Email & SMS

The Complete Email Marketing Guide for Beginners 2020

By Tinuiti Team

Email marketing is the most important channel for any business built on customer relationships. Studies show that 81% of SMBs still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80% for retention.

Building an email marketing program can accelerate your customer relationships, improve your brand messaging, and drive cost-effective revenue for your business.

It’s how jewelry brand Bryan Anthony’s hit record holidays that lifted overall company revenue by 281% while increasing customer lifetime value and repeat buyers 354%.

Here’s a breakdown of the basics of successful email marketing, from essential email campaigns to list management, to help you build relationships and generate new business.

With its unbeatable ROI, it’s no wonder email has been able to stand the test of time.  Email remains strong in the era of social media and the smartphone. It enhances the mobile experience, proving to be a powerful complement to emerging communication channels.

— Mandi Moshay, Associate Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti

Jump to a Section


1. What Is Email Marketing?

2. Email Marketing Goals: How to Define and Measure

3. Selecting the Right Email Service Provider (ESP)

4. The Four Essential Email Campaigns

5. How to Grow Your Email List

6. Email Design Best Practices

7. Email Testing Best Practices

8. Email Personalization

9. Email Marketing Regulations: GDPR, CCPA


What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the use of email to build customer relationships and promote products or services of a business.

According to eMarketer’s 2019 report, 91% of internet users send emails, making it the most popular digital activity, even out-ranking Search and video.

tinuiti email clients fighting against covid-19

Here some reasons why every business should have an email marketing program:

With virtually every ecommerce site, social media platform, and digital application requiring an email address for sign-up, email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

As one of the few owned media channels, marketers have more control over the content and reach of their email marketing campaigns, making it a vital component of any brand’s acquisition and retention marketing mix.

Email Marketing Goals: How to Define and Measure

Let’s dive into a few email marketing goals that you can achieve by integrating a full email program into your business strategy.

Email Marketing Metrics to Measure Success

If you send over 10,000 emails and you don’t track anything, did you really send them? If you are not processing analytics, how do you know whether or not your email marketing campaigns are actually performing, and getting results?

It’s simply impossible without email marketing analytics. Before you launch a new campaign, make sure to set KPIs for yourself and your team each time you launch a new email marketing campaign. Doing so will make sure you are able to track your wins, improving your overall strategy in the long-run.

Here are some of the best email KPIs to track to measure your email marketing success:

  1. Bounce rate: percentage of total emails sent that could not be successfully delivered.
  2. Open rate: percentage of total emails sent that were opened.
  3. Clickthrough rate: percentage of recipients who click on one or more links in an email.
  4. Conversion rate: percentage of email recipients who open the email, click a link, and complete the intended action, such as downloading a piece of content or making a purchase.
  5. Unsubscribe rate: the number of people who unsubscribe from your email list after receiving any given email.
  6. List growth rate:  The rate at which people enter your email list.
  7. Email share rate: the number of people who forward your email.
  8. Sender score/reputation: the likeliness that an email provider will block your email, deliver it, or mark it as spam.

Though these are some of the most important email marketing metrics, there are others. Want to learn more about how to accurately measure your email campaigns? Read our latest in-depth article on email marketing analytics here.

Selecting the Right Email Service Provider (ESP)

Your email service provider is the foundation for your email advertising program. Creating campaigns, triggers, and tracking email performance would be impossible without a dedicated ESP.

The good news is that there are more email service providers than ever before.

email segments klaviyo
Source: Klaviyo

Should you use Klaviyo? Mailchimp? Or another? It all depends on your priorities and budget.

“Understanding your must-haves and nice-to-haves beforehand undertaking an ESP review will inform your decision-making process and ensure that the option you select will support minimum viability for your marketing needs. Picking the right ESP will give your email marketing program the tools to grow and succeed.”

Peter Inthirakoth email strategist

— Peter Inthirakoth, Senior CRM & Email Strategist at Tinuiti

Consider SMS Capabilities For Advanced Cross-channel Tactics

With emails open rate over 50% on mobile and SMS read rates at 98%, it’s no doubt email marketing and text messaging are two channels every digital retailer should be utilizing to reach customers and prospects.

“Today over 50% of the top 1,000 online retailers are using text message marketing, but that doesn’t mean they are neglecting email and their other channels of marketing. While they seem similar, it’s important to build thoughtful email and text messaging programs that create a cohesive and personalized experience for your subscribers.”

— Lyndsey Adamo, Senior Strategist of CRM & Email at Tinuiti

Email is a mainstay, but text messaging is rapidly evolving as a beneficial complement to email. That’s why we recommend crafting your email and SMS marketing campaigns in tandem to increase overall customer engagement.

customer using email and sms

The Four Essential Email Campaigns

While email campaigns vary from company to company, there are a certain few that are universal no matter what your product or service.

Let’s take a look at four essential email campaigns your customers should be receiving on a regular basis.

The Welcome Email Newsletter

The most common first interaction with a potential customer is the welcome newsletter.

It’s the best opportunity you have to start your customer relationship, introduce your brand, and showcase your mission, products, and services.

gir welcome email series

This email gives the customer a sense of who you are and what your company is doing―think of it as you introducing yourself to the customer.

You’re not limited to sending a single welcome email either. Mailchimp recently found that sending a series of welcome emails yielded 51% more revenue than sending a single email.

The Abandoned Cart Email Campaign

It’s estimated that as many as 80% of carts are abandoned before purchase.

This means that companies are losing out on a significant amount of sales―luckily, this is a problem that’s easily remedied.

It’s important to know that an abandoned cart isn’t bad news, it actually means that a potential customer is at the very end of the finish line, you just need to help them over with the right abandoned cart campaign.

