What Is Email Marketing? (Plus How To Create a Campaign)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 2, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An illustration of a pair of hands holding a smartphone, with icons floating above the screen to indicate email components

For years now, email marketing has been a go-to digital marketing tool for businesses, given its effectiveness in connecting directly with many people at once. This digital-marketing technique can generate sales leads, foster relationships with new customers and help to convert them into long-term customers. For any job that involves marketing to customers, this strategy likely is one you’ve used or will use at some point in your campaign(s).

In this article, we define email marketing and review the steps a company can take to build an email marketing campaign.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a digital-marketing strategy that's executed by sending emails to customers and potential customers. Highly effective email marketing converts, turning strangers into customers and one-off customers into loyal patrons.

Email marketing is a great way to connect with your audience in a personal but widespread fashion to share your news, advertise sales, introduce new products or anything that helps to promote your brand and ultimately increase sales. It's a popular technique because it provides the most cost-efficiency and highest ROI of any marketing strategy available.

Related: 11 Essential Email Marketing Tips

How to create an email marketing campaign

An effective email marketing campaign has a logical flow of steps to reach the end result. Here are the steps to follow to get an email marketing campaign started:

1. Set goals for your email campaign

Some of the most common goals among marketers implementing email marketing include the following:

  • Inform: Keeping your customers regularly updated about what's happening with your company should provide some sort of benefit to the reader. Ask yourself if they're better off for reading this email.

  • Attract: You now have to work on keeping customers engaged and coming back to make purchases. In the case of readers who aren't yet customers, this campaign is a great opportunity to attract them to your brand. Make sure you're linking to your site so that they can seek more information once you've piqued their interest in your brand.

  • Engage: Not only should they inform and attract, but your email should also be engaging. Incorporating relevant elements such as images or videos can make your reader more interested in your products or services or about who you are as a company. As long as they want to learn more about your brand, you've engaged them.

  • Convert: Conversion is, of course, the end goal of your email marketing campaign. Your email should inform, attract and engage readers to the point in which they become customers. When they do, you'll want to nurture the relationship to keep them, so find your most effective method and timing and stay in touch with your customers.

Other common goals can include list growth, increased ROI, higher click-through rates or any other metric that's high on your list of priorities at this time.

Related: 12 Email Marketing Tools To Grow Your Audience

2. Choose what type of email to send

It's likely that you'll already know what type of email you want to send, whether it's a promotion for a holiday sale, a grand-opening announcement or a special offer. The purpose of your campaign will typically dictate what the structure of your email will be. Some of the most common types of emails used in email marketing include the following:

  • Abandoned cart reminders

  • Confirmation emails

  • Newsletters

  • Product announcements

  • Special offers

  • Welcome emails

Related: How To Create an Email Sales Funnel (Plus the 5 Funnel Stages)

3. Segment your target audience

Segmenting your email marketing lists can improve open and click-through rates. This is because you're sending an email that's specifically targeted to a custom group of people. Your list could be segmented by:

  • Browsing behavior: Tracking the behaviors of your website visitors allows you to better understand their shopping interests. You can use this information to send targeted emails to them in the future.

  • Demographics: Basic information such as age, gender and income level can be obtained through the sign-up process and can tell you a bit about each person's lifestyle.

  • Engagement: You can segment your list by how active each user is. For example, someone who hasn't opened any of the last six emails you've sent out can be considered an inactive user.

  • Geographic location: Location can have a giant impact on certain users' shopping habits and buying decisions. It can also help you to time your email messages accordingly based upon your recipients' time zones or target your audience properly based on their local store location.

  • Past purchases: This segment is ideal for sending recommendations for items related or complementary to their past purchases.

  • Time between purchases: Segmenting by the time since the most recent purchase can help you send a message that makes sense to recipients. For example, if a customer got a haircut with you a week ago, it's a bit early to begin reminding them to schedule their next haircut.

Segmenting makes it much easier to craft appropriate subject lines and messaging to encourage the user to open, read and engage with your email campaigns.

Related: 11 Types of Market Segmentation (With Benefits and Examples)

4. Select the right email service to meet your needs

All email marketing platforms are not the same. The platform you choose should be one that best fits your needs. Luckily, there are many choices, with many features that may or may not be exactly what you need. The main differentiators in email marketing services are as follows:

  • Price

  • User interface

  • Feedback

  • Comparison

Related: 24 Email Marketing Software (Plus Features and Benefits)

5. Build your list of customers/subscribers

Growing your email list can be tricky, but one rule to always follow is to have explicit permission from your recipients to send correspondence to them. To grow your list organically and respectfully, try the following opt-in avenues:

  • Opt-in form on your website: It's very easy to create a pop-up with a simple signup feature for first-time visitors. You can set it to trigger when they enter the site or upon exit intent.

