Email Marketing 101: Everything you need to get started right away

As marketers, we often fantasize about all the things we want to do, hope to have, or dream to execute. We all have that “dream list,” right? For those of us in distributed organizations with multiple locations or departments, we’d bet that wish list can seem more like a mirage. And for anyone who has teams who are, well, not really marketers at all … things can get a little tricky. 

We’re talking about marketers in specific industries like franchises, universities, or restaurants, where you’re tasked with managing teams who might know little to nothing about email marketing—because they’re a franchise owner, or a department head, or a restauranteur. These folks are asked to wear the email marketer hat, and it may be completely foreign to them. And yet their success with this tactic is so vital to their business or organization. 

At Emma, we know you’re juggling a thousand tasks day-to-day, and we’ve helped teams like yours before with similar challenges. That’s why we created this 101 post—consider it a tool from us to you to be distributed across your teams to enable their email marketing. And we hope that with this increased efficiency, you’ll be able to get back to that wish list of yours. 

How to get started with email marketing right away 

If you’ve ever received an email (it’s 2019, so we’re guessing you probably have), you’re one step ahead in this journey of learning how to execute your best email marketing. Because if you’ve received emails, then you know—from a receiver’s perspective—what you like, dislike, what entices you to open an email, and what prompts a “move to trash.” That’s the best place to start; think about your experience with email, and try to apply that to your campaigns through the lens of your audience. 

Next, follow these steps to start doing your very best work, and have a great time doing it.

Craft your goals and KPIs.

It can be tempting to jump right into crafting your first email, but we encourage you to first pause and take a step back. Consider your organization’s or parent company’s overall business goals, and ensure that your marketing goals align. Then, craft some email specific goals: What do you want to achieve? What objectives will help you be successful? And what key performance indicators (KPIs) will you use to analyze and optimize your emails along the way?

Maybe you're looking to grow your subscriber list to increase brand awareness in your local market? Or maybe you'd love to track link clicks from email back to your website. These are just a couple examples of where you can start with your KPIs.

Build your email list.

Now you've got your goals—great! Time for one of the most important steps (well, they’re all important, but especially this one). We’re talking about your list of subscribers. For most organizations, you'll have some sort of a list to start from—you’ll want to import your current list of customer contacts (or clients, students, alumni, etc.). Before you do this, though, make sure you have the proper permission to email these people.  

A few other ways to grow your list include:

  • Offering incentives – This could be in the form of a discount, free swag, maybe a free class or free appetizer—any promotion applicable to your industry.
  • Email sign-up form – A more common and obvious option, but effective nonetheless, is to include a signup form on your website.
  • Promote on social – Your social audience has already shown interest by choosing to follow you, why not make the simple ask for them to sign up for your email list, too?

If you want to learn more ways to build your list, check out this webinar. And if you’re tempted to buy a list, here’s why you shouldn’t

Set brand best practices.

For higher ed marketers with a massive brand to franchise marketers with a well-known company to ladder-up to—and everyone in between—sticking with your brand standards and best practices is critical. Work with your respective leadership teams to ensure your emails reflect your overall brand, both with visuals and content. 

Some email platforms, like Emma HQ, can help make this easier for you with features that allow you to share templates or set and lock brand colors and fonts, so you have effortless brand consistency across all locations or departments.  

Plan your content and campaigns.

The fun part: what kind of content are you going to send? You have many options, from newsletters to offers, announcements to invitations, among others. There’s no right or wrong answer here, either. You can send one, or send them all, just make sure they align with your objectives and you have a strategy and plan for executing them. 

Each type of campaign will help you with different goals, such as: 

  • Newsletter – Spreading brand awareness and sharing content about one main topic.
  • Promotion – Driving a specific action or response from your reader.
  • Announcement – Making a splash about a new product, feature, event, opportunity, etc. 
  • Invitation – Increasing visibility for an event and enticing people to attend.

If you’re just getting started with your emails, start with one form of content first, then see how it goes!

Plan your first campaign.

Now you’re ready for lift off. We recommend starting with content first, keeping in mind that email content should be short, sweet, and to the point. We all have short attention spans, but it seems to be even shorter when it comes to email. Your readers want to know what you have to say and why it matters to them as quickly and succinctly as possible.

Next, consider your design and how it can be used to boost engagement. Think of your email as an inverted pyramid—the most important pieces of the email (visuals and content) should be at the top of the pyramid with the lesser-important pieces down toward the bottom. Your design is not only meant to be captivating, but should also help guide the user through the email as if it were a short journey. A quick jaunt, if you will. 

Don’t forget an inviting subject line, and a strong CTA! If you’re not sure if your readers will be more present on mobile, desktop or tablet, always design for the smallest screen first

Measure success.

You’ve put in the hard work and your first send is out the door—congrats. Now you can start tracking the success of your sends. If you’re using an email marketing tool (like Emma) you’ll automatically have access to some statistics. We encourage you to also review results from a website analytics tool, like Google Analytics. Both views will help you understand how people interacted with your emails and content. 

Some of the most important metrics to analyze are:

  • Unique opens – The amount of unique subscribers who opened your campaign.
  • Bounces – The number of times your email could not be delivered.
  • Open rate – The percentage of all subscribers who opened your email.
  • Click-through rate – The percentage of people who opened your email and clicked on a link.  
  • Unsubscribe – The percentage of people who unsubscribed from your email list through a particular email.

This is where you’ll want to revisit your KPIs, and take a look at what’s working and what’s not. As you send more emails, you’ll be able to see what your audience is engaging with and responding to, and what might be landing in spam or (gasp) the trash. 

Test, test, test 

With all your data and learnings from your first send or two, you can begin to play with testing. The most common is an A/B test, where you draft two emails that are completely the same but with two different subject lines. This test will help get at improving your open rate, as you're able to see what subject line inspires more action from your subscribers. You can do this manually, or it may be something your email service platform provides for you. 

Post campaign

You made it–The hardest parts are over. Once you’ve done your due diligence and sent your first email, you have all the learnings, data and experience you need to keep on going. Your metrics will tell you most of what you need to know to keep improving your campaigns, but there are a few things we think you should do after every one, regardless of how they performed.

  • Resend: You can resend your specifically to people who did not open it the first time. They may have missed it for a variety of reasons, so a second chance never hurts. 
  • Clean: If your engagement levels are still low after rounds of testing, segmenting, and resends, don't be afraid to clean your list. Review your subscriber data and remove any individuals who are continually not engaging.
  • Build: Awareness is an always-on project. Once you've finished your email campaign, keep building brand awareness across all marketing channels—social, display advertising, events, etc. 

Wrap up

If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on your way to doing your best work! Use this resource as your own refresher, idea generator, or share it with your teams and colleagues so they too can be enabled and empowered to send their best emails. If you’d like more help with your email marketing game, reach out and let us show you how Emma can work for you. 

About the Author

Chelsea Castle is a Senior Content Manager on Emma's marketing team. A true journalist at heart and concert junkie, she can often be found #doingthings outside, crafting creative ways to be sustainable, and traveling the world (as often as she can).

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