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What is Email Marketing?

email marketing featured image

As online shopping and social media use increase, more and more people spend a significant portion of their day online. This shift is one reason digital marketing has become so effective.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to market to your target audience. This is because it allows you to connect directly to your potential customers, unlike banner ads and social media ads, which rely on your customer noticing them.

why use email marketing

Why Should You Use Email Marketing?

In our frantic modern world, sometimes a gentle reminder that your company exists can make a massive impact. And with more people using email than social media, it's certainly the most reliable way to get in contact.

If you provide customers with a bonus, such as a discount code, they'll be more likely to return to your company again. It's also a great method of keeping interested parties educated and engaged.

Done right, email marketing campaigns can have a far reach, reap high profits, and be a non-intrusive way to encourage repeat sales.

Why is Email So Effective?

With an opt-in email list, consumers are choosing to stay informed. Other forms of advertising are better at drawing in new people, but they can also be considered annoying. Responsible email marketing tactics can improve customer loyalty and bring them back wanting more.

Customers Want to Hear From You

Permission-based email marketing means that you're sending your ads to people who want them. After all, it's hit and miss when trying to catch a new user's attention — but someone who's shown interest in your business previously is already hooked, and much more likely to return.

Email marketing platform

What to Look for in an Email Marketing Platform

Your email marketing platform matters, and the choice you make will directly affect click-through rate and customer satisfaction. If you pick one known for spam, your mail is going straight to the trash folder, if it makes it to the inbox at all.

Not only that, but if you don't have the right tools at your disposal, you might end up with a service that doesn't fit your needs. Consider carefully everything you may require during your campaign.

email marketing tools

Email Marketing Tools to Look For

What's the use of a service that doesn't do what you need it to? When choosing a program, be sure to pick one that has all the necessary tools.

A few of the most popular features include:

  • Autoresponders
  • Email templates/design tools
  • Ability to import your current list
  • Great support


Autoresponders are a huge asset. They watch for triggers and automatically send messages at the right time. It can on a given date, after a certain amount of time has passed, and so on. Make sure your program of choice is fully automated, or you'll have to do some of this yourself.

Email Templates and Design Tools

I also suggest looking for a program with an email template or design program. These tools are invaluable, especially if you lack coding or design skills. Be sure that you can import your own graphics and edit the source code, if necessary, and always demo the trial before committing.

List Import Capabilities

If you already have a mailing list, be sure you can import it into the platform. It'll be of much more limited use if you have to start from scratch. Due to abuse, some email marketing software does not allow you to import lists.

Customer Support

If you're not comfortable with your technical prowess, make sure customer support is there to help. Some free versions won't have any support, so you may need to pay the fee or switch to a new company.

Is Email Marketing Affordable?

Are you willing to pay whatever's necessary to get the best hosting? Or do you want a free, open-source solution? Maybe something in between?

Pros and Cons of Free/Low Cost Email Marketing Services

Low-cost marketing services tend to be more difficult to set up, while high-cost ones come with all the extras — but may not be worth their money. Self-hosted programs are often free or cheap, while cloud-hosted ones can be fairly expensive. Choose your price range carefully, and consider your technical skill.

Self-Hosted vs Cloud-Hosted Email

Before you choose an email provider, you have a make a very important decision: Do I want to handle my own email setup? Or should a third-party do it all for me?

Pros of Cloud Based Email

Outsourcing to cloud-based email hosting can be expensive, but it comes with a guarantee that your mail is getting delivered. If glitches happen, the company will fix it. And setting up this system is so much easier than trying to do it yourself. Businesses that have little technical expertise should definitely choose a cloud-hosted platform.

Pros of Self-Hosting Email

But what if you want more control, or can't afford the costly prices of cloud hosting? Or if you run a business that, though legitimate, is turned away by most email marketers? If you're confident in your own servers and want to save money, switching to self-hosting might be the right idea.

self hosted email

Self-Hosted Email Marketing Options

Ready to take control of your email campaigns? Self-hosted marketers are compatible with most web hosting environments, eliminate pricy fees, and let you do what you need to do to get the word out.


A quality, fully feature-rich platform with a one-time fee, Interspire is a great choice for any business. While it isn't open-source, you're free to tweak the program for internal use. It comes with everything you might need, from extensive customization to many practical, useful features.

