A Guide To Email Marketing

This guide on email marketing was created by Teresa Zortman, a student at the University of Montana who pets dogs in her free time.

Getting Started With Email Marketing

Email marketing student at cluttered desk.

Email marketing is perhaps one of the oldest digital marketing forms. Companies obtain the emails of their customers to contact them directly regarding relevant and in some cases exclusive, promotions. Some experts theorized that email would soon be replaced by social media as a way to reach potential customers. However, according to the Fourth Source website, 92% of internet users have at least one email account. That is, practically everyone has email unlike what happens with social media, not everyone has an account, which can difficult and minimize the reach and coverage of the desired segment. On top of that, there is a 5 times greater chance that a subscriber reads an email message than a Facebook or Twitter post. 

Email marketing provides marketers with a unique opportunity to take customers on a journey to their purchase that is tailored to their segment and preferences.

However, positive results are only possible if the journey is done well. Kathy Pay of Holistic Email Marketing insists that successful email marketing rests on 3 pillars. These include being helpful, personal, and customer-focused. When these are implemented correctly, the read rate of emails can go up by 400%. 

Helpfulness is a Huge Delight- Kathy Pay

Helpfulness: Elements in a message that would help your subscribers, customers or users achieve their objectives, however grand or simple. They can be anything that we can do to make the customer experience better.

According to FreshMail, Ninety-two percent of internet users have an email account, making them all potential customers in email marketing. Also, studies show that email marketing can provide an ROI up to 3800% but to achieve that, you need to choose the right email marketing tool that provides the functionalities necessary for today’s digital marketing.

The beauty of email marketing is that it is for the individual. This is one of the reasons Amazon is so successful. Amazon has created algorithms and employed Artificial Intelligence (AI) to treat each user as an individual based on their buying history.

Thanks to automation technologies, digital marketing actions based on the behavior of visitors to a website gets easier and more profitable, which in turn makes it more and more popular. Just from 2011 to 2014, the number of companies using marketing automation grew eleven-fold! Meanwhile, 95% of companies using marketing automation also saw profits from email marketing.


When starting off with email marketing Natalie Henly, a president at Volume Nine, a Denver-based digital marketing company, advises that marketers analyze your client roster and group similar types of customers together. Then create marketing emails with content that appeals to the different groups, knowing that tips, tricks and best practices specific to a segment tend to perform best. Say, for example, that you have a number of manufacturers among your clientele. Send an email with a link to a blog in which you discuss how manufacturers can better promote adherence to safety procedures among workers. House the blog on your website, which should be built as a conversion tool. “Good content comes from understanding your audiences and what they find valuable,” says Henley.

Understanding what customers find valuable can answer most questions before customers even have to ask them. This results in less downtime and a better all-around experience with the company as a whole. Ultimately, a company achieves its goals by helping their customers achieve their goals.

However, don’t mix up being helpful with being annoying. An average consumer today receives more than 100 emails a day and is exposed to hundreds of noisy “look at me” ad impressions throughout their day. Each screamer has a single goal: out-scream the others, which only secures them a spot in the graveyard of other transactional, no-value-created messages. To drive awareness and be helpful, the source of the message must be trustworthy.

According to Alex Weinstein, modern consumers, especially digitally native millennials, can smell an advertorial from a mile away. If the intent while sharing is to drive immediate sales, the reader will get it. And they’ll move along. If it is, on the other hand, to selflessly drive value to the reader, they’ll trust you and will come back for more. Relevancy and content are intimately connected to inbox behavior. And brands that are thinking about their unique market segments, focusing their calls to action on discrete outcomes with very specific actions, are helping their users by delivering value through email.

Mail Chimp proposes that email marketing should be like the nice feeling you get when someone thinks to send you something in the mail, or maybe it’s the fact that a printed postcard seems a little more personal than an email. Whatever the reason, the mailbox is a great place to make your brand stand out.

Email marketing is essential to a thriving business because it connects the helpfulness of customer service, with the massive connectivity of social media. The key is to understand that helping your customer, helps you.

Taking it Personally

Personalisation: Using preference data in segmentation, behavioral data in triggered messaging, or real-time contextual elements like those that make a message more helpful and which underscore the customer-focused nature of your emails. Even though email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing,

  • 93% of businesses that use advanced personalization increased their revenue last year.
  • 77% of the top performers who exceeded their revenue goals also had a documented personalization strategy in place.

Getting your business to this level of personalization requires a shift in perspective, but can be highly effective.

6 Easy Ways to Increase Email Personalization

Increasing email personalization can be a total game changer. Here are some ways to get started.

Use email quizzes to capture content preferences and boost engagement.

Quizzes can help you poll and segment your audience in an entertaining, interactive manner. After gathering this data, a drip campaign can be intiated. A drip campaign is essentially sorting customers into look alike segments to sent that segment more personalized messages. The results to this method are  fantastic: one study found that open rate grew by 244% and click-through rate increased by 161%.

Add personalized price-drop emails to your email mix.

Listrak research found that price-drop alerts had the highest open and click-to-open rates among all types of transactional emails:Add personalized price-drop emails to your list of email personalization hacks. This graph shows benchmarks.

Here are several best practices for price-drop emails:

  • Timing is everything. Alert the shopper once the discount expires.
  • Target users who’ve clearly shown interest in a particular product (added it to favorites, placed it in the cart, or accessed the product page multiple times).
  • Split test different micro-copy, CTAs, and visuals to see which formulas perform best.
  • Don’t mash several price drops into a single email. Focus on pitching the particular product the user’s been eyeing, and briefly mention other discounted goods in the same category.

