4 (+1) Steps to Build Your Email Marketing Strategy

  • Last update: 01/11/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

Email marketing strategy with an email icon

An email marketing strategy is a high-level plan in which digital marketers include tactics to boost the efficiency of their email campaigns.

With the rise of social media platforms, emails became a redundant and less convenient way to reach out to other people. Are companies still working with emails missing the trend? Not really. Electronic messages remain a staple method of business communication.

We send hundreds of billions of emails every day worldwide. Emails are not dead. Brands should build a relevant email marketing strategy to take advantage of this. We will show you how to proceed in this article.

Step #0: Define Your Campaign Objective

It all starts with the email marketing campaign goal.

Before launching anything, brands must ask themselves what the purpose of those emails will be. It guarantees the campaign will deliver the best value.

There are 3 most common objectives for emailing:

  • brand awareness
  • conversion (subscriptions or sales)
  • relationship and loyalty nurturing

With a clear goal, businesses can focus their efforts on reaching them. We saw too many brands willing to capture potential leads’ emails to understand afterward that they had no plan to use them. Never fail at defining your campaign objective. It must come before anything else.

Here are a few email examples that illustrate those campaign objectives:

  • newsletters with engaging and useful content
  • offers, discounts, coupons, vouchers (or free stuff!)
  • welcome emails
  • re-engaging emails
  • loyal customers’ reward claim

All emails must bring some value to the receivers. The world is full of spam emails. We don’t need them anymore. Always send emails that provide clear benefits to your target audience.

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Step #1: Build Your Email Lists

By having a clear idea of what they want to achieve, email marketers can start building their lists. Yes, we added a -s to the word “lists” on purpose.

Bad & Good Practice

First, please never buy email addresses!

Sending emails without any consent is an extremely bad practice. We all have received spam emails and felt angry because of them. They pollute our private space. They are not desired at all.

Besides, purchased email lists are of low quality in most cases. Sometimes, resellers even scam people willing to buy them. In short: stay away from all of this!

Your lists must only include people who are genuinely interested in your business. Beware of fraudulent marketers who love to play game numbers by considering that it is a good strategy to reach as many leads as possible in the hope that the message may resonate with a few of them.

To find those people, your best bet is your digital platforms. Online users visiting your website and your social channels have a certain interest in your brand. Those are premium locations to catch your future subscribers.

Of course, if you are new in the market, chances are low that a significant number of people will visit your channels. In most cases, do not expect to build significant email lists before the end of the first year.

Key Takeout

How can you get people on board? Use the following tricks that we detail just below:

  • add a clear subscribe button
  • create a lead magnet incentive
  • organize free webinars
  • automate the subscription

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To get subscriber emails, you need a subscribe portal. Create yours by inserting a button with a short descriptive text and a field to input the email address on your website. Keep it simple. You can customize this section. However, many Content Management Systems (CMS) offer ready-to-use subscription designs. Note that, on social platforms like Facebook, you can use integrated tools to capture your leads’ emails.

People will not offer their email addresses just to please you or because they want to play with your subscribe button. Brands must invite them to share by proposing an incentive. This lead magnet is typically a valuable offer. It can be an insightful newsletter, a contact form for receiving a free quotation, or access to a specific tool. The offered value must be aligned with the campaign objective (which is step #0 from the previous section).

Online users love free webinars, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Online conferences are also kind of lead magnets, except that you do not offer something immediately in exchange for an email address. Instead, you invite online users to join a webinar in which you will have the opportunity to showcase your brand, products, or services. The best webinars are those that have a great Q&A section where the host shares his expertise. They are also good at promoting affiliates. Above all, with your online conference, you have a guarantee that those emails belong to people interested in your area of expertise.

When people subscribe to your newsletter, you can send an email right away. This welcome email will be your first touchpoint in the email campaign journey. Polish it by following step #3 which we will detail below. Besides, make sure that you send it automatically. You do not want to send manual emails to every single person reaching you from your subscription form. You can customize this function from your CMS or implement a plugin to keep it simple.

Now, let’s see why we added these -s at the end of “lists” in the next section.

