Now that you have an understanding of what email marketing is (which we hope you do if you read part one of this guide which if you didn’t why are you on part two go back, how do you start using it? What do you need? What are the elemental factors that make up an email marketing program?

In this section we’ll be covering the basics of firing up an awesome email program. For extra credit, we’ve got this super helpful ebook on email marketing that you should really check out, especially if you’re looking for in-depth techniques to kick your program up a notch or 100.

Overview of what you’ll need:

  1. A Subscriber List
  2. Software
  3. Email Service Provider (ESP)
  4. Content
  5. Design
  6. Coding
  7. Analytics
  8. Strategy

1. List of Subscribers

Pro tip: Before you can start an email list, you have to have someone to send to. When starting a list there are several ways to snag some email addresses most of which will require a little investment in time or money to get things rolling.

One of the most effective ways to capture new emails is to utilize your existing user base. Some great, proven tactics include adding a popup to your website to capture interested users, partnering with other brands to capture leads for a webinar or other promotions, or running a contest while supporting it with ads. At WhatCounts, we caution the use of email list buying as a standard practice. Growing your list organically always leads to higher quality subscriber. You can read our guide on it here.

2. Software

Limits, caps, blacklisted, shared IP… these are some of the terms that make sending to your email list hard. Most people look to ESPs to make sending mass emails accessible and effective — a process also known as bulk-email sending. Most software for email marketing is web-based and can be accessed from any browser.

Email marketing software (like ours!) allows you send hundreds of thousands of emails in minutes — in fact we send over 16 billion emails every year. This number keeps increasing.

This type of software is built uniquely for email. It works by automatically sending emails using direct send and SMTP servers.

To learn more about the feature of email marketing software let’s talk a little about ESPs.

3. Email Service Providers

An ESP is a company that provides the hardware and software needed to send bulk emails. For the ESP to be successful they should follow all Anti-Spam laws, provide a secure infrastructure, and offer competitive features to service the needs of the their customers.

A good ESP takes into account many different factors, among those is deliverability — or why email is shown in the inbox, moved to spam folder, or not making it to its destination at all. Measuring and monitoring this is hugely important to the success of an email campaign, but there are other features as well.

Good ESP Features (or how to send what counts [see what we did there? #someta])

  • Detailed analytics reports on deliverability, engagement (clicks, opens, all that good stuff) and opt-outs.
  • Easy database used to store contact information like name, phone number, or company so campaigns can be created to target and segment based on these attributes.
  • A sending platform that is robust and powerful.
  • A strong unsubscribe record keeper so unsubscribed addresses are no longer sent emails.
  • The ability to easily insert and control templates into your system.
  • The option to send as both plain text and HTML (known as Multi-Part MIME).
  • Using dynamic content inside of your emails in order to personalize your content.

Questions to ask when picking an ESP

  • What is your monthly volume?
  • What types of emails are you sending?
  • Do you want triggered emails (known as marketing automation)?
  • Do you want to A/B test your sends?
  • Are you wanting to personalize your email?
  • Are you wanting to schedule your emails?
  • Full list of questions here

4. Content

spam folder

SPAM!

Why the heck would anyone want to read your emails? Not to sound mean, but this is a question you should ask yourself every time you send your email. People get hundreds of spam email everyday. Just look at David’s spam folder…

what good email looks like

Not spam

…and believe us when we say it’s not easy to get your message to your customers. So this is why a beautiful email, with interesting, click-worthy, engaging content is crucial (we can help with that, by the way). Check out the one below!

You can thank our awesome design and marketing team for putting this bad boy together. It’s quick to visually digest and is focused on providing subscribers with a variety of content that they can whet their mental whistles with. PLUG ALERT: It was also put together and deployed through our new UI, which is something our customers get the amazing pleasure to experience. Especially those who don’t want to build templates from scratch because we’ve given them three to choose from. This allows them to focus more on the message and less on all that technical mumbo-jumbo that tend to cause people to just sort of zone out and lose motivation and go stare into the refrigerator for a little bit.

But we digress. Moving on …

5. Design

It’s true, bad design can get you ignored — and there are some pretty awful offenders out there. As you ramp up your list, you should always keep in mind the look and feel of the email.

Some brands need to be on the forefront of design, while others can be seen as more “informational”.

great email design example

Litmus Newsletter

Litmus, one of our partners, has fantastic email design, because, well, they have to. Like us, they market to marketers, so it’s important to be on top of their game here.

Simple bullet point email design

SER Daily Newsletter

Other brands like Search Engine Roundtable simply list bullet points from a curated set of articles on their site. And guess what, it’s amazing:

Clearly, depending on your brand’s message, the design may mean very different things for your company.

6. Coding

It’s a necessary evil. Every template uses HTML and you need to have a basic understanding of what’s going on under the hood. If you don’t, your awesome looking template could look like garbage on someone’s dated Outlook account.

email codingIt’s suggested to brush up on your HTML and CSS so you can, at the very least, understand something like…

<a style=”color:blue;”>this</a>

Responsive design

You’ve heard this term before. Yes, it has to do with how you code your templates. This is 100% necessary in today’s mobile-driven world. Check out our blog posts on the subject to learn more.

To wrap up, as an ESP, we focus highly on the performance of our coded templates in all major email clients. We also use fluid responsive design which is the best for email.

8. Analytics

Those pretty dashboards and graphs actually serve a purpose. You’re probably hoping to slide by without using them. Well, tough-luck. If you want to be a successful email marketer, then you need to keep track of your successes and failures.

For instance, why the low open rates? Probably a bad subject line. Low click rates? This is a sign of bad content.

Analytics is where you can see the metrics that will show you the insights that matter. If you need help with implementation, we’re more than happy to lend a hand.

9. Strategy

Email marketing strategy. Right, probably the most generic sounding jargon ever. You should always be thinking about your email marketing strategy. There are two main times to revise your strategy.

Pre – Campaign Launch

This is the time before you implement your strategy. Start with your research and planning. Are you taking advantage of holiday sales like July 4th or Black Friday? Are you targeting dog owners birthdays? Are you targeting newlyweds?

Also, you want to make note of valuable metrics (key performance indicators or KPI) which can affect the content of a send in terms of call-to-action and intent. The reason you want to decide these metrics upfront is so the narrative of how your campaign has some context. This is important because a metric alone, doesn’t mean anything. It should represent the campaigns purpose as a whole.

For example, lets define a goal: a conversion rate of 2.5% based on our average of previous campaigns at 2% is considered good. An informative summary of your campaign would then sound much like this, “The campaign had a Conversion rate of 3% which is considered a great result based on the predefined KPIs”.

Post – Campaign Launch

Review your campaign successes and failures. Look at week over week, month over month, year over year, and form benchmarks to lead your program in the right direction. Look at which campaigns performed well and which didn’t to consistently redefine and inform your pre-campaign launch strategy.

Previously, we said an example of a metric to look at after a campaign could be conversions. Well, there are many different metrics which all tell a story of their own. If you have a newsletter that goes out weekly, you can adapt it over time to meet specific criteria that will help you deliver better content based on the metrics you get every week.

For another example, say you notice one of your transactional emails (an ecommerce receipt email) has your social profiles linked at the bottom and because of the design, you have a whopping 30% click through to your Facebook account. This sounds like a perfect place to include a newsletter opt-in form as part of your future email sends.

You really want get things moving? Continue on to chapter 3.