How to Run a Successful Email Marketing Campaign (Step by Step)

Do know how to run a successful email marketing campaign? Wondering if your email marketing strategy is working? With around 269 billion emails sent each day, there’s a lot of competition for your audience’s attention.

Those email numbers keep going up, too. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to do email marketing right, so you can reach your target audience and keep their interest.

By the end of this guide you’ll know the steps you need to run a successful email marketing campaign so you can get more attention, engagement, leads and sales.

Why Run an Email Marketing Campaign?

As the stats above hint, one of the big advantages of email marketing is that people still use email widely. In fact, as our article on why email marketing isn’t dead reveals, 90% of adults and 74% of teenagers still use email regularly.

This makes email marketing the perfect tool for building customer relationships to help you generate leads and sales. But before you run a successful email marketing campaign, you’ve got to do some prep work, so you’re primed for success when you finally send that first email.

1. Know Your Goals

All good marketing starts with setting goals, and email marketing’s no different. To run a successful email marketing campaign, think about what you want to achieve. Typical goals for an email marketing campaign include:

  • Welcoming new subscribers and telling them about your business and values so you start to build a relationship with them.
  • Boosting engagement with your content and your business, whether that’s promoting a webinar or trying to make an initial sale.
  • Nurturing existing subscribers by providing something they’ll value.
  • Re-engaging subscribers who haven’t been particularly active.
  • Segmenting your subscribers so you can send more targeted email marketing campaigns.

You can also set email marketing goals according to your conversion goals.

2. Understand Email Types

It’s also important to understand the different types of email that you can send. People group these in different ways, but here are the three key email types.

We’re all familiar with promotional emails, which talk about offers and sales and are self-promotional.

promotional email example

Then there are relational emails, which give subscribers what you’ve promised, like a weekly newsletter, a free gift, relevant information they can use, and so on.

There are also transactional emails, which include:

  • Subscriber signup confirmations
  • Welcome messages
  • Order or purchase confirmations
  • Acknowledgements of changes to subscriber information

Transactional emails are usually triggered by subscribers’ actions and relate to an action they’ve taken on your site.

Now that you know the types of email you can send, it’s time to move onto the next step to create a successful email marketing campaign.

3. Know Your Audience

If you’ve been doing email marketing for a while, you’ll likely know who your audience is. If you’re just getting started, you’ll have to make some educated guesses so you can target your content. Don’t worry; you’ll start collecting subscriber info the minute you send your first campaign, so next time round, you’ll have real data to work with.

In the meantime, gather data from Google Analytics and your social media profiles, like the Facebook Insights data shown below:

facebook audience demographics

Both sources have data on demographics, location, and interests, plus a bunch of other metrics, that’ll give you a snapshot of who your customers are and what they’re interested in. That’s a good starting point for crafting successful email marketing campaigns.

4. Use Technology Wisely

The best email marketing services have tools to help you create more successful email marketing campaigns. Look for features like:

  • Easy campaign creation and automation, including templates and workflows.
  • Integrations with software you already use, like WordPress and OptinMonster.
  • Ways to segment your audience.
  • In-depth analytics on email campaign performance.

Features like MailChimp’s automations pictured below will help you schedule transactional emails and blog-driven updates, respond quickly to customers, and create and deliver promotional and relational emails. These are all good ways to build success with email marketing.

MailChimp automations will help you create successful email marketing campaigns

5. Create Great Optins

It goes without saying that you need to get people on your email list to run a successful campaign.

To do that, you’ll need to create attractive optin forms that get attention and encourage people to sign up. Experiment with different types of optin forms on different parts of your site, including:

  • Welcome gates, which appear when people arrive on your site. You can also use our page slide feature so people can get straight to the content when they’re ready.
  • Lightbox popups, which can appear on any page and temporarily blank out the rest of the content to focus on the optin. These convert very well.
  • Exit-intent popups, which appear when people are about to leave the site. That’s a good time to offer your lead magnet.

exit intent popup

Check out our guide to optin types to see all the options for creating optins for your email marketing campaign.

For best results, put optins in multiple places and choose how they appear with rules and page-level targeting. That cuts down on the annoyance level while maintaining effectiveness.

6. Plan Emails and Followups

Once you know your goals, email type and audience and you’ve attracted people onto your list with targeted optins, it’s time to plan your email marketing campaign. This will give you an overview to use when you start creating the emails in steps #7 through #9.

A good approach is to note down:

  • Email frequency, which we’ll look at below
  • Type of email, as mentioned in step #2
  • A rough idea of content
  • The main action you want subscribers to take (such as signing up for an event, following you on social media, buying a product)

Kuno Creative says that in creating your emails you need to make them timely, relevant, interesting and valuable.

For example, many companies welcome new subscribers with a short email series to help them get to know their products and services.

