The Complete Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing

Michael Roberts
The word "email" spelled out with loose keyboard letters against a gray background.


Email is one of the absolute best marketing channels on the planet! Don't believe me? You will after you've finished this email marketing for beginners guide.

Keep reading to learn what email marketing is and why it's important, the tools you need to email your customers effectively, how to grow your subscriber list quickly, how to craft winning email content, and more.

We have a lot to get to so let's get started!

What is Email Marketing?

Let's start with a definition — this is a beginner's guide after all! If you're completely unfamiliar with the concept, email marketing, according to the good folks at OptinMonster, is:

"The highly effective digital marketing strategy of sending emails to prospects and customers. Effective marketing emails convert prospects into customers, and turn one-time buyers into loyal, raving fans."

Simple enough, right? Now, let's talk about why email marketing needs to be a part of just about every company's promotional strategy...

Why is Email Marketing Important?

Email is retro. Why email your leads and customers when you can communicate with them on hot new platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social networks? In a word: effectiveness.

Email may be old school, but no other marketing strategy offers the same level of ROI. The latest studies suggest that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44 is generated in return, which translates to a 4,400% return on investment. Incredible!

Still not convinced? Take a quick gander at these stats:

  • The number of email users is expected to reach 4.3 billion by 2022, which is more than half of the world's total population. At that time, 33 billion emails will be sent daily.
  • 99% of consumers check their emails on a daily basis. This is true for all age groups, including most teenagers, who consider email a "fact of everyday life."
  • In terms of customer acquisition, email is almost 40x more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. Those hot, new platforms just can't compete. At least not yet.

Finally, email marketing is important because its a channel that you own. Think about it, social media platforms like Facebook can change the rules whenever they want. And they have, many times over, frustrating hordes of marketers in the process.

But as long as you follow email regulations, no other person or company can dictate how, when, or why you contact your subscribers.

Choose the Right Tools

A wall filled with different kinds of tools.


Before you can start sending messages, you need to invest in an email service provider, or ESP. 

This kind of tool will allow you to easily broadcast your messages to hundreds or even thousands of recipients without tripping spam filters or breaking laws, while giving you access to advanced marketing and promotion features.

Here are three popular ESPs you might consider using:

MailChimp

MailChimp is one of the most widely-used email service providers on planet earth. This is largely because the company allows customers to use its platform for free as long as they don't have more than 2,000 subscribers and don't need access to advanced features.

Overall, MailChimp is easy to use, gives users access to eye-catching email templates, and offers detailed analytics reports.

Aweber

Aweber is one of the oldest email service providers around. As such, it's considered to be highly reliable and trusted by many different brands. Like MailChimp, Aweber prioritizes simplicity while still offering its users a powerful set of features.

If you choose Aweber as your ESP of choice, expect access to stunning email templates, automation and split-testing features, in-depth reports, and plenty of integration options.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is another heavyweight in the world of email marketing. But the service prides itself on offering its customers more than just the ability to message a list of subscribers.

Beyond the typical email templates, automation features, and detailed analytics, Constant Contact also helps businesses by giving them access to a website builder, social media and Google ads platform, landing page creator, and more.

If you want to run all of your business's marketing operations under one roof, Constant Contact is definitely worth a good, hard look.

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Note: There are MANY different email service providers. If the three listed above don't suit your fancy, do a little online research and find one that does. Then invest in it and move on to the next section of this email marketing for beginners guide!

Build Your Email List

Three cranes building a large building.


Once you've chosen an ESP, you need to focus on lead generation and building a list of subscribers. There are many ways to do this. But we'll focus on two of the most effective:

Opt-In Forms

An opt-in form is exactly what it sounds like: a form, usually located on a website, that allows visitors to opt-in and subscribe to a company's email list. These forms come in all shapes and sizes and can be located in a website's header, footer, and sidebar; be displayed as a popup that appears when a visitor takes a specific action; and more.

