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Retail Learning

Strategy Sessions: Harness the power of email

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Email has the highest ROI among digital marketing channels. Are you using it to its fullest potential?

Outdoor businesses put so so much energy, focus and dollars towards various social media platforms (and that’s not a bad thing), but we often overlook one of the most effective form of digital marketing: good old-fashioned Email.

Email marketing doesn’t get the ink and attention that social media does, but it’s tough to beat it when you want to connect with and engage your target customer.

Most customers actually want to hear from you via email.

Litmus is a leading email marketing and analytics company well known for its “state of” reports for email marketing. (You can receive the most recent report by going here and inputting your email address.) The 2015 report is full of compelling data about the effectiveness of email marketing but two key stats jumped out at me:

1 – Email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) of 38-to-1 on every dollar invested, and therefore yields the highest ROI among digital marketing channels. The reason the return is so high is because people use email consistently. Social platforms are visited sporadically and often our messages are not positioned to our audiences at the time they’re on a social platform. Emails remain in the recipients’ inbox until they’re handled. The email inbox is sacred ground for people of all ages and interests. It’s become even more important in the era of mobile marketing. People check their emails more than their social feeds, according to the Litmus report.

2 – Despite what many people say, most customers actually want to hear from you via email; 72 percent of people say they prefer companies to communicate with them via email over any other channel.


When you build a list of email addresses of people who are interested your business and brand, you’re building your own audience; one you own instead of rent. This is a true asset for your business.

Think of it this way: would you rather build a house on rented land or land you own? Facebook, Twitter and other platforms can change their algorithms any time, changing how you’re able to communicate with your followers. Example: Last year, users of Facebook suddenly had to start paying for posts to show up in followers’ feeds.

Prioritize collecting email addresses for marketing and outreach efforts and set quarterly goals to grow your list.


Here are four rules for building a solid email list and avoid becoming dreaded spam.

1. Always ask permission before adding anyone to your list. Email service providers (ESPs) like Mail Chimp are pre-programmed to adhere to anti-SPAM legislation. Invest in an ESP to aggregate your list and send emails. Do not attempt to send newsletters through your Gmail account – that platform simply doesn’t offer the functionality of an ESP, and doesn’t protect you from violating laws that can get you blacklisted from people’s inboxes.

Put an opt-in box on your website, and create something of value to incentivize signing up.

2. If you’re building a list from scratch: Create a list of people already in your network who you think would be open to joining your email list. Send them a personal note, via email, and ask them to join your list. Let them know what to expect from you and the feedback you hope to obtain from them. Be honest about email frequency and content. Add a button to your emails inviting subscribers to forward them to other people who might like to subscribe, too.

3. Whether you’re online-only or run a brick-and-mortar, ask permission for the email at the point of sale. At events, pass around a list for people to add their contact information, or use a digital capture solution, such as an iPad or other tablet device.

4. Put an “opt-in” box on your website. Don’t just ask them to sign up to get your newsletter–create something of value for them. If you’re a backcountry ski company or shop, for instance, offer your website visitor a downloadable, branded PDF on the best ways to take care of your skins in the off season. Your visitor will need to opt in by giving their email address to get it. Here’s a great article on the top ways to capture email on a website in a non-intrusive manner from Kissmetrics.

Your business needs to have an audience that you’re growing and that you own. Prioritize building your email list this year, and you’ll be building a true asset.

Kristin Carpenter-Ogden is founder and CEO of two successful companies: Verde Brand Communications, one of the leading brand communications agencies in the outdoor active lifestyle markets, and the Intrepid Entrepreneur, a coaching and consulting business dedicated to supporting independent and small companies in the outdoor markets as they grow their brands and businesses. She had a successful, decade-long journalism career for major consumer, business and trade outlets prior to founding Verde. Kristin produces a weekly Intrepid Entrepreneur podcast and offers free weekly content built for small business owners in the outdoor active lifestyle markets at