Email marketing refers to sending commercial messages to a group of people for advertising or promotional purposes. It involves using email to connect with potential customers, nurture relationships, and drive sales.
In today’s digital age, email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing channels and a ubiquitous communication tool that continues to offer an unparalleled opportunity to reach customers.
With high open rates and strong conversion potential, email marketing drives ROI and boosts bottom lines for businesses of all sizes. Read on to discover everything you need to know about how email marketing works so you can leverage this powerful tool in your business.
Building Your Email List
Building a quality email list is the first critical step for email marketing success. There are several ethical and legal methods to collect email addresses, including the following:
Opt-in forms on your website allow visitors to subscribe by entering their details into a sign-up bar, embedded widget, landing page, or pop-up.
Make opt-in forms prominent throughout your site, like in blog sidebars or site headers. Offer an incentive like a discount code or free ebook to encourage sign-ups.
Social Media Platforms
Social media websites provide options to convert followers into email subscribers. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube all have lead-generation tools to collect emails from fans. Promote your email sign-up link in your bio and posts.
At online checkouts, customers can opt-in by ticking a box to receive future promotional emails. Set up post-purchase emails in your e-commerce platform to trigger automatically after a sale.
Keep in mind that a permission-based approach is essential for email marketing.
Only send messages to people who have actively signed up and consented to receive communications. Following anti-spam laws like CAN-SPAM ensures your practices are legal and builds trust with subscribers.
Once you’ve started building your email list, segment the master list into smaller targeted groups based on attributes like
- Purchase history
- Engagement levels, etc.
Sending emails tailored to specific subscriber segments makes the messaging more relevant and effective for each group. For example, segment by new subscribers, repeat customers, disengaged contacts due for re-engagement campaigns, etc.
Email Marketing Software
Selecting the right email marketing platform is crucial for executing effective campaigns and easily managing your growing subscriber list. When evaluating options, look for an intuitive solution that offers enterprise-level capabilities to scale with your business needs.
Prioritize platforms with these key features:
1. Email Templates – Professionally designed templates allow you to quickly build on-brand emails with drag-and-drop editors. Look for a large gallery of responsive templates for different campaign types like welcome series, product announcements, newsletters, and promotions. Pre-designed templates make it easy to plug in your images, text, and links.
2. Contact Management – Robust contact management tools help you organize your subscriber data in one place, including contact details, preferences, purchase history, engagement stats, and more. You’ll also be able to tag contacts for easy segmentation into groups for targeted messaging, as well as access individual contact profiles to customize communication based on their attributes and past interactions.
3. Campaign Scheduling – Campaign scheduling tools allow you to schedule one-time email blasts or set up sequences to deploy over time. Send immediately or pick the optimal days/times for each audience segment based on past performance. You can also automate a multi-email welcome series for onboarding new subscribers or post-purchase follow-ups.
4. Analytics & Reporting – In-depth metrics and insights allow you to gauge campaign effectiveness and refine your approach. Track metrics like opens, clicks, unsubscribes, spam complaints, conversions, ROI, and revenue directly attributed to your emails. Reporting provides visibility into what content and strategies are working best and you can use industry benchmarks like the ones below to see if you’re on the right track.
Choosing a marketing automation platform that integrates these capabilities in one centralized dashboard will empower you to nurture relationships, boost engagement, increase conversions, and prove the ROI of your email efforts.
Creating Compelling Email Content
The quality of your email content significantly impacts open rates, click throughs, and conversions.
Follow these best practices when creating compelling campaigns.
Use Attention-Grabbing Subject Lines
Engaging subject lines inspire subscribers to open your emails. Research shows subject line optimization can increase open rates by 50% or more.
Keep subject lines short, descriptive, and targeted to your segments. Experiment with urgency, curiosity sparking questions, value propositions, and personalization. Draft multiple options and A/B test them.
Write High-Quality Email Copy
Well-written copy provides value, answers questions, and speaks directly to your readers. Structure emails with clear headers, brief paragraphs, bulleted lists, and ample white space.
Link to gated content and landing pages to drive clicks. Share relevant stories and weave in brand personality. Make sure every sentence relates back to your readers’ needs and interests.
Add Attractive Visuals
Visual content makes emails more engaging. Include images, gifs, videos, and graphics to reinforce messages and break up blocks of text.
Ensure proper image sizing and optimization for retina displays. Consider bold typography and contrast for impact. Infographics and photos of real people tend to perform well.
Personalize Your Messages
Personalization and dynamic content tailored to each subscriber increases relevance. Insert merge tags to add names, purchase history, location, interests, and more.
Also consider setting up conditional content blocks based on user attributes. Reference past interactions to demonstrate value. Avoid anything that seems invasive or overly salesy.
Test and Refine Your Emails
Optimization is key for email success. Test and refine your email messages through A/B testing. Send variant versions to sample groups and analyze performance to determine optimal subject lines, content, layouts, and calls-to-action. Run at least 3 iterations to gain statistically significant data. Let data guide design choices, not assumptions.
The Email Campaign Process
Once the foundational elements like email software, subscriber list, and content are in place, it’s time to map out campaigns.
Follow this structured process:
Step #1: Plan Your Campaign: First, develop an intentional email marketing strategy tied to your overarching business goals. Identify target audience segments and map out the ideal campaign types and cadence for each based on typical buyer journeys. Create an editorial calendar to plan relevant, valuable content on a consistent basis. If you have a blog, focus your strategy on that. If you have an e-commerce brand, make sure you have your email marketing e-commerce strategy. It’s never a good idea to go in without a plan, that’s one of the biggest parts of email success.
