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With email marketing, you can do wonders. But, if you’re fairly new to this scene, it’s crucial to grasp the basics, like what are the benefits of email marketing, how to do email marketing effectively, and how to set up your first email campaign. Take your first steps with the help of our email marketing for beginners guide!
Table Of Contents
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is using email to build relationships with your audience. With a proper email marketing communication flow, you can send relevant information and convert prospects into customers.
People who are interested in your product or service can join your email list and – through email marketing communication – learn everything they need to know to make an informed buying decision.
If you build your email list with your target audience – people who can benefit from your products or services – you can be sure that email marketing will become a significant revenue stream for your business.
Email marketing has been in use long before the World Wide Web, which makes email marketing the first online marketing channel. Email marketing has been around for a long time, and it continues to lead the pack as it comes to ROI.
What are the 11 key benefits of email marketing?
Before you decide to invest in this marketing channel, it’s worth learning about its advantages. These are 11 of the main benefits that make email marketing the perfect choice for your digital marketing activities.
1. Low cost
Let’s start with the most important aspect – how much does email marketing cost?
To run professional email marketing campaigns, all you need is an email list, a basic strategy, and the right tool that allows you to launch and analyze your email campaigns.
Most professional email marketing software, like GetResponse, offer several plans based on the size of your email marketing list (number of subscribers.)
For example, GetResponse Basic plan starts at $15 a month for 1,000 subscribers with unlimited sends and provides key features like email marketing, autoresponders, landing pages, web forms, and Facebook ads.
As with most marketing tools, you’ll see that some are more affordable and others are more high-end. In most cases, this is related to the type of audience they’re targeting and the number of features that are included in the platform.
To learn more about other marketing tools available on the market, check out our post on the best email marketing services of 2021.
And if you’d like to practice while you learn, GetResponse offers a 30 day free trial with all key features unlocked and you don’t need to provide your credit card details.
2. Full control
You have full control over your email marketing communication.
- design your assets (e.g. webforms, emails, and landing pages)
- decide on the kind of email marketing campaigns you run
- segment your email list for precise targeting
- tag your contacts for better personalization
- create marketing automation workflows with your business goals in mind
The only thing you can’t fully control is your email deliverability, but if you follow email marketing best practices and engage your audience effectively, you won’t need to stress over your emails missing the inbox.
Speaking of inbox placement, it’s worth mentioning that the global average inbox placement is around 83%, according to the Return Path Deliverability Benchmark report.
Compared to other marketing channels where the organic reach is heavily dependant on the ever-changing algorithms, this result gives you a much better chance of reaching your audience with your marketing communications.
Read more: How to manage your email list the right way
When you build your list organically, ask people to confirm the subscription. This way you know that your contacts want to receive emails from your brand, which means that you’re sending emails to people who are really interested in your offer. Such an email list is considered high-quality and likely to bring better business results.
You can run A/B tests, track statistics, and monitor the results of your email marketing campaigns in real time. Based on the collected information you can make small changes (e.g. design, copy, structure, or workflow) and optimize your email marketing program.
4. Ease of use
Creating an email marketing campaign is simple. You can design your email templates, landing pages, and marketing automation workflows with intuitive drag and drop editors – no need to code anything! And if design isn’t your thing, you can just use ready-made templates to set up your campaigns.
5. The preferred marketing medium
The results of these studies make perfect sense since well-designed email marketing campaigns are relevant and non-intrusive – emails wait in the inbox and subscribers decide when’s the right moment to open and read an email. And if they no longer want to receive the content, they can unsubscribe in just a couple of clicks.
6. You can reach mobile device users
The percentage of email opens on mobile devices continues to grow. According to our Email Marketing Benchmarks report, desktop opens make up 45.69% of all email opens, followed by mobile opens at 34.31%, and webmail opens at 20%.
This means that you can reach your customers and influence their buying decisions wherever they are. You can also integrate your online and offline marketing e.g. by collecting email addresses at events or during shopping at a brick-and-mortar location.
