What Is Email Marketing: Definition, How to Start Email Marketing, & Email FAQs

With an average return on investment (ROI) of $44 for every $1 spent, it’s no surprise that more businesses are asking, “What is email marketing?” Email marketing uses email to send targeted email messages that build brand awareness, purchase intent, and customer loyalty. On this page, we'll define email marketing and give you all the info you need to know about what email marketing is and how it can grow your business!

Video: Email marketing for beginners

Still confused about what email marketing is?

To learn more about the meaning of email marketing and how it can drive results for your business, check out our video below!

Email marketing FAQs: What is email marketing, how to get started with email, and more!

To get a better understanding of what email marketing is and how it works, let’s look at some frequently asked email marketing questions.

In this section, we’ll give you more info about “What is email marketing?” by answering these FAQs:

  1. How do I launch an email marketing campaign?
  2. How can I increase my number of subscribers?
  3. How do I improve my email marketing strategy?
  4. How does email marketing deliver an ROI?
  5. What are the advantages of email marketing for businesses?
  6. Is email marketing still relevant in 2022?

1. How do I launch an email marketing campaign?

Are you ready to get started with your first or revamped email marketing campaign?

Follow these steps or download our free email marketing checklist:

Get an email marketing platform

To get started email marketing, you’ll need a platform that’ll let you send out hundreds (or thousands) of messages at the same time.

That means minimizing the amount of time you spend creating each message, but not sacrificing quality.

You want great messages going out to your leads and potential customers, so you should have a service that lets you do that easily and quickly.

To start, you need to find your email marketing platform.

The Internet has hundreds of email marketing platforms, all of which claim they can help you earn more than their competitors.

That means the biggest challenge in starting email marketing could be choosing your provider.

Still, 99% of the time these providers offer the same basic services.

  1. Email composition
  2. Some testing services
  3. Automation options

Depending on your provider, you could see a lot of options for these services or only a few.

In fact, some providers don’t offer any options at all — you just take what you get.

This is part of the reason why WebFX got into email marketing.

We think it’s weird that most email marketing users are restricted to a handful of options by their providers.

So we created EmailMarketingFX, email marketing software designed from the ground up to be simple, versatile, and helpful.

We offer it to all of our clients through our email marketing plans, and they can choose to use it themselves or have an account manager create and manage their email blasts and email campaigns.

We think this flexibility is crucial to a company’s success with email marketing because every business is different.

And at the end of the day, you know what’s best for your company.

There’s no fine print, no pulled punches, and no sudden fees.

We just thought the Internet could use a good email marketing supplier.

Create email lists

Now that you have a platform, it’s important that you split your email marketing campaigns into segments.

Segments are collections of email addresses based on a single topic. You can collect email addresses for a segment by creating individual segments similar to the content you have on your site.

Then, when someone’s on one of those pages, they can opt into the corresponding email segment via a form field on your page.

Depending on what you do and what you offer, your business could end up with a handful of segments or dozens.

Still, it’s important to have them. It keeps your marketing organized and it lets you talk to people specifically about how you can help their business.

Or, in the case of a newsletter, it keeps them up-to-date with your industry.

Regardless, you’re sending people information that they want to see.

If you don’t segment your subscriber list, you risk sending unwanted information to your recipients. That’ll make them unsubscribe from you and even dislike your business because they didn’t get the information they wanted.

Speaking of information, you’ll need to create messages to go in these lists before anyone signs up for them.

Create content for your subscribers

The best content for email lists is always relevant to the page where someone signed up to hear from you.

So if you have an email segment that covers how to buy, break in, and use ballet shoes, stick to those topics for your emails.

Likewise, if you have an email segment for banking, investments, and fiduciaries, it’s best to keep your messages to finance issues.

In a nutshell, common sense is your best guide when creating content for email segments.

Some types of campaigns — like newsletters — require you to create new emails on a regular basis. This can take up some time from your week, but it’s a small price to pay to keep potential customers in the know.

Other campaigns — often for sales-related topics — can be set up way ahead of time in a drip email format.

This means you create between three to five messages that are all designed to bring someone back to your site and convert into a paying customer.

If someone doesn’t respond by the end of this cycle, they’re probably not going to convert. Some companies choose to remove someone’s email address from their list at that point, while others opt to place them in their newsletter list.

Regardless of what you choose, this isn’t an ideal scenario. But you can improve it over time in processes we’ll discuss later.

But now that you have your email campaigns set up, it’s time to connect them to your website.

Connect campaigns to your content

Email marketing articles on site

This is probably the fastest step of this whole process.

