My 8-year-old daughter, Violet, is obsessed with gymnastics. She takes 2 classes every week, exclusively plays on the monkey bars and rings during school recess, and rearranges our living room each day to practice handstands, backbends, and other moves that would leave me bedridden if I foolishly attempted them myself.

But here’s the thing… she’s not a good gymnast. When you compare her moves to the Olympic gymnasts you’re going to see on TV this summer, you’ll wonder why Violet “wastes” so much of her time on a sport she’s so far behind in…

Violet can’t even do a cartwheel on the beam, let alone a back handspring!

Of course, I’m joking.

It would be ridiculous for me to compare my 8-year-old daughter to an Olympian and come to the conclusion that Violet should quit gymnastics because she’s not as good as them yet. Nobody performs at an Olympic level when they are just learning the sport. It takes many years of practice, and countless missteps, falls, injuries, and failures along the way…

We all know this is true not just for gymnastics, but for just about everything in life. However, when we assess the performance of new marketing campaigns we tend to forget this simple fact of life and we end up throwing in the towel too quickly. In other words, if you don’t see instant results, then you declare the tactic does not work for your business.

Sound familiar?

One tactic in particular, email marketing, falls victim to this unfair analysis at the detriment of many small businesses.

Read on to learn why…

Email Marketing Does Not Work (At First)

The #1 reason why so many businesses abandon email marketing is because it simply does not work right away.

But remember, this analysis is flawed! Just because my daughter can’t do a cartwheel on the balance beam doesn’t mean she’s never going to. In fact, each week she gets just a little bit closer to landing it and I’m willing to bet she will master that skill in just a few more weeks.

Email marketing is similar to gymnastics moves in that nobody is successful right away and you must commit fully to even have a chance at success.

First of all, most businesses start email marketing with a small email list of contacts that know, like, and trust their business. Yes, I’m saying that size does matter because results will tend to be proportional to the size of your list. The larger the list, the more leads and sales you’ll be able to generate each month.

For that reason, when you’re just getting started with email marketing you won’t even scratch the surface in terms of the potential to drive leads and sales. Think of it like watching 8-year-olds on a balance beam versus watching Olympians. Obviously, you have to adjust your expectations or else you’ll be extremely disappointed when the 8-year-olds aren’t able to match the level of difficulty of the Olympic gymnast routines.

Secondly, most businesses do not yet have an established relationship with their email list, which means fewer emails will be opened, read, and clicked on. Over time, as you consistently send emails to your list, you’ll form a stronger and stronger relationship so your open rates and click-through rates will increase. This is similar to how young gymnasts like my daughter simply lack the strength, flexibility, and balance to land more advanced moves. In other words, Violet needs more practice, along with more time for her muscles to develop and she’ll eventually master more advanced routines.

As her dad, I sometimes wish I could snap my fingers and transform Violet into a more developed gymnast, but that’s not how it works.

And the same is true with email marketing. Every business starts with a small list and a weak relationship to that list. The key difference between businesses with successful versus unsuccessful email marketing campaigns is commitment.

The hard truth is that it takes time, often years, to grow your list and establish a strong relationship with your audience.

So the million dollar question you’re probably asking is…

Is Email Marketing Worth the Wait?

When Pete and I founded Main Street ROI in 2011, we had less than 200 contacts on our email newsletter and most nearly all of these contacts did not know, like, or trust us… they simply requested some free information that we had advertised using Google AdWords.

Every week, Pete and I took turns drafting and sending marketing tips and industry updates to our email list. Back then we called our newsletter “Profit Points” and you can see the “impressive” stats from one of our emails in the screenshot below.

We sent this email to a total of 177 contacts and exactly 37 of those contacts opened the email. Of the 37 that opened the email, a grand total of 3 clicked on the link in the email. Plus, another 3 decided to opt out from all future emails. Can you guess how many leads and sales we generated from that email?

Drum roll please…

Zero!

Epic marketing fail, right? Clearly, email marketing doesn’t work.

Well… not exactly. Remember, we can’t judge the success of email marketing by the results of your early emails. Back in 2011, we had a relatively small email list and virtually no relationship with anyone on that list. We were effectively learning how to do a cartwheel on the ground. Why would we judge success by comparing our results to the “Olympic” level email marketing campaign results that are frequently published online?

Again, that would be like comparing my 8-year-old daughter, Violet, to Simone Biles and declaring Violet a failure. That doesn’t make any sense!

Luckily, Pete and I knew this because we had previously helped another company grow from $0 – $4MM on the back of email marketing. We know it worked, but we also knew it required persistence.

So every week, month after month, and year after year, we pounded our keyboards and sent out our weekly email newsletter to an ever-growing audience of businesses that grew to know, like, and trust our advice.

The results speak for themselves…

Fast forward 9 years and our list is over 100X larger than it was when we started. As an example, below is an email sent to a subset of our email newsletter list:

As you can see, we sent this email to 25,514 subscribers, 4,637 of them opened the email, and 244 clicked to learn more about a new service we were offering.

More importantly, we generated 14 sales leads and 6 of those leads turned into new clients!

If 6 clients doesn’t sound like much to you, then remember that all we did was draft and send a single email and we instantly generated 14 fresh leads that eventually turned into clients. Which other marketing channel generates leads and sales nearly on-demand with no advertising costs?

Back to the question at hand, is email marketing worth the wait?

For Main Street ROI, the answer is a resounding yes. And if you’re willing to commit to this tactic, then the answer will be yes for your business as well.

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