What is Email Marketing & How Does It Work?

Over the last few years, email marketing has received mixed reviews from marketers all over the internet. Some of these “experts” believe the unusual “Email marketing is dead” norm, while others still use it as one of the primary tools for converting potential leads into paying customers. 

Well, we are here to tell you that email marketing is far from dead. The reality is quite different.

The modern state of communication and marketing connects with people through social media, intuitive CTA campaigns and many other elements, but emails are still one of the primary sources for generating and retaining leads.

That being said, if you still check your email at least once a day, there is a high probability for you to go through marketing emails. In that sense, you are not alone. There are over 280 billion worldwide users who receive the same type of emails every other day. By the year 2022, it is speculated that the overall volume for emails sent each day will easily surpass 333 billion.

As a marketer, those 333 billion emails translate to tons of opportunities for you. It is clear that businesses will continue to maintain communication in one form or another. Whereas emails and email marketing will still entail many creative ways to attract more customers. 

Here’s to learning everything about ‘What is email marketing’, and different strategies of scaling your business through email marketing campaigns. 

Read on…

Table of Contents

ELI5: What Is Email Marketing?

When it comes to ‘what is email marketing’ terminology, we’d like to define the basics in layman terms. Not that you aren’t aware of email marketing or know your way around it, but sometimes it’s good to know the fundamentals of the subject matter. 

Email marketing is a simple process where you connect with your business contacts by sending them compelling emails. These emails are targeted to different audiences scattered over a variety of niches. You can also track these emails to keep tabs on how many of them were read, the number of unsubs and people who actually converted. 

Overall, the practice is simple and does not require a lot of money or investment to go on with. All it takes for businesses to generate leads and maintain email lists is patience and consistency. To that end, if you are expecting overnight results budding from your email marketing campaigns, that’s not going to happen. It takes time for any active marketing campaign to help businesses meet their goals. Keep at it, and you will eventually get there.

Why Email Marketing?

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Statista did a survey on the probability and overall numbers associated with email marketing in 2019. You can see that roughly 43% of the respondents opened emails on their cellphone, while the remaining percentages were segmented into desktop and webmail email receivers. 

On top of that, these percentages have grown enormously, now that we are at the end of year 2021. As mentioned earlier, the number of emails to be sent out by all sorts of businesses in the year 2022 will easily surpass 333 Billion. 

In other words, email marketing is ranked as one of the most effective marketing channels, which are in line with social media and direct marketing strategies. 

Emails also have a larger outreach spectrum. The stats in the above image reveal that almost 90% of the users check their emails at any given time of the day. Marketers, on the other hand, make sure that these emails are at least clicked, by scheduling them to be sent during peek day time. 

Also, compared to email marketing campaigns over the last decade or so, the modern version of a typical marketing email is visually much more appealing; it loads faster and has strategically placed CTAs that have a high chance of CTR. 

On top of everything, when it comes to ‘Why email marketing’, you should know that you can target your emails to specific audience groups over different platforms. Mobile emails can be optimized to load faster and look better for cellphone users, while desktop version of the same marketing emails can be altered to retain and convert customers in a slightly different manner!

3 Best Examples of Different Types of Marketing Emails

Although there are numerous types of marketing emails, we are going to focus on the 3 main categories for now. For each of these email marketing strategies to succeed, make sure that they have the right content to address a niche audience, and you are sending these emails at the right time. Improvise and think of how you might be using them to your advantage in the long run.

1. Promotional Emails:

Promotional emails are the most common types of marketing emails these days. Their purpose is simple; i.e. to promote a product or create awareness about an ongoing service/ product to attract more customers. 

Promo emails are laced with different offers, such as;

  • Up & Coming Brand Announcement 
  • Limited Time Discounts
  • Webinars to Sell Online Courses
  • White Paper

Whether promotional emails convert or not, is a matter of intuitively creating the email content for each audience group. That being said, promotional emails are still relevant, and still popular. 

2. Relational Emails:

Next up, on our ‘what is email marketing’ list, we’ve got relational emails. These emails are created to establish a connection between the audience and the business in question. The content of such emails showcases free stuff, promo offers and literally anything which can strengthen the bond between an average online consumer and a brand. 

