What Is Email Marketing?

Definition and Examples of Email Marketing

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Email marketing is the use of email to promote products or services while developing relationships with potential customers or clients. It is essentially direct mail done electronically instead of through the postal service.

Learn about the perks of email marketing, methods do it right, and how it compares to some other forms of marketing.

What Is Email Marketing?

Anytime a company sends out an email, aside from order confirmations and direct responses to customer questions, it could be considered a form of email marketing. Email marketing is one segment of internet marketing, which encompasses online marketing via websites, social media, blogs, and more.

Email marketing can include newsletters with updates on the company, or promotions of sales and exclusive deals for subscribers. Marketing emails may also seek to share a general message on the company's behalf, such as in the wake of a natural disaster or company scandal.

At its best, email marketing allows businesses to keep their customers informed and tailor their marketing messages to their audience. At its worst, this kind of marketing can drive customers away with persistently annoying spam emails.

How Email Marketing Works

It's easy to set up and track an email marketing campaign, which makes it accessible for small businesses. You can add a newsletter sign-up option to your website, for instance. As people sign up, you can send newsletters to a growing audience. You can also direct customers to the newsletter from your social media profiles.

The two biggest advantages of email marketing are price and ease. Compared to other types of marketing, emailing is an inexpensive way to advertise your company and its products or services.

A regular newsletter is a simple and effective way to send updates about your company, upcoming events, and special offers. Email software also makes it easy to schedule automated promotional emails for customers who haven't purchased recently.

Email marketing allows you to target particular groups of customers or even specific individuals. Offering individual customers special birthday deals on merchandise or services is one way to do this.

A restaurant, for instance, might send an email to customers on their birthdays offering 50% off an entree. This kind of personalization helps a business develop and maintain a relationship with a customer—and that can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty.

Email Marketing Remains Relevant

In the age of social media, it's tempting to write off email. However, there is statistical evidence that it remains an important aspect of marketing efforts. For instance:

  • Experts with the email marketing company Litmus estimate that email marketing returns an average of $42 for every $1 spent.
  • One survey found that 59% of respondents were influenced by email when it came to purchasing decisions.
  • A study of more than 1 billion shopping sessions in 2019 found that email marketing has a conversion rate of 2.3%, compared to 1% for social media.

One huge advantage of email over social media is that customers are more likely to see an email than social media. Just posting something on social media doesn't mean that everyone you want to see your message will see it. However, an email will sit in an inbox until it's read (or deleted). 

Ideally, email marketing should go hand in hand with social media. Adding social media "Like" or "Share" buttons to your marketing emails gives an additional way for customers to connect with your brand. Snippets of positive reviews from social media fans can be included in emails, and social media posts can drive customers to your email newsletters.

Email marketing can substantially increase your income if you do it correctly. It's a great way to get people to visit (and revisit) your website or blog. More traffic usually equates to more income.

Email Marketing Strategies

Effective email marketing takes effort. Here are a few strategies for making the most of your email marketing campaigns.

Build Your Own List

All you're going to do by sending an unsolicited email is turn off most of the people you were hoping to turn into customers. Whether through your website, in your store, or at an event, make it clear when customers are opting in to receiving your emails.

Follow the Law

Email marketers must adhere to the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act. These rules include having a non-deceptive subject line, providing a clear way to unsubscribe, and including your name and address at the end of the emails.

Mix Up Your Messages

Don't just send out ads to buy all the time. Use your emails to build rapport with customers by sharing your expertise or that of others, giving them tips and insights they can value. Share information that lets them know more about you and your company.

Respect Your Subscribers

Treat your list well. Remember that the people you're communicating with have trusted you with their information; they deserve your respect. If you want a chance to convert them from customers to fans and even evangelists for your brand, then make them feel special.

Follow a Schedule

Stick to a schedule if you're doing a newsletter. Sending out an email on the same day (or days) every week will help your subscribers know what to expect from you and when.

Optimize for Mobile

Studies by marketing analysts with the company Litmus have consistently found that just under half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. That means, if your email doesn't display correctly on mobile platforms, half of your audience is going to think you don't know how to properly craft an email.

Key Takeaways

  • Email marketing is the use of email to promote a company's products and services or to connect with the customers.
  • When it's done well, email marketing is an effective sales driver.
  • When it's done wrong, email marketing can come across as spam that annoys customers.
  • The best marketing emails are optimized for mobile devices, respect the customers, and follow a regular schedule while mixing up the messaging.

Article Sources

  1. Litmus. "[Infographic] The ROI of Email Marketing." Accessed June 29, 2020.

  2. Business 2 Community. "25 Email Marketing Statistics You Need to Know Heading into 2020." Accessed June 29, 2020.

  3. Smart Insights. "E-Commerce Conversion Rates – How Do Yours Compare?" Accessed June 29, 2020.

  4. Federal Trade Commission. "CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business." Accessed June 29, 2020.

  5. Litmus. "Email Client Market Share Trends for the First Half of 2018." Accessed June 29, 2020.