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Introduction

Post originally published April 2015, updated April 2020.

Eighty-eight percent of smartphone users check their email actively, and these users check their email inbox three times as often as people who don’t use a mobile device.

Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that businesses around the world depend on email marketing to increase brand awareness, engage customers, and drive revenue.

To help marketers like yourself create, send, and track effective and engaging emails, Campaign Monitor has put together this Modern Guidebook to Email Marketing. This complete email guide is meant to be a tool for helpful and actionable advice, tips, and know-how to help you be a better email marketer.

Chapter 1

The importance of email marketing

Businesses have a lot of choices in terms of marketing channels, but there’s a reason why 89% of marketers say that email marketing is their primary lead-generating channel.

Email marketing is an affordable, effective way to engage customers that can have a significant impact on your business’s bottom line.

Source: Salesforce

To examine the importance of email marketing more closely, here are five reasons why businesses rely on it:

Email has a great return on investment.

Every business wants to stretch their marketing dollars as far as possible. For ten years in a row, email is the channel generating the highest ROI, with 73% of marketers planning to increase spending on their email channel next year.

Email drives conversions.

You want subscribers that open your emails and engage with your company, but most businesses focus on the conversion rate. Conversion rates show how many subscribers followed through with an action, like those that clicked a link or made a purchase.

Email conversion rates are three times higher than social, with a 17% higher value in conversion.

Email is a highly measurable marketing tool, and you can monitor your conversion rate with every email sent. You have access to easy-to-understand dashboards that show you exactly how well your email campaigns are doing.

Email stands the test of time.

The first email was sent back in 1978 from an equipment company. Digital Equipment Corp sent an email promoting machinery to 400 people, which resulted in $13 million in sales. That was twelve years before the public was introduced to the internet.

Now 5.594 billion email accounts exist, and the number keeps growing.

Email trumps social in customer acquisition.

There’s a lot of talk about utilizing social channels to attract new customers, but email beats social media in customer acquisition. Email is nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Email provides control.

Facebook and Twitter can change their terms at any time, and you have to follow the rules or you can’t use the platform. Email, however, is an open communication tool. You control your reach and message. The time you spend growing and nurturing your email list won’t be compromised by algorithm or platform changes, and you own your data.

Read on to learn more about how to use email as effectively as possible.

How to create an email marketing strategy

Following are some crucial elements you need to include when creating your email marketing strategy:

Define your goals.

The first step in creating your email marketing strategy is to define your goals clearly. What are you hoping to achieve with your email marketing? A few common marketing goals include:

  • Selling $X worth of a product at launch
  • Growing a subscriber list
  • Increasing open and click-through rates
  • Converting current subscribers into buyers
Set your KPIs.

Your goals will then direct your key performance indicators, also known as KPIs. These are the metrics you use to determine if your email marketing strategy is successful or not.

Identify your ideal customer.

No matter how great your product is, not everyone will be interested in becoming a customer, so you need to identify the ideal person that will need it. Identifying your ideal customer will help you create a system and craft targeted emails that will convert at a high rate.

Pick your email automation tools wisely.

Your email marketing strategy’s success hinges on the tools you use to execute it. This is why, as a serious marketer, you need to invest in the best email marketing tools. These tools include software that will enable you to successfully create and store an email list, design personalized emails, send them to your subscribers, and track your emails.

For more detail on email automation, check out our email marketing automation how-to guide.

Build and grow your list.

To build a list of active subscribers, you will have to understand the challenges that your ideal customer is facing and create a solution that you will give them for free. In order for them to receive it, however, they will have to give you their email address and possibly a few more details, if necessary.

Segment and personalize.

Once you have your list, it’s important that you segment it. Segmentation will allow you to send out personalized emails. Every guide to email etiquette you read will emphasize the power of personalization because it is a strategy that truly works.

Craft email copy that converts.

Email copy that converts is a crucial part of your email marketing strategy. To create it, you will have to make sure that your message is relevant, timely, and personalized.

Optimize for mobile.

According to research, 46% of emails are opened on a mobile device. If your email template is not mobile responsive, you stand to lose out on a large portion of your subscribers.

