Getting started with email marketing: A beginner's guide

08 Jan 2024  |  by Olivia Parkes

10 min read

By 2027, it’s expected that almost $18 billion of revenue will be generated as a result of email marketing. It’s a great way to send personalised communication to your customers that increases brand loyalty, raises average customer value and reduces churn.

But how do you do it? What’s the secret formula for landing an email in someone’s inbox and getting them to open it and engage rather than simply hit the delete button, or worse yet, unsubscribe.

To make sure you have your fair slice of the email marketing pie, the first step is to make sure you’re not just doing it, but doing it well. Anyone can send an email, but there’s a fine balance between frequency, personalisation and using strong calls to action which means your email marketing might not be as effective as it could be.

That’s where this guide comes in. If you’re new to email marketing, we’re going to explore the basics to help you get started, including how to work out your email marketing goals and how to build an email list. By the end, you should be in a great position to start work on your first campaign.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is when your brand communicates with your customers via email. It could be a simple promotional message, a weekly newsletter or a lead-nurturing email. It helps build the relationship between your brand and your customers, with the ultimate goal of increasing customer loyalty, driving sales and reducing churn.

It’s also a cost-effective and convenient way to reach customers who already have a connection with your brand. They can provide you with valuable data about what your customers like and dislike, and what they’re more likely to engage with.

There’s both a right and a wrong way to go about email marketing. The wrong way would be to buy a list of emails and send a blanket email to all of them – a surefire way of landing in someone’s junk folder. Even if you have a list of customers who have opted in to receive emails from you, you still need to avoid sending out emails en masse. Not all of your customers will be after the same thing, so why would they respond positively to an email containing offers or promotions that don’t relate to them?

The right way to do email marketing is through personalised, compliant and high quality communication that resonates with your customers. If you ensure you do that, you’re halfway towards creating an effective email marketing strategy.

How to create an email marketing strategy

There’s much more to an email marketing strategy than slapping a few offers into an email and then firing them out to everyone who’s ever bought anything from your website. It takes research, data and sometimes a little A/B testing to make sure everything’s as effective as it can be.

Below are six steps you can follow to create your very first email marketing strategy.

Step 1 - Define your audience

Firstly, you need to understand who your audience is. If you don’t, it will be impossible to put a successful campaign together and anything you do create could end up doing more harm than good.

Make sure you have a full understanding of your buyer personas. What customer data can you use to learn more about their likes, pain points, budgets, behaviours and purchase history? Can you divide your customers into segments so you can target them specifically?

Step 2 - Plan out your goals

If you’re not sure how to do email marketing, things will be a lot easier if you establish what you want the goals of your strategy to be.

Is it to convert more leads? Reduce churn? Raise the average order value?

It can be useful to look at stats related to businesses in your industry to see how their email marketing campaigns perform. This includes:

  • Open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Unsubscribe rates

Then, you may want to make it a goal to exceed each of these – except the unsubscribe rates, of course.

It’s important to make sure your goals align with the overall goals and objectives of your organisation. It’s all well and good to want a higher-than-average open rate, but what good is that if the content doesn’t resonate with the target audience? With an effective campaign, high open rates lead to high click-through rates which lead to high engagement rates which lead to greater revenue – in theory.

Step 3 - Build your email list

Next, you want to build your email list so you can keep in touch with loyal customers who are itching to spend their money with you.

There are many ways to do this, but there are only a few ways to do it effectively and make sure you’re compliant with data protection laws and regulations. That means your customers have to opt in to receive communication from you. This can take time, so don’t worry too much if new subscribers only come on board in dribs and drabs. It might take months or even years to build a comprehensive list – but these customers will become some of your most valuable.

For more information on how to build your email list, we have a guide on how to do exactly that later in this article.

Step 4 - Choose the type of campaign you want to use

There are different types of email campaigns you can use to keep in touch with your customers, with each one having its own goal and function. For example, a weekly newsletter lets customers know what you’re up to and reminds them that you’re here. If customers have abandoned their carts, you can use automation to send them a discount code and encourage them to complete their purchase. You can even send welcome emails to new customers to make them feel valued.

The type of campaign you choose depends entirely on your circumstances. Once you’ve defined your segments you can send personalised campaigns to each to get the best open rates and ROI.

Types of campaigns you can consider include:

  • Newsletter
  • Promotional emails
  • Welcome emails
  • Surveys
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Milestone emails
  • Lead-nurturing emails

Step 5 - Set up an email marketing schedule

When it comes to email marketing, the when is just as important as the what. Yes, your customers have opted in to receive emails from you, but that doesn’t mean you should email them once a day, or even once a week in some circumstances. Email marketing isn’t a case of ‘throw enough stuff at them and hope some of it will stick’ – it’s about carefully planned campaigns that reach the right customers at the right time with the right information.

It’s a good idea to let your customers know how often they’ll receive communication from you when they sign up. If they know what ahead of time you’re less likely to have a high unsubscribe rate and customers who’ll be more inclined to engage.

