Email Marketing: Basics & Tips

Mex Allen

Email marketing is one of the best-known and most important online marketing channels. And even if e-mail has often been predicted to die soon, the numbers speak for themselves: According to current projections, almost 320 billion e-mails will be sent worldwide in 2021. Email marketing also continues to show solid gains. But what does that mean in practice?

In this article you will learn more about what email marketing is, what types of advertising emails there are and how you can plan, implement and test your own newsletters and other email campaigns.

What is email marketing?

E-mail marketing is an online marketing measure and is part of direct marketing.

E-mail marketing is understood to mean all marketing measures that address a customer personally by e-mail and require interaction.

“Email marketing is part of direct marketing and is based on working with digital messages. E-mail marketing is used to make customers aware of new products, services or offers and to strengthen customer loyalty.”

Definition of e-mail marketing from the lexicon of the start-up scene

What are the goals of email marketing?

Email marketing can have different goals and can be divided into three main areas:

  1. Generate traffic for your own website or online shop
  2. Strengthen customer relationships or win back customers
  3. Build expert status

In the business-to-consumer(B2C) sector, e-mail marketing is mainly used to offer purchase incentives in the form of discounts and test offers and thus increase conversions to your own shop.

In the business-to-business (B2B) sector, email marketing is used to build long-term and loyal customer relationships.

What are the advantages of email marketing for companies

In addition to good old e-mail, there are a number of other and more "modern" marketing channels such as social media, influencer marketing and messenger marketing. So why should you do email marketing at all? The short answer is: because e-mail is fast, simple and effective - at a comparatively low cost.

"When given the choice between a new contact on your email list and a new Facebook fan, always choose email." – Nate Elliot, Founder and Marketing Analyst

The advantages of email marketing at a glance:

  • Low cost
  • Direct, personal communication with target groups and customers
  • Emails can be customized
  • Little technical understanding required
  • In a few seconds with the customer
  • Relatively independent of third parties, customer data can be easily exported
  • The success of individual mails or mail campaigns can be easily measured

What types of email are there?

The versatility and flexibility of email also means that email marketing can be used in different forms and for different purposes. In general, a distinction is made between three types of e-mails:

  1. transactional emails,
  2. marketing mails
  3. Automated emails

The biggest difference between these e-mail types lies in their technical implementation .

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are "personal" emails based on an action by the user. The so-called triggers for a transactional email include:

  • purchase of a product
  • Click button
  • filling out a form, etc.

The aim of transactional emails is to provide the user with the information they have requested themselves - such as a new password, a link to activate the user account, a boarding pass or a shipping confirmation.
Order confirmation email from an online shop: Example of a transactional email

In German e-commerce, the boundaries between transactional emails and marketing emails are fluid. In most cases, a purchase or shipping confirmation is accompanied by reference to products that could also be of interest or that other customers are interested in (upselling or cross-selling).

Marketing Emails

Marketing emails are emails that are sent to many people on an email list, either because they have subscribed to content from a company or because they have previously purchased a company's products or services. Marketing e-mails are written by hand and sent by a person at a specific point in time.

There are different types of marketing emails - depending on what goals you want to achieve.


A key component of email marketing is the newsletter . It is aimed at existing customers and potential customers who want to learn more about a company. The sending of newsletters is particularly widespread in e-commerce, but also, for example, in agencies and in the tourism industry.
Example of a newsletter email template created with Mailjet email editor

Depending on the objective, the content of a newsletter can vary. In the B2C area, the following topics are often discussed:

  • Alert customers to special offers
  • new products
  • Events
  • Company related news
  • customer surveys
  • Email Courses
  • Retargeting: shopping cart abandonment
  • Seasonal Tips

Since every e-mail in newsletter marketing is sent to an entire contact list and therefore has several hundred or even thousands of recipients, one sometimes speaks of mass e-mails or "bulk mailing". Despite the negative sound, such mass e-mails are not spam e-mails that end up in the inbox without being asked - the term is correct in terms of content and is actually neutral.

direct mail

Direct mailings are used whenever you want to address customers personally and aim for a specific interaction . For example, if you want to invite a customer to a seminar, draw attention to your booth or present a new product line, direct mailing is the right choice.

Direct mailings are often without great design and therefore do not look like a mass e-mail like the classic newsletter does.
Direct mailing example: Invitation to a webinar by Maik Pfingsten

Automated emails

Automated emails are not actually an email type, but a hybrid of transactional and marketing emails . In terms of content, email automation belongs more to the field of marketing emails. What they have in common with transactional emails is that they are event- and behavior-based, created once and sent automatically.

These automated e-mails are sent automatically after a certain activity, for example to welcome customers after they have registered , to remind them of the products that remain in their shopping cart or to remind them of the company and the account they have created after a long period of inactivity .
Automated welcome email from Mailjet by Pathwire

Define and achieve email marketing goals

To sum up: There are different types of emails and different goals that can be achieved with an email. But which e-mails are suitable for which goals?

A lot is possible with email marketing – but not everything makes sense. Before you start an e-mail campaign, your e-mail marketing strategy should be in place: determine which goals you want to achieve and what resources - in terms of time, staff and money - are available. The nature and content of your marketing emails should be aligned with the previously established goals.

Goal 1: Generate traffic

Would you like to generate more traffic for your website or online shop? Then marketing emails with links are a good option. You can link to public content as well as so-called gated content. The user can only download this after entering his personal data.

In any case, it is important that your e-mail offers a clear incentive to click on the links – for example in the form of a prominent call-to-action (CTA).

