Email Marketing: A complete guide

Learn all about how to get the best ROI out of your email marketing campaigns with effective email marketing. In this comprehensive guide

We’ll cover:
What is email marketing?

Simply put, email marketing is the use of email to deliver marketing messages to customers. It has the great advantage of being flexible, and thus customizable for audience segments. Most people are reachable via email, and it is a cost-effective, paperless means to get messages across. 

Email marketing can take many shapes and forms, and thus requires a solid plan to be effective and generate the maximum ROI for a business. In this guide, we will be taking you through all the ways to ensure that your email marketing plan has a bedrock foundation and how to manage it effectively throughout its lifecycle.

Email marketing benefits

Email is a great way to build relationships with your customers. Customers rarely give out information easily, and that includes email addresses. So if you have your customers’ email addresses and their permission to email them, then you have a golden opportunity for your business. Here are some of the benefits of email marketing, when it is used well:

Immense ROI
Global and universal reach
Top means of communication
Technology agnostic
Builds customer relationships
Boosts sales

How to do email marketing?

Create an email marketing strategy

There are multitudes of possibilities with email marketing, and it can be quite overwhelming to grapple with at first. However, like most things, email marketing is best tackled with a plan.

Once you have a plan in place, it is a question of filling in the blanks and tweaking it to suit your needs, based on the feedback you receive. 

Email campaigns 

Just as with advertising campaigns, email marketing is broken down into email campaigns. Each campaign is a self-contained unit and has one main goal. A campaign may, and usually does consist of multiple emails sent over a period of time. An example of this could be the announcement of a new feature. A campaign could comprise an announcement email, a reminder email, and a tutorial email.

Set up your structure

This is arguably the most important step in your email marketing plan because it forms the foundation for everything that comes hereinafter. 

Who is your audience?: As this is a primer on email marketing, the audience will most probably be your customer base. However, if you don’t have a niche product, chances are that your audience or customer base consists of many different types of people. This is where personas come in. Define each individual type of persona, with a list of characteristics, demographics, and behavioral patterns. 

What are your goals?: It is easy to pick a generic business goal like “increase sales”, in this case, however, you are better off thinking of something more specific. Look at your analytics and see which of those numbers can be improved by an email marketing campaign. 

Create a content strategy

In order to achieve your goals for email marketing, you need to have an idea of what you plan to send. This can vary dramatically from goal to goal, ranging from transactional emails to marketing emails, and those that fall in the intersection of both. Draw up a list of what you would like to communicate with your customers, and match them up to the goals that you defined earlier.

Create your email marketing campaign

Now that you have planned your strategy well, we’ve come to the brass tacks of your email marketing strategy: develop the content. The content is what forms the crux of your communication with your customer, and thus must be clear, engaging, valuable, and built on the foundation of all your strategies. The content will cause the customer to either engage with your brand or not. That is how critical it is to your overall email marketing strategy. 


Once you have zeroed in on a good email marketing software for email delivery, you need to set a schedule for delivery. It is best to stagger email delivery in batches, and keeping in mind customer time zones. Your marketing automation suite will be able to suggest the best slots for delivery, based on a number of factors and previously collected data. 

Review the analytics

Your suite’s dashboard will generate statistics for your campaign. There are certain KPIs that you will need to monitor, and which will paint a picture of either success or failure of your campaign. We describe each of these metrics in detail, later on in this article. 


As is the case with any endeavor, don’t expect to get your email marketing campaign perfect the first time around. With luck and a great deal of planning, you can reasonably expect it to be fairly good. However, the true key to cracking a successful email marketing campaign is to keep on innovating and improving, using the insights gleaned from many sources to refine each subsequent time.

Types of email for marketing

Broadly speaking, there are two types of emails that you can send when conducting an email marketing campaign: engagement and transactional emails. A single email can have elements of both categories to varying degrees. This isn’t a rare occurrence, and essentially the best practices of both categories apply in those cases. We’ve looked at these categories briefly, before talking more about other, more specific types of emails:

Engagement emails

Think of these emails as the ones you send to keep a customer interested in your brand – as the name implies, engaged. Engagement emails are sent to build relationships with customers and as a branding exercise. The idea is to create pleasant connotations of the business with the customers and keep the thoughts of the brand fresh in their minds. Typically, engagement emails have more creative license with their content.

Transactional emails

These emails contain all the essential communication emails that a customer needs to receive from you. A purchase confirmation and a password reset email are typical examples. The email is triggered by customer action and then sent automatically. The information contained within a transactional email needs to be to the point and easily visible. Although there is no bar on being creative with transactional emails, the design shouldn’t overpower content to make it confusing.

