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Email Marketing: What Is It and How It Works?

Email may be one of the oldest forms of online communication, but it still reigns supreme when it comes to usage.

Email marketing is the most profitable direct marketing channel, generating an average return on investment of $36 for every $1 spent. That means, you invest a dollar and in return receive 36 times from it.

Of course, there are other newer methods of communicating with your audience and customers but with a user base of over 4.1 billion people, email is the king of marketing channels.

Email should be a key pillar of your digital marketing strategy because it is still ranked as the most effective marketing channel, beating out social media, SEO, and affiliate marketing.

It’s an exciting tool where you are communicating personally with your customers, building trust and credibility with prospects, creating leads and generating sales.

But email is a vast discipline and it’s easy for beginners to get lost in a sea of tools, techniques and terminology. This beginner’s guide will explain exactly what is email marketing and how it works.

By the end, you’ll have a solid grasp of the basics along with the know-how to launch email marketing for your business.

Let’s dive in.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a marketing strategy that uses email as a tool to deliver commercial messages and generate sales. It is used to inform and build a community around your brand.

These emails may contain useful information, company news, advertisements, special offers, or requests for a sales meeting.

At its core, email marketing is about keeping your customers informed and tailoring your marketing messages to your audience.

Effective email marketing converts prospects into customers, and turns one-time buyers into repeat customers and raving fans.

Email marketing is very popular for almost every business on the internet and because they all use it, it’s pretty obvious that it’s a lucrative way to conduct business.

How does Email Marketing Work??

Email marketing allows you to target your audience and customers through email campaigns. You can also divide your subscriber lists into different groups and send the most relevant content and offers to each segment.

In its basic form, an effective email marketing campaign requires three essential elements:

1. Email List

To pull off successful email campaigns, you need an active email list. The email list contains the names and email addresses of people who opted-in to subscribe to your newsletter and receive communications from you.

Permission-based marketing is essential to conform with data protection laws and safeguard the integrity of your brand. After all, nobody likes a spammer.

To play fair, create a subscription form, place it anywhere on your site, and collect subscribers legally.

2. Email Service Provider

An email service provider is a software that helps manage your email list. It also helps design and execute automated email marketing campaigns.

A service with a good reputation will make sure your emails land right in the inbox and you can choose the necessary plan according to the size of your mailing list.

You can use personalization, segmentation, A/B testing to craft relevant and valuable campaigns. Email automation functionality will allow you to put everyday tasks on autopilot and focus on more important issues.

3. Clearly Defined Goals

You can use email marketing to achieve many business goals. For example, you can use email marketing to:

  • Drive sales
  • Boost brand awareness
  • Generate and nurture leads
  • Keep customers engaged
  • Increase customer loyalty and lifetime value

Before, you execute an email campaign, make sure your email list, email service and goals are aligned.

Create an email marketing plan to schedule email sending. It will allow you to make your strategy consistent, not to attack subscribers with random emails, effectively track your performance, and improve tactics on the go.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Email Marketing

Just like any other marketing channel, email marketing has pros and cons. Let’s briefly dive into some of the more significant ones.

Advantages of Email Marketing


The costs of email marketing can be much lower than many other forms of marketing. There are no advertising fees, printing or media space costs.


Your marketing list will be made up of people who have actively chosen to receive email communications from you. People who are genuinely interested in your products or services are more likely to engage with your business.

Easy to Schedule and Organize

Email marketing campaigns allows the brand to have control over the kind of emails they would like to send, and the exact time the mails go out.

You can schedule your emails over a period of time which makes it easier for the audience to recall the brand as the business is ready to roll out a product launch, a planned sale or other time-sensitive events.

Promotes Content Marketing

Content marketing refers to the process of creation of content around a brand’s products and services for audience to read and enjoy. It is an effective way to communicate with the consumer base while driving loyalty and constant touch.

Once a customer signs up to your email subscription, it allows the brand to tell their story, or introduce new products, or buzz them into upcoming events by sharing content with them directly.


Measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign is crucial, and automated email marketing makes measuring your campaign a breeze.

More Personalization Capabilities

Personalisation is growing more and more sophisticated in email marketing. It’s no longer just about having the customer’s name in the opening line.

You can optimise emails depending on whether the recipient uses mobile or more traditional hardware, make recommendations based on abandoned shopping carts, and more. The potential for engagement and conversion increases significantly with personalised emails.

Disadvantages of Email Marketing

Building a Mailing List

If you are a new business the advantages of email marketing might not be available to you yet. Why? Because you haven’t got a mailing list as yet. Building a list takes time. You have to earn subscribers. Make every effort to build your database. Add sign up forms to your blog or website. Encourage customers to sign up with promotions or giveaways.

Build your mailing list one email address at a time. It may take some time to build, but do take the time to grow it and you’ll feel the advantages and reap the rewards soon enough.


