E-Marketing In A Nutshell

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every e-mail sent to a potential or current customer could be considered e-mail marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to:

  • sending e-mails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business,
  • sending e-mails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately,
  • adding advertisements to e-mails sent by other companies to their customers, and
  • sending e-mails over the Internet, as e-mail did and does exist outside the Internet (e.g., network e-mail and FIDO).

Researchers estimate that United States firms alone spent US$400 million on e-mail marketing in 2006.

Email Marketing seems to be a topic many bloggers want to know about.

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First, let’s clear up what we are talking about …

What is Email Marketing?

Email Marketing is using email to distribute your marketing messages.

Most popular is growing your own list, for example a newsletter, and sending emails to the list containing tips along with things subscribers might be interested in buying.

As well as your own list of tip-readers and potential customers, Email Marketing can also cover advertising on email newsletters or follow-up emails to your own customers.

While you could include these other wider definitions, most people when talking about Email Marketing are mainly using the term to describe building a list with a view to growing reader loyalty and making sales.

What are the Advantages of Email Marketing?

As just mentioned, a good email list, well run, can grow your reader loyalty. Hearing from you again and again with good content reminds readers of your value, especially if they take your advice and find it works for them. That said, the obvious reason why most people try email marketing is because it is profitable. This is because of the following attributes:

  1. Low Cost – Communicating via email has many of the advantages of traditional direct mail but with much lower costs
  2. Speed – If you need to you can get a message out to your entire list very fast
  3. Ease (both for you and the reader) – For your marketing to be a success it has to be easy for the recipient, but it helps that email marketing is easy for you too as it means you can do it yourself
  4. Push – While websites and RSS are “pull”, in that the visitor has to come to you, with email you can send your messages out, reminding and re-engaging readers
  5. Personalized – The more information you collect, the more messages can be tailored and personalized. Email also has the particularly special ability to segment, meaning you can split people off into smaller, more focused lists.
  6. Viral – It’s so easy for people to forward your message on to others, spreading further than you could alone.
  7. Tracking – Everything from how many emails were opened, through to each individual link click can be tracked, meaning you can hone your techniques and improve performance
  8. Testing – Along with tracking, you can test different subject lines, calls to action, use of images, and so on, to further improve your results
  9. Complimentary – Email, while an excellent tactic, does not replace your other marketing activities but compliments them extremely well. Combining multiple tactics can build very profitable marketing campaigns.
  10. Opt-In – Perhaps most important, the best email lists are always opt-in, meaning you have permission to contact the person. This permission is very powerful and should not be underestimated.

Email Marketing Risks

Doing email right can be a fantastic addition to your marketing mix, but do it wrong and you might be better off not doing it at all.

The main risks are:

  • Branded a spammer – Without singling out any particular instance, even the best lists will get marked as spam occasionally because some people can’t be bothered to use the unsubscribe links. Also some people have a … strange … definition of what spam is. Sean and I were called spammers for sending messages about our book. So a small amount of this is to be expected. What you have to be careful of though is an accusation that sticks. Always make sure people know what they are signing up for and that they confirm their subscription so you can point to clear and fair opt-in.
  • Burning out your list – A certain amount of churn is to be expected. People leave lists all the time through no fault of yours. Too many messages, too often, or bad content to sales ratio and you could find your email list becoming used up and burned out. Be careful to always make your list valuable to your readers, not an irritation.
  • Breaking the law – Be aware that due to nasty spammers there are very strict laws around the world and it is easy to break them. For example, collecting email addresses without the owners consent, even not including your postal address in emails to USA residents. Using a reputable email service provider like Verticle Response will help you through most of these issues.
  • Alienating readers – It never ceases to surprise me how many people get carried away with email marketing and go way over the top. Your messages do not have to read like snake oil, and every email does not have to carry a “absolutely must buy now before ____” urgency call to action. Remember your list members are human beings and all should go well though.
  • Delivery issues – As people become more and more sensitive to spam there are more and more innocent messages landing in junk mail folders. There are techniques to help your message get through, but the main way is as mentioned above, use a reliable email provider like Verticle Response.

The most common question I have been sent lately about this series has been

I know I need a list but what do I send? What should I write about? How can I get people to buy?

An email list is just a delivery mechanism. What you send to people is up to you. That is both a liberating and scary thing, because it is a blank canvas, but a very public one.

Put yourself in the role of the subscriber. What do they expect from you? Why did they enter their email address? When you put your subscription form up there you are making a promise, so deliver on that promise!

First, Content

Above all else you should provide useful, valuable content. It stands to reason that if people are not gaining by being on your list then they will leave it.

Should it be unique and different to your blog content? In my case subscribers get the same content as my feed readers, but with additional downloads or emails that don’t appear anywhere else.

There is no rule that you have to follow that route necessarily, you could use your blog content but packaged differently. For example you can do a weekly roundup, or highlight the best articles from the week.

Random alerts are another solution. Michael is sending very short emails about links he has discovered.

Another popular choice is the email course or sequence, where you sign up and get several pre-written emails in a row about a certain topic, delivered by your auto responder software. Sonia has a 10 part marketing course, but you could write one on anything, how about “Ten Tasty Tips About Broccoli“?

Sell Stuff With Email

The key to selling stuff with your email list is to make what you offer also content.

Take the role of an editor, or connoisseur, you are providing your list subscribers the choicest, best, ideal selections. Even better, make the email worthwhile even should someone not buy, so everyone gains. You can introduce products as part of a tip, solution or piece of advice, or as further reading.

In general you want to be following the 80-20% rule, where 4 out of 5 emails should be pure content, and only one promotional. You can still often get away with a “footer” that links to your products and services though.


The golden rule of email marketing is to TEST – watch the reaction to everything you do:

  1. Incentives
  2. List building efforts
  3. Frequency
  4. Subject lines
  5. Content
  6. Offers
  7. Click throughs
  8. Unsubscribe reasons
  9. … everything else!

Your subscribers will tell you what you get right and wrong, listen to them!

Got any questions about email marketing? Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

Grow your business with email marketing!

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