How to Start Email Marketing: Basics and Tips

How to Start Email Marketing: Basics and Tips

In today’s market, it’s essential for every business to keep existing and potential customers engaged—and an email marketing campaign is the most accessible and affordable way to make that connection. Whether you’re in the e-commerce space or have a brick-and-mortar store, your business can use email marketing to build a relationship with customers and increase revenue.

Discover how email marketing helps you stay top of mind with your customers and learn how you can get started on utilizing it to grow your business. Feel free to use the following links to read the sections you’re most interested in:

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a digital marketing channel that companies use to promote brand awareness and keep their target audience engaged. It’s a tool you can use to nurture the relationship between your brand and your target audience. Email marketing can help turn your target audience into loyal customers when you know how to use it effectively.

You can use email marketing to promote your company’s products and services. Businesses also use email marketing to share valuable information and resources with their subscribers, which in turn helps boost their conversions and revenue. In fact, email offers one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) for marketers year after year.

Get started with email marketing

The use of email in your marketing strategy can increase brand awareness, build relationships with your customers, and keep them engaged—all of which can lead to increased conversions and revenue. Below are steps to help you get started with email marketing to achieve your business goals:

  1. Create your email marketing strategy
  2. Choose the right email marketing service provider
  3. Create a branded email template
  4. Build your email marketing contact list
  5. Write persuasive messages
  6. Track your results
  7. Testing

Step 1: Create your email marketing strategy

Your strategy serves as the comprehensive plan for your email marketing campaign. It should clearly define your methods and objectives. It’s also good to have a clear idea of what you’re aiming for, why you’re aiming for it, and how you’ll measure your success.

To create an email marketing strategy, first state your goals and objectives. Goals refer to the overall results you hope to achieve. Objectives are milestones that contribute to achieving your goals.

For instance, your marketing goal could be to increase sales. To achieve your goal, your objectives could be to increase the number of subscribers, increase the open rate of your emails, or increase conversion. It’s also important to make your objectives SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. So, you might say your objective is to increase your email subscribers by 5,000 within a month.

Then, describe your methods and metrics to achieve your objective. For instance, your methods could be to offer a free gift, an invite to a webinar, or a weekly newsletter for each new subscriber. Some of the metrics you might use to measure how your campaign is doing include click-through rate (CTR), unsubscribe rate, and conversion rate.

The CTR refers to the number of email recipients who clicked on one or more links contained in the email. Conversion rate measures how many email recipients click on a link within an email and complete a desired action, like buying a product. The unsubscribe rate is how many people unsubscribe from your list.

Step 2: Choose the right email marketing service provider

Realistically, if you want to grow your email list and start leveraging email as part of your company’s overall marketing strategy, it’s important to have an email marketing service provider. A service provider will help automate your emails to deliver messages to your subscribers effectively. Most email marketing tools also include access to professional email templates.

The tools and features that come with their services will be hugely beneficial in helping you grow and manage your email list. For instance, tracking features can show you the number and demographics of your target audience who are opening and engaging with your messages.

There are basic free email marketing tools available that you can try if you’re just starting. However, you’ll also encounter paid email marketing services with loads of features and advanced functions. Be sure to choose a provider according to your needs to keep your costs low and your returns high.

Some popular email marketing platforms include Mailchimp, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and MailerLite. Look for an email service provider (ESP) that offers a variety of pricing and payment plans. Consider whether you need to send emails regularly, then look at your list—obviously, you’ll pay more if you have a sizable list and if you opt for more features.

Some features you could look for in an email service provider include automation, the ability to split test your emails, and built-in analytics. Also, check if they offer downloadable reports, opt-in features, an autoresponder, and landing pages.

Step 3: Create a branded email template

Most businesses use email marketing for brand awareness and to build relationships with their target audience. This is why one of the most important aspects of email marketing is making sure the messages you send out are easily recognizable as coming from your company. Branding also helps your emails stand out in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Whether you sign up for a free or paid email service provider, you can find customizable email templates online. Make sure to choose an eye-catching but clean layout.  Don’t forget to check out how it appears on mobile devices, tablets, and desktop computers.

Then, customize your template with your brand logo and colors. If you don’t have a brand logo, take some time to create one for your business before sending out emails. Next, choose a font for your emails that’s consistent with your website if you have one.

It’s important for email recipients to easily associate the messages with you because you’re also trying to foster familiarity between them and your brand. It’s crucial that the elements you use in your branding, website, and emails are consistent. This is why adding a photo of yourself, your products, or other visual aids is also a great idea.