Chapter 3

Building a quality email list

Your email list should be continually growing with quality, engaged subscribers.It’s logical to believe that, the larger an email list is, the more profitable it will be.

However, that’s not always the case. A small group of subscribers that are genuinely interested in your product will always be more valuable than 100 people that might buy a product someday.

That’s why you want to use specific tactics that attract quality subscribers. What are these tactics? Here’s a list of six ways you can grow your email list with valuable contacts:

Add a signup form to your website.

If a visitor checks out your site, it’s a pretty clear sign that he or she is interested in your business. Give visitors a chance to engage with your company by adding a signup form to your website.

Give visitors a reason to sign up. Encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or receive weekly offers. Follow that up with a short form that asks visitors for their name and email address.

ESPs like Campaign Monitor make this process simple with signup forms that you can add to your site. The email addresses that you collect through these forms will automatically be added to your mailing list in your account. Here’s a how to create the email signup form and set it up on your website.

Add a subscribe button to your website.

In addition to a form, you can add a small “Subscribe” button to your list of social icons.

When the button is clicked, a small form pops up center-screen and asks for the subscriber’s name and an email address. If you’re using Campaign Monitor, for example, the information will go right into your mailing list in your Campaign Monitor account.

Add a pop-up or lightbox form to your site.

You can prompt website visitors to join your email list by adding a lightbox. Once a visitor scrolls through a certain amount of your website, a pop-up will appear asking them to join your email list.

Use Twitter lead generation cards.

Twitter has an advertisement option that can collect quality contacts. A lead generation card looks like a fancy tweet. It has the usual 140-character message, but it also has a promotion, an image, and a call to action.

The card offers customers an incentive, usually a free trial or a discount, in exchange for the visitor’s email address. Once visitors click the call to action, visitors can enter their email into a simple form. Here’s what a card looks like on Twitter:

You can sync your Twitter lead generation cards with your Campaign Monitor account, which means all of the contacts that you collect will flow right into your mailing list.

Collect email addresses at checkout.

Encourage customers to sign up for your email list at your front desk or in-person checkout with a signup form on an iPad or tablet. 

Subscribers can enter their email address by filling out the form in person, and these contacts flow into your mailing list.

Remember, collecting email addresses and growing your email list is an ongoing process. You should use several methods in tandem to ensure a continuous stream of new, high-quality contacts.

Chapter 4

The anatomy of an effective email

To create an effective email, it’s important to understand the essential parts that go into one. Like the human body, there’s anatomy to an email. We’ll explain all the parts and give you some tips to make sure your email is as healthy and productive as possible.

“From” name

The “from” name tells the subscriber who sent the email.

In this example from Topshop, the “from” name is Topshop. The sentence next to it is the subject line.

Here’s why this “from” name works:

  • The name represents the company.
    The “from” name should clearly explain who sent the email. It should contain a company name. An email from “Cowboy12345” is unprofessional and the recipient will likely ignore it.
  • It’s short and simple.
    The “from” name shouldn’t be long and complicated. You want a subscriber to identify the name instantly, and move on to the next piece of information: the subject line.

Subject line

The subject line is the short line of text that a subscriber sees before opening your email. 35% of subscribers open an email based on the subject line alone, so you should spend some time crafting one that will spark their interest. Here’s another example from Topshop:

Here’s why this subject line works:

  • Keep it short.
    You have limited space of about 50 characters, or between 6-10 words, so choose your words wisely.
  • Describe the purpose of the email.
    You want to give subscribers a little taste of what’s inside your email just like the example. Be creative, but not deceptive. In this case, Topshop commands the subscriber’s attention with an offer of 50% off.

Bonus subject line tip: Consider adding an emoji like a smiley face or a heart to your subject line. 56% of brands that use symbols in their subject lines have a higher open rate, according to Experian. Learn how to add an emoji to your subject line.

Preheader text

The preheader is the descriptive text that immediately follows the subject line. It’s essentially free space to provide additional information to subscribers. In the example from Birchbox, it’s the grey text.