Sometimes, too many promotional and spam email messages irritate readers. If you are not targeting the right audience, there’s a potential risk of people unsubscribing you.

So, you need to comply with your marketing campaigns with the privacy standards and target people interested in your emails.

Undelivered Emails

Poorly designed emails may not get delivered. Emails that use certain spam keywords or characters in the subject heading or content of the email are likely to be filtered out by email software and internet service providers.

If you don’t keep your marketing lists up to date, you will find incorrect email addresses mean your messages won’t reach the right person.

Deliverability Issue

In the email marketing world, the deliverability of the message is everything and sometimes undelivered emails become an unavoidable issue. As time goes by, some of the emails of the customers change or they might be inactive or may have full inboxes.

It is also possible that they put your mailing address into the spamming list, which is later filtered out by email software or service providers. So, make sure you avoid spamming your customers and update your mailing list regularly in order to prevent deliverability issues.

Types of Email Marketing

In this section, I am going to share a list of ideas for your email marketing campaigns. After subscribers join your mailing list they expect to receive valuable content from your brand.

With all these ideas in front, you’ll manage to build relationships with your audience, blow up sales, increase customer engagement and loyalty.

Welcome Email Series

When a customer first interacts with a company, the business will typically send an automated series of emails explaining more about the organisation and its product.

Its goal is to give a warm welcome, introduce your team or products, and tell subscribers about the benefits of buying your products or services.

Email Newsletters

Newsletters are general emails sent out on a regular basis. They will typically contain company updates and links to blog content or other material the recipient may find interesting.

Newsletters are a low-cost way to stay in contact with many people. When a customer interacts with something in one of these emails, the business can put them onto a more targeted email sequence.

Product Launch Emails

A new product release is something you can’t stay silent about. This is your chance to build hype and anticipation for your new feature or service. It will help you re-engage passive users and increase the number of loyal clients.

Your task is not to say that you have finally launched a product but to inform people about the innovation that will help solve their particular problems. Focus on your reader’s needs and the way you can satisfy them.

Email reminders

Brands send email reminders to customers who haven’t finished a task they started. If someone looked at a product on an eCommerce store but didn’t buy, the store can send an email reminding them to complete the transaction.

Promotional Emails

Marketers send this kind of email to increase sales. They announce hot deals, end of season reminders, last-chance sales reminders, new items in stock, and limited editions of products.

Very often promotional emails are personalized. This means that customers receive particular offers which they’re most likely interested in.

Transactional Emails

When a customer makes a purchase, businesses often send a series of emails telling them more about the product. Transactional emails are essential for increasing customer loyalty.

If your product is subscription-based as they increase the likeliness that the customer will find value in the service and keep paying. Transactional emails can also be used to upsell new products or run referral campaigns.

Anniversary and Birthday Emails

This kind of email is sent to subscribers to celebrate a special date or occasion, for example, a birthday, newsletter sign-up anniversary or first-purchase anniversary.

Marketers pursue two main goals: increasing customer retention and boosting sales. Holiday emails have a high CTR since they’re personalized and provide a unique experience.

Nurture Emails

Nurture emails provide prospects with targeted content based on the problems they are trying to solve. This could be links to blog posts, whitepapers, or video guides.

The aim of these emails is to provide the prospect with useful information that keeps your company front-of-mind and ultimately turns the prospect into a new customer.

Cold Emails

Businesses sometimes send cold emails to people they haven’t previously interacted with. These messages are typically the least effective form of email marketing.

However, they may work in some types of B2B sales when they are highly targeted and sent from a personal account.

Follow-up Emails

These emails are sent in response to customers’ actions. They include transactional and trigger messages. The main goal of follow-ups is to automate email sending. They also help marketers segment their audience according to their site behaviour, increase email engagement and conversions, build trust, and customer loyalty.

Why is Email Marketing Important?

While new online marketing channels continue to emerge, email is still ranked by most marketers as the top channel.

As people are bombarded with promotional offers and commercial campaigns everywhere they look, inbox remains one last sanctuary of peace and solitude online.

If you can get into their inbox, you establish a strong relationship that will most certainly lead to sales in the future.

Here’s why it’s important to incorporate email marketing into your online marketing strategy:

Email Generates the Highest ROI

Email is the most effective advertising channel that generates $36 in ROI for every $1 spent and email is still 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

Email Has a Huge Reach

The number of active email accounts as of today is over 4.1 billion. That’s more active users than both Facebook (1.8 billion) and Twitter (315 million) put together.

Everyone who’s active online must have an email address, as it functions almost like a currency of the web. So when it comes to prospecting new customers online, email is the most powerful tool available.

Email Works Well on Both Mobile and Desktop

As more consumers are now shopping on their smartphones and tablets. Email also has a much longer lifespan than social media posts. It gets prominent placement in the inbox and subscribers can easily save it for future reference.

