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What Is Email Marketing? + 5 Key Tips To Get Started & Boost ROI [Guide]

Evan Oliver
Evan Oliver
Director of Marketing
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 What if you could place an advertisement in a space where your target audience spends more than five hours a day? And what if, at the end of that day, you had data about how your audience interacted with the ad or message?

We’d like to re-introduce you to the humble email inbox.

Adobe’s 2019 Email Usage Study found that Americans spend up to five hours a day checking personal or work emails.

And 60% of respondents to Adobe’s survey said that they prefer to receive special offers by email—this is more than social media, direct mail, or other marketing channels.

If your marketing strategy doesn’t include email marketing, you’re missing out on a chance to grow your revenue and build some serious customer loyalty and brand awareness.

Email marketing is affordable, measurable, and has the power to meet your customers where they are. For these things, it’s one of the simplest but most effective things you can do to improve your overall marketing efforts.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what email marketing is, the benefits of email marketing, and how to get started.

Let’s begin.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is… well, marketing done through email.

It’s a marketing channel that uses email content to share business updates, sell products and services, and engage with your audience.

You’ll often see marketing emails from those in the eCommerce biz, but just about any enterprise or industry can use and benefit from email marketing.

Email marketing can target potential customers, existing customers, and even former customers to

  • announce new products
  • follow up for feedback
  • set up autoresponders
  • revive abandoned carts and reclaim sales
  • promote special offers, discounts, and sales
  • share important business updates and events
  • share information such as webinars and reports
  • welcome new customers
  • lead customers to landing pages
  • + so much more

Further, successful email marketing can build brand loyalty, bring more value to your customers, and straight up boost leads and sales.

In fact, marketers who leveraged segmented campaigns saw as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Phew. 😅

Now that we have a better idea of what email marketing is, let’s look at its magic components.

Email list

You need a database of recipients to receive your emails. You can build this list through an already existing customer list or by other digital marketing channels like advertising and social media (just ensure you’re complying with CAN-SPAM laws).

By law, consumers need to opt-in to email marketing messages and also need an easy way to unsubscribe if they no longer want to receive email messages.

Email lists often contain customer data like a customer’s name, shopping history, etc., which you can use to optimize, segment, and send personalized emails.

Pro-tip: Add an email opt-in on your website to gain new subscribers. Here’s how we did it on our main blog page:

KlientBoost newsletter opt-in
Have you opted in yet?

Email service provider

Since email marketing is mass communication, it’s challenging to have to manage it through your regular email client. You’ll likely need an email marketing tool or email marketing software to help manage the creation, distribution, and tracking of your email campaigns.

There are plenty of email marketing service providers out there to help you do just that. They’ll also likely have plenty of integrations, help you with email workflows, track metrics, and can even assist with email automation.

Email marketing strategy

This is a big one that many companies miss and instead just start churning out content without a plan.

An effective email marketing strategy is made up of multiple campaigns and should include an acquisition strategy, buyer personas, specific goals, excellent email copy and CTAs that inspires action and loyalty, and other KPIs.

What are some KPIs you should measure in email marketing?

  • email open rate: the percentage of recipients who open your email
  • click-through rate: the percentage of customers who click a link in the email
  • conversion rate: the percentage of customers who make a purchase or complete another desired action as a result of an email
  • unsubscribe rate: the amount of contacts that have opted out of receiving your emails

What is an email marketing campaign?

An email marketing campaign is part of your overall strategy but is specifically an email series centered around a singular goal and common theme.

Examples might be an email campaign for Black Friday sales, ticket sales for an event, or content built around a theme like Women’s History Month.

Email design

Most email marketing content is created with HTML, the same coding language used to create websites.

This allows the designer to include a range of formatting, links, images, and even GIFs. The visuals of an email are equally important to the copy and can make or break an email’s success.

Are you using high-resolution images? Are your font styles easy to read? Are you ensuring your emails don’t land in the spam folder?

This all boils down to great email design.

You can use templates and no-code email builders, or you can hire a designer or agency to design your emails for you.

Just make sure you nail it.

Why is email marketing important? (4 main benefits)

Between direct mail, social media, pay-per-click (PPC), and display ads, there are plenty of ways your business can advertise its offering(s). And email, time and time again, still proves itself to be right up there, too.

You might be thinking, “Well, isn’t email marketing pretty much dead?”

Not exactly.

In fact, the number of email users is set to grow to 4.6 billion by the year 2025, and, according to HubSpot, roughly 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement (download their full State of Marketing report for free to access more info).

Here are four more reasons why your brand should use email marketing as a marketing channel.

1. Email marketing allows you to create personalized content

With email marketing, you create targeted emails according to your customer segments and buyer personas. Personalization can simply be using your email subscribers’ names or sending specialized offers based on a customer’s demographics or shopping history.

Sending the right message to the right people (and sending them at the right time) can help with overall customer retention, engagement, and satisfaction.

2. Email marketing is a great way to collect customer feedback

Through email marketing, you can create content to gauge customers’ engagement and surveys that allow you to collect customer feedback that informs your marketing goals and decisions.

