What Is Email Marketing

A Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing
Oh yeah, this is definitely starting out basic. If you feel like you’re pretty well-versed in the 101 class, feel free to move on to the next section (or stay and read this because everyone could use a refresher). For those of you who don’t, let’s start from the top

In 1998, Internet users sent over 6 billion email messages. TOTAL. Today, the human race sends over 205 billion emails PER DAY. It’s the most-used electronic medium for communication, outpacing every social media outlet by miles.

With numbers like that, email marketing should be a no-brainer gold mine. And yet we’re still surprised that it isn’t a top part of every brand’s marketing strategy. But to get a good understanding of why email marketing is so pivotal these days, we first need to learn what exactly we’re talking about here.

Fortunately for you, we’ve put together this handy guide so that you’ll be able to wow all your friends at your next dinner party. Or bore them because they’re a bunch inerudite philistines.

email growth since 1998


You can thank Gary Thuerk, who is known as the father of spam, for sending the first ever mass email message in 1978. Gary was a marketer who worked for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation). Instead of sending it to one person at a time, he emailed a groundbreaking 393 recipients simultaneously. While it was met with some criticism, DEC also made sales through the promotion.

Fast forward to the 1990s and you have most email being popularized by ISPs like AOL, Mindspring and Earthlink, who began packaging it as an Internet service. It didn’t take long for email marketers to take advantage of this, and even universities were getting on board by sending out mass emails to students and faculty.

In 2000 WhatCounts was born (technically Mansell Group back then). We totally get bragging rights here. We weren’t the only ones though — there was and has continued to be a huge rise in email marketing companies (ESPs), whose main offering, essentially, is to send mass emails.

Also during this time, the first introduction of major anti-spam legislation is introduced and leads to better governance of people’s inboxes. Better protection and more marketers entering the space has lead us to a highly lucrative industry. So, then exactly …

Email marketing is …

… using email as a medium for sending messages meant to market to a specific audience. Sometimes people refer to it as SPAM, but those people are a little right, mostly wrong, and very silly. Marketers typically use email to send promotions, seek after potential business relationships, build brand awareness, and relay topical information.

When marketers talk about growing their list, they are talking primarily about their subscribers or customers email list (we’ll get into that shortly). In either case, email has become a preferred method of communication between brand and recipient in the 21st century. Because of this, and the fact that it’s easy to access and sent immediately, folks prefer to use email over snail mail. Improving, maintaining, and discovering relationships with new subscribers and customers is one its primary uses.

Those considering email marketing often don’t realize the sophistication this medium has reached. 

There are campaign types which further lead to questioning the data and traditional uses for email. Campaigns like welcome series, re-engagement series, and deal emails use intricate data integrations and segmentation to personalize messages in order to boost the engagement.

The future of email will continue to grow as a preferred method of communication. And though we can’t really confirm that because the Magic 8-Ball we use to validate our statements has gone missing, we can for sure say that in the short-term it’s here to stay.

Types of Email Marketing


Transactional are usually a completely automated, receipt-like email that delivers information promised to you from a checkout screen or thank you page. Stores like Target will offer to send you your receipt even while you stand there at the checkout.

These could also be considered promotional emails. They are used to inform people about new products, sales and other updates that are specific to the communication a brand introducing to the recipient. In later years these have become more opt-in focused as CAN-SPAM laws have been enacted to cut down on soliciting-type emails.

Opt-in email is actually just a form of direct email where people subscribe to out of their own free will. It’s a virtual handshake of sorts, where the subscriber agrees to receive the emails. Examples of this would be a weekly newsletter which promises to keep you up-to-date on certain information about an industry, it was forwarded you to you by a friend, you saw a subscribe-here link and signed up. Confirming your subscription to this list

Pros and Cons


  1. Increased measuring of ROI using post-send reporting and email analytics. Such metrics as Open Rates, Click to Open Rates, and Click Rates.
  2. No paper, no stamps, no human delivery required. No dead trees.
  3. Zips across the internet to find the destination seconds.
  4. Your data is forever held in cloud-based storage.


  1. Like trash cans work for direct mail, the spam button works for unsolicited emails. That means you can be blocked from sending to an address forever or your server is blacklisted.
  2. Anti-Spam Laws. You can be sued or fined for breaking them.

Anti-Spam Laws

United States:
CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 marked an important regulatory intervention by congress which makes a breach of the law a punishable by certain number of criteria.

European Union:
European Union Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications was introduced in 2002 which enforces the use of marketing to businesses only.

The Canada Anti-Spam Law (otherwise known as CASL) became law in 2014 and imposes an opt-in requirement as part of the law.

Ready to learn more?

We’re happy to talk about your specific project

This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to improve your website experience and provide more personalized services to you, both on this website and through other media. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy. We won't track your information when you visit our site. But in order to comply with your preferences, we'll have to use just one tiny cookie so that you're not asked to make this choice again.