Here’s why this preheader text works:

  • Provides new information.
    The preheader should provide new information that wasn’t in the subject line. The copy should complement the subject line, not repeat it.
  • Personalizes.
    In this example, the preheader text uses the subscriber’s first name. Any level of personalization can make your email more effective. You can go beyond the first name and use things like recent purchases, preferences, gender, etc.

Learn more about how to make the most of your preheader text.

Email body

The body of the email keeps a subscriber moving through the lines of your message. Take a look at the body of this email from Converse:

Here’s why this example works:

  • An effective title
    The words “Just Reduced” provide a quick title for subscribers to read. Instantly, subscribers know what the email is about and engage accordingly.
  • Short, effective message
    Each email should have one message. In this case, the message is to promote new items that are on sale. Converse explains what the email is about in two short sentences.
  • Clear and organized
    The body of an email should be clear and well organized. The Converse email has a sharp layout and only uses two colors to provide a crisp, clean look.

Call to action

The call to action is a button or link in the email that helps a subscriber complete an action. For example, a button might take a subscriber to shop on a site, reserve a seat at an event, or continue reading an article.

In the example from La Mer, the call to action is the black “Shop Now” button.
Here’s why this call to action works:

  • It stands out.
    A call to action should be attention-grabbing. When a subscriber opens an email, they should be able to recognize the call to action without reading a word of text.
  • Effective word choice
    Your call to action should contain active words that compel a subscriber to act. The use of words like “now,” “today,” “act,” “fast,” and “shop” are commonly used in a call to action.

Imagery

Don’t solely rely on text for your emails; remember that images have incredible power to engage. The most engaging emails today have images that stretch edge-to-edge across different screen sizes. As marketers continue to evolve their websites with modern, responsive design, they want their emails to do the same.

Sephora understands this. The image in the example is the main focus of the email.

Here’s why this image works:

  • Captivating
    This image grabs your attention. Images can be the main focal point of an email or work as a complement to your text. Either way, make sure the image is appealing.
  • Connected to text
    The image should be relevant to the text in your email. If you’re having a hard time finding appropriate images, here are some stock photo sites and other visual ideas that you can add to your email.

Unsubscribe

Every email must contain an unsubscribe option, by law. The CAN-SPAM Act sets rules for commercial emails and requires a way for subscribers to opt-out of your email.

The unsubscribe system filters your email list and keeps it healthy. Here are some ideas for the unsubscribe section:

Focus on these seven components of an email, and you’ll be sending effective messages in no time.

Chapter 5

Tips for copywriting that converts

Crafting an email that resonates with subscribers takes a little practice.

It’s not just about mentioning a hot sale or an upcoming event. The text you create has to hook a reader and convince him or her to act. To make sure your emails are effective, use these copywriting tips:

Write for scanning.

When you read an email, do you read it word for word or do you scan it quickly before deciding whether or not it deserves a closer look? Most people scan emails.

The average attention span is eight seconds, so it’s important that you write emails with this in mind.

  • Keep your message brief.
    You want to write content that is easy to scan. How? Keep your message brief. The message can usually be summed up in a sentence or two. For example, if you’re writing a promotional email, simply explain the sale.
  • Prioritize.
    Put the most important information at the beginning of your email. It increases the chances of subscribers seeing it.
  • Stay organized.
    Some emails require more text. A newsletter, for example, is going to have more text than a sentence or two. To prepare this content for “scanners,” keep your email organized. Use subheadings and bulleted lists that recipients can read quickly.

Create a sense of urgency.

Write using a sense of urgency to encourage subscribers to act. There are a couple of ways to add urgency to your emails:

  • Set a deadline.
    No one wants to miss out on a good deal, so an imposing deadline is a good way to encourage subscribers to take action.
  • Scarcity.
    If inventory is scarce, tell subscribers. Maybe there’s a product back in stock that’s usually sold out or maybe you’re selling a limited edition collectible. If quantities are scarce, subscribers are forced to act or miss out.
  • Use timely wording.
    Add a few time-sensitive words to your subject line and email body. From “Limited-time offer” to “Buy now before it’s gone again,” use words and phrases that tell subscribers they should act quickly.

Personalize your email.

