Sep 12, 2022

The Ultimate Email Marketing Guide for Beginners (And Free Calendar)

Written by Clodagh O’Brien

Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing and there’s a reason for that  - it works! Using the power of email, businesses can connect with customers, build brand awareness, encourage brand loyalty, and nurture prospects to become paying customers. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic, email has become even more important to consumers as a way to keep up with brands. DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker 2021 report found that for the first time, the relevance of received messages (55 percent) became the main reason consumers like brand emails, surpassing discounts and offers (53 percent).

But while email marketing may seem like a simple channel to use, there’s an art and science to using it successfully. In this blog, we’ll look at the nuts and bolts of email marketing and give you great examples to gain inspiration for kickstarting your campaigns. 

What is email marketing?

The definition of email marketing is a form of digital marketing that uses email to promote products or services to potential or existing customers. 

Email marketing is an essential channel leveraged by B2C and B2B companies to build brand awareness, grow customer loyalty and drive conversions.  

Why is email marketing important?

Email marketing is one of the most profitable direct marketing channels, with Statista projecting global revenue from email to reach $17.9 billion by 2027. That’s a lot of companies using email successfully! 

Let’s look at three of the most important aspects of email marketing for your business. 

1) Data collection

One of the key reasons companies leverage email is for data collection. As third-party cookies are phased out, getting email subscribers is a great way to collect personal data from people who are interested in your business with consent.

With consumers wanting to protect their information, businesses need to adhere to data privacy regulations such as GDPR or CCPA. Email uses first-party data to collect information in a way that builds brand loyalty and awareness.   

2) Inbound marketing

Email can also help you to attract prospects and leads by using relevant content. So, how can email marketing fuel your overall inbound marketing strategy?   

Email is a great way to engage with prospects who have already shown an interest in your company, product, or service. They do this by opting in or signing up as a subscriber to a newsletter.  

The nature of using email for inbound marketing means that your leads are warmer as they have greater intent and interest in your business. It also means the Return on Investment is higher and costs can be lower as inbound email lists tend to have lower subscribers. 

3) Personalization

As you know who you are making contact with, content and messaging can be segmented and personalized using email. This means you can group lists in a variety of ways by people who:

  • Show an interest in a particular product or service
  • Have specific preferences e.g. they like cats!
  • Are based in the same location
  • Are a specific age and gender

The more you know about your customers or prospects the easier it will be to write a prospecting email that gets replies! It’s not about bombarding your lists however, be clever about the frequency and make sure you A/B test subject lines and content to see what resonates. 

How to get email marketing lists?

With so many benefits to email, it’s no wonder that companies are looking to start or build their lists. There are several ways to do this.

  • Use CTAs - Use clear and directed calls to action (CTAs) on your website or landing pages to urge people to sign up for email updates 
  • Use social media - If you use any social media channels, let your users know that you have an email list for special offers or exclusives  
  • Offer free downloads - People love freebies, so think about offering a free downloadable ebook or whitepaper  
  • Use pop-ups or forms - Pop-ups or forms are common across websites and urge people to give their email addresses to find out more   
  • Run a competition - Competitions are a great way to get people to provide personal information, just make sure the offer is enticing enough!
  • Advertise a special offer - A discount or a two-for-one offer can urge people to join your email list 
  • Offer a blog subscription - If you have a blog, consider setting up a subscriber list to get the latest content. Find out how to start a blog if that sounds like a fit for your business. 
  • Get customers involved - You can give existing customers a referral incentive e.g get 20 percent off your next purchase if a friend signs up 
  • Ask for feedback - As part of a feedback or testimonial form, ask people to opt-in to email   
  • Host a webinar or podcast - These offer high value and people will provide information when signing up 
  • Create a newsletter - This can be a good way to keep people up-to-date on new development, discounts or competitions    
  • Just ask! - Sometimes it is simply about spreading the word and asking for an email address, you may be surprised how many people like your brand 😊  

How to do email marketing: Step-by-step guide

Now that you know the value of email and how to start and bolster your email lists, how do you create and implement an email marketing campaign?  

Collate a list

When you create an email campaign, the key metrics for success are the growth and quality of the subscriber list. You should look at creating lists that are segmented by type. That can be by audience, preference, or category but avoid putting every contact into one pot and hoping it will work! 