Step #2: Segment Your Email Lists

Not all users are the same. You will probably not send the same email to a 55-year-old female and a 20-year-old male. They do not have the same profiles or the same interests.

This is the reason why businesses should always categorize their email addresses and create separate lists. It allows email personalization as we will explain below.

Personalize Your Emails

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Why should you customize your emails based on your target audience? Because it boosts open and click rates. No one wants to receive irrelevant emails. On the other hand, if you see an email title that rings a bell, you will be more likely to interact with it.

There are many ways to segment your subscribers’ emails. Here is a non-exhaustive list of factors you should consider:

  • name
  • birthday
  • location
  • time
  • interest
  • past activity

The name is an important asset in winning the receivers’ hearts. Instead of “Dear Valued Customer,” wouldn’t you prefer to receive an email starting with “Hi John!”? Of course, this illustration works only if your name is “John” but… you got the idea.

The subscriber’s birthday gives businesses a great opportunity to customize emails by reaching people at the right time. We all love gifts. Receiving a great offer for our birthday significantly boosts the chances of having a great impression of the sender.

The location is essential to brick-and-mortar or serviced areas businesses. Send emails to people “near you” to maximize their impact. If there is language involved, localize your email based on the region.

Send the right email at the right time. Events strongly influence emails’ effectiveness (Christmas, Summer, Black Friday, etc.). You can also, depending on your product or service lifetime, estimate when it would be the best moment to contact your subscriber again.

If you offer various products and services, you want to reach out to your followers for the stuff they have an interest in. Do not offer Product A to a person willing to go for Product B.

The past activity of online users is a great source of information for email marketers. Based on their cookies, their previously visited websites, their online interactions, and their last purchases, you can define if certain people are more or less likely to buy your products and services.

Schedule your email sending. Create and maintain a calendar. Businesses should never ask themselves in the morning if they should send an email to their followers in the afternoon.

Many tools help segment your email audience right from the sign-up. We will share a selection of automation software below.

Email Marketing Tools

The purpose of email marketing tools is to categorize subscribers, manage them, and send emails automatically based on their profiles or their answers.

They ease this daunting work. If you have thousands of emails to send at once, you won’t be able to proceed with them manually. Here are the most useful email marketing tools for your reference:

1. ActiveCampaign

This tool is a rather complete and affordable option for managing your email marketing campaigns. It starts at $21.75 USD monthly. We appreciate its A/B testing feature, visual funnels, and built-in CRM function (Customer Relationship Management).

2. HubSpot

We do not recommend using HubSpot to get started. It is by far the most expensive tool we listed here (starting from $45 USD monthly, and plan pricing goes exponentially). On the other hand, this big CRM platform is a powerful all-in-one marketing tool. Perfect for enterprises.

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3. MailChimp

It is one of the most popular email marketing software, certainly thanks to its free option under 2,000 emails. Of course, their paid plans (starting at $9,99 USD per month) propose much more features. Overall, MailChimp is one of the most intuitive and easy options.

4. Sendinblue

Sendinblue offers a free plan of up to 300 emails per day, which makes it great for small businesses. The first package starts at $25 USD monthly. The paid version is a complete tool including a CRM, live chat, and SMS marketing. It is known for having an excellent deliverability rate.

Step #3: Design Your Emails

At this point of the whole email marketing process, you should know what you want to achieve (step #0), have collected emails (step #1), and segmented them (step #2).

But how to design your emails before sending them?

Email Headline

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The email title is the very first touchpoint between the sender and the receiver. Most of the email success and impression to the users happen here. Marketers usually say that the headline weighs 80% of the whole email impact.

As it is the first info that people see, the headline must be short and descriptive. In English, the perfect length is between 6 to 10 words.

Of course, this title must be engaging. When users read the headline, it should make them willing to open the email. Following step #2, you should personalize your email titles.

There are many tips and tricks to write appealing headlines. Creating a sense of urgency (for example, an outstanding offer that is valid for a few days only), or using numbers (for example, the title of the article you are reading right now!) are great ways to polish an email title.

Use powerful words. They are meaningful and efficient at conveying messages. Again, personalize them based on your country, language, products and services, and target audience.

