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The Definitive 5-Step Email Marketing Guide for Success

(This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)

Regardless of many predictions that email would disappear someday, it is alive and well. With the average consumer checking either work or personal email several times a day, it is one of the more reliable forms of communication. Furthermore, unlike the ringing telephone, emails can be answered at recipients’ convenience. It’s probably no wonder, therefore, that email marketing is a massive driver of profit. This will become clearer – and you will understand how to build your own email marketing strategy – after reading this email marketing guide.

The amazing business value of email marketing becomes even more apparent when you consider the following email marketing statistics:

First, email marketers make $38 in sales for each $1 spent sending emails. This is a lot of potential profit, even if you don’t have an extensive email list. And it isn’t likely that your marketing email lists will stay short for long because 77% of customers prefer email for permission-based marketing messages. Considering how convenient it is for consumers to read email as time permits, this probably isn’t surprising.

Of course, your email marketing program is highly scalable, even if your company or customer jumps international borders. One reason for this is that there are 3.9 billion daily email users. This is a considerable percentage of the planet’s adult population. Combined with the fact that there are 400 million more email users than social media users, there’s a lot of money to be made with email marketing. Consider these additional statistics, and you’ll see that email marketing is a no-brainer:

  • In the B2C market, automated emails can have as high as 50% conversion rates. This translates into emails earning around $38 in revenue for every dollar spent.
  • Companies that use email marketing effectively can, on average, attribute 19% of their revenue to it.
  • Small businesses are especially dependent on email marketing. In fact, 81% of them use email as their best way to get new customers, and 80% rely on it for customer retention.

When you look at these numbers, one thing is clear: email marketing is a significant driver of revenue for many companies. Even large businesses get a substantial portion of their revenue from email marketing, but small businesses find it indispensable. One of the reasons for this, especially with small businesses, is the reasonable email marketing cost.

Before we dig deeper into this email marketing guide, let’s start by reconfirming the basics.

What is Email Marketing?

what is a _____?

If we are to understand the importance of email marketing, it’s critical that we define this term. In a nutshell, email marketing uses legitimate emails for marketing purposes. These purposes can include everything from announcing a hot sale to keeping people updated on company news. At the heart of this approach is the email list; a list of email users interested in your company’s products or services, along with their email addresses.

Armed with a suite of email marketing tools, marketers will carry out email marketing campaigns. These often include sending out promotions throughout the year, in whatever form those are supposed to take. Such promotions are intended to stimulate buying through incentives. In addition, the email marketing strategy might include discussions about how a company is taking care of its employees. For instance, I know several retailers that informed their customers that store associates were being paid during the initial COVID-19 shutdown. These help to drum up business by demonstrating social responsibility.

Email marketing is one of the most popular—and effective—tools for marketing campaigns when you want to expand your brand or sell your products. We’ll go through how email marketing – specifically, the use of promotional emails – may help you grow your business.

How Does Email Marketing Benefit Your Business?

While other marketers are telling you you need to create Instagram Reels or spend hours a day on TikTok, I’m here to tell you that it pays to invest in getting your digital marketing strategy in order first. We need to invest in our own assets, and after your website, your email list is the 2nd most important digital asset you can build. Many other benefits of email marketing will convince you to take this marketing channel more seriously.

First, there’s one primary reason why email marketing is used so much: it has an excellent ROI. Sometimes, this value is realized through specific sales that wouldn’t have happened without those emails. Remember that stat that businesses make $38 in sales for each $1 spent sending emails?

Secondly, email marketing is easy to use. Almost everyone in the United States uses email to some extent, and so it’s a familiar medium. So long as you can avoid becoming an annoying spammer, your emails can become a great way to connect with consumers.

Next, have you ever thought about the fact that third parties have some degree of editorial control over most forms of advertising? Look at the Facebook rules, for instance, and you’ll see a host of disallowed speech. At the same time, magazines, TV, and radio all reject ads that don’t conform to their standards. Email is different, though. There are very few restrictions with email, and you and the consumer primarily define it as acceptable content.

