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The first marketing email was sent in 1978. Yeah, it is that old!

Since then, its popularity has only seen an upward trend. Nowadays, customers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails from marketers daily, competing for their attention.

Why use email marketing if the field is so saturated? 

There are 4.6 billion email users on the planet, and 51% of people say that they prefer brands to contact them by email. Whether you’re a large retailer or a small business owner, email marketing is an effective inbound marketing tool for your business.

But how to start email marketing? 

We have the answer.

We’ll cover how to start email marketing in depth, from building a mailing list to optimizing your emails so that you can benefit from a successful campaign.

professional email hosting

Why use email marketing?

In the era of social media, you may be inclined to ignore email marketing, considering it fruitless.

Here’s something that might change that.

Litmus reports that every dollar spent on email marketing provides an average return on investment of $36. With a 3600% ROI, it is the highest ROI across all marketing strategies.

Email marketing’s importance has increased further due to the pandemic and continues to grow as the delta variant went rampant in 2021.

In addition to the higher return on investment and pandemic-proof solution, email marketing offers several other unique advantages.

  • Easy to measure: You can easily collect data on your campaigns and use that data to optimize your marketing strategy.
  • Inexpensive: With multiple free and cheap platforms, you can do digital marketing on a low budget.
  • Personalization: Emails enable you to personalize content according to the target customer and double your click-through rates.
  • Agile and timely: Campaigns require shorter lead times — you can get your exact message across instantly.
  • Build loyalty: You can share unique resources and helpful tips about your niche to nurture your relationship with your new subscribers and loyal customers.
  • Turn prospects into customers: With a successful email marketing campaign, you can keep the interest of users who just completed the lead capture form and received their first email.

How to effectively use email marketing?

Email marketing can be a powerful tool for reaching your target audience, building relationships, and driving business growth. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use email marketing effectively:

  1. Set your goals
  2. Get to know your audience
  3. Select a service provider
  4. Build your email list
  5. Choose a strategy
  6. Optimize your emails
  7. Evaluate your data
  8. Testing and tracking email marketing results

Step 1: Set your email marketing goals

Crafting an effective strategy starts with defining the desired outcome of your efforts.

You’ll likely have more than one goal, which means you’ll need several approaches.

For example, you might be starting email marketing to:

  • Drive product purchases
  • Build brand awareness
  • Nurture leads
  • Upsell products
  • Convert repeat customers

An email you design to get recipients to purchase a product for the first time will look different from the one you send to upsell a recent customer.

While both may include a call to action, an email retargeting a returning customer may feature personalized updates, information, or offers based on what they previously bought.

Step 2: Get to know your audience

Email marketing is most effective as a targeted marketing strategy.

Check out the example of the tracking service Tile. Tile’s email targets millennial parents with younger school-aged children who lose items frequently. It is persuasive because it shows how it solves a real, specific problem facing a portion of its buyers. 

To start, you’ll first need to understand your audience by creating buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a generalized character based on data about your target audience’s interests, needs, and habits. It should be relatively broad, as you want to work with limited buyer personas for easier management.

To develop a buyer persona, gather demographic data about the relevant customers and collect their preferences, desires, and needs through interviews and surveys.

You can do this through:

  • Email opt-in forms
  • Building your subscriber list
  • Segmenting subscribers 

Through this, you will understand their motivations behind choosing your product and their specific buyer journey.

Step 3: Select an email marketing service provider

Why use email marketing service providers?

In email marketing, you send hundreds to thousands of emails weekly and collect data on each one. A service like Constant Contact can make it easy to manage this burden and start email marketing.

Unlike typical email service providers, email marketing software offers:

Here’s a list of email marketing service providers and their unique benefits to help you choose:

  • Constant Contact: Provides easy-to-use drag-and-drop email templates.
  • ConvertKit: Offers landing pages and forms to engage your audience.
  • GetResponse: Enhances your email marketing platform with autoresponders and sales funnels.
  • Mailchimp: Offers a free plan with powerful tools for small business owners.
  • Substack: Features paid newsletter subscriptions.
  • Drip: Enables small e-commerce businesses.
  • Campaign Monitor: Provides a straightforward service.

Step 4: Build your email list

Whether you have 15 or 1,500 contacts on your email list, you can always benefit from a list-building strategy in place to acquire more.

