Email marketing is a strategy where businesses create and send email campaigns to their contact lists. It’s one of the most effective and low-cost marketing strategies, especially for businesses looking to leverage their contact list. Businesses typically create email marketing campaigns to generate and nurture leads, share news and content, and promote products and services.
How Email Marketing Works
Businesses use email marketing to engage with their leads and customers. While it’s important to create a strategy based on your specific marketing goals, email is a relatively easy to use and cost-effective marketing channel. It gives businesses a way to directly reach their audience with messages tailored to speak to that audience, thus helping to achieve a specific marketing objective.
To create an effective email campaign, businesses need to first have a sizeable contact list. This is generally a combination of leads and existing customers that are collected in a number of ways, like lead magnets on your website or paid ads. Then, determine the marketing goal of your campaign and segment your list to suit this goal. In other words, break your contact list into groups based on shared characteristics, such as location, buying behavior, or interests.
The next step is to choose an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp or HubSpot, to facilitate your campaign. Upload your contact list to the platform of your choice, and begin creating your new email campaign. Design a series of emails to automatically send to your segmented list based on the amount of time passed (e.g., every seven days) or by actions (e.g., recipients who click a link vs those who do not). Finally, launch, monitor, test, and optimize it.
How to Use Email Marketing in 6 Steps
Businesses use email marketing to reach a variety of goals depending on their overall marketing strategy. The first step is to build a contact list. Then, determine the goal or objective of your email campaign, and segment your list. Next, outline your email campaign, then design it with email messaging and media. Finally, deploy, monitor, and optimize your email campaign.
Here’s how to use email marketing in six steps:
1. Build Your Contact List
The first step to using email marketing is building a contact list. Your contact list should consist of both existing customers and prospective customers who fit your target audience. There are a number of ways to build a contact list, such as loyalty programs, lead magnets, and opt-in forms on your website, giveaways over social media, paid search ads, attending expos and conferences, and hosting an event or webinar.
Here are nine ways to build an email list:
- Your website: Websites present vast opportunities to collect leads and contact information. For example, an online store might have an opt-in option upon checkout for customers to sign up to receive emails, whereas a consulting or services business might have call to action buttons where site visitors can sign up for a free trial or consultation.
- Organic social: Many social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer options specifically for businesses, such as the ability to add a call to action button in addition to using it to publicize promotions and publish content designed to be shared. Businesses may also use Facebook Groups to create a community of your target audience, which serves as another medium for reaching your audience.
- Paid social: Businesses without a social media presence may find paid social ads to be a good way to reach a large number of people within their target audience and build a contact list. For example, Facebook offers lead generation ads, which are designed to help businesses generate leads.
- Paid search: Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platforms such as Google Ads and Microsoft Ads provide an opportunity for businesses to reach a large audience and generate leads. To do this, businesses set up ad campaigns through the advertising platform with ads linked to a landing page that is designed to collect user information.
- Loyalty programs: Loyalty programs not only help businesses drive repeat sales, but they are also a great way to build a contact list of hot leads.
- Giveaways: Brick-and-mortar businesses can easily promote in-store giveaways, and those with a social presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can leverage those followers by offering giveaways. Generally, businesses require that people submit basic contact information such as their name and email address to enter, as well as to share the giveaway with a certain number of friends.
- Gated content: Many businesses will offer gated content, such as an e-book or downloadable content, that requires users to submit their information in order to access the material. To do this, businesses must offer something that is valuable to their target audience.
- Attend expos and events: A traditional way to build a contact list is by attending events such as expos and conferences within your field or industry. It gives businesses a good deal of exposure to their target audience and a way to build relationships with prospective customers face to face.
- Offer webinars: Businesses can create and host their own webinars for customers and prospective customers, which typically requires users to sign up in advance with their name and contact information.
Every business will approach lead generation and contact list building differently depending on their unique offerings, market, audience, and goals. Businesses should consider who their target audience is, where they are, and what is of interest or value to them when choosing strategies to collect contact information. You should also check out our guide to building an email list.
2. Determine Your Marketing Goal
With a contact list built, the next step is to determine the goal of your email marketing campaign. Every campaign should have a specific purpose and goal, and as you select your overall campaign goal, consider whether you are accomplishing that purpose. For example, for some businesses, it may be to generate sales from abandoned carts or to stay top of mind. In other cases, it may be to nurture leads who visited your site for the first time.