Try the demo and see if you enjoy the templates, WYSIWYG editor, spam checker, and autoresponder with triggers..


What GNU Mailman lacks in hosting, it makes up for in features. This free, open-source program helps you manage your email newsletters through a clean online interface. Autoresponders, filtering, archiving, and list creation let you take back power over your email.

Cons to Mailman

Downsides include the lack of a simple statistics module, though installing one is possible, and other features like templates. It's a simple but versatile program that works well for small businesses.


Open-source phpList may not be free, but it's jam packed with enough features to make its flexible payment plans worth it. Self-hosted marketing services are often looked down on as featureless, but phpList more than disproves that idea.

phpList Features

A list manager with import and export features, website integration, email templates, scheduling, and more; phpList has whatever you may require. Start with the free version or upgrade to the robust $1 plan. Large businesses won't be left behind, with the ability to send up to 200,000 messages or to 100,000 subscribers per month.


For those on expensive cloud-based hosting whose costs are getting out of control, Sendy offers a place to turn. Working through Amazon Simple Email Service, it offers statistics, brand organization, and even app integration — a rarity among self-hosted solutions.

Sendy Plans

Sendy does cost a one-time fee, but after that, you'll only have to pay for the inexpensive delivery fees, which can amount to less than a dollar. Though you will have to set it up on your server, SES ensures that messages are delivered on time.

Arigato Autoresponder

Need a newsletter for your WordPress website? Arigato has it. It requires some setup, but it comes with unlimited messages that can be scheduled at a fixed date or after a certain amount of time. It might be simple, but for WordPress users, it gets the job done.

cloud hosted email

Cloud-Hosted Email Marketing Services

For beginner groups or those who simply don't want to deal with the hassle of self-hosting, there are many alternative solutions out there. While these can get expensive quickly, you may find it more desirable than having to deal with your own servers.

Does Your Host Support Cloud Hosting?

But before you drop $200 on brand new marketing software, check to be sure your current hosting provider doesn't have one already integrated. For instance, GoDaddy email marketing might be a bit pricey, but it could be better than dealing with a third party. Make sure you also check for hosting compatibility before you buy.


As one of the most popular email automation tools out there, MailChimp deserves an early mention. Its customization options make your branding look great, and for e-commerce businesses, there's no better option.

mail chimp screenshot
Screenshot of MailChimp

More importantly, the first plan is free, and smaller businesses have low fees to start. The price for MailChimp Pro grows exponentially, though, so a larger company may not wish to start here.


Targeting small business, AWeber is a professional solution that includes a variety of templates and marketing automation settings. Compared to others, this product costs more at first but less in the long-run, and it includes nearly limitless triggers to make sure your mail gets to people at the opportune moment.

aweber screenshot
AWeber screenshot

Segmenting, tags, and follow-ups are just a few of your sending options. Bloggers will enjoy AWeber's RSS-to-email feature, while app integration ensures that there's always a new marketing tactic to try.

Constant Contact

With its list-based pricing, Constant Contact is a practical choice. It can handle large lists that can be imported from many different formats, and has a beautiful template maker along with many other tools. However, without purchasing a Plus plan, you may have difficulty — even email automation isn't included in a basic plan.

constant contact screenshot
Constant Contact screenshot

Luckily, if you have over 10,000 contacts, the Plus plan won't cost any extra. Large businesses may wish to use Constant Contact for the best price efficiency and scalability of this platform.


The pricing plan of VerticalResponse deserves special notice. It starts with a free plan that contains all core features, including real-time analytics, personalization, and welcome email messages. From there, the plans aren't divided based on list size, but on what your company might need.

vertical response screenshot
VerticleResponse screenshot

VerticalResponse Plans

The Basic plan offers unlimited contacts (at a higher fee the more you use), plus a few extra features like customer support and follow-up email messages. Upgrading once nets a specialist dedicated to your account, testing features, and extra statistics. Finally, if you need extra counselling, you can hire a team to handle the whole process for you.

Even though you still have to pay for the size of your mailing list, you won't be force to upgrade to a plan you don't need. You can go at your own pace, and only upgrade when you feel you're ready for the advanced features.