Once you have your campaigns made and populated with messages, you can connect these lists to their corresponding pages on your site.

Then, you can watch the conversions roll in.

Different email platforms have different protocols for linking email campaigns to content.

Your provider should also have instructions on how to do this so you can get everything set up as quickly as possible.

Once you do, you have one last step.

Automate the email process

Now that everything’s set up, it’s time to make the whole email marketing process run on its own.

This is one of many strategies included in marketing automation.

The idea is that you have everything set up for your emails to automatically send based on the time someone converts and a few days or weeks after that.

This works exceptionally well for sales or lead emails, like those you’d find in a drip campaign.

This is partly because email automation takes your subscribers through the sales funnel without your direct intervention.

When someone gives you their email address, they enter the top of the funnel (TOFU) for your email sales process. That means you should start by giving them the beginner’s information they need to make an informed purchasing decision.

In the middle of the funnel (MOFU), you’re demonstrating why you’re the right choice for the recipient’s business. This could include testimonials, customer reviews, and other persuasive content.

Finally, the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) means you’re encouraging the recipient to take the final step to becoming a customer. For sales, that’s telling them how to buy a product. For leads, that’s telling them how to get in touch with you to start a contract.

2. How can I increase my number of subscribers?

When it comes to earning my subscribers for your email marketing strategy, you want to focus on:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency

Keep reading to learn more about each of these factors.

Honesty: What does someone get in return for giving their email address?

First, you should be honest about what you’re giving someone for their email address.

Most of the time this is free information, like how-to guides.

At WebFX, we have an entire section on our site dedicated to this kind of informational content. We discuss details about digital marketing that we believe everyone should know. But we also know that people who want to know this information may want SEO help.

This helps WebFX as a company in two big ways.

The first way is that it shows our knowledge and authority concerning the marketing industry – a strategy that businesses in every other industry can do.

Banks can write about investment, retirement, different account types, and other finance-related concepts.

Manufacturers can publish information about their range of materials, client processes, distribution partners, and other topics that may interest their target audience.

Rehab centers can discuss their admission procedures, how to avoid relapse, the importance of family, and a range of other support-related ideas.

Every industry has its own examples, but the idea behind them is the same.

You compile all of the necessary information into a .zip file or PDF, and then you post it to your site.

Then, you gate it behind form fields that require users’ email addresses.

Once they give you those, they can get their downloadable content for free — and you can add them to your list of email marketing subscribers.

Gated content is one of the most popular ways to get email addresses from your website visitors. People who are willing to give you their contact information for free content are likely part of your target audience, because they’ve actively shown interest in learning about your industry.

That makes these website visitors qualified to become leads for your business.

But no matter what industry you’re in or what you’re giving away, you have to be honest about what subscribers will get when they provide you with their contact information.

If they expect a PDF download and get a disorganized .zip file instead, your visitor will feel like they’ve been deceived or ripped off.

By being 100% up-front with your visitors about what they’ll get in return for their email address, you ensure they’re satisfied and ready to hear more from you.

Transparency: What will you do with the email addresses you collect?

The short version of this point is that no one likes spam.

No one wants to give their email address to a company just to have that company turn around and sell it for a profit.

With that in mind, it’s almost always helpful for companies to say what they won’t do with someone’s email address.

Saying “we never send spam,” “we’ll never spam you,” or “we’ll never sell your information” goes a long way in making someone feel comfortable submitting their personal information.

This happens for several reasons, but the two most important are also the simplest.

First, you’re telling someone they can trust you.

Second, you’re showing you understand their reservations about submitting their information to you.

You’re telling your visitors directly that you’ll take care of their personal information so they won’t be inconvenienced.

And when you’re asking for someone’s email address, that goes a long way.

You can even go a step further and tell people when they can expect messages from you. This may change depending on the email list you use, but it’s still helpful information.

It’s ultimately up to you whether you discuss information like that on your site. But from a transparency standpoint, it couldn’t hurt!

3. How do I improve my email marketing strategy?

Ok, so you have your email marketing campaign ready, but how can you make it that much better?

You can try dozens of tips to improve your email marketing strategy.

Make sure, however, that you make these two a standard:

Subject line testing

Your subject lines are the headlines for your emails.

They should tell the recipient exactly what to expect from the message when they open it.

If they do, you’ll have more people open your emails.

If you don’t, you’ll have more people delete them, unsubscribe from your lists, or even report you as spam.

You can test subject lines by looking at the metric open rate in your email marketing software.

