What is Email Marketing

If you subscribe to a service from a link on this page, Reeves and Sons Limited may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Email marketing is a tried and tested online marketing method that delivers fruitful results when done well. Although email marketing has been around for a long time, it's still one of the most effective marketing channels, with ROI as high as 4,200% to be had! Needless to say, you don't want to dismiss email marketing out of hand.

Aside from its efficiency, email is also one of the cheapest and easiest marketing strategies to get started with. Plenty of service providers make the process intuitive and straightforward, enabling you to automate many steps. In many cases, you can just set it up to run in the background so that you can focus on what you do best – running your business.

Whether you're a blogger, creative, or online store owner – it doesn't matter. All kinds of entrepreneurs can benefit from email marketing. So, if you’re unsure how this marketing technique works or what's involved, you’re in the right place. In this comprehensive article, we're covering everything you need to know about the topic so that you can take full advantage of all email marketing has to offer.

Let’s dive in!

What is Email Marketing?

In short, email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that centers on sending emails from your business to your subscribers. For the uninitiated, ‘subscribers' are your email contacts who have signed up to your mailing list and given you explicit permission to receive emails from you.

You can use these emails to inform your audience about new products and projects, drive sales, build a community, answer questions, and much more.

Effective email marketing can potentially turn prospects into buyers and convert one-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.

Email marketing campaigns can either consist of a single email and/or a chain of emails that check in with customers at essential touch points.

For instance, a potential email campaign could include any of the following types of messages:

  • Welcome emails
  • Promotional emails, providing details about sales and new products
  • Informational emails, for instance, company announcements and newsletters
  • Personal emails, like thank you's, happy-birthday notes, etc
  • Transactional emails, including confirmation emails, abandoned cart emails, order updates, etc.

Why Have an Email Marketing Strategy in 2022?

If you’re in the camp that thinks emails are a tad old-fashioned, we're here to convince you otherwise.

The stats speak for themselves:

Over 3.9 billion people used email globally in 2019, so there's a good chance your customers and prospects have an email account they check regularly.

After all, marketing is about getting potential customers to think of you when they need your brand. But, to achieve this, it's vital to regularly make yourself a part of their lives. This is where email marketing comes into its own because you can periodically position your brand in their inboxes to ensure you're never entirely out of sight.

Most popular email marketing software also allows you to personalize emails and target specific customer segments. This goes a long way to ensure your messages are always welcome, relevant, and helpful.

With all that said, here are a few other reasons why email marketing is still one of the best strategies in 2022:

  • Email marketing is cheap. If your mailing list is small (up to 2,000 subscribers), many email marketing services will let you plan and launch email campaigns for free.
  • Email marketing is easy. Once you’ve written an automated email campaign, you can let the software do the work for you.
  • Customers subscribe to your mailing list. This means customers/leads are welcoming you to get in touch with them. You know how ineffective the dreaded cold call is. In contrast, emailing subscribers ensures a more receptive audience.
  • Email is suitable for every touchpoint along the customer journey. Rather than a one-off boost, email can help drive conversions no matter how little or much customers have already interacted with your brand.
  • When done well, email marketing has high conversion rates. You can promote sales by emailing discounts and special offers or via abandoned cart emails.
  • Email is used by all age groups and is widely adopted worldwide. As such, you won’t miss any major customer segments.
  • Your email list is yours. While social media marketing relies on your chosen social media network(s) (which could change or even be taken down at any moment), your own email list enables you to contact leads directly on your own terms.

How Does Email Marketing Work?

The simplest way to send an email is to determine the recipient, write out a subject line, and then construct the body of your email. Of course, this works well for one-on-one conversations or collaborations with small groups of people. But it's not very practical for mass email marketing.

Here’s why:

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Gmail, AOL, Outlook, etc., are designed for personal use only. So, when a user sends a mass email to hundreds of recipients, that email is often flagged as spam. Not only does this mean subscribers are less likely to receive your email, but it could also lead to your account being disabled for suspicious activity.

This is where Email Service Providers (ESPs) come in.

An ESP is a software that makes sending and managing larger email marketing campaigns easy. These services are also sometimes referred to as email marketing platforms, email marketing tools, or email marketing software.

Just like a SEO tool, an ESP can improve your ability to earn results from marketing campaigns. You can send a number of emails with tools like Sendinblue and Mailchimp, without spending too much time or money.

