The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing #8: Email Marketing


By: Alexander Bussey

Today, we believe it all too easy to overlook the power of email marketing. Modern marketing blogs tend to focus on content, SEO or paid search, and the prevalence of spam email encourages us to think of email as a dead channel.

Research suggests that email marketing may be a surprisingly powerful tool though. According to statistics published by Pure 360, 58% of millennials have said that email is their preferred form of brand communication. What?s more, a staggering 86% of customers have actually said they?d like to receive promotional emails from companies they like.

If these statistics are accurate, neglecting to build out robust email marketing campaigns is essentially the same as deindexing your site, or switching off all of your paid search campaigns.

In fact, it might be worse in some ways, as email traffic tends to be more engaged than traffic from both paid adverts and traditional, organic sources.

That doesn’t mean that you should start sending marketing emails to your entire customer list. A successful email marketing campaign requires a careful balance of good timing and strategic outreach.

You will also need to maintain engagement to prevent your email address from being blacklisted, and work hard to ensure that people are actually using your emails to navigate back to your site – otherwise, you?ll just be spending time, energy and money on a fruitless exercise.

Here, we?ve set out to introduce the topic of email marketing, and provide you with the kind of step-by-step advice that can be used to set up functioning campaigns, alongside information on:

  • Different approaches to email marketing
  • Ways of planning a campaign that delivers consistent ROI

We?ve gone into detail about the ins and outs of different email management providers, including MailChimp, GetResponse and

Selecting An Approach

First, you need to decide what type of email marketing you want to try.
This decision will depend on your target audience. If you know that your preferred demographic responds well to editorial content, a monthly newsletter is probably the advisable way to go. But, if your usual customers are deal-oriented and like to cut to the chase, emails that highlight promotions, savings or special offers might be more successful.

Of course, there is an inherent downside to both types of email marketing. Newsletters are less conversion-oriented and tend to result in lower sales, while promotional messaging tends to irritate more measured shoppers. Particularly if they are the kind of people that like to research a product before buying it, or dislike feeling rushed by commercially-minded organizations.

That said, each type of email will resonate with certain audiences, so it?s worth spending time thinking about what your customers would most interested in reading. The following is an explanation of each aforementioned approach.

Monthly Newsletters

As noted above, monthly newsletters are a fantastic choice for anyone targeting an audience that prefers content or dislikes promotional messaging. This could include millennial audiences, audiences who are generally self-reliant (like DIYers) or audiences that have extra time, and enjoy reading.

Monthly newsletters are also a good fit if you?ve spent a long time establishing yourself as an authority in your chosen vertical, and attract customers via your blog.

In most cases, a monthly newsletter will contain a brief editorial or introduction and then links to 4 or 5 blog posts. You can include the first paragraph of each blog post in the email or a short description of the article?s contents, but you want to keep things brief here.

The purpose of these emails is to highlight your blog content and keep people coming back to your site. Repeat visits feed engagement statistics, which can have a positive impact on your SEO. They also keep your brand at the forefront of people?s mind, which maximizes your chances of scoring a soft conversion further down the line.

You can link out to other people?s articles in your newsletter as well, but we?d avoid this if at all possible – the last thing you want is to turn your traffic over to a competitor or signpost the absence of similar content on your own site.

Promotional Emails

Promotional emails are generally short and to the point. They tend to be highly visual, and use modern design best practices to highlight savings or discounts. You can either send a weekly promotional email to your subscriber list, with news of discounts or flash sales or just send out promotional emails whenever you are running an event.

A lot of big-box retailers are experimenting with highly personalized promotional emails at this moment in time- using intelligence gathered by software like Magento BI or Google Analytics to send people discounts on products they?ve previously looked at, or products that fit their general interests.

This kind of advanced targeting is quite expensive to set up though, so if you?re just starting out, we?d recommend limiting yourself to one-size-fits-all flash sales and discounts.

Another good strategy would be to offer all email subscribers an exclusive 10% off code that changes each month and gets sent out alongside a list of deals and discounts. This incentivizes people to sign up and helps you to build a large list, and it?s also very easy to set up. Your dev company should be able to help you generate discount codes, and implement rules to stop them from being abused.

Most promotional emails do tend to be HTML emails with custom design and coding, so if you are considering this route, you may want to talk to a designer about getting some templates built.

