It’s still the killer app to beat for promotional products businesses.

While many businesses today are guilty of chasing the latest digital marketing craze, good old email marketing still wins hands down when it comes to return on investment.

“Email is still the most direct way to get to most buyers, especially when it comes from a known, trusted source,” says Gene Geiger, MAS+, CEO at distributor Geiger. “We use a weekly ‘Click Marketing’ program, where our customers get offers, and idea and trend information from our sales partners’ email addresses.

“We can see open rates and resulting orders, allowing us to get a good feel for ROI,” he adds. “It is vital to have a social media effort as well because that is where so many people live. But it serves a different purpose, and the ROI is much less measurable.”

Tiffany Price, vice president, marketing at distributor Boundless, says, “When it comes to email, it is still one of the strongest channels and can be a great way to drive more urgency and immediate benefit. It can also serve more of a direct sales role and push products and promotions, which can sometimes be frowned upon in social channels where content marketing is expected.”

Indeed, a 2016 study released by marketing consulting firm Clutch found that email marketing still has the highest ROI of any marketing channel. Eighty-three percent of the companies Clutch surveyed said they are using e-newsletters to make new sales, and more than 70 percent were using stand-alone emails and follow-up emails to nurture nibbles of interest from customers.

A similar study released last year by email marketing firm Campaign Monitor found that businesses can look forward to a $38 return for every dollar they invest in email marketing.

And Henry Hyder-Smith, CEO at Adestra, an email marketing service provider and consultancy, confirmed the trend yet again in a study his company conducted with Econsultancy. Those researchers found that 73 percent of 1,100 marketers interviewed said email was their No. 1 marketing channel in terms of ROI.

Hyder-Smith says the study points out that companies investing at least a fifth of their marketing budgets in email are eight times more likely to see sales attributable to it in excess of 50 percent.

The reason behind email’s potency? Despite all the buzz over social media, 58 percent of internet users say the first thing they check on their device each morning is email, according to a study by Exact Target.

“Here’s the truth: When you have someone’s email, you’re allowed to communicate with them when you want, how you want,” says Derek Halpern, owner of Social Triggers, an online marketing consultancy.

Halpern says he conducted his own informal test recently, pitting email against Twitter. He sent out a post on Twitter with a link on which he wanted prospective customers to click. Then he sent out the same post and link via email.

The result? Fifty of his Twitter followers clicked on the link, while 1,200 of his email subscribers clicked on the same link. “Yes, my email list might be twice as large as my social media following, but it generated about 24 times more clicks,” Halpern says. “That’s the power of email.”

Also helping email’s cause is the work IT departments have been doing to block spam from getting to company email boxes. Overall, those safeguards have significantly decreased the amount of spam businesses get as compared to just a few years ago.

Consequently, email open rates are looking healthy. On average, 17.6 percent of emails are now being opened by recipients, reports IBM’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark study.

Of course, getting email marketing right for your promotional products business involves more than simply knowing it works. Here are the 10 most popular best practices for email marketing, based on insights from the Econsultancy/Adestra survey:

  1. Engage In Basic Segmentation: Seventy-eight percent of companies said they’re doing basic segmentation with their email marketing. Essentially, this means they’re creating slightly different versions of the same email marketing message to cater to different segments of a company’s customer base. Some of your customers in the Southeast, for example, might get a slightly different message than customers in the Northwest. “The advances in technology that allow more personalization and dynamic content are great enablers to help companies differentiate themselves in an inbox,” says Boundless’s Price.

  1. Optimize For Mobile: Sixty-four percent of companies said they’re ensuring their emails are optimized for mobile. In practice, this translates into using single column email designs that allow for easier resizing, using responsive design that automatically resizes an email based on screen size and eliminating content in mobile emails that is ordinarily displayed on full-sized computers. “The usage trend is clearly moving to mobile devices,” says Geiger. “Emails must be viable on smartphones and tablets.”

  1. Clean Your List Regularly: Fifty-four percent of companies surveyed said their email marketing success also hinged on ensuring they purged their mailing list regularly of addresses that bounced back as no longer valid. They also are quickly removing email addresses from the list when customers request it.

  1. Encourage Email Sharing On Social Networks: Forty-seven percent of customers surveyed said they got more mileage from their marketing emails after asking their customers to share those emails on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks.

  1. Use Your Transaction Emails For Marketing: Forty-three percent of companies said they had a standard practice of inserting marketing messages into transaction emails. In practice, a promotional products business might pitch another product or upgrade when confirming a deal by email.

  1. Include Video Content: Forty-two percent of companies said adding video content to their email was critical to the potency of those marketing messages. Given that YouTube is the second most popular site on the web, the move sounds like a no-brainer for promotional products businesses, which could easily post a video about one of their recent promotions, new product line, etc.

  1. Do RelMarketing: Forty-one percent of companies surveyed said they regularly use emails to remarket to customers. For example, a web visitor who fails to confirm their new subscription to your e-newsletter, for example, might be prodded again by email to confirm that sign-up.

  1. Personalize Your Email: Thirty-seven percent of companies surveyed said personalization of emails was also key to their marketing success. The personalization went beyond simply addressing a person by first name. Instead, other personalized data was included in the email, such as the person’s birthday, acknowledgement of previous goods and services purchased by the recipient and similar qualifiers indicating the company truly knew who they were emailing when they put together the message.

  1. Use Emails For Lead Nurturing: Thirty-five percent of companies said once they received a nibble on an offer by email, they regularly followed up with additional emails to try and close the deal.

  1. Combine Email With Multichannel Triggers: Thirty-one percent of companies said once contact was made by email, they followed up by reaching out to the customer via other channels, including Facebook, Twitter, telephone and old-fashioned snail mail.

Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Reach him at 646-233-4089, and