What Is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is the practice of sending targeted messages to people who have opted into learning more about your company by providing you with their email address.
In a nutshell, that means earning money through sending emails.
But there's a catch: You can't just send emails to random people.
You need their permission, and they need to willingly give you their email addresses.
That takes planning, practice, and patience. We'll cover those first two qualities on this page — but the last one is up to you.
You can call us or click the button below to speak with one of our 150+ experts about doing email marketing successfully! Or, you can continue reading to learn more about what email marketing is and why it matters.
To start, let's check out some of the most compelling reasons why companies use email marketing.
The biggest takeaway from this infographic is the first stat.
For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you average $44.25 back.
That stat varies depending on the study you read, but regardless of the exact figure, the point remains the same.
Email marketing leads to profit.
So let's talk about how you can plan and improve upon your email marketing strategy.
1. Incentivizing email signups
The first step in email marketing is figuring out how you'll get people to give you their email addresses.
In this step, honesty and transparency are the best policies.
You should be honest in the sense that you'll always tell someone what they get for giving you their contact information.
You should also be transparent in letting them know what you'll do with their personal information — namely that you won't give it to third parties.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We'll break down each one of these qualities in more detail below.
Honesty: What does someone get 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 these email addresses?
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 (we'll talk about those more later), 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!
So now that we've ironed out the details of honesty and transparency, let's dive into how email marketing works.
2. How does email marketing work?
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.
Get an 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.
- Email composition
- Some testing services
- 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 MyEmailFX, 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 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
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.
But that's a broad overview of how email marketing earns money. Let's take a closer look at both of those scenarios.
3. How does email earn profit?
Regardless of your industry, email makes you money in one of two ways.
- Product sales
- 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 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?
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.
But there's still one big question to answer.
Once you're rolling with your email marketing strategy, how do you improve it?
4. How do you improve email marketing?
Email marketing is one of the easiest strategies to improve. Your software will automatically track the results of your different email campaigns, and you can quickly identify patterns in recipient behavior and email success in a few clicks.
There's almost an infinite amount of tests you can run on any email marketing message.
We'll touch on the two most effective here.
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 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
- 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.
WebFX is an email marketing agency
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!
Call 888.449.3239 or contact us online today to see how WebFX can improve your online performance.