Successful email marketing made easy: A beginner's guide

Successful email marketing made easy: A beginner's guide

Do people still read emails?

Probably many of you’ll go “I was today years old when I learned this fact,” but the first ever email was sent in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer employed with BBN Technologies as a key member in ARPANET’s development. Incidentally, the iconic ‘@' was also introduced by him as a separator between a user and their email host.

Of course, I bet most of you didn’t even bother to know that fact. And the reason behind that embraced ignorance is the casualness with which we use this service. It’s been five decades since that historic moment and much has happened over these years, more prominently the trend of using instant messaging platforms over email service providers to communicate.

However, emailing is in no way a dying practice, and email marketing certainly is not. No, on the contrary email marketing is a highly effective marketing strategy that business owners depend on, whatever the industry they belong to.

Why you ask? For one, it is a much cheaper exercise than traditional marketing where you’d have to shell out running costs on getting your ads printed. Next, the returns on adopting this strategy are impressively high - $38 for every $1 put in or a 3,800% ROI, if you please. Plus, the fact that at 85% reading emails was the most popular daily internet activity among users in the US according to a 2017 data makes it a more used platform than others, especially for business use.

Emails being read on mobile devices show a higher percentage than on desktops

Some email opening statistics you should know

I believe I may have spiked your interest, even if a little, with those fascinating facts by now. How about taking it a notch higher? Let me share some promising statistics that will have you working on an email marketing campaign once you have finished reading this article.

Just to make it totally clear, an email is considered as being opened when the recipient views the full content by clicking on it or views it partially in the preview page.

Emails sent and received globally from 2017, projection for growth in 2024

Steps in Email Marketing

Now, that I’ve shared the necessary facts and statistics about email marketing that advocate it as an effective marketing strategy, let’s get down to the technical aspect of running a campaign. To run a successful email marketing program, you basically need to follow the following steps:

  1. Developing a relevant email database with opt-ins
  2. Segmenting the database
  3. Designing effective email content
  4. Mass mailing with effectiveness
  5. Measuring the campaign performance
  6. Periodic cleansing of the database

Developing a relevant database

As much as it is generally accepted that an email database owned by a company must be huge, those with experience in this activity will testify that it is actually not quite true. A huge email database actually turns out to be a burden. What is required instead is to develop a relevant email database of a significant size.

And when I say relevant, I mean a list that is relevant to your business and products. For example, if you are selling cartridges for inkjet printers, the relevant audience are those that own inkjet printers at home. All mails going to non-owners will be a waste.

Or, if you have a hotel somewhere, the relevant audience will be those who are planning a trip in that region, not a list of people with a broader travel plan. To make it even simpler, if you have a resort in LA, then mails to those planning a trip outside the US would simply be irrelevant.

The next level of relevance in an audience can be gauged by collecting details like the demographics and certain personal details of the email contact. Details such as age, gender, income, education, city and consumer behavior will clear up things.

Of course, this data may not be available right away or when you need them, which is why building a general database could prove useful. Building an email database or list from scratch can be easy if you follow the right strategy.

Potential sources for an email list

a) Your website - The most accurate data is, of course, those of buyers. In addition, you may scoop email contacts of visitors to your site by offering them product information, newsletters and deals in the future. Email opt-in spaces or forms may be placed on every page. 

b) Online community - Many products and services offer an opportunity to develop small communities led by your brand. These communities provide an opportunity to your customers to exchange views and enhance their skills or knowledge. For example, a furniture store may offer DIY courses, while a beauty products store may offer beauty tips from experts.

Often, these virtual communities expand into physical events and workshops, music concerts, marathons, and so on. Benefits of building an online community go beyond just garnering loyalty and respect for your brand by generating great returns on investment too.

You could even get creative and organize contests, share customer stories and research projects, all of which will enhance customer involvement and generate a decent database for you. 

c) Call centre contacts - Customers who call up helpline and support numbers make these support/call centers another good source of email contacts. Of course, there’s the question of these call centers sharing the database with you. Luckily, you can find many data brokers in the US who are willing to sell consumer and business databases at good prices.

d) Other company sources - Retail stores, demo centers, service centers, participation in exhibitions,  company offices and branches are some other points with which the customers come in contact. These too must be leveraged to generate customer contacts.

e) Joint marketing or co-marketing campaigns - Building joint marketing campaigns with other companies is looked at as a great promotional activity. It can offer you the benefit of leveraging the reach of successful companies to promote your products. This is a critical method to keep an element of variety in your target audience.

f) Buying or renting external lists - This move can be a bit tricky, with many who will even tell you that you shouldn’t consider it. The downside to this method is that you might end up with a list of email contacts, most of which might be either no more in use or irrelevant to your business.

Essentially a blind move, it brings returns only in rare cases. However, there are still many companies that resort to following this method more as a gamble rather than a calculated move. Here’s a look at the disadvantages of buying email lists.

