Email Marketing 101 - A Checklist For Your Next Successful Campaign

Email marketing is a super-important part of most marketing campaigns. It can be extremely effective, widely touted as delivering the best returns of all marketing disciplines - an average of $43 for every $1 invested.

However, you have to get it right or the returns just wont be there. With that in mind, I wanted to write up a check-list that will help you hit the ground running - if you follow this, you'll have all of the important areas covered and should enjoy a successful email marketing campaign.

Here goes.

Use a reputable email marketing software provider

The very first thing to make sure you do is to use a reputable provider to send your email campaigns through. This is an easy thing to do - there are many suppliers on the market who do a very good job of this.

My favourites at the moment are Aweber and MailChimp, although if you Google it you'll find dozens more to chose from. If you're a complete beginner though, I'd start with one of the two mentioned above - they cover all of the bases, are cost effective and are very easy to use.

I've mentioned a few possible suppliers a bit further down - these are not affiliate links, they are mentioned on merit only.

Make sure you comply with the CAN-Spam Act

Something to mention right at the get go is that you'll need to make sure you comply with the CAN-Spam Act. Part of the reason for using a reputable provider is that they make this a breeze by requiring certain information to be included in your email campaigns, such as:

  • Your physical, real world postal address
  • Unsubscribe functions for users who don't want to receive any more mails
So, you'll have this covered throughout the set up process with a provider like MailChimp - just remember this if you decide to use another option (such as your own email account) to contact prospects/leads/customers.

Spend time working on your template

It's really worth spending a bit of time working on your template to make sure that it looks professional and that it won't put recipients off. I always think it's best to come up with at least three designs and then as for an honest opinion from some friends or colleagues before deciding which to use. In any case, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep the template as simple as possible - you don't want it to detract from the content
  • Include key information, such as website and social media links
  • Match your template to company branding and your website (MailChimp will allow you to do this very easily)
Remember - people will probably notice your template before they see your content. Try your best to make sure that it says 'this email is quality' rather than 'this email is definitely garbage'.

Test your template on multiple devices

When you have put your email together, most of the major email marketing software providers will allow you to send a test email so you can check how it will look to the end user. It's a very good idea to do this - when you do, you should pay close attention to the following:

  • How does the template display on various devices (desktop, tablet, mobile)?
  • How does it compare to emails you receive from other top-quality brands?
  • What was your gut feeling when you saw it arrive and opened it? Did it impress, or come across as spam?
  • Again, it's a good idea to have a few friends or colleagues involved in this step.

More and more people check email on their mobile device nowadays, so be sure to pay attention to this step.

Don't talk about lists and subscribers - personalise

When you come to actually writing the content of your email, it's important that you be as 'one-to-one' are you can be. Major email platforms will allow you to personalise emails with names and you should take advantage of this feature. An email sent to a named individual is much more likely to be well received than an email addressed to, 'Hey Subscribers!'. You want recipients to feel like you are taking to them personally, not as just one of many email list subscribers.

You can read more on personalising your emails in one of the posts linked at the end of this article.

Keep your emails to the point

People are inundated with email these days. Therefore, it's a good idea to keep your emails short and to the point - nobody has time to sit and read a wordy email any more. If the function of the email is simply to provide access to a download, then all you want to do is thank them for requesting the e-book, provide a link to the download and then sign off respectfully and professionally.

If it's more of an update type of email, then it's a good idea to provide a teaser of your content in the email and then link off to the full article, which would be hosted on your website or blog.

Segment your lists and make content relevant

Where possible, you should try to have your email lists separated according to interest. For example, if you offer three products/services, you should have an email list for each. That way, recipients are only going to receive information that is relevant to them and the needs/interests they have.

Of course, some people might be interested in more than one product or might change their interest from one product to another, although a service like Aweber can handle this in an automated fashion so you don't have to worry about it too much. All you have to do is set up the automate rules in advance and the system will take care of it from there.

By sending out segmented email campaigns, you create the best of both worlds - the recipient gets better information and you get a better return on investment. A win all round.

Automate as much as you can

Following on from the above, it's a very good idea to automate as much as you can with your email marketing software. It will take a lot of the pain out of email marketing as well as general business affairs, and it will also result in more success.

Here are a few areas you can think about automating with emails:

  • Digital product delivery/content delivery (such as e-books. whitepapers)
  • A 'How-to' series - for example, how a new customer can get the most out of a new product/service they've just purchased
  • Autoresponder-based, lead nurturing campaigns 

Check Everything

No matter what your email/email series is designed to do, it's super-important that you check absolutely everything before you send it live. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time and effort putting a great email campaign together, only to see it fail because of a really silly error that could have been prevented by a quick check. And make no mistake, simple things can absolutely ruin an otherwise perfect campaign.

Here are a few things to check:

  • Spelling and grammar
  • Links - that none are broken and they go to the correct places
  • Layout and display
  • Tone and content

Key Terminology

Here is a brief description of basic email marketing terms that you are likely to come across as you set up and measure your campaigns.

Open Rate

The percentage of emails that were opened by recipients. For example, if you sent out 1000 emails and you had an open rate of 10%, that means that 100 people opened your email.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of emails that didn't make it through to a recipients inbox. Using the same example as above, if you had a bounce rate of 20%, that would mean that 200 emails didn't make it through. This could be for a few reasons, such as expired email addresses or your emails being caught in a spam filter.


The percentage of recipients clicking on one (or more) of the links in your email. For example, if you sent your email to 1000 people and 50 of them clicked through to your website, the click-through-rate (CTR) would be 5%.

Un-subscribe Rate

The percentage of people who have decided they don't want to receive your emails again. Again, if you sent 1000 emails and you had an un-subscribe rate of 2.5%, it would mean that 25 people had decided to remove themselves from your email marketing list.

Reputable Email Marketing Software Providers

Here are a few examples of excellent email marketing software providers that you can use to power your campaigns:

  • MailChimp
  • Aweber
  • Constant Contact
  • Get Response
  • Pure360

Further Reading

Hopefully this has given you a good idea as to what you need to have covered in terms of putting together a quality email campaign. For more information on email marketing, please see these posts:

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
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