The Benefits of Using an ESP:

Now we've covered what an ESP actually is, let's look at the key benefits of using such software:

Save Time with Mass Email Blasts

An ESP enables you to send mass emails to your mailing list. The software will store your subscriber's email addresses and often allows you to organize your list into targeted groups, called ‘segments' – more on this in a sec.

Then, you can determine which group you want to send the email to and schedule when to send it. Finally, the software will email all relevant addresses so that you don't have to handle this manually.

Automate Campaigns

If your ESP offers automation functionality, you should be able to determine pre-set ‘triggers' that send an email. For instance, subscribing for the first time (the trigger) could trigger a welcome email. Or, purchasing a product (the trigger) might prompt a confirmation message.

Whatever the scenario, automation ensures emails land in your customer’s inboxes at the right time, meaning you’ll never miss a significant opportunity to engage with your audience.

Design

You can also use these tools to design more compelling emails. For example, many ESPs come with intuitive drag-and-drop editors that allow you to drag design elements into your email drafts.

For instance, usually, you can easily:

  • Edit colors
  • Insert logos
  • Choose your preferred fonts.
  • Include images
  • Use nifty blocks like products, count-down timers.

These are just a few examples, but you get the gist…

Analytics

ESPs often provide valuable statistics about your email campaigns. For example, they usually tell you how many emails were opened, successfully delivered, how many led to conversions, and which emails led to unsubscribing. Most ESP solutions will include information on open rates, click-through rate, and who’s using your email newsletters as standard.

In addition, more advanced tools typically provide A-B testing features, allowing you to see which version of your email is the more effective.

Customization

One of the most powerful email marketing strategies is customization so that emails feel relevant and personal to the recipient. For example, emails could include their name or other personal details, which many ESPs fill out for you automatically.

You can also experiment with different types of emails. For instance, different companies use email for things like promoting content marketing campaigns, as well as building customer loyalty.

Segmentation

Most ESPs come with segmentation tools. This allows you to organize subscribers into smaller groups with shared criteria. For example, age, location, or customers that have exhibited a specific behavior. You can then send tailored content to meet the exact needs of specific segments to ensure maximum engagement.

Using your metrics, you’ll be able to learn more about new customers and make your marketing efforts as cost-effective and efficient as possible.

How to Get Started with Email Marketing

Now that we've laid the foundations, are you ready to get started with email marketing?

If so, here are the main components you’re going to need:

Email Marketing Software

As we've explained, an ESP is vital for sending effective email blasts to all your subscribers.

That said, some email marketing services are better than others, so here's what to look out for:

  • It should integrate with your existing marketing tools.
  • If you're looking to launch an omnichannel marketing strategy, ensure the platform includes SMS, social media marketing, and whatever other channels you need.
  • Finally, budget is another significant consideration. Some ESP's come with free plans that facilitate smaller contact lists. While others are better suited to bigger businesses willing to splurge on advanced features to manage much larger audiences.

Later in this article, we'll introduce you to some of our favorite software.

An Email List

Your 'email list' refers to the names and email addresses of subscribers who have opted to receive email communications from you. Everyone on the list must have given their explicit permission and should always have the option to opt out by unsubscribing. Otherwise, your emails will be perceived as spam.

Permission-based marketing must also consider data protection laws to ensure your brand is compliant and comes across as credible, trustworthy, and professional.

Grow Your Email List

Growing your email list is just as important as creating a successful email marketing campaign. After all, not all of your subscribers will open or act on a single email. So it’s a numbers game – and quantity is vital.

Fortunately, T=there are several ways to grow your email list.

First and foremost, you'll need to include subscription forms on your blog, store, or website to make it easy for customers to subscribe. But, unfortunately, you’ll have little luck if you’re just leaving your form out there and hoping visitors will give out their email for free.

Using Lead Magnets

Instead, most entrepreneurs use a lead magnet to attract new subscribers.

A lead magnet is a freebie offered in exchange for a visitor’s name and email address. Once they're subscribed, they'll receive the freebie in an email, like a download link. For instance, lead magnets can be pdfs, videos, checklists, audio files, and much more.

However, lead magnets should be created at a minimal cost to yourself and act as an enticing taster for the products and services you offer.

Here are a few other lead magnet examples:

  • Ebooks
  • Cheatsheets with valuable tips and tricks
  • Case studies and white papers
  • Access to a webinar
  • Free trials or samples
  • Free consultations or quotes
  • Quizzes or assessments
  • Coupons
  • Templates

Feel free to get creative with your lead magnet ideas! But whatever you decide on, make sure it fulfills the following criteria.