Need a trusted API you can send anything through? From newsletters to password resets, SendGrid ensures maximum security. It also does essentially everything else, and in the most efficient way. No more email blasting; strategically target your customers instead.

send grid
SendGrid screenshot

And if you're struggling to find a program that doesn't run on Linux, look no further. SendGrid is partnered with Microsoft Azure. Even if you don't use Azure, you can still set up the API on Windows.


StreamSend specializes in behavioral targeting. Other marketers may only offer limited tracking statistics, but this one wants to provide the most extensive, relevant, and up-to-date info.

Shopping cart abandonment, product abandonment, and more can all be monitored and automatically targeted. Besides this, StreamSend is fairly cost-efficient, especially in the earlier plans. If you value your customer data, this is the right choice.

Microsoft Connections

Microsoft's latest product is unique in that in comes bundled with Office 365, the pay-per-month version of the traditional Office program. While it's a very simple email marketing program, the bundle of other Office products, including a free one-year domain, may be desirable.

microsoft connections
Microsoft Connections

Which Email Platform Should You Choose?

With dozens of email marketing platforms on the marketing, it can be difficult to know which platform is right for you. The table below breaks down the most common platforms and the features they offer.

Free Trial? Templates? Analytics? Limit on Subscribers?
Microsoft Connections No Not Clear Yes, some No
Streamsend Yes Yes Yes, limited Pricing varies by #
Sendgrid Yes Yes Yes Yes, 2K contacts
Vertical Response Yes No, but design tools Yes, advanced Yes, for free plan
Constant Contact Yes Yes Yes Price based on list size
AWeber Yes Drag and drop editor Yes Price based on list size
MailChip Yes Yes Yes, extensive Free up to 2K subscribers

types of email messages

Effective Types of Marketing Email

Sending out a variety of email lowers the chance of your subscribers getting bored and opting out. But the type of email you send is entirely based on what sort of company you run. Newsletters might be fairly universal, but they take time to make. A brand new business might want to be careful offering generous coupons.

Welcome Email Messages

If someone decides to join your email campaign, they should be treated like a guest. A host should always welcome their guest to the program. Offer a discount or a free trial, get them familiar with your company, and provide tips, suggestions, or a how-to guide to get started on the website.

Don't be pushy or aggressive in trying to sell something right away. This is a new friendship between you and a potential customer, so make them feel like a welcome member of the team.


Your latest promotion, important site news, or a new location are all relevant to existing customers. Give them a digest of the latest goings-on. Monthly newsletters are a popular marketing tactic — this occasional reminder can boost site traffic without annoying subscribers.

You may wish to incorporate newsletter-only unsubscribing, so you can continue to reach those who just want the promotions.

Coupons and Promotions

Everyone loves saving money, and coupons are a compelling reason to join your newsletter. Give email subscribers offers they can't get anywhere else, and they'll be signing up in no time. Time-sensitive promotions may encourage inactive users to return.

You can also put small coupons in other email messages, such as welcome messages and the newsletter. This will encourage your customers to check every message they receive from you.

Transactional EmailS Messages

Confirmations, shipping, receipts; keep the customer informed about their product. Nothing is worse than purchasing something and waiting for it to validate, with radio silence from the retailer. Use this valuable time to promote your company's branding or offer incentives to keep shopping.

Re-Engagement Email Messages

If a person leaves or goes inactive, it's probably for a good reason. However, it's no harm to send them a quick offer that may incentivize them to return. It could be a coupon, a free product, or whatever might get this user interested again.

Just be careful not to drive people away. Don't be like those annoying phone apps that send you a notification every 24 hours you ignore it. A month of inactivity is a safe bet — and don't continue pestering them.

Cart Abandonment Email

If you have an online store, be sure to also have a cart abandonment system. Make it easy to complete the purchase by redirecting to the checkout page, rather than the home page. But again, don't bother someone more than once if they're clearly not interested.

To Get Started, Choose a Template

Pick carefully the types of mail you want to send, and start drafting the templates. Your goal should be to make users comfortable enough to join your mailing list, draw them in once they're there, and convince them to come back if they leave.

build your email list

Build Your Email List

What's the point of an email marketing service when you don't have any contacts to send it to? There are many ways to draw in customers without having to resort to morally ambiguous methods.