By 2018, the average person will receive 140 emails a day, according to a study by the Radicati Group. That means your email has to stand out in a crowd, so you should be personalizing your email messages.

Personalized emails have a 2.5 times higher click-through rate and generate revenue 5.7 times higher than emails without it, according to VentureBeat. What can you personalize?

  • Personalize the “from” name.
    You can segment your list, so an email comes from someone a subscriber will recognize. For example, if a member of your sales team works with a specific client, the salesperson’s name should show up as the “from” name in the inbox.
  • Add a name or other personalization to a subject line.
    You can add a subscriber’s name to a subject line. Emails with personalized subject lines see a 26% higher open rate than generic emails.
  • Personalize email content.
    You can also personalize the body of the email. A simple, “Hey, Barbara!” at the beginning of the message adds a nice personal touch. But you can go a lot further than just a name. If you know a subscriber’s job title, company name, clothing size, gender, or birthday, you can add these elements to your email. Each detail shows subscribers that you care.
  • Images.
    You can also personalize images. Maybe you want to add a skyline image of the city a subscriber lives in, or add product shots that cater to a specific audience. You can do all of that, because personalization goes beyond text.

You can learn more about personalization here.

These tried and tested tips should help you write effective emails that will prompt recipients to engage.

Chapter 6

Best practices for sending your email

Once an email campaign is created, it’s time to deliver it to your subscribers. While clicking the “send” button might seem like the easiest step in the process, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

Email timing

A lot of business owners want to know what the best days and times are to send an email. We uncovered data to shed some light on these very questions.

Research from Experian says that subscribers are more likely to open your emails on certain days of the week. Most businesses send emails on Mondays and Fridays, when open rates hovered around 16%.

However, open rates were slightly higher during the weekend. While fewer businesses send promotional emails on Saturday and Sunday, Experian says open rates come close to 18% on those days.

Time of day

You want subscribers to open your email immediately, so when’s the best time to send an email to get the best open rates? Campaign Monitor looked at data from 192 million emails to find the answer.

Research shows that 53% of emails are opened during normal business hours, between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Email activity hits its stride between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., as shown by the graph below.

The windows of time before and after the average workday are active too, with most of the activity (24%) happening right after work between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Email frequency

What’s the magic number of emails to send subscribers? It’s a good question, especially considering 54% of consumers site email frequency as the main reason they unsubscribe.

The majority of consumers say they’d like an email from a brand once a week or less, according to statistics from Marketing Sherpa. About 61% of consumers say “at least once a week” is best, 87% of consumers want to receive emails “at least monthly,” and about 15% want to receive emails daily.

Here’s a chart that shows how often subscribers want to receive emails from you in their inboxes:

Most companies send up to five emails a month.

While sending emails weekly is a good rule of thumb, there might be times where sending email more often is appropriate. For instance, you might send more frequent emails if your business is hosting a special sale, or if you send birthday emails to subscribers on their special day.

The importance of testing

The research we revealed suggests the best day, time, and frequency for emails. However, every business is different.

Research from third-party sites can provide you with some direction, but it’s always best to test what works best for your business.

Test to see when your best send times are. Select a small group of contacts and send them the same email, but vary the time of day that you send it. See which email is most successful. Run the same test, but vary the time of day and frequency.

By testing your email campaigns, you’ll be able to zero in on the best day, time, and frequency that works for your unique audience.

Segmentation

Marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.
To segment your customers into specific groups, you have to know your audience. The more information you can collect about your customer base, the stronger your segments will be.

You can segment your list in many different ways, but you have to decide what will work best for you, based on the data you have about your subscribers.
Here’s a quick list of possible segments that you can break your list into:

  • Geography
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Industry
  • Position within a company
  • Seniority level
  • Buying behavior
  • Buying frequency
  • Salary
  • Education level
  • Stage in the sales cycle
  • Interests/hobbies

With ESPs like Campaign Monitor, segmentation is easy. You can create and name different segments and attach specific rules to each group.

For example, imagine you want to create a segment called Managers in NY, and you want this segment to include anyone in your list with a title of manager or assistant manager that lives in NY. With a few simple clicks, you can have this segment created and ready to go.

You can start segmenting your list with these instructions.