Step #2: Create and Schedule Your Emails: Next, start creating and scheduling campaigns while testing thoroughly for optimal deliverability prior to launch. Balance sends between weekdays and weekends based on when your audience is most engaged. For example, promotional offers on Tuesdays and educational content on Thursdays.
Step #3: Use Marketing Automation: Leverage marketing automation to deploy triggered campaigns and dripped series that release emails over time automatically. Use for lifecycle messaging, re-engagement campaigns, win-backs, educational sequences, post-purchase follow-ups, and more.
Step #4: Test and Optimize: Continually test and optimize active campaigns. Closely monitor performance metrics to identify your top-performing email copy, content formats, subject lines, visuals, offers, and segments. Use these insights to refine future sends.
Pay close attention to send times, which can significantly impact open and click-through rates. Test sending at different times of day and days of the week for each audience segment to pinpoint ideal windows when subscribers are most responsive.
Following this structured email campaign process will empower you to maximize the impact of your program. Dedicate time to planning, creating relevant content, optimizing campaigns, and sending at optimal times. Continual testing is key for driving results.
Compliance and Legal Considerations
It’s essential that your email marketing adheres to laws, regulations, and best practices to avoid issues. Keeping ethics, safety, and permission top of mind will ensure your program operates within legal bounds while nurturing positive subscriber relationships.
Thoroughly understand the requirements of anti-spam laws like the CAN-SPAM Act if operating in the US or CASL in Canada.
Key tenets include clearly identifying emails as advertisements, including your address, and providing opt-out mechanisms. Failure to comply can lead to major fines, blocking by ISPs, or email blacklisting.
- Provide clear, one-click unsubscribe options in the footer of every email to make it easy for subscribers to opt out. Honor all unsubscribe requests immediately and maintain thorough suppression lists. Never send to an address that has unsubscribed.
- Follow data privacy regulations like GDPR when collecting and managing subscriber personal information. You must obtain clear consent, allow user access to their data, safely handle and protect data, and clearly explain how you use data in privacy policies.
- Stay up-to-date on email deliverability laws and get the proper certifications like SenderScore and DomainKeys. This maximizes your chance of landing in the inbox versus getting flagged as spam. Continually monitor your sender’s reputation.
Responsible email marketers carefully walk the line between effective messaging and compliance. Always respect subscriber preferences and give them control over the content they receive. Follow laws and you’ll build trust while avoiding issues.
For your email marketing to succeed, your campaigns need to reliably land in subscribers’ inboxes. Spam filters are looking to block promotions and protect users. So deliverability takes strategy and vigilance.
The main factors impacting inbox placement are your sender reputation, email content, list quality, and engagement levels. Spam filters screen for red flags in emails like suspicious links, overuse of promotional language, or low domain authority. It’s a careful balancing act to come across as professional but not salesy.
You can build a healthy sender reputation by properly authenticating your domain, monitoring bounce rates, and growing your list at a measured pace. Get whitelisted with major ISPs and monitor your complaint rates. This gives you credibility with filters upfront.
Avoid landing in the spam trap by keeping content relevant, using natural language, personalizing subject lines, and only emailing engaged subscribers. Send regularly to stay top of mind but not so excessively that you trigger a spam flag.
Proactively manage list hygiene by pruning inactive subscribers and confirming double opt-ins. Target highly engaged users with tailored content and promote interactions through surveys, contests, and social sharing. Keep your list clean and quality over quantity.
With careful list building, intentional strategy, constant monitoring, and a little email magic, you can maximize deliverability for long-term returns on investment. Your customers’ inboxes await!
Tracking and Analytics
Robust email analytics are essential for optimizing campaigns, uncovering insights, and continually improving results. You’ve got to keep a close eye on all the data.
Closely monitor the performance of every email campaign once it is sent. Many platforms provide real-time dashboard views to track opens, clicks, and conversions as they happen.
Set up reports to get regular updates on the metrics that matter most. Keep an eye out for any surprising spikes or drops early on.
Pay extra attention to key metrics like open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, and spam or abuse reports. These show how well your content and messaging are resonating with your subscribers based on their actions and engagement.
Building and Nurturing Customer Relationships
Email creates an amazing direct line for personalized, meaningful interactions that demonstrate value and meet customer needs consistently over time. With a relationship-first approach, you can earn the ongoing trust and loyalty of your audience.
Engage subscribers by soliciting feedback through quick surveys and polls in your emails. Monitor their site behaviors and activity so you can deliver personalized product suggestions and updates. Reward engaged activity with free content like ebooks, webinars, or coupons. Offer tiered benefits for VIP fans.
Leverage the power of email to boost customer retention rates. Be proactive with check-in outreach, ensure cohesive messaging across channels, and share communications that reinforce value. Surprise loyal customers with unexpected discounts or free samples.
Build trust by always honoring opt-out requests immediately, meeting stated customer needs and avoiding deceptive claims or overly pushy promotional content in emails. Stand behind your brand with satisfaction guarantees.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective digital marketing channels for reaching customers and driving business growth.
With the right strategy and tools, savvy email marketers can cut through the noise to connect with customers and advance business goals. Use these tips and best practices to make your email marketing a success.