This’ll tell you how many people clicked on the email to see what you had to say.

You can compare this against the percentage of people who unsubscribed from your email lists, which is called your unsubscribe rate.

If you have a high rate of opens with a low number of unsubscribes, you know that email did well. You can then take a look at what you did and use the same concepts in your later emails.

If you have a low rate of opens with a high number of unsubscribes, then you know something went wrong in that email. Take a closer look at it and identify why you may have lost subscribers.

In this case, we suggest comparing your subject line to your email body copy. If they don’t seem to match well, then you know that you didn’t provide what your recipients expected.

But subject lines are just the beginning.

There’s another test you should use if you want to learn everything you can about your emails down to the slightest detail.

A/B testing

A/B testing is the practice of creating identical emails and then changing a single element in each variation.

That element could be the subject line, an image used in the body copy, the color of a conversion button, and almost any other element in your email.

Because A/B testing is so versatile, it’s crucial to nail down the most impactful elements of your strategy right off the bat.

We recommend testing your:

  • Subject lines
  • Calls to action
  • Images
  • Font colors
  • Button colors

A/B testing takes some time, and it’s only useful if you have a large enough audience to get proper results — usually more than 100.

If you don’t have that many recipients, you can use the same test over a long period of time and different people. It’ll take longer than a single-send A/B test, but you’ll get reliable results without having a huge email list.

4. How does email marketing deliver an ROI?

Regardless of your industry, email makes you money in one of two ways.

  1. Product sales
  2. Lead conversion

Product sales mean someone gets an email from you and purchases an item as a result.

Lead conversion means someone gets an email from you and signs onto a contract with your business.

Companies use both of these strategies every day to grow. We’ll start our closer look with product sales.

Product sales


Product sales are the end-goal for any retailer or ecommerce company.

The idea is to get a subscriber to buy something from your website via the email you send them.

It sounds simple, but ecommerce email marketing is a surprisingly complex marketing strategy.

You need all the basics of a good email, like a strong subject line, compelling body text, and appropriate images.

But you also need customized graphics, visuals of a product in use, and a whole lot more to convince someone to buy.


Because even if someone’s bought from you before, every buying choice is a new journey for your customer.

That means you’re starting from square one with most of your product sales emails.

So for every product sales email you send, it might not be enough just to show off a few photos and talk about why the product is great.

Instead, you may need to walk your customers through all four phases of the purchasing process — awareness, consideration, decision, and delight.

You start with awareness, which is introducing someone to your product.

You then move to consideration, and tell readers why they need a product you sell.

Then you hit decision, which is when a customer actually buys from you.

Then comes delight. That’s when someone is happy with their purchase and their interactions with your business.

This means product sales are little bit more complicated than they may sound for email marketing.

But what about converting leads?

Lead conversion

Converting a lead into a paying customer is more complex than selling a product.

The customer journey is often longer, and you’ll probably follow up with the same person multiple times until they finally become a paying customer.

These touchstones are part of the awareness-consideration-decision-delight process, but they look much different than product sales.

In a nutshell, you’re convincing someone to sign some kind of contract, which has different implications from buying a product.

Your business is selling a commitment, one that — from the perspective of a customer — could be a risk, given the other options available.

So it’s not a situation where someone typically says, “I can’t decide which product to get, so I’ll buy both.”

Instead, you may be speaking to someone who’s thinking “I hope I’m making the right decision.”

That means you can’t just send one email to sell your services — you’ll need to send a series of emails based on the sales process with an option for your lead to convert at the end.

With those key differences, a drip campaign for lead conversion is much different from a product email blast.

5. What are the advantages of email marketing for businesses?

If you’re wondering about email marketing’s potential benefit for your company, you’re not alone. Plus, it’s smart to research and consider the value of a new marketing strategy before adopting it. You want to make the best choice for your company, and for many, email marketing is an excellent one.

Six email marketing benefits that businesses love to take advantage of include the following:

You can personalize email marketing

Email marketing offers immense personalization.

You can create audience segments, for example, to deliver targeted emails. A women’s and men’s clothing retailer, for instance, may create male and female audience segments. These segments allow the retailer to send relevant emails, like about new products, to audience members that care.

Companies can also personalize emails with a subscriber’s name. Instead of seeing an opening like, “Hi,” subscribers see, “Hi John!”, which makes the email personal and eye-catching. You can even highlight past products that users browsed on your site to offer a personalized, purchase-driving experience.

Personalization at this level isn’t something most websites can accomplish. Even though some personalization tools, like PersonalizeFX, exist, they don’t match the customization that email offers, especially when you think about how email gets delivered — directly to a user’s inbox.

