September 18, 2020

Email Marketing Basics: 7 Fundamentals for New Online Business Marketers & Owners

Investing in email marketing makes perfect sense. It has a significant and growing audience—there are 3.7 billion users, and it’s expected to reach more than 4.2 billion by 2022. It also delivers a high return on investment—for every $1 you spend, you can earn $44, and better click-through rates. To achieve the same results, you don’t have to necessarily need to try every email marketing strategy you read on the internet. We’re not saying they are wrong or ineffective, but sometimes marketing challenges like high bounce rates and low click-through rates can be easily resolved by applying email marketing fundamentals. Let’s take a closer look at how going back to the email marketing basics can overcome marketing challenges:

Email Marketing Fundamentals #1: Send a Test Email Before Sending a Campaign

You just sent the latest product promo to your subscribers, only to find out you’ve linked the wrong product—or worse—it’s a dead link. What can you do? Since the campaign is already sent, there’s nothing left to do but ensure the next emails are free from errors.

The best way to prevent email mishaps is by previewing your email and sending a test email. You don’t need a special tool to do this. The majority of email marketing campaign services have a preview option and test email features integrated into their system. You need to use them to your advantage. We understand it’s a tedious and mundane task, but somebody needs to do it—you don’t want to miss out on a sale opportunity.

All you need to do is send yourself the email—that simple! Sending a test email allows you to check and ensure everything is how it should look and working as you intended it to be.

You should verify if:

  • The subject line and preview text coincides with the email’s message
  • It is free from typos and grammatical errors
  • Images are loading and alt text has been added
  • Desktop and mobile are formatted and optimized
  • Links are correct and working
  • HTML and plain-text versions display properly

Email campaign errors are preventable. You need to take email creation one step at a time. Double-check all the time, and you will be fine.

Email Marketing Fundamentals #2: Build a Quality Subscriber List & Regularly Conduct Email Scrubbing

If you are thinking of buying an email list, stop right there. Obtaining a list of email addresses through shady means causes more harm than good for several reasons: You won’t be able to reach and connect with your target customers, you’ll have a high risk of complaints, it will harm the brand and IP reputation, you risk ESP penalization, and it’s ethically wrong.

There’s no shortcut in building your subscriber list. It takes time, effort, and patience. You can jumpstart your database by offering “bonus” content. Let’s say you have a “Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce” blog post. Anyone can access this guide, but if they want a more advanced reading with additional tools and resources, then they have to subscribe to you.

Another way of building an email list is by offering incentives through referral programs. You can convert existing customers to brand advocates. Every successful referral means more subscribers to send your campaigns to.

Here are other ideas:

  • Clear and bold signup CTAs in your website
  • Consider adding a 2-step opt-in and exit pop-up
  • Block a part of your content. Visitors can only read the entire article if they subscribe

Email scrubbing or email list cleaning is reviewing your email list and removing invalid addresses and inactive subscribers. Sure, it will reduce your number of subscribers, but doing so will also yield to spam complaints and bounce reduction, and better reports. You can also save money since email marketing services usually charge you based on the subscriber count or the number of emails sent. When do you know if it’s time for a clean-up? A decline in open and click-through rates and an increase in spam complaints and unsubscribes are indicators.

Email Marketing Fundamentals #3: Create Thought-Provoking & Actionable CTAs

A good call-to-action (CTA) is more than a bold and bright button or a witty text—it directs email recipients to complete an action. It is important to remember that other elements like design and copy can influence a subscriber’s decision. Remember that your CTA acts as the transition between the various stages in the marketing funnel. They help your customer make a purchase, or click the subscribe button. Whatever you want the customer to do, you need to put it in a well-thought-out CTA button.

