With email, less should be more

Email has replaced direct mail in many ways – as arguably the most cost effective direct marketing channel but also the most likely to shout loudest about its worth. 

Russell Parsons

On a weekly basis, I receive email notification of a study trumpeting its unmatched ROI and increased use.  One received this week caught my eye as it came courtesy of Marketing Week sister title E-consultancy.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the marketers polled for the study ranked email as the best digital DM channel for return on investment, up 3 percentage points on a year ago.

The study, published by Adestra and E-consultancy, also found marketers getting more bang for their buck. Almost a fifth (23 per cent) of sales were attributed to email, up from 18 per cent a year ago.

Impressive stuff but all in the garden is not entirely rosy. Despite the returns reported by some, more than half (58 per cent) of respondents described the results of their campaigns as “average” or “poor”.

The clue to what appears to be a contradictory finding might be found elsewhere in the report. The proportion of companies sending more than one million emails per month has doubled since 2007, it claims.

Email’s low cost and accountability is tempting. Companies are now using the channel as both a direct sales route and an engagement tool. Sending three or four emails in a relatively short space of time is cheap and relatively painless but email is in danger of standing alone in sending so much so often.  

The problem is volume does not always equate to quality. As much as there have been great strides in personalisation, targeting and relevance, if volumes continue to go up and up, email risks becoming a victim of its own attributes.

Those marketers not enamored with their own campaigns need to consider whether less is more. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Marketers and email as a channel could benefit be reducing volumes by a fair few thousand.   

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here