All lead magnets should be:

  • Instantly available. Once you’ve hooked in visitors to subscribe, they’ll want instant access to the lead magnet. Otherwise, they might (understandably) feel tricked by your offer.
  • Providing value. The lead magnet should improve your customers' lives in a small way to help demonstrate the value of your products/services.
  • Relevant. Your lead magnet must be of interest to your target audience.
  • Easily consumed. Lead magnets should not take a long time to consume. Prospects should easily make their way through the whole resource so they can move on to your other products. So, avoid lengthy books, complete video courses, or other resources that require a big-time investment. Instead, these ideas are best kept for your saleable products.

Create a Landing Page

Once you've created a lead magnet, you'll need a landing page complete with an opt-in form to drive traffic to. From here, visitors can then opt into becoming subscribers.

You can create landing pages and opt-in forms using your website building software, ESP, or specifically designed software/plugins.

That said, to enjoy the best conversion rates on your landing page, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Write an enticing headline. Introduce your lead magnet swiftly and outline the benefit of subscribing.
  2. Provide a helpful description of what subscribers can expect. This might outline the lead magnet's value or simply let subscribers know what sort of emails you'll send them. For example: “Each week, I’ll be sending you a new delicious recipe to try at home!”
  3. Use attractive visuals: Good design works wonders for engaging visors and boosting your brand's credibility. For instance, if relevant, you could include a picture of your lead magnet.
  4. Create and publish a simple opt-in form. Don’t ask for more information than you need. Keep to requesting just your prospect's first names and email addresses. Anything more than this increases the likelihood of visitors feeling like the effort is no longer worth it.
  5. Post a clear subscribe button: Make your “subscribe” button more enticing with a contrasting color that pops on your page, and make sure users don't have to scroll down to see it. Use simple, specific copy that compels people to click. For instance, “Send me my first recipe now!”

Use Your Opt-in Form

As we've already mentioned, you'll need to create an opt-in form. Once you have one, you’ll want to install it on your website, where it has the best chance of drawing attention.

That's why some of the most common and effective places for subscription forms include:

  • Welcome gates
  • Landing pages
  • Your footer
  • In a timed lightbox popup
  • On your blog archive page
  • Your site’s header
  • In a floating bar
  • On your about page
  • On designated sign-up pages
  • In exit-intent popups
  • In your sidebar
  • At the end of or middle of a blog post

Best Practices to Succeed with Email Marketing

Now we've covered some of the ins and outs of email marketing, let's take a look at some of the ‘do's and don'ts' of email marketing for making the best possible impression:. Here are our top email marketing tips:

Don’t Buy Your Email List

When you’re just starting out and don’t have many subscribers, you might be tempted to take a shortcut by buying a list of email addresses. We’ll keep this simple:

Don’t do it.

Buying mailing lists is a risky business. In various jurisdictions around the world, sending unsolicited emails goes against data privacy acts. Adding people’s data into your CRM without their consent isn't just unethical; it's often illegal, thanks to the CAN-SPAM act and GDPR.

Not only that but unsurprisingly, unsolicited emails are frequently marked as spam. So there's a good chance your communications won’t even reach your intended target audience. And finally, purchased email lists often won't comprise your target audience. But more importantly, they won’t have opted to receive updates from you, and therefore will likely welcome you with all the receptiveness of a cold caller, i.e., Not at all.

Do Personalize

Customization is one of the simplest ways to make your emails feel more relevant to customers. In fact, as many as 74% of marketers say personalization increases their customer engagement rates. On top of that, personalized emails can also lead to 6x higher transaction rates, with some business owners saying they generate 58% of all revenue.

By email ‘personalization,' we mean that your email's subject line and content are tailored towards a specific reader. This is easiest done by using your email platform's pre-set customization tags. For example, depending on your chosen software, these might be able to automatically insert the reader’s name, age, location, etc.

Plus, as we've already mentioned, segmenting your email list also enables better personalization. Not least because it's much easier to send relevant emails with specific behaviors in common.

Do Optimize for Mobile

As many as 85% of users use smartphones to access their emails. As a result, there's a good chance your customers are using their mobile devices to check their email. As such, optimizing emails for mobile is imperative for achieving maximum engagement and enhancing your subscriber's experience.

Most ESP's boast mobile responsiveness as a core feature, most notably, email templates that quickly adjust to the screen size of the recipient's device. Some tools, like Sendinblue, also enable you to preview what your emails look like on mobile.