Finally, reaping the benefits of email marketing requires a proper strategy. After all, there’s more to email marketing than just cranking out words and phrases. Instead, everything needs to be done with specific goals in mind and an optimal time. Then, with the right planner, your emails can reach the right people at the right time in real-time.

Further Reading: 15 Amazing Benefits of Email Marketing No One Ever Taught You

Step 1: Choose Your Email Marketing Software Carefully

Why is investing in the best email service providers for your company important?

I always say that you need to meet the digital user where they are, which includes meeting them via social, search engines, or email. Therefore, your choice of email marketing platforms is as essential as which social media marketing dashboard or SEO tool you decide to use.

Many companies and business owners are still invested in email marketing software tools that they might have invested in several years ago and feel stuck with. Unfortunately, this is hurting your marketing for a few reasons:

  • You might be missing out on important additional functionality that other email marketing software solutions provide, especially in the areas of marketing automation, CRM, and even the ability to create landing pages and web forms.
  • You might be spending too much, not just on your current email marketing tool but on your ability to discontinue other marketing tools as email marketing software becomes more robust with functionality.

While a quarterly audit isn’t always necessary, doing a sanity check on your email marketing software solution every six months or even annually is a best practice. Regular audits ensure you don’t miss out on innovations that you could leverage to maximize email marketing ROI, including doing an audit of your standard email subject lines and the impact of your email’s content.

Through my own company or by working with clients, I actually have experience in 8 of the 19 best email marketing software tools. Of all of them, the four below are at the top of my list:

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign email marketing tool

This is the solution I was using until recently and recommended my clients migrate over to. For businesses that need an all-in-one marketing solution, ActiveCampaign is a great choice. That’s because they automate the entire email marketing cycle. At the same time, ActiveCampaign can be used to cover other sales and marketing tasks, as well. For example, you can input information from Salesforce into ActiveCampaign, and vice versa.

Despite its robust functionality, it’s easy to use, and I have found the customer service excellent. So it’s no wonder that ActiveCampaign is popular with SMBs.

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is the email marketing service I moved to a few years ago when they were the new and shiny email marketing solution used by a lot of bloggers. Since then, they have only become more popular with bloggers due to their intuitive interface. Nevertheless, I migrated away from them because I didn’t feel that they innovated their product fast enough for my email marketing strategy needs.

Fast forward to more recently, where pricing for ActiveCampaign above 10,000 subscribers saw a big increase. After hitting that milestone and realizing that ConvertKit has innovated a great deal recently, I have moved back to ConvertKit. I haven’t looked back, even recommending it to some of my clients as an alternative to ActiveCampaign based on their needs.

Simply put, if you are looking for an email marketing software tool that includes tagging and marketing automation based on a variety of actions to email client marketing campaigns to signup forms and landing pages, ConvertKit might be the best choice for you.

MailerLite

Mailer Lite email marketing service provider

For those of you who prefer a “no-frills” email provider, MailerLite is a great option with a limited-feature free plan for smaller lists. It also limits how many monthly emails you can send, which makes it great for freelancers. Even the paid version has pretty limited functionality, however. Even so, there are some email templates for customers to use.

Get Response

GetResponse email marketing software

GetResponse provides a fully functional solution at a reasonable price–even as your subscribers grow. Core features include several mobile-friendly options, Shutterstock images, and some killer functionality, such as the inclusion of a webinar platform and the ability to create automated lead magnet funnels using their landing page and email marketing automation functionality.

Further Reading: The 19 Best Email Marketing Software Tools to Consider Investing in Today

Step 2: The Different Types of Email Communication Available to You (And The Benefits of Each)

Far from being an obsolete way to sell goods and services, email marketing is stronger than ever. Many consumers love to get emails from their favorite brands. This is true, even if they are more interested in that brand professionally than as something they want to purchase. However, not every email marketing campaign is created equal. Instead, companies can use many types of email marketing depending on their needs.

