An Introduction to Email Marketing

A few years ago businesses and marketers viewed email marketing as the ugly duckling of marketing. A lot has changed in the last 4 years, and now many businesses are reporting great success with carefully implemented email marketing strategies.

Over the coming weeks we will take a look at how any business can implement email marketing, and maximize the benefit.

What is email marketing used for?

Email marketing is a little like the Swiss Army knife of marketing: a single email list can be used to drive the following:

  • Sales
  • Customer Engagement
  • Customer Acquisition
  • Lead Generation/Nurturing
  • Customer Retention & Loyalty
  • Brand Awareness

With a properly segmented email list it is possible for businesses of any size to send out multiple campaigns each month that:

  • Target specific customers, and
  • Focus on achieving one of the goals listed above, in each campaign.

Like all marketing, email marketing is about communicating with your customers, but the difference is in the benefit to you and your customers.

What makes email marketing effective?

The proliferation of spam email in the early years of the internet tarnished the image of email marketing, but improvements in spam filtering, along with the introduction of legal requirements for permission-based marketing in many countries has started to change the perception of email marketing. A 2014 report by Forrester’s found that 42% of US consumers delete email marketing without reading it, down from 59% in 2010, while the number of US consumers who say they read most email marketing increased from 12% in 2010, to 19% in 2014.

A separate survey done by Ascend2 in 2014 had marketers and business professionals rating email marketing as has having the highest ROI of all digital marketing tactics, while also being the least difficult to implement and execute.

Image Source: MarketingCharts
Image Source: MarketingCharts

Some of the reasons email marketing is so effective include:

  • It has a greater chance of being seen. Social media updates can easily be missed by your audience, but your email marketing will always reach their inbox, even if they are offline when it is sent
  • The ability to target specific customers, regardless of which stage of the buying funnel they are in
  • It is relatively inexpensive
  • It is easy to maintain, and certain aspects of it can be completely automated
  • It is perfectly suited to any business, irrespective of size

Is email marketing right for your business?

The short answer is an unequivocal yes. Any business with an online store should already be using email marketing, but even small businesses, with a single owner, can benefit from email marketing. As highlighted under the previous point, email is a cost-effective, and easy-to-implement way in which to communicate directly with your customers.

How to set up email marketing

Setting up an email marketing campaign is not that difficult, but it is important to treat each email you send out as a separate campaign. This means each email must have a specific goal attached to it: is the email meant to drive sales, customer engagement, nurture a lead, etc. It is only possible to measure the success of each campaign if it has a specific goal, and this even applies to regular newsletters.

Step 1

Decide on what types of email marketing you are going to send out. If you are only going to send out regular newsletters, you should:

  • Decide on the frequency of the newsletters.
  • Establish what type of content you are going to include in each newsletter.


If your business also has an online store, then you would need to establish which of the automated email messages it supports, and which of them will benefit you the most. Additionally, you may want to setup a preference page that allows registered customers to decide which communications they wish to receive.

Step 2

Based on what you have decided in Step 1, you should now be able to determine which email marketing service provider offers you the best solution.

Step 3

Design the templates for your email marketing messages using the guidelines provided by your chosen email marketing service provider, or modify one of the templates many of them provide. Then test your template on a variety of email platforms including on mobile devices. More than 30% of email messages are now opened on mobile devices, so it is essential that your email looks great on both desktop clients and mobile devices.

Step 4

Start building your email list. The safest way to do this is via a subscription form on your website, which you can also promote via your social media channels. Creating a separate landing page for this can help, especially on high-traffic websites, but it is not essential. Smaller businesses can also collect email addresses from customers manually, but it is very important that these customers know exactly why you are asking for their email address; email marketing should always be viewed as permission-based marketing, and the easiest way to ruin a business relationship is to do something without permission. It is worth noting that some email marketing service providers do not allow you to add email addresses to your list manually.Email marketing

Image Source: Biscuits by Lambchop

If you have an online store you would already have a sizeable database of customer details, but again it is important to point out that unless they specifically gave you permission to send them marketing related communications when they registered, you should not simply start sending them marketing communications. A more polite approach would be to send them an email communication advising them that you intend sending out marketing communications, and that they can opt-out of these by visiting the preference page under their account.