  • Opt-in via social media: Most major social media platforms have a plugin that you simply toggle on and link it to your mail platform. It takes a couple of seconds for someone to opt-in and no effort on your part past installing the plugin.

  • Lead magnet: A lead magnet is a value offer—something that has value to the customer that you give them for free in exchange for their email address. Most lead magnets won't cost you a dime, as the most common deliverables are digital. Some common lead magnets include: coupons, ebooks. infographics, cheat sheets or tips, white papers or case studies, webinars, free trials or samples or a free consultation or quote.

For your lead magnet to be effective, make sure it's easily and immediately accessible, useful, provides value and is relevant to the customer.

Related: Learn About Being a Digital Marketing Manager

6. Plan and design your email

When it comes time to create your email, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Start with your subject line

First, you must write a subject line that will make people want to open the email. To write a standout subject line, include the following:

  • Numbers: People are typically compelled by numbers.

  • Friendly tone: This takes some practice as well as confidence in your understanding of what your readers like.

  • Curiosity: Inserting just a bit of mystery into the subject line is a good way to get curious people to open the email.

  • Personalization: While you're sending a message to potentially thousands of people, try to write your subject line as if you're addressing one friend. A personalized subject line can make people feel special and incite curiosity.

Always keep in mind that most people get hundreds of emails per day. The key is to catch their eye by standing out from the others. Only when they're enticed to open the email will your message be delivered.

Related: 85 Sales Email Subject Lines To Boost Your Open Rate

Deliver interesting and relevant content

Your subject line may get your readers to open the email—once. If the content within is lacking, they're less likely to open your future emails. They might even unsubscribe. Keeping the content relevant, interesting and valuable provides a stronger likelihood that they'll anticipate your future messages. Keep them interested by offering value. It could be an ebook, a helpful article or an invitation to an exclusive sale—whatever your customers are likely to value.

Avoid the spam folder

Obviously, if your email gets sent to the spam folder, your recipient will never see your message. Consider the following tips to make sure your email stays out of the spam folders:

  • Make sure the recipient has opted to receive your emails. Ask them to add you to their "safe senders" list.

  • Personalize the email by using a merge feature to insert their name into the "To:" field. This helps verify that the email is meant for the recipient.

  • Send emails through verified domains. Legitimate domains are less likely to be filtered into spam.

  • Send a mix of engagement and transactional messages. Examples of engagement emails include welcome emails, tips, tricks or tutorials. Transactional messages can include cart abandonment reminders, order confirmations, shipping updates, receipts or promotions.

  • Don't clickbait. Make sure the message in your email matches what your subject line promises.

  • Make sure it's easy for someone to unsubscribe.

Related: Writing Engaging Email Subject Lines for Events (With Examples)

Use optimized formatting

As more than half of email is read using mobile devices, it's important to pay attention to the formatting of your email, as it will determine the readability. Here are a few tips:

  • Optimize the layout. The ideal size of an email is no more than 600px wide and a single column. This ensures that the email will display properly on every device.

  • Make sure your message is readable. Enlarge the font so it can be easily read on small screens.

  • Make sure your email still looks good in the event that the images don't load. This is common on mobile, so your design shouldn't be completely dependent on graphics.

  • Regarding graphics, make sure your images are small enough to load quickly. Size thresholds will differ depending on your email platform and the reader's device.

  • Make your call to action clear and easy to tap. A large button is easy to click even when mobile users are maneuvering their device with one hand.

  • Leave adequate space between clickable links to ensure that the user doesn't accidentally click on the wrong one.

Related: 31 Sales Email Templates to Help You Close the Deal

7. Test and track your email campaign's performance

There are several metrics to monitor to measure the success of your campaign. They include:

  • Deliverability: Obviously, your emails can only be read if they are first received.

  • Open rate: This metric shows you the percentage of recipients who opened your email.

  • Click-through rate: Click-through rates measure engagement. You can also track which of your links people clicked on to get an idea of what's relevant to them.

  • Conversion rate: This tells you how many recipients not only clicked through but then proceeded to fill out a form, sign up for something you're offering or make a purchase. Measuring these numbers is a bit more involved and requires you to link your analytics tools to your email marketing account.

  • Bounce rate: If an inbox is full and your message can't reach it, this is called a "soft bounce." If the email account has been closed, you'll receive a "hard bounce." It's a good idea to clean up your list after each campaign, as continuing to send emails to a closed account will hurt your credibility in the eyes of the ISP and spam filters.

  • Unsubscribes: The percentage of unsubscribes for a campaign should be under 2%. If it's higher, it's time to revisit your content strategy.

  • Abuse reports: When your email is marked as spam, the complaint goes to your recipient's ISP, which may then block all of your emails from reaching their email address.

Related: 4 Steps for Writing a Cold Email That Works (With Examples)

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