How to master email marketing

16 min read
Belinda Weaver

Have you heard the rumours? Email marketing is dead. Or, it's the fastest way to connect and convert prospects into customers.

Internet opinions can be confusing ... but one thing we can tell you is that email marketing is not dead.

Despite the power of social media and live video to woo our customers, email continues to outperform them in terms of connection and conversion.

No wonder 37% of brands are ramping up their email budgets and only a tiny 1.3% are making cuts.

Whether you own a brick and mortar business or an ecommerce shop, you simply can't afford to ignore email marketing.

6 rules to win at email

Email marketing involves sending regular emails to your prospective and current customers. Here are a few rules to guide you.

  1. Be timely.

  2. Avoid the spam filters.

  3. Help them make a decision.

  4. Make their lives easier.

  5. Give them a reason to click.

  6. Don’t overdo it.

Let's look at each of these in detail.

1. Be timely

If you are responding to a trigger event such as a request for a quote or more information about a new product, timeliness is everything.

You don’t want to:

  • Be the fifth or sixth business responding
  • Have the person forget why they got in touch
  • Find the problem's been solved before you even show up

If you're sending out regular content like a blog or newsletter, don’t email so infrequently that your readers forget who you are!

Pro email marketers suggest experimenting with frequency — if unsubscribes increase, you know you’re sending too often.

Preparing for a launch? Give your readers a long runway of content to get them interested and excited.

Man and woman flirting

Great email marketing is like dating.

You need to woo your readers gently rather than asking them to elope on the first date.

2. Avoid the spam filters

If you want the chance to prove to customers that you’re just the solution they're looking for, your email has to actually be read.

That means making sure your emails get through the spam filters and get opened.

Avoid using spam trigger words like:


Also, words like CASH, FAST CASH, SAVE $ will trigger spam filters, quietly shifting your emails into the black hole of the spam folder.

For more words to avoid in your Subject lines, check out your own spam folder! Then read these tips on how to write Subject lines that work.

3. Help them make a decision

Think about why someone has given you their email address and attend to that need.

  • Perhaps they want a big-picture introduction to a topic they know nothing about.
  • Maybe they want to understand which features they should look for before making a choice.
  • Or maybe they need a quick tutorial on how to take care of a product they just bought.

As an expert on your products or services, you can help by simply sharing what you know.

Sure, you might be arming them with information that ultimately sends them to another business, but in most cases you’ll be building trust. And that trust is worth far more than the time it took to write that email.

4. Make their lives easier

While it’s easy to track how many people open your emails and click through to your landing pages, ultimately you should be making life easier for your customers (current and potential), not creating metrics.

If you can provide information in the email rather than making them go to your website, do it. Then, your click-through rate has meaning because it’s someone taking action, not just checking information.

5. Give them a reason to click

Email Marketing Barrel Of Monkeys
Connect the dots for the reader — tell them why they should accept your offer.
Photo: Park Troopers on Unsplash

If your email marketing is connecting to something such as a blog post or video, do more than just provide a link and expect readers to click on it.

Tell them why the click will be worth their while with an excerpt or context.

Remember, when you ask someone to click a link, you want it to be more worthwhile than answering the phone, making the cup of tea they’ve been craving or making dinner.

6. Don’t overdo it

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have too many emails in their inbox. Getting the right balance of being helpful without stressing someone out is tough but critical.

Above all, think of your audience. What was the problem that led them to give you their email address? Solve that one first, but then think about other, related problems they might be having. That’s where your email marketing can really add some value.

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What is email marketing exactly?

Email Marketing Letter And Pen
Write every email as if you were writing to a good friend.
Photo: Freddy Castro on Unsplash

When we talk about an email marketing strategy, we're talking about the use of regular emails to promote your products and/or services. Thanks to marketing automation, many such emails can be set up once, then sent out automatically to many people.

But email is more than just a sales tool. Email marketing has the potential to take people from just hearing about you all the way to being a raving fan of your business. Not to mention a repeat customer.

Your goal is to keep your customers connected with your business before, during and after they buy something from you.

The biggest advantages of email marketing are cost and ease. Emailing is a relatively cheap way to promote your business, compared to other forms of advertising.

It's also easy to set up and track the results of your efforts, thanks to the range of free and paid email marketing software available.

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The elements of an email

It might be useful to start by dissecting the typical email. All emails have the following parts:

The email sender

The sender is the person or group the email comes from. It's tempting to make it your company name with a general email address like Info@, NoReply@ or Support@. Resist the urge to do this if you want to boost your open rates! Instead, use a real person's name (like, yours) and email address.

Domain-based email that has your business domain name in it is best for branding purposes.

