How to Get Started with Email Marketing

Written on March 7, 2021

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the act of utilizing emails in delivering targeted messaging to a defined audience, with the goal of driving this audience to take a specific action.

Businesses have been leveraging email marketing for decades, to improve everything from generating new business to customer loyalty. Despite naysayers claiming that email is dead, from an ROI perspective, the majority of marketers across all businesses and industries argue that it is the most effective marketing channel used today.

There are 3.9 billion daily email users, and this number is expected to reach 4.3 billion by 2023. Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a small business, or a Fortune 500 company, you should consider email marketing to be an essential piece of your marketing strategy.

Which Email Service Provider Should I Use?

There are many solutions out there, from email-focused solutions to full end-to-end marketing automation tools. The solution you choose should depend largely on the types of functionality you will require for your email marketing efforts. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How many emails am I looking to send and how often?
  • How big is my current subscriber list?
  • What kind of tracking visibility do I want? Do I just need to see how many people open / click an email, or do I need additional visibility into the actions users take after clicking on my email?
  • What’s the reputation of the email service provider? What is their typical deliverability rate (ie how successful is the service in delivering emails to your users’ inbox?)
  • Do I want this solution to provide functionality for building additional things like landing pages or forms?
  • Do I want certain emails to be automated?
  • Do I want a sophisticated way to preview how emails will look across different email clients, browsers, and devices?

If you’re just getting started with email marketing and are budget conscious, we recommend utilizing a tool that offers a free service such as Mailchimp. In addition to email marketing, a tool such as Mailchimp can also act as your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. This tool will allow you to effectively manage your audience data, grow your subscriber rate, send emails, A/B test, and track ROI in the early stages. 

Once you’ve grown your subscriber base beyond the free tier’s upper limit, you may want to consider upgrading your email service provider and implementing a separate solution to act as your CRM such as Salesforce.

We recommend eventually adopting a marketing automation solution such as Hubspot, Pardot, or Marketo, after your business has experienced more significant periods of growth, as they will help you more effectively manage the full end-to-end buyer experience. These solutions tend to be pricier, however, and so we advise against implementing them until you have a more robust marketing program in place.

Grow Your Subscriber List

It goes without saying, but you need to have a subscriber base before you can send any emails. 

There are many tried and true methods for increasing your audience size, however, we recommend that all marketers and business owners research the latest regional rules and regulations surrounding data protection.

If your target audience lives in the EU, you’ll particularly want to pay special attention to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which outlines if, how, and when organizations can capture and use EU user data. 

Here are some tactics you can try to increase your subscriber base:

Incorporate a newsletter sign-up form in highly visible areas throughout your website. Some examples include:

Top Header Navigation or Footer Navigation:

[insert image example here]

Within your Blog section (if applicable):

[insert image example here]

Or via a pop-up notification:

[insert image example here]

If you regularly publish blog posts on your website, include a CTA at the end of your blog posts encouraging users to sign up to receive more content like the one they just read.

 

Gate your content.

Certain types of content are more valuable than others, and should be treated as such. If you have longform pieces of content, such as an e-book, whitepaper, or guide, or rich forms of content like webinars or video, avoid giving users immediate access. Instead, take this opportunity to require users to input their information and subscribe to marketing communications in exchange for giving them access to the content you worked so hard to produce.

[insert image of landing page]

 

Create a referral program.

Make it a rewarding experience for existing subscribers to share your content and encourage their friends, family, and colleagues to subscribe. 

[insert image of the morning brew]

 

Make your sign-up form as short as possible.

How short? We recommend implementing just one field to start—the email address. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up, and users will notice right away if they’re going through a lot of effort providing information about themselves. Don’t worry if you feel you need more details, as there are other opportunities to collect more data over time.

Now, here are some tips to ensure that users are providing informed consent for receiving marketing communication:

1. When gating content, implement a checkbox informing users that by checking the box, they are consenting to receiving future marketing communication.

You can also provide additional messaging to reassure users that you will not share or sell their data with other parties. Important: users must have the ability to actively check the box. The box should not appear pre-checked.

2. Implement a double opt-in process for new subscribers.

Upon immediately signing up for your marketing communications, an automated email should go out to users asking them to click through to confirm that they’ve subscribed. This will provide you with a record that the user not only signed up to receive communication from your business, but also re-confirmed that they did so.

3. Clean your email list regularly.

Every so often, you should evaluate your list and identify users who are not engaging with your emails on a consistent basis. Take this opportunity to send an annual email to these users and ask them to confirm that they are still interested in receiving marketing communications, and that you will remove them from your subscriber list if otherwise. 

