I’m Syed Balkhi, one of the co-founders of OptinMonster. Over 25+ million websites use one of my marketing products to grow and compete with the big guys. 100+ million people read my blogs every year to grow their website traffic, sales, and conversions. And here at OptinMonster, over 1.2 million small businesses use us to drive their email marketing campaigns!
I know a thing or two about how to grow and market a business. I’ve written this guide to email marketing as your step-by-step plan, complete with strategies, tactics, and my insider secrets.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a primary marketing channel that uses bulk emails to promote your products or services to a list of subscribers via email. Think of it as a key part of your marketing automation strategy, keeping your leads and customers in the loop and excited about what you have in store for them.
- What is Email Marketing?
- What Are the Advantages of Email Marketing?
- What Are the Disadvantages of Email Marketing?
- How to Do Email Marketing Successfully: A 5 Step Guide
- 5 Biggest Email Marketing Challenges (And How to Solve Them)
- Frequently Asked Questions About Email Marketing (FAQs)
- Email Marketing Case Studies
What Are the Advantages of Email Marketing?
- For eCommerce businesses, email marketing lets you sell products, recover abandoned carts, and increase lifetime value.
- Small business owners can use email marketing to maintain brand awareness and build relationships over time.
- Email marketing is great for SaaS companies to turn subscribers into free trial users, and free trials into paying customers.
- Bloggers and publishers use email marketing to drive traffic to their websites and affiliate links, which means more revenue.
- Enterprise clients can scale their email marketing plan to reach thousands or even millions of customers at once.
There are many benefits of email marketing:
- People check their email a lot, up to 20 times a day.
- You own your email list and can email them whenever you’d like. This is unlike social media where algorithms control your reach and engagement.
- Emails can be personalized at scale.
- Email has an extremely high ROI (return on investment) of around 3600%. Calculate the ROI of email marketing and see for yourself.
- Email is 55 times more effective at customer acquisition than Facebook and Twitter put together.
- Shoppers who receive email marketing convert 3x more than those who don’t.
While the case for email is strong, there are a few downsides. I want to make sure you have a full understanding of email marketing, so I’ll go over these disadvantages next.
What Are the Disadvantages of Email Marketing?
Email marketing, despite its effectiveness, has several disadvantages:
- Spam: Emails marked as spam can lower open rates over time and hurt deliverability. Learn how to prevent emails from going to spam.
- Inbox overwhelm: Marketing emails can get lost in an inbox filled with marketing emails. Segment your list by their engagement, and maintain a consistent by not excessive mailing schedule to combat this.
- Design challenges: Emails that display inconsistently across devices or email clients can hurt the reader’s experience. Using your ESP’s responsive templates will usually prevent these challenges. Services like Litmus Email Tester can show how your emails perform on various devices and clients, too.
- Regulations and compliance: Privacy regulations like GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and CCPA require ongoing attention to avoid legal conflicts. Double opt-ins, and unsubscribe links in every email will help you comply with these regulations.
- List maintenance: Inactive and unengaged subscribers must be regularly removed from email lists.
- Cost: Email marketing service providers typically charge by subscriber, which means your cost increase as your list grows. Maintaining your list, and engaging with subscribers will help ensure every subscriber is worth your investment.
How to Do Email Marketing Successfully: A 5-Step Guide
There are five things I want you to do when you’re just getting started with email marketing:
- Define Your Goals
- Choose an Email Service Provider
- Create an Optin Form to Build Your Email List
- Select the Type of Email Marketing Campaign To Send
- Track Email Marketing Metrics
Step 1: Define Your Goals
Before you spend money on an email marketing tool or type out that first email, you must identify your goals. Ask yourself:
- What do I want these subscribers to ultimately do after joining my list?
- What will convince them to join your list?
- What will you share on a regular basis to keep them interested?
- What will convince them to buy what you’re selling?
To write effective marketing emails, you need to know who you’re talking to. Are you reaching out to loyal customers or trying to win over new prospects? Understanding your audience’s age, location, interests, and buying habits will affect how you approach them in your messages. Once you know your target audience, tailor your message to them.
With these goals in mind, you can choose the tools you’ll use to implement your strategy.
Step 2: Choose an Email Service Provider
The first thing you need is an email service provider (ESP). An ESP will provide the tools you need to create, send, and manage email campaigns to your audience. Choosing the right email marketing software with the features you need can keep costs manageable. I’ll go over some cost-effective options for email marketing software below:
1. Constant Contact
Best for: I think it’s the best email service provider for small businesses.
Constant Contact’s user-friendly and powerful features help small businesses engage their audience with easy to use templates and automations.
Best for: I think it’s the best marketing automation creator for small businesses.
