Email Marketing 101: Everything you need to know


Long before email marketing was born, the famous writer R L Stevenson (1850–1894) once said, “Everybody lives by selling something.”

Marketing and business promotions aren’t new ideas but the digital age has changed a lot of things.

email marketingAs a matter of fact, the only thing that has remained intact is the basic premise of marketing: understand your customer’s needs, develop products that meet those needs and tell the customer you have the right products.

Now that we’re very much into the digital age, it’s important to learn the basics of email marketing.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup, a small business, a not-profit, a huge company or a multi-national. Each of us will have to adapt to the changed scenario and email marketing is very much a part of the new scenario of business promotion.

While it’s almost impossible that you’re completely unaware of e-mail marketing, there’s a good chance you don’t know the framework of email marketing in detail.

Email marketing is not just writing a promotional email and hitting Send. There’s a lot, lot more, so sit tight and learn the basics of email marketing.

We’ll keep it jargon-free, simple, short and direct.

What is email marketing?

When you send out emails to a number of people telling them about your products/services, you’re basically doing email marketing.

While the real-world email marketing is a lot more than just this, the above line fairly captures the essence.

Is email marketing effective?

It’s reported that email marketing has an ROI (Return On Investment) of 4400%. That means, for every dollar you invest in email marketing, you get a return of $44.

Huge, right?

Everyone will not see such big numbers, but those who follow email marketing best practices will definitely get handsome returns.

Who can carry out email marketing?

Anybody. (But it needs a great deal of expertise to get it right).

Can I begin right now?

Sure, why not? But it’d be a good idea to read the rest of this post before you actually begin. There are a few things you should know first.

Do I need a special setup for email marketing?

Depends mostly on the size of your mailing list.

If you mail to only 30–40 people and they are dedicated to your emails, there’s nothing you’ll need except your laptop and an email account. Even a gmail or yahoo account will do.

If, on the other hand, you plan to send out emails to more than 100 people, (say, 3,000 subscribers), you’ll either need an ESP (Email Service Provider) for your email address or you’ll have to configure your email server.

What are the major challenges in email marketing?

There are two major challenges in email marketing: deliverability and reputation.

  1. Deliverability: Your subscribers will read your emails only if they land in the inbox. If your email is delivered into a spam folder, no one will ever read it. So your challenge is to craft and deliver the email in a way that it’s delivered in the inbox and not in the spam folder.
  2. Reputation: When you send out emails to incorrect addresses (and they bounce) or your email copy uses too many spammy words (e.g. “Free!”, “Meet singles”, “Make money online”), your online reputation suffers. That can lead to a steep reduction in your deliverability rates.

How much does it cost?

Again, it depends.

It depends upon how many emails do you send, what is the size of your email mailing list, what kind of other value-added services you might use and so on.

A small mailing list (contacts <100) with infrequent emails won’t cost anything.

In case of ESPs, their fees start with around $9 per month. Of course, these aren’t the only costs involved.

What are the steps to email marketing?

  • Nurture a mailing list

Don’t purchase a list, build your own. Using purchased lists is illegal in some countries. And besides, a purchased list is too random to have subscribers who might be interested in what you have to sell.

  • Understand double opt-in

When someone signs up to be on your mailing list, they’re opting in for the first time. Send one email to that address asking them to confirm the address. That’s the second opt-in. Relax, this is easily automated.

  • Clarify what you’ll write about

Tell your potential subscribers what you will sending emails about and stick to the promise. This is particularly true about newsletters, but ultimately even newsletters seek to sell something.

  • Draft an email

Drafting the perfect email takes practice, and then some. You can check tips from marketing experts like Ann Handley, Chad White, Ian Brodie, Jeff Walker, Joanna Wiebe, Julia McCoy, Neil Patel, and Val Geisler, among others.

  • Test your email

After you are ready with the final copy of the email, including the layout and all that, you‘ll want to test your email for things like if the language is ok, whether the images render properly, whether the email appears right on different email clients and all that. There are some great services to test your email before you actually send emails.

  • Clean your mailing list

An estimated 22% email addresses expire every year. So even if you double opt-in your subscribers, it’s important to clean your mailing list at least twice a year to remove invalid or not-safe-to-send addresses. There are some good email checkers available which you can test out.

  • Understand sender reputation and deliverability

We’ve talked about it earlier in this post, but these two things are so important it’s worth reminding you about.

  • Use an ESP or set up your own email system

Choosing an ESP over your own email set up makes a lot of sense because they are specialists sending emails. AWeber, BenchmarkEmail, ConstantContact, Drip, Emma, MooSend and SendLoop are some of the efficient ESPs you may want to check out.

  • Understand analytics

It’s extremely important to understand the important email marketing metrics. These metrics include Click-through rate, Open Rates, Conversion Rates, Bounce Rate etc.

  • What rules govern email marketing

This depends on the country your customers and you are based in. In the US there is CAN-SPAM Act; the European Union brought in GDPR in May 2018. Make sure you follow the rules properly.

Summing up

No single article can ever tell you every aspect of email marketing in detail. While I have tried to cover as much ground as possible, I know I’ve only scratched the surface.

If you’re just starting out to explore email marketing, don’t expect triple-digit growth instantly. Marketing is about nurturing clients and email marketing is no different. What makes email marketing special is its extremely low costs and its features that allow you to easily personalize your email. Use it well and you will be more than rewarded.

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