The type of products, customer base, and whether or not a brand sells mainly to businesses play a role in determining which kinds of emails to send. Over time, the best way to optimize ROI is to know which types of email marketing are most appropriate for your company. Continual testing and optimization are the best ways of learning. Still, I’ll cover what I’ve found to be common in a successful email marketing campaign.

Automated Sequence Emails

Autoresponders are time-based communications set up at specific intervals, such as immediately after an opt-in or a specified length of time following a purchase or download. You create email sequences, which your email provider, plug-in, or program then sends out automatically. You can, of course, make changes to your sequences once they’ve been set up.

Companies who set up automated email sequences report improved conversions, increased revenue, and better acquisition of new consumers and retention of existing customers. That’s because, when correctly set up, email sequences take care of a lot of the workload for you, allowing you to avoid losing consumers at critical stages while increasing conversion and sales chances. You just need to make sure that you are sending relevant emails to both potential customers and loyal customers through these drip campaigns.

Promotional Broadcast

Promotional blasts are also one of the types of email marketing. With promotional emails, you can notify customers about the latest deal on your website. For instance, you might let people know about your plans for the next Black Friday sale.

Another type of promotional email is the product launch or update announcement. In this case, you can showcase the product and give some use cases. Alternatively, you can use promotional emails to enhance the results of other email marketing efforts. Suppose you’re doing this at the same time as a YouTube influencer campaign, for example. In that case, you could send out an email about the latest influencer tutorial.

Regular Newsletters

Similar to content announcements, email newsletters keep people informed of what’s happening at your company. Newsletters are one of the most popular types of email marketing with B2B brands and nonprofit organizations. But, increasingly, it’s also used by companies that hope to establish their social responsibility.

With that in mind, what should you share in newsletter emails? Most commonly, a combination of news and developments within their industry for most companies is shared in a newsletter. Blog content can be included, too, as well as anything you’ve curated that your audiences might find helpful. Thought leadership material or the latest discussions within your industry are great examples. No matter what you put in your newsletters, though, the object is always to build some brand affinity.

Further Reading: 10 Types of Email Marketing Campaigns You Need to Send to Your Customers and Prospects

Step 3: A Guide to How to Build Your Email Marketing List through Lead Magnets

Step 3: A Guide to How to Build Your Email Marketing List through Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are a type of marketing tactic in which you provide an incentive in exchange for a website visitor’s contact information. Lead magnets are long-form content pieces—e-books, white papers, templates, and so on—that provide value to the reader. By employing this strategy, you may acquire organic leads who are then moved to the second stage of your conversion journey.

Look no further if you’re having trouble coming up with unique lead magnets to use on your website. Take a look at the following notable lead magnet examples that you may use right now. To impress your website visitors and develop your email list, use these in your own marketing.

Static Lead Magnets (PDF)

Like e-books and guides, static lead magnets are usually single-use pieces of content that answer a particular question. They are the most common and popular type of lead magnet and traditionally come in a PDF file. Try some of the static lead magnets below!

Infographics

Infographics are a simple and effective way to display and discuss data, statistics, and other information. They can be more engaging (and shareable) than written information, especially with attractive designs. As a result, in exchange for your prospects’ contact information, provide them with a helpful infographic (one they can download and keep).

eBooks, Whitepapers, or Research Reports

Create downloadable PDFs containing more detailed or technical resources. These can range from the sector’s current state to future trend predictions. You may even use your website, social media platforms, or email blasts to entice prospects to move through your sales funnel to obtain these materials.

Case Study

Conduct research and summarize the findings (including any errors, obstacles, or accomplishments) in a report, white paper, or even visual material (like a video or infographic). Case studies, when done correctly, may disclose a lot about your company and sector, revealing vital information that your prospects will want to learn more about.

