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The Definitive Digital Marketing Strategy Guide

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World Map: What is Email Marketing?

If you’re an experienced digital marketer, I’m going to tell you something you definitely already know.

We’ve had email since the beginning of the internet and, because it’s not a shiny new object, and because it’s so boring, it often gets overlooked by internet marketers who are new to the game.

Email marketing is the most under-rated and profitable digital marketing channel. Period.

There are a ton of reasons why this is the case. We’ll dive into those in a bit. But before we do, I just want to be clear:

Email marketing is not a trend. It’s not going to disappear anytime soon, and it will remain one of the most profitable marketing channels for many businesses.

When I got started, I thought email marketing would be the same as sending emails from my Gmail account…except I’d just be clicking the send button a lot more, and really really fast.

Email Marketing Send Fast

I remember thinking “probably not that interesting”.

Then I learned that email marketing has a lot less of hitting the “Send” button and a lot more of building stuff like this:

Which is much more interesting and fun.

I also thought the only people still using email were 65+ aunts and uncles sending conspiracy theories in chain emails.

Re: RE: Re: Re: re: OPEN IMMEDIATELY, PROOF OBAMA WAS BORN IN KENYA!!!11

Probably not that profitable.”

However, ClickMinded (this website) makes over 45% of its revenue from email marketing.

Which makes it a lot more profitable than any other channel.

I was wrong because I didn’t understand how email marketing works.

Email marketing is all about increasing the speed at which people move through your sales funnel.

(For a refresher on sales funnels, check out our Sales Funnel Strategy Guide.)

You do that by sending each of your subscribers content that:

  • Is relevant to their specific interests—for example, you don’t want to send an email about a sale on beef to your vegetarian subscribers.
  • Matches the stage of the funnel they are in—for example, an email about a loyalty program will be a better fit for existing customers than for new subscribers.
  • Comes at the right moment for them to take action—for example, you could send people who added an item to their cart but didn’t check out a reminder to purchase within a few hours of abandoning the cart.

In the next section of this guide, you’ll learn EXACTLY how to do that.

Strategy: How to Create Massively Profitable Email Marketing Campaigns

A lot of people’s entire email marketing strategy consists of:

  1. Sending a welcome email to new subscribers
  2. Sending a newsletter every week or month
  3. Sending a seasonal promotional campaign

This is a great start…

…but it’s only 1% of the potential this channel can offer.

The problem a great email marketing strategy solves is scale.

You need to send each of your subscribers a relevant, timely message that motivates them to move from one stage of the funnel to the next.

But when you have hundreds or thousands of subscribers, not everyone will have the same interests, be on the same stage of the funnel, or be ready to take the same action.

That’s why you need an email marketing strategy. Here’s how to create yours:

  1. Organize your subscribers based on their interests, preferences, and stage of the funnel—this is the process of segmenting your subscribers.
  2. Understand the different ways you can reach your subscribers with email—you should know the basic types of emails and distribution methods.
  3. Map your email campaigns against each step of the sales funnel—in other words, create your lifecycle campaigns.
  4. Follow best practices to write emails that people actually open, read, and click.
  5. Make sure your emails can actually reach your subscribers and they can view them correctly—this is the deliverability and compatibility step.

We’ll go over each of these steps next.

Subscriber Segmentation: Getting to Know Your Email Subscribers

Have you ever been on a blind date?

If you have, I bet you had this exact thought:

We don’t know each other—what are we going to talk about?

That’s how you should feel if all you know about your subscribers is their email address.

Email marketing is the opposite of going on a blind date.

For email marketing to work, you need to send each of your subscribers content they are interested in and that matches where they are in the sales funnel.

To do that, you have to know as much as possible about each of your subscribers before you email them.

Lucky for you, there are several ways to do this.

Gathering Explicit Data

Explicit data is the one your subscribers give to you directly.

The typical way you gather this information is via form submissions or surveys.

In the example above, Pinterest is collecting first name, age, and gender—those are all provided directly by their users and their email marketer can use them to personalize the content sent to them via email.

This is a super easy way to learn more about your subscribers—which is why it’s easy to overdo it.

In general, people hate filling out forms.

