Email Marketing Basics

We all hate junk mail, we’ve become conditioned to be ruthless in how we manage our inbox. Our email providers are constantly getting better at identifying and blocking junk mail before it even hits our inbox. With that in mind the digital marketer needs to ask themselves why they are considering an email marketing campaign and why a recipient would not to delete it without opening it?

Email Marketing

There are many good reasons to use email marketing in your digital marketing mix. It’s a fantastic, cost-effective channel for personalised communication with your customer or prospect audience. Those that have opted-in for updates on offers, sales or special events will hopefully welcome the email and take advantage of the deals you are presenting to them.


As you start to plan your email marketing campaign, it’s a good idea to identify some KPIs to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. What will the total cost of the email broadcast be if you are using a broadcasting tool that has a charge per email (or per thousand)? What are the design/copywriting costs if you have agency support to prepare the HTML creative? How many sales you will need to generate from the campaign to ensure it has a positive return on investment (ROI)?

Creative Development

Most recipients can view HTML emails these days and creative development can be managed in a number of ways. You might have set templates in your broadcasting system that are already developed and tested for use. Alternatively you might have an in-house designer who can create HTML emails or an external agency who can design and develop it for you. Will it be static and contain the same information for all recipients or do you have the capability to personalise the content for each recipient? This could a basic first name salutation through to dynamic content based on CRM variables such as product preference or past purchase history? We have found from our experience that the more tailored an email is to the user, the better the response and conversion rate.

Audience Segmentation

Who will receive your email and can you target specific groups within your opt-in database? Is it just a list of name and email addresses (and opt-in status) or do you have many other data fields to choose from to segment your audience and better target your content? Can you differentiate between a customer and a prospect? Can you segment customers by the value of their past purchases or number of past purchases? Can you segment based on their interests, geographic location or gender for example?

When you start segmenting your audience, the campaign will take on more complexity. You might need to develop multiple creatives to cater to those audience segments. For prospects do you want to incentivise them with further discounts or coupons to try and push them through the sales funnel to become a customer?

Test & Learn

Email marketing offers a huge amount of scope for testing and refinement to maximise your chance of generating sales/leads. The first area to focus on is the ‘from’ address and the subject line – these will determine if you get assigned to the junk folder or your email gets opened. Will your recipients recognise your brand in the ‘from’ field? What subject line would most appeal to them and motivate them to click and open the email? These are variables you can test with small test groups of your audience to find the most effective version before broadcasting to the main audience segments. The email itself has many configurable variables to change and test as well – as always, test and learn to find out what works for your sector and audience.

When to Send?

With creative(s) developed and a test plan in place, when do you intend to send your email to your main audience group or segments? Based on previous purchase and conversion information is there a specific day or time of day when customers tend to purchase or engage with your business (e.g. lunchtimes during the week, mostly evenings, payday each month etc.)? Talk to your colleagues in sales, fulfilment and call centre (if you have one) as they will have crucial information about peak times for sales to help you plan the best day/time to broadcast.

Do you know the typical duration between receipt of a promotion and conversion/purchase based on previous campaigns (determine this from your broadcast system despatch time matched to sales conversion data in Google Analytics – don’t forget to track your email links with the UTM medium as ’email’ to be able to segment the email audience for this assessment)? Does your audience need time to consider the purchase or would they typically act quickly to secure a good deal? Time your email broadcast to cater to known customer behaviours to maximise conversions.

Ready for Success?

It is also important to make sure you are prepared for success – do you have stock and staff to fulfil a high demand of orders generated from the email? If your product or service requires a telephone conversation (e.g. a quotation) does the call centre have staffing capacity to support a higher demand of calls than usual? Make sure you brief your colleagues ahead of any broadcast so they can support your responses.