Email marketing – the complete guide for beginners

What is Email Marketing

Email marketing is a way for businesses to tell customers about new products, sales, and news. It’s really good at making sales because people sign up to get these emails. This method is known for giving businesses a big return for what they spend, making it a key part of their marketing plan.

Email marketing today is all about asking for permission, focusing on different customer groups, and making messages personal. It’s more about creating a strong relationship with customers by sending them things they’re interested in.

Even though making these personal emails might seem like a lot of work, there are tools that do most of it for you. Over time, a good email marketing strategy can increase sales and help build a loyal community around your brand.

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach out to customers, even better than social media, search engine optimization (SEO), or affiliate marketing. It’s been around for a long time and still works really well because it can reach a lot of people – over 4.5 billion! For every dollar a business spends on email marketing, they can earn $36 back, which is why it’s a must-have tool for marketers.

In simple terms, email marketing is a powerful and effective way for businesses to connect with customers and make more sales.

Advantages and benefits of email marketing

  1. Drives sales: Email marketing is a potent tool for boosting sales. Whether it’s a special promotion or a sale, sending campaigns to your subscribers can significantly increase purchases.

  2. Increases brand awareness: Direct communication through email helps in making a personal connection with your audience. Being part of someone’s inbox means they consider your brand significant. This one-to-one interaction is more impactful than social media posts, keeping your brand at the forefront of your subscribers’ minds.

  3. Strengthens customer loyalty: Email marketing fosters loyalty at every stage of the customer journey, from lead nurturing and conversion to onboarding and retention. It works excellently alongside CRM systems, streamlining communication and enhancing customer relationships.

  4. Scalable and cost-effective: One of the major benefits of email marketing is its scalability. You can reach a vast audience without the high costs associated with other marketing channels, making it a budget-friendly option for businesses of all sizes.

  5. Enhanced engagement and targeted messaging: With its ability to drive direct interaction and provide valuable content, email marketing enhances customer engagement. Segmenting your audience and sending tailored messages increases the relevance and effectiveness of your campaigns.

  6. Advanced tracking and flexibility: The use of email marketing software enables detailed tracking and analysis, allowing for A/B testing and strategy refinement. This adaptability ensures that your marketing efforts are always aligned with what works best for your audience.

  7. Direct traffic booster: Emails can direct traffic to various digital platforms, broadening your brand’s reach beyond the inbox.

  8. Automated and personalized communication: Automation tools in email marketing enable sending targeted messages based on specific customer actions, enhancing the personal touch in your communications.

Disadvantages of email marketing

  1. Spam and deliverability issues:
    1. Emails often end up in spam or junk folders, reducing open rates and overall effectiveness.
    2. It’s important to learn strategies to prevent emails from being marked as spam.
  2. Inbox overwhelm and engagement:
    1. With many marketing emails flooding inboxes, yours might get lost in the crowd.
    2. Segmenting your email list based on engagement and maintaining a balanced mailing schedule can help your emails stand out.
  3. Design complications across devices:
    1. Emails need to be optimized for various devices and email clients, as inconsistent display can negatively impact the reader’s experience.
    2. Utilizing responsive templates from your Email Service Provider (ESP) and tools like Litmus Email Tester can ensure better performance across devices.
  4. Regulatory compliance:
    1. Adhering to privacy regulations like GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and CCPA is crucial to avoid legal issues.
    2. Implementing measures like double opt-ins and including unsubscribe links in every email are important for compliance.
  5. List maintenance:
    1. Regularly removing inactive or unengaged subscribers is necessary to maintain a healthy email list.
  6. Cost factors:
    1. Many email marketing service providers charge based on the number of subscribers, which means costs increase as your list grows.
    2. Efficient list maintenance and engaging content ensure that each subscriber is worth the investment.

Email marketing types and examples

  1. Promotional emails: These are designed to highlight special offers, new products, or your brand in general. They usually contain a clear call-to-action (CTA), like a button saying “Buy Now” or “Learn More”, encouraging readers to take a specific step.
  2. Informational emails: This category includes newsletters which share updates about your business, like milestones or new product features. They’re sent regularly (weekly, monthly) to keep in touch with your subscribers, offering valuable content and insights.
  3. Retention emails: Aimed at keeping your current customers engaged, these emails might introduce your product, provide usage tips, or even include surveys and user-generated content. They help ensure customers remain interested and loyal to your brand.
  4. Transactional emails: Triggered by customer actions, these include order confirmations, password resets, and abandoned cart reminders. They’re crucial for customer satisfaction, providing reassurance that their actions (like a purchase) have been successful.
  5. Welcome emails: Sent to new subscribers or customers, these introduce your business and often offer a bonus or trial to engage the new audience.
  6. Lead nurturing emails: Targeted at potential customers interested in a specific product or service, these emails are sent in a series to gradually build interest and guide the reader towards making a purchase.
  7. Confirmation emails: Sent after a sign-up or purchase, these emails confirm the action taken by the user and may include further steps or related information.
  8. Dedicated emails: Focused on a specific segment of your email list, like recent purchasers or inactive customers, these are tailored to address the particular interests or behaviors of that group.
  9. Invite emails: Used to announce events or product launches, these emails aim to increase awareness and encourage attendance or participation.
  10. Survey emails: Sent to gather customer feedback, these show that you value their opinions and are willing to make improvements based on their suggestions.
  11. Seasonal marketing emails: Tied to holidays or special occasions, these promote related sales or events, like Christmas or Mother’s Day specials.

