Marketing by email: Guide to how does email marketing work

There are three main barriers that restrict businesses from starting an email marketing campaign. One, the business doesn’t know what marketing by email is; two, the business doesn’t know why email marketing is important; and, three, the business doesn’t know the answer to ‘how does email marketing work’.

Developing an email marketing strategy can help businesses increase their revenue in a cost-effective and simple way. Whereas, email marketing has the highest return on investments (ROI) compared to other marketing channels. Email marketing boasts an impressive ROI of USD $36 for every $1 spent!

So, it is easy to see why marketing with email is important, but the question of ‘how to market through email’, is a much more difficult question to answer. Moreover, for many business owners and digital marketers, it is difficult to take the next step in the process of marketing by email, as having no experience in it can be a fear-inducing thought that stops you dead in your tracks!

To help you overcome your fear, we have developed this blog to guide you through the process of starting an email marketing campaign. We will cover the following topics:

Table of Contents

Marketing by email: What is email marketing and how does it work?

Email marketing is one component of the broader topic of internet marketing which includes marketing lines such as search engine optimization, content marketing, social media, search engine marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. These marketing lines all add up to your overall website traffic sources.

Overall, email marketing is the process of sending messages directly to email subscribers. There are different types of email marketing strategies that can focus on relationship and trust building, promotional and discount-related emails, information-building messages, and transactional emails. This can include messages focusing on advertisements, business requests, and for soliciting sales.

Marketing through email can be a valuable tool to increase website traffic as well as conversions. It utilizes a business’s existing customer base and email subscriber list to attempt to influence the desired call to action. 

A recent development in email marketing is the need for unique, custom, and personalized emails. People want to feel valued and appreciated. Therefore, consumers now more than ever value a personalized email message, as it shows that the company cares about them, and it helps the email come off as less spammy. We consider this aspect to be one of the most important best practices for email marketing.

Looking for more information about marketing by email? Check out our blog that goes in-depth about what is email marketing.

Why is email marketing important?

We consider there to be two major reasons why email marketing is important. This gives life to the other reasons why email marketing is important as well as the benefits of the marketing channel.

For one, email marketing is easy, and two, email marketing is a cost-effective tool that provides a great return on investment (ROI). Let me elaborate:

Email marketing is easy:

Yes, you read that right, email marketing is easy. Especially in the current day and age, we live in now. It’s easy because of the vast amount of email marketing tools and software which automates the entire process for marketers. Once a person has provided their email, and the content team has produced the emails, there is little else to do. Email automation marketing software will do the rest and send out emails to the person until the end of time!

Marketing automation can help marketers be extremely efficient with sending emails to their email list by sending out customized email templates to the target audience. Moreover, the email marketing automation will send a timely email template such as a welcome email, email newsletter, transactional email or promotional email.

By using marketing automation as an email marketing service, you can engage with potential customers throughout their customer journey.

Email Marketing has a great ROI:

Marketing by email is extremely beneficial for businesses to drive new leads and retain their existing customer base. Whereas email marketing has an impressive ROI as for every USD $1 spent, a typical return on that is upwards of $36. Moreover, by retaining a previous customer a company can look to save substantial money. According to Harvard Business Review, the cost of acquiring a new customer is between five and 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

These stats show just how valuable an email marketing campaign can be. With such great returns, and the ability to preserve existing customer relations, it is difficult not to start using email as a marketing strategy. Finally, establishing an email marketing strategy is relatively cheap if it is done in-house. A midsize business can expect to spend between USD $9 and $1,000 per month depending on the number of emails on their list, and the platform they pick to run their campaigns.

Need a more in-depth account of why is marketing by email important? Have a look at our why is email marketing important blog.

With how easy it is to run an email campaign, the great ROI, and how cheap it is to start, how can you not start implementing email as a marketing strategy? 

Now that we know why we should do marketing by email, let’s take a look at the different types of email marketing we can do.

Types of marketing emails:

There are different types of emails that serve different purposes in email marketing. Depending on where the subscriber is along the buyer’s journey, how the business acquired the email, and the subscriber’s engagement with past emails, different messages should be utilized.

Looking for professional marketing emails? Check out our 5 Professional examples of business emails blogs for some copy and paste ideas!

