From social media to live chats, businesses have a plethora of channels to get in front of their customers, engage with them, and turn them into customers. While they bring results, 82% of them still point to email marketing as their go-to strategy to attract and convert leads to customers.
In this guide, I’ll be taking you step by step through the process of setting up your first email marketing campaign. I’ll also be throwing in lots of examples into the mix to inspire you and give you ideas you can use.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is sending emails with the right content to those in your email list based on where they are in your marketing funnel.
Why use email marketing?
Reason #1: It’s your property.
When you promote your products or services on Facebook or social media, you don’t own the platform hosting your business’ page. So you’re obliged to play by their rules. If you don’t, they can suspend or delete your account. And when that happens, you can kiss all your followers goodbye.
Reason #2: Stellar conversion rates.
A study done by McKinsey shows that email marketing gives you 40 times more customers than Facebook and Twitter put together.
What’s more, customers that buy products and services promoted through email spend at least 3x more than those that learn about these on social media.
It’s no wonder then why businesses that use emails as their primary marketing channel experiences a whopping 4400% in ROI!
Reason #3: Your customers want it.
Back in 2015, Marketing Sherpa did a study to find out the most preferred way customers want businesses to connect and engage with them. Over 70% of those that participated in the survey said that they’d prefer email over all the other available communication channels.
That hasn’t changed.
While more and more people are ditching their social media accounts because of privacy issues, the number of people using emails continue to rise. In fact, it’s estimated that 2022, over 347 billion emails will be sent and received each day.
There are several things that you need in place before you can even begin creating your email marketing campaign.
1. Choose an email service provider (ESP).
The right ESP will become an invaluable asset for your business. Consequently, if it doesn’t give you what you need, it can hinder your chances for success.
Some things that you need to keep an eye out for are:
Its built-in features.
Make sure that the ESP you choose has all of the basic features you’ll need to start an email marketing campaign. These include:
- Opt-in form builders
- An email template library
- Landing page builder
- Segmentation and personalization features
The last thing you’d want to get is an ESP that doesn’t communicate with the other marketing tools and platforms you’re already using for your business.
Most ESPs would include a list of integrations it supports. Be sure to check these before committing to one.
Ability to scale with your business.
As your business grows, you’d want your ESP is already fitted with the features you’ll need like assigning different team members specific access levels, omnichannel marketing features, and retargeting.
Affordable pricing plans.
In addition to looking for an ESP that’ll fit your current budget, you’d also want to consider how much you’ll be paying for additional features as your business grows. The jump in price shouldn’t be too steep that you’d find yourself unable to access those needed features because of budget constraints.
Reliable customer support.
This is perhaps the most crucial thing to consider when choosing an email service provider. Visit their site’s customer support page and see how you can contact their customer service when you need help. The more options, the better.
Now that you know what to look for, here are some of the most popular email service providers to choose from.
Aside from the standard features you’ll find with most ESPs, GetResponse comes with a set of eCommerce tools that’ll allow your subscribers to order your products and pay for them right on your landing page. It’ll even help you A/B test your emails and landing pages to help you reach your email marketing goals.
Recently, they added an auto funnel feature that’ll help you quickly set up and automate your business’ marketing funnel so you can immediately put your business on automatic pilot, making this one of the many cost-effective ClickFunnels Alternatives.
GetReponse’s pricing plans start at $15/month for 1,000 subscribers.
I’d consider MailChimp as Ground Zero for anyone starting an email marketing campaign. It’s got all the features you need to launch an email marketing campaign. It also integrates seamlessly with most CRMs, tools, and website platforms.
MailChimp offers a free plan you can use for as long as you got 2,000 subscribers or less in your email list.
After that, you’ll have to upgrade to one of their paid plans. Depending on the features you need and how many people are in your email list, starting at $10/month for 2,500 subscribers.
ConvertKit is perfect for freelancers, bloggers, and independent consultants. It gives you all essential features to get started along with a few advanced features like creating complex email automation sequences without burning a huge hole son your budget.
ConvertKit offers a 14-day free trial for all their paid plans, which start at $29/month for 1,000 subscribers.
EmailOctopus offers a rich set of email marketing templates allowing users to create responsive campaigns to any device in a matter of minutes. You can build drip email sequences, import contacts, integrate with forms, and generate customized reports. You can also create highly targeted email campaigns based on the customer data that matters most to your business through its email segmentation features.