Dynamic Lead Magnets (Webinars, Email Courses)

Dynamic lead magnets are types of content that users can re-use or actively engage with, such as courses, worksheets, calendars, swipe files, and more. Steal some of the ideas below for yourself!

Email Course

Using email marketing in conjunction with your lead magnet is a terrific method to expand your subscriber base and get people to engage with your business. To deliver value over time, break down an e-learning course into smaller bits and send them out to your distribution list one by one for continued engagement.

Templates

Free digital templates are trendy and generate a large number of leads. Make sure your template complements rather than replaces what you’re offering. A free Facebook ad template or image generator for a Facebook profile page, for example, might be a good lead magnet if you offer social media consulting services.

Toolkits

Tool kits are a little more difficult to create, but they make good lead magnets due to their abundance of use. With a toolkit, you might not need to start from scratch. You can incorporate current materials, blog pieces, and other information to round out your toolkit. One or two e-books and a worksheet, a video, or a checklist are common additions to tool kits.

Other Lead Magnets

The above lead magnets are appropriate for most types of businesses, but if you are a B2C business, the easiest type of lead magnets might just be the below:

Coupons

Why does it seem that every ecommerce website offers a 10% discount for first-time customers? Because they want you on their list!

Free Trials

If you provide a SaaS service, this is a no-brainer way to get more prospects into your marketing funnel and building up your list.

Quizzes

You can use interactive marketing platforms like Outgrow to create quizzes to lead people onto your mailing list.

Further Reading: How to Grow Your Email List: 10 Best Practices to Follow

Step 4: How to Create Communication Pathways

Step 4: How to Create Communication Pathways

Any successful inbound marketing strategy must include good communication between you and the customer. In the email world, this is known as email nurturing. These email campaigns convert potential leads into sales. Accomplish this through an educational, awareness, and relationship-building process.

Nurture campaigns are all about creating relationships to secure a devoted audience. These emails are useful because they take users on a personalized journey. They’ll get another email highlighting what they’ve done and offering guidance and support throughout their user journey, depending on how and when they connect with a brand. I listed a few examples of some popular types of email series below.

Welcome Sequences

One of the most effective types of email marketing is the welcome email. One of the reasons for this is their average open rate of 82%. This is 86% higher than what other email campaigns achieve and result in a 33% higher engagement rate with future emails. In a nutshell, we can see that gratitude is essential. People don’t like forking over an email address and then being sent a bunch of emails without a “thank you.”

Remember that welcome emails can be more than just “thanks for signing up.” In many cases, welcome emails will include a discount code for company products. If that isn’t appropriate for your company, a welcome email might include a different kind of sign-up incentives, such as a free report. Another reason for the popularity of welcome emails is that people sign up because they’re interested in your brand. Capitalizing on this interest is a smart business move.

Lead Magnet Sequences

These emails are sent to people after they’ve opted into a lead magnet offer to keep them engaged and guide them further through the buyer’s journey. You’re going to provide the magnet that initially pulled them in with your first email. They will receive an email with a link to the webinar or downloading their new PDF. Thank them for signing up with you and provide them with some further information on how to get the most out of their new prize.

Next, you’ll want to follow up to gauge their experience with your lead magnet and to build a rapport. Consider what things you may offer to make your lead feel like a VIP. Do you have a Facebook support group they may join? Is there a separate PDF for morning mindset exercises?

Following these first initial follow-up emails, you can begin to share more about your business, build a community, and offer something new as a reward for sticking with you. Offerings can be a special discounted cost to join your high-end course, a trial of your flagship product, or an invitation to your next webinar. Whatever your offer, it should be a limited-time promotion offered just to your VIP list.