A Hybrid Approach

As previously mentioned, you can also opt for a hybrid approach, where you send out a monthly newsletter and the occasional sales/discount email. This approach works well if you?re trying to target two separate audiences or run a business that appeals to two very different types of consumer. It also works well if you?re targeting a group that engages with your blog content but also shows a strong preference for a discount or value-oriented shopping.

There are some risks to a hybrid approach, however. Customers who hate promotional content, for example, might be irritated by sales emails, while people who don?t want to read articles will ignore your monthly newsletter.

Because most email software tracks open rates to work out how well your campaigns are performing, bombarding people with the wrong type of email can have an impact on your future campaigns. Splitting your customers into separate email marketing lists can help to mitigate this, but we do recommend sitting down and thinking about what type of email will really resonate with your audience.

Drafting a strategy

Once you?ve settled on a type of email marketing, you?ll need to draft a concrete strategy that clearly defines:

  • When you?ll send the emails (including the number per month, the day of the week, and the time of day they?ll be sent)
  • What the emails will include
  • Where you?re going to drive customers
  • Methods of customization (e.g., addressing the email to a first name)
  • Subject lines

Our advice? Try to be as granular as possible when building this plan. Things like the time of day may seem trivial, but we?ve actually seen these minute details make (or break) campaigns, and it?s always worth sitting down to think about.

If you send emails on weekday mornings, you might get people opening them on their commute. Conversely, your audience might be too busy thinking about the day ahead, resulting in low open rates and low engagement.

Flip it and stick to the weekends, and you can be certain that your audience will have more free time, but if your primary audience is 30-40 years old, they may also be out with their families. The takeaway here is that there is a great deal to carefully consider when developing your action plan. It?s all about taking the time to think about who you?re emailing. You can also vary the day and time to start with until you work out which time slots work best.

When it comes to working out when to send emails, rely on your own, in-house resources. If you?re publishing 4-5 blog posts a week, a weekly newsletter makes sense. But, if you?re struggling to get 4 posts up in a month, it?s probably best to leave a bigger gap between ?updates?. After all, nobody likes being spammed, and it?s important to ensure that all of your emails have value.

Similarly, if you alter your prices every few weeks, rapid-fire promotional emails are probably the way to go, but if you only run sales on specific dates, a more measured approach might be best. Again, you can experiment with the frequency of your emails: if you notice engagement dropping off, simply cut-back and wait.

Choosing email management software

Once you know what, when and why you?re emailing people, you just need to find an email service provider and set up your campaign. Popular options include Mail Chimp, Dot Mailer, Campaign Monitor, and Mailify.

All four of these SAAS solutions offer the same basic functionality and allow you to:

  • Store email lists
  • Create draft emails using an integrated ?email builder?
  • Import custom emails
  • Mass mail people at a specific (pre-scheduled) time and date

They also feedback information about open rates, clicks, sales and the length of time spent reading your emails. It is possible to run email campaigns without a subscription to this kind of service, but you may end up getting your email blacklisted for spam, and the insight they provide makes a world of difference.

When it comes to actually pick a provider, it?s important to remember that they are all very similar: Mail Chimp and Dotmailer collect slightly more data, but some people find Campaign Monitor’s interface easier on the eyes. There?s no specific advantage to any one solution.

There is a lot of variance in price though, so spend some time browsing different options, and make sure you?re looking at something you can afford. Some providers charge more for initial setup, but less per email, while some simply charge dependant on the size of your email list, which means the actual cost will vary depending on how many signups you?ve generated.

There?s a good comparison guide on the Software Advice website, which breaks down providers according to their user rating, cost, and features.

Execution, Refinement and A/B testing

With your campaigns set up and ready to go, you might be tempted to take a step back. Sadly, email marketing only works if you?re constantly adapting your strategy. As mentioned, tweaking send times, altering email frequency or experimenting with different headlines can all have a huge impact on the success of your campaign, but you have to be looking at the data to know that a change is needed.

This means monitoring results as they come in and adapting your strategy according to your audience’s behavior. It also means running controlled experiments with your subscriber list and testing new ideas to see how people respond.

In short, your work is never done. But if you put the time and effort into refining your email campaigns, you can create an extra channel, and ultimately drive some serious revenue.

If you have any questions about setting up an email campaign or want to discuss the contents of this article, please get in touch via the contact form on our site. We?re always more than happy to talk you through the setup process, or debate the pros and cons of a specific software provider, so please don?t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

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