Relational emails are value driven. The objective is to design a relationship with your customers, who, in turn, will play a vital role in business scalability. In other words, it is about promoting a brand or a service at a much deeper level – and that too, through a prepopulated email list. 

3. Transactional Emails:

These emails are also called ‘Trigger Emails’ because they are sent in response to an action at consumers’ end. 

For instance, Customer A has purchased something online; he will receive an order confirmation email with all the necessary details. Likewise, another example of a transaction email in the context of email marketing is to send discount codes as part of the customers’ next purchase option. 

For such emails to work, businesses often create content that highlights the way it interacts with customers, and share incentives to create repeat business opportunities. Transactional emails convert really well, as long as you know how to move customers through different stages of their online journey with your brand.

What Will You Learn from This Email Marketing Guide?

In other words, who is this guide for? 

If you are a solopreneur, or a business owner who sends emails to retain and convert customers, then this guide is for you. However, unlike those conventional so-called ‘The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing’ posts, we have addressed multiple areas relevant to the subject matter, and how you will eventually benefit from it all in the long run. 

Apart from that, if you are new to digital marketing, and don’t want to waste time on automated email marketing strategies, this guide is a detailed recipe book. You can learn from it; you can improvise and be creative to craft the perfect email, which is bound to scale your business like none other.

Here’s what you will learn from this email marketing guide:

  • Email Segmentation
  • Inbound Email Marketing Strategies 
  • Creating the Perfect Email 
  • Different Ways to Maintain & Grow Your Email Lists
  • Use of Paid vs. Free Email Marketing Tools 

We have emphasized on quality over quantity because at the end of the day, the target is to net conversions through meaningful online communication. 

What is Inbound Email Marketing & How to Fuel Your Inbound Strategy?

As opposed to outbound email marketing, in bound email marketing focuses on growing your email list through promotional content. The aim is to generate clicks and increase subscribers by showing them popups, promo content, or offers that entice people. 

Meanwhile, outbound email marketing is based on connecting with your customers via an email list that is already maintained at your side. To that end, there are specific tactics, advertising strategies and other content that is sent “outward” to a prepopulated list of email addresses that you have maintained over a course of time period.

3 Steps of Inbound Email Marketing for You to Grow Your Business

Moving on, let’s take a look at some of the common steps related to inbound email marketing. Each of these steps is important, as it helps to connect with the audience at a specific level through customer acquisition journey. 

Attraction

This is the first phase of inbound email marketing where you are looking to get email addresses from users. There are multiple ways to attract potential leads and convert them into paying customers. 

a. Ads:

You can use ads through social media platform, or Google search engine to attract visitors to your website, online product page or services page. For best results, make sure that your ads are customized to target audience demographics. 

b. Newsletters:

You can use popup newsletter CTA strategy on your website or attract new leads. The best way of attracting people is through high quality content that details a problem and answers it. 

c. Videos:

Ever seen those explainer videos on YouTube or different websites? These videos are used an part of inbound email marketing tactic to get new visitors. Though leader pieces, how to videos and explainer videos are all part of the same strategy here.

Engagement

Now that you have attracted your audience and built a subscriber list, the next step is to engage your audience. What’s the best way of doing so? Read on…

a. Timed Popups:

These popups are found on landing pages, weblogs and services pages. For best results, make sure that the popup opens after users have scrolled past the top-fold section of your website. 

b. Lead Magnets:

Think of a variety of different strategies centered around content pieces. Lead magnets are in the form of newsletters, eBooks, webinars, whitepapers etc. Each type of lead magnet can be programmed to keep track of an customer journey; where and how it all started and vice versa. 

In foresight, lead magnets should have content, which is easily consumed, and consists of actionable insights to help improve the CTR.

c. Conversational Marketing:

Connecting with your audience through Chatrooms on your website is a great example of active customer engagement. Live chat feature works best on e-commerce and online hardware website where users are always looking to get in touch with an expert before buying a product, or for any random query. 

Conversion

Customer conversion is an ongoing process. Here’s how you can fine tune your inbound email marketing strategies for best results. 

a. Use Smart Content:

Instead of churning out content through pre-defined templates, make sure that you have segmented your email marketing audience. Based on user personas, demographics and areas of interest, tailer your email content to attract, engage and convert customers. 

b. Feedback & Review System:

If you are in a services industry, use feedback and review system to get insight on what customers think about your product. Companies use emails with specific links to feedback forms, or they have an online review system integrated in their website to gather results. This is also a great way of ensuring top-notch customer service and solving issues along the way.

c. Customer Analytics Data:

Online companies have dedicated dashboards to highlight different touchpoints that customers have with the business in question. The data is maintained in the form of reports to optimize future marketing engagement and conversion tactics.