Add an Opt-In to Your Website

The obvious idea is, of course, to have an email opt-in form on your website. If it gets little attention, what are you offering users in exchange for their email? Maybe you need to add some extra incentives, or make the form more prominent.


You can also collect email addresses in person. A physical sign-up form, exchanging businesses cards, having an event for your company; there are many ways to use the offline world to benefit your online business.

tips for growing your email list

Tips for Growing Your Email List

The easiest way to grow a large mailing list is to include content worth your subscribers' time, and make it as simple as possible to get on the list. If you have to click through 10 pages to get to the sign-up form, sign-ups will stagnate. If inviting people to get online physically, use URL shorteners, and QR codes for the easiest access.

Single vs Double Opt-In

Consider using double opt-in versus single opt-in. Single opt-in is as simple as someone providing their email and being added to the mailing list, but it can lead to a high rate of unread and bounced mail. Double opt-in means that they have to confirm their email addresses, so you can be sure that they're actually interested in receiving your email messages.



Many countries have an anti-spam law, and the CAN-SPAM Act is the United States' version of this. Avoid deceptive subject lines, give users an unsubscribe option, and, most importantly, don't use email lists.

Selling an email list is certainly illegal, but buying one technically isn't. However, if someone on this list was a user who previously opted out, you could get sued. Plus, in the era of social media, you'll most likely destroy your reputation. Try to avoid methods of email harvesting that could garner ill repute or fall into a legal gray area.

email marketing tips

Marketing Campaign Tips and Techniques

It's time to build a successful campaign. But where should you begin? There are many methods to choose from, but in the end, you must craft your own email marketing strategy. You might have a general idea of where to start, but a list of best practices can't secure customers. It's all about how you use them.

Email Marketing Best Practices

The cardinal rule of email marketing: Avoid spam at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing revenue or productivity, don't use techniques that will get you labelled as a spammer. Getting that reputation will ruin your company before it even takes off.

  1. Don't buy lists
  2. Don't use click bait
  3. Use double opt-in
  4. Leverage CTAs
  5. Don't send email to frequently
  6. Ask for feed back

Should You Buy an Email List?

Don't buy email lists; use opt-in marketing. You may think it's worth it to expand your reach, but those who don't want your email messages will simply delete them and possibly tarnish your business' name on social media — rightfully so.

Avoid Click-Bait

Avoid misleading or aggressively promotional headlines, flashing images, overly bright colors, and so on. It won't draw the eye, it will just get your message sent to the spam folder. Instead, create something personalized, strongly branded, and pleasant to look at.

Use Double Opt-In

If you collect an email from anywhere other than a sign-up form, use double opt-in to verify that the user actually wants to be on the list.

Use CTAs

Always use a call-to-action with a convenient link or button. This can increase sales a great deal, and is a professional-looking practice.

How Often Should You Send Email Messages?

Don't send mail too frequently. If open rates are lowering, try to extend the time between email messages by an extra week.

Ask For Feedback

Lastly, the best thing you can do is request feedback on your emailing practices directly from the users. If they're displeased, let them let you know so you can change and do better.

B2B versus B2C email marketing

What Are The Differences Between B2B (Business to Business) vs B2C (Business to Consumer) Email Marketing?

B2B email marketing is a special case that follows a few different rules, but can generate the same rise in profits as B2C. Lead nurturing is always a good practice, but with B2B it's necessary. Professionalism is expected, and since these business-to-business services are often expensive, extra attention will be required before they're willing to pay the extra fee.

Here are a few strategies to use when sending B2B email marketing messages.

Create and Send Exceptional Content

A company likely has their own sources already, so compelling content is needed to convince them that you're the right solution. Think about who might be in charge of buying products at the places you're targeting, and structure your email messages accordingly.

Send Useful Information, Not Just Ads

Many B2C practices still apply here. Be just as warm and welcoming, send email messages that are useful (case studies, product updates, events and webinars, and so on), and segment your users so they'll always enjoy relevant updates.