Engagement Emails Transactional Emails
Used for branding Used for essential communication
Creative Information-driven
Can be triggered by customer action, but also can be sent in campaigns Always triggered by customer action
  • Welcome emails
  • Tutorials + tips
  • Customer stories
  • Shopping cart abandonment reminders
  • Time-sensitive promotions
  • Purchase confirmations


Quite a few email marketing campaigns straddle both engagement and transactional emails. We’ve drilled down further into some of the more popular types of email campaigns. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, but intended to give you an idea of possibilities that can be used to use email marketing effectively for conversions. 

Lead nurturing emails

When visitors or casual readers sign up to receive email newsletters, you’ve successfully converted them into leads – which are essentially potential customers – for your sales team. This is where a lead nurturing email campaign kicks in. Using these emails, you build trust by providing consistent value.

Abandoned cart emails

There may be many reasons why people abandon their purchases. It can still be turned into an opportunity to reclaim the lost sale. Following up will either convert the intention into an actual purchase – which happens a significant amount of the time – or allow you to discover what the reasons for the abandonment were.

Retention or reactivation emails

Many types of emails come within this umbrella term of retention, and it can be argued that retention emails are another term for engagement emails. They try to draw the customer to engage further with the brand. Quite often, retention emails are heavy on the value proposition of the product and triggered by a lack of interaction with the product.

Onboarding emails

Here, we are talking about a set of marketing emails sent out to a subscriber. The overarching goal is to convert the subscriber to a paying customer and is done via a set of emails. The typical components of an onboarding email campaign include welcome emails, feature introduction, customer success stories, and purchase emails. 

Feedback emails

Although the concept of feedback emails is fairly straightforward, the power they pack is not to be taken lightly. Apart from the engagement aspect with the customer, it is a way to get quality and actionable feedback on the product. Feedback emails also project the business intention to provide good service to customers – a favorable impression that encourages repeat custom.

As we said before, this is not an exhaustive list of the types of emails that can be sent to the customer. Emails are a flexible and highly customizable channel for customer interaction, and there are always new ideas on how to leverage it better and more creatively.

Email marketing metrics that matter


How many of the emails you send reach the inboxes of the intended recipients? Evidently, this is by far the most important metric, since it sets the foundation for all other metrics. If your email marketing campaigns do not reach the customer in question at all, then all other metrics are meaningless. 

Open rates 

How many of the emails that you send are being read? There are two factors that influence a customer when making a split-second decision to read an email or not: the from field and the subject line. Consider carefully who the email is going from – is it the founder, or the support team – because it impacts the perceived importance of the communication. 

Clickthrough rate

How many people click on the CTA in your email? The entire purpose of the email marketing campaign is to get the customer to click on the button in the email. This factor is heavily based on the content of the email. Your clickthrough rate is indicative of your persuasive power and the quality of your content. Here, your options and potential is practically limitless, so you have great flexibility to create something remarkable and different. 


This metric needs to have the effect of you taking a step back and taking stock of your process. An unsubscribe is a lost connection with a customer. In a sense, the relationship between the business and that individual has become distant, which is far from ideal. However, in the grand scheme of things, don’t be disheartened by the odd unsubscribe. Just strive to do better; unsubscribes are better than being marked as spam.

Bounce rate

How many of your emails aren’t even reaching the spam folders of email addresses? This is a signal to say that those email addresses may be defunct, and should be removed from your list. It is an opportunity to do a little housekeeping and keep your list current and up to date. 


Email marketing automation

Email marketing delivers high ROI at the best of times, but there are ways to refine your process even further, so you spend even less time actually drafting out emails. Automation is the way to do this. 

Once you have a grasp of what works for your audiences – segmented, of course – you can then set up elaborate user journeys through your website.

These journeys then enable to you send emails at various points in that user’s journey, making it highly targeted, timely, and relevant for your customer, and resource-efficient for you. Autoresponders are another form of email marketing automation. A purchase on your website can trigger a series of emails, and so too can a download.

A good email marketing service will have an automation builder as an integral part of the product. Ideally, an automation builder will allow you to define salient variables, such as segments or triggers, and assist in the personalization of the campaign emails.

The possibilities with automation are limitless, and can really ramp up your marketing effort, without requiring too much input of resources.  Refer to our post if you want to get started with email marketing automation.

Drip email marketing

In primers on how to use email marketing effectively, you will often come across the term: drip email marketing, or perhaps even: drip campaigns. What do they mean? 

As the name may imply, a drip marketing campaign involves sending a customer small bits of information one at a time. The overall campaign has a goal, but the delivery system is piecemeal. The idea is to nudge the customer gently towards your goal using a steady stream of information. 