Below are three different types of marketing emails that should be considered:

Promotional emails:

Promotional emails are commercial-based messages that are designed to drive sales by incentivizing the receiver with a special offer. Moreover, the email is designed to motivate or convince the email subscriber to purchase something.

Promotional emails should have concise calls to action that entice the customer to buy the product or service. Moreover, they should exhibit a sleek and professional design, while also presenting content that is engaging, informative, and focused on only one topic.

The keys to writing promotional emails include:

  • Personalized email subject and content
  • A concise message that provides all the information needed for someone to make a decision about the purchase
  • The email should have a single message that focuses solely on the product or service being promoted. Cross-promotion of other products should be avoided
  • Email should be mobile-friendly as the majority of people check emails on mobile devices
  • Professional content. The message should be clear and have no spelling or grammatical errors. Errors will take away from the message and cast doubt in the mind of the customer
  • Make sure to use the recipient’s and sender’s names and information in the content as well as the subject line to personalize the message and avoid spam filters.

Informational emails:

Informational emails are messages that provide valuable information about the company in general, or about a specific service or product. These types of messages are best used to build a relationship as well as trust with a subscriber. Focusing on increasing the subscribers’ knowledge base, and adding value with no strings attached, can be a great way to nurture a lead for the future.

Providing value and keeping people engaged with the company’s brand is one of the best ways to retain existing customers, and keep people subscribing to an email list. Whereas, when people are bombarded with only promotional messages that add little value, and only try to sell them something, they are more likely to unsubscribe. Moreover, people tend to think of this to be spammy, which might end up damaging the brand image.

Therefore, it is important to provide information that gives insights, tips, or new data. Or emails that provide free service in the form of an e-book, checklist, or downloadable digital assets. No matter what it is, the focus should be to provide value. As mentioned, this builds trust, but it also helps to prove to the subscriber that the company is a thought leader in the industry, and has authority on the topic.

Two primary informational emails that can be used are:


Newsletters are a great way to give consistent updates regarding the business. They should contain news related to the business such as milestones, up-to-date case studies, and new features and modifications. Moreover, it is a best practice for newsletters to be sent at regular intervals, typically biweekly, monthly, or quarterly.

However, as a digital marketer, you don’t have to stick to a generic news-based message. You can get creative with the process and try to engage with your subscribers in a way that represents your brand best. This could be done by telling a story or even highlighting a customer’s recent purchase and how it has changed their lives. 

Try to experiment and make the newsletter stand out. Remember, people are getting countless marketing emails in their inboxes every week, so make yours stand out!


Similar to newsletters, announcement emails should be utilized to provide information on new products and services or new features in your existing products. 

Announcement emails can also be used to highlight any issues that are going on with the website, its services, or its products. Even though it sucks to send these kinds of emails, your customers will appreciate them, as they want to be the first to know about any issues. This will allow your business to be proactive and show that you care about your existing customers and that you are working to fix any problem.

Re-engagement emails:

The final type of marketing email we will highlight is the re-engagement email. These emails are great for connecting with subscribers and existing customers that have not been active in the community or with the product or service the business is offering.

In re-engagement emails, a business can ask for feedback, ask if a subscriber still wants to receive emails, or even send surprises to entice the individual to interact with the email. Different strategies can be used to re-engage subscribers, and almost all of them utilize emotional triggers, like surprises, laughter, or mystery. 

As mentioned, retaining existing customers is 5-25% cheaper than acquiring a new customer. Therefore, while considering how email marketing works, it is important to send re-engagement emails. Marketingsherpa points this out in their report, as on average, marketers lose 25% of their email list each year.

Now that you have an idea of different types of marketing emails, it is time to think about the strategies that we should be using in them. These strategies have been tested by industry experts as well as our team, and they work. There is no reason to guess about ‘How does email marketing work?’, with these go-to email marketing strategies.

Marketing by email strategies:

With over 4 billion email users worldwide, and more than 293 billion emails being sent every day, it is getting harder and harder to stand out. With inboxes flooded with marketing emails, it is essential to use some of the best marketing practices and strategies to get your email seen. 

In this section, we highlight five of the best email marketing strategies to help emails get open and read by subscribers. Additionally, to help businesses manage their campaigns and strategies, we recommend utilizing customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.