Each type of email campaign serves a different purpose and choosing the right one depends on your marketing goals. Whether you’re looking to drive sales, inform your audience, or maintain customer relationships, there’s an email campaign that can help you achieve it. The key to successful email marketing is to deliver relevant and valuable content that resonates with your audience.

How to do email marketing

Step 1: Define your goals
Firstly, understand your objectives. Ask yourself what you want your subscribers to do and how you can keep them engaged. Whether it’s driving sales or increasing brand awareness, your goals will shape your email marketing strategy.

Step 2: Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)
An ESP is essential for managing email campaigns. It offers tools for creating, sending, and analyzing emails. ESPs are more effective than regular email providers like Gmail for marketing purposes, as they ensure better deliverability and avoid spam filters.

Step 3: Build your email list
An engaged email list is your asset. Create opt-in forms on your website to collect email addresses. Offer incentives like discounts or exclusive content to encourage sign-ups. 

Step 4: Segmentation and campaign types
Segment your list based on demographics or behaviors to tailor your messages. ESPs offer various campaign types, from newsletters to promotional emails. Choose the type that aligns with your goals and audience preferences.

Step 5: Track and optimize
Monitor key metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Use this data to refine future campaigns. Regularly clean your list to maintain engagement and deliverability.

Email marketing strategy tips

  1. Personalization: Use demographic data to create personalized campaigns. Segmented and personalized emails significantly increase engagement and conversion rates.
  2. Automation: Set up automated email workflows for actions like cart reminders, which enhance personalization and engagement.
  3. Legal Compliance: Be aware of laws like GDPR and CAN-SPAM. Ensure your emails are compliant to avoid penalties.

How to build your contact lists for email marketing

Building an email list is essential for effective email marketing. The first step is to gather subscribers who are genuinely interested in your content. Remember, it’s not just about having a list; it’s about having subscribers who opted in to receive emails from you. This consent, known as an “opt-in,” is crucial for legal compliance and maintaining the integrity of your brand.

1. Create effective signup forms:
Place email signup forms strategically on your website and other digital platforms. This includes areas like:

  1. The end of blog posts.
  2. Your website homepage, either at the header or bottom.
  3. Contact and checkout pages, especially for e-commerce sites.
  4. In your social media bio.
  5. Pop-up forms on your website (but be careful not to disrupt user experience).

2. Highlight the benefits:

Make sure your call to action (CTA) on these forms highlights the benefits of subscribing. Use phrases like “Get your free guide now!” or offer incentives like discounts or free shipping for first-time subscribers. Demonstrating social proof, such as showing the number of existing subscribers, can also encourage sign-ups.

3. Use lead magnets:
Offer valuable content or exclusive deals in exchange for email signups. This could be eBooks, reports, checklists, infographics, or special discounts. For example, a clothing brand might offer a 10% discount on the first order after subscribing.

4. Engage with subscribers:
Use email not just for marketing, but also to engage in a conversation with your customers. Send surveys, appreciation messages, follow-ups on abandoned carts, or simple greetings. This helps in building a connection and provides valuable feedback.

5. Respect email regulations:
Be aware of email marketing laws like the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL, or GDPR. These laws apply based on both your location and that of your subscribers. Never buy email lists, as most email marketing platforms prohibit sending to purchased lists.

6. Email responsibly:
Once you have subscribers, respect their trust. Avoid sending too many emails, and focus on sending relevant and engaging content. Overloading your audience with unnecessary emails can lead to unsubscribes.

How to write marketing emails

Understanding your audience

1. Know your audience: Understand who you’re writing to. This helps in segmenting your list and creating targeted email copy that resonates with your audience.