2. Segmenting the database

This can be a challenging step since more often than not the information required to segment the database is not there. Nonetheless, wherever the information you may be able to get your hands on, the email contacts may be segmented on the basis of:

  • Demographics such as age, gender, family stage, education, income, etc.
  • Geographics such as country, region, city, neighborhood, etc.
  • Psychographics such as their lifestyle, personality, values, etc
  • Behavioral, which delves into factors like purchase intent, product expectations, etc

The rest of the contacts may be saved in a general database.

Segmentation marketing, breaking down customers into four basic categoriesSource:

3. Designing result-oriented emails

If I would have to describe in one word something that will guarantee a response from the customer, it is BENEFIT. When the benefit you’re offering through your product is crystal clear and one that is credible, the customer is bound to open the email promoting it (assuming that the subject matter is relevant to the customer during that time frame).

Often marketeers are lost in a jumble of smart messages and overlook the fundamental aspect of you being in business, which is making some sort of contribution at an acceptable price. Ad writers come up with clever campaigns aimed at adding value to a non-contributing product, assuming that the customer will fall for the trick.

An occasional customer may fall for that, but not the vast majority, for they are experienced, rational and evaluating buyers. Customers usually respond best to the following benefits:

  • Attractive price or discount
  • Convincing product features
  • Valuable, educational information or content

Before you approve of any promotional email designed by your marketing team, check its efficacy against the three factors above. Data also shows that email open rate is higher on mobiles than on desktops. Hence, optimizing your email for mobile devices is essential. Click here to read about email design best practices that you should follow.

4. Bulk email advertising

As the name suggests, bulk emailing is the method of sending an email to a significantly big group of email contacts to promote your products or services. It can also be a rewarding strategy when used to share some product update or launch with existing customers to trigger brand loyalty.

Be careful, however, that you’ve set a limit on the number of emails you send out in a week or a month. To maintain the reputation of your brand, it is advisable to use this effective medium sparingly.

The mail should have the offer clearly expressed in 5-8 words in the subject line, while the body must tell the whole story as clearly as possible. Including the recipient’s name in the subject line makes only a slight difference.

You may even hire bulk email services or tools if you have the budget, leaving you with the free time and room to manage your core business activities. Read here for more dos and don’ts of mass email sending.

Mass email marketing tools can help you track who’s opening your emails, who’s reading them
Image Source:

5. Measuring campaign performance

Measuring the performance of your email marketing campaign is not just simple, but highly essential as well. This is what will offer you a clear picture of where your efforts are headed and whether they are yielding any benefits for your business. The following metrics are used for this step:

  • Open rate: Known as open rate, this metric will tell you how many of the emails delivered were opened or previewed by the customers. As a general rule of thumb, the percentage should not be lower than 20-24% on a general database, and not lower than 60% on a relevant database.
  • Click-through rate: Variably known as click rate or click-through rate, it shows how the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link in the email. Calculating the click-through rate may not be so easy for beginners, but you will get the hang of it yet.
    Click here for more on click-through rate formula and other details you should know for your campaign.
  • Bounce rate: Out of all the emails that you send out, the ones that bounce is known as the bounce rate. If the bounce rate is on the high side, which is something above 5%, it would be a good idea to analyze what went wrong and what you should do next.
    Email bounce can be categorized into soft bounce (temporary failure because a full inbox) and hard bounce (permanent failure). Verifying email addresses before sending them out will definitely reduce bounce rate, but when the list is huge it can be a herculean task.
    In such scenarios, you can use email verifier tools and services to save you time and stress. Click here to find out how you can lower email bounce rate.
  • Unsubscribe rate: Over the years we've unsubscribed from so many pesky marketing emails getting in the way of our work that we've literally lost count. On most counts, it’s because the content they share in those emails are no longer interesting or we're not interested in their products or services anymore.
    The percentage of people who unsubscribe from your mailing lists is what is known as unsubscribe rate. On any given day, glancing at a high unsubscribe rate can seem alarming for you and signify a failing campaign.
    However, it doesn’t really matter that much because if your products and services are appreciated, your customers will stay loyal irrespective of whether they stay subscribed or unsubscribed to your emails.

6. Periodic cleaning of the database

This is that step when you should get down to some spring cleaning and clean out bounced email contacts from your database for good. Customers who fail to the open your mails three times in a row should also be taken off your database.

Otherwise, they are likely to find themselves routed to junk or spam folders, which you don’t want. Use double opt-ins from the customers. This means that recipients will confirm that they wish to receive promotional emails from your company.

It is better to deal with such customers since adding those who are not interested in your offers to your database will only lower your open-rate. A high unsubscribe rate can be both a blessing and a warning at the same time.

Blessing because your database is getting automatically cleansed, and a warning because a sizeable chunk of your database could be junk.


Email marketing is one of the marketing strategies that can be really simple and highly profitable at the same time. You’ve seen the numbers and the numbers sure don’t lie, neither do the feedback of business owners who have been using it and reaping great benefits.

Of course, not all businesses have the same line of strategy for their products and services, which is why you should mould this campaign into something that works best for you. Write to our marketing experts if you need a guiding hand to show you how you can make the most of email marketing for your business.

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