A Comprehensive Guide on How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy

A Comprehensive Guide on How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy

As one of the most effective ways to target your potential customers, there is no denying the value of email. Determining a solid email marketing strategy can be difficult, especially when you have multiple initiatives going at the same time. For your email messages to resonate with your target audience, you need a clear and well-executed email marketing strategy. Below, we explain the importance of email in your marketing efforts and how to effectively build your marketing strategy.

What Is the Technical Definition of an Email Marketing Strategy?

Email marketing is a type of digital marketing strategy that involves sending emails to potential and existing customers. Effective email marketing strategies help convert prospects into customers and transform existing customers into ambassadors for your company.

The key phrase is “strategy,” which explains how much thought and structure must go into building it. It is not a series of unrelated tactics to try to get more customers. Instead, it is a highly regulated process that considers who you are attempting to reach and how to reach them effectively.

A comprehensive email marketing strategy should include the following:

  • Your objectives
  • The methods you will use to achieve your objectives
  • The purpose behind your strategy
  • Analysis of results
  • How you will measure success

Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

In the age of social media and rampant mobile phone use, you might wonder about the effectiveness of emails. However, email is still the best way to reach your customer directly. 99% of email users check their email on a daily basis, some checking as many as 20 times a day. About 105 billion emails are sent every day and 61% of consumers report email is their preferred way of being contacted by businesses.

The mix of mobile phones and email is also good news for businesses. 81% of people prefer to open emails on their smartphones and 40% of people 18 and under will always open email on their phone first. All of this adds up to email being the most effective way to increase leads and customer loyalty.

Email marketing also provides a much better return on investment than other marketing efforts with return of $40 for every $1 spent. The average order value after a relevant email is more than three times higher than that garnered by social media messaging. Additionally, people who purchase products advertised on their email spend 138% more than customers who did not receive an email offer.

How Can Email Marketing Fuel Your Overall Inbound Strategy?

Email marketing should be a vital component of your overall inbound strategy. Email marketing tools can also integrate with your other tools, including your customer relationship management tools and external platforms. This allows you to develop highly relevant messages to send to existing and potential customers. You can start a conversation and target your marketing message to a particular subset of your target audience. This allows you to create a customized messaging format for different types of customers. At the same time, email marketing helps you create a personalized experience for your customers, further driving your inbound marketing efforts.

Tips to Build Your Email Marketing Strategy

Now that you understand the importance of a solid email marketing strategy, you can begin taking steps to build your dedicated strategy.

Identify Your Goals

The first step is to identify your goals for your email marketing strategy. Creating goals allows you to create a clear direction for the future and come up with a strategy to get there. This is best completed by creating SMART goals, which are:


Your goals should be specific so that you know when you have reached them. For example, you might want to create a goal that increases your open rate by a certain percentage or increase your subscribers by a certain number.


Your goals should also be easy to measure. They should not be abstract and instead should be concrete, such as “increase my open rate.” Ultimately, you should be able to track your progress of accomplishing these goals.


Any goal you set should allow you to take certain actions toward completing it. For example, if your goal is to increase your open rate, you can experiment with email segmentation or catchy subject lines to accomplish this goal.


Your employee morale will be better if you set goals that are realistic. While you may want to increase your open rate by 200%, it may be more realistic to start with 50%, for example. Once you reach this goal, you can set a more ambitious goal. Consider both the potential of your company and industry to establish realistic goals.


You need to have a clear start date and end date so that you can properly assess whether you have met your objectives. For example, you might have a goal that is one month, three months, or six months. After this time has elapsed, you can analyze your results and determine if you reached your goals.

It may help you to get started on your strategy by picking common goals for email marketing strategies, such as:

  • Increasing your open rates
  • Increasing your click-through rates
  • Increasing your return on investment for each dollar you spend on email marketing
  • Increasing your number of subscribers

Build an Email List

Before you can start sending out highly effective emails, you need someone to send them to. Just as important, you need to have the right people to send your messages to. It is far better to send emails to 100 people and only get 25 responses than to send emails to 1,000 people and only get 10 responses.