When adding opt-in forms to your website, make sure you have the following in place:

  • A Stellar Headline: The headline of your opt-in form should be engaging and promote a specific benefit that subscriber will enjoy once they join your list.
  • Informational Copy: Beneath the headline, give visitors a bit more info about why they should join your list. Dig deeper into the above-stated benefit, but keep it brief.
  • A Stand-Out CTA: Ask yourself, "Does my CTA button encourage clicks?" If not, rework the copy and consider changing its color so that it catches the eyes of visitors.

Here's the thing, your opt-in form might be perfectly optimized, but without a compelling offer to award subscribers for joining your list, you won't get many sign ups. Let's talk more about that:

Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is the secret sauce to growing an email list. By offering your website visitors something of value for subscribing, you'll be able to supercharge your list growth and reach more people faster than ever before.

Your lead magnet can be anything — a free ebook, template, infographic, video, etc. — as long as your target audience looks at it and says "Hey, I want that!" and then proceeds to give your company their email addresses in exchange for downloading or viewing it.

When crafting your lead magnet(s), make sure it's:

  1. Easy to Consume: Lead magnets work best when subscribers can quickly and easily consume their contents. A 200 page ebook might pack a serious punch in the value department. But it will also take ages to read and that's a turnoff for many.
  2. Very Actionable: Don't create a lead magnet that's packed with theoretical ideas. Make your content extremely actionable and it will perform better, guaranteed.
  3. Instantly Available: Lastly, new subscribers shouldn't have to wait to check out your lead magnet once they've joined your list. They should be able to instantly download, view, or otherwise consume your content immediately after subscribing.

Keep these three things in mind and you'll be able to create lead magnets that your target audience actually wants, which will help you rapidly grow your email list.

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No matter which tactic you use to grow your subscriber count, we recommend using what's known as double opt-in email marketing. Why? Because this ensures list quality.

Double opt-in email marketing requires a subscriber to enter their email address into an opt-in form, then confirm their intent to subscribe by clicking on a specific link inside an automatically-sent email before they're officially added to an email list.

While this tactic will reduce the amount of subscribers your company generates, it will ensure that every subscriber on your list actually wants to be there.

Craft Your Content

A person doing hand crafts at a wooden table.


At this point you've selected an email service provider and built a list of people to send messages to. Now it's time to actually craft your content and start emailing!

Every email has three main elements: the subject line, the body copy, and the call-to-action (CTA) let's discuss each of these in greater detail:

Subject Lines

Your subject line is arguably the most important part of your entire email. After all, if no one opens your messages, nothing else matters. So it's important to get this element right!

Don't worry, we'll show you how:

  • Short and Sweet: 77% of email opens happen on mobile devices, which means much of your audience is interacting with your messages on tiny screens. This is important to realize because tiny screens tend to shorten long subject lines. You probably won't have a great open rate if your subject lines are always cut off halfway through and your subscribers never really know what you're trying to tell them.
  • Incite Curiosity and Urgency: Curiosity and urgency are both powerful emotions when it comes to email marketing. If you can make your subscribers think "I wonder what that's about?" or "Wow, I need to open this right now!" you're in good shape. You can do this by mentioning a limited time offer your company is running, or leaving out key details in your subject line that pique your subscribers' interest and entice them to open.
  • Use Personalization: We'll dive deeper into personalization in a later section. For now, just know that personalizing your subject lines is a great strategy. You can do this by including a subscriber's name in the subject line, for example.

Once you've written a killer subject line, you can move onto your message's body copy:

Body Copy

Congratulations, you've successfully gotten your subscribers to open your email! Now you need to keep them engaged by crafting compelling body copy. Here's how:

  • Short and Sweet: Are you beginning to sense a theme here? Your subscribers don't want to read a novel's worth of content in their email inboxes. So aim for concise copy that conveys the information you want as quickly as possible. Also, break up your paragraphs and make sure there's plenty of white space to be seen. That way your messages don't seem long and difficult to read.
  • Use a Conversational Tone: One of the biggest mistakes new email marketers make is writing in a stuffy, jargon-filled way. This doesn't work. Instead, write in a conversational tone, that is to say: write how you speak. Also, write each of your messages like you're talking to one person, even if your list is thousands of names long. This is another way to ensure your body copy flows naturally and sounds personable.
  • Use Engaging Visuals: The words you use are important, but so are the visuals you include in your emails. To help grab your audiences' attention, use images and videos in your email marketing efforts. Not sure how to create great visuals? Get CloudApp! Our tool's convenient screen recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features make it easy to create compelling visuals and include them in your messages to subscribers.