Crafting the email

  1. Subject line: This is crucial as it influences whether recipients open your email. Make it:
    1. Keyword-rich.
    2. Benefit-driven.
    3. In active voice.
    4. Personalized.
    5. Short and exciting.
    6. Informative but not spammy (avoid spam trigger words).
  2. Preview text: This complements the subject line. It should:
    1. Provide insight into the email’s content.
    2. Be enticing and informative.
    3. Be concise, within 140 characters.
  3. Email design:
    1. Use simple, on-brand designs.
    2. Optimize for mobile devices.
    3. Use visuals effectively.
    4. Include clear Call-To-Actions (CTAs).
    5. Utilize responsive templates.
  4. Email copy:
    1. Write in a clear, conversational tone.
    2. Use short sentences and paragraphs.
    3. Incorporate storytelling and psychological triggers.
    4. Be direct and avoid jargon.
    5. Use bullet points for easy reading.
  5. Sender name:
    1. Use a recognizable and trustworthy name that incorporates your brand to enhance credibility.

Strategy and goals

  1. Define your strategy and goals: Determine what you want to achieve with your campaign (e.g., promoting a product, sharing discounts, etc.). This guides your content creation.
  2. Offer value: Your content should address your audience’s needs and problems. Think about how you can help them.

Technical Aspects

  1. Optimize for Open Rates:
    1. Keep subject lines short and engaging.
    2. Use AI tools for subject line creation.
    3. Avoid using all caps or excessive punctuation.
  2. Email Templates: Use pre-made templates for ease and consistency. Customize them to fit your brand.
  3. Continuous improvement: feedback and testing: Regularly review and adjust your strategy. Use A/B testing for subject lines and other elements to see what works best.

Email marketing best practices

1. Build your email list

  1. Never buy email lists: Always build your list organically to avoid legal issues and poor engagement.
  2. Use double opt-In signup forms: This ensures genuine interest and compliance with regulations like GDPR.

2. Craft your emails

  1. Personalization: use the recipient’s name and tailor content based on their preferences or behavior.
  2. Eye-catching subject lines: create intriguing yet clear subject lines. Use numbers or a conversational tone for a better impact.
  3. Compelling content: Include strong calls to action, guiding subscribers to make purchases or engage further.

3. Segmenting and targeting

  1. Segment your mailing list: divide your list based on demographics, behaviors, or preferences for more relevant emails.
  2. Send targeted content: craft messages that resonate with different segments of your audience.

4. Email design and optimization

  1. Optimize for mobile: Ensure emails load quickly and are navigable on mobile devices.
  2. Stylize emails: Align the design with your brand for better recognition and consistency.

5. Avoiding spam filters

  1. Consent is key: Only send emails to those who have opted in.
  2. Clean coding and personalization: Use clean email templates and personalize the “To” field.
  3. Educate your audience: Encourage them to add your brand to their address book.

6. Testing and improving

  1. A/B Testing: Experiment with different subject lines, content, and CTAs to see what works best.
  2. Track and analyze metrics: Monitor open rates, click-through rates, bounces, and unsubscribes to refine your strategy.

7. Legal compliance and best practices

  1. Adhere to laws: Be aware of and comply with email marketing laws like CAN-SPAM and GDPR.
  2. Unsubscribing: Make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe.

8. Automation and efficiency

  1. Use a professional platform: Choose an email marketing service that suits your needs.
  2. Automate where possible: Utilize autoresponders for welcome emails and other regular communications.

Frequently Asked Questions about Email Marketing (FAQs)

1. What are the benefits of email marketing?

Email marketing enables businesses to reach a wider audience, drive sales, recover abandoned shopping carts, and develop deeper relationships with customers. It’s also cost-effective, offering a high return on investment.

2. How do I build an email list?

You can build an email list by:

  1. Offering a downloadable asset or free email course.
  2. Hosting giveaways or contests.
  3. Placing a banner on your site for email sign-ups.

3. What are the email marketing regulations I should know about?

It’s important to comply with regulations like CAN-SPAM (U.S.) and GDPR (Europe), which require protecting user privacy and prohibit sending unsolicited emails, especially to purchased lists.

4. What is email automation and how does it work?

Email automation allows you to send automatic emails based on specific subscriber actions, like adding an item to their cart or downloading an asset. This helps in creating targeted and timely email campaigns.

5. How do I segment my email list?
Segment your email list using your email tool based on criteria like demographics, interests, or customer behavior. This enables you to send more personalized and relevant emails to different segments.

6. How can I ensure my emails don’t end up as spam?
Encourage recipients to add your email to their safe sender list. Craft engaging and informative content to avoid being marked as spam.

7. Can I combine email marketing with other types of marketing?
Yes, email marketing can be effectively combined with other marketing strategies for promotions, special events, announcements, etc., enhancing the overall impact.

8. How important is the email subject line?
The subject line is crucial. It determines whether your email is opened or ignored. Use engaging and relevant subject lines to grab the reader’s attention, like “Save 50% on your next order” or “Discover our new easy-to-use home cleaning product.”