7. Email is an owned medium
Traditionally, digital marketing strategy is divided into paid, earned, and owned media. Email falls into the owned media category (unless we’re talking about sponsored mailing). It means that your business has full control over this online marketing channel.
In fact, over time, your email list becomes your greatest online marketing asset: a massive database of people who want to hear from your brand.
If you use professional email marketing services, your emails will reach almost everyone on your email list as opposed to e.g. social media, where you cannot control your organic reach. That’s why investing too much in social media following is often called building a house on rented land.
8. Targeted and personalized communication
You can collect relevant information from your contacts along the subscription process and use it to tailor the communication to their needs and preferences. Based on the data you can create segments of people sharing common traits.
Your subscribers will stay on your list as long as they see value in your communication – that’s why over time you can build a huge email list that brings impressive revenue.
9. Easy to measure results
You can gain full control over your email marketing efforts by integrating your email marketing platform with online analytics tools such as Google Analytics. Just add UTM parameters to your emails and you’ll know exactly which email, subject line, or call to action button brought you the best results.
You can control the performance of individual emails in your email marketing tool’s statistics panel and then track user behavior on your website. You can set goals for individual email marketing campaigns, track conversions, and measure the ROI.
10. Fully automated
With marketing automation, you can build custom workflows for your campaigns. You can easily create any kind of automated email marketing campaign by using a drag-and-drop editor to program the communication flow with the available conditions, actions, and filters.
11. Excellent return on investment
Email marketing keeps on bringing the highest return on investment of all online marketing channels. This is something we’ve seen first hand & that came out in the study we’ve conducted along with Smart Insights (see the chart below). This results from all of the factors mentioned above. If you run and measure your email marketing activities the right way, they’ll become a proven source of revenue for your business.
What’s the average email marketing ROI?
According to a 2019 study by DMA, email marketing’s return on investment is 42:1 on average. Statistically, if you invest $1 in your email marketing activities, you’ll get $42 in return.
Of course, this is not a fixed number – it’s an average. The return of investment in your company will depend on various factors, e.g.:
- size and quality of your email list
- content relevance
- design and copy
- call to action (is it clear and persuasive?)
One of the biggest advantages of email marketing is that you can track performance and present data to prove the ROI. This is especially important if you don’t have extensive marketing budgets and every decision you make needs to be data-driven.
How to measure email marketing ROI?
Usually, it’s easy to calculate the return on investment in your email marketing activities. All you need to do is track total revenue and divide it by the total spend.
Here’s an example, let’s say you’ve generated $100 in sales and invested $30 in the email marketing campaign. You’ll measure your campaign ROI as follows:
That’s a simple way to prove your success and get more budget for future campaigns. Naturally, this equation will become more complex if you include other costs like your staff’s time or the cost of producing the goods you’re selling.
Growing your email list
Email list building is one of the main ongoing tasks of an email marketer.
You want to attract a large and engaged audience to be able to directly communicate with them inside their email inboxes.
There are multiple ways in which you can build an email list. Let’s now explore the main tactics & tools you can use to acquire a high-quality list.
If you’d like to dig deeper, consider reading our complete guide on how to build an email list from scratch, where we list over 40 list building tactics.
You need to provide a good reason for your target audience to convinced them to sign up for your email list. Most people will want to receive something in return for their effort and the opportunity to contact them directly inside their inbox. That’s where lead magnets come in.
A lead magnet is an incentive you give in return for your visitor’s email address. Most commonly, lead magnets come in a form of an ebook, a checklist, or a free tool – but they come in all shapes and forms.
Our recent study showed that marketers have seen the highest conversion rates with video (e.g. webinars) and written type (e.g. guides) lead magnets.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t use other kinds of incentives. You’ll want to use a variety of different lead magnets depending on the type of industry you’re in, the type of audience you’re trying to attract, or the goal of your email marketing campaign.
To learn more about the most popular types or how you should go about choosing the opt-in incentive for your business, read our guide to lead magnets.
An optin form, web form, or signup form is an HTML form that is installed on a website to enable visitors to sign up. This is the key mechanism that you’ll use to capture leads.
