Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital advertising.
Despite its extensive history, email marketing is far from outdated. It continues to be the most effective and direct way of connecting with leads and nurturing them towards a sale.
With the right email marketing software and a solid strategy, you can find out what your customers need most from you and deliver meaningful experiences to encourage sales.
Of course, the first step is learning how to use email marketing effectively.
Here’s the complete beginner’s guide to get you started.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is an effective digital marketing strategy that involves sending messages to your prospects’ inbox. The emails you send can vary, including things like transactional emails, where you thank someone for purchase, and marketing emails.
The key to successful email marketing is learning how to deliver the right messages, at the best possible time for your audience. If you can get the strategy right, then you can accomplish anything with your campaigns. Remember, 99% of consumers check their email daily.
Not only does email marketing give you amazing reach, but it also drives an excellent return on investment too. Email has an ROI of up to 4400% and can encourage customers to buy up to 138% more than people who don’t get email offers. The average order value of a customer responding to an email is up to 3 times higher than the value of someone responding to a social ad.
Step 1: Creating a List
There are two primary components to any great email marketing strategy.
The first factor is your email list. Your list is the prospects that you want to reach out to, nurture, and convert into sales. The second element is your email strategy. You need to find a way of connecting with your audience through a series of well-timed messages.
Let’s start with the basics on growing your list.
To capture valuable leads for your list, you need a way to attract these prospects, and convince them to engage with your brand.
- Start with content marketing and social media: First, build a presence for yourself on the web. This could mean launching a website where you post regular blogs to promote your thought leadership. Alternatively, you could seek out potential customers on social platforms. Make sure you have an email marketing service to organize your leads.
- Create a landing page / opt-in form: A landing page is a dedicated space on your website intended to encourage sign-ups to your email marketing list. Unlike other pages on your site, this part focuses on just one thing, and eliminates all other distractions. If you don’t need a full landing page, an opt-in form should be enough to collect crucial information.
- Design your lead magnet: Your lead magnet is the thing that convinces your audience to sign up for your newsletter. It might be a free gift, a discount on your products, or a download. The key is to choose something you know your audience wants.
- Segment your list: Using all the information you have on your email marketing platform, segment your list using things like demographic information, location, and other important details.
Collecting List Details with an Email Marketing Service
As mentioned above, the first step is creating an environment where you can collect leads and attract people with content and other campaigns. Your website will be an essential part of this process, as will your social media platforms. Those two components ensure that you have a virtual presence that’s capable of speaking to your target audience.
However, you’ll also need an email marketing service so that you can keep track of the email addresses you collect and use them to create more meaningful messages. Tools like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp come with powerful list management tools.
You can export any customer information you may already have into these platforms and use them to automatically capture and sort new leads too.
Many of the best email marketing solutions also come with features that help you to optimize your lists and create more meaningful conversations too. For instance, you can use A/B testing to examine the performance of your landing pages or opt-in forms.
Designing an Opt-In Form or Landing Page
Your Opt-in form or landing page is the part of your website that conveys the benefits of your lead magnet and asks your audience to join your list. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for designing a landing page or opt-in form that converts. However, there are a few essential components to consider, such as:
- An amazing headline: Your headline needs to describe the benefit of your lead magnet, or whatever you have to offer. What’s in it for your customer?
- Helpful information: If you’re adding a description to your opt-in form, make sure it’s short, clear, and helpful. Make the content scannable.
- Attractive visuals: Include a picture of the lead magnet if you can, or some photos of happy people – this tends to boost conversions.
- Simple requests: Don’t ask for too much information from your audience too fast. A first name and email address is usually enough.
- A great CTA button: Use a contrasting color for your subscribe button to help it stand out on the page. Non-generic copy is a great idea too, such as “Join us” rather than “subscribe”.
- Extra options: Consider using extra tools like exit popups to boost your chances of capturing a subscriber. Studies show that exit popups increase conversions by around 125%.
Choosing Your Lead Magnet
Your opt-in form, landing page, and lead magnet go hand-in-hand.
Generally, customers don’t mind receiving emails from the companies that they like. However, they still need a reason to hand their details to a business online.
Remember that your clients already receive dozens of emails every day. You need to prove that you deserve a space in their inbox too. That’s where lead magnets come in.