Look at what prospects or customers you want to engage and why. Then collate an email list using Excel or your email marketing tool. Label each list clearly so you can find them again easily and also track performance. 

Choose an email marketing tool

There are a lot of email marketing tools out there. So you need to do your research and choose the best one for your business. 

Some tools are free to start using and then charge by the number of contacts in your database. This is why keeping on top of your lists is important as you’ll be paying for each one: so be prepared to audit your lists regularly. A few tools to look into are:

  • MailChimp
  • HubSpot
  • Marketo 
  • GetResponse

Check out ‘A Practical Guide to the Top Email Marketing Automation Tools’ to find out how to choose the right one for you. 

Plan an email workflow

A workflow is a series of automated emails that are put in a certain order to nurture a prospect or guide a customer to take a certain action. There are a few steps required to set one up:

  • Set a goal for your workflow - For example, it could be to convert prospects to enter a free trial
  • Create enrollment criteria - This decides who enters the workflow by the settings you choose. For example, it could be anyone who downloaded a specific ebook
  • Decide on your email assets - This could be a CTA to drive someone to a blog or a custom landing page for a free trial sign-up
  • Create your emails - Once you know your goal and have the assets in place, think about each step in the journey and the touchpoints 
  • Include a time delay -  i.e. space the first and second email with a day in-between
  • Run a test - Always run a test using a test email before activating any workflow to make sure everything is correct

Make your workflow live and keep an eye on it! - Check-in daily to see that your flows are working and the right people are being added to it. Make any changes or tweaks as soon as possible.  

Plan a calendar

An email calendar is like an editorial or social media calendar. It’s about planning the frequency and audience regularly to target prospects and customers. 

Decide on how often you want to communicate with certain segments or groups and set goals for each campaign. Tracking your email marketing activities by date will help you to see who you are targeting and when. 

You also need to keep times and days in mind when sending. Some will work better than others depending on your audience e.g on a commute or first thing in the morning. Test these out to see what works for your lists. 

Plan your Email Campaigns

Download our handy calendar template below to get started right away with planning your email campaigns into 2023! It includes a list of key holidays you can plan for and a color coded key to help you organize your campaigns to the max.

Link to Email Campaign Calendar 2023
Link to Email Campaign Calendar 2023

Write email copy

Now to the most important bit - the content of the email. As a marketer, you should know your buyer personas or ideal customer/s and understand their pain points. If so, then you’ll be able to target messaging in a way that prompts a click on an email. 

With an email, the subject line is super important as it’s the first thing a person sees in their inbox. Think about A/B testing subject lines with certain groups to compare performance and see if it can guide your copy. 

It’s also key to keep your messaging clear and succinct and use CTAs to direct people to take an action. Use a content and copywriting checklist to keep your messaging clear and focused when writing every single marketing email.

Tip: Check out ‘The Anatomy of an Effective Marketing Email’ to find out all the elements to include to implement a successful email campaign. 

Press the send button

Now you’ve done all the hard work, it’s time to see how your email does in the real world. 

Test before you send (check copy, subject lines, images and ensure your links work), and then let it free! 

Beginner-friendly email marketing campaign examples

When you’re starting it can seem overwhelming to figure out how to set up an email campaign and what content to include. There is a range of different types of email to keep in mind (depending on your goals) when crafting your campaigns:

  • Awareness building - new product, welcome, announcement
  • Lead generation - downloadable asset, blog article, custom landing page
  • Nurture - new offer, additional product, reminder
  • Traffic generation - relevant blog article, trial or offer on the website
  • Revenue generating - conversion 

Here are a few examples of good email campaigns from some interesting brands, to inspire you. 

Plochman’s - Welcome email

Plochman's email
Plochman's email

American mustard company Plochman’s crafted an eye-catching and on-brand color email to welcome new sign-ups. The simple header text ‘Hey, you made it!’ grabs attention and leads onto ‘Thanks for the sign-up, glad you’re here. Now onto the good stuff’.

This intro keeps a recipient interested and tells them there’s more information if you scroll down. The first CTA is ‘Buy it’ in relation to their product followed by recipes on how to use the product. It’s a great example of how to craft a succinct and action-orientated email. 

