Every $1 invested in email marketing generates a $42 return.
Sounds awesome, right?
Like it’s almost too good to be true…
Well, these returns aren’t some unicorn-filled fantasy — in fact, they’re pretty typical.
But email marketing does more than pad your bank account.
It’s also a nifty way to engage your audience, build brand awareness, and nurture customer loyalty.
Ready to see how it’s done?
Let’s take a deep dive into how to do email marketing and see what makes it sparkle!
What is Email Marketing?
Email is a different breed of superhero when it comes to digital marketing.
And it’s undeniably one of the best marketing channels there is.
Not only is it a laser-focused way to reach and engage your audience, it’s also super cost-effective and delivers a spectacular ROI — great news for bootstrapped businesses on a limited budget.
But before we get into the thick of it, let’s set some context and talk about the main components of email marketing and who exactly uses it.
The 4 Main Components of Email Marketing
In general, there are 4 components to email marketing:
- Senders: The person (or company) sending the emails. The sender might write their own emails, but often they’ll hire an email marketer.
- Subscribers: People who have opted-in to receive emails from the sender by signing up through a form on the sender’s website.
- Messages: These are the actual emails communicated to subscribers. Typically, these email messages contain highly targeted and relevant content meant to inform, promote/sell products, or increase engagement with subscribers.
- Email Service Providers (ESP): This is the software used to send email marketing messages. An ESP is different from personal email services — like Gmail or Outlook — because they’re designed to manage subscribers, provide analytics reports, and send thousands of emails at a time.
Putting a complete email marketing definition together:
Email marketing is the act of sending targeted email communications to subscribers to share information, promote products, or increase audience engagement.
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Who Uses Email Marketing?
In a word:
Almost every established business with an online presence uses email marketing.
Bloggers use email marketing to share new posts or engage their audience with exclusive content.
Businesses use email marketing to promote products and sales and build brand awareness.
Creative entrepreneurs, like course creators, might use email marketing to plug a new class through a drip campaign, providing information and slowly building anticipation until course enrollment opens.
Will Email Marketing Ever Die?
If you’ve been scanning the internet for info about email marketing, you’ve probably come across dozens of posts asking:
Is email marketing dead?
The short answer: no.
But a better question to ask is:
Will email marketing ever die?
Unless it’s banned through legislation or science and technology make email irrelevant, email marketing isn’t going anywhere.
Let’s take a gander at the facts and stats:
The bottom line: people gush over email marketing. So it’s safe to say it won’t kick the bucket anytime soon.
Is Email Marketing Effective?
But here’s the thing:
Email consistently whoops social media when it comes to organic engagement.
And with a 42:1 ROI, any marketer worth their salt sees the value that email marketing delivers.
But why is email marketing so dang effective?
Let’s check out the top 3 reasons.
Reason #1: Subscribers Want to Hear From You
Think of all the posts and ads you gloss over on Facebook and Instagram — stuff you don’t care about from people you probably find annoying.
And it’s not just you; 44% of people find that most social media ads don’t vibe with their wants and needs.
But email is a different story.
Because subscribers sign up to receive your emails, they already feel your content is worthy.
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In other words, they resonate with your messages and want to keep the conversation going.
Reason #2: You Have a Direct Line of Communication
When subscribers opt-in to receive your emails, they’re granting you a direct line of communication.
You’re not battling against flashy marketing on social media feeds or hoping that your SEO efforts rank you on page 1 of Google.
Instead, you skip the line for your subscribers’ attention and deliver your messages directly to their inboxes.
Now, there’s no 100% guarantee they’ll actually read your messages.
But it’s a heck of a lot easier (and cheaper) to tweak your emails to get higher open rates than contending with social media or managing other types of ad campaigns.
Reason #3: Targeted & Personalize Content
Email marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal.
Gone are the days when a marketer would send out a single email to everyone on their list, then dashes out for an early happy hour.
Modern email marketing focuses on targeted, personalized content, which is a big reason it’s so effective.
And with segmentation, marketers can split subscribers into groups based on attributes like purchases and interests.
What’s more, using email marketing automation features, you can create customized autoresponder sequences that send your subscriber segments specific emails at specific times.
The net result?
Highly relevant content personalized to your subscribers’ desires, leading to higher open rates, better engagement, and more conversions.
Different Types of Email Marketing
Now, email marketing might seem ridiculously complicated:
There’s automation, segmentation, ESPs, and many other doodads and features that might as well be a martian language.
But let’s bring it back to basics.
When you boil it all down, email marketing is about one thing:
And really, there are only two types of messages:
And when you have a firm understanding of these two types of messages, email marketing is a lot less scary.