To accomplish this, you will want to capture leads at every point possible. Ultimately, you are looking for potential customers who will subscribe to your email list and have an interest in your product or service. Some ways to accomplish this include:

Use an Email Service Provider

Using an email service provider gives you an edge over your competition by:

  • Organizing your email list
  • Segmenting your audience into relevant subgroups
  • Distributing email campaigns
  • Integrating with your other inbound marketing tools
  • Tracking the results of your campaigns

Entice Your Target Audience

In addition to using your existing list of subscribers, you should also be working diligently on growing your email list. Some ways that you may be able to entice your target audience to opt in to your email marketing messages include:

  • Giving away something for free at opt-in, such as an ebook or tips targeted to your audience
  • Positioning yourself as an expert in the field and providing a white paper or case study to support this
  • Offering free trials or samples
  • Offering a discount for a product or service
  • Giving away coupons
  • Hosting a contest

While you can potentially offer anything to your subscribers, you want to be sure that your subscribers will get value out of your offer and you limit the cost associated with the giveaway. Generally, look for offers that are:


The offer should provide a tool, skill, or information that your subscriber knows how to apply.


Offer something that your target audience will find relevant and useful.

Well designed

The offer will be the first introduction to your audience of your products or services, so it should represent the quality of your other products or services.


Your offer should just be an introduction, so don’t overwhelm new subscribers with too much information.


Don’t create a lull between the time your subscriber opts in and when they get their freebie. Capitalize on the interest by delivering something now.

Know Your Target Audience

To make the most of your marketing strategy, you will want to get to know your target audience so that you can target them with customized messaging. If you fail to understand your target audience, you risk them unsubscribing. About 43% of consumers will unsubscribe from your email list if they believe the messages they receive are not relevant. Email systems make this easier by suggesting that consumers unsubscribe from lists when they have not opened messages for the past several weeks.

You can get to know your target audience better by using an email lookup tool. This type of tool may work in the following ways:

  • A reverse email search lets you plug in an email address that you have already collected to extract public information about them, including their first and last name, location, phone number, photos, and social media profiles.
  • An email finder lets you target potential customers based on their personal data, such as their name, company name, and social media information.

Email search tools can also help you determine if an email is fake so that you do not waste your valuable time or resources trying to market to this account.

When considering who you want to send your marketing messages to, try to answer the following questions;

  • Who are your best customers? What types of characteristics do they have in common?
  • What problem are you solving for existing customers?
  • What motivated your best customers to make a purchase?
  • What can you provide to your customers that your competition cannot?

Create Your Email List Segments

Once you have a better idea about the people who comprise your email list, you can start segmenting your email list. This process lets you create customized messages to certain subgroups of your target audience. You can group individuals with similar behaviors so that your messaging is directly targeted to these individuals. For example, you might have certain messaging for customers who abandoned a shopping cart than someone who just signed up for your newsletter. You could also segment your list by characteristics such as:

  • Age
  • Company size
  • Location
  • How long they have been on your email list

Whatever metrics you want to use to segment your lists should be provided by your customers at the time they sign up for your email list. You can then start to create targeted messages that help you connect with different segments of your customer list and guide them through your marketing funnel.

Segmented email lists have much higher open rates, more than 100% more clicks, and lower unsubscribe rates than email campaigns that are not segmented.

Test Your Emails

Before sending out your email messages to your entire list or segment, test your emails with different internet service providers and email clients. Also, test for mobile optimization since many people will simply ignore emails that they cannot read easily on their mobile devices. You can send these text messages to friends and coworkers before sending them out to your larger audience. Ask them for feedback or if they had any problems loading the messages.

Automate the Process

Once you have all the data you need and you create the marketing messages you want, you can then set the process up on autopilot through the process of automations. Automation can help you determine:

You may also consider creating automated email drip campaigns, which are specialty messages that are sent to customers based on their location on the customer journey or based on a schedule. One email builds onto the previous one, helping guide your customers through your marketing funnel. Automated email drip campaigns can automatically adjust based on your customers’ behavior.

Analyze Results

All the data in the world will not make a difference if you do not know how to use it. Be sure that you are measuring your success in real time. Track your results to your stated goals. Make adjustments as necessary if you are not getting the results you want.


Email marketing strategies can be highly effective – if you know how to create them correctly. Setting up your goals and creating highly relevant content to segments of your email list can help you enhance the connection you have with your target audience.

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Ben Hartwig
Ben Hartwig

Ben Hartwig is an expert in Email Marketing. Ben is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who takes a wide view of the whole system. He authors guides by sharing the best practices and does it the right way!

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  1. Neal:
    Ben Hartwig’s article on How to build an Email Marketing Strategy is right on the mark. Useful, informative and comprehensive. The content you are sharing via nealschaffer.com is outstanding. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and resources with us. -Lynn Hoban

    • Thank you Lynn! I am trying to be real careful as to who I invite to guest post and work together with them to make sure that their high quality content is relevant for our audience. Really appreciate your confirmation that the strategy is working!

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