Email Marketing Guide

Email Marketing Overview‍

Email Marketing isn’t Dead

Email marketing, despite popular opinion, is still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. According to research and polling done by MECLABS, 72% of U.S. adults prefer to communicate with companies via e-mail.

Anatomy of a Killer Email

  1. Target Recipient
  2. Recognizable Sender (better if it’s from an actual person)
  3. Clear and compelling subject line (under 50 characters)
  4. Branded email
  5. Valuable content
  6. Clear call-to-action
  7. Company info & unsubscribe links/email preference

What’s a Good Email?

A good email is by, for and about people. Emails are NOT by, for, and about robots, so don’t try and take any shortcuts. Keep your emails conversational, imagine you’re talking to a good friend or trying to educate your family member on whatever your content is. A good trick is to read your email out loud in order to check the tone and language. From here, based on what you know about the recipient, you can do some basic segmentation based on language, how the email was acquired, and if there had been any previous action taken.‍

Email Content

What do you want to say to your audience? You want to send emails with purpose, that really speak to your subscribers, so always keep in mind what they signed up for. It might be helpful to outline some general content types you can include in your campaigns, so you can refer to it when designing your emails. When you send out emails know who you want to open them, and make sure the content you're sending out provides value to that specific target group. Use their buyer persona to figure out their interests, and provide value based on that.

Content List

  • Upcoming Events
  • Recaps and photos from previous events
  • Popular posts from social media, like Instagram or Facebook
  • News coverage
  • Details about featured or new products
  • Holiday shopping guides
  • Upcoming sales and promotions
  • Tips not even relating to your business, but things there might be value in reading or understanding for your reader.

Scanning vs. Reading

Today most online content is scanned as opposed to being read from top to bottom. Few people approach reading online text as they would a good book. We sift through a large number of articles, we scan bullet points, paragraphs, titles and graphs. If an article seems interesting we then read the whole thing. If not, we close the browser tab.

So this means that you have about 3 or 4 seconds to convince your reader that staying with you is worthwhile. And you have even less time, maybe a second or two, to make a good impression on the person receiving your email.

Format your Content

When designing your emails, keep these following rules in mind

  1. Be short
  2. Divide into sections
  3. Include graphics
  4. Call attention with bold font
  5. Use bullet-points

More specifically, ensure your emails have the following to make sure they are properly suited for the new age of scanning content.

  • have an intriguing title. Your click through rate is almost entirely decided by the relevancy of your title and whether or not it piques your readers interest
  • begin with a thesis and end with supporting arguments. First we read the lead, the first paragraph, and then we make the decision to read further.
  • have section titles that attract the reader and are concise.
  • contain graphic illustrations related to the content to help tired eyes stay engaged.
  • use bullet points, bold text and emphasis to emphasize value.

Test Yourself

How did you read this part? Did you jump to the bolded text? Did you only read the section titles? Study how you interact and engage with online content to reveal more intricacies of the way we now consume content.

Email Metrics

Does anyone read my emails?

First off, you need to know if people are actually reading the emails you send out. If not, you have to go back to the drawing board and review parts 1 and 2 to further optimize your content to your customer. So what can you use to determine if people are actually reading your emails?

  • Open Rate = #of opens/#of sends
  • Click Through Rate (CTR): # of clicks/#of sends
  • Bounce Rate = #of emails not delivered/# of sends
  • Unsubscribe Rate = #of emails unsubscribed/# of sends

Campaign Metrics

Now that you have some of the basics down, let’s dive a little deeper into Campaign Metrics. 

  • Sent = total emails sent
  • Delivered = total emails delivered
  • Deliverability Rate = delivered emails/sent emails
  • Hard Bounce = an email that doesn’t reach the recipient due to a permanent error
  • Soft Bounce = An email that doesn’t reach the recipient due to a temporary error
  • Opened = raw opens
  • Open Rate = raw opens/delivered emails
  • Clicks = raw clicks
  • CTR, as discussed above, is the # of raw clicks/# of sent emails
  • CTO = raw clicks/raw opens
  • Unsubscribed = raw unsubscribes
  • Unsubscribe rate, as mentioned above, is the #of raw unsubscribes/# of sent emails

Get Email Signups

Personal Questionnaire

Offer potential subscribers something they value. Figure out what you can offer that will be of value to your readers. Answer these 3 questions to determine what should be driving your email marketing campaigns.