Beginners Guide to Getting Started with Email Marketing

Now that you have a fair understanding of ‘what is email marketing’, lets get started with some of the strategies to fine tune your customer acquisition journey. 

1. Create Compelling Emails

Emails are a combination of context and tone. Would you rather read an email with a conversational tone that connects with your based on your persona, or would you prefer reading emails with cookie cutter content, and an overall robotic tone? 

At the end of the day, your audience constitutes real people who are going to consume the content and message of your emails. Therefore, put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes and create a personalized email that has better chances of attracting engaging with your audience. 

Sadly, over the past few years, the industry standard follows outdated practices, such as:

  • Editing the subject of the email
  • Editing receivers’ name
  • Adding some buzz words and industry jargon to an email template

Such type of emails are not only ignored, but also serve as fodder for leads’ spam folder. As long as your email doesn’t have a compelling subject line to cut through the noise, and some accompanying content to harness the essence of the email, the strategy won’t work. 

2. Set Goals

Other than increasing the size of your email list over a certain time period, what is the next most obvious goal for your email marketing campaigns?

We recommend adapting a holistic look at your audience to personalize your overall email marketing strategy. Beyond having a massive list of subscribers, many startup business owners do not have properly defined goals. 

Ideally, your goals should highlight a target and several milestones to achieve the desired effect. For instance, your goal is to collaborate with a social media influencer to get more visitors to your website. A lot of these visitors will share their email addresses, if you have carefully set a lead magnet or some sort of other strategy in place. 

The “goal”, as an email marketer, in this context, is to connect with those subscribers after the social media influencer campaign for repeat business opportunities. 

Knowing where you stand, assessing your customer response and engagement rate and optimizing content is all part of email marketing goals. Develop a habit of monitoring your metrics to pinpoint areas that are significantly lower than your all-time best, or average. 

3. Select Optimal Send Time

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How often do you send your emails, and in which frequency?

Sending emails by the dozens is not a great way of ensuring a high CTR. Likewise, picking wrong day of the week or a specific time slot will also affect your overall email marketing strategy.

According to the experts at ‘CoSchedule’, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday’ seem to be the best days of the week for sending emails. You should avoid sending emails over the weekend because many people are away from their workstation until the start of the next coming week. 

Come Monday, your potential customers are more than likely to dismiss your email because they have to attend to work emails on top priority. This leaves the remainder of the week at your disposal. Likewise, the best time to send emails is between 10 AM to 6 AM. However, results will vary accordingly. 

Emails received between 10 AM – 11 AM have a high chance of being responded to, or at least read. Emails sent between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM have the same effect because many people prefer going through their inbox before going to bed. 

Anything sent during wee hours of the night is more than likely to go down in your receivers’ inbox because of several other emails that’ll potentially show up during early hours of the day. 

As part of your getting start with email marketing goals, one of the fundamental strategy is to optimize your send time. Depending on your audience, test your emails over different time slots and different days. See what works for you and adapt accordingly. 

4. Avoid Deceptive Tricks

According to Forbes Magazine, the year 2020 reportedly oversaw the rise of ethical marketing strategies. 

The average person on the internet was well aware of business malpractices alongside an overall higher rate of computer literacy. Consumers have a zero-tolerance stance against shady emails with subject lines that contradict the email content and whatever is in there. 

If you are looking to grow your email audience, learn to embrace full transparency – and that too, at different levels of your business. For instance, if you use some sort of Email Opt-In form to get your customers’ email address, DO NOT check mark the ‘Opt-In Checkbox’, while assuming that your customers will uncheck it on their own. 

Likewise, when sending emails, always have a fully-functional ‘Unsubscribe’ email button or link at the end. We have seen many emails that don’t let you unsubscribe, even after you have clicked the unsubscribe button. 

Everyone who is on your email list, should be doing so consciously and enthusiastically to maintain a meaningful connection with the business, or brand in question. 