A lead magnet is basically something you promise your audience in exchange for their email address. These magnets don’t have to cost you anything. You can offer a PDF file of a popular blog post, for instance, an eBook, or a cheat sheet.
Lead magnets convince clients to engage with your business by showing them that you’re not asking for something without giving anything back in return. Free trials, discount codes, and other money-saving opportunities are very popular among software companies and retailers.
When picking your lead magnet, make sure it’s:
- Simple: Customers want something that they can get value from fast. A 300-page eBook is too overwhelming. Keep it simple and easy to consume.
- Actionable: The best lead magnets need to provide an actionable skillset, tool, or useful information that your audience can apply.
- Valuable: Your audience needs to be able to see the value of your lead magnet immediately. Highlight what kind of benefits they’re going to get.
- Relevant: If you’ve already done your homework on your customers, and you have some buyer personas to guide you, you’ll know how to keep your magnets relevant.
- Available: Instant gratification is vital in the age of the internet. If you offer a freebie as a lead magnet, make sure that your customers can get it straight away.
Segmenting Your List
Once you’ve got your email marketing software, lead magnet, and opt-in form sorted out, you’ll be on the right track to start collecting potential customers. The critical thing to remember here is that while all of your prospects may have things in common, their journey and requirements are different.
Segmenting your list is a crucial part of email marketing; it increases your open rates and click-through rates, reduces your unsubscribe numbers and more.
The good news is that your email marketing software should come with tools that help with segmentation. This software allows you to “tag” your subscribers and move them into different groups based on their location, interests, how frequently they’ve interacted with your brand, and more.
A few segmentation options to get you started include:
- New subscribers: These are the people who have just recently signed up for your email. You can send them a welcome email or welcome series.
- Preferences: Some of your subscribers might want to hear about your latest blog posts, while others are more interested in sale information.
- Location: Ideal if you want to notify subscribers of upcoming events in a specific area.
- Open rate: Provide your most engaged subscribers with more deals to keep them coming back.
- Lead magnet: If you had various opt-in forms and lead magnets on your site, adjust your campaigns based on what you promised your audience.
Automated tools allow you to send entire email marketing campaigns to people based on things like whether they’ve abandoned your shopping cart or bought from you in the past.
Step 2: Preparing Your Email Marketing Strategy
Now that you’ve handled all the hard work of growing and segmenting your email list, it’s time to start creating the messages that are going to support your brand. You’ll need to plan carefully if you want to design emails that get the best open rates.
1. Avoid the Spam Filters
First, make sure that you land in your customer’s inbox, rather than their junk or spam folder. If you’ve chosen a good email service provider, you should already be on the right path. The best providers have better reputations, so you’re less likely to get flagged.
There are some other practices you can consider to avoid the spam folder too, such as:
- Use double opt-in: Ask your customers to confirm that they want to opt-in to your list. This could mean you lose some less engaged subscribers, but you’ll know that the people you’re emailing want to hear from you.
- Check your IP address: Make sure you’re not sending emails from an IP address that’s associated with spam. It helps to use verified domains for your email too.
- Get the technical parts right: If you’re using code in your emails, make sure it’s clean. Avoid any huge pictures that would cause your message to load slowly. Remember, you can also use merge tags to personalize the “to field” for your campaign too.
- Check your language: Don’t bait-and-switch your audience with deceptive subject lines. Let them know what to expect from each message. Excessive use of salesy language can be problematic too.
- Be trustworthy: Include an easy way for your subscribers to opt-out of your emails if they’re no longer interested in you.
2. Plan Your Timing
Now you know you’re not too likely to end up in the spam folders, you can begin to think about when you’re going to send your emails. Timing has a significant impact on whether your subscribers interact with your brand, so think carefully about when you’re going to engage.
Usually, it’s difficult to know for certain which day or time will be best for your customers. There are studies out there to help, like this one from GetResponse:
However, because every audience is different, there’s no guarantee that what worked for one brand will work for you. Start by using the benchmark information available to you from studies as a launching point. You can then access the A/B testing features in your email marketing software.
Over time, you’ll begin to see which days and times your audience are most likely to interact positively with your email marketing campaigns.
3. Practice Your Subject Lines
Every piece of content that goes into your email marketing campaign is crucial.
However, the subject line is one of the most essential considerations of all. Without a good subject line, you can’t entice your customer to click on your emails.