Now that your subject line and body copy have been crafted to perfection, you can focus on creating an amazing CTA that boosts your company's click-through rate (CTR):

CTAs

Your CTA is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of email marketing for beginners. Every — we repeat, EVERY — email needs a CTA. After reading your message, what do you want your subscribers do? Now tell them!

Whether you want your list to click through and read a blog post, follow your company on social media, or buy a product, make sure your CTAs are:

  • Singular: Don't confuse your audience by asking them to do seven different things in every email. Choose one CTA for each email you send.
  • Noticeable: The best CTAs stand out from the rest of the email they're included in. Make sure your CTA catches your subscribers' eye by making it a different color than the rest of your message.

Optimize Your Communications

Whew, we've come a long way in just a few short minutes. Let's recap: you've learned what email marketing is and why it's important, chosen an ESP, started to build your company's email list, and begun crafting killer content to send them on a regular basis.

But don't get too excited yet, your work is far from done! The next step is to optimize your communications with your subscribers. The best way to do this is via A/B testing.

A/B testing is the process of testing two emails against each other to see which performs best. It's done by creating two identical messages save for one small variance (such as a different subject line, for example), then sending both emails to a mini subset of an email list. The message that gets the most opens wins and can be sent to the rest of the list.

Just about anything in your emails can be tested — subject lines, body copy, included images, CTAs. The more you test, the more you'll learn about your audience, and the better you'll be able to optimize your communications in the future.

3 Email Marketing Best Practices

 A red die set to the number three.


You now have a firm understanding of email marketing for beginners. But before we let you go, we want to share a few best practices to help you go from newbie to seasoned pro.

Keep these three things in mind when promoting your business via email marketing:

Personalize Your Messages

Personalization is absolutely key when it comes to email marketing for beginners. Your subscribers don't want to feel like part of the crowd. They want to feel like your company understands them and crafts messages specifically for them.

While this may seem like an impossible task — how can you possibly personalize every message if you have a thousand subscribers? — it really isn't.

There are a few different things you can do to ensure each of your messages feels personal to the recipient opening them. For example, you can:

  • Address Your Subscribers by Name: If you require a first name during the opt-in process, you can program your ESP of choice to include names in each of your communications. Which sounds more personal: "Hi friend," or "Hi Jim,"?
  • Segment Your List: Each of your subscribers is different. By segmenting your list, AKA grouping different subscribers together based on things like gender and preferences, you'll be able to craft a more personalized email experience for each of your recipients. For instance, you might not want to email the men on your list about your company's new line of women's jackets. Likewise, most women probably don't want to hear about your brand's latest beard oil concoction. Fortunately, by segmenting your list, you can ensure the right content goes out to the right subscribers every time.

Take Advantage of Automation

Automation is one of the most powerful email marketing features. This tool will allow your company to build relationships with new subscribers through compelling content, and turn them into loyal customers — all on autopilot!

All you have to do is create a few autoresponders (email sequences that are programmed to send when specific conditions, like an email list subscription, are met) and then watch as your company grows while you play video games, sleep, or do anything else you want.

We're simplifying the process a little… Autoresponders do take work to set up and must be monitored for effectiveness. But once they're optimized, they really can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you while you focus your attention on other things.

Email Your List Regularly

Last, but certainly not least, do your best to maintain a consistent emailing schedule. If you go too long between messages, your audience might not remember who you are or engage with your content as much.

At the same time, be careful not to over message your list. Nobody wants to feel like they're being spammed. Find the right email schedule for your unique set of subscribers and stick to it.

Grow Your Business With Email Marketing

A box of newly sprouted plants.


There's no doubt about it, email will improve your business. Fortunately, after reading this email marketing for beginners guide, you now know exactly how to use this promotional channel to better connect with your target audience and sell more products.

We encourage you to get started with email marketing ASAP if you haven't already. Though it may seem daunting at first, you'll be glad you did — we promise!

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