EmailOctopus has a free plan that allows you to send up to 10,000 emails each month to 2,500 subscribers while its paid plan here starts at $20 per month for 5,000 subscribers and 50,000 emails.
SendGrid is a great email service providers for startups and software companies.
On top of the usual features, SendGrid allows you to create fully automated email campaigns that allow you to engage and do business transactions with your customers. Not only would this help shorten your sales cycle, but also enhance the overall experience of your customers.
And while most ESPs give you a choice of pre-designed templates to use for your email marketing campaigns, SendGrid has a built-in Code Editor so you can design your own email and landing page templates and function how you envision it.
Drip is an ESP that gives you the ability to create workflows and email triggers to automate both your marketing funnel and email list segmentation.
Its pricing plans come with a 2-week free trial period and starts at $49/month for 2,500 subscribers.
Unlike most email service providers that focus their features and service on B2B and B2C marketing campaigns, Lemlist allows you to create workflows that’ll send out emails to cold prospects. Use an email marketing tool such as AeroLeads to build an email list and then send out your email blast with Lemlist. If you’re looking for a way to streamline your B2B sales activities look no further.
You can use Lemlist for 14 days free of charge. After that, you’ll have to choose from one of their paid plans that start at $29/month for 100 cold emails.
2. Create your lead magnet.
A lead magnet is any valuable content you give to your prospects in exchange to them giving you their email address. Some of the most common lead magnets used are:
- eBooks (This is my favorite)
- Industry report
- Video or audio tutorial
The key here is making sure your lead magnet’s extremely valuable that they can’t resist not getting it.
Here are some tips to help you:
Make it easy to understand.
What you share in your lead magnet should be easy for your prospects to consume, so that they’ll actually use them.
Shopify’s trial page is a great example.
Add actionable items.
Your prospects should be able to apply as they’re consuming it, just like Teachable’s video tutorials.
Gives your prospect a quick win.
Your prospects should be able to experience a positive change in their situation right away, even if it’s just a small one, like in the case with CopyBlogger’s most popular lead magnet.
It addresses their pain.
Your lead magnet will get your prospects’ attention when they see that it’ll help them solve their problem like this:
3. Set up your opt-in form.
Your opt-in form is what’ll convert your visitors to leads. So it’s crucial that you set it up right.
The secret to a successful opt-in form is that it should match the value of your lead magnet.
For example, if your lead magnet’s a printable checklist, a simple form asking their name and email address would suffice.
On the other hand, if you’re using a webinar showing how your product works for your lead magnet, you can get more details so that your sales team the information they’ll need to help them close the sale.
4. Design your landing page.
The moment your prospects stumble on your landing page, you got just 8 seconds to convince them to sign up. Otherwise, they’ll opt-out and go elsewhere.
It’s critical that you set up your landing page so that it quickly delivers all the information your prospects need to convince them to sign up.
An effective landing page has the following elements:
A captivating headline.
The headline’s the very first—and sometimes, the only thing—your prospects will ever see on your landing page. So it must grab your prospect’s attention right away.
Here are a few examples:
You can replicate this by:
- Making sure it clearly tells your prospects the most significant benefit they’ll get from your lead magnet.
- Adding numbers to your headlines will make this more specific and appealing.
- Sprinkling in a bit of your personality by writing it as how you’ll say it to a friend or colleague.
Give your prospects more details on what they’ll get when they download your lead magnet. At the same time, you shouldn’t give too much info away that it’ll make your landing page look cluttered and overwhelming like this one by Velaro Live Chat.
High-quality images of your lead magnet.
Even if your lead magnet’s digital, adding a relevant visual to your landing page helps make your lead magnet more enticing.
Danielle’s landing page to her list of must-have tools to build your email list is a perfect example.
Your opt-in form.
I touched on this earlier. But this element is so vital to your landing page that it’s worth mentioning again.
Make sure that your opt-in form isn’t longer than the image of your lead magnet.
Not only does this balance out your entire landing page design, but it also makes sure that you only ask your prospects the most important details like this one.
An obvious subscribe button.
Of all the different landing page elements, this is the most important because it’s only after your prospects click (or tap) this that you’ll get their details.
So make sure that your subscribe button stands out so that your prospects can quickly spot it.
Using bright colors that contrast with the rest of the landing page and adding visual signals can helps make your subscribe button in this landing page from Unbounce impossible to miss.