Let’s break down both promotional and informational messages/emails
Promotional emails are messages that promote any type of digital or physical product/asset like:
- Print books
- Blog posts
And any other consumer product you can think of.
Now, a promotional email or email series will motivate subscribers with persuasive copy and a call-to-action.
And in most cases, this action is either purchasing a product or checking out a webpage.
Informational emails keep your subscribers engaged with your brand by sharing updates about your business.
These updates let everyone know what’s happening and may include exciting tidbits, stories, tips, or breaking news.
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Typically, informational emails aren’t part of an autoresponder sequence.
In most cases, they’re broadcast emails — one-off emails sent to everyone on a list — and don’t always contain an explicit call-to-action.
Most informational emails follow one of two formats:
Newsletter emails take many different formats, depending on the business.
But usually, they’re periodic communications that share valuable information with subscribers.
Ironically enough, most newsletters have nothing to do with news.
That’s because subscribers don’t necessarily care about news; they care about value.
And in email marketing, the secret to a successful newsletter is delivering value.
Neville Medhora shares the S.T.U.P.I.D (Swipe, Thought, Uplifting, Picture, Interesting, Drawing) newsletter, an email series covering copywriting tips and breakdowns every Friday.
Similarly, Moz’s Top 10 newsletter is a monthly email series that sends subscribers the 10 best articles about SEO and digital marketing for that month.
Notice how both of these email newsletters are oozing with valuable information and practical insights their subscribers care about.
Technically, announcement emails are more public relations than they are email marketing.
Announcements might be things like:
- News releases
- Price changes
- Changes in service
- Explanations for specific problems (e.g., long shipping times)
In other words, announcement emails are purely informational.
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But, while they don’t necessarily provide subscribers with valuable content, announcements do provide a level of transparency with customers, which can help build loyalty.
What Are the Benefits of Email Marketing
If the statistics haven’t made it clear by now, then let’s be blunt:
Email marketing brings big benefits to any business.
That said, the benefits of email marketing can be distilled into three main areas:
- Brand awareness
- Customer loyalty
Let’s explore each of these benefits and see precisely how email marketing makes it possible.
Email marketing is second-to-none when it comes to promoting products and content.
In fact, 59% of marketers note that email is their biggest source of ROI.
What’s more, marketers who used segmented campaigns have experienced as much as 760% increases in revenue.
And although there’s no one best email marketing technique, here are a few of the most common (and practical) methods that marketers use to increase conversions:
- Sending exclusive sales or discount emails
- Using automation tools to send abandoned cart notifications
- Putting segmented subscribers on drip campaigns, inching them toward conversion with every email
One of the biggest advantages of email marketing is that it’s a direct line of communication to customers/subscribers.
Of course, sending an email to customers’ inboxes AND having them read it is no easy task.
But if you do manage to do it, there’s no better way to build brand awareness.
You see, emails help your subscribers stay engaged with your brand.
Think about it:
It’s far more likely that a subscriber will read an email than a post on social media.
Also, personalized emails are a far more intimate form of communication and help you build a special relationship with subscribers.
One of the most common ways to build customer loyalty through email is by offering exclusive deals, discounts, and rewards for repeat buyers.
You can also use email to send surveys to subscribers and let them know their opinions matter — people love to be heard, after all.
Email is also a fantastic vehicle for building an online community.
Laura Belgray’s emails are some of the greatest ever to grace the internet.
You see, Laura uses storytelling to build a connection with her subscribers and foster a loyal following.
Not only are her rich, hilarious stories the perfect blend of entertainment and subtle marketing, but her subscribers also can’t wait to read her daily emails.
And when people are eager for daily emails, you know you’ve nailed customer loyalty.
The Importance of Email Marketing
So, email is a reliable marketing channel for nurturing leads, building audience engagement, and generating more cold, hard, cash in sales, right?
But what makes email marketing so important?
Aside from more sales and engagement — as critical as they are — what else does email marketing bring to the table?
Let’s find out.
Email Marketing is Highly Accessible
There are billions of email users around the world, and almost everyone uses it daily.
Heck, even the most technologically impaired people know how to check email on their cell phones.
What’s more, email isn’t bound to a specific age group, gender, or income class — an email address is practically a necessity in the digital age.
Now, the vast accessibility of email is one of the reasons why it’s so important.
And because of this, email marketing is an essential cog in any digital marketing strategy — and the statistics agree!
The bottom line: email’s massive reach across age, gender, income, and nationality means marketers can tap into a vast audience anywhere in the world.
Email Marketing is Cost-Effective
Email marketing is a super-cost effective way to promote your business, sell more products, or build up your audience.
