Inbound Marketing Basics: The Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing

By Jennifer Andrews. November 23, 2021.

Topics: Email Marketing

You may be under the impression that email marketing isn't effective anymore. But the truth is, email is still one of the most effective and least expensive forms of online marketing. Here are a few key things to know about email marketing today. 


Advantages of Email Marketing

Email marketing is a favorite tactic of so many companies because it works! Here's a look at some of the primary benefits. 

Email Marketing Offers Low Cost, High Value

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective online marketing strategies. Several email tools are virtually free to start. 

Cost structures for email services are typically based on the number of subscribers in your database. You maintain ownership of the subscriber database in most cases. So, your investment in growing your list is not lost if you cancel the service. 

Conversion Funnels Improve Email Marketing Outcomes

What is a conversion funnel? Central to inbound marketing, a conversion funnel is the path that your customers and prospects take as they transition from a website visitor, to a prospect or lead, to a customer. A conversion funnel includes email marketing as a means to keep your contacts and prospects engaged, and to nudge them to the next step in their customer journey. 

When you understand the "customer journey," you can optimize your marketing strategy to create more conversions. Many businesses use conversion funnels in tandem with email campaigns with great success. 

Use Email Workflows to Automate Sales 

As a consumer, you have likely received an email from an online vendor with a message saying "did you forget something?" with a product you recently searched for - and did not purchase from that vendor. That kind of customized email can be very effective in converting browsers to buyers. 

Customer management tools like Hubspot offer a robust platform for creating and optimizing email workflows that generate conversions automatically. So, with a relatively small investment of time, you can create automated processes that pay off richly over time. 

Best Practices: Use an Email Service

There is a long list of particulars that you'll want to follow when starting a new email campaign. But you don't have to be a technical wizard to get it right. 

Email tools like MailChimp will help you stay current on most of the technical side of email best practices, so you don't have to. 

For example, MailChimp has simple plugins to help keep your emails compliant with SPAM laws (like unsubscribe protocols). It also warns you about subject lines that might catch a spam filter, too long or too short subject lengths, among other tips. MailChimp also lets you preview your emails in multiple environments (browsers, email programs, etc.) so you can see how your emails look in your customer's email boxes. A paid plan will even recommend the best time of day to send your email for the highest engagement. 

A tool like MailChimp or a similar service is highly recommended for an email beginner for all the aforementioned reasons. 

Now that all probably sounded like an advertisement for MailChimp, but we totally understand if you want to do this yourself! One alternative is to hire an agency that can handle both the technical elements, the blast scheduling, and design on your behalf. 

If you want to handle it all from your own mail server and you have some technical savvy, here are a few best practices for email blasts to follow. 

Great Content for Email Marketing

With few exceptions, the best emails are short and to the point. Your email should always include a call to action that encourages engagement with your brand. If you are trying to sell a product, add a new follower or subscriber, or offer information that establishes you as an industry leader - make it clear to the reader with your call to action.  

  • Email text should be short (under 200 words)
  • Test subject lines and reuse those with the highest engagement
  • Include a Call to Action (product link, phone number, download link, contact form)
  • Use branded graphics over generic stock photography
  • Use a template or design each with a branded look and feel 
  • Offer a value add (a download, link for more information)

Here are some more tips on developing enticing content.

To Personalize or Not to Personalize?

Personalization can be a powerful tool for improving conversion rates from an email campaign. There is an art to using personalization effectively. The critical component to using it well is to have data and to test and optimize your strategy.

If you have good customer data, you should take advantage of it when you can. If your data is not reliable, using personalization can lower conversion rates. 

More about email personalization and conversions here.

Metrics to Track

There are several metrics you can track to measure the success of your email campaigns. The most commonly tracked metrics are the following:

  • Opens
  • Clicks
  • Forwards
  • Bounce Rate
  • New Subscribers
  • Unsubscribes

Your email blast tool (ex. MailChimp) or CMS (ex. Hubspot) will provide you with metrics that will help gauge whether your message was on target for your list. Good signs that your message is working are if your email was opened, clicked, or forwarded.

Unsubscribes are a sign that either your messaging needs tweaking - or you may be blasting too frequently. Most of this is just common sense, but tools like Mailchimp can offer typical open rates by some broad industries - and you can find additional information in niche markets in many reliable places online. 

Some CMS tools will also allow you to track specific engagements on your website, like completing an online form, cart addition, or converted sale. This advanced tracking is undoubtedly more valuable information, but some programming is required to do it correctly. 

Verified subscribers should improve your engagement numbers - simply because we know they are actual people. You may have an email list with some old or potentially 'fake' email addresses - say, from a form on your website that does not require validation. In that case, you can use NeverBounce or another online validation tool to get your list in line before sending your email blast. 

Helpful Tools for Email Marketing

  • MailChimp (templates, distribution, conversion funnels)
  • Constant Contact (templates, distribution, conversion funnels)
  • NeverBounce (validates email addresses)
  • Kickbox (validates email addresses)
  • Hubspot (ROBUST funnel tracking and customer management)

Now you've got the tools you need to get started putting together an email campaign! If you need a little more help growing your email strategy, get our email marketing checklist.

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Jennifer Andrews
Jennifer Andrews
Jennifer is an online marketer with over 20 years of experience. Her greatest satisfaction is helping new businesses blossom online. A dog lover, Jennifer also accepts some cats--so long as they are doglike. She listens to short podcasts, old music, and non-fiction audiobooks. Jennifer loves remote work because it allows her to travel (and get her laundry done during the workday.)


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