5. Keep a Clean & Active List

There’s no point in bragging about a massive email list with tons of users in there, if half of them are not active. 

This is more of a foundational level practice where the process entails getting rid of inactive subscribers by simply deleting them. To that effect, many email addresses are bogus because people sometimes use random addresses just to get through the CTA wall. However, that rarely happen. But, if you are getting a lot of messages that suggest that the email didn’t go through, it’s a good indicator that you need to get rid of those addresses for future reference. 

Grow Your Email Marketing List Through Lead Magnets?

As stated earlier in this post, one of the major growth tactics for email marketers is to use lead magnets. The idea is to focus on content quality, timely execution of each strategy and build on the context of your email to grow your subscriber list. 

With that being said, here are some of the main types of lead magnets that you need to work on. 

  • Social Media Posts

Social media posts are part of social media influencer marketing. Although a majority of regular posts is just to help the audience stay up-to-date with whatever’s happening at the business side, you can also create posts with a call-to-action button for growing your email list. 

You can see that the above image is not only creating some sort of awareness, but also asking users to input their email address for future updates. 

  • eBooks

eBooks are part of value driven content where users are asked to subscribe to your email marketing list. Usually a popup is displayed on a blog where people are asked to ‘Sign Up’ for a free downloadable eBook. 

This is a win-win situation for the business and consumers at the same time. While users get to sift through your eBook at their own pace, you can use the email addresses to connect with these users through future email marketing campaigns. 

  • Infographics

These are another popular form of email marketing lead magnets. The idea is to present information through detailed visuals that summarize some sort of important information. 

Infographics are short, concise and have more information, which makes it easier for people to skim through. At the end of each infographic, the website admins usually ask for feedback through a ‘Was This Information Useful’ button, which further leads the visitors to enter their email address. 

  • Free Tools/ Services

Free tools are another form of email marketing lead magnets. These tools solve some sort of problem through the basic free version. You can offer instant access to ‘Premium Unlimited’ features in exchange for asking users to share their email address with your company. 

Later on, the conversion process can ask users for a small fee, a donation or some form of patronage, so that your business can also benefit at the same time. While developing free tools, make sure that you are not deceptively mining users’ contact information. Eventually, they are bound to find it out, and it won’t lead to pleasant results, or repeat business opportunities for that matter.

Segment Your Email Marketing List Like a Pro

Email list segmentation is important because it helps you to execute different email marketing campaigns simultaneously. For best effect, it is better to segment audience over demographics, areas of interest, age groups and vice versa.

What is Email List Segmentation?

If you haven’t heard of email list segmentation before, don’t worry. Basically, you need to potential divide your email subscribers over different groups. These groups are called: Segments. The reason marketers stress upon email segmentation is because you have higher chances of success that way. 

Marketers who have segmented their email lists, and executed their campaigns have reportedly benefited from repeat business opportunities by up to 760%

Furthermore, segmentation offers a great way for you to personalize your email as per your audience preferences. 

Let’s take a look at some of the common email list segment types:

New Subscribers

The people who have just signed up for your services, newsletter or product after consensually sharing their email address. 

Regular Subscribers

These are dated contacts in your subscriber list who have been in touch with you through your weekly emails. You can run A/B tests against your old subscriber list by modifying the style and context of your email to see which one of the subscribers have the highest engagement and response rate. 

Inactive Users

If you are getting a lot of ‘Failed to Send Email’ hits in your inbox, that’s usually because of people who are no longer using their email address. There’s also a high chance that some of those users have shared a dummy email address with you, which serves no real purpose. 

Develop a habit of purging your email list to keep your contacts up to date and current. 

Age, Demographics and Interest Based Groups

All three of these groups need to be separated so that you can personalize the content of your emails accordingly. 

For instance, millennials have a short attention span. Therefore, the email content for that segment needs to cut through the noise, and drive straight to value driven material. Likewise, some of your users may have a specific purchase pattern. It is best to follow the divide and conquer strategy to attain the desired effect. 

People Who Never Actually Purchased Anything From You!

Your email segment also needs to account for people who are part of the active users in the list, but they have never really purchased anything. 

Usually, these customers abandon their purchase decision on your website due to many different reasons. Your job is to send these subscribers a personalized email to find out the reason behind such instances. 

