Email marketing — a step-by-step guide to getting started

A professional researching email marketing

If your existing email marketing initiatives aren’t producing the results you want, or you’re trying to clarify your email marketing practices, getting more results from your efforts starts with understanding the steps of email marketing.

An email marketing program that follows the below nine steps can help marketing teams experience better open and click-through rates — and ultimately conversions. Whether you’re just beginning or brushing up on your email marketing knowledge, let’s take a look at nine steps to get your email marketing started.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

What is email marketing?

Before diving into specifics, it's important to understand what email marketing is — an essential part of your marketing strategy to promote your business to customers on your email list.

Email marketing can help you achieve several key objectives. It can attract new customers, since people new to your brand are more likely to submit an email address in a form than they are to commit to buying a product or service.

This direct and digital marketing channel can be pivotal for your business, helping you build relationships with existing customers and staying on their minds between purchases. It can also be great for customer education and showcasing why your brand is the best choice for them, or boosting brand awareness with potential and existing customers. Fortunately, email marketing makes it possible to do all these things relatively inexpensively since it is a very efficient way to reach a large audience.

How to effectively use email marketing

With these results in mind, you’ll want to get to the top of your game. Follow these steps for an effective email marketing strategy.

1. Define your audience

If you want to reach customers through email, the first step is understanding who they are. Getting to know your customers is important because it allows you to create relevant content for your emails.

What are your ideal customers’ demographics? Consider things like age, location, gender, occupation, and interests. The better you understand your customers and who is most likely to be interested in your product or service, the more successful your email campaign will be.

For example, if your company sells organic baby food, you may be able to narrow your target demographic to young working mothers interested in environmentally friendly products and nutrition. Teenage boys, on the other hand, are extremely unlikely to be interested in your product.

Narrow your focus to make sure you’re not targeting those who don’t want to hear from you. If they are most likely to buy your product, they are the best audience for your email marketing.

2. Set goals

Setting goals means finding purpose behind each email, which can help you stay focused and avoid becoming spammy. Your goals should be measurable and help you decide how you’ll assess your overall results, which we’ll cover in a later step. Determine your goals by thinking about the needs of your business.

Some examples of goals you might have for email marketing are:

Email marketing goals

For example, if you have an influx of new members from a successful social media campaign, you may want to create an email marketing campaign with a goal of welcoming them and helping them get accustomed to your website, product, or subscription service.

3. Choose an email marketing platform

A good email marketing platform will help you accomplish the goals you’ve set for your campaigns. It enables you to streamline the process of sending out emails and assessing the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. It makes the process very straightforward and allows you to have everything in one place.

In choosing a platform, you'll want to be sure that it's powerful enough for the scale you want and that you'll have the level of support you need. You'll also want to determine which features are important for your business. You can read reviews of popular email marketing platforms to find one that works for a business like yours.

Check out the Adobe Campaign demo video to get a feel for whether it would be a good platform to meet your email marketing needs.

4. Determine campaign type

Your email marketing campaign should have one specific call to action (CTA) for your customers. It also should include a coordinated set of targeted emails written to engage customers over a certain period of time.

Determining your campaign type is important because you can focus on what will best reach the audience you’ve defined. Look at your goals as well as your audience as you decide on the type of email marketing campaign you want to launch. Make sure the CTA for your customers will help you accomplish your goals.

Some campaign types include:

For example, if you think your audience wants to feel a sense of community from your business, a newsletter can be a great way to keep them engaged and updated.

5. Build an email list

As you build an email list, you are assembling your target audience. While it may seem like the easier route to take, it’s important not to buy an email list. A purchased email list is likely to waste your time with prospects that are not a part of your audience. The best way to build your email list is to take an organic approach.

These are a few things you can use to organically build an email list:

Make sure to reach out to customers to request their emails often so that it’s easy for interested customers to give you their contact info. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers on your website or social media to opt in to email, like by having a pop-up that offers a discount. Another way could be to have your chatbots on social media offer to take emails for promotions.

It’s important to make sure that the emails on your list are from customers who have opted in to your communications. If they have not opted in, do not put them on your list.

6. Segment your list

Segment your email list by separating your customers into different groups. Creating these segments will allow you to customize the emails that you send, making it more likely that your customers will open and engage with your messages.