Transactional Sequences

If you sell anything directly to the end-user through your website, sending transactional emails is among the more effective types of email marketing. For example, sending order confirmations after a consumer checks out lets them know that you have the order and are processing it. These emails serve as both the invoice and receipt. Many people will print these out and add them to their credit card reconciliation file or place them in a special email box for the same purpose.

Further Reading: 9 Types of Transactional Emails Every Marketer Should Know

Step 5: A Guide to Optimizing Your Email Marketing through Email Marketing Metrics

Step 5: A Guide to Optimizing Your Email Marketing through Email Marketing Metrics

One thing about marketing that will likely never change is its focus on numbers. In particular, the return on investment will always be at the top of our minds. Although it’s newer than traditional media methods, email marketing is no exception. And everyone knows that this modality has one of the best ROIs. Nonetheless, proving the ROI of your email marketing will come down to how you report on its effectiveness.

There are four main categories of metrics that need to be included in your email marketing report.

Unfortunately, as you will see, not all of them are provided by your email marketing provider. That is why you will need to aggregate data from different sources to create an email marketing report that has business value.

Metrics provided by email provider

This category measures whether people are getting your brand message and how well they respond to it. You can also use these numbers to tweak your strategy.

  • Total Subscribers: How many people are subscribed to your promotional emails or newsletter.
  • Subscriber Growth: How rapidly are you adding subscribers to your email marketing list?
  • Unsubscribe Rate: How often do people unsubscribe in terms of a percentage of subscribers? If it’s running high, you’ll need to know why.
  • Total Emails Sent: Simply put, how many emails are you putting out per time period? This is each time you send an email to one address.
  • Open Rate: What percentage of your emails are opened?
  • Clickthrough Rate: How often do recipients click through your emails to a landing page?
  • Bounce Rate: Percentage of emails that are “returned” or “rejected” by the receiving server. Bouncing is typically the result of an email address getting disconnected.
  • Reported as Spam Rate: How often do users say that an email is spam. This is really bad for your ability to get an email into people’s inboxes.
  • Deliverability: The opposite of your bounce rate. In other words, the percentage of emails received by the target server.

Content metrics provided by email provider

This category looks at how well your content is doing overall. It’s one thing to get an email delivered or even read and another to have the content hit home.

  • Best/worst-performing campaigns/messages in terms of open rate and/or click-through rate. In other words, what is your best pitch or your worst pitch?
  • Best/worst-performing sequences: Here, you’re looking at how well a series of emails works, especially in comparison with others in your library.
  • Best/worst-performing automation: Which triggered emails are the outliers on performance. Is there room for improvement?

Subscriber metrics provided by email provider

Most people aren’t equally engaged with a brand at all times. Here, there might be some opportunities to increase engagement. Likewise, a highly engaged subscriber might be a brand advocate or influencer that you can leverage for influencer marketing purposes.

  • Subscribers with top-scoring/activity: These guys love your products and represent a relationship that needs to be nurtured. Be sure to analyze their demographics and market segments as much as possible.
  • Subscribers who have gone cold and need to be re-engaged: People often forget about a brand when the latest thing comes along. Besides this, consumers find they need or want something less. Even if you sell things that many customers stop needing, you need to keep track of your email subscriber engagement.

Web analytics metrics

Email marketing, when done right, has a significant effect on your website traffic. This includes people who click through and buy things and those who follow up in other ways.

  • Website Traffic Generated: How many people visit your website in response to email campaigns, or what percentage of subscribers?
  • Leads Generated: How effective is your email marketing at generating leads? Again, this is typically expressed as a raw number or percentage.
  • Conversions Generated: How often do people buy something due to your email campaigns?

Further Reading: The 10 Most Important Email Marketing Benchmarks to Know for 2022

Download the Definitive Email Marketing Guide

I have prepared a special guide for you which covers the above material and more to help you get started with your email marketing or ramp up to the next level. Enter your info below to download your email marketing guide today!

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This email marketing guide provides a 5-step process to allow you to easily begin or ramp up your email marketing efforts.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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