Finicky ROI: Email Is Not The Top Channel For SMBs

Email was long celebrated as providing the strongest return on investment of any marketing channel. But it may have slipped a little — at least for small businesses, judging by The State Of Sales and Marketing 2021/22, a study released Wednesday by Pipedrive, a CRM platform for SMBs. 

Of the businesses polled, 61% utilize email marketing, second only to social media marketing, at 69%. But email is now tied for second place in terms of ROI, as shown by the following list: 

  • Social media marketing — 27% 
  • Content marketing — 20%
  • Email marketing — 20% 
  • Search engine marketing — 18%
  • Online events and webinars — 13% 
  • Video marketing — 9% 
  • Paid social — 8% 
  • Influencer marketing — 6%



Moreover, only 10% said their email ROI was very good in 2021, although 29% cited it as good and 39% as average. But only 18% reported it was poor, and 4% very poor. 

But this depended on certain factors. For one, brands that invested more in email marketing during the pandemic reported stronger email ROI — 37% versus 25% of firms that spent less. Overall, 42% invested more in email in that period, with 43% saying it was the same as before and 15% citing that it was less. 

Automation is another variable. Of firms that have automated, 29% say email has driven their greatest ROI, compared to 16% of non-automated companies.  

Pipedrive surveyed 1,114 sales and marketing professionals and business owners in December 2021, reflecting numbers only up to that date.

Whatever the top ROI producer, brands that use multiple channels are more likely to meet their regular sales quotas: 3.68 always meet them. 

In contrast, those that deploy 3.13 channels regularly meet their quotas, while users of 2.83 rarely hit them. Firms that use only 1.84 channels never meet, the study reports.  

Meanwhile, 45% spent more on marketing in general in 2021, and 39% stayed at the same level as in 2020. Another 18% expended less.  

On another front, 12% say their sales and marketing processes are very well integrated, and 28% rather well. Another 38% give themselves an average grade, and 18% say their systems are poorly integrated and 4% not at all.  

Of those that are not well integrated, 19% met their annual sales targets, versus 44% of those with effective integration. 

The respondents say these tasks are automated at their firms:

  • Maintaining and updating sales data and customer notes — 36%
  • Activity-based workflows — 33%
  • Lead generation  27%
  • Email marketing campaigns — 27%
  • Analysis of sales activities — 25%
  • Administrative tasks — 24%
  • Generating quotes and proposals — 23%
  • Forecasting — 14%
  • Prioritizing leads — 1%


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