Here are five examples of common email marketing goals:
- Stay top of mind
- Convert warm leads
- Drive repeat sales
- Generate reviews
- Promote new products or services
Select one marketing goal for your email campaign. If you have multiple objectives, create multiple campaigns—each designed to serve their own purpose. Having a defined objective keeps campaigns on track to reach their goals by enabling businesses to target certain contacts with messaging tailored to resonate with that specific group or audience.
3. Segment Your Contact List
After pinpointing your campaign’s goal, segment your contact list. Segmenting your contact list is breaking it out into smaller groups of people with shared characteristics. It is crucial in email marketing and can drastically increase your click rate, conversion rate, and return on investment. To segment your contact list, consider your campaign’s goal and who your ideal contacts are for that goal, then pool all of your contacts who best fit that customer profile.
Here are five common ways to segment a contact list:
- Demographics: Segment users by demographics such as age, location, gender, education, job title, or industry. For example, an auto manufacturer looking to promote its new line of SUVs would likely want to target users who are based in climates or areas that have a need for all-wheel drive, such as places that get snow during the winter.
- Interests, values, and motivators: Businesses may segment contact lists by interests, values, and motivators. For example, a cleaning company is developing an email campaign to promote its new initiatives to use eco-friendly supplies. It has two main client types (residential and commercial), so it segments its audience and creates a campaign designed for residential clients and a campaign for commercial clients.
- Buying behavior: Consider segmenting by buying behavior, looking at how recently users made a purchase, how frequently they buy from you, or the average value of their purchases.
- Stage in the sales funnel: Most businesses have a number of different stages in the sales funnel, and segmenting by this stage will help you create better campaigns that resonate with your audience, which means more effectively reaching your email marketing goal.
- Referral source: Another common way to segment a contact list is by using referral sources. Break out a contact list by grouping people by how they found you, whether that be from search engines, paid ads, or social media.
Segmenting your contact list should enable you to create a group of contacts with a shared characteristic or quality. This gives you a better way to understand who you are speaking to in your email campaigns and create emails that resonate with that audience.
4. Map Your Customer Journey
Once you know exactly who you are looking to reach, create an outline of your campaign that maps your customer journey. This involves sending multiple emails to your segmented audience over a period of time. The number of emails in your campaign will vary based on your goal and how difficult it is to achieve. Keep in mind that each email should correspond to the phase in the customer journey.
Design a Flowchart
Start by creating a list of all the emails you want to send as part of your campaign, and then create a flowchart to determine when to send each message. For example, a business looking to recover an abandoned cart may have three emails in the campaign, but if a contact completes their purchase after the first email, then they should not receive more emails about it.
Pro tip: Using marketing automation software like HubSpot lets you visually map out your email campaign with drag-and-drop ease. This makes it easier to map out your email campaign as well as add the ability to trigger emails based on user interactions and data, such as open rates, clicks, or conversions.
Determine Send Frequency
The next step is to decide how often you want to send the emails in your campaign. While you don’t want to wait so long between emails that leads and contacts go cold, you also don’t want to send emails so frequently that your contacts find you intrusive and spammy. Consider your target audience and their expectations, but if you’re unsure how often is too often, a weekly email is generally safe. Also, the length between emails may vary based on email content.
Send frequency will vary from business to business, based on each business’ unique target audience and what type of content they’re promoting. For insight, the average business sends two to three emails per month, though some send two to three emails per week, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
5. Design Your Email Campaign
With an outline of your email campaign, you are ready to begin designing your emails. This involves first choosing how you plan to deploy your email marketing campaign, such as manually (not recommended) or using an email marketing tool, such as email marketing software or customer relationship management software that allows you to send a drip campaign. After selecting which platform you want to use, write your email messages and design visuals.
Choose an Email Marketing Platform
While it’s possible to create email campaigns manually, businesses should take advantage of the tools and resources available through email marketing platforms that make it quick and easy for almost anyone to build, schedule, and monitor campaigns. There are a number of great email marketing platforms available, each with varying features, such as Mailchimp and HubSpot. Compare top providers and choose the best email marketing software for your business.