Brevo, formerly known as Sendinblue, is a versatile email service provider offers an all-in-one solution for small businesses. With Brevo, you can create beautiful email and SMS campaigns. Not every email platform offers SMS, so if text marketing is something you’re interested exploring, Brevo would be a good option.
Best for: I think it’s the best email service provider for B2B businesses.
Hubspot offers a comprehensive suite of marketing tools to help small businesses grow their audience and drive conversions. Hubspot’s CRM is also integrated with their email marketing service. This makes Hubspot a great choice for B2B and service-based businesses that have a longer sales process.
Best for: I think it’s the best multichannel marketing for small businesses.
Omnisend understands the needs of eCommerce businesses uniquely. Omnisend helps you create email campaigns, push notifications, and SMS messages that drive sales.
Best for: I think it’s the best email service provider for eCommerce store owners.
Drip was designed for eCommerce with advanced automation features that allow you to personalize your customer purchase journeys.
Best for: I think it’s the best email service provider for bloggers and digital content creators.
Built specifically for bloggers and creatives, ConvertKit makes it easy to build and nurture your audience. With its intuitive interface and powerful automation capabilities, ConvertKit helps you deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. You can even use ConvertKit to sell simple digital products straight from the ESP dashboard.
Best for: I think it’s the best free email service provider for small businesses, bloggers, and startups on a budget.
MailerLite is a user-friendly email service provider helps small businesses start using email marketing fast. They have a generous free plan and their paid upgrades are affordable.
Best for: It’s the most popular email service provider, best for almost all types of businesses and content creators.
Mailchimp has been a go-to email service provider for small businesses for years. Mailchimp allows you to create email campaigns, automate your marketing efforts, and analyze your results.
Once you pick an ESP, the next step is to create your first optin form.
Step 3: Create an Optin Form to Build Your Email List
An optin form is the place where visitors can subscribe to your email list. Optin forms are also known as signup forms or lead generation forms.
Every email marketing service offers basic optin forms, usually a popup and an inline form, with limited customization options. You can extend the functionality of those optin forms with OptinMonster.
Remember earlier I said Inbox Overwhelm is one of the challenges of email marketing? Segmenting your email list by interests is the best way to overcome that challenge. We built OptinMonster for that exact reason! I needed software for WPBeginner.com that would let me treat each of my subscribers as the individual person they are, rather than just one of thousands on an email list, but it didn’t exist at the time.
We offer different styles of forms, including:
- Inline forms embedded within your content
- Popup forms that appear over your main page content
- Widget optin forms in the header, footer, or sidebar of your WordPress site
- Floating bar forms that float over the top or bottom of your site
- Slide-in forms that scroll in from a bottom corner
- Coupon spin wheels and other gamified forms
All this without needing a coder or graphic designer, too.
Not only is it easy to create optin forms, we make sure that your forms show up in front of the right audience at the right time. With OptinMonster you can…
- catch abandoning visitors before they leave
- target users by the page they’re visiting
- generate leads based based on geographic location
- and much more!
We built the tool we needed to grow an email marketing list the right way. Try OptinMonster today see for yourself!
Enough about OptinMonster – let’s move on to what you’ll send after someone subscribes to your email list.
Step 4: Select the Type of Email Marketing Campaign To Send
Every email marketing service provider comes with an email editor you can use to send emails to your subscribers. I’ve outlined seven types of email marketing campaigns you can send below. I use all of these throughout my businesses.
I’ve also included links to more in depth examples of each type of email marketing campaign in case you want to dive deep.
1. Welcome Emails
Send welcome emails to new subscribers or customers as soon as they join your list. Use these emails to introduce your business and thank the reader for engaging with your brand. All this helps begin the relationship with your brand on a positive note.
This is an example of the first few paragraphs of the welcome email we send ourselves here at OptinMonster:
It includes a personal welcome from my co-founder, Thomas Griffin. It also includes links to documentation and directions for how to reach support. Likewise, your Welcome email should include the most important next steps a new subscriber should take after joining your list.
To learn more about how to write the perfect welcome email, check out the video below.
2. Newsletter Emails
Newsletter emails are regular communications sent to subscribers. Newsletter contain news, updates, tips, promotions, or curated information related to your business or industry. The goal of an email newsletter is to keep your audience engaged.
Here are some newsletter ideas you can use for your own list.
3. Lead Nurturing Emails
Lead nurturing emails are sent to potential customers who have shown interest in your offer, but haven’t bought yet. The goal is to build trust, educate, and overcome objections. Ultimately, you want to guide leads towards making a purchase decision.
Learn how to nurture leads with an email marketing funnel.
4. Promotional Emails
Promotional emails highlight new products, sales, or special events from your business. They create a sense of urgency and encourage recipients to take advantage of the promotion. You can send these one campaign at a time or automate a whole series of promotional emails.
Check out these promotional email examples if you need some ideas.
