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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Email Marketing For Business - A Beginners Guide

Even with the rise of social media, email remains one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience and drive targeted campaign results at a hugely economical cost.

At its core, email marketing is about maintaining your brand’s identity and creating relationships with customers through relevant messaging delivered via their inboxes. It’s not just about sending newsletters or advertisements; it’s about building relationships with your subscribers so that they willingly opt-in and engage with your content.

Why should I use email marketing?

On average, email drives an ROI of $36 for every dollar spent, higher than any other channel. And it shows no sign of slowing down. In fact email marketing revenues are projected to keep growing every year for the next five years and beyond.

More evidence of email's critical importance to your marketing strategy; 77% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months.


  • It's affordable - other than email provider fees it is free to communicate with subscribers.

  • It works - effective engagement with subscribers can foster loyalty and drive conversions. It's becoming increasingly difficult to reach consumers organically on social media due to the algorithms favouring personal or paid content. You know it works because you are able to track engagement and conversions.

  • People prefer email - if they have signed up as a subscriber they actually and actively want to hear from you! It is also less obtrusive than most other communications that rely on annoying push notifications or in-feed interruptions.

  • You can test it - email marketing makes it easy to test different types of contact to ascertain what is getting the most hits. Try A/B testing elements such as subject lines, images, links, body content, and call-to-action buttons to see what works best with your subscribers.

  • Reach extends past your email database - you can upload your email list to social media platforms and other digital tools to retarget your customers or create 'lookalike' audiences who are a group of social network members who are determined as sharing characteristics with your subscribers even though they aren't currently your customers but making them more likely to convert.

With the right strategy and tools, you too can leverage email as a powerful medium to grow your customer base at an accelerated rate.

If Social Media is the cocktail party, then email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee’. The original 1 to 1 channel.

Erik Harbison

Types of emails

There are three broad categories of customer emails each serving a distinct purpose. Knowing what they are and what they are used for makes it easier for you to get your timing right and develop the best content.

1. Newsletter

As the name states, these are more general emails with news from your business. It might be a combination of updates, information, and special offers.

Advantages of e-newsletters include the opportunity to encompass a variety of content that subscribers may look forward to receiving it and create a sense of anticipation much like a traditional newspaper or magazine. This improves customer loyalty and brand awareness. You can also use already written company newsletters, blogs, webinars, research etc to be used in your e-newsletter. Incorporate quick summaries of items with links to read more.

However, due to the amount t of content or the compilation format, e-newsletters can be overwhelming and difficult to evoke a clear, single call to action. Prioritise the most important information first and ensure each section has one, very clear call to action. E-newsletters also take more time to produce with a combination of images and copy making it more of a challenge to layout in a clean, appealing way.

Use e-newsletters to nurture prospects and upsell to existing customers. Find ways to encourage them to share your content.

2. Transactional

Transactional emails are generated (usually automatically) when a specific action is taken by one of your contacts. For example, if someone makes a purchase you might automatically thank people for attending an event and confirming details or confirmation of an order and shipping details.

These emails have a high click-through rate (CTR) because they should help the customer in some way. Take advantage of this by adding a secondary message with a clear call to action like an upsell or encouragement to opt-in for your loyalty program.

3. Lifecycle

Lifecycle emails are data-driven and consider the stage of the buyer's journey – prospect, first-time buyer, repeat customer, lapsed, and so on – to send triggered and ultra-relevant messages at exactly the right time.

Timing and message are critical depending on the stage of the journey to lead a customer on a path to conversion and ultimately loyalty. Typical examples include free trials, coupons or vouchers provided at the close-to-purchase stage to tip consumers over to conversion or a thank you for making a purchase and encouragement to join your loyalty program.

Types of emails you should be sending

Welcome Email

Welcome emails are introductory messages outlining your company. They’re sent to new subscribers.

Email Newsletter

Email newsletters inform your audience of the latest news, tips, or updates about your company or industry. Write a newsletter for brand awareness, but give it a new name: Brands see an 18.7% decrease in open rates when the word “newsletter” is used.

New Product Announcement

Product announcements promote new products that might be of interest to specific customers.

Promotional Email

The primary focus of a promotional email is informing potential customers about your product or service.

Testimonial Email

Testimonial emails provide customer testimony for why a company or product is valuable.

Tips and Training Email

Tips and training emails provide helpful content, like articles and videos, to educate subscribers.

Replenishment Email

Replenishment emails (or re-up emails) remind customers to reorder or resubscribe after a certain period of time.

Upgrade Email

Upgrade emails provide information on a company’s next level of service or pricing tier.

Survey Email

Survey emails encourage customers to complete a survey, allowing the company to collect user preferences. For best results, make your surveys short and impactful, and call them something other than a survey.

Re-engagement Email

Re-engagement (or win-back) emails appeal to cold subscribers and encourage them to re-engage with a brand.

Abandoned Cart Email

Abandoned cart emails are sent to shoppers who leave the website before completing a purchase. Consider offering a discount in your abandoned cart emails.

Transactional Email

Transactional emails provide confirmations and updates on purchases and downloads.

Key metrics

Open rate

Unsurprisingly this is the number of times an email is opened vs the number of addresses the email is sent to. Often used as a key indicator of success there are several issues with relying solely on this measure,

An email is only counted as opened if the recipient also receives the images in the email message and many email platforms automatically block images unless manually allowed. This means that even if someone does open your email if the images haven't been loaded the open won't be counted. Also, many people use an email preview pane, which may count as an open even if the recipient hasn't read it.

Bounce rate

This is the percentage of total emails sent that could not successfully be delivered. Bounce rates are important because they can signal issues with your email list.

There are two types of bounce - hard and soft. Hard bounces are usually the result of an invalid, closed or non-existent email address and will never result in successfully delivered emails. Soft bounces are temporary issues such as a mailbox being full or a problem with the recipient's server.

Delivery rate

Closely tied to the bounce rate, the delivery rate is number of bounces divided by the number of emails sent. If the rate is lower than approximately 95% it may indicate an issue with your database as outlined in bounce rates or an issue with the actual email content. There may have been some element that was flagged as spam and blocked by firewalls.

Unsubscribe rate

Although it is clear what this rate is, it can be a little deceptive. Many people simply cannot be bothered unsubscribing so may just stop opening it or send it to their junk folder. Monitor this rate though to see if there are any sudden spikes that can be traced back to specific email content or any other business activity that may have prompted it.

List growth rate

In growing your business and number of customers you will want a corresponding increase in the number of contacts in your email database. To calculate the growth rate of your list subtract opt-outs and hard bounces from the number of new email subscribers gained in any given month, then divide that number by the original list size. Typically a business may experience an email subscriber natural churn rate of 25-30% per year, which is why you must continually strive to add new contacts to your email list so you don't go backwards.

Click-through rate (CTR)

Source: Campaign Monitor

CTR is the number of people who click one or more links in your email calculated by dividing the unique clicks by number of emails delivered. This is arguably the most important metric as it indicates how successful your email has been at engaging the recipient to take action.

However, rates vary depending on the type of email sent and also by industry. Transactional emails have the highest rates and promotional messages the lowest.

Campaign Monitor, one of the leading email delivery platforms has provided these benchmarks by industry.

Conversion rate

The critical metric that measures the percentage of recipients who clicked and took a desired action such as filling in a lead generation form or making a purchase. The higher the rate, the more compelling your offer was. However, other factors play into conversion rates such as the quality of the landing page they click through to. To measure this you need to integrate your email platform with your web analytics. This is done by creating unique tracking URLs for email links so you can identify what traffic came from that source.

Writing and designing effective emails

With thousands of companies sending and writing emails every day, your emails must stand out. This section provides some guidelines for improving your copywriting and email design abilities so that your messages stand out.

Answer four questions

Great email copy answers these questions in the body of the email in a way that clearly demonstrates to the customer the value of your promotion.

  1. Why now? Consider whether the promotion you have should offer new or on-sale items. Also, consider whether it’s seasonal or timely; that is, whether it’s something that customers want or need now more than at another time.

  2. Who cares? Decide who in your target audience is most affected by having (or not having) what you’re selling.

  3. Why should they care? You need to let customers know how their lives will be different if they have your product or service.

  4. Can you prove it? Provide case studies, testimonials, or news stories to prove that your customers’ lives will be changed if they engage with your product or service.

Knowing why people buy

Customers always have a motive for buying something. By understanding the reasons why people make purchases, you can focus on what motivates people to click 'Buy' as you write email copy.

  • Personal gain - help them resolve a pain point, gain a benefit or satisfy a desire.

  • Logic and research - this product seems like a logical fit to meet a particular need, because customers have already done their research.

  • Social proof or third-party influence - customers have been persuaded by their friends that the product or service is excellent, or they want to be part of the action, seeing lots of people doing the same thing. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

  • Fear of missing out - it is a genuine concern that people will miss out on something important or that they will be the only person without it.

Which of these motivations do you think drives your customers, and how can you address that reason in your email copy?