So when you add too many fields to a form, it dramatically decreases the conversion rate for that form.

Ask too many questions and you might end up with a lot fewer people signing up for your list.

Rule of thumb: Ask only what’s strictly necessary and rely on implicit data for the rest.

Gathering Implicit Data

Implicit data is that which is collected (sometimes creepily) through user behavior or other sources.

First, there’s a lot you can infer about a subscriber based on what they do.

For example, let’s say someone visits the Adidas website, browses the section for “running shoes”, and adds a pair of shoes they like to the cart before leaving the site.

If you were Adidas’ email marketer you would already know this person is interested in running shoes, the specific model they want, their shoe size, and that they are almost ready to buy (bottom-of-the-funnel).

The subscriber didn’t need to fill a form telling you all of that—you could figure that out pretty easily yourself.

This is the power of analyzing a user’s behavior.

Another method of gathering implicit data is by collecting it from other sources.

A common way to do this is by allowing users to register by using an account from another service.

When users click on those, they usually grant access to additional data.

Apps like Facebook, Google, or Twitter already have a lot of data about their users, so email marketers can leverage it to segment their subscribers.

To get started with subscriber segmentation, check out these resources:

Email Types and Distribution Methods: Understanding the Basics of Email Marketing

Before you send your first campaign, you need to understand the channel that’s at your disposal: Email.

Take a look at this picture.

Aside from the content, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between those two emails—both were sent to me by Tommy Griffith and they look the same in my inbox.

But they are different in two fundamental ways:

Email Types

Marketing emails are those sent for commercial purposes.

These emails contain promotional content meant to engage the user in some way that benefits the business.

Some examples include campaigns like welcome emails, newsletters, special offers, or announcements.

In the email on the image above, we’re letting users of our SOP Library know that there is something new happening with the product—we send these because we want to increase usage of our SOP Library, which will help reduce cancellations.

Transactional emails are those sent because a user took an action that required us to send additional information.

These emails are usually directly requested by the user in one way or another.

Some examples of transactional emails include receipts, login information, support ticket information, and purchase confirmations.

In the email from the image above, the user has registered for a mini-course and we’re sending the credentials necessary to access the content.

In general, you should read up on regulations related to email marketing for the countries you do business in, and learn when to use transactional or marketing emails, as well as the guidelines you need to follow for each of them.

Distribution Methods

Broadcast emails are sent (or triggered) manually—meaning that someone specified the specific date and time when the email was going to be sent.

Some examples of broadcast campaigns include announcements and one-time offers.

In the case of the image above, the user is receiving an update about a new resource that was just added to their product.

Automated emails are sent automatically based on an action taken by the user on the site. There isn’t a person manually sending emails to each person.

Some examples of automated campaigns include cart abandonment emails, order confirmations, welcome emails, etc.

In general, you should aim for the large majority of your emails to be automated—because these are triggered by subscriber actions, they are significantly more likely to be timely and relevant.

Lifecycle Campaigns: Accelerate Your Sales Funnel

This is my favorite part of email marketing—planning campaigns.

In this step, you’ll design a comprehensive email messaging strategy to move your subscribers through the sales funnel.

To do that, you only need four types of campaigns.

These four types of campaigns will:

  1. Welcome subscribers and get them to perform their first critical actions
  2. Turn subscribers into customers and advocates
  3. Re-engage subscribers who have dropped out of the funnel
  4. Keep your “list hygiene”

Keep in mind, when we say four campaigns, we don’t mean four emails. Each of these campaigns will likely have several emails within them.

Let’s go over each of these next.

Onboarding Campaigns

  • Trigger: These campaigns will be sent soon after the subscriber joins your list or signs up for your product.
  • Goal: You’ll use onboarding campaigns to try to get subscribers to perform an important action.

Emails sent right after the subscriber has joined your email list typically have higher engagement (read more about open and click rates in the “Stats” section of this guide)—that’s why it’s a great time to include an important call to action.