 

Segment Your Audience

By creating different user segments, you will have the flexibility to send specific messaging that might only be relevant to a small subset of your total subscriber base. For example, you might be interested in sending promotions that are only applicable for new customers, or you might want to send a specific message in order to re-engage customers who haven’t interacted with your business lately.

Examples of user segment types:

  • Cold Prospects
  • Sales-qualified leads
  • New customers
  • Existing, engaged customers
  • Existing, non-engaged customers
  • At-risk customers
  • Partnerships
  • Vertical / industry
  • Buyer persona

You can be as broad or specific as you like, but carving out user segments will allow you to be more effective with the way you target your messaging.

 

Determine Your Goals

It’s important to identify your end goal before developing and launching any email campaign. Is your goal primarily to drive brand awareness, get users to purchase an item, read a blog post, or get in touch with you? There are many different types of actions you can drive through email, and it’s critical that you identify a single action that you want users to take.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What does success look like, and can I measure it? What are my KPIs, and are there any existing benchmarks to reference for other businesses similar to my own? Is success revenue-driven, or more engagement-driven? 
  • In order to get my users to take this specific action, what content do I need to provide to encourage them to do so? 

By identifying what you want users to do, you will then be able to measure the true success and ROI of the email campaign and determine if you should repeat this approach in the future.

 

Test, Test, Test! 

If there’s one tremendous benefit to email marketing, it’s that you get results fast—good or bad. You can immediately tell whether a campaign is working, and for that reason, many marketers use email as a way to test their messaging, content, and CTAs to see what resonates most with their audience.

We recommend that all marketers and business owners perform rigorous A/B tests when first launching their email marketing program to optimize performance earlier on.

Simply split your email list into two lists of roughly the same size, and send each of the lists two variables of the same email. 

Areas that are important to test in email marketing:

Subject Lines

This is arguably the most important area you will want to optimize right away. Your audience will be unable to make a purchase, consume content, or take any next step if they don’t even open your email! There is a lot of competition in the inbox, so you’ll want to ensure that your subject line stands out from the rest.

Test short subject lines vs. long subject lines, descriptive vs. vague, mystery subject lines that ask a question, or even try utilizing emojis. When applicable, try personalizing your subject lines as well—nothing quite catches one’s attention like seeing your own name.

Key Metric to Track: Open Rate

 

Content

The next most important area you want to optimize is the content within the email. First impressions count here, and attention spans are short. You want to ensure that you’re providing users with digestible, compelling information. We recommend that you test different types of content (ie text vs. video embeds vs. images), as well as short vs. longform content.

Key Metric to Track: Click Through Rate

CTAs (Call-to-Action)

Finally, you should test the actual CTAs themselves, which will drive the user to take a specific action. We recommend that you test CTA placement within the email, the colors of the button, and the messages

Key Metric to Track: Click Through Rate

 

Important: When performing any A/B test, we strongly recommend that you only test one thing at a time. By limiting the number of variables in the test, you will be able to more confidently identify the true driver of the winning version.

 

Automate Emails Whenever Possible

There are certain emails that are most effective when automated. Not only do you save valuable time but not having to manually trigger the email campaigns, but customers get to receive timely communication regarding an action they’ve just taken (or are about to take). Email service providers will often provide specific templates for you to utilize when developing an autoresponder email.

Some examples of emails that should be automated:

  • Welcome emails
  • Confirmation emails
  • Notification / New message emails
  • Transactional emails

 

Helpful Email Marketing Terms to Know When Getting Started

Last but not least, here are some useful terms you should familiarize yourself with as you launch your email marketing initiatives. 

  • A/B Test – The act of delivering two distinct email variations to determine which version will drive higher engagement / ROI.
  • Autoresponder – An automated email that is delivered to a user after meeting certain criteria.
  • Bounce Rate – What percentage of emails that were not delivered because of a server error, email error, etc.
  • Call-to-Action (CTA) – A prompt or link that encourages the user to take a specific action.
  • Click Through Rate – The percentage of users who received the email also clicked on a link within the email
  • Conversion Rate – The percentage of email recipients who completed a specific goal
  • Deliverability Rate – The percentage of emails that were successfully sent and delivered to recipient’s inboxes. 
  • Landing Page – The immediate destination where users arrive upon clicking on a link within the email.
  • Open Rate – Percentage of users who received the email and also opened the email
  • Opt-Out Rate – Percentage of users who unsubscribed to your email list upon receiving an email
  • Personalization – A tactic marketers use to send extremely targeted messaging to users (ie first name, company)
  • Subject Line – Email messaging that is first displayed to users within the inbox. 

Email marketing is a very diverse and complex discipline, but these steps should help you hit the ground running, launch successful campaigns, and see immediate results. Need more help with email marketing? Reach out to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our team, and we’ll help guide you in the right direction.