Office Products Resellers & The Importance of Email Marketing

Depending on who you talk to may depend on whether email marketing is considered obsolete or (at the other end of the scale) still the single most effective way to reach and engage with a relevant audience.

According to estimates from the Radicati Group, 2017 will see nearly 5 billion email accounts owned by 2.75 billion account holders representing an average of 1.8 accounts per holder. In 2015 it was estimated that over 205 billion emails were sent and received per Day - expected to increase to 246 billion by the end of 2019. Most of the increase is due to emails used for notifications (offers, promotions, etc.) rather than interpersonal communications. The average number of emails received per user daily is estimated at 92, with the number sent significantly lower at 32.

According to Campaign Monitor, for every dollar spent on email marketing campaigns, the average return is $38.

If we assume for a moment that 50% of the 200 billion emails sent per Day are promotional, then 100 billion emails per Day at (for example) an average cost of $0.10 per email would be generating $142 trillion of returns per year - or nearly two times the size of the 2014 global economy! This example should clarify that not every email marketer generates $38 in returns for every dollar spent!

Not every email is equal, so not every email will earn a return of 3,800%. You must be in the top tier of expertise for running email marketing campaigns to make such a high return. To illustrate this point, I have broken down global email marketing (in a very simplistic way) to assess its performance from four different tiers.

Global Email Marketing Segmentation
TierCostShareEmails/Day (B)Invested/Day ($M)ROIROI/Day ($M)ROI/Year ($M)
   100.0$805M $10,709M$3,908,785M


I want to stress that the data in this table is for illustrative purposes only and is a gross simplification of reality. Its purpose, however, is legitimate. It demonstrates that only the cream of professional email marketers can earn $38 for every $1 spent.

If $4 trillion of annual revenue is earned from around $300 billion of yearly email marketing investment and thereby accounts for 5% of the global economy, then, based on these numbers, it passes the sniff test. In contrast, the general statement that the average return for all email marketing is $38 for every $1 spent does not!

This example shows that only 2.5% of marketers achieve the 3,800% ROI gold standard. It's not to say that decent returns can't be earned lower down the scale - it's just that they're not going to be 3,800%!

There are many variables needing to be optimized to achieve the gold standard:

  • Quality of contacts and their level of engagement
  • Segmentation of the contact database
  • Quality of campaigns (structure, timing, relevance)
  • The value proposition (content offers as well as product offers)
  • Planning and execution

Think for a moment about independent office product resellers and think about regular marketing emails you may have seen from this channel. They're usually product offer oriented - i.e., 20% discount on a Brother TN450 cartridge. How many of those marketers' contacts have a Brother machine that uses a TN450 cartridge, and, worse still, how many do those that need a cartridge when the marketing email arrives? Email marketing is at its worst, and its ROI is likely at the low end of the scale.

Now think for a moment about combining business intelligence with email marketing. Imagine installing your Data Collection Agent at a couple of hundred local businesses and gathering intelligence on 1,000 or more printers. Now you're going to know what cartridge is needed and when. Now you're empowered to perfect the timing of a relevant email marketing campaign. Imagine a series of educational emails leading up to the point a cartridge needs to be purchased, explaining the value proposition of aftermarket cartridges versus OEM brands. During this window, the opportunity is taken to lay the foundation for conversion from OEM to aftermarket, increasing the chances of a future, well-timed promotional email achieving its desired sale outcome.

Generating $38 of revenue for every $1 spent makes direct email marketing appealing. However, the point of this blog has been to explain that only a small number of marketers achieve these kinds of results. Nevertheless, the potential for such attractive returns should motivate resellers to learn how to conduct effective email marketing. Facebook and Twitter (for example) will not yield these kinds of returns and have their challenges in audience building and engagement before they can be developed to be worthwhile. Email marketing is essential and will likely remain so for years.

Our objective from this blog and the upcoming series is to help independent office product resellers understand how to approach email marketing and advance through the ROI tiers I've identified. By doing so, they can also start to improve returns on the relatively modest investments required for effective email campaigns.

Our following few blogs will focus on the following:

  • Contact lists, organizing, and segmentation
  • The Foundation - buyer personas and the Buyer's journey
  • Planning campaigns and strategy
  • Execution - automation, and workflows
  • Goal setting and measuring ROI

The bottom line is that modern business is being digitized, and email marketing is essential to this process. Stick with traditional analog methods and continue to see your business erode as digital competitors chip away at your existing customer base. Start to implement your digital business transformation strategy, win new customers, and participate in improving the future of office supplies dealerships, not least that of your own!

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