Some of these actions can be:

  1. Completing their user profile
  2. Making a purchase
  3. Check out your most popular content
  4. Inviting friends or other users
  5. Downloading an app

Even though this is usually a single campaign, some companies might use several “tiers” of onboarding:

  • Onboarding new subscribers: To welcome people who join the email list but are not customers or users of the product (for example, when they join the email newsletter or download a lead magnet)
  • Onboarding new users/customers: To welcome people who have signed up for a product (for example, a web application like Airbnb) or became a paying customer (for example, purchased a private consulting call)

Here are some examples of onboarding campaigns we like:

Slack, a messaging platform, knows you’ll only continue using it (and eventually become a paying customer) if your team starts using it too—so this is what they send to people who create a team on the platform:

If there are several important actions a user must take, then you can also choose to send one email for each of those actions as part of the onboarding campaign.

For example, Airbnb sends 5 onboarding emails over 21 days, each of them explaining a different part of the tool.

To create your onboarding campaign, you just need to identify which are the most important actions a subscriber must take after signing up and ask them to do exactly that.

To get started, check out these resources:

Engagement Campaigns

  • Trigger: Depending on the campaign, these can be triggered manually or by actions the user takes.
  • Goal: Nurture subscribers and convert them into customers, repeat buyers, and advocates.

Most of the campaigns on your email strategy will be engagement emails.

The most common example of an engagement campaign is content newsletters, but they are not the only type.

You should create a campaign for each important goal or milestone within your sales funnel—for example:

  • Educate users about the problem your product/service solves (middle-of-the-funnel)
  • Provide free resources to subscribers (middle-of-the-funnel)
  • Invite subscribers to sign up for a free trial, webinar, course, or demo (middle-of-the-funnel)
  • Send a limited-time or seasonal offer (bottom-of-the-funnel)
  • Remind subscribers to finish an incomplete purchase (bottom-of-the-funnel)
  • Increase the usage of a tool (retention)
  • Send progress or usage reports (retention)
  • Upsell or cross-sell on other products (monetization)
  • Offer referral or loyalty bonuses (monetization)

Here are some examples of engagement campaigns we like:

Sumo regularly shares new content and case studies that typically educate subscribers on how to use their tools to grow online businesses.

Casper usually sends a Black Friday campaign meant to drive sales.

Spotify’s year-in-review emails are a great way to get an increase in usage.

To get started, you should at least consider these three campaigns:

  • Newsletters sharing helpful content
  • Launch or seasonal emails (e.g. Black Friday)
  • Cart-abandonment emails

These are some helpful resources:

Plus, you should subscribe to email lists from your favorite entrepreneurs, products, or companies to get inspiration on new campaigns to launch.

Win-Back Campaigns

  • Trigger: Lack of activity in engagement campaigns.
  • Goal: Get subscribers who have fallen out or are stuck in the funnel to re-engage with your content.

Some of your users will not interact (open or click) with your engagement campaigns or stop using your product.

A win-back campaign is your opportunity to re-engage them.

You can do this by:

  • Simply reminding them of what they’re missing out
  • Letting them know about new features or products available
  • Offering a special discount

These are some win-back campaigns we really like:

Grammarly sends inactive users a badge letting them know they can start using their writing tools again.

Yelp sends personalized recommendations that are highly relevant to each user, which they can check out on their website.

To get inspiration for your win-back campaign, check out these great examples from Mailcharts.

Sunset Campaigns

  • Trigger: Lack of activity in win-back campaign.
  • Goal: Segment out inactive subscribers and maintain list hygiene.

As we’ll explain in the “Deliverability” section of this guide, inactive subscribers can have a negative impact on your entire email strategy—which can end up reducing the number of active subscribers getting your emails.

List hygiene is the process of segmenting inactive subscribers from your email list, so you can stop sending them future campaigns.

Sunset campaigns allow you to identify these users.

The way they work is simple:

  1. You ask inactive subscribers if they want to keep receiving content
  2. Those who don’t explicitly opt-in, get segmented and will not receive any more engagement campaigns

Here are some sunset campaigns we like.

Litmus gives its inactive subscriber the option to opt-in to keep receiving emails or unsubscribe.

Buzzfeed, on the other hand, lets subscribers know they will be automatically removed if they don’t opt in.

Once you’ve mapped your entire email strategy with onboarding, engagement, win-back, and sunset campaigns, it’s time to create your emails.