5. Seasonal Marketing Emails
Seasonal marketing emails include special offers, promotions, or content tailored to a holiday or season. The aim is to use the festive spirit to increase urgency and engagement.
6. Transactional Emails
Specific actions or events trigger transactional emails. Customers might receive transactional emails for account updates, shipping notifications, or password resets. They provide information related to the transaction and ensure a smooth customer experience.
Learn more about how to write transactional emails that can grow your business.
7. Confirmation Emails
Confirmation emails verify or confirm an action taken by the recipient. You can send confirmations for subscribing to a newsletter, registering for an event, or buying a product. Confirmation emails typically contain details of the action. They may also provide other instructions or information.
Read about best practices and examples of outstanding confirmation emails.
No matter what type of email campaign you choose to send, there are a four important elements of an email campaign you should include.
1. Subject Line and Pre-header Text
This subject line appears first in your subscriber’s inbox and should give the reader a reason to open the email.
The pre-header text sometimes appears next to the subject line in the subscriber’s inbox. It is shown even before the reader opens the email, and is another opportunity for you to persuade your reader to open the email.
Most email marketing services provide a selection of ready-to-use, easily customizable templates. Or, you can choose a plain-text template if you’d like your email to appear more like it came from a single person, rather than a brand. We often use plain-text emails at OptinMonster to build relationships with our readers.
3. Call to Action (CTA)
Every email should share an action you’d like your reader to take after reading your email, called a “Call To Action” or “CTA.”
Some common CTAs include:
- Make a purchase
- Download a freebie
- Read a blog post
- Follow your brand on social media
- Forward this email to a friend
A good Call To Action can often make or break the success of an individual email. We teach how to create the perfect call to action in OptinMonster University (free with any OptinMonster subscription).
4. Subscription Management
At the bottom of every email, you should have a link to unsubscribe. Email marketing is a consent-based channel. It’s better to let uninterested subscribers leave your list than risk them sending your emails to the spam folder.
One way to reduce unsubscribe rates is to also include a link where people can manage their own subscriptions. Giving them a way to opt out of certain topics or hear from you less often shows that you value their experience.
This brings us to the last step in our guide: monitoring your progress.
5. Track Email Marketing Metrics
After sending your email, track and analyze key email metrics such as:
- Open rate: how many subscribers opened the email
- Click-through rates: how many subscribers clicked links in the email
- Conversion rate: how many subscribers made a purchase, filled out a form, or did some other conversion you want to track
- Unsubscribe rates: how many subscribers unsubscribed from an email
- Deliverability rate: how many subscribers received your email in their main inbox
Use this data to refine your future email campaigns and optimize your strategies.
I also recommend that you regularly clean your email list. Removing invalid or inactive email addresses improves deliverability. Keeping your list clean also ensures that you’re targeting an engaged audience.
Now that you know how to do email marketing, let’s take a look at some common challenges you might face and how to overcome them. I’m sharing these to help you not make the same mistakes I’ve made over the years.
5 Biggest Email Marketing Challenges (And How to Solve Them)
Effective email marketing is relatively simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are a lot of different factors involved and, unfortunately, writing good emails isn’t always enough.
We have a full list of email marketing best practices you can read for more detail, but here are some of the most common challenges you might encounter, along with the solutions I used myself.
1. How to Build an Email List?
The first challenge is needing people to send emails to in the first place. Fortunately, this is perhaps the easiest problem to solve!
Even if you have no subscribers, you can build an email list from scratch with email signup forms on your website.
Solution: To get more signups, make sure that visitors clearly understand the benefits of joining your list.
- Adjust your call to action to focus on the benefits, such as “Get your free guide now!”
- Use social proof by showing off how many people have already signed up for your list.
- Add your optin forms to these high-converting places for email signups for best results.
- Take inspiration from high-performing email signup forms.
2. How to Ensure Emails are Delivered?
If getting people on your list is the FIRST challenge, making sure the emails you’re sending actually land in their inbox is the hardest. Average deliverability rates hover around 81%, which means up to 20% of your emails may never even make it to your subscriber’s email client! This is especially relevant with Gmail’s updated requirements for bulk sending in 2024.
Solution: Follow email deliverability best practices to make sure your emails make it into the right inbox.
- Avoid spammy words that trigger spam filters. These might include words like “click,” “free,” “trial,” “cost,” “cheap,” “prize,” or unusual capitalization and punctuation.
- Clean your email list regularly to remove inactive subscribers.
- Segment your emails so that subscribers get content they actually care about.
- Provide ways for users to manage their own subscriptions instead of unsubscribing or reporting as spam.
- Ensure you’re following Gmail’s advice for bulk sending.