Drip email marketing is a form of email marketing automation, as the emails that are sent out are prewritten. As a new customer signs up to a service, for example, they may receive emails every day for 6 days – a welcome email and a bunch of primers on getting started. This is a classic case of a drip campaign. 


How to choose an email marketing service for your business?

While it is up to you to get email subscribers and create engaging content, the logistics of your email marketing has to be carried out by a proper email marketing tool. It is vital to opt for an email marketing software that ensures optimum email deliverability and has enough features to give you bang for your buck.  Additionally, emails are often sent out by different management software platforms, a situation that creates an inefficient system for emails.

So what features should you be looking for? It depends on what stage of business operations you are in, so we’ve divided this list into bare essentials for solopreneurs and startups, scaling up for SMBs, and fully-fledged suites for enterprises. 

Bare Essentials Scaling up to the next level Enterprise Level
Good deliverability Segmentation capabilities Unlimited subscribers
Contact management
  • Email marketing templates
  • Easy to build opt-in forms
  • Easy to build landing pages
Spam filtration 
Performance tracking Social media integration Multivariate testing
Good standing with ISPs Send time optimization Compliance guidelines

Split testing capabilities Automation Support

Integration with other tools, or a complete suite in itself

Advanced reporting

Freshmarketer - The Powerful Email Marketing Software


Freshmarketer is a robust email marketing automation software for all your email needs. Built for marketers, it can help you create, design, and deliver beautiful email campaigns that are highly-targeted and personalized. Freshmarketer helps you automate your entire email marketing function and enables better communication between your sales and marketing teams.


FM dashboard

What can Freshmarketer do for your email marketing?

Capture leads from your website

With Freshmarketer’s web form tracking, easily capture the right leads and nurture them with the right emails to make them convert.

Learn more →

Send beautiful emails

Create beautiful emails with our simple drag-and-drop builder, choose from our extensive templates or design one from scratch with Freshmarketer’s email campaigns.

Learn more →

Target better for better conversions

Send targeted emails to your different customer segments and boost your conversions. Segment your audience based on demography, behavior, or custom events.

Learn more →

Automate your email marketing

Automate your customer engagement with a personalized touch using Freshmarketer’s journeys. From setting up a simple autoresponder to complex customer journeys, automation is now a breeze.

Learn more →

Unify sales and marketing teams

Keep your sales and marketing teams informed of each others’ activities with Freshsales CRM integration. Update lead score, view contacts’ and leads’ actions, or automate CRM tasks easily.

Learn more →


Frequently Asked Questions

What is email marketing?

 An aspect of digital marketing, email marketing is the use of emails to connect with customers, disseminate information, and building trust. Marketing messages are sent to groups of people in order to encourage them to engage with the business, and thereby increase conversions.

How to do email marketing?

As with any type of marketing, it is important to have a strategy before embarking upon email marketing. Understand what goals can be achieved using this process, and align them to the overall business goals. Research customers to develop targeted campaigns for maximum effectiveness. Analyze the results and plug that data into subsequent campaigns. 

Why is email marketing important?

Emails have been a steady communication channel since their inception. Other channels have come and prospered, but haven’t been able to replace email due to its pervasiveness. Even today, most individuals prefer to receive commercial communication via email, and it is known to have the best conversion rate when compared to all other channels. 

How to start email marketing?

Always start with lots of research, as it saves time later on. To start with email marketing, read guides like this one to grasp the concepts and to understand the parameters of the process. Then apply this learning within the context of an organization. 

Why use email marketing?

The arsenal of a digital marketer is incomplete without email marketing. Email is ubiquitous and universal, and thus has immense potential to increase engagement and conversions. Email marketing is an excellent means to communicate with customers, and draw them further into a valued relationship with the brand. 

How does email marketing work?

A digital marketer creates email marketing campaigns in conjunction with their other channels, and complementary to the brand. Then, they use a good email marketing tool to deliver their messages to their subscribers. The tool allows the marketer to segment their list, personalize it, and track the delivery statistics for later review.

How effective is email marketing?

Several studies have been conducted on the efficacy of email marketing. Most agree that email marketing is the most effective of all digital marketing practices, as individuals prefer to receive commercial communication via email, and are thus more likely to read and engage with the content in the medium. 

How to create an email marketing campaign?

Start with goals, and curate an email list. Analyze the subscribers on the email list, and segment them into groups. Then create content directed at each group, and use automation tools to personalize the emails to individuals. Send the emails out, and track the metrics. Once the numbers are in, evaluate the success or failure of the campaign, and prepare a report for future use.