Setting up your first email marketing campaign
1. Establish your goal.
You need to be clear and specific on what you want to achieve through your marketing campaign.
Is it get more of your leads to convert to customers?
Maybe you’re going to be hosting a sale in your eCommerce site, and you want to get the word out?
Or perhaps you want to teach your new customers how to maximize your product’s potential?
Also, set the benchmarks that’ll help you determine whether or not you’ve reached your goal.
All these will guide you on the next step, which is…
2. Choosing your email marketing campaign.
There are several email marketing campaigns that you can create for your business. The four most common ones are:
Welcome email series
This campaign is commonly used on brand new subscribers to keep their interest in your brand and product at optimum levels by giving them links to relevant resources on your site.
Onboarding email series
Onboarding campaigns work best if your goal’s to get more of those using a free version or free trial to upgrade to the paid version. You can also use this to help new customers get acquainted with your product like this one from GrooveHQ.
Promotional email series
As its name suggests, this campaign focuses on upselling your other products and services related to what they just bought. This is also used to announce your discounts and time-sensitive promotions.
Lead nurturing email marketing campaigns
Next to promotional email, lead nurturing is the most common campaign that businesses launch.
That’s because not all of those who subscribe to your email list or download your content offer will immediately buy.
You’ll need to first build a trusting relationship with them so that they’ll be convinced to purchase what you’re offering to them.
This takes time. But it’s going to be worth it in the end because lead nurturing not only helps you drive your leads to the next stage of your sales funnel strategy but also get them to buy more premium products you’re offering.
3. Set up your email sequence.
Next, you’ll need to know how often you’ll send your emails. These should be frequent enough so that you keep their interest levels high. But it shouldn’t be too close to each other that they feel they’re being bombarded.
Here’s an example of an email sequence:
1st email (Sent after subscribing): Thank them for subscribing and introduce yourself.
2nd email (Sent two days after): Talk about the specific problem your product’s solving, so that they’ll become more interested.
3rd email (Sent two days after): Provide more resources. But this time, begin mentioning your product and the special offer you’ll be launching.
4th email (Sent two days after): Announce your special offer. More importantly, tell them how long it’s going to be up so you can create a sense of urgency.
5th email (Sent two days after): Send a reminder about your product, and how long they got left. You can even share how many people have bought so far, and what they think about it.
6th email (Sent on the day before the cart closes): Remind those in your list that they only got 24 hours left to make the purchase. After that, the cart will be closed.
7th email (Sent 12 hours before the cart closes): Focus your email’s copy to generate scarcity among those subscribers that haven’t purchased yet.
9th email (Sent two hours before the cart closes): Go all out on scarcity by using the FOMO technique. You can add feedback from those that already bought your product or program, and the results they’ve been getting.
10th email (Sent immediately after closing your cart): Announce to your list that the cart’s closed and that the offer’s no longer available. Thank them for their support. Share with them how many bought and what have they been saying about it.
4. Set up your email autoresponder.
An email autoresponder is an email sequence that’ll run automatically the moment after your prospects trigger it by taking specific action on your site. As a result, your business continues running and earning even while you’re sleeping or spending quality time with your family.
Here are the steps to set up your autoresponder:
Step 1: Create the entire flow of your email sequence.
Be sure to include two scenarios for each step of your email sequence. The first scenario: one for those that’ll take the action you want them to and another for those that don’t. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on potential sales from prospects that need more coaxing.
Step 2: Set up your email triggers.
Email triggers are specific actions that your prospects take while they’re on your website so that you send them the right email sequence.
The most frequently used email triggers are:
- When someone subscribes to your email list,
- Downloads a content offer,
- Signs up for a webinar,
- Enroll in a free trial or free course, and
- Subscription renewals.
Step 3: Write your email copy.
This is perhaps the most tedious part of setting up your email autoresponder. However, it’s also the most crucial because your leads will make their decision whether or not to buy based on your copy.
When writing your email copy, the key is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Ask yourself things like:
What are the things keeping them up at night?
How sure are they that this product will solve their problem?
And more importantly: Why should they buy from you?
Step 4: Test your autoresponder.
Take your autoresponder for a trial run to make sure that it’s sending out the right emails at the right time, and all the links and CTAs are working.
Optimizing your open and conversion rates
Of all the different sections in this guide, this is the single thing that could make or break your email marketing campaign.
Because no matter how meticulous you’ve been in setting up everything else up to this point, if no one opens your emails and clicks your CTA, all your hard work will go to waste.