Step 6 - Tracking and analysis

Marketing professionals won’t need to be told this step, because it’s more or less in your blood. But, it’s important to highlight nonetheless – keep on top of that data to measure the success of your email marketing campaigns so you can improve on the next one. Make sure they link back to the goals set in step 2 and how they align with the overall goals of your business.

The only question you might have is how to accurately, effectively and easily analyse your data to get valuable insights on your campaigns. One highly functional tool is Apteco Orbit, which helps you visualise your data to optimise your campaigns. Read more about Apteco Orbit to discover how it can transform how you reach your audience. 

How to build an email list

You know what you want to say to your customers and when you want to do it, but now you need an email list so you can start sending out those messages. But how do you do it?

The last thing you want to do is buy email lists, even if the vendor tries to assure you that they fit with your buyer personas. You’ll probably violate data protection laws such as GDPR, potentially alienate an audience that hasn’t yet discovered you, and even land yourself in hot water with your email service provider. It’s just not worth it.

A good email list is:

  • Filled with customers who opted in and engage
  • Up to date
  • Accurate
  • Relevant
  • Growing, whether steadily or quickly
  • Easy to unsubscribe from

Give visitors a reason to sign up

You’re not asking customers to sign up for your benefit, you need to offer them something they want or will help them find answers and achieve their own goals.

That means you need a strong call to action (CTA) which they want to engage with. Your CTA should be clear and concise. Something like ‘Sign up to our email list today to receive exclusive weekly offers and discounts’ is far more effective than ‘Check out our newsletter to find out more’. It tells your customers exactly what they will receive and when they will receive it. It also has a sense of urgency which prompts them to act quickly.

You also want to ensure your CTA is accessible, obvious and easy. It shouldn’t be hidden and should stand out to your visitors. You might also want to offer social proof, such as ‘Sign up to our email list and join 10,000 satisfied customers’.

Don’t be apologetic or wishy-washy. Tell your customers exactly what you want them to do and exactly what they’ll get in return. It’s all about value – what can you offer them that they need?

Providing value with content

It’s one thing to encourage customers to opt in, but encouraging them to stay opted in is something else entirely. After all, your email list won’t grow if just as many people are unsubscribing as they are subscribing.

Every email you send should provide value. Whether it’s to educate and inform or send an offer or discount. Use your data to segment your email list so you can create relevant, personalised content. When you understand what your customers are looking for, what they need and what their problems are, you can tailor your content to align with that.

Customers read a brand email for an average of 10 seconds, so make sure you hook them in straight away. Avoid fluff and filler – get to the point and give them the information you know they want thanks to the data you’ve analysed before starting your campaign. So, avoid ‘Hi! How are you? This month we’ve been up to this and that…’ and go with, ‘Looking for a faster way to do this? You need that!

The more relevant and personal you can be the better. If you use software such as Apteco Orbit, you’ll have the data – so put it to good use. Always include a call to action in your emails – let the customer know what they have to do.

Showing future value

To keep your customers on your side, make sure you’re open about the future value you’ll provide. Customers who see the future value are often more likely to engage.

Offer roadmaps and highlight the long-term benefits. Keep your customers engaged by inviting them to provide you with feedback and how you can offer them more value. Customers who feel valued are more likely to be loyal and spend more money.

Points to consider when sending marketing emails

Putting together an email list and communicating with your customers is a great way to build brand loyalty.

Email regulations to consider

Data protection is very much at the forefront of customers' considerations. They want to know what data you want to collect and exactly how it’ll be used.

Not only this, but there are plenty of guidelines and regulations that you must adhere to to ensure compliance. Depending on your region and industry, this could include:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Controlling the assault of non-solicited pornography and marketing act) CAN-SPAM
  • Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL)
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

Non-compliance can result in damage to your business’ reputation and you run the risk of fines and legal issues.

Utilise email segmentation

As we’ve already highlighted, even though your business attracts customers that fit within a certain persona, every email you send won’t be relevant to your entire customer base. You’re far more likely to engage customers if your emails are relevant and personalised, which is why email segmentation is so crucial.

You may have data related to your customers that allows you to segment them in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Demographics, such as gender, location and age
  • Preferences and interests
  • Behaviours based on purchase history, browsing activity and more
  • Whether they’re new subscribers, active customers or at risk of churn

Test your marketing emails

Chances are, when you send out your first marketing emails (or even your hundredth) you won’t get things quite right. And if you do, please share your secrets with us.

Create campaign variations and undertake A/B testing for your segments to track open rates and click rates. Monitor your data closely to see what works, what nearly works, and what doesn’t work at all, so you can continuously improve your output. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work based on your goals and objectives.

Learn more about using Apteco Orbit for your email marketing

Now you know how to do email marketing, why not give it a go? Email marketing is a powerful tool that, when undertaken well, boosts brand awareness, customer loyalty and increases the average customer lifetime value. Learn more about Apteco Orbit’s email marketing capability and improve how you communicate with your customers.


Olivia Parkes

Digital Marketing and Media Specialist

Olivia joined the Apteco team in 2022 to boost the Apteco brand, improve the Search Engine Optimisation, create engaging content to push the Apteco platforms as well as sponsored advertisements. Olivia is CIM qualified and has seven years of marketing experience working in a variety of sectors.

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