NerdWallet - Nurture email

NerdWallet email
NerdWallet email

Personal finance company, NerdWallet uses email to nurture prospects so they can entice people back who have shown an interest in their service. This example above leads with an enticing headline ‘New ways to get more from your money’ along with including the text ‘New and tailored to you’ to drive personalization. 

The email then uses clear and clever copy to entice people to click on clear actions - ‘Set your goals’ and ‘Start saving’ an attractive opportunity for most people. Clean and colorful imagery also helps to draw the eye with the predominant green, keeping it on brand. 

Apple - Specific audience offer email

Apple is no stranger to email marketing and this example targets a specific segment - those starting or returning to college. 

Apple airpods email
Apple airpods email

The email offers free AirPods with every purchase of a Mac or iPad along with a 20 percent saving on Apple Care.  It not only serves to persuade someone to purchase their laptop from Apple but also accessories and additional warranty and technical support. 

The targeted and specific nature of this email will help drive click-through and traffic generation.  

AutoTrader - re-engagement email

Automotive sales expert AutoTrader uses the email below to reach out to sign-ups or subscribers that are lapsed or disengaged. 

Autotrader email
Autotrader email

It offers people the opportunity to update their preferences (to enable tailored messaging) but also to be in line with new UK privacy laws that not everyone would yet be familiar with. The simple CTA ‘Stay subscribed’ makes it easy for recipients to re-engage with the brand. 

Willo - Event invitation email

As a start-up, oral health company Willo uses email to engage its database. This example is used to invite their email list to an event featuring speakers. 

Willo email
Willo email

The headline ‘Virtual Happy Hour vol. 1’ infers nothing to do with the brand or product but takes a lighthearted approach in its communications. 

The light background makes the blue text stand out and highlights the speakers under the CTA which is simply ‘RSVP now’. It also offers a free product to drive engagement and sign-ups in the main text.  

Airbnb - New product email

When Airbnb launched a new app, it used the opportunity to contact its email database to drive traffic and raise awareness. 

Airbnb email
Airbnb email

The email features high-spec images of accommodations in the header image followed by introductory text that uses keywords like ‘new experience' and ‘dive right in’ - perfect for interested travelers. 

It then goes on to list Airbnb categories with links to each, from treehouses to beachfront or surfing homes. The CTA is simple and perfect for the audience - ‘Start exploring’. 

Email marketing FAQs

Let's look at some on the most commonly asked questions as email marketing. 

When is the best time to send marketing emails?

Establishing the best times to send emails could be a question of testing different days and times with your various audiences. 

According to OptinMonster, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send business emails. In terms of times there are some that tend to work best:

  • 8 am to engage people first thing in the morning
  • 1 pm during/after a lunch break
  • 4 pm is when people may have some downtime or be surfing online
  • 6 pm as it is during/or after an evening commute

However, there is no set time that’s best. The most effective way to find out is through trial and error with your databases. 

What is a good open rate for email marketing?

The open rate of an email is the percentage of subscribers who open a specific email out of your total number of subscribers.

According to Campaign Monitor’s 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report, the average email open rate was 21.5 percent across all industries, up 3.5 percent from? 2020. Here’s a breakdown of industries by open rate with the highest being advertising and marketing, agriculture, and consumer goods.

Email open rate by industry
Email open rate by industry

What is A/B testing in email?

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a way of comparing two versions of an email against each other to determine which one performs better. Variables in an email can be the subject line, CTAs or content. 

The key is to perform one test at a time to gauge results. If you try two or more elements you won’t know why one test worked better than another. Also, set up your goals in advance so your test drives the right metric e.g higher open rates.  

If you need some guidance, download our A/B Testing toolkit to find out how to carry out A/B testing and get blank templates to help plan your own campaigns. 

How much does email marketing cost?

Aside from platform cost, you may want to hire an email specialist if you need more expertise in-house or rely on email for sales and revenue. 

If you don't have a budget for a specialist, it’s best to complete a course that can give you the fundamentals and guide you with your email campaigns. Otherwise, you may end up spending more time undoing mistakes or starting over.  

How can I get started on email marketing?

Start using email straight away to engage and convert prospects into paying customers. DMI’s Email Marketing course is a certified online course made up of four modules that cover data strategy, crafting content and managing time, creativity and designing content and testing, optimization and automation. Sign up today to get started! 

Clodagh O’Brien
Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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