Intro to email marketing

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Welcome to Jilt Learn. We put together this guide to help you get the most out of your marketing emails. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting your email marketing journey or an advanced marketer who’s looking to refine and pick up a few new tricks, Jilt Learn has what you’re looking for. These lessons feature the collective knowledge of marketing experts around the world and are backed by statistics and real-world experience and examples.

While you can go through Jilt Learn sequentially, each lesson is designed to stand on its own so you can jump around—and drop back in whenever you have a question on a specific facet of email marketing. We’ll also be updating and expanding these lessons over time, so you’ll always get the most complete and reliable information.

But before we jump into the lessons, let’s quickly go over the state of email and the basics of email marketing. We’ll also take a look at why it’s the most effective form of marketing a business like yours can use.

Why email?

Email has been declared dead many, many times—yet here we are, all still using email, with no signs of that stopping. 90.9 percent of Internet users in the U.S. used email in 2019. 58 percent still say it’s the first thing they check online in the morning, and more than four out of five people check their email daily. The average worker spends two-and-a-half hours a day on email.

In spite of almost two decades of eulogies for email (2002 to 2018), it’s still an incredibly powerful communication tool—and one we all still rely on. Yes, even younger people.

We’ve adjusted to modern email

Communication has changed monumentally over the past few decades. So in a world where people now have dozens of ways to contact you, email has persisted—and stands out for its benefits.

Email is an asynchronous medium where we don’t feel the need to urgently respond, like we do to texts, Slack messages, and so many other synchronous communication methods. That’s a nice break in the world of constant red dot notifications. Email is also more universal than other communication methods; to repeat, roughly 91 percent of Internet users have it. Few other communication channels have that degree of penetration.

Modern email also stands out in the flood of communications. Emails sit in a person’s inbox; they don’t get lost in the shuffle like ephemeral social media posts. We can check them when we’re ready and don’t have to worry we’ve missed them.

Email is not just for “old people”

The stereotypes might suggest younger people aren’t using email, but that’s simply untrue. Millennials spend more time checking email than any other group. And email use is growing for Gen Z, with a projected 48 percent increase in usage from 2017 to 2022. It’s also the most popular activity on smartphones and, obviously, younger people really love smartphones. (95 percent of U.S. adults under 34 own a smartphone, as do 92 percent ages 35 to 49.)

Why email marketing?

With email’s staying power and ubiquity comes the importance of email marketing—which has been called the “only guaranteed-delivery option the Internet has left” by the Wall Street Journal.

[Email has] become a way to fight back against the algorithms that try to dictate what people see.

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2019

It’s a direct form of marketing that, when done right, is the most effective form of marketing a business can use.

That’s why nearly seven out of 10 businesses now use some form of email marketing.

The scope of email marketing is broader than the average person might realize. It’s not just big, promotional sales blasts full of products. Email marketing is every interaction you have with a customer or potential customer via email, whether it’s welcoming a new subscriber to your list, sending a receipt after someone makes a purchase, a newsletter full of content that contains no links to products, or even an email telling a customer their credit card has expired.

There are three major types of marketing emails. There are automations—those include things like welcome emails, cart abandonment recovery emails, loyalty rewards, happy birthday messages, and campaigns to win back lapsed customers. There are transactional emails—those include things like order receipts, shipping confirmations, and account change notifications. And there are broadcasts—those are emails that go out to all or part of your list and include things like sales blasts, newsletters, and product announcements.

The benefits of email marketing

It’s the most effective form of marketing

The most important reason to use email marketing is: It works. It easily led a survey of marketers on the most effective digital media channel, ahead of social media marketing, SEO, social advertising, content marketing, direct mail, affiliate marketing, search advertising, and display advertising.

Ranking the effectiveness of different marketing channels.

Email reaches a minimum of 79 percent of the people you send it to worldwide (PDF) and, according to some research, its reach is up to 90 percent. It has an average open rate of 16.75 percent for eCommerce stores, an average click-through rate of 2.32 percent, and around four percent of those visitors buy something.

Those numbers all dwarf the other digital marketing channels. It’s 40 times more effective for acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter, and stores make 174 percent more conversions from email marketing than social marketing. 66 percent of customers have bought something as the result of a marketing email at some point. 20 percent have bought something off a Facebook promotion, six percent off Twitter, by comparison.