If you want to craft a powerful subject line, start by enticing curiosity. You want to make your audience interested enough in whatever you have to offer that they decide to click. However, don’t leave them wondering what on earth you’re talking about.
Keep the tone friendly and conversational, and make sure you’re speaking in a language that your customers respond to. Remember:
- Make it personal: Speak to your audience and reference their needs
- Be description: Let customers know what to expect
- Limit punctuation: Get straight to the point
- Keep it short and sweet: Long messages often get cut off
- Use emojis with caution: Emojis are useful for some brands, but not all
4. Create Amazing Content
The battle to win your subscribers isn’t over when your customer opens your email. The actual content of your message also plays a significant role in your overall success. Your content also influences your future open rates.
If your subscribers are happy with the content that they get from you, they’re more likely to open your emails later. They might even start to anticipate your messages each week. On the other hand, if your subscriber doesn’t understand your email or finds it irrelevant, they’ll send it to the spam folder, or even unsubscribe.
So, how do you make sure your content is fantastic?
- Make sure you’re sending valuable and relevant emails to your audience
- Get to know your audience and send messages that are personal to them
- Segment your emails so that they’re more relevant to each customer
- Use email marketing software to make your emails more professional
5. Keep on Top of Your List
Remember, when you’re building the right email campaign, it’s essential to ensure that you’re only sending messages to the people who want to hear from you. Over time, some of your customers will begin to lose interest in what you have to say.
Staying on top of your email list and periodically removing inactive subscribers is a good way to avoid problems. Inactive subscribers for your business might be anyone who hasn’t opened an email for the past 6 months or more. Before you get rid of these people, consider sending one last email message to see if you can win them back.
Here’s a great example of a re-engagement email from Animoto to inspire you. Aside from giving users the option to unsubscribe, it also allows them to update their email preferences. In some cases, your customers might be willing to stick with you if they can adjust the kind of content they get.
Reminding your audience that they have control over how they engage with you is a great way to maintain positive relationships.
Step 3: Automating Your Email Campaigns
Now that you know how to create a subscriber list and design professional emails, the next step is automating your marketing strategies with autoresponders and marketing funnels.
Automating your email campaigns means that it’s much easier for you to maintain a consistent connection with your audience.
You don’t have to worry about making sure you’re always ready to write and send an email at the best time. Your email marketing software will handle the hard work for you.
1. Decide on Your Goal
The first step in automating your email campaigns is choosing a goal for your autoresponder. There are many different options available here. For instance, if your aim is to get people engaged, then you might send your subscribers a welcome sequence.
Every email list needs a welcome sequence because it gives you a chance to capture your customer’s attention and let them know that they’ve made the right decision, connecting with your brand. A welcome series might tell your audience what they can do with their new account on your website, invite them to change their email settings, and even introduce them to best-selling products.
Other autoresponder options might include:
- Gaining subscribers for a course or event: You can send emails asking people to join your list for a course or event. This series might contain snippets of information that show people what to expect from the experience, and discounts if they subscribe early.
- Selling products: If you’re keen to get people buying more often from your website, then you might have an autoresponder series that delivers marketing messages and deals. These emails could introduce your latest products, show off what’s trending on your product list, and remind people about upcoming sales.
- Lead nurturing: For people who aren’t ready to buy just yet, you could have an autoresponder series that helps to promote the sale. Sending emails with insights into your happy customer’s case studies, blog posts, and other content that shows your authority is a great way to generate trust.
- Brand advocates: A great way to make the most of your relationship with customers after they’ve successfully bought something is to ask them to become an advocate for your brand. Encourage people to sign up for loyalty programs in exchange for exclusive discounts and deals.
2. Map Your Email Sequence
Once you’ve figured out what the purpose of your autoresponder sequence is, you can begin to map out what the email sequence is going to look like. For instance, you might start your welcome campaign with a “thank you” message.
The thank you message will welcome people to your community and reassure them that they did the right thing by joining your email list. It could set expectations for what your customers will get from future emails that arrive from your brand. It may also include details on how customers can personalize their accounts, or what they need to do next.
For instance, Ancestry.com uses a basic welcome email to guide its customers through the first steps of setting up a profile:
When mapping your email sequence, ask yourself:
- How many emails are you going to send in this sequence?
- How long should you wait between sending each email? Will the messages come every day, one after another, or do you need a gap?