That said, you should regularly clear out inactive subscribers to keep your bounce rate low and ensure the deliverability of your emails through spam filters, so they don’t end up in the spam folder.

While there are many ways to grow your email list, one of the popular ways to build your list is by offering a free valuable incentive called a lead magnet. In addition, a sign-up form goes a long way in building an email list through your website.

Search Engine Journal’s email newsletter sign-up page is a great example you can follow when starting. It lets users opt-in and self-segment by selecting the type of content they’re interested in.

Step 5: Choose an email marketing strategy

One of the essential parts of learning how to start email marketing is understanding the kind of email you need to send to your email subscriber’s inboxes.

With different strategies catering to different goals, you need to use your primary goals decided in the first step to determine your email marketing strategy. It will then decide the types of emails you will be sending.

Tactics to increase conversion rate try:

  • Offer/discount emails
  • Upsell emails
  • New product announcements

Strategies to improve engagement, check out:

  • Newsletters
  • Helpful content
  • Welcome emails/kickback emails
  • Re-engagement emails
  • Methods to grow traffic, send:
  • Newsletters
  • Syndicated blog posts
  • Content roundups

Step 6: Optimize your emails

Now that you know how to start, it’s time to learn how to make the most of your email marketing efforts.

The average effective marketing email is just 125 words. To capture your audience’s attention in such a short amount of space, you’ll need to ensure you’re using engaging, punchy copy and sending valuable emails to your customer.

You can use your buyer personas to optimize your emails.

Personalized email subject lines or body copy can be the difference between opening an email to take action and closing an email to delete it.

By segmenting your email marketing lists, you can connect with your audience by sending emails that resonate with their interests and desires.

Step 7: Evaluate your data

The only way to know if your campaign is successful is to keep track of the data.

Essential metrics you should monitor are:

  • Open rate: The number of people opening your email.
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR): The number of people clicking a link in your email.
  • Unsubscribes: The number of people unsubscribing from your email.

Using these three metrics, you can know if an email strategy works as desired or needs changing.

You can also use A/B testing to see what you can improve in your emails. For example, use an A/B test to see which changes net you a higher open rate and low unsubscribe rate.

Step 8: Testing and tracking email marketing results

Email marketing planning isn’t something you do one time and forget about. Instead, you can experiment with your content and track metrics over time to determine what tactics work for you. 

A/B testing

Which subject line gets the most open rates? What time of day should you send emails? What’s the best text for your CTA buttons?

Unfortunately, you can’t just Google the answers to these questions. Each audience is unique, and what works for someone else might not work for you. 

The good news?

You can use A/B testing to find out. 

A/B testing (also known as split testing) lets you send two versions of an email and figure out which performs best. (A/B testing can also be used for other channels, such as your website.)

To do the test, split your audience into two groups. One half receives the first version, and the other half gets the second. Then, you wait and see which version generated the most engagement.

Most email marketing platforms include A/B testing features that automatically split your audience for you.

When A/B testing, you should only test one element, such as the subject line or header image. Everything else about the email should be the same, including when you send it. 

Including A/B testing in your planning empowers you to tailor your strategy over time. 

As you improve, so will your metrics.

In addition to tracking each A/B test, you should follow the performance of all of your emails so you can view long-term trends too. 

Email marketing tracking

  1. Delivery rate/bounce rate
  2. Open rate
  3. Click-through rate
  4. Spam reports
  5. Unsubscribe rate
  6. ROI from email conversions
  7. Revenue per email 

Combined, these metrics help you determine the success of your strategy. 

By tracking various key performance indicators (KPIs), you can also identify where you need to improve your content. 

Let’s say you have high open rates but low click-through rates. This indicates you have good subject lines, but your email content or CTAs don’t compel people to click through.

Likewise, a high bounce rate indicates an issue with email deliverability. While deliverability can be an easy fix, you won’t know about it if you ignore your metrics.

In general, you should see an increase in delivery, open, and click-through rates, as well as email ROI and revenue per email. 

On the other hand, aim to minimize spam reports, unsubscribe rates, and bounce rates.

Email marketing planning: Develop a content strategy

Now that you know how to grow and segment your audience, it’s time to move on to the fun part: content and design. 

Learning how to write compelling emails and send them at the right time makes or breaks your email marketing strategy. 

So, let’s see how content strategy affects email marketing planning.

Types of Emails

Before you create your content marketing strategy, you need to know the main email types. Each email type serves its purpose and requires different types of content.

