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Guide to Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most impactful ways to promote your business. From acquiring customers, to deepening existing relationships, email is a direct, effective way to communicate with different audiences for your brand. 

In this guide, learn why email marketing matters, how to get started building your audience, and some of the best practices for launching your first newsletter.

Why email marketing matters

Through email marketing, businesses can establish direct connections with their audience and strengthen their relationships with customers. 

Email campaigns can also raise brand awareness and give you valuable insights into customer behavior. Part of this effectiveness is due to the way the recipients are gathered. Email lists are permission-based: Subscribers “opt in” (or sign up) by providing their email addresses. This means your campaigns are reaching people who are already familiar with and interested in your business. Your marketing efforts are likely to have a higher engagement rate—and drive more sales—if you're communicating with people who want to hear from you.  

Email marketing isn't just about maintaining a positive relationship with your existing audience—you also want to grow your subscriber base. This requires thoughtful strategies around gathering email addresses and creating a share-worthy email newsletter

Launching email marketing for your business involves goal-setting, strategic planning, and marketing analysis.

Getting started with email marketing

Effective email marketing supports the overall marketing strategies of a business. It forces you to ask pointed questions around your audience, goal-setting, and intent: 

  • What is your business promoting, creating, or selling? 

  • What are the aims of your email marketing campaigns? 

  • What are you looking to communicate with customers? 

  • What does email marketing success look like for you?

Answering questions like these up front can help you put together a strategic plan. After all, you want to design an email campaign that will have the biggest impact on your business or brand—and that can mean customizing emails with specific goals and audiences in mind.

For example, say you've started an online store but also have loyal offline customers because you sell goods in person, too. Not only do you want to nurture your relationship with this supportive base, but you also have an opportunity to grow your online audience. You might choose to send a monthly product roundup email to keep in touch with offline customers and encourage past purchasers to revisit your website.

Learn more about creating and launching email marketing campaigns.

Your email marketing to-do list

Before launching an email marketing strategy, consider your audience. Are these messages geared for all of your subscribers, or are you looking to customize emails for a smaller, specialized email audience segment? Segments are subsets of your entire audience of subscribers that can be defined any number of ways—past purchasing behavior or subscription date, for instance—to enable you to create a specifically targeted message. You'll also need to determine how often you send emails—whether it's daily, weekly, monthly, or less frequently.

Your email design and content should align with your visual branding and audience strategy. For example, if you sell art or photography, you might start a graphics-heavy email that announces when new products are added to the site. A writer might decide to craft an email that includes links to recent work. Most email marketing platforms give you pre-designed templates or the tools to create templates from scratch.

Make sure your inbox etiquette helps your messages stand out. Emails are often your best opportunity to make a good impression with new and existing customers. It’s important to use an email address attached to a custom domain and define a clear sender name so your emails aren't sent to spam folders. People receive hundreds of emails in a given week, and having familiar sender details tells them that an email is relevant.

Implementing a quality assurance (or QA) system for email marketing is also important. You'll want to send yourself a test email prior to sending out messages. That way, you can check the accuracy of your links, ensure the email has an unsubscribe option—something required by law—and analyze the note from a user experience standpoint. Email subject lines are also key: They are often the difference between someone opening your email and deleting a message without reading. 

Learn more about the steps to take before launching email marketing.

Best practices for collecting email addresses

Building mailing lists of email addresses can be time-consuming, but it is a crucial part of marketing success. These lists represent people who have chosen to subscribe to your messages because they like your products, brand, or business.  

You can use multiple methods to collect email addresses. For example, you can gather names and email addresses at in-person events and upload a CSV or spreadsheet of sign-ups. You can also add multiple ways to encourage mailing list sign-ups on your business website. Possible options include a dedicated newsletter sign-up area,  creating a promotional pop-up, or adding a newsletter subscription option at checkout in your online store. Many businesses offer customers a bonus or incentive—like a discount or coupon toward a future purchase, early access to a sale, or a download—in exchange for sharing their email address.

You can also gather email addresses online via other methods. Apps like Bio Sites from Unfold let you share multiple links in bio, including your newsletter sign-up, across your social media platforms. It's also easy to post calls for email sign-ups to increase awareness of your email marketing.

No matter how well-crafted your emails are, some people will unsubscribe. Know what kind of language U.S. law requires businesses to include on emails—and avoid using shortcuts to build your mailing list, such as buying lists of email addresses. This could backfire and cause internet service providers (ISPs) to flag your emails as spam, which can lead to permanent blocklisting—meaning your messages will be blocked from reaching their intended recipients. If and when you start collecting email addresses, be sure to review any applicable laws in your region.

Learn about the different ways to collect emails via your website.

The advantages of automated emails

For small business owners, automated emails are valuable time-savers. Automated emails are messages that you write and schedule to send at set points in the future when recipients have performed a specific action. For example, you could set up an automated email that sends whenever someone opts into your marketing emails, and another automated email when someone purchases an item from your store. Writing those emails and setting their send cadences in advance lets you engage your audience at key moments, while freeing up your time for other work. 

Automated emails are different from other email campaigns because they target specific audiences and actions. First, establish the goals of these emails: welcoming new subscribers, recommending related products, or promoting a new discount. Then, define the specific audience you want to reach. For example, you might send a warm welcome to new email list subscribers, or give a coupon to anyone who just purchased something from your online store. 

Automated emails are especially helpful when you're trying to reach buyers who need a nudge to complete their purchase. Say you've encountered a shopper who recently left their online cart without checking out. You know this person is engaged, because they came to your website and added items to check out—they just didn't actually finish paying for the purchase. You can send potential customers like this an abandoned cart recovery email with a clear call to action (CTA) to complete their purchase, and see if it converts them into paying customers. You can also use automated emails offering a discount or other incentive to encourage buyers to come back to your website.

Learn how to use automated emails to improve your customer experience.

How to launch an email newsletter

An email newsletter is a type of email marketing campaign that provides useful content to your audience, all in the interest of growing your mailing list and building your brand. You might have existing content ready to share with your audience—like blogs, articles, infographics, and social media posts—or you might need to create new content to populate a newsletter.  

If your business website has a blog, you can repurpose content for an email newsletter that showcases recent articles and links back to your website. But you don’t necessarily need a blog to launch a newsletter—many brands and businesses take a hybrid approach. Monthly emails might feature a brief introductory message followed by upcoming product launches, business advice, articles, colorful graphics, GIFs, or links to videos. 

If you’re not quite ready to launch a newsletter, you can continue learning about your audience with broader email marketing campaigns. When you do move forward with launching an email newsletter, start by identifying your goals, audience, and timing, and designing a branded email template. After your first send, you can gather learnings from email analytics to inform your next newsletter.

Small business owners and creators should plan on incorporating email marketing activities into their annual budgets. Most email marketing platforms offer new customers free or low-cost trials to test out their products before making a commitment. Squarespace Email Campaigns offers three free email marketing campaigns to annual subscribers, and four paid plans to accommodate different business budgets. 

Learn best practices for creating a newsletter for your blog or business.

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