Let’s dive into the strategies now:

1. Make sure emails are personalized:

As mentioned above, people’s inboxes are bombarded with emails every day. With more and more companies competing for the attention of potential customers, it can be easy to cast aside as spam. When individuals don’t see a personalized message in the subject line, or the body of the text, a disconnect is made, and they feel unvalued by the company.

Personalization doesn’t have to come in the form of the subscriber’s name only. Another great way to personalize messages is by having them relate to a recent action the subscriber performed, on their last purchased product, or even their demographics. A great example of personalization is when an email is sent on the subscriber’s birthday offering a special deal or discount.

Personalized emails are not only a great way to keep subscribers engaged, but also to build trust, nurture relationships, and increase click-through rates.

2. Send mobile-friendly emails:

As more users transition to mobile devices, emails must be optimized for these devices. Whereas, 41% of all email views are from mobile devices, and out of those, 42.3% of users will delete the email instantly if it is not optimized for mobile.

Numbers don’t lie, and if your emails are not optimized for mobile devices, you may find your emails going straight to the trash. Along with your conversion rate.

A few tips for ensuring emails are optimized for mobile devices:

  • Write concise email content including subject lines and headers. Also, it is a good practice to use a larger font size so readers can easily see the content 
  • Make sure the email has a responsive design. Just as websites should be responsive to the screen size of the device, so should emails.
  • Test emails and ensure they are truly optimized. This includes the call-to-action button as well. It should be easy to see, read and engage with no matter the screen size.

3. Segment your email list:

Segmentation of an email list can mean the difference between sending a targeted email to the right person and sending an email that has zero relevance to someone. By segmenting individuals into various categories, you can increase your conversion rate as you can be positive the email applies to the person.

Not only will segmented emails boost the click-through rate, but they will also keep your subscribers happy as they won’t receive irrelevant emails asking them to buy something that they do not need. 

A few great ways to segment an email list are:

  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Geographical area
  • Sales cycle

4. Test email copy, design, and call to action:

Testing emails before and after sending them provides valuable feedback on how to make data-driven changes to increase their success. 

Before an email is sent, it should be tested to make sure that it is fully optimized for mobile devices, and that all the images, buttons, and text look and function the way they should. Moreover, ensuring that everything is the way it should be, will help maintain the subscriber’s perception of the company.

Testing emails after they have been sent out is a great way to see what styles, color combinations, images, and other elements performed well. A/B testing is a great tool email marketers use to increase the performance of their email campaigns. A famous example of this is when President Barack Obama in his 2012 campaign race, was able to raise an additional USD $2 million in donations by utilizing split testing for his email subject lines.

5. Automate your email campaigns:

Automating emails is a great email marketing strategy and tool as it allows marketing teams to save a significant amount of time and energy. 

A great use of automated emails is trigger-based emails that get sent out based on the user’s behavior or action. An example of these trigger-based emails is thank you emails, transactional emails, and welcome emails. 

By sending automated trigger-based emails companies have seen their open rates shoot through the roof. Whereas, according to Superoffice, their triggered emails generated 5x higher open rates and 15x higher click-through rates!

A great example of an automated trigger message is when a customer fills their shopping cart full of items but ends up abandoning it because of cold feet. A few hours later, an automated email can be sent with the exact item the customer was shopping for, with a discount code attached to it.

Now that we have the types of marketing emails, and the strategies to make our email marketing successful, let’s take a look at how we can evaluate and monitor our email campaigns.

Email marketing KPIs (Key performance indicators):

Using the perfect email type, and the best email marketing strategy won’t make a difference if a business is unable to track its success and collect data from its efforts. Being able to monitor and evaluate the performance of an email marketing campaign is the most important aspect to consider when thinking about how email marketing works.

The first thing to do is set a goal for the email campaign. For example, are you looking to generate more leads? Or convert more of your existing leads into customers. An email campaign can have multiple goals attached to it, the only thing you need to make sure is that they are SMART goals.

Now that you have determined your goals, it is important to establish which metrics will be used to track the progress and success of the campaign. 

Below are five metrics that every email marketer should consider during an email marketing campaign:

1. Click through rate:

Click-through rate (CTR) is probably the most basic metric that email marketers should track. Simply put, a click-through rate for an email is the percentage of people receiving the message that clicked on one or more links in the email.