Of course, you could send out emails from your free email address. But the rise in fraudulent emails designed to spread malware has made all of us suspicious of emails that look dodgy.

A custom business address not only increases email deliverability but looks professional, which increases trust (and that's good for conversions!).

Related: Why even tiny businesses need a professional email address

The email Subject line

Email Marketing The Sign You’ve Been Looking For
The best email Subject lines are impossible to resist.
Photo: Austin Chan on Unsplash

People tend to scan their inboxes quickly, making a decision based on the Subject lines and the sender’s email address. The Subject line is often the first impression someone has of you — it’s the reason they choose to open, delete or mark you as spam. To avoid those last two options, consider your Subject line carefully.

There are a few ways you can approach your email Subject line. For example, you can be:

  • Clear and just tell readers what's in your email: "Link to your free downloadable checklist"
  • Mysterious to get their attention: "Are you making these home maintenance mistakes?"
  • Casual, like a friend: "Hey, did you see this deal?"
  • Creative with punctuation: "You + this trick = more contracts signed"

Some email marketers suggest adding graphics, like emojis. And with good reason: The open rate of emails with emojis in the subject line is 56% higher compared to text-only subject lines.

If in doubt, always go for clarity over cleverness.

Another way to help your email stand out is to use brackets. Brackets can be especially effective when you put them around attention-grabbing words: "[Special Offer] Buy now and save big!"

Pay attention to the email subject lines that you click on ... and the ones you send to your bin.

The email content itself

This is the heart of your email marketing effort. Your subject line makes a promise and your email content needs to deliver on that promise.

Keep it short and to the point, as many people read email on the small screens of their mobile devices. Tell them exactly what they'll get by taking the action you want them to take.

Focus on the big benefit of whatever you offer:

  • If you sell padlocks, tell them they'll get peace of mind.
  • If you own a carpet cleaning service, say they'll have a more relaxed holiday weekend with the in-laws.
  • If you sell botanical teas, promise them a better start to the workday.

When sharing information that requires more space, summarize it then link to a blog post or landing page for details if they're interested.

About 46% of smartphone users prefer to receive communications from businesses via email.

Why not try a simpler presentation of your content? Plain text emails let your readers focus on your message and your offer. Don't fear plain text!

Call to action

The call to action (or CTA) is usually the last component of your email. It's a request that your readers do something in particular. A good marketing email is written around one primary call to action, whether it’s making a purchase, clicking through to a page or downloading a coupon.

Your call to action should be short and to the point. Tell the reader what to do next

Recherche dans la médiathèque pour "bouton d’appel à l’action"

Make it clear what you want your readers to do:

  • Use verbs and simple language — click to download, buy now, etc.
  • Give them a compelling reason — save 20 percent on your first purchase, etc.
  • Try to reduce the risk of saying yes with a money-back guarantee, for example.

The idea is to remove all objections the reader might think of — while mentioning at least one compelling benefit.

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Email sequences take your marketing to the next level

An email sequence (sometimes called an autoresponder or a drip sequence) is a series of emails that are sent based on a trigger event such as:

  • A new subscriber to your email marketing list.Scarf tying infographic as an example of a customer retention tactic
  • Specific browsing behaviour — putting an item in their cart but not checking out, for example.
  • Downloading a white paper, coupon or infographic like the one on the right.
  • Buying a product.

A well-written email sequence allows your readers to “know, like and trust” you before you ask for the sale. You write the emails in advance and then program your email marketing software to automatically send them out at certain times or after certain actions.

Set it once and it keeps sending with no input from you. How easy is that?

Whether you create a complicated email funnel or write a simple welcome email after subscription, keep your email copy succinct and to the point. No one will read a long-winded waffle!

Related: Make more sales with an abandon cart email

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A note about spam

While email marketing is both powerful and inexpensive, it is worth noting that Australia has strict anti-spam laws you’ll need to comply with.

Add to that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which puts even more pressure on email marketers to protect recipients’ rights — including the right to be forgotten.

But with a little effort, you can make email marketing work wonders for your business.

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There you have it! Email marketing all wrapped up

No doubt about it, email remains one of the most affordable marketing tools at your disposal. In this post we covered:

  • Why email marketing is still relevant and a worthy investment.
  • The elements of an email campaign: sender, Subject line, content and call to action.
  • Email best practices that will get your emails opened and read.

It all comes down to considering your audience. Remember, when someone gives you their email address, they said yes to emails from you ... but they can take back that offer if you don't treat them well! Effective email marketing delivers relevant, useful messages and content to the right group of people at the right time.

Cathy Ngo contributed to this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a promotional strategy where businesses send emails to many people at once.

Think about email marketing as having a virtual chat with your audience. For this chat to be meaningful to them, you need to know who they are and what they like.