Create Email Messaging
No matter which email marketing platform you choose, most allow you to select a template and begin composing the message for your emails. Ideally, you want to keep the amount of copy within the email brief. This is because the more you write, the less of it people will read. By being concise and to the point, your message will reach more of your readers. Also, the more personalized you can be with your messages, the better.
Create Visual Elements
Back your email messaging with visual content such as images and videos, when possible. Email marketing platforms make it easy to embed these types of media within emails, though most do not include a way to design graphics within the platform. An easy way to do this is through Canva, which is designed to make it easy to create professional-looking graphics without graphic design experience.
6. Build, Launch & Optimize Your Email Campaign
Each email marketing platform involves different steps to schedule and deploy an email campaign. However, most work in a similar manner, in that as you design each email in your campaign, you will be prompted to select settings that indicate when the email should be sent and who it should be sent to. This allows you to set up automation through your chosen platform, launch or schedule your campaign, monitor it, and, in time, test and optimize it.
Build Your Email Campaign
Navigate to the email marketing platform of your choice and begin the new email campaign creation process. We’ll use Mailchimp because it’s one of the leading email marketing platforms that offer a free plan. In Mailchimp, click “Create” from the upper left-hand menu and select “Email.” Follow the prompts to select your email campaign type and campaign name. Input your email graphics, add your messaging, and customize the design and layout.
Launch Your Campaign
As you create your email campaign within your email marketing platform, you will be prompted to input settings such as email schedules and automation. Follow the prompts on the platform of your choice to finish your email campaign setup. When finished, launch or schedule your campaign to launch on a specific date.
Monitor Email Data & User Activity
After deploying your campaign, begin monitoring it to see how your contact list is interacting with it. You should be able to view email analytics such as bounce rate (how many messages do not get sent), open rate (how many get opened), number of clicks (how many users clicked a link within your email), and the number of conversions (how many users performed a certain action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a webinar).
Test & Optimize Email
When your email campaign has sent all of the emails it contained to its recipients, analyze your data to find areas to improve. For example, if you want to increase open rates, work on creating more enticing email subject lines, or if you want to increase conversion rates, try using an offer that is more valuable to your recipients. By discovering the weak points of your campaign, you can optimize and improve it over time.
Reasons Businesses Should Use Email Marketing
Email campaigns are a tried-and-true marketing tool that remains one of the most effective strategies for nearly all business types, and particularly business-to-business (B2B) businesses. Email is not only an easy-to-use marketing channel, but it’s also a highly affordable strategy that can be used to reach a variety of goals, including generating and fostering leads, sharing news and content to stay top of mind, and marketing products or services.
Here are seven reasons your business should use email marketing:
- Affordable: Email marketing is a very affordable form of marketing. Most businesses choose to use an email marketing platform, many of which offer limited free plans or low-cost plans averaging between $10 and $50 per month.
- Easy to use: Email marketing software systems make it very easy to design emails without any special design expertise, schedule campaigns to send emails automatically, develop A/B test campaigns, and monitor email interactions and user data.
- Effective: Despite being both affordable—and often free—as well as easy to use, email marketing is also effective. Nearly 60% of B2B marketers say email marketing is their most effective marketing channel for generating revenue, according to WordStream.
- Foster relationships: Businesses can use email marketing to foster relationships with existing customers and to stay top of mind. This helps drive repeat sales for businesses as it serves as reminder advertising.
- Nurture leads: Email campaigns are a great sales tool to help businesses convert leads by using email as a way to drive leads through your sales funnel and stay top of mind. For example, an online store could create an email campaign for contacts who abandoned their shopping cart to remind them to make the purchase.
- Share news and content: A good way to share news and published content, such as blog posts, is through email marketing. It keeps your leads and existing customers in the know with what’s going on, from new products and services to promoting blog content, so it reaches a wider audience and gets more views.
- Market products or services: Email marketing gives businesses a direct way to market products and services to their contact list. Unlike ads that may or may not reach a target audience, email campaigns land in your contacts’ inbox. It’s a good way for businesses to share exclusive discounts and promotions as well as information about products and services.
Email marketing has a range of benefits that make it a good tool for nearly any business type or size. It gives businesses an easy, affordable, and effective way of directly contacting leads and customers to foster relationships, drive leads through the sales funnel, increase readership of blog posts, share announcements, and market products or services.