Now, there are tons of free guides on the internet that teach you how to achieve those results.
But if you prefer, you can always take an email marketing course from a respected marketer like Chris Orzechowski (full disclosure: the really good classes are really expensive).
As far as email marketing software goes, most email service providers have free plans (with limited features) to help get you started.
And as you scale your business, you can move up pricing tiers and unlock more features — and even the higher-priced tiers are usually pretty reasonable for most ESPs.
You Own Your Email List
What would happen to your followers?
They’d be gone.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Now, a scenario like that is highly unlikely but not impossible (RIP Vine).
You see, another one of the reasons marketers love email is because you own your email list.
And if something happens to your current email service provider and you want to jump ship to another one, all you have to do is export your list and pick off where you left off.
There’s no starting over from 0 when it comes to email.
Ready to Get Started? Let’s Set Up Your Email Marketing Campaign
Now, let’s move onto something more practical:
Learning how to set up an email marketing campaign so you can target subscribers and hit them with your dazzling content.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Define your audience, budget, and what you’d like to achieve with your email marketing strategy — who are you trying to reach, and what action (if any) do you want them to take?
Email Service Provider
Find a reliable email service provider that satisfies your email marketing needs.
Some popular email marketing tools (that also come with free options) include:
Check out our full list of the best email service providers.
Build your email list by placing an opt-in form on your website.
Most ESPs let you design custom forms and have WordPress plugins that make integration with your website a breeze.
Remember to offer an opt-in bribe/lead magnet to get people to sign up!
Send a Welcome Email
Welcome emails are sent to new subscribers after they opt-in.
A welcome email should confirm the subscription and let the new subscriber know what type of content they can expect in your emails.
Email Marketing Goals
Set concrete goals for your email marketing like:
- X % increase in conversions
- X new subscribers
- X % increase in traffic from email
Your goals should be both clear and measurable.
Email Design Tips
ESPs come with ready-made email marketing templates and also let you customize the heck out of your designs.
That said, clean and straightforward email designs are generally preferred over busy designs with lots of different elements.
Design Your Email Content
Provide valuable, highly relevant content for your subscribers based on their interests.
Your email copy should be engaging and conversational.
And if you’re promoting a product, be as persuasive as a smooth-talking TV lawyer.
Test, Test, Test
Everyone makes mistakes.
Preview your email before you send it off and check for:
- Clunky and confusing language
- Broken links
- Wonky images
Remember, this email you’re sending out could be seen by thousands of people, so make sure you check for errors.
Optimize Your Email for Conversions
Ensure your email has:
- A click-worthy subject line
- An intriguing snippet (the short piece of text just after the subject line)
- A sensible sender name and address — using no-reply addresses and leaving the sender name blank is a big no-no
Schedule Your Email Send Times
Schedule a time when your target audience is most likely to see your email.
You’ll have to test different times of day to find what works best.
If your ESP provides engagement time analytics, study up on those and tinker until you find the sweet spot.
Use Automation Tools
Spend the time to learn your ESPs automation tools, and you’ll bring your email marketing to the next level.
Automation not only helps you streamline communication, but it can also customize a customer journey based on what automated emails they’ve opened, what links they’ve clicked, and what products they’ve purchased.
Optimize for Mobile Users
Test your emails to see how they look on a mobile device and ensure that the text is readable (Brian Dean of Backlinko recommends a 15px font size) and that the design is responsive.
The last thing you want is a gangly-looking email that lowers your credibility.
Monitor Your Campaign Performance
For every email you send, pay attention to
- Open rate: The percent of subscribers that opened your email
- Click-through rate: The percent of subscribers that click on a link in your email
- Unsubscribe rate: The percent of subscribers that unsubscribe from your email list
Spring Clean Your Email List
Scan your analytics and watch for email addresses with low open and click-through rates or email addresses that bounce back emails.
If emails bounce back from an address consistently, the address is either inactive or the subscriber’s inbox is full.
For email bounce backs, analyze the subscriber’s delivery history and consider pruning the address from your list.
For email addresses with low open or click-through rates, consider a cold subscriber sequence.
If rates are still low after the sequence, you might have to prune them from your email list too.
Brazen-Up Your Business with Email Marketing
The internet is filled with vicious competition.
And everyone fights like hell to stand out.
But if you’re a smaller business or one-person show, you might not have the cash to burn on expensive advertising, affiliate marketing, or influencers.
And as you’ve learned, with email marketing, you don’t have to spend a fortune to engage an audience and experience sizable returns.
For a few subscription fees and a little elbow grease, email marketing gets eyeballs on your business and helps keep them there.
So take the reins and get started.
Because your email subscribers are out there…
And they’re dying to hear from you!