Let users personalize their email marketing settings.

The volume of traffic passing through personal inboxes is enormous too: Over 111.1 billion consumer emails go in and out every day. Allowing users to select when, how, and how often they want to be emailed reduces the likelihood of unsubscribing. Customer satisfaction is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectations. By using the best email preference center practices, you can increase customer satisfaction and maintain your subscribers to keep delivering high-quality content.

Subscribers leave for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is email frequency. Sixty-nine percent of US email users unsubscribe from a business or nonprofit email because the organization sends too many emails, according to a report from Chadwick Martin Bailey.

Introduce dynamic email content.

This idea goes back to the joy of getting something for you in the mail. If consumers feel like a company understands them and their current lifestyle, they will be more engaged.

  • Sixty-five percent of marketers name dynamic content as their best email personalization tactic.
  • Sixty percent also said that introducing real-time data to emails (i.e., location or weather) proved to be highly effective.


Email Marketing chart to improve personalization

Companies with higher data maturity should experiment with sending dynamic product recommendations. Airbnb recently improved its act and now follows up users with personalized itineraries for their upcoming trips:

Show your customers the VIP treatment.

“People like us do things like this” – Seth Godin

One of the best personalization hacks is exclusivity because it has an almost toxic pull, and some brands are readily using it. Marketers can create a tribe of highly engaged shoppers who are ready to not just spend more with your brand, but also spread the good word.

Everyone wants to feel special, especially to brands that they truly identify with. Some easy ways to start a VIP email campaign are as follows:

  • Segment customers with the highest loyalty status and lifetime-value spendings to a new list.
  • Set up dedicated campaigns for them, offering personalized discounts, unique access to certain content/events/promos, etc. Leverage the data you collect to personalize the offerings even further.
  • Start scaling the program and offer VIPs personal referral codes to share with their friends, so that both can claim a discount. Empower your customers to become your brand’s best advocates.
  • Set up a landing page for those referred users explaining to them the benefits and unique perks of joining your VIP program, as well as basic eligibility requirements.
  • Keep nurturing all your fans with personalized email campaigns.

Invest in personalized micro-copy.

Interacting with those of a similar mindset reinforces our own mindsets and attitudes. This can be especially useful to marketers. Making lookalike campaigns help marketers to group like-minded people and more effectively market to them.

Despite the numerous peculiarities and nuances, eBay does a masterful job of delivering highly personalized communications. One of the ways that eBay has been successful is by creating open-time rendering and personalization capabilities that update the content of the email when the recipient opens it.

Since everything in eBay’s inventory expires, a static email promoting items similar to ones they’ve purchased in the past — or are watching or bid on — is good for only so many hours. If a customer opens it after the offer expires, they’re presented with a new set of content to ensure that as an engagement vehicle, the email is always relevant and personalized.

This technology is a sophisticated solution to a complex business model. Alex Weinstein, director of Marketing Technologies at eBay, explained to me: “One-on-one personalization is key to our CRM  strategy. We aim to deliver the most relevant offer to each customer based on our up-to-the-minute understanding of their intent. Real-time activity processing and open-time rendering are the enablers that allow us to take this personalization even further.”

Optimizing your message for the right stage of your buyer’s journey drastically improves the performance of key metrics (like open and click-through rates) while ensuring your sales team is given leads who are actually ready to talk. The more specifically your emails are tailored to where a prospect is in your sales cycle—awareness, consideration, or decision—the better your email drip campaigns will perform.

Today’s consumers are channel-agnostic.

They don’t think in terms of Facebook, Snapchat, email, website, etc. They think of your brand, its products, and its channels as a holistic unit, and it’s time you start returning the favor.

Customer-focused: Copy and tone that encourage sales (or other conversions) by focusing on benefits to the customer instead of selling features.

A customer-centric strategy for email marketing reverses the questions of the channel-centric strategy:

  1. Who do we market to?
  2. What do we market?
  3. How do we market to our customers?

Today’s inbox is an incredibly crowded place so with this in mind, how can you be sure that your email is the one that is read and actioned? It’s not an easy task. People are no longer passive in marketing messages.  Therefore your email campaign must be as relevant and targeted to the recipient as possible. Some effective ways to execute this are as follows:

Engage and communicate across multiple channels

Map out key customer moments when people are likely to be the most receptive to receiving communications, of any kind, from your brand. So you need to approach segmentation with a step by step approach. Identify key customer segments that make the most sense for your product or service, define levels of engagement and develop a program to engage these particular segments.

Don’t view your customer as an email address

Individuality is really important. Your prospects and customers are increasingly choosing what, where and how they inform themselves, communicate with and buy from brands. Therefore you have to make sure you collect as much information about these behaviors and social interactions as possible to enrich their profiles and in turn, your database, so you can offer content which perfectly matches these individual preferences/needs and improves your communication.

The relevancy of content is crucial

Multi-channel consumers are increasingly looking for relevant content and personalized offers. Therefore effective email marketing does not exist without content marketing. Content marketing is the use of content with the sole purpose of achieving sales and marketing objectives. But it has to have a clear focus on the prospect and the customer. The days of ‘editorial’ uniformity in email marketing are over, and that applies to both informative and promotional content.

All in all, Getting extreme results in an email marketing campaign requires making the email campaign helpful, personal, and customer-focused. However, according to Kathy Pay, only 4% of brands from a study she conducted were actually serving customers these attributes. Rethinking an email marketing campaign can lead to impressive results if executed properly. I hope this guide can shed some light and provide resources to businesses trying to improve their email marketing.

Cheers and happy trails,

Teresa Zortman

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *