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What is Email Marketing and How Does it Work? Definition and Best Practices

In this beginner’s guide we will explain what email marketing is and how it works. Once you’ve finished reading it, you will have a solid grasp of the basics along with the know-how to get yourself started.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is the act of targeting consumers with a commercial message through email with the goal of driving sales, increasing customer loyalty, or communicating important information. It’s a form of a direct marketing that, in the past, was commonly used to target mass groups of people. However, modern email marketing is based on the priciples of consent, segmentation, and personalization.

Email marketing is the most profitable direct marketing channel, capable of generating up to 30 times your initial investment. This makes it a key pillar of any digital marketing strategy.

Failure to include email marketing in your digital marketing strategy would be unwise given the potential ROI at stake.

In this article you will learn:

  • What is email marketing and the business goals it fulfils
  • How to get started
  • Different types of emails
  • Legal requirements and other diverse aspects to consider

Why is email marketing important today?

Business goals achieved by email marketing

From order confirmations to newsletters, emails are an essential aspect of the growth and management of your business.

Email marketing is about informing, persuading, and winning the loyalty of a contact base that’s interested in your product or services.

Marketing emails contain a specific call-to-action destined to generate sales or bring traffic to specific pages of your site.

Email marketing can help achieve 3 categories of objectives:

  • Notoriety (making your business known)
  • Image (positioning you as an expert)
  • Action (selling your products and services)

Because the communications you send arrive directly into the email inboxes of your recipients, this gives you a unique opportunity to be present in their day-to-day lives.

Email plays a role in every stage of the buyer cycle: at the information and prospection stage, during conversion, and later on for customer retention.

One of the major benefits of email marketing is its scalability. This refers to the fact that emails can be deployed on a large scale to a wide number of recipients.

Email marketing in 2019

Email has been around for quite a while. In fact, it was one of the very first means of digital communication to arrive on the scene. But far from being obsolete, email marketing is more widely used today than ever before.

One of the great things about email is its accessibility.

Email lets you reach a wide range of different audiences, including those who are not necessarily comfortable with internet usage. This makes it the most mainstream form of marketing.

As well as that, email marketing creates an opportunity to establish long-lasting relationships with your customers and leads.

According to the 2018 Inbox Report by Fluent, 80% of Americans check their email at least once per day, with nearly a quarter of them checking their personal email several times a day.

It has also been revealed that consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers.

Furthermore, email is hailed as being the most effective channel in B2B marketing. This comes as no surprise when we learn that 86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes.

Not having an email marketing strategy means missing out on sales opportunities and the chance to strengthen your ties with customers.

Now’s the time to get your email marketing up and running – and we’re going to explain to you how.

Getting started: choosing the right email marketing solution

Benefits of emailing marketing software

The first step towards implementing an effective emailing strategy is choosing an emailing marketing solution.

There are significant advantages to having a dedicated software for managing emails.

Firstly, email marketing platforms (like Sendinblue) allow you to be sure that your emails have actually reached your recipients.

Because there’s not much point in sending emails if nobody is getting them, is there? 😉

Email marketing software not only allows you to manage your email subscribers (a legal requirement we’ll talk more about later), but also to design your emails easily thanks to ready-made templates and email editing functionalities.

A few clicks and you can create a newsletter that’s both easy on the eye and meets your objectives.

As well as that, emailing platforms also allow you to track the results of your email campaigns. This means you can see which emails were most successful and learn more about your audience thanks to open rates, click-through rates, and reactivity insights.

Finally – and most importantly – emailing software saves you a LOT of time.

Sending marketing emails one by one through Outlook or Gmail is not only risky but also incredibly tedious and yields little in the way of results.

Further reading: 6 Steps to Finding the Right Email Marketing Service for Your Business

Comparing different solutions

There are several different emailing solutions to choose from. In order to choose one that’s relevant to your business, here are some questions to consider:

  • How many contacts do you have now and how many are you planning to gain in one year?
  • How many emails are you planning to send in one year?
  • What kinds of emails do you wish to send? (transactional and/or marketing)
  • Are you comfortable with working in English? (certains solutions are only available in English)

Further reading: Best Email Marketing Services: Comparing features, pricing, etc.

Take a minute to test Sendinblue!

Sendinblue is an all-in-one sales and marketing toolbox with functions such as email, marketing automation, SMS, landing pages, Facebook Ads, CRM, and more.

Sendinblue lets you manage your contacts, design and edit your emails, send campaigns, and set up lead nurturing processes.

Sendinblue allows you to send up to 9,000 emails per month (300 per day) for free.

Try out Sendinblue >>

Different types of marketing emails

Occasional emails

Occasional emails are sent as and when required, in line with the rhythm of your business.

Newsletters present news related to your business (new milestones reached, new product capabilities) or to highlight a product use case. It’s a way of staying in the forefront of your contacts’ minds and inspiring them to further engage with you.

Email campaigns are more focused on sales and marketing. Typically, a campaign could consist of 3 – 10 emails sent over several days or weeks. These kind of emails are sent with a specific purpose in mind – be it to promote special offers, encourage the downloading of a white paper, or sign up for a webinar.

Automated emails

Automated emails can save you both time and money.

These emails are personalized in accordance with what you know about a lead or customer based on existing information. They are automatically sent out in response to specific contact activity or ‘triggers’ such as making a purchase or subscribing to a newsletter.

What’s great about automated emails is that nobody needs to be physically present to hit ‘send’.

You create and define a model email which will be sent directly to your recipients in response to your pre-defined ‘trigger’ conditions.

There are two types of automated emails:

Transactional emails: As the name suggests, these are sent following a transaction. Examples include booking confirmations, welcome emails, or appointment reminders.

Marketing automation emails: The content of these emails is determined by actions (or ‘trigger’ activity) taken on behalf of the recipient in relation to your product or service. For instance, arranging to automatically send a white paper to a lead who attended your webinar.

Email marketing best practices

Now that you know more about different types of emails and their benefits for your business, it’s time to tackle some of the most important aspects of email marketing.

The following points require careful attention from you as they will help ensure that your email marketing is done legally.

Collect email addresses legally

If you’re going to send emails, then you’re obviously going to need email addresses. However, the way in which you collect those addresses is very important.

The GDPR is a regulation in EU law which protects the personal data and privacy of consumers, including their email addresses.

In order to legally collect email addresses, you need to put in place what’s called an ‘opt-in’ process.

This is a procedure by which a customer or lead gives you their consent via an online form to collect and use their data.

Learn more about GDPR-compliant email marketing in our infographic guide.

Segment your mailing list

As your email list expands, it’s likely to contain diverse buyer profiles.

Segmentation refers to cutting down your list and creating smaller sub-lists of contacts who have something in common.

Among the many different possibilities for segmentation, some examples include age, geographic location, lead score, first-time purchase, etc.

This allows you to continue proposing content that is both personalized and relevant to each individual on your mailing list.

Essential reading: 7 Email Marketing Best Practices to Succeed in 2019

Optimize your deliverability

Email deliverability refers to the ability of an email to land in a subscriber’s inboxes. It’s an important concept for marketers as it signifies that emails have correctly reached their destination, rather than ending up in the junk mail folder where they are unlikely to be read.

Email deliverability depends on both technical and behavioural factors. For instance, the quality of your emails is going to significantly influence deliverability.

To ensure this quality, there are a number of best practices to follow:

  • Ensure that your email subject is spam-free. Did you know that certain words and phrases are triggers for spam filters? Have a look at this list of words to avoid.
  • Keep your contact database up to date at all times. remove unengaged users and inactive addresses which are often used by email providers as spam traps (Sendinblue does most of this work automatically).
  • Always include an unsubscribe link. In accordance with the GDPR, a contact has the right to dictate how their data is being used. The act of unsubscribing falls fully within those rights therefore we need to ensure that this option is available.

Further reading : 11 Best Practices to Improve Email Deliverability

Choose an aesthetically appealing design

When it comes to email marketing, the design is just as important as the content.

Attract the attention of your contacts with an email design that’s both on brand and visually appealing.

Remember: The look and feel of your email is going to communicate a message about your company and its values. This is worth spending time on.

A good design is going to support your email content by making it clear, legible, and structured. Having a structure that naturally draws the reader to your call-to-action will drive conversions.

Create your own email templates to use over and over again

No need to call in a designer as most email marketing solutions today have built-in easy-to-use email editors.

Our top tip to ensure consistency and time-savings from the very beginning is to create reusable email templates.

Choose a template that you can personalize to match the brand and image of your business. Once that’s done, you’ll only have to modify the text each time for your different emails.

Sendinblue lets you choose from a range of customizable email templates that you can edit to create your own unique design. Open a Sendinblue account and you can try them out for free.

Image representing Sendinblue's drag & drop editor for creating marketing emails
Sendinblue has an easy to use drag & drop editor for creating marketing emails

Further reading: How to maintain brand personality in your email designs

Personalize your emails

We all like to be made feel special, especially when it comes to our favorite brands.

We appreciate it when brands add personal touches and pay attention to small details. A little extra effort goes a long way in making us feel valued and understood.

This also rings true in the case of email marketing.

Personalizing emails is essential for building trusting relationships with your leads and customers.

Given the importance of personalization in the modern era, you need to make the most out of it at every opportunity.

Some personalization ideas to get started

  • Use your contact’s name (“Hello Tom”)
  • Take into account a contact’s location when scheduling the send time
  • Segment your contacts
  • Use behaviour-triggered emails based on how your customers interact with your product or services

Small considerations like these are going impact your open, click-through, and conversion rates in a positive way.

Prepare for takeoff with Sendinblue

Now that you’ve got the basics of email marketing, are you ready to move on to the next step?

Try out Sendinblue to get 9000 emails per month for free!

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What is Email Marketing and How Does it Work? Definition and Best Practices

time to read: 8 min