in for a short-time offer.
  • They want a different frequency or type of communication from you - not a total break up.

If you want to manage unsubscribes, always keep your messaging targeted to your audience. Don’t “blast” emails and segment your email lists. Remember, you should see about one third of your email list - yes, a third - turn over per year. People change jobs, people change situations, and people unsubscribe. 

  • Myth: We can’t delete contacts from our lists. What if they decide to buy from us?
  • Bust: Remove unengaged contacts. It's about quality over quantity. 

Please don’t get emotionally attached to the size of your email list. Quality is the name of the game here, not quantity.

Remove unengaged contacts from your list. This keeps your email marketing and sales cost down and improves your overall email performance. If someone hasn’t opened an email from you in 18 months, chances are they aren’t going to open one ever. Remove them from your active email list.

Now that we’ve mythbusted the dos and don’t of email, let's dive into three emails you can start sending today to cash in on that 3600% email ROI. 

3 high-ROI emails

1. The newsletter

Call me old-fashioned, but the email newsletter works for contacts in your email database that already have a relationship with you. That includes vendors, customers and marketing qualified leads.

An email newsletter is a broadcasted message. You should send your newsletter on a reliable schedule like a broadcast, such as monthly or quarterly. It should be in an email format that looks like a newsletter, not a promotional email. It should include interesting articles that are helpful to your audience.

Sending the newsletter to customers? Add in tips or articles that are related to your service or product. Does your service or product require maintenance? Make sure to remind customers of the seasonal maintenance to keep things in tip-top shape. You can mention customer-only discounts or referral bonuses in your newsletter, but make this more about connecting with customers, not pushing sales on them.

2. The promotional

This is the email everyone seems to lean on the most for that ROI. And while promotional emails are effective, be warned - overusing them can lead to the dreaded unsubscribes we mythbusted.

Consider promotional emails that are more than discounts. Promotional emails should be considered “triggered” emails. By triggered, I am talking about a specific event either by you or the customer that prompts the email. (I am not talking about the psychological definition of a trigger - only good vibes here.) 

Pro tip here - want to discover a niche within a large platform? Look for groups to join. Facebook and LinkedIn both have public and private groups you can join. Start by seeing if your local chamber, union, or building association has a group where you can request an invitation.

Promotional emails can focus on other types of content, including:
  • Product demos
  • How-to videos
  • Customer stories or project case studies
  • Downloadables such as infographics or white papers
The sky's the limit when it comes to a focused promotion email. The key here is to make sure what you are promoting is focused - one offer - not an all-you-can-eat offer buffet.

3. The transactional

Transactional emails are like system emails. These are usually automated when the customer completes some type of transaction with your company, hence the name. This could be an invoice, a shipping notification, a feedback survey, automated post sale or service, or a meeting reminder. Transactional emails should be helpful, informative and on-brand.

But don’t underestimate the power of a transactional email. These usually have the highest open and click-through rates of all your email types. Take advantage of the communication by reinforcing your brand message on these emails. And if you don’t have them, it's worth the time to set-up these emails. Not only do they provide excellent service to your customers, but by automating them, you save valuable staff time. And we all know those automated meeting reminders do save us from forgetting meetings!

Email your way to success

Now, you know not only where to find your email list, but three emails your company can start sending today. 

Email has been around for a long time, but don't get caught up in the myths. Use it effectively and you'll be moving toward that sweet ROI that enables scaling and expanding your operation. 

Remember, the world we build matters. If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. Now, let's build opportunities together.

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