Joshua Lee is a strategic coach, author of "(Life)4," and co-founder of Stand Out Authority.

Email is a neglected technology for most small businesses. Let your competitors make this mistake while you laugh all the way to the bank. Here's why: according to Experian, for every dollar spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.

I teamed up with Dan Faggella, email marketing expert and founder of CLVBoost, to plan this year's email strategy for my company, StandOut Authority. We've already seen a 400 percent increase in click-throughs. As we tested different calls-to-action, we saw another 75 percent jump (for a total lift of 700 percent from our starting point).

Whether you sell products or services, the consistent ROI of email marketing is low-hanging fruit. Follow these five steps for profit that's ripe for the taking.

Develop a Strategy

You've probably heard "begin with the end in mind." Design your campaign and each email to entice your customer to get to this end goal. If you're a financial planner or realtor, your end goal is likely to spur subscribers to call you or to book an appointment online. If you have a retail business, on the other hand, your aim might be to get customers down to your store to buy your products.

If you don't have your past customers' emails, the first step of your strategy is to put systems in place. A CRM will gather the email addresses (and consent) of all fresh leads and customers. It's a goldmine for companies who use it well.

Segment Subscribers to Target Unique Needs

Even a basic segmentation strategy can help lift your email ROI immediately. The simplest possible segmentation strategy falls into two simple categories: 1) customers, and 2) prospects.

Customers or clients are people who have spent money with you. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini talks about the concept of commitment and consistency. Research shows that people who have bought from you are nine times more likely to buy from you again. Customer-focused messaging can help encourage retention in a service or use of a product. It can also spur further buys--a la Amazon's strategy of "customers who bought this also bought this..." Whether you have 200 customer records or 200,000, you can win. Targeted monthly emails to educate those customers and encourage buying-related offers is an easy way to grow your profits.

On the other hand, prospects or leads are people who haven't purchased from you yet. In these cases, you do need an intentional strategy to lead them by the "digital hand" to the next step in your sales process. Consistency of communication and relevance is critical. Appeal to the biggest benefits your prospects are looking for. Present them with a logical next step, whether it's a first purchase or an initial phone appointment.

Build an Automation Campaign

Construct a basic automation campaign to support your most important business goals. You or someone you hire can create a series of emails to lead subscribers to call, book an appointment, buy online, or drive to your store.

Your email series can be as few as five to 10 emails. Your first email will do the job of thanking the new prospect or customer for their interest or purchase. It also re-enforces your company's value proposition, which what you'll be delivering to their inbox (i.e. what makes you unique and why they should keep opening your emails).

Future emails will educate your customers on products and services most likely to interest them. In each email, tell the reader the one thing you want them to do. In other words, don't ask them to watch a video, make a purchase and join you on Facebook in one email. Each email has one specific purpose for driving clicks and actions.

Use Subscriber Feedback

Subscriber feedback, polls and customer contacts can improve email effectiveness. Feedback is critical to taking your list of subscribers who don't buy anything and turning them into raving fans. Use online polls (such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey) to collect data about the industries, demographics and goals of your customers. This data will help you craft future emails to better appeal to what your customers want. Best of all, the surveys are simple to set up -- no tech knowledge is needed.

Be Consistent

Consistency is the critical and often missing factor. Similarly to how a TV show airs at a specific day and time, you should "air" your emails at a certain day and time. Program what your customers and subscribers can expect from you (this can be varied for special promos and events, but having a regimen is most important).

People are getting 121 emails per day, and that is set to rise to 140 or more by 2018 according to this research report. Consistently showing up in their inbox is critical to building trust, driving revenue and staying out of the "spam" box.

Email isn't talked about much because it's an old technology, but it's still one of the most effective communication channels to move people through your sales process. It's also a lot cheaper than many other forms of advertising and often has a much clearer ROI. These are the five simple steps that worked for my company. Try them, and you'll be well on your way to a record year of sales from emails -- and maybe even record revenue -- this year.

Published on: Feb 24, 2016