When you’re segmenting your email list, think about potential differences between your customers and how you can customize responses to them. Here are some potential email segments you could create with examples of how they could be useful:

These segments should all fall within the goal of your email campaign to make it more efficient. Differentiating your customers can make all the difference for your campaign.

7. Create your email

The content of the emails you send is what will prompt recipients to follow your CTA — which you should always include. It is what will ultimately help you accomplish your goals, like increased sales or customer education. It’s best if your email content is customized to capture the attention of your audience, especially if it’s customized for different segments within your email list.

You want recipients to actually read the emails you create, so your subject line needs to be engaging. Having dynamic subject lines — different subject lines for different segments or subject lines personalized for an individual — will make your emails even more effective.

Many email marketing platforms will provide templates for you to make the process of creating emails easier.

8. Test your email

Because email campaigns are relatively inexpensive, it’s a great idea to test out different versions to see what is most effective for your business. When you test, you’ll look at your results to see which content, subject lines, CTAs, and more help your business reach the goals you’ve determined. Testing will allow you to hone your email campaign so that it produces the results you’re looking for.

One of the simplest ways to test email marketing messaging is called A/B testing. In A/B testing, you’ll create different versions of emails in which you change certain factors. You’ll then compare the results of your different versions to see which changes are most effective. You could test, for example, which subject lines result in more email opens. You could also have different links in different subsets to see which are more likely to lead your customers to your website.

9. Measure your results

Measuring your results is the only way you’ll know how your email campaign performed in relation to your goals. You can use analytics through an email marketing platform to track many different metrics to measure your success.

Some common areas of analysis include:

There are many different metrics you can pay attention to. When you’re choosing which analyses to perform, think about which metrics most closely align with your goals.

The importance of email marketing compliance

There are several laws regarding email marketing to be aware of. In the US, the most important regulations come from the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act is designed to prevent spamming and the use of unauthorized email addresses. If your business is legitimate and you are making sure that you have opt in from your email list, you likely won’t have to worry about being fined.

Email marketing compliance

To comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, make sure that you are being transparent with the purpose of your emails. Be certain that the information associated with your emails is accurate. Don’t try to make emails look like they’re from a personal friend. It should be clear that they are advertisements from a business. Ensure that everyone on your email list has consented to receive promotions from you.

It should be easy for people on the list to unsubscribe, so don’t require people to take multiple steps or give out any more information to get off the list. When people unsubscribe, you should take them off your list quickly. The CAN-SPAM Act gives you 10 business days to stop emailing them.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, complying with regulations for unsubscribing can benefit you in the long run. It prevents subscribers from flagging your emails as spam if they don’t want to see them showing up in their inbox anymore. If they can easily find the unsubscribe button, you are less likely to have your deliverability impacted by being falsely flagged as spam.

Getting started with email marketing

Here’s a brief review of the steps of email marketing:

  1. Define your audience. Identify the various demographics of an ideal customer.

  2. Set goals. What is the purpose of your email campaign?

  3. Choose an email marketing platform. It can help you streamline everything from creating your email list and sending emails to evaluating analytics.

  4. Determine campaign type. How will your emails be coordinated? What is the CTA for customers?

  5. Build an email list. Do this organically and make sure everyone has opted in.

  6. Segment your list. For further customization, create unique emails for segmented groups within your email list.

  7. Create your email. This content will determine whether customers engage further with your business.

  8. Test your email. Create variations of email elements to see what is most effective.

  9. Measure your results. Use analytics to see if you’re reaching your goals and how you can improve.

And don’t forget to comply with the law. Be transparent, and make it easy to unsubscribe.

Email marketing is popular because, if deployed properly, it’s an inexpensive, effective way to get recipients to engage with your business. But segmenting, creating email campaigns, testing, and analytics are even easier if you use an email marketing platform like Adobe Campaign.

Adobe Campaign makes it simple to visualize and connect personal customer journeys across every channel. Drawing from a base of rich customer data, you can create, coordinate, and deliver dynamic campaigns using an integrated, no-code interface. With Campaign, you can control both online and offline customer journeys, delivering tailored experiences to every single customer.

If you’re looking for a scalable and powerful email marketing platform to create an effective campaign, watch the demo video to see if Adobe Campaign is a good fit for your company.