Email Marketing Statistics Every Business Needs to Know
Many businesses overlook email marketing for more modern marketing channels, though those that fail to create email campaigns are missing a big opportunity to foster leads and drive sales. To prove this, we went through all of the data to find the 10 email marketing stats that every small business should know, from the average return on every dollar invested to how influential email is at acquiring and retaining customers.
Here are 10 email marketing statistics every business needs to know:
According to research by Oberlo, email marketing campaigns have a high return on investment (ROI), with an average return of around $32 for every dollar spent. This illustrates how cost-effective email marketing is, with a low investment yielding a high return.
A study from Constant Contact found that 80% of professionals polled said that email marketing helps them acquire more customers as well as increase their customer retention rate, helping to show that email can be used to drive leads through the sales funnel and stay top of mind.
Email remains one of the best ways to digitally reach your audience—even better than Facebook. According to Forrester, you are twice as likely to get people to sign up for your email list than you are to get them to interact with you on Facebook.
A study from HubSpot found that around 59% of people polled said that their buying decisions are influenced by email marketing. This shows an immense opportunity to generate sales that those who aren’t using email marketing are missing out on.
According to Smart Insights, email marketing has a higher conversion rate than social and search combined. On top of that, email marketing often requires less time than organic social and generally costs less than paid search and social.
While no one likes their inbox to be filled with spam, not all emails are so pesky. Surprisingly, 61% of people polled said that they enjoy receiving a weekly email from businesses with promotions and offers, according to a study from Marketing Sherpa. What’s more, according to the same study, nearly 40% said they would be happy to receive a couple of emails per week from brands they like.
Businesses that segment their email campaigns tend to see a much higher return on investment— as high as 760%, according to a study by HubSpot. This is because segmented email lists, or those broken out by audiences, are more effective at reaching the right people, at the right time.
One of the most effective ways for ecommerce businesses to recover abandoned carts is through emails sent after you leave something in your shopping cart without making a purchase. However, it’s not only sending one follow-up email. The most effective strategy is to send three follow-up emails. Statistically, sending three results in nearly 70% more orders than a single follow-up email, according to Omnisend.
One effective way to drive more clicks from emails is by using videos. On average, emails that include a video get 300% more clicks than those that do not, according to Martech Advisors. Combine a great video with a quality landing page to generate leads and sales.
People check their email multiple times per day, which equates to an average of 2.5 hours checking emails, according to a study by Adobe, which sought to find how much time white-collar professionals spend on email per day. That’s 2.5 hours per day businesses have to reach their audience.
Email Marketing Costs
Email marketing is an affordable strategy for small businesses because of the availability of low-cost or even free software tools. There are three primary costs associated with email marketing: expenses associated with designing email graphics ($0 to $100 and higher per project), using an email marketing software ($0 to $50 per month), and using a fully managed email marketing service ($200 and higher per month).
Here are the three primary costs associated with email marketing:
- Design: Expenses related to graphic design vary depending on whether you are creating your own graphics or outsourcing your project to a professional. Those with graphic design experience may use programs such as Photoshop or InDesign for around $10 to $30 per month. Those without graphic design experience can use Canva, and those who want to leave it to a pro may hire a freelancer for as little as $5 with Fiverr.
- Email marketing software: Platforms such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and HubSpot make it easy for businesses to create, deploy, and manage email marketing campaigns in one place. While costs vary by provider, many offer free plans as well as premium plans for around $10 to $25 per month.
- Managed services: Those who lack the time or expertise to create an email marketing campaign in-house may opt to outsource their campaigns to a fully managed email marketing service, such as those available from Lyfe Marketing. The cost will vary by provider and services rendered, from around $100 to over $500 per month.
The average small business will find email marketing to be an affordable marketing channel, with an average expense per month anywhere from $0 to $100 to create their own email campaigns using online tools and platforms. While many small businesses prefer the most affordable option, in some cases it’s worth considering a managed service for those struggling to reach their marketing goals and to get a higher return on investment.
3 Types of Email Marketing Tools
There are three main types of email marketing tools available to help businesses more effectively and strategically use email to grow: email marketing software systems, customer relationship management (CRM) software systems, and full-service email marketing management services. The type that is best for you will depend on your unique needs, budget, and goals.