You’ll need to build a list of email addresses, always making sure you get owners’ consent before sending them marketing emails. One easy way to do this is to add a pop-up or signup form to your website that invites readers to share their emails in exchange for something of value (e.g. infographic, whitepaper, product sample)

What are the five steps of email marketing?

A successful email marketing campaign involves several key steps to reach and engage your audience effectively. Here are the five most important:

1. Define your goals and audience: Start by deciding what you want to achieve with your email marketing campaign. Is it:

  • Drive sales?
  • Bringing people to your website?
  • Letting people know your business exists (aka raise brand awareness)?

Having clear goals is crucial. This will allow you to measure the results of your efforts.

2. Build an email list: A strong email list made up of likely buyers is the foundation of any successful campaign. After all, emailing people who don’t want or need your goods or services is a waste of time.

The key is to compile an email list by encouraging sign-ups on your website and social media, hosting webinars or using other lead-generation tactics (check out the 18 ideas here).

Never buy email lists.

Ensure your subscribers have agreed to be emailed (opt in) and are genuinely interested in your content. Prioritise quality over quantity — 20 people who are likely to buy is worth more than 200 who are not.

Related: How to build your first email list

3. Create compelling content: Share engaging and useful content that relates to your product or service and will be of interest to your readers.

This could include informative articles, promotions, event invitations, or email newsletters with helpful tips.

Personalise your emails to address individual interests and preferences. This will increase interest and encourage recipients to act.

The easiest way to personalise emails is to divide your list into groups of people with similar interests. You can read more about email segmentation here.

4. Design and send engaging emails: Most reputable email marketing tools come with visually appealing and mobile-friendly email templates for you to customise.

When choosing an email design, pay attention to the layout, visuals, call-to-action buttons and overall aesthetics. Add your business logo and colours to make it your own.

Next, write an attention-grabbing subject line to entice people to open the email.

Schedule the email for optimal timing, based on your audience’s behaviour and preferences. You can read more about best times/days to send marketing email here.

5. Analyse your results: Most email marketing tools make it easy to see how many people opened your emails along with other stats.

Review metrics like open, click-through rates (CTR), conversion and unsubscribe rates. Use this data to understand which emails work well and which need improvement. Continuously optimize your email campaigns based on these insights. Over time, you'll get a good feel for what works and what doesn't.

What is the best email marketing service?

The “best” email marketing service can vary depending on your marketing goals, preferences, budget and how many emails you plan to send.

We’ve summarised 4  popular and highly regarded email marketing services below:

Mailchimp: Mailchimp is a widely used and user-friendly platform suitable for beginners and experienced marketers alike. It offers a range of features, such as customisable email templates, automation, A/B testing, audience segmentation and analytics. Mailchimp’s free plan allows for basic email marketing and is excellent for small businesses.

GoDaddy’s Digital Marketing Suite: This versatile tool brings all the most used digital marketing tactics together in one place – social media, ads, email marketing and reviews. Users say the email tool alone has increased traffic to their websites 4x and sales by 6x. But you can also use it to create scroll-stopping social posts and manage your business listings and reviews — all from one dashboard. Comes with an SEO tool and a marketing planner.

Constant Contact: Constant Contact is known for its ease of use and robust features. It offers templates, list management, social media integration and analytics. Additionally, Constant Contact provides event management and survey tools, making it a versatile choice for businesses wanting to do more than just email marketing.

AWeber: AWeber is known for its reliability and excellent customer support. It provides features like autoresponders, email automation, analytics and list segmentation. AWeber is often chosen by businesses looking for a straightforward and efficient email marketing solution.

We suggest signing up for a trial (if they have one) or comparing pricing to determine which provider is best for your email marketing goals.

What are the four types of email marketing?

Email marketing encompasses various strategies and tactics to engage and communicate with current and future customers through email.

While the specific classification of email marketing types may vary based on perspective, here are four common types:

1. Promotional emails: Promotional emails aim to sell products or  services, often through discounts, offers or sales events. The goal is to encourage readers to take a specific action, such as purchasing something or visiting a website.

2. Transactional emails: Transactional emails are usually triggered by a user’s interaction with a website or app. They include order confirmations, shipping notifications, account creation emails, password resets and other notifications related to a user’s actions.

3. Informational emails: Informational or educational emails provide valuable content, insights, news or updates to the recipients. They aim to educate, often sharing blog posts, how-to guides, industry news, or tips related to the company’s products or services.

4. Retention emails: Retention emails focus on building and maintaining a relationship with the audience. They often involve updates about the company, event invitations or customer appreciation emails. The goal is to foster community and trust, as this often leads to repeat sales.

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