Here is an example list of email marketing power words in English, to give you an idea:

  • amazing
  • best
  • easy
  • effective
  • fast
  • great
  • guide to
  • improve
  • increase
  • learn
  • limited
  • now
  • quick
  • save
  • secret
  • tips
  • today

Keep in mind that marketers should never overpromise, look cliché, or be spammy. Instead, send emails that solve pain points or generate strong emotions.

To conclude on the email headline, here are words you should ban from your titles:

  • buy
  • cheap
  • free
  • order
  • rich
  • urgent

Also remove any CAPS words, exclamations, or dollar marks. Your emails must look valuable, not cheap.

Email Body

If the receiver opens your email, you do 80% of the job.

Now that the subscriber has gone deeper into your marketing funnel, you still have some effort to provide. The email body’s purpose is to lead the readers to conversion.

As for the headline, there are a few rules to follow when designing an email body.

Of course, make it branded. Using templates is a great way to customize emails quickly, but never forget to use the editing options to include your logo, your art direction, etc.

The text must be easy to understand and short. Depending on the email purpose, your industry, and your target audience, you may want to keep it personal and friendly.

Follow this guide to create your emails:

  • display and center all content in 1 column
  • include appealing images
  • break up the content into small sections
  • insert a visible CTA
  • use links to embed files (never attach documents)
  • make it easy to unsubscribe

It looks counterintuitive to allow people to unsubscribe from an email list they signed up to. It is a great way to clean the base. People change. Why should you keep sending emails to online users who do not care?

Make your emails mobile-friendly. The number of smartphone users accessing the internet is increasing. Businesses cannot afford to send content that is not compatible with those devices. Besides, the revenue per email on mobile is higher than on desktop.

Step #4: Run Your Email Campaign

The final step is to launch your email campaign.

The marketing tools will help you manage this task. However, the work doesn’t end here. Once you press the “Send” button, you must monitor your performance.

Email A/B Testing

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First, you should never send a unique email template to an audience within the same group. A/B test your email designs. It has virtually no extra cost to do so, but the benefits are huge.

Check what performs the best. You can compare several factors. Here are the most relevant criteria to the A/B test when sending emails:

  • headline
  • email layout
  • design colors
  • CTA button

By comparing those email assets, you can identify what works well. It becomes easy to adjust the email designs later and focus only on the ones that convert the most. It is an excellent way to maximize your return on investment.

Of course, your emails will be different between 2 different groups. In this section, we talk about A/B testing inside one single audience segment. The purpose is to check how a unique target population reacts to various designs.

Email Performance

To improve your campaign results, you must measure its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Fortunately, the marketing tools we listed in the previous sections all do this job.

From your dashboard, monitor these metrics:

  • email deliverability
  • open rate
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The email deliverability metric is a percentage of sending success. It depends on various factors like the quality of your email list, the tools you are using, or the target audience’s email settings. In short, the email design itself does not influence this metric, but it remains an important KPI to follow up.

On the other hand, the email headline significantly impacts the open rate. As it is the first information seen by the receiver, it makes a huge difference between an email that will be read versus an email that will disappear forever in the inboxes.

The email layout, colors, CTA button, and design affect how likely people will engage. It is the reason why marketers must A/B test their email variations. If you see that the online users click more on your blue email compared with your yellow one, then rather send blue colors.

Based on those insights, you will be willing to adjust your campaign. Edit your content, change your headline, rework your email design: use the data you have collected to optimize your digital performance.

Implement Your Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing is an easy and cost-effective way to build customer relationships.

Even if your campaigns have limited people engagement, it is still worth it. The affordability of email marketing campaigns maintains them at the top of the to-do list.

There is one main condition to get started: businesses must have a certain number of electronic addresses. If they collected at least 1,000 emails, then it makes sense to consider an email marketing strategy to leverage them.

Marketers must target their lead by audience segmentation. Once they launch their campaigns, they should always measure and adjust the performance of each group.

As a last piece of advice: make sure to combine your email campaigns with other channels, like social media. Emails work better when you have some extra support.

For more information about your email marketing strategy, do not hesitate to contact our team of experts.