I highly encourage you to review the email deliverability best practices above. It’s a painful feeling to find out your hard-work crafting the perfect email was wasted when your emails didn’t land in the inbox (trust me, I learned this lesson the hard way!)
3. How to Improve Email Open Rates?
The average open rate for emails is around 21%. There are plenty of ways that you can improve your email open rates.
Solution: Write and send high-quality emails. Everything from the email subject line to the email template design should be a valuable, pleasant experience for subscribers. If you can convince them to open one email, they’ll be more likely to open future emails.
- Make your subject line exciting and informative enough for people to click on. Remember that the job of the subject line is to get readers interested enough to open the email.
- Keep your subject line length short and easy to understand.
- Use preview text to provide extra insight into what’s in your email content.
- Improve your email copy by thinking back to your goal-setting. What information, skills, or products do your customers need to solve their problems? Deliver content that helps address those issues.
- Optimize your email design, especially for mobile devices. Use visuals wisely and make sure they show up well on different screen sizes. You can also make mobile optins that show up well on smaller device sizes.
4. How to Boost Email Conversion Rates?
Let’s say you’re getting a healthy number of signups. Subscribers are receiving and opening your emails. But no one is clicking or buying.
You aren’t alone. The average email conversion rate in a study by Klaviyo ranged from just 0.1% to over 3%.
Solution: Improve your conversion rates by tuning into what your audience needs and wants.
- List segmentation means dividing your list into different groups. You can then send each group more targeted messaging that should improve your conversion rates. Learn about different ways to segment your email list and see what works best for your business.
- Personalized email content goes beyond saying, “Hey, FIRST NAME!” You could send product recommendations based on past purchases. Other personalization techniques include sending location-specific offers or content based on demographics. When subscribers receive personalized emails, customer loyalty is likely to increase.
- A/B testing your email newsletters can help you find the most effective subject lines, content, email templates, and CTAs. Many email service providers have split testing functionality built in.
5. How to Scale Email Marketing?
So what if your email marketing strategy is working pretty well, but takes more time than you have?
Creating personalized content for a few segments is one thing. But as you add more subscribers, offers, and promotions, your email marketing will get more complex. Fortunately, we have strategies and resources to help you scale.
Solution: Work smarter, not harder. Build on what already works in your own email marketing or strategies that others have proven.
- Add or expand email automation. For example, you could set up an abandoned cart email series that encourages shoppers to finish their purchases. There are plenty of email marketing automation tools to make this easier. Check out our complete guide to eCommerce email marketing automation for more information.
- Use templates, examples, and best practices. Use these email marketing templates, copywriting templates and formulas, and best sales email subject lines for inspiration.
Frequently Asked Questions About Email Marketing (FAQs)
When is the best time to send a marketing email?
The best time to send a marketing email is between 9 AM to 12 PM on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to a HubSpot study. Test different times to find when your audience is most active and engaged. I’ve found these times to be true for our companies, too.
What is a good open rate for email marketing?
A good open rate is between 15% and 25%, but it varies by industry. Focus on improving engagement and personalization. I like to tell people a good open rate is the one that’s better than the one you’re getting now – there is always room to improve!
How often should I send marketing emails?
Send emails at a consistent frequency without overwhelming subscribers. Start with once a week or bi-weekly and adjust the timing and number of emails based on feedback and engagement metrics.
What email metrics should I track?
Track open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates. You should also track deliverability, spam complaints, and list growth rate.
What is the difference between single opt-in and double opt-in?
Single opt-in immediately adds subscribers to the list. Double opt-in requires confirmation via a verification email. Double opt-in ensures higher quality but may result in fewer subscribers. Consider your business goals, customer preferences, and local regulations such as GDPR.
Email Marketing Case Studies
Now you have all the knowledge you need to use email to grow your business! I’ve gone over:
- basic email marketing vocabulary and definitions
- different email marketing platforms you can use
- a step-by-step guide for how to do email marketing
- pro tips to take your email marketing to the next level
Email marketing isn’t something you set and forget, even with the power of automated workflows. You always want to be testing and refining your strategy. So I recommend bookmarking this page so you can come back later whenever you need to explore the resources I’ve shared.
I want to leave you with some encouraging case studies of companies just like yours who grew their email lists using the principles shared in this Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing. They have been nice enough to share their entire strategy, complete with screenshots of their email optins, and data about how they improved. You’ll learn how you make money from email marketing in every case study.
- How Nick Gray Increased Conversions by up to 1000% With Smart Opt-in Popups
- How PortraitFlip Converts Over 3% of Its Mobile Traffic into Leads
- How Medstar Media Increased Their Clients’ Conversions by 500%
There’s a lot of money to be made with email marketing. Whether you’re a blogger, affiliate marketer, an eCommerce store, or an online business, I and my team here at OptinMonster are here to help you win every step of the way.
Best wishes for your success,
Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.