(Now—we’re not saying social media is valueless. It plays a definite role in modern business, from building relationships to sharing to creating a brand identity. But in terms of a direct relationship between spending/effort and return, email is the runaway winner).

It may be easier to build a following on email than social, too. Here’s one anecdotal example: A social media marketing expert ran a test sending 1,000 visitors to an email opt-in page, while others were  sent visitors to his Twitter. He got a 50 percent conversion rate on his email list landing page (500 subscribers), and, he says, nowhere close to that on Twitter followers.

Beyond the comparison to social media, email is more effective than other popular forms of marketing as well. A study found 4.24 percent of visitors from email marketing buy something, versus 2.49 percent of search visitors (and 0.59 percent from social). And while the odds are you won’t advertise your eCommerce store with direct mail, in one study, email’s ROI was 28.5 percent compared to seven percent for direct mail.

It’s cost effective

Email is cheap—your only real expense is the cost of your email provider, which should run you a fraction of a penny per email sent. You can also buy other apps to help your email marketing efforts, but you don’t need them.

And it has the highest return-on-investment of any type of marketing. Studies have put the ROI for email marketing between $38 and $44 for every $1 spent. Compare that to $2 for banner ads, $22.24 for SEO, and $17 for keyword ads.

Your fans actually want it

61 percent of people say email is their preferred method of contact from brands, making it the overwhelming top choice. Direct mail was second at 18 percent, and social media came in third at just five percent.

People who sign up for an email list want to hear from the brand. (Well, according to this study, 91 percent of them do. We’re not sure what’s going on with the nine percent of people who sign up to receive marketing emails but never want to hear from the company.) Even better, more than 60 percent want to hear from you at least weekly.

You own your list (and, therefore, own your customers)

When someone signs up for your email list, you own that customer. That’s not the case for other forms of marketing. With social media, you could lose everything overnight if, for whatever reason, the platform decides to cut you off. When you sell though a marketplace like Amazon, they retain the customer and have very specific rules about the nature of your communication with that customer. Your email subscribers are yours, and don’t depend on the whims of larger companies and platforms.

It helps you stay top-of-mind

Thanks to email’s high deliverability rates, your emails will almost certainly be seen by more of your subscribers than your social media posts. (At this point, non-promoted Facebook posts will only be seen by two to six percent of your fans. The shelf life of a Tweet is 18 minutes. Email, as we said before, has an average deliverability rate of 79 percent.)

Even if someone doesn’t open your email, at least they’re still seeing it—and, through your inbox presence (the subject line, from field, and preview text), you’re reinforcing your brand name, the types of offers you make, the products you sell, and your voice and personality.

It can be automated

Automations are an extremely powerful form of marketing because you set up some templates and sending rules—and that’s it. The machines handle the rest—and those emails are constantly going out to the right people, at the right times, bringing in extra revenue. Yes, you’ll want to update the templates on your automations from time to time, however, by and large, this is a “set it and forget it” situation.

The same is true for your transactional emails—you set them up, and the machines handle the rest.

Broadcast emails will need to be done manually, however, those other very effective forms of email marketing won’t—which reduces your workload significantly.

It can be personalized, customized, and segmented

Emails that are directly relevant to a customer (personalized emails) or directly relevant to a group of customers (segmented emails) are extremely powerful. Segmented and targeted emails generate 58 percent of all revenue (PDF), and segmented campaigns deliver a 760 percent increase in revenue. 

It can be used for every aspect of customer interactions

Email makes sense for everything. Whether it’s a receipt, a happy birthday message, a sales announcement, a request for feedback, or anything else—it all makes sense to do with email. 

No other medium has that flexibility and malleability. You wouldn’t call every one of your customers to announce a sale. You wouldn’t send a Facebook message confirming someone successfully changed their password to your site. You wouldn’t put up an Instagram post about a customer abandoning a cart.

It’s extremely measurable

We have a whole lesson in Jilt Learn dedicated to email analytics because there are so many stats you can track with your email marketing. That gives you tremendous insight into the efficacy of your marketing—and, thanks to the plethora of stats, it also gives you the ability to diagnose what parts of your emails are and aren’t working. 

If you’d like to get started with Jilt Learn sequentially, check out our first section, Build, and our first lesson, on how to incentivize people to subscribe to your email list. If you want to jump around, or have one specific area of interest, we highly encourage you to cherry pick just what you need.