Think of it this way; an email is like a book. You have the recipient as the protagonist, subject line as the title, design, and content as the first chapters, and CTA as the climax. If the storyline is well-thought-out, compelling, and cohesive, it can influence the protagonist to finish the story, in this case, click the CTA. Here are some ways you can optimize your CTAs:

  • Use contrasting colors to make the CTA stand-out
  • Ensure the size of the CTA is mobile-friendly
  • Keep the text simple yet catchy
  • Keep the CTA above the fold, so recipients don’t need to scroll all the way down

Email Marketing Fundamentals #4: Modernize Your Marketing Funnel

Online marketing has grown in the last decade—there are more tools, resources, guidelines, and strategies than ever before. As it advances and thrives, the customer’s buying journey is no longer linear, and prospects can move back and forth at any stage. In fact, the new email marketing funnel has evolved beyond making a sale. It now puts more value on retaining a customer, building brand advocacy, and more.

For example, previous customers may no longer be active with the campaign, but as soon as you launch a new product, they will re-engage and even buy from you again. Creating your email campaign based on the new hourglass marketing funnel can help drive and convert leads, new or existing, and ultimately increase Return On Investment (ROI).

Email Marketing Fundamentals #5: Make Your Email Campaigns Mobile-Friendly

Your email already looks great on desktop devices then it should be good to go, right? Emails should be mobile-friendly too since out of three email viewing options; webmail, desktop, and mobile devices (smartphone and tablet), people prefer using the latter. It makes perfect sense since handheld gadgets with cellular connectivity are ultra-portable. All you need is internet access or cellular data, and you can get an instant and real-time notification whenever and wherever. Not convinced? Take a look at the statistics: Email open rates on mobile are 59% and 12.4% only on desktop.

What does this mean for you? You need to have your emails mobile-friendly, too. The easiest way to do is adapting to responsive design because it automatically resizes your email according to your recipient’s’ device screen size. Here are other email mobile optimization tips to consider:

  • Keep image file sizes small
  • Make sure all link and CTA buttons are clear and easy to click
  • Always preview the email on different devices and send a test email to yourself

Email Marketing Fundamentals #6: Regularly A/B Test Your Customers’ Interests & Preferences

Do you know what makes your subscribers open and click your email? You can have a data-driven conclusion by conducting split or A/B testing. The concept of A/B testing is simple and straightforward. It involves sending two versions of the same email with one distinguishing variable (ex. subject line) and then conducting a performance or metric comparison.

You can start A/B testing by following these steps:

  • You need to decide what email element you should change and test. Marketers usually test the subject line, personalization, call to action, design and layout, image placement, and even the date and time of the send
  • Choose the number of participants. Do you use your whole database or just a group? Generally, you want to test your entire list, but if your budget is limited, then a test group is more practical. You can also opt for a smaller batch if there’s an extreme email format change or a limited-time discount
  • After running two different versions, the next step is to analyze the metrics. You’ll want to focus on the open rates (number of subscribers that open your email), click-through rate (recipients that clicked a CTA/ or ink), and conversion rates (percentage of recipients that completed an action)

Email Marketing Fundamentals #7: Adding “Human-Touch” Goes a Long Way

While it’s tempting to send all subscribers the same campaign, personalization can bring more click-through and open rates. It can even improve your bottom line as DMA reports that it can generate 58% of revenue. If that doesn’t convince you, there are other compelling statistics of email personalization:

  • 18.8% open rate compared to non-personalized emails (Statista)
  • 27% higher unique click-through rates (Experian)

The easiest way to add a human touch to your campaign is including the recipient’s name in the subject line. You don’t have to input your subscribers’ names though. Many email marketing services have integrated a simplified and fast solution. Depending on your provider, all you have to do is to tick the “personalized option” and choose between the first name or last name. You can even have a subscriber’s complete name in the subject line if you choose so.

There are more effective personalization techniques you can try. One of which is dynamic content. With dynamic content, you don’t have to create one unique and personalized campaign per subscriber. The content of the email automatically changes based on interests and other information of the recipient. This strategy makes personalization fast, efficient, and inexpensive. Here other tactics that you can try:

  • Segment your database according to interests and tailor fit the email content based on the findings
  • Offer personal data and statistics—if you are a service provider
  • Give discounts or coupons based on customer’s behavior


It can be tempting to try every possible email marketing strategy out there. However, sometimes, mastering the email marketing fundamentals first can acquire leads, build brand awareness, engage customers, and stand out from the increasingly competitive field.

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