Email Marketing is Affordable

Email marketing is extremely cost-effective. Most email marketing tools offer pricing packages to suit all budgets. In reality, the barrier to entry has never been so low.

Many email tools offer free plans without any commitment. These are ideal for first-time email marketers who want to get a hang of the software before purchasing. With nothing to lose, there’s no excuse not to give it a go.

It Directs Traffic to Your Website

Transactional emails, or those directly related to purchasing products, are found to generate eight times more opens and clicks and six times more revenue than other types of email.

It’s also highly measurable. You can track metrics in detail and remove the guesswork from your email strategy.

Email Marketing Automation

Email marketing automation is a strategy that sees marketers send triggered or timed promotional emails to subscribers on their mailing list.

It enables online marketers to send out personalized messages to both prospects and customers on a schedule or when specific conditions are met.

To understand it better, here’s a scenario: Imagine you’re Twitter and you want to send an email to somebody when they signup for an account.

This email will welcome them to Twitter and show them how to get started and uploading a profile picture in an attempt to get them to become a frequent user.

It would be a huge waste of your time to manually create and send an email campaign to every person when they sign up, so instead, you could set up an automated welcome email that gets sent whenever a new person signs up.

Once you get your flows set up, you can be communicating with customers, nurturing leads, and winning over more customers in the background while you’re running your day-to-day.

How Email Marketing Automation Works?

  • You create an event: This is an event that will trigger email sending. For example, a purchase.
  • You design an automation flow: Use filters and conditions to create highly-relevant messages. You can combine email, SMS, and web push notifications in one flow for better engagement.
  • The event is triggered and your automation flow starts: After a user makes a purchase, the event is triggered and they receive an order confirmation or a thank-you email.
  • Your goal is reached: Now you can track conversions.

5 Email Marketing Tools Every Marketer Should Know

To pull off a successful campaign, you need to leverage email marketing tools to optimize your processes. Here are the top five you should know:

Constant Contact: Constant Contact has long been an industry leader in email marketing. It’s popular among small businesses and large corporations alike. Plans start at $20/month.

Sendinblue: Sendinblue is best for small businesses running simple email campaigns. It has a rich feature set with a CRM, live chat, and SMS, among others. Plans start at $25/month.

AWeber: Used by many entrepreneurs and small businesses, AWeber has been around for 20 years and offers reliable and affordable services.

MailGenius: MailGenius inspects your emails for possible spam triggers. You can use it to run deliverability tests to ensure your emails reach their intended recipients’ inboxes. MailGenius is a free tool.

Campaign Monitor: With over 250,000 customers worldwide, Campaign Monitor supports customers in a variety of industries including media companies, tech giants, and nonprofits.

How to Write Emails That Converts

The key to writing a great email isn’t a big secret known only to the experts. The key to writing a great email is simplicity.

By presenting the benefit of your product in a clear and concise manner, you’ll make it much more appealing to your audience and ultimately drive more conversions.

Here are 5 tips I’ve learnt over the years that will help you write a simple email that converts:

Know Your Audience

The first step to crafting compelling email marketing copy is knowing your audience. This will help you better segment your list and create hyper-targeted email copy.

Personalize Your Message

This is incredibly crucial. Subscribers know that the emails that they get also go out to a ton of other people, but they are more likely to respond favourably and open your email if you add a personal touch to it.

Write an Attention-grabbing Subject Line.

33% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone. Your email won’t generate results if people don’t read them, so it’s important to write subject lines that’ll entice subscribers to open them.

Focus on a Single Audience

When writing copy for your email campaign, focus on a single view of your reader and think about what would appeal to them. Write headlines that speak to benefits they would want, include images that appeal specifically to them and write body copy that uses language they use.

Leverage Storytelling

Stories are a powerful way to grab attention and get your message across. That’s why you should leverage storytelling in your email copy.


If you’ve been ignoring email marketing, you’ve been doing it wrong. Email marketing delivers huge returns for marketers willing to learn how to do it right. It doesn’t have to be too complicated.

Keep in mind that you’re a guest in the inboxes of your subscribers. Your emails are always just one click away from losing their interest forever. Be polite, respectful, and deliver value.

Provide people with what they’ve asked for and email regularly to line up with their expectations.

Also, send separate types of emails to different groups of people so you can deliver more useful emails.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi terrific website! Does running a blog similar to this require a large amount of work?
    I’ve no understanding of computer programming however I had been hoping to start
    my own blog in the near future. Anyway, should you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please share.

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    1. Aric Chakma

      Thank you. My advice is if you’re new to blogging you need to have a passion for writing. Running a blog takes a lot of effort and patience especially if you’re flying solo. And creating good content consistently is hard but if you’re passionate enough, your passion will get you over the line. Stick to it and focus on how you can help your readers.

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