Email Best Practices: How to Write Emails That People Love to Open and Click

Did you know that people spend an average of just 11.1 seconds reading your emails?

To create emails people actually open and read, you need to optimize four elements.

  1. The subject line
  2. The email preheader
  3. The body copy
  4. The call-to-action

Let’s go over each of these.

Subject Lines

Think of your subject lines in the way a journalist has to think of their headlines or an author has to think of the title for his book.

If you don’t write a great subject line, most people won’t see the content inside the email (no matter how amazing it might be.)

To write great subject lines, you should follow some best practices:

  • Keep subject lines under 50 characters. A lot of people read email on mobile devices, which can cause long subject lines to be truncated (like Fab’s email in the example above)
  • Only use emojis if the subject line still makes sense without it. Not all email clients render emojis in subject lines, which can cause emails like “5 Secluded Beaches We ❤️” to be read as “5 Secluded Beaches We ” by its recipients
  • Include personalized content (when possible). Using the data you gathered from your subscribers, include relevant information like their name or location-specific content
  • Try to use numbers, stats, or data. Several studies have found that subject lines including numbers are more likely to be opened
  • Write in the second person and use active verbs. Instead of writing a subject line like “How to Save Up to 30% While Grocery Shopping”, opt for “Save Up to 30% on Your Groceries
  • Use power words. These are words that evoke emotion or inspire curiosity in the reader

To learn more about writing subject lines, check out these resources:

Email Preheader

The preheader is a complement to your subject line—it allows you to give recipients a preview of what’s inside the email.

By adding preheaders to your emails, you can increase the open rates of your campaigns.

Almost all email clients will include this preview of the content—but if they don’t write a specific preheader, this preview will be populated automatically with whatever is at the top of the email body.

That’s why you can see some weird stuff and spacing in Lonely Planet’s email from the screenshot above.

Make sure you add a preheader to your emails and follow the same principles we outlined for subject lines in order to increase your open rates.

Body Copy

This is the meat and potatoes of your email.

The body copy is the content inside of the email that will convince your subscribers to take action.

These are some best practices for writing great email copy:

  • Keep your paragraphs short. No one likes to see a wall of text, especially on mobile devices
  • Use headings, bolding, lists. This helps break up the text and increases the likelihood that people will keep reading. This is especially important if you are writing long emails
  • Don’t put important copy inside an image. Some email clients hide images by default—in those cases, your email will be hard to understand unless the subscriber manually enables images in the email
  • Include personalized content (when possible). You can go beyond the just a name and location—use the data you have about your subscribers (interests, preferences, purchase history, etc.) to make sure the copy is as relevant as possible
  • Make sure you deliver on the promise of the subject line. Users hate clickbait, so you must be ready to align the content of the subject line with what’s included in the body copy
  • Include data, write in the second person, use active verbs. Just like with your subject lines

To get started, check out these resources:

Call-to-Action

This is the moment of truth.

You’ve gotten the user to open and read your email—now they’re ready to take the next step.

A great call-to-action is a simple and direct message that encourages the reader to act immediately.

Here’s how to write a call-to-action for your emails:

  • Keep it short. The user needs to understand what the action is at a glance.
  • Write in the first person, use active verbs. Use “Reserve My Seat” instead of “Click Here to Reserve a Seat”.
  • Try to include the call-to-action above the fold. When possible, make sure the call-to-action is visible to the user without the need for scrolling. If you’re sending a long email, don’t be afraid to include your call-to-action several times throughout the email.
  • Stick to a single action per email. Don’t ask your subscribers to do several things in a single email—instead, send them several emails with unique calls-to-action.
  • Make sure it stands out. Your call-to-action should be easy to spot and click—you can choose to bold the text or even make it look like a button.

To get started with your calls-to-action, check out these resources:

Deliverability and Compatibility: Making Sure Your Emails Reach Your Subscribers and That They Can View Them.

Let’s recap your progress so far.

At this point in your email marketing strategy, you know how to collect data and segment subscribers, you understand the types of email and methods of delivery, have designed campaigns for the entire lifecycle of your subscribers, and have written awesome email copy.

There’s just one more thing you have to do to complete your strategy.