There are different kinds of optin forms you can use. The difference between them is usually about how or when they appear in front of your visitor’s eyes.
The most popular types of web forms include:
- Embedded/Inline web forms
- Popups and lightboxes
- Exit intent forms
- Scroll forms
- Fixed bars
- Welcome mats
- Click forms
On your website, you’ll want to use a variety of different types of forms. The minimum you should aim for is to have an embedded form on every page of your website & pop up forms on the pages that get the highest traffic.
When designing your web forms and choosing your lead magnets think about what information you need to run an effective email marketing campaign.
It’s tempting to ask your audience for more information (e.g. their company name, website URL, or their budget), but the more you ask for the fewer people will fill out your forms. Each additional input field will lower your subscription form conversion rates.
At the same time, you don’t want to end up collecting many email addresses, none of whom fit your target audience.
Another key aspect worth keeping in mind is user experience. By showing too many interstitials you may negatively affect your website visitors’ experience and discourage them from returning to your site in the future. To overcome this, you may want to keep an eye on whom you’re showing your forms and potentially limit the pop ups to shown only when users have spent a reasonable amount of time on your site.
To learn more about building your list with signup forms, consider reading our post on effective lead capture forms and website popup examples. You may also want to watch the following video, where Andy Crestodina goes over the entire process of how to optimize your signup forms – including where you should place them, how to pick your CTAs, and what works for web form copy.
Most websites and homepages have multiple objectives to meet. They’re meant to provide information for all the types of visitors that enter the page and as a result, they’re often quite messy. They’re also not designed to convert email subscribers effectively. This is why marketers build dedicated landing pages.
While landing pages also can have various goals, there’s one specific type that’s built solely for capturing emails and that’s squeeze pages. Squeeze pages are designed to collect visitors’ email addresses. They contain just enough information to convince them to fill out the form and keep them focused on that one single goal.
That’s why most squeeze pages contain only the following elements (sometimes even fewer):
- A headline that makes a promise and captures attention
- A subheading that builds upon the promise
- Key benefits of the offer and the lead magnet
- The signup form
- Additional elements increasing the conversion rate like social proof or trust symbols
As you can see, they’re much simpler than your normal website homepage. And that’s exactly why they’re so effective. The average conversion rate for landing pages is almost 6%, but it’s not unusual to see better results.
In one of our case studies, Alex Terrier, a jazz musician and a music teacher offering online music courses, describes how he’s managed to get a 19% email signup rate thanks to free high-quality content.
While landing pages can be placed inside your website’s navigation, marketers primarily use them to capture leads from external traffic sources, like paid social media campaigns, sponsored mailings, solo ads, and various content marketing activities.
If you’d like to learn more about using landing pages in your list building campaigns – how to design them effectively & what could potentially hinder your conversion rates – you may want to check our beginners guide to squeeze pages and how to create landing pages that convert.
While you can use paid ads to drive traffic onto your squeeze pages, there’s also another way to collect emails without making visitors leave the page they’re currently viewing.
On Facebook, these are called Lead Ads. In Google, they’re called Google Lead Form Ads. And on LinkedIn, you’ll find them as Lead Gen Ads.
Every platform has their own name, but the principle behind them is the same – they offer a simple way to collect emails from the platform’s users. And why is it simple? It’s because the platforms prepopulate the lead capture form with the email address the user’s signed with.
While this significantly increases the conversion rates, it also has a downside. Most of us are signed into Facebook using our personal email address and not our business one. And if you’re interested in capturing a B2B audience, this makes the process more complicated.
That said, lead ads can generate impressive results. One of GetResponse customers, InfoShare Academy, used them to successfully capture 1200 new contacts in just one month and kept the cost per lead around $0.35. They achieved this by creating a highly-relevant content piece (an IT Glossary Guide) and targeting people wanting to learn how to become a developer.
Segmenting your email list
We’ve mentioned how email marketing allows you to run targeted email marketing campaigns as opposed to sending the so-called email blasts. It does so through the use of segmentation.
