What Is Email Marketing? 10 Basic Principles Every First-Jobber Should Understand

Every business across the land uses email and email marketing to sell to their customers. It’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest, digital method of communication. Did you know the first email was sent in 1971? Lots has happened since then…

Yet, because of the history, there are many nuances and intricacies to email marketing. Much more to learn than you might imagine. Here we outline 10 fundamental things to think about when you embark on your first email campaign.

But first, let’s be clear on the definition.

The definition of email marketing:

‘The promotion of products or services by email.’ Marketingterms.com

‘Email marketing is directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.’ Wikipedia.org

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? It’s at least something most of us can understand. But that’s where the simplicity ends. There is so much to think about as an email marketer…

The 10 basic principles of email marketing

1. Understand your audience

Who are you going to send your email campaign to? Are you sending to a rented list or email addresses gathered from a website? What do you know about the people on the list? Perhaps you know their age, their interests, where they live, what they’ve bought recently.

Understanding what makes your target audience tick before you start is critical.

2. Make an email campaign plan

Think about how many emails you are going to send, when you are going to send them and how frequently. What time of day is likely to get the best response? How many people do you need to respond to make your campaign effective?

3. It’s all about the message

Decide what you want the recipient to do and how you are going to convince them to do it. What is the message? What can you say that is going to push their buttons? Can you make a logical argument? Can you make an emotional plea?

4. Subject lines you can’t ignore

The subject line is vital. Shall I say that again? The subject line is vital. Get it right and the user will open your email. Get it wrong and you have no chance!

Use intrigue, use shock, use humour, use the recipient’s name. Test your subject lines until you know what works for your audience.

5. HTML or plain text

Do well designed HTML emails work better than a letter from one individual to another? There is no right answer. It varies from business to business and even from recipient to recipient. Your job as an email marketer is to find out what works and who it works for. Keep testing.

6. Crafting contagious copy

There are many forms of email copy designed to get different results. Perhaps you decide to write an entertaining story to introduce one of your staff. Or maybe it’s descriptions of products to drive sales. Whatever the copy you are writing always have the audience in mind when you write it.

Some other examples of email copy include:

  • Ask a question and answer it
  • Report on a survey or piece of news
  • Make a prediction
  • Explain how to do something
  • Provide a list or top 10 relevant points
  • Answer frequently asked questions
  • Describe your product or service
  • Write a case study about an existing customer

7. Call to action (CTA)

Now you’ve written your copy, you have to ask your audience to do something. Known in the trade as a ‘call to action’ or CTA. In emails this is often a button or a link. The call to action is designed to move the user towards your goal. So if you want them to read something you might say ‘read now’ and so on.

Be as specific as you can with your call to action. Like the subject line you can (and should) use shock, intrigue and humour to get the coveted click.

8. Segment your list

We’re now moving on to a little more advanced email marketing tactics. But ones that you’ll agree are common-sense.

Wouldn’t it make sense to split your list into men and women and send them different emails? Or separate 18 year olds from 60 year olds? That’s all segmentation is.

If your list contains distinct groups of people you split them out and send them the most relevant email. Whilst it is more work it will yield much stronger response rates.

9. Be personal

The ability to be personal will largely depend on the email software that you are using. Most good systems include ways to send bulk emails whilst addressing the individual directly. E.g. Dear Lucy. It’s also common to be able to use the recipient’s name in the subject line.

The larger systems take ‘personalisation’ to another level. They deliver different content to different recipients at different times of day. All this is based on the recipients previous behaviour and preferences.

As you might expect this type of content targeting gets great results. And that is why ‘personalisation’ is one of the industry buzzwords.

10. Data etiquette

I’m sure you’ve seen news items about data breaches. Keeping a user’s data safe is of paramount importance. As is giving them the ability to unsubscribe from your list when they want to. You must have an unsubscribe link present on your email, commonly found in the footer. It’s also good practice to tell the user why they are receiving the email from you. For example, you are receiving this email because you signed up on www.digitalgrads.com

If you want to put this knowledge to the test, our free Email Marketing Training will help you show employers that you’ve got what it takes.

So there you have it. A whirlwind tour through email marketing. There is lots more to it, believe me, but hopefully this gives you a taster. It may even help you set up your first campaign or answer an interview question or two! Hopefully you found this article useful, if you did, we’d really appreciate a share. Thanks!

About post author

Hello. My name is Lucy Smith. I recently quit my full-time Marketing Director role at a tech start-up in London, (after 13 years hard graft getting there), in favour of starting up on my own. Why? The journey from graduating with a 2:1 in Media and Cultural Studies to Marketing Director hasn't all been plain sailing, but is has been challenging and tremendous fun. A career path that I heartily recommend to anyone who will listen. Digital Marketing For Graduates is my brain-child. I'd like to give something back, as well as have the experience of starting my own business. I will give it my all. Provide and source the very best information I can, but I know I can't do it all alone. For Digital Marketing For Grads to evolve I will need some help. Please get in touch if you'd like to be part of the idea.
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