Effective marketing is always in line with evolving customer needs and the customer experience. To help stay on the right side of both, email marketing is a valuable tool you can use to keep a pulse on what’s working and what’s not.

3. Email marketing is measurable

As we mentioned, email service providers (ESPs) offer a way to track your sent emails and ensure email deliverability. Once an email distributes, you can measure open rates and other critical KPIs that help you further enhance or improve your campaigns. This data also tells you how effective each email is and can even help you improve your content with A/B testing.

4. Email marketing has excellent ROI

Email marketing returns an average of $36 for every $1 spent. That’s huge. Once you’ve convinced a customer to opt in, you’re building an audience that you can reach again and again.

And again.

The four main types of email marketing with examples

Before you start crafting your first email, let’s go over the main types to know. These will help you develop an overall plan and understand the goals of what you plan to send.

Promotional emails

Email is a great way to announce new products, services, or any sales/discounts you’ve got going on. You can promote these things with eye-catching visuals, clever copy, links, and exclusive offers such as coupons. Promotional emails may also take the form of event invitations or tickets.

Here’s how Pier 1 announces their sitewide seasonal sale in a promo email:

Pier1 coupon email
Pier 1 promo email

Informational emails

You don’t want to spend every email selling. An email list in an audience; you need to engage it by offering valuable content that educates and informs the user, too.

Informational emails are a great way to distribute content marketing from your blog or other channels to build brand loyalty, just as SurveyMonkey does below:

SurveyMonkey email marketing
SurveyMonkey shares their blog, survey resources, and a fun quiz to engage with readers

Newsletters

Many brands compile their content into a weekly or monthly email newsletter. This helps them to streamline their email communications and minimize unsubscribes from too many emails.

Newsletters can be particularly useful to promote content marketing, events, and general communications on a regular and streamlined basis.

Let’s take a look at how Vogue does this below:

Vogue weekly newsletter
Vogue’s weekly newsletter includes a preview of the week’s events and a link to buy tickets

Re-engagement emails

With a robust CRM, brands can have the opportunity to re-engage former and inactive customers. One example of this is a cart abandonment email, like the one here:

Bryan Anthonys abandoned cart email
Send abandoned cart emails to re-engage your audience (and reclaim sales)

When a registered customer begins but doesn’t complete a purchase, your email system can send an automated email encouraging them to cross that finish line.

Other examples include campaigns that recruit former customers to come back by reminding them of the product or service, specific benefits, or by sharing exclusive offers.

How to get started with email marketing

If you’re new to email marketing, getting started can be daunting.

“How does email marketing work?”

“How do I craft the perfect subject line or the best welcome email?”

The list goes on and on.

Good news is you don’t need specialized knowledge to start an email marketing strategy. Here are just a few simple ways to get started with email marketing.

Brainstorm a plan

Decide what type of emails you’ll want to send—promotional, informational, newsletters, or re-engagement—based on what you want to accomplish. For your first email campaign, map out each email you’ll send and the purpose, message, and call-to-action.

You also need to document the target audience for your campaigns and how you plan to build an email list. It’s important to have an approximate size in mind, as well as any email service providers. Then, gauge their prices around your numbers of subscribers and sends.

Look for email inspiration

Now, scour your own inbox based on your plans and see what kinds of marketing emails you receive. Which ones make you want to open and keep reading? Which ones sit unopened?

You can even subscribe to your competitors’ email lists and audit what kind of emails they send.

Find the best emails for inspo, then makes your even better.

Create an email marketing budget

Most brands see the best ROI when they make a budgeting investment. Budget for tools, a contract designer, or an agency that specializes in increasing revenue for brands via email marketing.

The best news?

Because email marketing is easy to measure, you can start small and scale up in your next budgeting cycle once you’ve proved the ROI of your starting efforts.

Select an email service provider or email marketing partner

Based on your budget, staff’s knowledge, and goals, you need to research and select an email tool. If your staff is starting with very little email marketing knowledge, look for a tool with a user-friendly interface, training modules, and technical support.

For more complex campaigns, look for a tool with advanced features like marketing automation and A/B testing ideas.

A digital marketing agency or email marketing platform can also help you create a strategy, design email templates, and run automated marketing campaigns based on your needs.

Wrap up on email marketing

Feeling ready to take on email marketing?

Good, we knew you would.

Now that you know what email marketing is, the benefits, the types, and how to get started, you’re ready to begin crafting the perfect email marketing strategy to reach your audience and convert them at a better and faster rate.

Just make sure you’re in line with the email marketing laws and guidelines out there. 😉

Chapter 1:
Email Marketing Fundamentals

What You’ll Learn: Email marketing can be a complex maze, so we break down the need-to-know basics with easy-to-follow instructions.

Chapter 2:
Email Design and Copy

What You’ll Learn: With the basics down, we’re ready to dive into the 101 of actually creating your revenue-driving emails.

Chapter 3:
Email Marketing Strategies and Tips

What You’ll Learn: The best email marketing is done with business goals in mind. Learn the strategies to employ and tips to take things to the next level.