The purpose of email list segmentation is to identify cohorts or groups of customers that share common characteristics and tailor the communication to better meet their expectations & needs. By making your email communication more relevant you can achieve higher engagement and conversion rates.
And not just by a fraction, according to the Email Marketing Benchmarks report data, personalized emails see on average an uplift of 19% in the click-through rates.
How you’ll want to segment your audience will vary depending on the type of business you’re running or your email marketing campaign’s goal. For example, a nonprofit organization may want to look at the average donation size of their customers while an ecommerce brand may be interested in a segment that purchased in the last 90 days.
That said, most marketers segment their email lists based on:
- Demographic information (e.g. gender, age, income)
- Contact engagement with communication (e.g. page visits, link clicks, email opens)
- Contact buying behavior (e.g. products purchased, products added to cart)
- Contact stage in the buying cycle
Types of emails you can send
When it comes to what can go into your emails the sky really is the limit.
You can use email marketing throughout the entire customer lifecycle aiming for different kinds of objectives for each stage. Here, we’ll focus on the types of emails you can send based on how they’re sent and not what’s inside them.
If however, you’d like to explore further the different content types that you can include your messages, consider reading these posts on the most-interesting newsletter ideas & employee newsletter examples.
Newsletters and marketing offers
Most marketers use email marketing to communicate their offer and send regular updates regarding their company.
These types of emails are usually sent as a one-off type of campaign that’s targeted to the whole of their audience (that’s when you call them an email blast) or a particular customer segment.
Newsletters are very popular and simple to run, but because you send them out manually they tend to get lower engagement rates than triggered emails.
On average, an email newsletter sees an open rate of 22% and a click-through rate of 3.4%.
Triggered emails or automated emails see much higher engagement rates. Their average open rate is around 44% and click-through rate is above 10%. Why so much higher than newsletters?
What makes triggered emails so effective is that they’re sent in response to your contact’s actions. It could be after they signed up to your mailing list or after they left your website without completing the order. You decide when such emails get sent out.
But it’s not only the timing that makes automated emails powerful. It’s also about the fact that they’re super relevant. Most automated emails contain information that’s specifically intended for the recipient who’s just performed some sort of action.
To learn more about automated emails and see over 30 template examples, check out our guide to email automation.
Here’s another type of email that’s popular among marketers. Blog updates or RSS-emails are messages that you send out after you’ve published a new article on your blog.
You can send these emails either automatically or manually, depending on your preference.
These kinds of emails also tend to get higher open and click-through rates than marketing newsletters. This is especially true for those bloggers who offer unique content & focus mostly on providing value rather than marketing their products or services.
Email drip campaigns or autoresponder emails are similar to triggered emails. You send them automatically, but unlike triggered emails, they follow a predetermined sequence and schedule.
Usually, marketers use drip campaigns to set up email courses, lead nurturing sequences, or onboarding sequences. Setting up an email sequence this way gives you the opportunity to keep your brand at the top of your audience’s mind and makes your content easier to digest.
Email drip campaigns are easy to create and tend to get pretty high engagement rates. Their average open rate is almost 30% and CTR is almost 6%.
If you’d like to find out more about setting up email sequences, here’s a handy email drip campaign guide.
Email mail marketing strategy and metrics
To be successful in email marketing, you need to develop a strategy and focus on the right kinds of metrics to know whether you’re going in the right direction.
Put simply, email marketing strategy is the big picture showing the long-term vision and future direction of your email marketing activities. Although many businesses operate without a strategy, it’s crucial to have one if you want to be successful.
Here’s why you need an email marketing strategy:
“You need a strategy with your email marketing and your marketing automation. Driving prospects down the funnel won’t happen by accident. (…) You need a planned project to map out all the different potential customer touchpoints and when you can potentially send emails, and then to build them in.”Dr. Dave Chaffey
Developing a basic email marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. (In fact, it shouldn’t.) You don’t need to cover everything at once – you can include more areas and details as you go.