CTR is an easy way to measure engagement on an individual level and see how that performance changes over time. Moreover, CTR can be a fast and easy way to understand and evaluate the effectiveness of a message, as it typically generates data extremely quickly after the email has been sent out. 

CTR can be calculator with the following formula: (Total clicks or unique clicks ÷ Number of delivered emails) * 100

2. Conversion rate:

Tracking the conversion rate of an email can show how effective the call to action in the message was. The conversion rate can be defined as the percentage of recipients that clicked on a link and completed the desired action in it. 

Conversion rate is the next logical step after tracking the click-through rate. Having a subscriber click on a link is only half the battle, and won’t make much of a difference if they are completing the call to action.

Conversion rate is not only a great way to see how successful your CTAs are, but also to track the overall progress of your marketing efforts. This is because your CTAs will be directly tied to the email marketing campaign’s goal. If a potential lead completes a CTA in an email, it is an indicator that the campaign is achieving its goal.

Conversion rate can be calculator with the following formula: (Number of people who completed the desired action ÷ Number of total emails delivered) * 100

3. Bounce rate:

Bounce rate is the percentage of the total emails being sent out that could not be delivered successfully to the subscriber’s inbox. 

There are two different types of bounce rate emails: a ‘hard bounce’ and a ‘soft bounce’. A soft bounce is when a temporary problem stands in the way of the email being delivered, such as a full inbox or server issue. A hard bounce is when the email is no longer valid or is a non-existent email address.

Hard bounces are important to monitor as these emails should be deleted from the email list as they don’t have any value anymore. More importantly, ISPs (internet service providers) use bounce rates to determine an email sender’s reputation. A higher bounce rate percentage can damage the reputation of the sender.

Bounce rate can be calculator with the following formula: (Total number of bounced emails ÷ Number of emails sent) * 100

4. Unsubscribe rate:

The rate at which subscribers unsubscribe from the email list is another important metric to monitor. By monitoring unsubscribers, a business can track the overall growth rate of their email list. 

For monitoring the growth rate of the email list the unsubscribe rate is great. However, it is not a good metric to understand the overall performance of the email campaign. This is because many subscribers are too lazy or won’t go through the trouble of unsubscribing. They will just stop opening and engaging with the emails they are receiving. Therefore, if you want to know about the performance of the email campaign, it is best to stick to click-through rates and conversion rates.

5. Overall ROI

The overall return on investment will probably be the metric that most interests your team and your boss. Return on investment for email marketing is the total revenue generated from the campaign divided by the total money spent on it.

The ROI of marketing by email is important because, as marketers, we need to know if what we are doing is successful. No company wants to spend money on something that produces no value for them. Therefore, knowing how many new leads were generated, how much potential revenue is the company looking at, and how much actual revenue was generated from the campaign.

By knowing these figures, a marketing team can make an informed decision about the future of their email marketing campaign. Should it be continued, reduced, or increased? With data about the revenue, it is much easier to make these decisions.

Overall ROI can be calculator with the following formula: [(money in additional sales made minus money invested in the campaign) ÷ $ invested in the campaign] * 100

Key takeaways – Marketing by email, how does email marketing work:

Deciding to begin marketing by email as a digital marketer or business can be a big decision. However, it doesn’t need to be a scary one.

If you know how email marketing works, the types of emails, the different strategies that can be used, the different email marketing tools and the email marketing software you can use as well as the metrics that should be tracked, you will be able to establish a solid email marketing campaign! 

Email marketing has the highest return on investment out of all the different marketing channels. This is because emails are a direct marketing tool that allows marketers to target leads with personalized messages. Moreover, these are typically highly motivated leads as they already trust the company enough to have their email.

A successful email marketing campaign is to not just for big businesses either. Even a small business should work on their marketing campaign and begin collecting email addresses from their users. By building an email list, a small business can see major increases in sales by sending targeted and professional emails to their subscribers.

If you are just beginning email marketing and still looking for an answer to ‘how does email marketing work?’ then make sure to reach out to Clear Door SEO.

Clear Door SEO is an Oregon SEO company in Portland that offers services related to all channels of digital marketing including email marketing, on-page, and off-page SEO, website design, and content writing. You can also take advantage of our free website audit tool to get customized feedback on how your website is performing!