Step 5

Start monitoring the communications you send out. Like all marketing efforts, the success of your campaigns will depend on you analyzing what works, and adjusting future campaigns to take advantage of this.

Step 6

Start segmenting your email list. Segmentation is the process of taking your full list of email addresses and breaking it down into smaller lists, or groups, based on certain variables. These could include:

  • Location, gender or age.
  • Interests, specifically in relation to products or services you offer.
  • Purchase history.

There are actually a large number of variables you could use, but in the beginning it is advisable to start with just one or two. The benefit of segmentation is that you can now send specific marketing communications to the right customers, at the right time.

Email marketing providers

It is advisable to always use a dedicated email marketing service provider to manage your lists and the distribution of your email. Many of these service providers are free for small lists – 1,000 to 2,000 subscribers – and in addition to giving you access to a large number of email marketing templates, they also collate a variety of analytical data that help you measure the success of each of your campaigns. Some of the more popular service providers are:

When it comes to choosing an email marketing service provider, cost should be a secondary consideration. Focus on who offers you the features you need, and will actually use, and their ability to accommodate you as your subscriber list grows.

Types of email

There are many different types of email that you can send out to your customers, but it is essential that you decide which you are going to use when you first draw up your email marketing strategy. This allows you to properly inform your customers what email marketing communication they can expect to receive, though they should always have the option to opt-out of marketing communications.

Regular Newsletters

Newsletters are a fantastic way to keep your customers informed of:

  • New products or services. Depending on how well you track each customer’s purchases, and how well you segment your list, you can send customized newsletters to specific groups of customers based on their purchase history.
  • Changes to the business. This could be anything from introducing new employees, to highlighting special trading hours.
  • Industry news. Highlight any new developments within your industry which may affect your customers, which may include new regulations, or even product shortages.

The key features of newsletters is that they are informative, and that they are sent out according to a set schedule: weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.

This type of email marketing can be used to drive sales, customer engagement, customer retention and brand awareness.

Welcome Message

Welcome messages are primarily used by businesses that require customers to register online, and by combining the welcome message with a special offer they can be used to convert leads. If you don’t have an online store you can still use a welcome message (and offer) when customers subscribe to your newsletter.

Image Source: Good Marketing
Image Source: Good Marketing

This type of email marketing can be used to drive sales (when combined with a special offer), lead nurturing, customer loyalty and brand awareness.

Limited Time Offer

Limited time offers, in the form of coupons or promotional codes that can be used against specific products or services, can be sent to any customers on your email list. However, marketers have found the greatest success when sending these out only to specific customers, often targeting customers who have previously purchased similar items from you. You can also use limited time offers to nurture lapsed customers, or customers who have registered with you but never made a purchase.

Image Source: Restaurant eMarketing

This type of email marketing can be used to drive sales, customer acquisition, lead nurturing, and customer retention.

Birthday/Anniversary Message

Depending on how much personal information you collect from your customers, you can send out messages that recognize certain milestones: either their birthday, or the anniversary of when they first registered with you. Including a special offer is not necessary, but it can help to drive sales.

Image Source: CampaignMonitor

This type of email marketing can be used to drive sales, customer retention and customer loyalty.

Abandoned Cart

E-Commerce studies done over the last 9-years suggest that more than 50% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout, with the average being closer to 70%. While there is a good chance that many of these customers never intended on completing a purchase, there is also no way of knowing for sure without a bit of gentle nudging on your part; which is where the abandoned cart email comes into play.

Image Source: Bronto
Image Source: Bronto

The abandoned cart email is an automated message that is sent out to a customer a set number of days after they place something in their online shopping cart, but fail to complete the purchase. Shopify recommends sending out no more than 3 emails: the first within 24-hours, the second within 2-days, and the final email within 7-days of an abandoned cart. Results will vary, but you may want to investigate why customers are not completing sales through your online store if your abandoned cart recovery rate is below 5%.

This type of email marketing can be used to drive sales, customer retention, lead nurturing and customer retention.


Email marketing is definitely not an ugly duckling anymore, and while it may be new territory for many small business, this series will carefully guide you through implementing a highly effective email marketing campaign.

Stop by next week as we look at the importance of the subject line.