Once you’re satisfied with the design of your email, save a version as your master template. You’ll have a reusable template and you won’t have to start from scratch every time. You may also want to create separate templates for every type of email you wish to send out, such as welcome emails or customer service emails.

Step 4: Build your email marketing contact list

There are laws like the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union that you should follow and be aware of when sending automated emails. As tempting as it is to buy your contact list, you don’t know how those email addresses are sourced. It’s a better strategy to build your own contact list.

There are many ways to get people to sign up for your email list using lead magnets. This includes offering a gift, such as a downloadable resource, printable material, or a coupon code when they sign up. You could also provide a discount or free shipping on their next order or a chance to win a prize.

Treat email as a great marketing tool for your business but also remember that you are connecting with real people on the other side. You’ll build not just an email list but also a loyal community if you offer value first and market second. Send emails only when you need to and focus on sending relevant and engaging messages.

Step 5: Write persuasive messages

Email marketing has come a long way, but it’s still true that a well-written email can perform just as well as an email with all the features, automation, and functionality. No matter how highly designed and fancy your email newsletters look, the message it contains matters more. But how do you write emails that your recipients will open?

First, find your brand voice and personality. Do you want to be quirky, witty, or funny? Of course, the personality you choose for your brand should represent the company and your products. It should also be authentic to the values your company stands for—you may connect with your readers better and strengthen your brand in the process.

It also helps to follow a formula. For instance, write your emails in sections, such as:

  • An email subject line tells the context of the email. For example, are you launching a new product? Do you have a new offer? Or are you just checking in?
  • The body of the message tells the reader how your product or service can help them.
  • A call to action (CTA) instructs the reader to do the desired action, such as buy a product, subscribe to your social media page, or provide feedback.

However, don’t add too many links or ask the reader to do two things in your email. One of the simplest rules to follow is to stick to one strong CTA per email. Read more about fatal email marketing mistakes to avoid.

Step 6: Track your results

The work for email marketing doesn’t end after hitting “send.” It’s important to track some metrics, such as the CTR, conversion rate, or unsubscribe rate, for your emails. These key performance indicators (KPIs) measure the percentage of people subscribed to your email list who opened your email, clicked on any links, or hit the unsubscribe button.

Tracking these metrics will show you which messages resonate with your subscribers and what you can improve on. You’ll also gain insights into how each email is received by tracking your results. Consequently, the results will also tell you more about your customers and target audience.

Don’t forget to measure results beyond your emails, such as overall return on investment. As important as it is to know how engaging your emails are, you should be able to connect a tangible result to your marketing strategy.

For instance, how many leads did you generate from email links? Did they convert to actual sales or revenue? It’s essential to tie these metrics together because they’ll help show you if your marketing efforts are paying off with actual, tangible results.

Step 7: Testing

Your carefully crafted emails and email campaign may all be in vain if you don’t employ any kind of testing before hitting “send.” But first, don’t forget to proofread your message and design. Even just reading your content aloud will help you catch any typos, or have another member of your team check it for you.

Next is checking if the links in your email are working. Do they send the reader to the right page or website? When you think your email is ready, send a test email to yourself. This will show you how the email will look to your readers. While you’re at it, you should also see how it will render when you view it on mobile devices.

Then, it’s time to test for the nitty-gritty, such as making sure your emails land in your intended recipient’s inbox. Fortunately, there’s free email marketing software that makes this kind of testing easy, like mail-tester and Litmus.

Mail-tester scores the deliverability of your emails on a 1-to-10 scale, so the closer you get to 10, the less likely it will be that your email gets diverted to spam folders. Litmus is the authority on Gmail, currently the largest email service and the gold standard of email intuitiveness.

Since an email marketing campaign involves several factors, A/B testing is also a critical testing strategy so you can figure out what works best with your customers and what leads to the most conversions. If your campaign is not received as well as you hoped, testing different copies and designs will help you understand the problem and fix it.

Whichever testing strategy you implement, make sure you re-run tests periodically. Remember that all the testing you do won’t matter if you’re not making decisions or changing anything based on what you learn.

Advantages and disadvantages of email marketing

Email marketing is a fast, flexible, and cost-effective way for your brand to reach new customers and keep existing customers engaged. However, sending emails is a delicate balance because it can feel spammy, and it may irritate customers to the point of not wanting to engage with your company. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of email marketing you need to be aware of.