The last step is the more technical side of email marketing.

This is the stuff that won’t necessarily make your emails perform 10x better…

…but can ruin your entire strategy if you don’t get them right.

Deliverability

All of your efforts will be for nothing if your emails don’t get to your user’s inbox.

The worst thing that can happen to your emails is getting caught on a spam firewall or put in the spam folder of your subscriber’s email account.

There isn’t a single thing you can do alone to increase deliverability. Instead, you have to do a bunch of stuff to make sure your deliverability doesn’t drop.

  • Maintain list hygiene. You should segment and remove inactive users from your campaigns (check the “Sunset Campaign” section above) to avoid sending emails to spam traps—these are email address set up to catch spammers. If you send an email to a spam trap, your email domain might end up on a spam blacklist.
  • Ask subscribers to add you to their whitelist/list of contacts. This sends a signal to email clients that your emails are trustworthy and not spam.
  • Check and improve your email stats. Most email service providers allow you to see open, click, and unsubscribe rates (check the “Stats” section below to learn more about these)—you should try to keep your engagement metrics (opens and clicks) high and your unsubscribe rate low.
  • Avoid using too many spammy words. There are certain words and phrases spam filters tend to associate with email spam. Even though you can still use these and not be marked as spam (or not use them and be caught in the spam filter), it’s better to avoid them when possible.
  • Don’t buy email lists. It’s sad that we have to say this, but just don’t try to buy lists of emails and spam them—those recipients will mark you as spam. Only send emails to people who have opted into your list.
  • Follow spam-related laws and regulations. In most countries, it’s mandatory to include an unsubscribe button on all marketing emails. Some people will unsubscribe, but it’s better they do that than mark your emails as spam.
  • [Only if you are a large sender] Consider setting up a custom sending domain and dedicated IP. This is a more technical aspect of deliverability that only matters if you are truly sending tons of emails (over ~25k email per week). If that isn’t the case, it’s possible this could hurt your deliverability—just stick with the default setup of your email service provider.

Compatibility

This is the other major technical aspect you need to plan for.

Once your email has successfully made its way into your subscriber’s inbox, you have to make sure they can actually see its contents.

There are two major aspects of compatibility:

  • Mobile friendliness. A large percentage of users view emails on their phones (and that percentage will only keep increasing). You have to make sure you use a responsive template for your emails—if you are using templates provided by your email service provider, they are likely already mobile friendly
  • Email client rendering. A typical step before launching a campaign is to send yourself a test email to check that everything looks fine. However, the fact that you can see it correctly, doesn’t mean all your recipients will. Every email client (Gmail, Yahoo, Apple Mail, Outlook, Gmail app, etc.) renders your email differently. Some email service providers allow you to preview how your emails will look in major email clients, if not you might want to consider using a third-party service for this. (Check the “Tools” section in this guide)

Stats: Email Marketing Metrics

Email marketing metrics are perhaps the most streamlined and standard of all digital marketing channels.

Here are the ones you should regularly keep an eye on:

List Size/Growth Rate

You can’t do email marketing unless you have an email list.

In general, you should strive to get a constant stream of new subscribers added to your list every day/week/month.

The size of your list is usually a good proxy for the scale of success you can achieve with email marketing.

Whenever you see your list size or growth rate stagnate, you should check with the people in charge of acquisition channels (SEO, Digital Advertising, Social Media, etc.)

Open Rates

The open rate is simply the percentage of people who opened your email in relation to the number of people who received it.

A good open rate is usually an indicator that your email had a good subject line and that it was sent at the right time.

What a “good” open rate is varies depending on your industry, the size of your list, and even the type of campaign.

We recommend you send a few campaigns (or check the historical data, if you have any) and use that as a baseline to improve.

Plus, you can check Mailchimp’s Email Marketing Benchmarks to get an idea.

Click Rates

The click rate is calculated as the percentage of people who click on a link in the body of an email in relation to the number of people who received it.

Open rates are an indicator of how successful your body copy and call-to-action are in compelling the recipient to take action.

As with open rates, what a “good” open rate is will depend on a lot of factors.

You can use your previous campaigns as a baseline to improve, or check out Mailchimp’s benchmarks.