4 Best Email Marketing Services to Use In 2021

Take a look at some of the best email marketing services that you can use to harness your online marketing campaigns. 

1. ActiveCampaign

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ActiveCampaign is one of the best email marketing tools to date. We recommend this tool for anyone who is looking for high affordability providers for small business. 

The program is well designed, as it comes with a minimalistic interface and different options to help users execute their email marketing strategies. The dashboard could be more customized, alongside additional viewing option, but for the ongoing price, ActiveCampaign has just enough feature sets to kickstart your email marketing campaigns on the go. 

2. MailChimp

When it comes to running multiple email marketing campaigns – and that too, through intuitive drag and drop features, MailChimp is your go-to tool. 

Overall, it is a powerful email marketing software that adapts to any type of email format. Whether these are transactional emails meant for specific purpose, or simple promo emails, you can manage everything without any technicalities. 

The ease of service and installation is a no brainer since MailChimp enables users to manage everything online. WordPress admins can install the official MailChimp plugin to send emails directly through website back end. 

You can sign up for their free plan, or go through any of their paid plans to automate your email marketing campaigns as much as it’s needed. 

3. Constant Contact

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Constant Contact offers a variety of online marketing solutions to its massive userbase. People who are just focused on email marketing, can sign up for the basic plan for $20. This plan is a mix of starter features, 3rd party integrations and a generous 60 day money back offer, which is more than enough to help you get a quick overview of what Constant Contact is all about. 

For full stack marketers, Constant Contact also offers a website builder function where people can create their landing pages, and integrate different strategies to get users’ contact information. Other than that, email list building tools, the ability to resend emails to people who haven’t opened the last email from your side, and subject line A/B testing is a great way to test the waters. 

We recommend Constant Contact to small business owners who are focused on preserving cashflow and maintaining overhead expenses, especially during the first few years of their email marketing campaigns. 

4. SendInBlue

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SendInBlue is a feasible option for startups and medium level businesses, looking to upscale their email marketing campaigns. 

From our point of view, the appeal factor comes in two different ways. First of all, the pricing plan is limited to one structure, where you have a number of monthly email sends as a quota. Secondly, the latest version of the program has many consolidated functions with a profound effect on anyone looking for full scale digital marketing hub.

Beefier automation, CRM modules and professional templates are part of what you can use through SendInBlue anytime; anywhere. It’s definitely not as good as MailChimp, but the program has wealth of transactional SMS and email features to jump start any marketing campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions About 'What Is Email Marketing'

  • Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

In most cases, Yes, email marketing is still effective. If you have personalized your email, and communicate with users in a manner that provokes conversion, then there’s no reason to put your email marketing campaigns on hold. 

Emails are still Sent, Read and Reacted to whenever they are part of a well executed marketing campaign. 

  • Isn’t Social Media Replacing Email Marketing?

Social media posts and SM campaigns are not exactly replacing email marketing. Regular social media posts are just there to keep the audience in touch with whatever is happening at the business forefront. To that effect, social media page owners constantly have to publish content to keep the page active, and to maintain the engagement rate. 

Email marketing, on the other hand, offers a more intuitive and personalized experience to people who are already connected with a brand. Even if you are limiting your business to send one email a week, rest assured, people will read it and convert if your content is personalized to users’ persona.

  • Can I Buy a List of Email Addresses When I Am Starting Out with Email Marketing?

Technically, you can, but we would never recommend it. 

Buying email lists always comes at a cost. For starters, the email addresses are not verified; they are scattered over all sorts of segments, and you don’t know which ones of them are legit. Secondly, user consent is never there, so you need to be mindful of GDPR compliance and any other thing that might affect your business eventually. 

Start small, and create your own email list by genuinely connecting with your audience through value driven content. 

  • What Makes a Good Incentive?

Anything that drives value to your audience is a good incentive. For instance, if you have a ‘How To’ website, you can offer a free eBook to your audience to grow your email list. While users will benefit from the content, you can use the newly acquired email addresses to presell any upcoming products lined up in near future. 

Summing It All Up

Since its inception, email marketing has come a long way to attract, retain and convert customers. Our version of the ‘Ultimate Email Marketing’ guide works best for anyone who is willing to improvise and adopt a more modern and conversational strategy. 

If you still have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us for professional help. Let’s talk about harnessing the power of email marketing to take your business to the next level.