Karen Gragg, vice president of marketing at Emma, and Christina Brady, Emma Field Marketing Manager at Impact Hub Austin.

Email is still the backbone of an effective marketing campaign, said Karen Gragg, vice president of marketing at Emma.

Marketers report email generates the most return on investment with a 47 percent return, compared to the next highest platform, social media, with a 19 percent return, according to Gragg.

Emma held an event Thursday afternoon at Impact Hub in downtown Austin to kick off its first roadshow focused on “Winning the Email Inbox.”

Austin is the first city the Nashville-based Emma visited on its roadshow. It’s also travelling to Denver, Chicago and Boston.

Emma, founded in 2002 and privately held, has more than 15,000 direct customers and reaches an overall 50,000 customers through its partnerships with marketing agencies. It targets a high-end small to medium sized business market.

And Emma, which has a smiling female face in its logo, stands for email marketing. Its founder, Clint Smith, bootstrapped the company to $20 million in revenue and recently took on $5 million in investment from Nashville Capital Network and Square 1 Bank, according to an article in Forbes.

Emma differentiates itself from competitors like Mailchimp and Constant Contact by providing a lot of customer service and personalized help, Gragg said.

“Our customers can pick up the phone and talk to someone and get help with a campaign,” Gragg said.

And Emma’s email marketing technology was not built for a technologist but for a marketer, Gragg said. So, it is easy to use, she said.

Last year, people sent more than six billion email campaigns using the Emma platform, Gragg said.

In the Austin area, Emma’s customers include Tito’s Handmade Vodka, The Daily Dot, Texas A&M and Rodeo Austin, among many others. About 50 people turned out for the roadshow event to hear presentations from Emma and its partners including Sparkfly, Torchlight, and Reviewtrackers.

At the event, Gragg and Jamie Bradley from Emma provided tips on creating an effective email strategy. Emma’s number tip is to spend time on a thoughtful design that appeals to the audience a company is trying to reach. It’s also important to use a template that is optimized for mobile devices. Half of all email is opened on a mobile device, according to Emma. It recommends a one column design that highlights just ten items, not 70 things.

Emma also recommends people use a call to action button – instead of a highlighted link, Bradley said. The optimal size is 32 pixels by 32 pixels, she said.

Making simple design changes in an email campaign to make it easier to read and act can result in a double-digit increase in engagement, Bradley said.

Emma also recommends people automate when possible. Companies can increase engagement with their customers simply by sending an automated welcome email.

“There’s so much room for improvement when it comes to email marketing,” Gragg said. “When you do it really well that’s when you see the value and the increase in business.”