What is email marketing? (Tips on how to launch a campaign)

Updated 24 August 2023

Email marketing is an effective way to reach out to prospective and existing customers at the same time. It's a great communication channel that can help your business generate more traffic, convert sales and strengthen relationships with your customer demographic. Given the rise of email marketing and increased competition, it's now important to execute your campaigns under best practices to ensure customers keep opening your emails. In this article, we explain what email marketing is and how to launch an effective campaign with tips for success.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a channel of digital marketing strategy that uses email addresses to communicate with the customer demographic relevant to your business area. Brands are increasingly investigating what is email marketing given its cost-effectiveness compared to traditional forms of marketing communications, such as posting flyers to thousands of homes. It's an efficient way to send mass communications to promote your brand. For example, sharing news updates, promotional offers or new products you are looking to launch.

A mix of properly launched email marketing campaigns can drive better leads and increase awareness of your brand. In addition, it allows further communication opportunities and online engagement through your website, mobile application and social media channels.

Related: Understanding the types of digital marketing collateral

Who does it apply to?

Whether you're a sole trader, a small business owner or a large corporation, email marketing is available for you to use. The key requirement is to have a professional email address set up to communicate with your customer base. Nowadays, you can find a wide range of automated marketing tools and email marketing courses available to help you set up your campaigns. Here is a list of sectors that can benefit from ongoing email marketing campaigns:

  • supermarkets

  • estate agents

  • vehicle dealerships

  • construction

  • digital marketing

  • retail

  • financial services

  • consultants

  • tourism

  • hospitality

  • education

  • pharmaceutical

  • medical services

  • travel

  • technology

Related: A guide to traditional marketing vs. digital marketing

The benefits of email marketing

Accurate contact lists can help guarantee your emails reach the mailbox of the customer. This effective marketing technique has led to business leaders increasing their focus in this area. Below are some benefits you can gain from carrying out email marketing campaigns:

  • Encourage action. Your email typically goes into the recipient's inbox, and customers may also get a notification on their phones and tablet. This encourages a response to either reply or archive an email, increasing your open rate.

  • Cost-effective. Email marketing is a popular choice given the low-cost contribution when compared to other marketing tools. Because of this, the return on any small investment in email marketing campaigns can also be very attractive.

  • Build relationships. Email marketing is a great way to strengthen relationships with your audience. You can frequently converse with your customer base, which gives customers a personalised feeling, adding to the overall customer experience.

  • Direct customers. You can use email to promote your products, provide updates and direct your audience to other areas where you would like traffic.

  • Segment customers. When reviewing your email list, you can categorise your demographic and segment your emails accordingly. This ensures recipients receive emails that apply to them, enticing them to learn more or make a purchase.

  • Run A/B tests. An A/B test is where you create two versions of an email and send them to different groups within your customer base. You can then review, assess and measure the performance of both emails to identify which performed better and is preferable to use in the future.

Related: How to create a marketing campaign in 12 steps

How to launch an email marketing campaign

Follow these four steps when creating an email marketing campaign:

1. Create a plan

Some of the common things to consider when creating an email marketing plan include:

Doing your research

It's important to take a thorough analysis of your market and properly establish your target audience. Carry out a strength, weakness, opportunity and threat (SWOT) analysis of the industry and your peers to identify customer trends and needs. You can then factor this into your email marketing campaigns.

Related: How to conduct market research (with types and benefits)

Establishing your customer base

Identify who your customer is, how old they are, where they live and what they like. Understanding your demographics in more detail allows you to segment them and tailor emails accordingly. If customers receive relevant campaigns, they are more likely to click through your email and make an order on your website. Also, consider what special offers or discounts you can offer your specific segments to drive even more results.

Identifying how customers can join your mailing list

The more contacts you have, the more chances of success for email marketing campaigns. This data typically comes from a customer filling in a sign-up form or newsletter on your website. Ensure the correct set-up of your website by linking your mailbox to your domain, enabling you to receive responses from customers. Be mindful of any local regulation when it comes to the treatment of personal data.

Related: How to collect email addresses easily for marketing campaigns

Defining your strategy

Once you've established who your segments are, it's important to create a strategy that resonates with your audience whilst keeping with your brand guidelines. Think about what types of emails you want to send and when is the best time period to start the campaign. For example, for the last quarter of the year, you may send a series of 'we miss you' messages, monthly newsletters, new product information, special offers and exclusive discounts.

Related: What does an email marketing manager do? (Including duties)

Making a communications plan

Create a content calendar for your campaigns and general email marketing content. It's important to balance the number of emails you send every week or month to maintain strong customer engagement. This can vary depending on your industry and customer base. Monitor click-through and unsubscription rates, making adjustments accordingly.

Related: What is social media management? (Definition and benefits)

2. Create your email template

Design an email template that resonates with the tone and image of your brand. Ensure the email template design is simple and easy to edit to maintain consistency whenever you send emails to customers. Design your email template within your email or use an HTML template. In terms of structure, ensure you have an attractive subject line with the most vital information at the top of your email to catch the reader's attention, with other key information to follow.

Related: 10 email design best practices for more effective marketing

3. Carry out testing

To avoid the uncertainty of design, content and retrievability, send tests of your emails to your colleagues, friends and families. This allows them to confirm receipt of your email, and ensure it reads well and is free of any errors. It's also an opportunity to gain valuable user feedback before you send the final version to customers. Also, run A/B tests with your different customer segments to track, measure and compare performance.

Related: What is A/B testing? How it works and why it's important

4. Measure your performance

Email marketing can be data-driven. It's important to learn email marketing fundamentals, particularly when looking at key performance indicators and marketing tools. There are different ways to measure how successful your campaign has been. These include:

  • Delivery rate. This metric analyses the delivery success of your emails. Ensure email addresses are correct and avoid junk inbox folders by reviewing your contact lists.

  • Open rate. Typically shown as a percentage, the open rate is the number of people that opened and viewed your email.

  • Click-through rate. A metric that looks at which customers clicked on links within your email. Optimise your links to ensure they apply to your demographic.

  • Conversion rate. This metric shows how many customers have opened your email, clicked through the link and responded to your call to action, whether to make a purchase or register for a future event.

  • Subscriber rate. Subscribers show that you have a loyal customer base interested in receiving more content. Maintain a high subscription rate by keeping customers engaged with strong visual content and exclusive offerings.

  • Spam reporting. This metric informs you of any emails that were marked as spam. If the metric increases, carry out a technical review of your email and content.

  • Sharing rate. This metric looks at the number of recipients that forwarded your email to others or shared it via social media. It's a good way to measure the popularity of your specific email.

  • Overall return on investment (ROI). Calculate this by subtracting the revenue earned from the email marketing cost and dividing it by the cost. This can help you in assessing the profitability of your email marketing campaigns.


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