Deliverability

How can you make sure your email campaigns land in an inbox and don’t get trapped in a spam filter?

Here are four tips to make sure your email lands in an inbox:

  • Send authenticated emails.
    You need an email service provider that offers email authentication. With this credential, your emails automatically bypass certain filters and have the best chance of arriving in an inbox. Campaign Monitor offers an email authentication feature for our customers.
  • Email with permission.
    While it might be tempting to scrounge up email addresses online and send your next newsletter to new contacts, it’s not a good idea and violates the CAN-SPAM Act. To protect your email reputation, you should only send emails to people that have given you permission. This is why it’s important to set up a double opt-in process. When someone signs up for your email list, a confirmation email is sent that requires the subscriber to confirm his or her subscription. This process will help protect you from fake subscribers and spambots and ensure only real subscribers make it onto your list.
  • Avoid spam-flagging words in your subject line.
    Subject lines that make offers that are too good to be true, overuse of punctuation or symbols, use of all CAPITALS, or having “FWD” in the subject line can raise red flags.

It might seem like a lot to consider, but, if you follow the best practices in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to successful sending.

For more practical email deliverability tips, we’ve got an entire guide dedicated to helping get your emails delivered to the inbox.

Chapter 7

Using automation to enhance your strategy

How do you scale your email marketing to its fullest potential while delivering the best experience for your subscribers? Email automation.

Providers like Campaign Monitor have a host of tools that can help you send emails automatically. You create an email once, and, when subscribers meet certain criteria, which we call a trigger, the email goes out automatically.

For example, you can create a welcome email that’s automatically sent to new subscribers when they sign up for your list. The trigger, in this case, is the act of signing up. Your Campaign Monitor account detects the new name added and sends the welcome email that you previously created. You don’t have to log into your account and send individual emails to each new signup; automation takes care of it for you.

Here are six additional ways you can use automation to improve your email marketing strategy without investing more time:

Gather feedback

After a customer makes a purchase, you can ask him or her for feedback. Whether you add a survey to the email or encourage the customer to leave feedback on your website, you can set up a trigger so the email is delivered a few days after the customer receives the product.

Renewal notice

You can automate renewal notices so customers will sign up for your service once again. For example, if a customer signed up for a one-year service agreement and the year is almost up, send a renewal notice one month before the agreement is about to expire to ensure the customer stays on the service.

Birthdays and holidays

Using a specific date as a trigger, you can send subscribers emails that coincide with birthdays, anniversaries, or other holidays. If you decide to send a special holiday promotion, consider setting the trigger date a few days early, so the subscriber has time to use it.

Here’s a great example from Birchbox:

Appointment reminders

To avoid “no-shows” negatively affecting your bottom line, send an appointment reminder. It’s another automated email that you can send based on a date.

Nurture leads over time

Casual website visitors don’t become loyal subscribers overnight. You have to nurture leads and walk them through your sales process. With automation, you can create a series of emails that cater to subscribers that are in a certain part of the buying process. The first email could welcome a new subscriber. A week later, an email could mention the benefits of your most popular service, and, a week later, you might offer a discount on that service with testimonials from other clients.

You can create all of these emails ahead of time, and send them to specific subscribers at certain points in the sales process.

Event or reminder emails

If you’re hosting a big event, you want to make sure attendance is high. To help, send a series of follow-up emails to those that have RSVPed for an event. One email could be a reminder, another could ask subscribers to forward an invite to a friend, and a third could provide directions to the event and advice on parking options.

For more email automation advice, take a look at our free guide on the topic.

Chapter 8

Tracking your success

Email marketing is one of the most measurable marketing options available. With an easy-to-use dashboard, you can log in and understand how your emails are performing.

There is a list of metrics you should pay attention to as you begin to measure your success:

Open rate

Open rate is the measure of how many people open your email. Open rates vary widely, but, if your open rate is between 20-40%, you’re doing a good job.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor user, look for your open rate in the Snapshot section of the Campaign Report.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate measures how many people clicked on a link or a call to action in your email. These rates also vary, but a healthy click-through rate is between 20-30%.