On our blog, you can find more information on how SMBs can use email marketing and what email marketing strategies work best for ecommerce.
In general, your email marketing strategy should cover areas like:
Key long-term objectives
Decide what you want to achieve with your email marketing in the long run. Your objectives should be business-related and measurable. Here are a few examples to consider:
- increase the number of subscribers by 20% by the end of the year
- increase email marketing relevance expressed by 5% higher open rate and CTR
- collect meaningful information about subscribers to improve segmentation
- increase ROI from promotional campaigns by 10% by the end of the year
You’ll want your goals to be ambitious but also achievable. But before you sell yourself short, make sure you follow these email marketing best practices and you’ll be on the good path to achieving even the most ambitious objectives.
Who are the people most likely to become your customers? Make sure that you know your target audience well. The more you know about their needs and preferences the more effective your email marketing campaigns will be.
Competitive advantage and key USPs
Do you know what your unique selling proposition (USP) is? Do you know your competitive advantage? I hope so. If not, you’re going to have a rough time trying to create email marketing campaigns that will persuade your target audience to buy from you.
Your USP should answer the question “why us?” Analyze your product or service and identify the benefits for the customer. Keep it short and precise. Clearly explain your solutions and match them to your customers’ needs.
Also, reach out to your current customers and ask them for your competitive advantage. Find out why they chose you from all the other options.
Clearly defined competitive advantage and USPs will help you tremendously with planning your overall marketing communication and CTAs in individual emails.
Define the resources you need to make your email marketing campaign happen. Think of people (e.g. email marketing specialist, graphic designer, content specialist) and tools (email marketing platform, project management tool, etc.) that will help you plan and execute your strategy.
Metrics and KPIs
There are a lot of metrics worth tracking. The trick is to tie them to your business goals and define the KPIs that will help you make better decisions.
Below you’ll find the most important metrics you should keep an eye on when running your email marketing campaigns.
Bear in mind that to have a full understanding, you’ll want to look at various email marketing metrics simultaneously. Otherwise, you might be ignoring an important element of the puzzle that’s stopping you from reaching a high ROI.
You’ll also want to keep track of the average engagement metrics observed in your industry or geographical location. You’ll find such information in the Email Marketing Benchmarks report.
Email list size
The number of email addresses on your list is one of the metrics you should pay attention to. Given that you build your email list organically with your target audience, you can be sure that it will translate into business results. In this case, the bigger the list – the bigger the total results.
The percentage of the total number of subscribers who opened your email. Bear in mind that opens can be calculated only in HTML messages since they need tracking pixel.
Some marketers say it’s a vanity metric but tracking email open rates have multiple benefits. For example, it gives you a quick overview of how good your email deliverability is or what’s the quality of your email list. If you’re seeing low open rates, it could potentially mean that some of your emails are going to spam folder.
As you run your email campaigns, you want to make sure that your open rate beats the industry standard and doesn’t decline.
The three main elements that affect open rates are the from name, subject line, and the preheader text. Naturally, your deliverability or timing of your email marketing campaign also play a role.
To learn how to improve your opens and get more people to read your emails, follow this post on increasing email open rates.
The percentage of the total number of clicks on any given link in your email. It’s expressed by the total number of clicks on any given link divided by the number of emails sent.
Now this one is an actionable metric and the closest one you get to the actual conversion. Marketers throughout the world want to ensure their click-through rate (CTR) is strong, otherwise, it’ll mean their content isn’t interesting.
Making your calls to action more prominent, placing them in the above the fold, or using engaging content formats – these are just three ways how you can increase your CTRs. For more ideas, refer to our article on increasing your click-through rates.
Comparison of the number of unique clicks and unique opens giving you a better idea of the engagement in your email marketing campaigns.
A high click-to-open rate (CTOR) might indicate that subscribers find the content of your emails interesting or that you’ve delivered on the promise that you made in the subject line.
A low CTOR suggests the opposite. It may mean that either your subject line was misleading or that the email message wasn’t convincing enough to click through to your website.