  • What is your superpower?
  • What can your organization offer that no one else can?
  • What can you tell people, teach people, connect people with that no one else can?

Define Your Audience

No matter your business, you need to have a clear idea of who your customer is in order to effectively communicate with them. Communicating with 70 year old women and 20 year old men is incredibly different! Analyze your email list a little deeper to identify segments of people within your audience so you can start sending them targeted, personalized emails. These personalized emails will help increase engagement and ultimate generate a greater ROI.

Data Collection

Once you get some sign-ups, these subscribers being to provide a lot of useful information about their interests and buying behavior that you can use to convert them into buyers, repeat customers but also use to identify new potential customers. You can customize email fields to collect everything from age and gender to interests and subscription preferences. The more unique you can make each subscribers experience, the more likely they are to stay a subscriber and eventually purchase not once, but multiple times from your business.‍

How to Get Sign-ups

  • Asking people won’t usually work — you need to sell them on any of the 3 answers you gave to the above questionnaire.
  • It’s essential to establish credibility and trust (i.e. mention email frequency), give them a sense of what they will be getting so that their expectations are set appropriately and so they won’t be overwhelmed or underwhelmed by your outreach.
  • Best practice includes collecting email, first name and postal code.

How to Get People to Read

Now that you have all of these sign-ups, how do you get your subscribers to actually read the content you are sending them? These are our top 5 variables to change if you aren’t getting the response you are hoping for.

  1. Subject Line: Keep it short, share what’s inside
  2. Relationship: What value have you provided in the past and how engaged are you?
  3. Time & Day: Weekday vs weekend? Early morning, lunch, after work, evening?
  4. Volume: How much email do you send?
  5. List Cleanup: Get rid of old subscribers who aren’t engaged

Treat your subscribers like VIPs. Being invited into someone’s email inbox is a privilege, you need to treat it as such. These subscribers are interested in your content. You need to provide them with benefits that other people who aren’t subscribed to your email list won’t be able to get. Let them know first about new products or sales, or go even further and ask these subscribers to participate in product surveys and reward them by making them beta testers for new products.‍

  • Compelling image
  • Call to action – buy tickets
  • Description draws you in
  • Conversational tone
  • Clear info – dates, price‍
  • Large image will be hidden for some
  • Call to action button rather than links
  • Layout/flow
  • Could be more personal‍

Email Systems

What are some Email Systems?
  • Mailchimp
  • Outlook, Gmail, etc (my personal/work email account)
  • Constant Contact
  • Vertical Response
  • iContact
  • Organization’s ticketing system or database

What’s an Email Marketing System?

Email marketing systems are web-based services that are designed to send mass emails. Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools. It is easy to manage, gives you full control and allows you to establish direct contact with your customers. A good email marketing system allows you to engage your customers in a positive way, effecting loyalty and establishing yourself as a credible source of information.

  • Approved bulk mailers
  • Follow professional and legal mailing practices
  • Provides listing hosting and subscription management
  • User-friendly and typically requires little to no technical skill
  • Detailed reporting & feedback

Email System vs. Gmail

  • No authentication → easily get blacklisted or identified as spam
  • Can’t track clicks or opens
  • No automatic bounce removal
  • No control over unsubscribing
  • No personalization
  • Poor HTML

Choosing an Email System

  • Ease of use
  • Availability of templates/ability to create your own templates
  • Pricing (Per email? Per subscriber?)
  • Ability to segment your lists

Before you choose an email system, ask an expert or do some initial research on your own on the web. Alternatively, reach out to the community, and ask for their experiences and advice. Make sure to know which features are key for your organization so that you don’t end up choosing an email system that doesn’t include one of your sought after attributes. Finally, be sure it fits within your budget. Don’t overextend yourself on an email system unless you have a specific strategy in place.