- Who is going to receive these emails? Is this campaign for a specific segment of your audience, or does it need to go to everyone?
An Example of an Email Sequence
Although all sequences are different, most will follow a similar basic structure. The exact number of emails you send doesn’t always matter. The key to success is making sure that you send more value messages than sales emails. Too much advertising can upset and frustrate your list.
Here’s what a standard welcome email sequence might look like:
- Email 1: Thank you email introducing your team
- Email 2: Introduce a problem that your customer is facing, and how you fix it
- Email 3: Share influential blogs and articles that showcase your thought leadership
- Email 4: Showcase some case studies showing how you solved the problem before
- Email 5: Introduce your product or service in greater detail
- Email 6: Offer an exclusive discount, or code to help push your audience to take action
- Email 7: Follow up with alternative options, bundles, cross-sells, or up-sells
- Email 8: Invite your customer to change their email preferences on their profile
3. Write an Email Series That Converts
Knowing which emails are going to go into your series and how often you’re going to connect with your audience is essential. However, you also need to think about how you’re going to craft a selection of emails that successfully drive a conversion.
Depending on what you want to do with your autoresponders, you might consider getting a few professionals involved at this point. While email marketing software helps you to make your messages look more professional, they won’t support you in creating impressive videos or copy.
When you’re planning each part of your email sequences, remember to:
- Keep your customer in mind: Think about who is going to be reading your emails and what they need from you. Don’t just send a message saying, “Buy this product”. Let your customer know why they need the product first and how it’s going to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. A user persona that outlines the pain points and aspirations of each audience segment will help here.
- Get personal: Remember that personalizing the content of your emails will make them instantly more valuable to your audience. We’re not just talking about putting the first name of your customer into the title. Instead, adjust the content of the email to suit what your customer cares about. For instance, if you know that certain customers were looking at “printed dresses” on your website, you could send a message like this:
- Make the email engaging: It takes time and practice to learn how to write the perfect email. Start by making sure that you get the grammar and tone of voice right in your copy. From there, you can add intrigue to the email by implementing images, videos, and other elements. Don’t forget to focus on crucial things like the subject line (for clicks) and the call-to-action (for conversions).
4. Monitor, Adjust and Improve
Finally, one of the most important things you can learn about email marketing is that your work is never truly over. Even when you’re done tweaking, and you think you’ve created a brilliant autoresponder campaign, you can still make the experience better for your audience.
Your email marketing software will come with A/B testing components. These tools allow you to test different parts of your emails and discover what works best. For instance, you might use your ConvertKit account to test your email subject line, and see which gets the most clicks:
Other points you can look at include:
- Timing: When are your customers most likely to open your email? Do you get more engagement on a specific day, or a certain time? Do different parts of your audience open their emails on alternative days?
- Content: What kind of emails get the most attention? Do you find that most of your clients are likely to open a message about sales and discounts, but statements about blogs get ignored? This could be a helpful way to figure out how you can change your autoresponder campaign to be more interesting.
- CTAs: Can you adjust the call-to-action button in your email, or change the language that you use to drive people to your website? Something as simple as replacing a single word could increase your conversion rates drastically.
- Frequency: How often are you sending your emails? Are your messages coming too soon one after another? It might be worth slowing down. On the other hand, if you’re not sending enough content to keep your customer’s attention, now might be the time to speed up.
Email marketing software often comes with plenty of analytics and reporting tools to help you track the success of your campaigns. Analyzing everything from open rates to unsubscribes will help you to make a more informed decision about where to invest for future campaigns.
Are You Ready for Your First Email Campaign?
With a little luck, this guide has given you the information you need to start building successful email marketing campaigns. The truth is that today, any company can develop an excellent email marketing strategy with the right approach and some helpful software.
The key to success is making sure that you go in with the right information and the correct goals in mind. Start by building an email list full of people that actually want to hear from you. A great landing page and opt-in form will help with this.
Once you’ve got a decent list, think about how you’re going to design your emails to earn opens and clicks. Focus on strong subject lines, exceptional email copy, and plenty of professional elements. Don’t be afraid to remove the people from your emails that don’t engage with you too.
Finally, start developing autoresponder campaigns, so you can run more effective lead nurturing strategies. The more campaigns you run, and the more data you gather, the more you’ll learn about your target audience and what they need from you.