Talk About the Benefits of Your Product/Service

Businesses in particular want to know why your product works, how it works in detail, and why it's better than what their current client is providing. Give them the information they want and your B2B marketing campaign will flourish.

ecommerce email strategies

E-Commerce Email Strategies

E-Commerce marketing is all about engagement. Competition between stores is common, and there will always be someone who sells your product for less money. It's necessary to convince customers that you're the best quality for the price, your company is worth sticking with, and you're always striving to improve and thrive.

Offer Promotions

There's extra complexity and work involved with e-commerce email marketing. It's not just required, but expected that you offer promotions, discounts, and coupons to your subscribers. You have to consider the impact of what you offer. How many extra customers are you reeling in with this discount? Would most of them have bought that anyway?

Pay Attention to Timing

Timing is very important. Keep an eye on your competition. Is a more popular competitor releasing their version of a product next week? Then bring the date forward and release yours first. Is it Christmas week? Maybe now isn't the time to promote living room furniture — go with small giftable items, and offer priority shipping.

Build Relationships

Like any other marketing strategy, it's all about building a relationship. It may be tempting to spam your template with "buy now" messages and obtrusive calls-to-action, but you have to nurture the customer and give them a reason to buy. Blasting them with promotional email is counter-productive.

small business email marketing strategies

Small Business Email Strategies

The best advice for a small business that's ready to start promoting their new company is to remember the basics. Pick the most cost-efficient marketing software, and make sure it has the right tools. Offer incentives, watch the competition, and make sure you have strong branding.

Avoid Spammy Practices

While there aren't a lot of special tips for small businesses, it's important to avoid making mistakes like not putting your mailing list to use, or resorting to spam-like techniques in a vain attempt to generate extra customers. Always act professionally, and it will pay off.

Customizing Your Campaign

If you're sending boring, text-only email messages, it's time to make your template more interesting. A personalized email is less likely to be sent to the spam folder. Besides, branding is key to growing your business and a call-to-action is nothing without a shiny button.

Design Beautiful Email Messages

Designing isn't easy, but many email marketing platforms have an easy tool that can create something anyone would love to have in their inbox. Find a template you like and make it yours. Add your logo, your own images, and whatever else would benefit the appearance.

Address the User By Name

Personalize it too. In your email sign-up forms, address the new user by name. Use relevant information to send targeted messages, or generate a list of suggested products. Segment your users so you can further target them with email messages they're more likely to respond to.

email marketing statstics

Pay Attention to Statistics

Statistics are arguably the most important part of a campaign. If you know how to read them, you'll have all the information you'll need to improve. Low open rate means something is wrong; either your email messages are invalid (use double opt-in) or you're not sending the right messages.

Low Click-Through Rates

What about low click-through rates? Is your CTA good enough? Perhaps they're opening the email, seeing an unappealing template or image, and closing it again. Maybe your incentives to visit the site just aren't good enough.

High Rate of Unsubscribes

A high rate of unsubscribers means your tactics have become annoying, your content is no longer interesting, or perhaps your mailing list was obtained illegitimately.

These statistics can tell you a lot about your subscribers. Don't ignore them, and try something new if things aren't working out.

Other Email Strategies

Email can be a highly effective strategy for building your brand, connecting with your customers, and driving sales. Here are a few additional strategies to consider when building your email campaigns.

Nurture your leads

This goes outside email marketing to examining and targeting demographics, seeing who's interested in your products and their behaviors, and using content marketing to draw them in. The goal is to make your customers trust you.

Don't forget the lead magnet

A coupon, a free e-book, or regular email-only promotion will do. Anything that will get people to sign up is more than worth the investment.

Segment Your List

Avoid "email blasting" or sending tactless and untargeted advertising mail to a large amount of subscribers. The only thing the receivers of such email will click on is the unsubscribe button. Target and segment your list, so that people receive the valuable content that's important to them.

Make Sure Your Email Reads Well on Mobile

Mobile friendliness is crucial. Make sure your email templates are responsive and look great on mobile devices and desktop computers.


Test your email messages by sending out multiple versions with small variations, such as in wording, subject line, image placement, or call to action button size. That way, you can see what strategies perform best and adjust accordingly.

By employing these strategies, you can launch an email marketing campaign that utilizes the right tools, the right practices, and the right approach for success.