Here are some tips on how to do this:
1. Make it easy to unsubscribe.
Sounds counterintuitive. But if those in your email list find it difficult to unsubscribe, they’re next option is to flag your emails as spam so that it no longer gets sent to their inbox.
Since Gmail and other email providers will pick this up, it’ll give them a very good reason to direct all the emails you send to the Spam or Junk folder.
2. Periodically clean your email list.
Make it a habit to check your email list every six months to find if you have any inactive subscribers.
Purge your email list with those that don’t respond. Sure, it’s going to bring your email subscriber numbers down. However, doing this will give you and your team more accurate stats on how your email marketing campaigns are doing.
3. Know the right time.
A study done by MailChimp shows that sending emails during at weekdays are the best days to send your emails.
While 10 am is the best time.
That doesn’t mean that these are set in stone. Factors like where the majority of your leads are from, their occupation, and their age can affect the day and time when they open your emails.
Instead, use these as benchmarks and run a test by sending out your emails at using day and time combinations. Then, review your results so that you can find that sweet spot when to best send your emails.
4. Make sure your subject line stands out.
Legendary copywriter David Ogilvy pointed out that if you invest a dollar for each copy you write, 80 cents of that should go to your headline—and for good reason.
Your email’s subject line’s the first thing that your email subscribers see. A study done by Litmus shows that 34% of email subscribers will decide whether or not to open an email based on their headline.
5. Include actionable takeaways.
Adding tips in your email that your subscribers can immediately do as soon as they’re finished reading it. That’s because it’ll add tremendous value to your copy. It’ll make your subscribers more eager to get and open them.
6. Be sure your emails are mobile-friendly.
46% of people read their emails on their smartphones or other mobile devices.
Opting to use larger fonts and writing short paragraphs can make your email copy easier to read.
More importantly, make sure that your CTA button’s large enough so that it’s easy to tap with their thumb.
And while images make your emails look awesome, they can cause your email to load slower.
Instead, try using text-only emails because they load faster and keep your readers from getting distracted from your message.
7. Keep It Short and Simple.
Too much of a good thing can be bad. That goes for your email copy.
Your subscribers don’t have all day to read a long-winded email where you share every nitty-gritty detail about your product. They only want to know three things:
- How does your product help them solve their problem?
- What do others say about it?
- Where can they get it?
Therefore, give them that.
I share a whole lot more tips on this in my blog post, How to Become a Copywriter.
8. Focus on building relationships.
People choose to do business only with those that they know they can trust. So make this your main focus when creating your email marketing campaigns.
Use the Pareto Principle when deciding what to email: 80% of your content should provide helpful information, and only 20% devoted to promoting your product.
9. Write to just one person.
In today’s digital age, customers transact with faceless businesses. They crave for the good old days when a clerk will wait on them in the store and help them choose what to buy.
The closest experience you can give to that is by writing your copy so that they feel you’re talking to them directly, instead of addressing a massive crowd of subscribers.
That’s why segmenting your email list is important. Email segmentation groups your subscribers based on their interest and where they are in your marketing funnel. This will help personalize the emails you send them.
Tracking your progress
We’ve come to the last part of this guide. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s any less significant than the previous sections.
That’s because it’s here where you and your team can see if all your hard work has paid off, and you’ve reached the goal you’ve set at the beginning.
There are several email marketing metrics you can monitor, but here are the most critical ones:
- Open rate. This is the number of emails you’ve sent that were opened by your subscribers.
- Click-through rate. This shows how many clicked the CTA link in your email copy.
- Unsubscribe rate. You can’t please everyone, so expect that you’ll have some email subscribers that decide they want out.
After gathering the data, compare them to the benchmarks you’ve set at the beginning, and evaluate the results with your team.
For example, if you’ve noticed an incredibly high unsubscribe rate after running your email marketing campaign, ask yourself: Were you sending the emails too frequently? Are you sharing too many promotional emails and not enough valuable content?
These will help you and your team adjust your email marketing campaign and improve on the numbers the next time you run it.
The next step
In this guide, I’ve taught you how to create your very first email marketing campaign from scratch.
Now, the only thing left for you to do is to take action.
Remember, when you’re creating your email marketing campaign, your number one priority is to provide your prospects and leads with valuable and helpful information. Focus on their needs and their problems. These will get them to pay more attention to what you’re offering and be more willing to buy and even recommend others to do the same.