Optimize Your Emails for Mobile

  • 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices (smartphone & tablet)
  • If your email doesn’t look good, it will get deleted or ignored
  • Use a pre-built responsive template or make your template responsive (CSS skills)

Mobile has almost surpassed 50% of total opens while webmail and desktop continues to fall. Ever since Gmail switched to tabs, the number of opens has dropped significantly. However, evidence suggests that engagement is up and unsubscribes are down. This transition to mobile opens has made mobile email optimization increasingly more important. While an email newsletter can look great in a desktop inbox, when squeezed onto a small screen, it can become unusable. Make sure your emails use responsive email design.

Test yourself, how often do you find yourself looking at emails on your phone? Even more so, how often do you find yourself deleting emails on your phone without even opening them? Clearly, mobile responsiveness is important, but if you don't have well-executed subject lines then you'll email will never be opened to begin with. Email marketing is a multi-layered discipline that isn't too difficult to grasp but requires specific attention detail.

Advanced Email Strategy

Now that we know the basics of email marketing, let’s get more technical.

High Quality Contacts

Not all email lists are made the same, and it has a lot to do with the quality of information you are collecting for subscribers. Prompt potential subscribers to input relevant data like gender, occupation, age, interests, etc.


You can also collect data through third-party integrations and apps, as well as tapping into the power of an API. You can use your data from a CRM, your e-commerce platform like Shopify, amongst other apps to fuel your marketing campaigns.

List Segmentation

Segmentation is essential to send your subscribers content uniquely tailored for them based on age, demographics, purchasing history, etc. You can change your content ever so slightly to fit specific portions of your subscriber base to increase engagement. Not only can you change the content you send, but you can change the cadence with which you send it. This helps prevent unsubscribes by not barraging certain customers with too many emails. 99% of companies see a correlation between segmentation and email performance metrics.

  1. Consider what information you have about your subscribers
  2. location (postal code)
  3. past performances attended
  4. past behavior (opened/clicked previous emails
  5. Segment your list based on the information
  6. Customize your email for each segment

Track Website Visits‍


A UTM code is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. This enables your analytics provider, usually Google Analytics, to tell you where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you.

  1. Name the campaign and segment
  2. Create “URL Builder” links for each combination of campaign/segment
  4. Use “URL Builder” links for all links to your website in the email
  5. Some email management systems do this automatically
  6. Check Google Analytics to see how many visits came from each campaign

A/B Testing

A/B testing, also known as split testing or bucket testing, works off the same basis of list segmentation. It is a method of comparing two versions of an email against each other to determine which is better. For example, holding everything else equal, A will have a different subject line than B, and you’ll send both to a small portion of your subscribers to see which performs better. A/B allows you to make specific changes to your subscriber experience and determine which impacts human behavior. Testing one change at a time helps them pinpoint which changes had an effect on their visitors’ behavior, and which ones did not. Over time, they can combine the effect of multiple winning changes from experiments to demonstrate the measurable improvement of the new experience over the old one.

  1. Decide which to test & create 2 options
  2. Subject Line
  3. “From” name
  4. Email content -- design, call to action, text
  5. Send each option to a small portion of your list (5-15%)
  6. See which is more successful & send to the rest of your list
  1. Rhymes, Alliterations, Puns
  2. Character limits
  3. Stay between 35 & 55 characters

Get Personal

Marketing automation will allow you to send individualized and personalized messages at scale. Personalized messages increase open rate and drive conversions. Combining this with the high quality data you have on the customers, you can send emails that truly resonate with that specific audience segment, based on their behavior, to drive intent and action.‍

  • Welcome Emails
  • Subscriber Anniversary Emails
  • Automated Emails based on shopping history

Let your customers be the boss. By having an email preference center, your customers will be able to tell you what they are most interested in receiving from you and at what frequency.


  1. Express Consent: Person has given written or oral consent to get specific types of messages
  2. Implied Consent: Person has used your services in the last 2 years
  3. Attended a performance, made a donation, volunteered, purchased from you
  • Who is sending the message
  • How to contact you (address, phone #, email)
  • A way to unsubscribe


Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach your customers. Marketing is about building relationships with your customers, and customers have much more control over their email than they do being served a google ad.

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