Unsubscribe Rates

Unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who hit the “Unsubscribe” link in your emails in relation to the number of people who received an email.

People who unsubscribe don’t want to receive your emails anymore.

It’s normal for a small percentage of people to unsubscribe, but a high unsubscribe rate means that the content you’re sending is not relevant to its recipients.

You should aim for your unsubscribe rate to be a slow as possible—typically under 1%. (Check Mailchimp’s benchmarks.)

Business Metrics

Let’s talk business.

Business metrics will depend on the stage of the funnel each email is created for.

These metrics will determine if your emails are actually generating results for your business.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • The success of an email designed to get subscribers to register for a webinar (middle-of-the-funnel) can be measured by the number of registrants from email traffic, or the conversion rate of email traffic into webinar registrants.
  • The success of an email campaign for Black Friday sales can be measured by the number of sales or revenue generated by email traffic.

To determine the impact of your email traffic in these metrics, you can use UTM tracking parameters in the URLs you include in your emails—these will allow you to track the performance of your campaigns within Google Analytics.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

Power-ups: The Best Email Marketing Tools

Let’s talk about using the right tools.

There are MANY email marketing tools out there.

With that said, there’s really only a few that you need to use in order to have a powerful email marketing strategy in place.

Our ideal email marketing stack looks like this:

Email Service Providers

This is where you’ll spend 99% of your time as an email marketer.

Today, most email service providers allow you to manage your subscribers, send unlimited emails, and set up automated processes.

These are our favorite ones (choose what works for you based on your experience and the size of the business):

  • Mailchimp: This is one of the most popular email service providers in the world. It’s a great way to get started in email marketing with a FREE plan that offers up to 2,000 subscribers, 12,000 emails sent per month, and email automation.
    Check out Mailchimp
  • ConvertKit: With ConvertKit, you’ll be able to create more complex email automations than on Mailchimp—while still using a super user-friendly interface.
    Check out ConvertKit
  • Drip: This is our favorite email service provider. However, it’s not for everyone—it’s an advanced platform designed for companies with more advanced integration, tracking, and automation needs.
    Check out Drip

Email Copywriting Tools

These tools will help you write better emails:

  • CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: Use this simple tool to compare different subject lines and improve them.
    Check out CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
  • Hemingway Editor: Use this tool to improve your email copy’s readability and ease of understanding.
    Check out Hemingway Editor
  • Grammarly: This powerful but simple tool uses AI to check your content for grammatical errors and offers suggestions to make your copy easier to understand.
    Check out Grammarly
  • Drip Scripts: A free compilation of proven email templates you can easily fill out and customize to fit your own business.
    Check out Drip Scripts

Deliverability and Compatibility Tools

These tools will help you make sure your emails reach your subscribers’ inbox and that they can properly view them in any device.

You probably don’t need any these if you’re just starting out or you are sending emails to a list of fewer than 10,000-20,000 subscribers.

  • Litmus: There’s a lot you can do with this tool. Litmus is mostly known for its compatibility feature, which allows you to test and preview your emails in over 90 apps and devices to make sure they look great across the board.
    Check out Litmus
  • BriteVerify: You can use this tool to check whether the email addresses in your email are valid or not. This allows you to remove fake or misspelled emails before you send your emails—which could hurt your deliverability otherwise.
    Check out BriteVerify
  • ReturnPath: This platform provides you with important deliverability metrics like inbox placement (whether your emails are ending up in the spam folder) or sender reputation. You can track these to make sure your deliverability rates don’t fall.
    Check out ReturnPath

Helpers: Great Email Marketing People And Blogs to Follow

There is a lot of content out there about email marketing.

Just like synchronized aerobic dancing, most of it is bad.

With that said, there are a handful of resources we know and love. If you’re just getting started, here are a few people, communities, and blogs that we trust.

