A beginner's guide to marketing to an email audience

A woman using a laptop to send email replies.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Emails were among the first digital marketing methods used, and it’s easy to pass these by as a dated method that no longer holds any relevance. In fact, the opposite is true as most of us continue to check out email inboxes daily. 

It’s easy for us to switch off from social media, and many choose to step away from this personal gratification landscape in order to improve their mental health. However, much of our lives is managed through emails, whether it’s business-related, ordering from online stores, or staying up to date with the news.

It’s vital, then, that your email marketing strategy is up-to-date. Use this beginner’s guide to email marketing to kickstart your success.

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Comply with regulations 

Before you put pen to paper - or finger to keyboard - pay careful attention to the laws that govern communications in your country, city, or state. In the UK and across Europe, for example, the GDPR insists that you may only hold personal data that is necessary and that it is stored confidentially. As such, consumers have the right to request that you remove their data and cease to send any further communications.

In the United States, a similar CAN-SPAM Act encourages transparency by means of providing enough information about your company, such as who you are and where you are based. As with the GDPR, American citizens have the right to opt out of future communications, and this should be honored promptly. Furthermore, the CAN-SPAM Act puts an emphasis on deception: email subjects should be clear and accurate and any advertising material should be made explicit.

This is by no means an exhaustive summary of your responsibilities, and we urge you to check accordingly. Once you have established what you are accountable for, you may begin to search for email service providers that can handle your marketing needs, many of which are compliant with existing regulations.

Appeal to your audience 

A consumer will open your business' email messages if they feel they offer value to them. Consumers have limited time, so will be choosy about which emails they delete and which they will act upon.

There are so many ways that you can make your email marketing campaign a success; here are just a few examples:

  • Segment your database or buy highly specific email address lists to ensure that you are speaking to people that are likely to be interested in your business’s goods or services. An email service provider will allow you to design and send newsletters to customers, but a powerful email marketing service will be able to automate different types of content for different people. More on what makes an effective marketing tool here. 
  • Avoid sending emails too frequently as recipients can get tired of this and may want to unsubscribe, or worse still, their email client may filter your emails as spam. Only send an email when you can add value to a user’s day. 
  • Tailor your marketing to provide an individual experience. Consumers enjoy being spoken to, so add fields to include their name, make sure the content is relevant, and develop a routine so that people begin to expect - and look forward to - your emails. Avoid sending emails on a Monday or a Friday as people’s work lives can get hectic and your content may get overlooked. 
  • Offer them something that they would otherwise be unable to have access to: things like inside stories and top tips are great for many websites, while online shops may have greater success offering coupons and discount codes that only subscribers will receive. Make sure your website is prepared for an influx of traffic or orders. 

Avoid spamming customers 

It's a well-understood component of advertising that repetition can ensure that a brand’s services or products are remembered by consumers. This certainly works in traditional media, but the same is not true of emails, where less is more.

Always have an email signup box on your site, and gather email addresses at every opportunity. These people have expressed an interest in your business and have stated they want to hear more; not only will this comply with data protection guidelines but it will also ensure that you are targeting an active audience.

Customers that have purchased from you may also be open to new services and products if the marketing message is relevant to them. Engaging with customers is key, especially with today's noisy landscape that is dominated by social media and the endless short-term gratification it provides.

Take the time to understand how a mail client processes each incoming item; many use Bayesian filtering to analyze an email’s header and its content to check for keywords that are recognized as frequently used in spam emails. Avoid overly compelling words that can be used to portray an unrealistic result, such as ‘free’ and ‘now’.

Test for the best 

Email marketing must be tracked and analyzed to ensure it is delivering on your expectations. Open rates and click-throughs from call to action buttons can all be tracked either with a powerful marketing service provider or through the use of an API or integration. You may also want to consider any bounceback, as well as the rate of unsubscriptions.

Follow these additional steps to improve your business' email marketing success:

  • Make sure you have permission from the people you want to email 
  • Design your email so it supports your business' brand identity (use this guide to create an effective template) 
  • Include one clear call to action per email campaign. Marketers like to use the power of three: an enticing header, a short summary, and a CTA. Images will add to the appeal 
  • Ensure that your template is robust enough to adapt to the display type, from large computer monitors to smartwatches and virtually everything in between 
  • Test, test, and test again to ensure your email message is working properly 

Email marketing can be highly effective if it is well designed and focused on a key group of recipients. The more your business knows about its customers the more engaging the emails will be. Consumers are interested in email marketing, but they will only read messages that are of interest to them. 

TechRadar created this content as part of a paid partnership with Constant Contact. The contents of this article are entirely independent and solely reflect the editorial opinion of TechRadar.

Check out our article on the best secure email providers.

Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!