Subject lines

The subject line is the most vital part of email copy because most people consider whether to open an email for only three to four seconds. Catch interest and entice customers to open an email using a good subject line. Then, your email body copy can finish the job.

You can use three types of subject lines to create reasons to open an email:

  1. Curiosity - pique the interest of viewers to complete them to open the email to find out more. Asking a question can be a good way to do this.

  2. Benefit - Subscribers should open emails because the subject lines clearly state why they should and the benefits they will receive.

  3. Scarcity - Subscribers may feel that they will miss out on something important if they don’t open the email and engage with it because of scarcity subject lines.

Body copy

For a single-item promotional email write body copy that answers the four questions identified earlier. Doing so ensures you cover all major points that the recipient needs to know.

Every section of copy should have one link. That way, customers can read through the entire email and find out all their questions are answered and have multiple opportunities to find out more are available by clicking a link.

  1. Introduction: In this section, answer the question “Who cares?” by showing customers that they should care about this promotion and why.

  2. Body: Next, help your reader to answer the question “Why should they care?” by explaining the proven benefits or results of the product or service.

  3. Close: The close of your email is a great time to answer the question “Why now?” Tell customers, if it applies, that they have a limited time to engage with the promotion.

  4. P.S: A postscript is a fantastic place to answer the question “Can you prove it?” by sharing social proof such as a testimonial, positive review, or story of a customer whose life has been changed by the product or service.

Make sure that each section of the email includes a link to a relevant location on your website. It is fine if multiple links lead to the same location. Just ensure that customers have plenty of opportunities to keep engaging.

Key components

1. Must-click subject line

This is the first piece of information your readers see, so make sure you entice them to open your message. Do this by teasing content that is inside by using humour or by asking a question.

2. Compelling preheader copy

This is the next piece of information that readers will see and should be treated as an extension of your subject line. Tease the reader a little more to entice them to open up your message to learn more.

3. Featured content

Pick one piece of outstanding content and use that as the feature at the top of your newsletter. If you are struggling to pick a featured piece, narrow down your options until you find that one piece of must-read information.

4. Eye-catching graphics

Graphics are what pull the eye to the different pieces of content included within your newsletter. So, make sure your images and other graphics are eye-catching and serve a purpose.

5. Organized layout

Make use of a template that displays your content in blocks, similar to a newspaper. Don’t neglect other layout options such as the inverted pyramid and zig-zag layouts designed to keep the reader’s eyes moving in a given direction.

6. Minimal text

Avoid larch blocks of text. Your newsletter should include article titles and a one-sentence description for each piece of content you choose to include.

7. Clear CTAs

Use a colourful CTA that stands out and directs readers to each article. This can be done by simply using contrasting colours to make the CTA buttons pop off the page.

8. Minimal promotions

As much as consumers would rather brands send them promotional information via email, they have also stated in recent research that they would want brands to send them more informative information. This is why your newsletter should include 90% informational content and 10% promotional.

9. Social links

Help your readers stay in touch via social media by providing social icons to every newsletter so users can easily follow you.

10. Preference selection

Let your subscribers tell you what content they want to receive by linking to a preference centre. This helps increase the level of subscriber personalization, something your readers will thank you for.

11. Unsubscribe option

Thanks to updated laws and regulations, all email marketing material must provide subscribers with a simple way for them to opt out of future emails. That’s why adding an unsubscribe option to the footer of your emails is a must.

Call to action

You’ve developed a great subject line, segmented content into relevant sections, and included links. However, you still have to compel recipients to take the next step by taking action. Here are some ideas:

  • Pose a benefit-driven question. Example: “Would you like to learn to grow strawberries indoors? Click <link> to find out.”

  • Connect proof with product. Example: “Our customers are able to grow 20% more strawberries using our Indoor Strawberry Trellis! See how it works here: <link>”

  • Show the “After.” Example: “When you have the indoor Strawberry Trellis, you’ll enjoy ripe strawberries picked from the vine even in the coldest winter months. Get the Indoor Strawberry Trellis here: <link>”

  • Present a takeaway. Example: “This is your last chance to get the Indoor Strawberry Trellis at 35% off: <link>”

Get more clicks and opens

  • Get the timing right - it is better to send your emails at times when others are not sending emails so that they will stand out in recipients' inboxes and have a higher open rate. Research suggests that the best times to send emails are between 8:30 and 10 a.m., 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., and between 8 p.m. and midnight.

  • Personalise - according to research, emails with a first name in the subject line receive a 23% higher open rate. But don't overuse this strategy. It will become ineffective if utilised too frequently.