Campaign Monitor users can find this statistic in the Snapshot section of the Campaign Report.

Email visits

Email visits measure the amount of traffic that went to your site because of an email. This metric is important for businesses looking to drive traffic to a website through email marketing.

You can link your Campaign Monitor account to Google Analytics and see this metric by selecting the Overview tab from the Acquisition section of the toolbar.

Email conversions

Email conversions measure the number of people that followed through with an action, like those who made a purchase or reserved a seat at your next webinar.

For businesses looking to increase revenue through email marketing, this is the money metric. It shows you how well your email marketing is converting subscribers into paying customers and provides your return on investment.

To get this information, Campaign Monitor customers can log into their Google Analytics account and select the Overview tab from the Acquisition section of the toolbar.

Unsubscribe rate

The unsubscribe rate measures how many people opt out of your email list from a particular campaign. Your unsubscribe rate should be fairly low. Industry standards suggest an unsubscribe rate of 2% or less as a good benchmark.

Campaign Monitor users can find this rate in the Snapshot section of the Campaign Report.

Chapter 9

Email marketing tips to increase your success rate

In this section, we’ll provide strategic tips to help you increase your email metrics, including open, click-through, and conversion rates.

How to increase your open rates

Test your subject lines.

When you send an email, your subject line is your pitch to get subscribers to open your message. If open rates are low, try changing your subject line. Run an A/B test to compare two different subject lines on a small group of subscribers and see which one does best, then use the winning subject line on the email that goes out to the entire segment.

Personalize the subject line.

Subscribers respond to personalization. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, so consider adding a subscriber’s name to a subject line or promoting a list of hand-selected products based on a subscriber’s buying behaviors. For more email subject line tips, check out these 8 subject line formulas.

Consider your email frequency.

Subscribers can grow tired of your emails, so make sure your email frequency is in line with what your customers want. If you’re unsure, send subscribers a survey to identify the best email frequency.

How to increase click-through rates

Create an eye-catching call to action.

The design and copy of a call-to-action button matter significantly. You want a call-to-action button that stands out, so select a color that’s not used (or rarely used) throughout your email. Use a two or three-word phrase to encourage subscribers to click on it. Urgent, active words are best.

Include one call to action.

It’s tempting to add more than one call to action to an email, but it’s not in your best interest. Too many options can cause indecision, and a subscriber could close your email rather than click on a call to action. One call to action provides clear direction.

Test your call to action.

Just as we suggested testing your subject lines, you should test your call to action too. By running a simple test, you’ll get valuable insight from your target audience.

How to increase conversion rates

Provide a value proposition.

An email should address what a subscriber gets and why he or she should buy from your company. Some businesses fall short on the latter. An upcoming sale or a special deal on a product highlights what a subscriber gets, but why should he or she buy from you? To increase conversion rates, add a brief explanation to your email that sets you apart from competitors.

Make the conversion process simple for subscribers.

Subscribers want a hassle-free process. If a call to action encourages a subscriber to make a purchase, for example, make sure the checkout process is seamless. If a subscriber has to click through several pages to find the item, add it to a cart, and fill out a long form, you’ll likely see high cart abandonment rates. A subscriber should be able to complete the desired action in as few steps as possible.

By using these specific tips, you’ll be able to make calculated changes to your email strategy that can result in higher open, click-through, and conversion rates.

How email fits into your overall digital marketing strategy

Marketing and sales are all about effectively communicating with your prospects and clients, and this is exactly what email marketing does for you. Although it is possible to communicate with your clients exclusively through social media, email has the advantage in that it is more personal and direct.

While you may employ other digital marketing techniques like content and social media marketing, online ads, and any other tactics at your disposal, email marketing is the one element that ties them all together. Affording you an open channel to your customers, you are not only able to promote your products, but you can even promote your other marketing channels like your blog and social media accounts via email as well.

Chapter 14

Wrap up

In order for your email marketing to work, make sure to:

  • Map out an effective email marketing strategy
  • Craft engaging email copy
  • Design irresistible CTAs
  • Track your metrics

We hope this guide helps set you up for email marketing success. For more helpful resources, visit our Resource section and our email marketing blog.

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