Do Use Double Opt-In

Yes, for email marketing to bear the most fruit, you need to grow your email list. Still, it’s important to remember that the quality of readers matters too. The more interested and engaged your subscribers, the more likely they'll actually engage with your email content.

For the uninitiated, single opt-in is when a subscriber is added to your email list using just a sign-up form. In contrast, double opt-in goes a step further. I.e., once they've subscribed via your opt-in form, a confirmation email is sent to the new subscriber. Then, to complete the subscription, they will need to click on the link.

This is helpful for several reasons. For one, the double opt-in process filters out misspelled email addresses that would otherwise clock up your mailing list and generate hard bounces. It also rules out spam traps and provides extra proof of subscriber consent, which is, of course, a GDPR requirement.

If you want to keep your unsubscribe rate low, check the appearance of your email copy and images on multiple devices before sending.

Do Improve Email Deliverability

Email marketing success hinges on email deliverability. It doesn’t matter how many emails you ping; if they don't make it into your customer's inboxes, they won't produce fruitful results.

In an ideal world, your emails should make it past the spam filters and arrive without problems. However, when deliverability' compromised, your email might be marked as spam, and your sender IP may even get blocked.

Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure the highest possible email deliverability rates:

  • Only send messages to email subscribers who have opted to receive content from you.
  • Keep your subscriber base up to date. Regularly remove unengaged users that don’t open your emails, as well as inactive addresses.
  • Ensure your email content doesn’t register as spam. There are certain words and phrases that email services interpret as spam. Check out the list here.
  • Always insert an unsubscribe link in your emails. Not only is this a requirement under GDPR, but it also gives unengaged readers the option to take themselves off your list. Thereby keeping your mailing list tidier and more relevant.

Do A/B Test Your Email Subject and Content

Even the slightest tweak to your subject line or content could significantly affect your email's conversion rates. If you’re hesitating between two different subject lines, use A/B testing to ascertain the best option.

A/B split tests are great for optimizing your email marketing campaigns. In an A/B split test, your chosen marketing tool (providing it comes with split testing functionality) sends one version of your email (version A) to a set of subscribers. At the same time, a second version (version B) is sent to a different group. You can A/B test everything from your CTA to your email messages and formats.

It then notes which version achieved the highest engagement. Some programs even let you send the ‘winning email' to the remainder of your subscribers automatically.

Do Make The Most of Automation

Email automation is integral to scaling your email marketing strategy. Without automation, it's much harder to stay on top of customers and get in touch with them at the right time.

The simplest form of email automation is autoresponders. These are automatic, personalized emails or email series' triggered by certain stages of the customer's buying journey. Autoresponders allow you to follow up with subscribers without manually hitting the send button. For example, one of the most common autoresponders is a simple welcome email that's triggered when a reader first subscribes to your mailing list.

However, more advanced email marketing automation features can go a step further, often allowing you to set up complex automation sequences with ‘if/else' logic, various behavioral triggers, A/B testing, and more. If automation is essential to you, make sure your chosen ESP provides a powerful email workflow editor.

The Top Email Marketing Services

To make the most out of email marketing, you'll need an email marketing service provider that suits your needs as well as your budget.

For a small business, the best email service needs to help build relationships while keeping costs low. Larger companies might want to focus more on using advanced features to improve brand awareness or click through rate (CTR).

Notably, while there are some free email options out there, you’ll often find you need to upgrade from these pretty quickly.

That said, here are some of our recommendations.

HubSpot

HubSpot is a famous marketing suite that includes solutions for a wide range of digital marketing strategies. As such, Hubspot is well-suited to enterprises with complex operations needing an all-in-one solution.

But that doesn’t mean Hubspot isn't an excellent solution for beginners too. Hubspot enables you to create beautiful, personalized email campaigns with smart rules to segment your list into niche audience groups.

You can also use A/B testing and analytics to optimize your campaigns and organize customer data using the HubSpot CRM system. Not to mention, with HubSpot's marketing suite, you can also create a blog and manage your social media.

Hubspot comes with a range of free tools across its marketing packages, including email, live chat, ad management, landing page creation, form building, and more.

👉 Read our HubSpot Marketing Hub review.

Sendinblue

Sendinblue has been around since 2012 providing transactional emails for invoices and subscriptions. But they've long since changed their service to provide mass email blasts. Fast forward today, and over 30 million daily emails and SMS messages are sent via Sendinblue.

The software provides intuitive list management and automation tools and robust reporting features. You can also add advanced features like their CRM software and live chat functionality to expand your marketing toolkit.