Asana sends a series of 4 emails. The email subject lines are:

  1. Welcome to Asana
  2. What do you need to get done this week?
  3. Plan your day with Asana
  4. Hit your next deadline

The first is a welcome email with 3 key tasks you can accomplish in the software. Three days later, there’s another email asking what you need to get done and encouraging you to start using the product. Two days later, there’s an email talking about the Asana dashboard. The series ends with an email two days later, which highlights the calendar view.

asana welcome email series

Don’t overwhelm your subscribers by emailing too often. That will send them straight to the spam button. Instead, stick to the schedule you’ve told them about so they know what to expect.

Don’t be afraid to ask for subscriber input on email scheduling via a poll or survey. You can also offer an “opt down” option for those who love your emails but don’t want to get them as often.

Once you’ve outlined your email plan, it’s time to start writing.

7. Craft Your Subject Line

A good starting point for any successful email marketing campaign is the subject line, which plays a crucial role in getting people to open and click your emails. Like the headline on your blog post, an email subject line has to get attention so people want to go further.

You don’t have a lot of words to make an impression, either; Campaign Monitor’s data shows that most subject lines range from 41 to 50 characters. Even less of your subject line shows on mobile screens, so it’s wise to put the most important parts at the start.

email subject line length

Options for improving your subject lines include:

  • Telling people what they’ll get when they open your emails; no need to be clever or witty unless that’s your brand’s personality.
  • Adding personalization, as including people’s name in the subject line can keep them more engaged.
  • Avoiding spam trigger words so your emails make it to the inbox.
  • Borrowing one of these high-converting email subject lines and adapting it for your own use.

8. Write the Copy

Next, it’s time to write your email marketing copy. You’ll want to create a hook right at the start that will get people to want to read on.

For best results, keep email marketing copy short, and avoid pitching your offer too early. You want people to get comfortable first.

Address subscribers by name. Personalized emails are more successful. Buffer also suggests to personalize your emails based on need by sending emails that meet different user expectations. This makes them more targeted and more likely to be successful. Some studies show that educating and segmenting your audience will boost your click through rate on emails by up to 50%.

Other items to consider for your email copy include:

  • A personal story. Being human never hurts a company and often helps people make an emotional connection. Some of the most successful emails we’ve seen use this technique.
  • Something of value to your readers. That can be a piece of content, some useful information or the resource you’re promoting. Make it clear how this will help them. The example below from SEMrush underlines the potential benefit in the first line of the email.
  • A poll, survey, GIF or video, all of which are proven to keep readers more engaged.

semrush email marketing

Of course, you don’t have to put all of those in every email. Ideally your emails should be short, with only a couple of main points within each one. If you do decide to go longer, make your email scannable.

The last part of your email marketing copy is the call to action (CTA). Your CTA reflects the one thing you most want people to do when they’ve read your email.

CTAs usually appear multiple times within your email marketing copy. While you don’t want to pitch to readers too soon, there’ll likely be a CTA near the start, in the middle and near the end.

The best calls to action are short and clear. If you’ve got your copy right, then it should be a no-brainer for subscribers to click your link.

9. Focus on Email Marketing Design

Email design matters in any successful email marketing campaign. If your emails look terrible, that reflects badly on you, and can make people stop reading. With more people than ever reading emails on mobile devices, it’s important to use a responsive email template so your email resizes automatically whether people are reading it on a phone, tablet, or desktop.

Most good emails have more text than images. There’s no denying that images make your email more attractive, but know that many people disable images. That means your email still has to work even if people can’t see them.

Our tip: avoid hiding information in images, because that’s bad for email accessibility. And remember to use alt tags to describe images so people who’ve disabled them know what they’re supposed to see. A good description might make subscribers enable images, which will make your emails look even better.

10. Test and Track

Finally, sending your email is just the first step in achieving email marketing success. To really nail it, you’ve got to collect data to improve future campaigns.

That means testing everything: design and layout, email marketing copy, subject lines and calls to action. Consider testing emails with different segments and experimenting with email send times, too.

You’ll also want to monitor email analytics from your service provider relating to opens, clicks, unsubscribes and forwards. This will enable you to figure out what’s working and what’s not with email marketing.

email marketing statistics

Another issue to monitor is your sender reputation, which affects email deliverability. Use Sender Score to see if there are any red flags that might stop your emails from reaching subscribers’ inboxes.

Finally, manage your email subscriber list by attempting to re-engage inactive subscribers, and by removing them if your attempts fail. It’s better for email marketing open and click rates to have fewer active subscribers than large numbers of inactive ones.

Now that you know how to run a successful email marketing campaign, check out these email marketing conversion killers so you can avoid them. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more advice on email marketing.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a technical writer at OptinMonster. Sharon has been a professional writer for more than 25 years. Her career has included stints as a journalist, blogger, academic writer, university lecturer, and ghost writer. Find out more about Sharon at sharonhh.com

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