  • Use odd or specific numbers - almost everyone has 10 tips. Consider using alternative numbers to stand out: “6 methods to xxxx” “14 simple methods to xxxx,” or “The $143 solution xxx,” for instance. These odd numbers can appear more authentic to the recipient.

  • Keep the subject line short, clear and concise - there is no set number of words but you should aim for about 6-10 words. Short subject lines are easy to view on mobile phones and clever writing should pique the interest of the recipient to click for more.

  • Use symbols in the subject line - using symbols, special characters or emojis in the subject can capture attention. In fact, research shows it can increase open rates by as much as 15%. make sure it is appropriate to your brand though - no one wants a 🍆 emoji in an email from their dentist 😂

  • Think about the preview text - also known as pre-header text (PHT) the text that appears in your inbox right after the subject line is called the preview text. In the event that you do not include preheader text, the mailbox provider will utilise the primary words in the email. This might be the 'view in browser' line, an image description, or even a link. It can be a disaster if you don't include preheader text.

  • Add urgency - use a timeframe to compel action. For example "just 48 hours left on our spectacular summer sale! ⏰

  • Structure your content - there is a good chance your whole email may not be read so ensure the most important information is given right at the start.

  • Use a combination of content - people will not read blocks of text. Think about if your message can be presented as images or video instead. GIFs can work well in emails if they are pretty or funny.


Check out this site for a huge number of super effective email examples for inspiration - Really Good Emails.


Why it’s really good

  • Fun design

  • Consistent branding

  • Speaks directly to its targeted audience

  • Provides a good mix of resources (funding, blog posts, and virtual events)

Why it's really good

  • Edgy, unusual design

  • Use of eye-catching primary colours

  • Variety of fonts

  • Headline that piques your interest

  • Intriguing imagery


Why it’s really good

  • Single, clear message

  • Clean, minimalist design

  • The blue background causes both the call-to-action and the white box near the bottom of the email to command attention

  • The fanned-out product images help the recipient understand what the announcement entails before diving into the explainer copy


Why it’s really good

  • GIF usage

  • Clear CTA

  • On-brand

  • Sets the tone for the company and the product

Why it’s really good

  • Displaying data as graphs instead of text

  • Headline with a key message

  • Simple clean layout

  • One clear call to action


Why it's really good

  • It doesn't sound or feel like product promotion

  • A really cool piece of interactive content: a quiz to see what you should serve at your party

  • GIF used commands the recipient's attention

Why it's really good

  • Amazing imagery

  • Piques your curiosity

  • Unique and innovative

  • Clear call to action - the image also acts as an arrow

Why it's really good

  • Consistency with overall brand

  • Consistent colour scheme of products

  • Images are laid out in an interesting, unusual way

  • Minimal text - the images tell the story

  • Clean layout

Why it's really good

  • Clever imagery arranged around the text

  • Unique and interesting - distinctive

  • Good use of colour and white space

  • Clear purpose to the email

Why it's really good

  • Super cute

  • Good use of colour blocking

  • Clearly shows the benefits

  • Combines promotion with education

How to grow your email list

  1. Create great content in your emails that recipients want to share

  2. Add an email opt-in to your email signature

  3. Run an online competition - ensure it is designed to attract your target market, not just any old person who is looking for a freebie

  4. Create a lead generation offer like a free trial, online tool or resource like an ebook - ditto as above re looking for freebies

  5. Add lead gen forms to your social media like Linkedin and the header banner of your Facebook page

  6. Add a sign-up to all pages of your website

  7. Share e-newsletter profiles on your social media to entice people to opt-in

  8. Create a blog that informs, educates or entertains on your website and add a subscribe option

  9. Partner with someone else to target their new audience and reciprocate

  10. Co-host a promotional offer with someone else to capture email leads that you both share

  11. Gather sign-ups at events

  12. Have an email option box at the checkout - online and instore

  13. Add an opt-in QR code to all marketing collateral

  14. Host an online webinar

Above all always ensure you have express permission to add someone to your email list. Without this not only do you risk burning your leads you could also be breaching the law (depending on your country).


Email marketing is a tried-and-true marketing strategy that has proven effective for many years. Email marketing is an excellent way to communicate with your customers, build brand recognition, and increase sales. Despite its proven effectiveness, it should be used as a part of a larger strategy that encompasses the likes of SEO, content creation, social media and other digital assets, and customer relationship management.

In the relative glitz and glamour of social media platforms it is easy to forget the humble, well-crafted email but to do so may well mean missing out on one of your most powerful marketing tools to generate leads and convert customers.

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