Email Marketing 101: The Beginner’s Guide

Your inbox is full of businesses and companies trying to sell you their products or services. They might try to convince you that you just need whatever it is they’re selling. Whether it’s sending you copious discount codes or reminding you about a product you might be running out of, they’re always there. Sometimes, multiple times a day.

You might wonder why larger companies waste time on email marketing. You sure don’t open the emails and don’t care about the deals, right?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) of $44 for every $1 spent. Additionally, in 2019, there were over 3 billion email users worldwide. I can only imagine that number has increased to somewhere around 4 billion.

So, do I finally have your attention?

This blog post is going to do two things. First, I’m going to give you the rundown of email marketing, complete with a list of email marketing platforms that you can use with and without a website at the end of this post. Second, I’m going to show you how to start email marketing by breaking it down into actionable steps.

What is Email Marketing?

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), email marketing is one form of digital marketing, referring to the use of email to attract, engage, and communicate with potential and existing customers.

How can email marketing benefit me?

When it comes to standing out, email marketing allows you to do just that. It stands out against other digital marketing channels for a number of reasons.

1. Direct audience access

Unlike social media platforms, where your reach is dependent on algorithms and ad spending, email marketing gives you direct access to your audience’s inbox. This means you can communicate with your subscribers without any intermediaries, ensuring your message gets delivered and seen.

2. More control and stability

With email marketing, you have full control over your campaigns, from the content and design to the sending timing. You’re not at the mercy of changing algorithms or platform policies, giving you greater stability and autonomy in your marketing efforts.

3. Personalization and targeting

Email allows for highly personalized and targeted messaging based on subscriber data such as demographics, preferences, and behavior. This enables you to tailor your content to individual subscribers’ specific interests and needs, increasing engagement and relevance.

4. Measurable success

Email marketing provides robust analytics and tracking capabilities, allowing you to measure the success of your campaigns with precision. You can track metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and more, giving you valuable insights into subscriber engagement and campaign performance.

5. Cost-effective with high ROI

Compared to traditional marketing channels like print or TV advertising, email marketing is extremely cost-effective. With low overhead costs and high returns, it offers an impressive ROI, making it a smart investment for businesses of all sizes.

This infographic from the american marketing association describes various terms relevant to email marketing

Image by American Marketing Association.

How can I start email marketing?

Starting with email marketing might seem daunting, but with the right approach and tools, it can be a highly effective way to engage with your audience and drive business growth. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

1. Define your goals

Any time we talk about starting a new marketing strategy or marketing plan, you always want to start by identifying your goals. It’s crucial to define what your objectives are, determine what you want to achieve with your campaigns, and how you will achieve those goals. Whether it’s increasing sales, driving website traffic, or building brand awareness, you want to set SMART goals and outline your tactics.

2. Build your email list

Your email list is the foundation of your email marketing efforts. You build your list by collecting email addresses. You can do this by asking website visitors to sign up, encouraging your social media followers to join, and making sure your existing customers know about your email list as well. Sometimes, you may need to offer special items to entice your audience to join your email list. Offer incentives such as discounts or freebies to encourage sign-ups.

3. Choose an email marketing platform

There are so many email marketing platforms available, ranging from beginner-friendly options to advanced automation tools. Some popular choices include MailChimp, HubSpot, Marketo and GetResponse. But we’ll go over your options in the next section. Research different platforms to find one that suits your needs and budget.

4. Create Compelling Content

Content is imperative when it comes to email marketing. This is where you want to ensure that your copywriting skills are airtight. Craft engaging and relevant emails that provide value to your subscribers. Personalize your messages based on subscriber preferences and behavior to increase engagement.

5. Use eye-catching templates

Most email marketing platforms allow you to design visually appealing email templates that reflect your brand’s identity. They will also typically have templates that you can use if you’re stuck and don’t know where to start. Use images, colors, and branding elements to make your emails stand out in the inbox.

6. Segment Your Audience 

Most email marketing platforms allow you to divide your email list into segments based on demographics, interests, or purchase history. This helps you to send targeted messages to different groups of subscribers, increasing the relevance and effectiveness of your messages.

7. Automate Your Campaigns 

After segmenting your audience, save yourself some time and streamline your email marketing efforts by automating certain tasks, such as welcome emails, follow-ups, and re-engagement campaigns. Platforms like Creative Mail through WooCommerce allow you to set up automated workflows to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time.

8. Test and Optimize

As you send your emails over time, you need to continuously monitor the performance of your email campaigns and experiment with different elements, such as subject lines, CTAs, and send times. Most platforms allow you to use A/B testing to compare different versions of your emails and optimize for better results.

9. Comply with Regulations

Ensure that your email marketing practices comply with relevant regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA, to protect subscriber privacy and avoid legal issues. You also want to avoid seeming like a spammer.

10. Track and Analyze Results

Finally, you can begin measuring the success of your email marketing efforts by tracking key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. Use the analytics tools provided by your email marketing platform to gain insights into subscriber behavior and campaign performance.

4 Email Marketing Platforms for You to Get Started With

1. Mailchimp

Mailchimp, one of the most well-known, top-tier email marketing platforms, is celebrated for its user-friendly interface, simplifying the creation of automated campaigns. Renowned for its affordability, it offers a free forever plan for one user with up to 1,000 email sends monthly. Paid plans start at $13 per month for up to 5,000 monthly email sends. It also provides robust analytics and automation features to optimize your campaigns.

Mailchimp pros:

  • User-friendly UI with helpful tips and best practices
  • Includes customer journey mapping, list segmenting, A/B testing, and more
  • Scalable pricing

Mailchimp cons:

  • Relatively limited free plan compared to the other options on this list

2. HubSpot

HubSpot offers a comprehensive suite of marketing tools, including email marketing, CRM, and automation. With HubSpot, you can create personalized email campaigns, track engagement, and nurture leads throughout the buyer’s journey.

HubSpot pros:

  • Generous free plan
  • Great for segmentation with HubSpot CRM features

HubSpot cons:

  • Sub-par email templates
  • Expensive upgrade and the full suite can be overwhelming

3. Constant Contact 

Constant Contact, a veteran in the email marketing industry, is renowned for its user-friendly interface, extensive template library, and detailed analytics. While not the most budget-friendly, starting at $12 per month for up to 500 contacts, its reasonable pricing makes it accessible. It is a beginner-friendly email marketing platform that offers customizable templates, list segmentation, and automation tools. It also provides real-time tracking and reporting to measure the success of your campaigns.

Constant Contact Pros:

  • Awesome customer support options
  • Low-priced plans
  • AI-generated content available
  • 300+ integrations
  • Beginner-friendly

Constant Contact Cons:

  • Only subject line A/B testing
  • Limited users on most plans

4. MailerLite

MailerLite is a top choice for email marketing due to its affordable plans and standout features. With options like Facebook integration for precise targeting and the ability to sell digital or paid subscriptions, it offers unique benefits. Their free forever plan supports up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends monthly. Paid plans start at just $9 per month for up to 500 subscribers with unlimited monthly email sends. Explore whether MailerLite meets your needs and budget in our comprehensive review.

MailerLite Pros:

  • Free forever plan for up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month
  • Annual and monthly billing options
  • Top-rated customer support

MailerLite Cons

  • Not very intuitive for beginners
  • Not as user-friendly as top competitors


This digital world is dominated by ever-changing algorithms and fleeting trends, which is why email marketing has remained at the forefront of great digital marketing strategies. By understanding the fundamentals of email marketing, selecting the appropriate platform, and developing engaging campaigns, you can harness the power of email to drive business growth and further connect with your audience on a deeper level.

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