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The dummy’s guide to email marketing

Nearly everyone uses email. Even millennials.

Image credit: Comedy Central


Yet for some reason, when it comes time for companies to plan where they will spend their marketing budgets, email often gets relegated to the back seat. Where does that money end up? In many cases, marketing spend winds up disproportionately going to newer, fancier, shinier channels like social media and apps.

Which has always struck us as odd, since email marketing (when done right) still consistently knocks the ROI socks off of digital marketing’s lesser (albeit hipper) platforms.

Image credit: Lionsgate Television


By harnessing one of the world’s most powerful dollar for dollar lead generation channels, email delivers a rate of return on investment (ROI) that few other channels can match.

Knowing this, it seems pretty obvious that any company or brand that’s not already using email marketing probably should be.

But where to start?

You’ve come to the right place…

The dummy’s guide to email marketing

What email marketing is … and what it’s not

In the simplest terms possible, email marketing is a marketing strategy that involves sending electronic mail to a targeted group of people with a specific marketing message.

That message can be almost anything – it can be a soft form of advertisement to raise brand awareness, or it may contain content of high value that builds customer loyalty and increases trust. Marketing emails may also make a business request, survey customers, scout out potential sales, or even remind customers when they have items still waiting in their shopping cart due to an incomplete purchase.

Ultimately, the goal of email marketing is to move sales prospects along the sales funnel toward purchasing a brand’s product or service.

Always remember: email marketing is NOT spam.

This distinction is extremely important.

Marketing emails are “solicited” commercial correspondence. Spam is not.

If you’ve recently received an email from XYZ Company, it’s probably because you showed interest in their product or service (or something similar) and shared your email address with them. This is called an “opt-in”. For brands which wish to distinguish themselves from the world’s spammers even further, there is the “double opt-in” where the first marketing email that brand sends is a call to action asking the prospect to confirm that they do in fact wish to participate in the email marketing dialogue.

On the other hand, spammers will buy or steal contacts’ email addresses without their consent, then send those contacts emails whether they want them or not.

Email marketing campaigns maintain a healthy dialogue with customers. In fact, a great amount of effort goes into customer relationship management (CRM) in order to retain those customers and improve business relationships. Strategic and successful email marketing campaigns are even personalised to the receiver based on a recipient’s past interactions with the company and its marketing emails (purchase history, purchase habits, etc) and other relevant personal information.

The email marketing dialogue is a slow nurturing process which builds robust customer relationships in an effort to eventually win a sale.

Spam, on the other hand, is inconsistent, inconsiderate, unprofessional. It makes little to no effort to earn trust or retain customers. Spam messages are sent to hundreds of thousands of people at once in hopes that a small percentage will be spoofed into buying something.

If you’re selling a product or service to an end user, email marketing can be one of the highest converting tactics in your marketing toolkit. This is, of course, only true when email marketing is done right.

How email marketing works


Email marketing works by harnessing the power of a high-quality email list made up of recipients that have, at one point or another, agreed to receive email offers based on their particular interests.

Several of the most popular online methods of collecting emails include:

  • newsletter or RSS feed opt-in forms
  • landing pages that whet a person’s appetite for a particular topic or interest
  • lead magnets in the form of free downloads such as a PDF, eBook or mini course

Once you’ve collected an email address, it’s time to start satisfying your new recipient’s expectations. Is he or she receiving the weekly newsletter they signed up for or the one-time downloadable eBook? Or are you over/under-promising right from the beginning?

Gain your new subscriber’s trust by giving them exactly what you’ve promised. Afterwards, continue to provide content that is both highly relevant and helpful. This content should, in one form or another, offer and add value to the subscriber’s life. Eventually, you can soft pitch and upsell premium (paid) content, products or services after proving that your offer is undeniably valuable.

Keep in mind that all emails should have a clear but catchy subject line. It should pique a recipient’s interest enough to prompt him or her to open the email – otherwise, he or she won’t know about the value contained within! The goal is to get a high click through rate within the email, but that can’t be achieved until the email gets opened.

Once inside, the email’s contents should be well written and provide value while also being well designed. Fortunately, formatting email marketing campaigns has gotten easier over the years thanks to pre-designed and professional templates. Many of these templates are mobile-friendly, which is essential as people increasingly browse their email on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Types of marketing emails


When designing an email campaign, there are several key emails that can be used to prompt effective engagement from your audience. Tried and true email styles include:

The Welcome Email

Make a great first impression by thanking someone for signing up to receive your emails and reminding them why they did so. This is also a good time to provide more information about your newsletter, product trial, or other offers, and to help establish brand recognition.

The Announcement Email

These emails focus on one topic – whether it’s an upcoming event, a news announcement or a new product for sale. They have a strong call to action – “Buy Now” or “RSVP Here” – and they are highly shareable.

Newsletter Emails

One way to increase customer trust and overall brand recognition is to send emails at regular intervals, such as weekly or monthly newsletters. Newsletter emails often contain friendly reminders about upcoming events or products and point readers to popular posts or related stories all while regularly getting back on your customer’s radar.

Lead Nurturing Emails

This is not just one email but a series of emails that follow a logical path. Often called ‘email campaigns’ they contain well-crafted pitches and specific offers that turn your email list recipients into customers. After you look at your contact list and create sublists based on your recipients’ interests or demographics, you can send very targeted emails in the form of segmented campaigns.

Transactional Emails

This can include thanking the customer for buying something, verifying their subscription or confirming a registration for an event. No one wants to worry that their payment wasn’t processed!

The Sales Funnel


The end game of any marketer is to get someone to buy something. But what happens before that? Well, several things. Each one becomes a part of the email sales funnel.

The goal of the Sales Funnel is to convert people from your email list into paying customers. There are several distinct steps to doing so.

STEP 1: Awareness

Your email recipients are made aware of your product or service that relates to their interests.

STEP 2: Interest

Your email recipients recognise that your product or service provides a solution to an existing problem.

STEP 3: Decision

At this stage, the prospective customer knows they want to purchase your product or service and are looking for answers to any last minute questions that may have.

STEP 4: Purchase

They’ve placed the item in a checkout card, provided their credit card information and clicked “BUY”.

Each step requires one or more emails, which together create an email campaign. This process demonstrates that you understand your potential customers’ needs and frustrations. It also lays down the groundwork for showing how your product or service can help..

Now that we’ve covered the basics of email marketing, it’s time to implement what you’ve learned. As with anything, there’s a bit of trial and error involved. It’s worth keeping in mind that there are many third party email marketing services which can help streamline this process.

By incorporating email marketing into your marketing arsenal you’ll be rewarded with generating new leads and eventually generating revenue, all with a relatively small investment of time and money.


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