Goal 2: Strengthen customer relationships

E-mails with the aim of strengthening customer relationships usually have a personal address and refer to specific occasions . Typical examples of event-related marketing mails are:

  • birthday emails
  • Holidays like Christmas, New Year, Easter
  • anniversaries
  • Special days like Mother's Day, Father's Day, Women's Day etc.
Example of an event-related email from smartphoto

Product-related marketing emails can also help update customers, inspire trust, and deepen customer relationships. Exclusive information about upcoming products and services or a look behind the scenes of the company are popular and well-functioning content.

Goal 3: Build expert status

Strictly speaking, the reputation as an expert for a certain product or service is also an aspect of customer loyalty. However, e-mails with the aim of building up expert status often contain more and more specific information than event-related e-mails. The aim of such e-mails is to provide users with important information that they would otherwise not receive in this form. This can be:

  • Excerpts from market research and analysis
  • Presentation of trends, new technologies and study results
  • expert opinions
  • Summaries of developments in a specific field
  • prospects and assessments

So, to sum up, there are a multitude of possibilities in email marketing. Time for a few tips on what to look out for in practice!

Email Marketing Campaigns: Best Practice

You may only send out one marketing email per week, but many of your customers receive five, ten or more such emails every day. So that your e-mail is not sorted out directly, you should take the following things into account when creating it.

  1. Descriptive subject line: The subject should be short and at the same time provide an incentive to open the email.
  2. Clear content: Keep the text short and clear and get straight to the point. Don't force the user to scroll.
  3. Clearly visible CTA: The call-to-action should be as high as possible. Ideally, it should be contrasting in color.
  4. Good images: Images or graphics should match both your brand and the topic of the email. Pay attention to the resolution and the associated loading time.
  5. Responsive design: Design your email so that it is displayed correctly on desktop, tablet and smartphone.
  6. Sending time: Use A/B tests to test the best time to send certain emails.

Keep your audience in mind when planning your marketing emails. The interests of your users are just as important for successful mailings as your brand voice.

Email Marketing and GDPR

Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018, companies are legally obliged to inform users why their data is collected and how it is used. In practice, this means that existing and potential customers must both agree before you can send them marketing emails.

What initially sounds like a limitation can also be an advantage for direct marketing: you know with certainty that the customers you have written to have a fundamental interest in your offers.

For marketing emails and newsletters:

  • Each email should include your company's name and email address.
  • Subject lines should provide information about the content of the email - for example, make discount offers recognizable.
  • Newsletters must offer users a visible option to unsubscribe from the newsletter.

These are just some basic tips for creating GDPR compliant marketing emails. We recommend that you do some research on this topic before planning your email marketing efforts. Our information on the GDPR in email marketing provides you with detailed answers.

How successful are your email campaigns?

No matter how good your email marketing tips is, if you don't know if and how often your emails are actually read, you may still lose a lot of conversions.

Measuring and analyzing the success of your e-mails helps you to continuously optimize your campaigns and increase your ROI in the long term. The most important key figures in this context are opening rate, click rate and conversion rate.

Email marketing statistics from Mailjet by Pathwire with an overview of different campaigns.

open rate

The e-mail open rate describes the proportion of delivered e-mails that were opened at least once. Whether users open your e-mail can depend on various factors:

  • Choice of subject line
  • interests of the users
  • awareness of the brand
  • When the email will be sent
  • Frequency of marketing emails
  • In general, a good open rate in email marketing is between 20 and 25%.

click rate

The click-through rate is the proportion of opened emails that were clicked on at least once. In addition to the opening of the mail, a first interaction is also measured here. Crucial for a good click rate is, for example:

  • whether the e-mail corresponds to the interests of the user
  • whether the design and the address convince the user
  • How high a good click-through rate is depends on the topic and the industry - as a rule, click-through rates for marketing emails are between 3 and 7%.

conversion rate

The conversion rate indicates the percentage of users who have performed a desired action, such as making a purchase or subscribing to the newsletter. Put simply, it's the users who responded to your CTA. This is one of the reasons why a good CTA is so important in marketing emails.

Since the conversion rate is an action on your site or in your shop and not in the email itself, you can only measure the conversion rate if there is an interface between your email marketing and your side there. This connection is easily possible via most e-mail marketing tools.

Email Marketing Tools

Have you decided on a strategy and your email marketing goals? Then a professional tool will help you to send your marketing emails and transactional emails.

There is a wide variety of email marketing software out there. Take some time to compare vendors' features and prices to find a tool that meets your needs and fits your budget.

Requirements for an email marketing tool

In detail, the requirements for a tool always depend on your goals and the technical requirements - i.e. on the systems to which you want to connect your e-mail marketing tool. In principle, however, a professional provider should fulfill the following points:

  • Security and privacy: GDPR compliance
  • Easily create and edit email templates in Notepad
  • Integration into your CRM as well as your CMS or shop system
  • tracking
  • A/B testing
  • Segmentation and Personalization
  • Powerful (sending a large number of emails)

Once you have defined which requirements your e-mail marketing software must meet, you can compare the prices and services of the various providers and packages.

Test your tool!

You can test many tools in advance in a demo version to get an impression of the possibilities. Once you have decided on a provider: Keep testing! You probably won't create the perfect campaign or send the best email right away.

With the help of tracking, evaluations and tests, you can find out what interests your target group, which e-mails are opened most frequently and which links are clicked on.
Remember: It's a process! The main thing is that you have discovered the promising channel of e-mail marketing and get started.

Want to learn more about making your email marketing a success? Check out our Email Growth Playbook: the database offers over 60 tactics to help you increase the performance of your email campaigns.

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Mex Allen is one of Online Marketing Expert at MexSEO, a digital marketing agency that seeks to educate companies what they need to know about modern-day marketing,

Los Angeles County, CA

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