A specific valuable action like visiting a landing page after clicking a CTA button; visiting a thank you page after buying a product, etc.
Sometimes expressed as a ratio, conversion rate gives you a precise signal whether your email campaign was successful.
Plan your first email campaign
Send emails with confidence. Grab this free guide and run email marketing campaigns that generate results.
Setting up your first email campaign
This section contains a short step-by-step guide on how to set up your first email campaign. If you’re never done this before, just follow these steps and make sure to note down your observations and track your results.
Email marketing is a long-term game and you’ll want to make sure that with every campaign you roll out you’ll learn something new about your audience and what makes them ‘click’.
1. Set a measurable goal
First, decide what you want to achieve.
For the purpose of this article, let’s say you want to create a welcome email that’ll greet your new contacts and offer them a discount code for their first order in your online store.
According to our Email Marketing Benchmarks, the welcome emails have the highest engagement, open rate, and click-through rate:
Not to set the bar too high, let’s say your goal will therefore be to roll out a welcome email campaign that’ll generate an open rate of over 60% and CTR above 15%.
2. Pick your target audience
You’ll now want to decide whom you’re going to send your email campaign.
In this case, it’s simple – the target audience will be every new person who joins your email list.
But it could just as well be anyone else, e.g. folks who’ve visited your store in the last 30 days but haven’t placed an order or people who’ve recently bought from you but didn’t leave a review.
Keep in mind who your target audience is before you run off creating copy and designing your email templates.
3. Create your email template
Now it’s time to put your creative hat on and craft that email.
Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be a designer or a copywriter to create email campaigns that generate results. The most important element is to always think of your target audience and what objective you’ve set for your campaign.
If you’re using an email marketing tool like GetResponse, you can either use the drag-and-drop Email Maker or customize one of the ready-made templates that come out of the box. Using premade templates will save you a ton of time and ensure that your emails will look great across all devices and email clients.
In our case, we want to greet new email subscribers and convince them to click-through to the site and use the discount code we’ve given them. What this means is that your email needs to be welcoming but also draw the recipient’s attention to the main action you want them to take.
To do that, you’ll want to follow email design principles such as making your CTA prominent, sizeable, surrounded by a reasonable amount of negative space. You’ll also want to pay attention to your copy and make sure it communicates the key benefits of your offer.
To explore these topics further, consider reading these two resources:
- Email design best practices guide
- How to write newsletters that get opened, read, and clicked by Joana Wiebe
4. Schedule your email campaign
Once you’ve created the emails you want to send, it’s time to schedule them so that they’ll reach the right audience at the right time.
If you were to send to a one-off email blast, you could send it immediately or schedule it for later. Additionally, you could adjust the send time to match your subscriber’s time zone.
In our case, we want to set up a simple welcome email, which we can do by using a marketing automation template called “Simple Welcome Message”.
The workflow consists of only two blocks, where we need to specify what email template we want to send and which list it should be applied to.
5. Measure and improve
As we mentioned before, you can’t run a good email program if you’re not measuring and analyzing your campaign’s results.
If you’re sending a one-off marketing offer, give yourself at least 24 hours before you start analyzing your open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. This will give your recipients enough time to respond to your message and place their order.
When analyzing your results, keep in mind all the main factors that could have affected your results – the subject line, your offer, your target audience, email template you used, the time at which you sent out the campaign, and additionally any external factors that could also be important.
Take the timing of your email campaign as an example. In our recent study on the best time and day to send an email, we’ve identified which hours and days correlate with higher opens and clicks:
Equipped with that, you can start coming up with new ideas & planning your future campaigns that’ll generate even higher results.
Over to you
Now that you’ve learn the foundations of email marketing it’s time for you to act.
If you feel you’re ready to start running effective email programs – to build and segment high quality lists, design high-converting email templates, continuously test and optimize your campaigns – I’ve got good news for you.
You can do all of this inside of one single tool. And it’s completely free for 30 days – no credit card required.
If any of that sounds interesting to you, just sign up for a free trial & start making some real results.