Here are the three primary types of email marketing tools:
1. Email Marketing & Automation Software
Email marketing software is designed to give businesses an easy way to build, execute, and manage email marketing campaigns. These platforms generally include the features a business needs to use email marketing, such as contact list management, email design, automation, A/B testing, and user analytics. There are many different platforms available, each with varying pricing, though many offer a free plan and low-cost plans for as little as around $10 per month.
Here are three of the top email marketing software providers:
- Mailchimp: Often considered the leading email marketing platform, Mailchimp is a very easy to use and equally comprehensive tool for sending email campaigns. What’s more, its pricing is based on the volume of emails sent, making it an affordable platform to scale with. It offers a free plan for those sending up to 2,000 emails per month and premium plans start at $9.99 per month.
- Constant Contact: Another popular email marketing platform for small businesses is Constant Contact, which offers a robust email marketing platform with pricing based on the number of subscribers a business has. It stands out for its volume of high-quality email templates and customer support. Plans start at $20 per month.
- Drip: One of the best email marketing platforms for those who sell online is Drip. It offers unique, ecommerce-specific features and tools such as buyer intent and preferred products. Pricing is based on the number of subscribers you have and includes unlimited emails. It’s free for up to 100 subscribers, and premium plans start at $49 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers.
2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a type of platform designed to give businesses a way to manage contacts and foster connections, including through email marketing tools. CRMs provide an all-in-one solution, so those looking to manage contacts for sales purposes and use email marketing will find CRMs are a good solution. The top platforms include HubSpot, Freshsales, and Zoho, with costs from $0 to over $100 per month.
Here are three of the top CRM software providers for email marketing:
- HubSpot: HubSpot is considered by many to be one of the best overall CRMs, especially for marketers, due to its combination of ease of use and comprehensive features. It’s also an affordable CRM that offers a free plan as well as premium plans starting at $50 per month.
- Freshsales: Freshsales is a robust CRM platform with affordable plans for sending mass emails. There is a free version available, but it doesn’t include email marketing tools. With its plans starting at $12 per month, users can send up to 200 emails per day to contacts in addition to using its deal management and sales pipeline.
- Zoho CRM: Zoho is an all-in-one small business CRM that includes contact, lead, and order management, on top of an email marketing platform. Plans are available for free, although for email marketing tools, you will need to select a premium plan that starts at $12 per month and includes up to 250 bulk emails per day.
3. Full-service Email Marketing Management
Full-service email marketing services are available to those who want to outsource their email marketing campaigns to the experts. Agencies will strategize, design, manage, and optimize campaigns, yielding a higher return on investment with higher conversion rates. This service is typically available from marketing agencies, and pricing varies by provider and services rendered.
Here are three of the top full-service email marketing management service providers:
- Lyfe Marketing: Lyfe Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency that offers email marketing services, including email marketing strategy, building your contact list, designing your email campaigns, managing your contact list, and providing detailed monthly reports. Pricing starts at $300 per month and increases depending upon which services you choose.
- InboxArmy: InboxArmy is a full-service email marketing agency that provides expert email marketing services such as content creation, campaign development, deployment, A/B testing, reporting, and dedicated account management. Pricing starts at $450 per month and increases based on services provided.
- Fiverr: Fiverr is a digital marketplace for sourcing professional freelancers. There you can find professionals offering email marketing services from contact list building to design, as well as email audits. Pricing varies by freelancer and services, but range from $5 to over $100.
When choosing which type of email marketing tool or service to use, consider your budget, time available, and marketing expertise. While it can be appealing to opt for the most affordable option, email marketing can be time-consuming and requires a certain degree of marketing knowledge, so some might find using a managed service to be a worthwhile investment.
5 Email Marketing Examples
When designing an email campaign, a good way to get ideas is by looking at examples of existing email marketing campaigns. Look at an email and consider what its overarching goal is and how it works to achieve this. Notice that most emails include a simple graphic with straightforward text and a call to action (CTA) button for recipients to take a certain action that helps the business achieve its goal.
Here are five email marketing examples:
Purpose: Increase site traffic
Purpose: Drive repeat visits
Purpose: Stay top of mind
Purpose: Get feedback and reviews
Purpose: Increase participation in content
Bottom Line: Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective and affordable marketing channel that nearly any business can use to directly connect and engage with their contact list. Email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp and HubSpot enable businesses to easily create professional and strategic automated email campaigns. Every business with a contact list should use email marketing as an avenue for fostering leads and building loyalty among customers.