  1. Newsletters. Email newsletters are one-off communications sent to your entire list or a list segment. You can leverage newsletters to send promotions, feature success stories, announce a new product, or share content marketing pieces. Newsletters are excellent for increasing brand awareness, engagement, and driving revenue.
  2. Transactional. A transactional email is a one-time communication related to a customer transaction, such as email receipts, confirmation sign-ups, and password resets. Transactional emails are an essential part of your customer experience, but you can also use them to drive traffic back to your website.
  3. Behavioral. Behavioral emails are targeted marketing emails triggered by customer actions. Behavioral emails include welcome sequences, abandoned cart emails, re-engagement sequences, and product recommendations. 

Newsletters and transactional emails are traditionally one-off communications. However, behavioral emails can be a single message or a drip campaign. 

A drip campaign is a series of emails sent over some time. For example, a welcome drip campaign might include four emails sent over one week.

Most email software includes automation for transactional emails, behavioral emails, and drip campaigns.

Email Marketing Content Calendar

A complete email marketing strategy uses a combination of all three types of emails we described above. User actions trigger transactional and behavioral emails, so those are automatically sent. 

Your email newsletters, however, should be planned and scheduled using a content calendar. 

Here’s what to include in your email marketing calendar:

  • Send date and time
  • Audience (complete list or segment) 
  • Subject line
  • Content description
  • Objective (such as engagement, website traffic, or conversions)
  • Call-to-action (CTA)
  • Email author

Using a content calendar in your email marketing planning empowers you to keep your team on track and send the right messages at the right time. 

Furthermore, a content calendar helps prevent you from spamming your subscribers since you can carefully plan out the frequency of your communications.

In general, send at least one email newsletter per month and no more than two per week. Over time, you can experiment and figure out what cadence works best for your audience and your team. 

Remember to prioritize quality over quantity. It’s better to send fewer high-quality emails than several subpar newsletters.

Email marketing is a staple in any complete marketing strategy. Not only does email marketing provide the best return on investment, but it’s also the preferred method of communication for most customers. 

However, email marketing success depends heavily on your website’s user experience. For example, you need compelling sign-up forms and an easy checkout process.

Email marketing benefits

  1. Cost-effective marketing 

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective forms of digital marketing. Compared to traditional advertising methods, it incurs significantly lower costs. There are minimal expenses associated with designing and sending emails, making it an ideal choice for businesses with budget constraints.

  1. Targeted and personalized communication 

Email allows you to segment your audience and send personalized content to specific groups based on factors like demographics, behavior, and preferences. This targeted approach increases the relevance of your messages and enhances engagement, ultimately leading to higher conversion rates.

  1. High ROI (Return on Investment) 

Email marketing consistently delivers a high ROI. When executed effectively, it can yield substantial returns on your investment. This is due to its ability to drive sales, nurture leads, and build customer loyalty at a relatively low cost.

  1. Easy to track and measure 

Email marketing provides detailed analytics and reporting tools. You can track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and more. This data allows you to measure the success of your campaigns, make data-driven decisions, and continually refine your strategies for better results.

  1. Enhanced customer engagement and retention 

Email marketing is an excellent tool for building and nurturing customer relationships. By delivering valuable content, special offers, and updates to your subscribers, you keep your brand top-of-mind and foster a sense of loyalty. Engaging with your audience through email helps increase customer retention and encourages repeat business.

Final thoughts

Thanks to its high return on investment, getting started with email marketing is one of the best ways to grow your business.

Launching an email marketing campaign begins with a thorough understanding of your audience and your goals. With that out of the way, you can leverage tools like email marketing services and lead magnets to grow your email list.

A professional domain and address build on that by improving your open rate and click-through rate. Check out Bluehost’s Google Workspace to use a credible email address while interacting with your customers.

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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  1. Very true! Email marketing is one of the best promotional method. Great article Syed. Its really a very informative article. Learnt so much from it. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Thanks Syed for sharing insights for realistic ways to monetize a email marketing. Let’s keep spreading the word about the value of marketing. they have deep immersive knowledge about their audience -that brands or startup companies could pay for.

  3. GetResponse Reply

    Fantastic work. Another helpful tactic is to learn when are the optimal times at which to send your emails. You can find many articles out there to help you get started with this.

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  5. Uchechukwu Peter Reply

    Thank you for the information so far, it was really helpful

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