  • Email is permission-based. When people fill out your sign-up form, you’ll ask them to confirm their willingness to receive email communications from you. This means that a large percentage of your list is actual customers and subscribers interested in you, your business, and your products or services. So, they tend to be easier to engage.
  • Direct access to your customers. With technology and the world moving most activities online, email provides your brand with direct access to your customers. You can now reach your target audience intimately without being intrusive since they can read the emails on their own time. This direct access can help improve your brand awareness over time, and it allows you to build and nurture relationships with your customers.
  • Scalable and measurable. The genius of email marketing is that it can reach large audiences and allows for smaller targeted lists. With email marketing, you can also quickly evaluate the results and success of your marketing campaign through defined metrics. It also allows marketers to test different copies, subject lines, and designs to see what works and is most effective.
  • Disadvantages:

    • You need a contact list. One of the disadvantages of email marketing for new businesses or smaller companies is that you may need a contact list before you can reap the rewards. However, the process of list building can be time consuming because you’ll have to create a lead magnet and promote it. You might also need to use other channels like social media to reach your customers and target audience as you build your contact list.
    • Delivery issues. Your email must be designed in a way so it renders the same across multiple devices and email providers. If your messages don’t appear as they should to your readers, this could cause them to unsubscribe because they think the message is spam. Some email providers may have spam filters that send your messages to the spam folder based on design elements or words you use. There are also the issues of undeliverable emails to nonexisting or incorrect email addresses.
    • Email regulations for commercial purposes. As mentioned, privacy and data protection laws govern how businesses can send automated emails. Make sure you know about and comply with these regulations.

    Tips to create a compelling email

    Here are a few copywriting best practices you should consider applying when writing your emails.

    Engaging headline

    Spend some time creating your subject line because it’s the deciding factor whether the recipient will open your email. If your headline doesn’t appeal to the reader, the email won’t be opened no matter how engaging the message is. Try to write something snappy and compelling.

    Make it short and sweet with no more than 40 characters. The use of verbs like “download,” “get,” or “catch” and other actionable language lets the reader know exactly what they can do in the email. On the other hand, you can also attract attention by asking a compelling question, including a deadline for urgency or something intriguing.

    Here are some examples:

    • “Where is your next lead coming from?”
    • “This went viral in one week”
    • “You’re losing access”

    Attractive visuals

    The key to adding visuals to your emails is making sure they’re relevant to the message you’re trying to convey. Visuals should add value to the email. For example, infographics and charts are always good visuals to use because they contain valuable information and can keep your audience focused and engaged.

    Photos of you, your brand, and your products are also good visuals to use. In an age where mobile phones can take amazing photos, make sure you’re using appealing pictures—hire a photographer if you can. Using stock photos isn’t always advisable because other businesses have access to them, as well, which can create confusion with your target audience.

    Compelling CTA button

    Always add a CTA in your emails. It should be easy to identify since most people don’t read the entirety of an email. If there’s one thing you want your recipient to see, it’s your CTA.

    If you’re sending an HTML email, include a clickable CTA button and make sure it has a great design and compelling copy. Use a color that stands out so the button isn’t hard to find.

    Also, your button copy should be brief, clear, and action-oriented. Examples include:

    • “Buy it”
    • “Download your freebie here”
    • “Claim discount”

    Email marketing FAQs

    What is email automation?

    Email automation refers to sending automated messages using a marketing automation tool. In other words, it’s a way to create emails for the right people with the right message at specified times. For instance, you can send messages to your target audience based on their behavior, preferences, and previous purchases.

    Further, you can use email automation to personalize content or provide individualized recommendations and offers to your customers. It’s also a huge time-saver, especially for businesses with smaller teams.

    How do I segment my email list?

    List segmentation allows you to send personalized and targeted emails to each segment. It also makes room for you to provide more value for each user. To do this, you’ll want to create profiles for your target audience and put them in categories.

    Since you want to send relevant emails to customers, you can segment your audience according to age, location, pain points, interests, etc. In addition, information like age, gender, and income level can help you know more about your customers.

    Can I make money from email marketing?

    Yes, your business can make money from email marketing if you use it correctly and effectively. The global email marketing market was valued at $7.5 billion in 2020 and is projected to increase to $17.9 billion by 2027. And 64% of small businesses use email marketing to reach customers.

    Email marketing also generates $42 for every $1 spent, amounting to an incredible 4,200% ROI, which makes it one of the most effective marketing options available.

    Short on staff? Hire a freelance email marketing consultant

    Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools you can use to grow your business. It provides you with direct access to your target audience. Email is also a cost-effective channel that allows you to establish trust and nurture a relationship with your customers.

    However, an effective email marketing strategy requires a consistent and compelling voice. It’s important to have a thoughtful approach and commit to a steady flow of communication.

    Connect with experienced and talented email marketing consultants on Upwork today and reap the benefits of a successful email marketing campaign by doing it right from the start.

    Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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