Sendinblue comes with a generous free plan and affordable premium options. This tool is for users looking for a high-quality budget solution to store unlimited contacts and access relatively advanced email marketing features.

ConstantContact

ConstantContact is another long-term player in the ESP game. Founded in 1995, they now have over 650,000 users worldwide and integrate with 270 apps.

ConstantContact has proven to be an innovative email marketing solution that also offers surveys and social campaigns. In addition, thanks to their Eventbrite integration, you can easily manage event invitations too.

On top of that, the platform boasts good deliverability results. That said, it's not the most powerful tool for automation and design, so keep an open mind towards other tools with more robust features for the price.

ConstantContact sadly doesn’t offer a free plan. Instead, its prices start at $20 per month based on the number of contacts you have and quickly become less affordable than its alternatives.

👉 Read our Sendinblue review.

AWeber

AWeber is another giant in the email marketing industry. With over 20 years of experience, they likely have good reason to claim they practically invented the autoresponder. That said, overall, AWeber is a slightly more expensive, robust, and basic-featured email marketing platform.

However, one nifty design feature is the ability to use Canva to design marketing images for your emails without leaving your Aweber account. On top of this, AWeber provides hundreds of easy-to-edit email templates that you can customize using AWeber's drag and drop interface. It also offers behavioral-based automation, cart abandonment emails, purchase tagging, and email split testing.

AWeber includes a free plan for up to 500 subscribers. After that, its Pro plan starts at $16.50 per month.

👉 Read our AWeber review.

Omnisend

Omnisend is a powerful marketing automation tool that focuses on two things:

  1. Omnichannel marketing solutions
  2. eCommerce

As such, the software provides features for efficient email marketing as well as SMS marketing, Facebook Messenger, Google Integrations, and more.

You can also use Omnisend to create popups and opt-in forms, launch social media campaigns and organize your contacts. Unlike some other ESPs, Omnisend is ideal for online store owners that want to include products in their emails and set up transactional communications.

Furthermore, it offers powerful automation and segmentation that goes beyond basic marketing automation tools. Most notably, Omnisend’s automations allow you to plan for every touchpoint along the customer journey.

You can use Omnisend free for up to 500 emails per month and a contact list of 250 people. After that, there are two premium plans to choose from, the pricing of which is based on your subscribers.

👉 Read our Omnisend review.

Moosend

Moosend is by no means one of the most famous email marketing tools, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it out of hand. The software offers a free plan and a pay-as-you-go service, making it one of the most affordable for users only wanting to send occasional email blasts.

In addition, the free program comes with nearly all of its Pro features. It also covers 1,000 subscribers and allows you to send unlimited emails without ads!

Furthermore, Moosend has 40 email templates to choose from and comes with spam and A/B testing, as well as simple automations. Its email workflow options are robust, with solutions for anniversary emails, abandoned carts, upsells, and more.

👉 Read our Moosend review.

ConvertKit

ConvertKit's an email marketing solution explicitly designed with creators in mind. It focuses its service offering on Vloggers, YouTubers, bloggers, creatives, podcast owners, you name it!

In addition, ConvertKit is intended for individuals or small teams with a budget who want to send plain text newsletters. Despite their marketing angle, the platform comes with many of the same features as other ESPs. For example, you can manage subscribers with tags for advanced segmentation, automate workflows, create good-looking landing pages, etc.

It’s worth noting, however, that ConvertKit’s plans are on the pricier side. The free program is more limited and doesn’t include reports. ConvertKit also only offers three email templates and isn’t as well-suited to anyone with complex ideas for their email designs.

👉 Read our ConvertKit review.

Ready to Increase Your Conversions with Email Marketing?

It sounds cheesy, but sometimes old is gold. Email marketing is a dinosaur where digital marketing methods are concerned. However, when done well, it can still knock most other marketing strategies out of the park.

Any growing or thriving business can rely on email marketing to grow its audience, drive conversions, and cultivate more meaningful, loyal customer relationships.

All it takes to get started is your own mailing list and a high-quality email service provider. Many such tools are available for free so that you can start collecting subscribers and sending newsletters today.

Remember, when comparing email marketing solutions, check the delivery rates of each provider, as you don’t want to end up in the spam folder with various email clients.

As with many simple concepts, the complexity lies in its execution. So, keep the best practices we discussed in mind to help ensure your emails enjoy high levels of engagement, deliverability, and conversion rates.

Any questions? Drop them in the comments below. Good luck creating and launching your first email marketing campaigns!