This can include abandoned cart email incentives to compel them to finish their checkout process.

browse abandon email

The Product Promotion Email Campaign

Most of your customers aren’t checking out your website every day.

This means that if you have a sale or promotion going on, they’re probably not going to know about it unless you reach out.

email animations photo

By setting up product promotion campaigns, you can inform consumers about new products or deals they might be interested in while also increasing brand awareness.

On top of that, tracking the results of product promotion campaigns can give you valuable insights about customer preference and shopping habits.

The Holiday Promotion Email Campaign

Holiday promotion emails are similar to regular product promotions but are used to specifically promote seasonal holiday sales.

Because consumer shopping trends to increase over the holiday season, holiday promotion emails can be incredibly effective at increasing sales.

holiday email campaign optimizations

How to Grow Your Email List

Managing your customers starts by cataloging who has subscribed to receive your emails.

Creating a master list of your active customers is the first step. There are many different ways to grow your email list, from email capture forms to checkout and product promotions. 

ivory ella email overlay example onsite

Tailored seasonal creative (including email capture), a dialed-in promotional strategy, and an increased mailing cadence drove a dramatic increase in conversions, boosting email revenue by 1118% for GIR. If you plan to use onsite pop-ups for email capture, you will need to think about your audience targeting, timing, and promotional strategy. 

There are also many ways to optimize sections your website for list growth, such as your: 

“You can use pop-ups and website messaging in every stage of your marketing funnel to create highly targeted and refined customer journey touchpoints that capture and convert leads faster than ever before,” says Jenna Ochoa of Justuno.

Finally, you must make sure your email data is up-to-date and compliant. Defining the information you’re collecting and setting standards for how the information in your email database will be used will help to ensure your practices are compliant with applicable laws, and build trust with your subscribers, helping to drive CRM customer retention. Here are our top tips to maintain a clean and usable email database in an age of increasing privacy regulations.

For more on growing, optimizing, and cleaning your email list, check out 7 Ways to Build Your Email List Into a Marketing Powerhouse

emails that offer promotions

Segment Your Email Lists for Better Personalization

From there, you can segment your customers by different criteria that will make your emails more personalized to generate greater engagement.

Here are a few examples of basic email segments to consider:

The more you can segment your email lists, the more personalized and relevant your messaging will be for your audience. 

Email Design Best Practices

In a world where consumers receive hundreds of emails every day, it’s important to send email campaigns that stand out among the crowd.

Most of the time, this comes down to the design of your emails.

Humans are wired to process visual information. It’s estimated that 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual, meaning that humans tend to respond better to images than text. It’s important then to create email designs that are appealing to the eye and attractive enough to cut through the mix of other promotional emails. 

If an email is difficult to read or unpleasant to the eye, chances are it’s going to end up in the trash. To avoid this, use designs that are clean and simple.

email design and animation

“The goal of your email design is to reduce the cognitive load. You want your emails to be clean and concise.”

Sammi Nutsongtat
— Sammi Nutsongtat, Klaviyo Design Specialist

Want to know how to design emails that convert? Learn more with Anatomy of An Email: Email Template Design Best Practices.

Email Testing Best Practices

Email advertising is fluid and changing, which means you can’t just set it and forget it.

Your best results will come from regular email testing, measuring, and optimizing to find what works with your audiences.

When it comes to testing your emails, there’s nothing off-limits―everything should be tested. Most of today’s major ESPs include features that make it easier to run A/B tests and track results to find the winning variation.

“In our industry, we talk about email A/B testing so frequently that we assume all email marketers are executing them. The truth is only 31% of brands test a majority of their emails and 39% don’t test their emails at all.”

jenny tran

― Jenny Tran, CRM & Email  Strategist at Tinuiti

Your regular email A/B testing strategy should include:

email layout test

When testing out the various factors in your emails, it’s important to have set KPIs so that you can measure performance and identify what’s working and what’s not.

Email Personalization

Personalizing your emails is essential if you want people to open and interact with your messaging. This requires you to know your audience, your segmented lists, and tailoring your subject lines, copy, and creative to compel your audience to take action.

“If you’re not personalizing, you’re lost in a sea of emails. It starts with having CRM data readily available for personalization. Using a tool like Heap enables you to track user activity with a simple snippet.”

– Kevin Charette, Marketing Operations Manager at Heap

“This gives you visibility on how users are interacting with your website and product pages to understand how to personalize the emails you’re sending out.”

Email newsletters allow customers a way to offer information about themselves to a brand they trust, so it’s important not to betray that trust. Using email surveys for customer insights and quizzes allows you to gather customer feedback, but it’s important to use that knowledge responsibly and adhere to email marketing best practices.

Email Marketing Regulations: GDPR, CCPA

Because email is such a personal channel, privacy should also be top of mind as an email marketer.

Especially with GDPR and CCPA legislation that requires abiding by a framework for collecting and using user data.

While mainly affecting Europe and California, GDPR and CCPA (respectively) are essentially motions that standardize data protection, enforcing strict guidelines on how companies use and store personally identifiable information. 

“To maintain compliance, brands must tailor their data collection and use to the specific countries in which they operate or where their customers might reside. In general, adopting the highest standards across the board is your best bet to stay ahead of new legislation pending across several states.”

— Mandi Moshay, Director of CRM & Email at Tinuiti

While you may be able to skirt the rules of GDPR or CCPA based on geography, you won’t be able to for much longer. It’s very likely that the US will have some form of GDPR in the next five years. As a marketing leader, it’s your job to adapt now, because privacy regulations aren’t going away.

Always remember: these regulations are intended to safeguard consumer data. And, since we’re all consumers, this benefits everyone.

Build Your Foundation for Email Marketing Success

Email marketing is constantly evolving, which means your email strategy should be as well.

Use these email marketing best practices to create email campaigns that are both appealing and increase conversions.

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