Email marketing has been around for decades. And with the recent explosion of marketing channels, why does email continue to be the one of the best tools for driving sales and revenue for businesses? How exactly do you get started? Read on to discover the steps you need to take and how to ensure your campaigns are a success.

Why should you use email marketing?


When your business launches a new product or service, announces a promotion or engages current customers, email generates the highest return on investment (ROI) for marketers. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $44 in ROI. It even outperforms social media and video.

Preferred channel

Consumers in the United States are tied to their mobile devices and check email often. How often? Some polls say between 6 and 20 times per day. It makes sense, then, that customers overwhelmingly prefer to receive communication from companies via email.

Lead nurturing

When potential customers discover your business through a Google search, that doesn’t necessarily imply that the new website visitor is ready to buy. So, what do you do with visitors still in that discovery or research phase?

Lead nurturing is an email series designed to nurture these not-ready-to-buy contacts. By offering the exchange of valuable content for a prospect’s email address, you earn the right to communicate with them. From here, you can send a series of emails that educate them on your product or service. The goal is to build trust and move them closer to making a purchase.

What are the basics of email marketing?

A goal

A successful strategy starts with the “why.” Why do you want to email the audience in the first place? Do you need to increase engagement with current customers? Educate people about your business? Acquire new customers? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you determine how email marketing can help you achieve your goal.

List management

Getting started with email marketing means building and managing a list of contacts to whom you will send emails. This can be a challenge and requires effort as there are laws and regulations to adhere to and best practices to follow. All reputable email service providers make this easier to manage with email automation tools and educational resources.

An audience

Depending on the email marketing platform you choose, you can gain insights about your audience. With Deluxe Email Marketing, you have the option to see where in the world your emails are being read. This is particularly useful for online businesses with customers in many different locations. You can also determine how many of your emails are opened on desktop computers and on mobile devices. You can even see how your contacts are interacting with your emails and what’s working best for your campaigns.

All of these insights are opportunities to get to know your audience and improve your emails to get better results.

Email content

It’s hard to know what to write. This is a struggle many small business owners face when donning their marketing hats. The best place to start is by imagining what you would like to read as a customer of your product or service. Read more on content below.


People want to know what to expect. When they sign up to receive your newsletter or any electronic communication, be sure to tell them what kind of content they will receive and how often they’ll receive it. Delivering on this promise goes a long way in building trust.

How do you build your list?

There are no shortcuts when building an engaged audience. It takes time and effort to gather names and email addresses of people interested in receiving regular communication from you. To smartly build and manage your list, download our comprehensive Guide to Email List Management. In the meantime, here are a few things to focus on when building your list.

Identify your target audience

To apply strategy to your messaging, you’ll want to know about the audience you’re trying to reach. Different demographics at different stages of the buyer’s journey need different messages. By segmenting your audience according to their preferences and intention, you’ll get much better results. Research shows such segmentation can improve open rates by as much as 40 percent. More on segmentation can be found below.


Instead of focusing on building a massive list of contacts, aim to develop a list of quality subscribers. Sign-up forms and opportunities to opt in are critical to amassing a list likely to engage with you. Before handing over their email address though, people will want to know the nature of the content they’ll be receiving and how often to expect it. Providing this type of information is standard and helps remove any anxiety from subscribing.

Avoid trouble

While it may be tempting, buying lists is usually fraught with trouble. This controversial tactic comes with the increased risk of complaints, bounced addresses, unsubscribes and accusations of spam.

More on segmentation

Instead of sending one campaign to everyone, it’s important to segment your list to make sure every subscriber is receiving relevant information. By doing so, you reduce the number of unsubscribes and keep your list on the growth path. Here are some ways to segment:

  • Customer behavior patterns — A common way to segment a list is by looking at the behavior of your customers and dividing the group based on those who took action and those who did not. This could be a list of buyers and non-buyers, readers and non-readers, or even a list of those who opened your email but never clicked on any links.
  • Customer rewards — When you’re looking to reward customers, segmentation can make it easier to separate first-time buyers from repeat customers. Send a welcome email with a promo code to newbies and a different campaign to your most loyal customers.
  • Level of interest — The classic “Hot, Warm, Cold” method is one most professional marketers swear by because it allows you to segment your lists by level of interest in your products, services or brand. It also helps keep your contact database clean and organized. Whether you’re attending an event or collecting sign-up information from your audience online, include a question or two that gives the contact an opportunity to indicate their likeliness to buy and in what amount of time. More ways to segment can be found in our Guide to Email List Management.

What content do you create?

Given their overflowing inboxes, most email subscribers will spend mere seconds with your message. Instead of reading every word, they will quickly scan for something that piques their interest.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and realize that they receive an average of 121 emails per day. This perspective will help you develop a message that is relevant and interesting to your audience. Before you begin creating email content, you may want to consider reading a guide, such as Deluxe’s Email Newsletters 101, which walks you through the process.

Create your email campaign with a short attention span in mind. The subject line and email headline need to draw people in to read the content and keep them engaged just long enough to reach the call to action. You can learn more about how to write attention-grabbing copy in Deluxe’s Subject Lines 101.

To help with content creation and email strategy throughout the year, make your own promotional calendar that highlights holidays and events, so you can then start generating email ideas based on these dates.

How do you measure success?

You’ll want to know how your subscribers are interacting with your email campaigns, so you can learn what resonates and leads you closer to achieving your goal. These are the metrics that will give you an overview of how your campaign is performing.

  • Total opens — The number of subscribers who opened your email
  • Open rate — The number of opens divided by the number of emails you sent
  • Clickthrough rate — The number of clicks within the email divided by the number of opens
  • Unsubscribe rate — The percentage of users that unsubscribed from your email
  • Email conversions — The number of subscribers that opened your email and made a purchase

Benchmarks for each of these stats can be found by industry. It’s good to know these averages, but establishing these metrics for your audience will be your most important point of reference.

Email marketing is rife with opportunities for small businesses to stay top-of-mind with loyal customers and reach new ones. With the right tools and insights, small businesses can create email campaigns that lead to sales.

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