Email Marketing: Tips for Getting Started


Most e-commerce businesses have an active email marketing program. But many new businesses don’t.

In this article, I’ll go over the basics of starting an email marketing program.

Build your list

Growing an email subscriber list isn’t easy. It takes time and effort. Email marketing is permission-based – recipients must subscribe. Attract subscriptions by:

  • Place pop-ups on your site for visitors to register,
  • Exchange something of value for a user’s email address, such as early purchase discounts or a free item,
  • Organize a giveaway or a raffle.

Place a newsletter sign-up box prominently on every page of the site. For example, Tight Knit Winery, an American wine distributor, has an obvious sign-up box on its homepage that reads “Join our mailing list.” Many email service providers — Mailchimp, MailUp, and many others — provide sign-up boxes, as do free plugins.

Place newsletter sign-up boxes prominently on the site, as Tight Knit Winery does on its homepage.

Email service providers

Choosing the right email service provider is essential. Capacities, features, and prices vary widely. Matching an ESP to the requirements you have for your program is essential. Consider:

  • Database size. The maximum allowed number of email subscribers. Plan your growth.
  • Frequency. The number of email campaigns you intend to send monthly, quarterly, or annually.
  • Basic Abilities such as the ability to send automated (triggered) emails, dynamic content, and specific reporting or analytics needs.
  • Customer service. Assess the level of support you will need to get started. Is the support self-service, live chat, email phone or something else? Is the assistance free and unlimited?

Some ESPs offer free versions with limited functionality. MailChimp, for example, has a free entry-level plan. More sophisticated ESPs offer extensive automation and integrations with popular services, such as Google Analytics.

Google “email marketing vendors” for potential vendors. Email Vendor Selection also offers a comprehensive list. Avoid signing long-term contracts – you’ll likely switch providers as your email needs change.

Develop a strategy

Consider the purpose of your email program.

  • Is it informative only to update subscribers on the business?
  • Is it purely promotional to sell products and services?
  • Something else?

Each objective probably requires a different tactic. An informational campaign (where the whole update is in the email) is less concerned with clicks to your site. But clicks are paramount for an email promoting products and services.

Determine frequency

When starting out, one to two emails a week will probably provide enough information without being overkill. Email frequency for small businesses is often dictated by available staff – who can compose, test and send the campaign?

Assemble a calendar a month in advance, taking into account holidays or important events. Over time, you’ll know the optimal sending frequency by monitoring opens, clicks, and unsubscribes.

Create a model

Email marketers don’t need to know HTML. Most ESPs offer attractive no-code templates to simplify the writing process. Most of these templates are responsive and automatically adapt to the reader’s device, a necessary feature since most subscribers open emails on their smartphones.

When writing your first email:

  • Use consistent branding, colors and appearance for your website,
  • Use clear and compelling calls to action, enticing the reader to click,
  • Include an unsubscribe link and a physical mailing address.

Last year, I covered ways to create an email template with key conversion elements.

Start sending emails

Now for the fun part: hitting the send button on your first email campaign. Once submitted, statistics on opens, clicks and engagement rates will be readily available via ESP reports.

You want to know more ? Since 2010, I’ve covered seemingly every facet of email marketing — subscriber growth, list hygiene, vendor selection, automation, deliverability, and so much more.


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