You can adopt email marketing for free

Email marketing also costs nothing to get started.

You can use the free versions of email marketing platforms like MailChimp and HubSpot to build your first email campaign. While you will have some feature limitations, these platforms often work well for companies with a smaller subscriber list.

As your list, as well as email marketing strategy grows, expect to invest in a paid tool.

While most businesses spend $9 to $1000 per month on email marketing, your company’s costs may exceed (or not even reach) that amount. Overall, though, the ability to start email marketing for free is one of its most significant benefits.

You track email marketing

Like a range of digital marketing strategies, from search engine optimization (SEO) to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you can follow the performance of your email marketing campaigns. In marketing and advertising, data plays a critical role because it provides direct feedback on your strategy.

email marketing measurements

Using your email marketing platform, like MailChimp or EmailMarketingFX, you can view several metrics, like:

  • Open rates
  • Links clicked
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Social media shares
  • And more

Each of these metrics can inform and direct your team to make changes.

If you have low open rates, for example, your company may brainstorm ways to increase them. You might spend more time creating catchy subject lines, for instance, or experiment with using emojis. With email, you have options.

The tracking capabilities of email make it easy for you to show its results to company leaders too.

You can nurture qualified leads with email marketing

Email marketing is a well-known strategy for lead nurturing.

That’s because you can leverage the other benefits of email marketing to support lead nurturing. Segmentation, for instance, lets you create audiences based on their place in the buying funnel. Meanwhile, personalization allows you to send highly targeted emails.

Take the following scenario, for example.

Your company sells software-as-a-service (SaaS) and uses email to generate, as well as nurture leads. You have two audience segments: One, for users that download a free guide about SaaS pricing and a second for users that requested custom pricing.

These two audiences probably have different questions, concerns, and needs.

You can address them all with email marketing and your dedicated audience segments. While the first group receives informational content about SaaS and issues that your software solves, the second receives more sales-orientated content that highlights your services and company advantages.

With email marketing, you create a unique and individualized experience for your leads, which helps you nurture them towards conversion. Keep in mind, however, that lead nurturing can take months or even years in some cases.

You can drive repeat purchases with email marketing

repeat purchase shoe email marketing

Email marketing also offers a solution to generating repeat purchases, like in the ecommerce sector.

Via email drip campaigns, your company can motivate users to buy from your business again. If you’re releasing a new product, for instance, you may create a drip campaign to encourage users to purchase the item.

You can also drive repeat purchases with email marketing by building brand loyalty.

Creating original email campaigns with a unique voice that aligns with your brand can drive impressive results. Users can become attached to your business, whether because of your product’s quality, values, or actions. They’ll support your company, like by recommending you or purchasing your products.

You can grow your business with email marketing

Finally, when you use email marketing, you adopt a tool that can help grow your business.

Think about the benefits of email marketing and what they work towards: Building your company. Whether you’re nurturing leads or motivating repeat purchases, you’re using email marketing to create healthy growth for your business — without a high upfront cost.

That’s an immense benefit for a business of any size, from startups to midsized companies.

Is email marketing still relevant in 2022?

Even with all the advantages of email marketing, it’s natural to wonder about its relevancy. Does it only reach one age group, for example? Or, is it only useful for one specific industry or product, like ecommerce or retail stores?

Good news. No matter your industry, product, or target audience, email marketing works.

Check out these statistics to see why email marketing is still relevant in 2022:

People like email, and while it’s one of the older online marketing strategies, it’s remained one of the most effective ones. It continues to offer value, even to companies in the business-to-business (B2B) sector.

Remember too, it costs nothing to try email marketing, so why not use it?

93% of WebFX customers are extremely satisfied with their digital marketing results.

“Working with WebFX, everything is very organized and strategic. We’re only a year into our partnership, and our expectations have definitely been met.”

View More Client Testimonials

Start email marketing with WebFX

After reading this page, hopefully you know a bit more about the definition of email marketing and how it can grow your business.

Are you ready to get started?

At WebFX, we have years of experience creating effective email marketing strategies for our clients.

We’ve learned what strategies work best, what changes we can make, and how to adapt to different markets to make sure you get the results you need to grow.

Your success is our #1 priority. After all, when you partner with us, your success becomes our success.

With some of the best marketers and thought leaders in the industry, we’ve helped hundreds of clients succeed with email marketing in the past.

Now, we’ll do it for you. Are you ready to launch your email marketing campaign?

Contact us today to start your email marketing strategy!