Brennan Dunn
Brennan is an expert at email marketing automation who likes to share advanced tactics he uses on his business.
Joanna Wiebe
Joanna is the founder of Copy Hackers, a copywriting blog for marketers. On top of writing email copy for major brands, she has also published some of our favorite guides and tutorials on conversion-focused content.
emailgeeks Slack Channel
A large community of people working on email marketing on all types of scales and in many industries. It’s a great place to ask questions and discover great content on email marketing.
Really Good Emails
A website that compiles amazing email designs, classified by type of campaign—it’s a great way to get inspiration for your own campaigns.
Litmus Blog
We like to check the Litmus blog to keep up to date on the more technical aspects of email marketing, like changes in email client support or new trends in email design and development.
Mailcharts blog
A great resource for inspiration and ideas for marketing campaigns. You’ll find everything from best practices for specific types of campaigns to the analysis of email campaigns by major companies.

Quickstart Guide: Becoming a World-Class Email Marketer in Record Time

The only way to get better at email marketing is to do email marketing.

When you’re a beginner, you have three options to get hands-on experience:

  • Create and implement an email marketing strategy for your own business. If you already have a business, you can simply use what you’ve learned to grow it.
  • Find a business who you can help with email marketing and that will give you allow you to create and send campaigns to their subscribers or users (maybe this is a business you already work for, a friend’s company, or a small business in the place where you live). This is the path we recommend since you will already have a list of people to email from the get-go.
  • Start your own website/business and build an email list from scratch. This will make things a bit harder because you won’t have anyone to email for a while—but if you do go this way, you’ll have a lot of freedom to try different campaigns and experiments.

Once you have this figured out, use the following framework to get started:

  1. Finish reading this guide, of course.

Outcome: You should have the fundamental knowledge of email marketing to launch highly profitable campaigns.

  1. Audit the performance of previous email campaigns.

Outcome: You will be able to determine the type of content that works and doesn’t work for a specific audience, which you can replicate for your future campaigns.

  1. Audit the subscriber data being gathered.

Outcome: You will know what kind of segmentation to use and what kind of data you have available to personalize the content of your emails.

  1. Create one email campaign for each campaign type (onboarding, engagement, win-back, and sunset). If the business already has some email campaigns live, you can try to edit or repurpose some of those.

Outcome: You’ll have deployed a comprehensive email nurturing plan that covers the entire lifecycle of the user.

  1. Track the performance of your campaigns. Use the metrics provided by your email service provider to track email performance (open, click, and unsubscribe rate) and Google Analytics to track business performance.

Outcome: You’ll have visibility of what works, what doesn’t, and a solid baseline to keep improving your campaigns.

Traps: Avoid These Email Marketing Traps

There are a few mistakes we keep seeing beginners make again and again when going into email marketing.

These can make you lose a lot of time you could spend doing work that actually matters.

Here are the most common ones (so you can avoid them):

Focusing Too Much on Email List Size

With a little bit of reading, you’ll find that many blog posts cover the topic of “massively growing an email list.”

Even though you should try to consistently grow your email list and it can be easier to get big results if you have a big list, it’s not something you should pursue at the expense of a solid email marketing strategy.

Time and time again, we’ve found that a small list of highly engaged subscribers is much more profitable than a massive list of inactive people.

If you already have a list of subscribers of a decent size (even just a few hundred), it’s better to spend your time creating great campaigns for them than to focus exclusively on growing your list.

Buying Or Scraping Lists of Emails

This is just a waste of time and money.

If you email people who did not opt-in to receive emails from you, they will mark your emails as spam.

This can end up drastically hurting your deliverability rates in a way that can be hard to recuperate from.

Don’t try to cut corners here—it won’t work in the short term and it will suck in the long term.

Not Using Mobile-Friendly Templates

This should be obvious by now, but we’ve seen major companies send emails that are impossible to read on mobile devices.

Beginners usually mess this up when they try using a fancy, untested HTML template. Just stick to the templates provided by your email service provider or test how your templates render in the most important email clients (using a service like Litmus).

Focusing Too Much on Tools

This is very common when it comes to picking an email service provider.

The trick is to not let yourself be tempted by the fear of missing out on a fancy, complicated feature or tool.

When you’re getting started, you can probably achieve everything you need to with any of the major email service providers.

Just pick the one that fits your budget (or the one already being used by the company) and get to work.

As you get more experience, you’ll outgrow certain tools—it’s not a problem, you can always migrate to a new, more powerful one (we’ve done it 4 or 5 times in 7 years).

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