Email marketing: what it is and how to run an effective campaign

Email marketing. One of the most used and known forms of marketing, at least in appearance.

Direct email marketing (the famous and abused DEM), newsletters, transactional emails, email campaigns: these are terms that resonate very often in marketing and communication offices; are we sure, however, that they are used correctly and, above all that the action they trigger has a practical utility in corporate strategy?

What is email marketing: definition

Let’s start with a correct definition. Email Marketing is considered communication to people and companies – via email (therefore using a digital tool such as email and not an analog one such as paper, pen, and stamp) – of commercial messages (DEM), news, and updates on the sender ( newsletter ) or notifications related to a user’s online commerce activity (transactional emails).

Email Marketing is a direct communication tool, a “one to many” communication that is delivered to the individual email boxes of the recipients.

Email Marketing strategies change based on the sender’s intentions and the communication choice (for example, the text and design structure of a DEM are different from that of a newsletter ). They have been extensively discussed in articles, blogs, and books.

The definitive death of email marketing has been proclaimed several times, and this has happened every time a new communication tool has debuted on the market (what happened, for example, with social media); in reality, what appears to be a known and hyper-explored channel is insteada medium in continuous evolution and subject to important variations that must be studied regularly, above all the express consent of the users and the gdpr which has not yet made everyone agree on the correct actions to be taken in order not to violate regulations and provisions.

Email marketing: what it is and how to run an effective campaign

Email marketing objectives: what is it for?

Email marketing has many areas of application and is at the service of almost every marketing and communication initiative, being a wide-ranging tool that allows content and images to be freely inserted and still has significant opening rates.

Some of the most common email marketing intentions are:

  • Building relationships: emails allow you to build connections through personalized and ongoing engagement.
  • Increase brand awareness: with emails, you can keep your audience’s attention active on messages from your company and related products/services. This can immediately impact sales if email recipients are ready to buy around the time they receive the message.
  • Promote Content: Emails can be used to share blog content with subscribers and interested parties.
  • Generate leads: lead generation via email is widely used and involves the exchange of personal information with content that has value for the reader
  • Marketing products: Email marketing is still one of the main tactics used by e-commerce companies worldwide.
  • Maintain active commercial relationships: even customer success can benefit from the potential of email marketing to communicate updates or important service information, also for upsell and cross-sell purposes.

What are the benefits of email marketing

The long life of email marketing has allowed email management tools to evolve and add functions and tools that have improved the lives of those who have to deal with digital communication. 

The main advantages of email marketing are:

Easy to use

Today there is various email marketing software on the market, and practically all of them have advanced features and functions that allow you to send commercial emails to a pre-loaded database in just a few simple steps. 

However, sending an email is not an action without consequences: it is necessary to correctly design the template, the texts, the graphics, the mailing lists, and a whole series of details which…. details are not at all.

Reduced costs

How much does it cost to send an email? Very little. The costs of sending individual emails are close to zero if we consider spreading the cost of the software license over all the emails we send daily.

With a support marketing team, you can turn to communication professionals (from agencies) who can help you structure an email marketing communication plan and manage the entire process.

It is essential to have a quality and sufficiently populated database, but often this element already exists in companies (we have already started talking about explicit consent to sending).


Sending a newsletter, dem, or a transactional email is surprisingly fast if all the aspects and parameters mentioned above have been set. If the communication team or the agency has already structured a template and a set of images if you know what to say, and if the list is built, sending an email to a list is a very quick operation.

However, it is better to avoid getting caught up in a hurry and to double-check every aspect before sending it carefully.

Ability to target your campaign

Having a lot of contact information helps improve the quality of sending emails, creating homogeneous groups of recipients.

Usually, the databases are divided by areas of interest or markets, but age groups, geographical areas, or other personal and work parameters could also segment them.

Having a segmented and correctly constructed database increases the value of this marketing tactic. Still, it requires a greater commitment since managing more mailings and, therefore, more emails are necessary. Are you ready to do it?

User loyalty

All emails contribute to this purpose, but newsletters in particular. Bloggers, journalists, and recently social media marketers can regularly publish content, send it to their recipients with just a few clicks via an email, and create a digital proximity relationship with many readers, even from a great distance.

Verification of results

All email marketing tools provide tools to measure the results of email marketing campaigns. These opening and response actions can also be linked to other tools, such as website traffic or e-commerce order analytics.

Each email marketing metric has its meaning and effects related to others that must be considered carefully.

How many and what are the types of email marketing

As I told you before, writing an email means composing text and images within a digital editing tool designed for email marketing. All very linear, right? 

This summary can be expanded if we consider the different types of emails and the adaptations that must necessarily follow. 

The main types of emails are:

  • Newsletter emails
  • Lead nurturing emails
  • Transactional emails
  • Welcome emails (and milestones)
  • Survey emails (customer success)
Email marketing: what it is and how to run an effective campaign


Newsletters are in very common use and are usually sent out regularly. They almost always contain the contents of the company blog, news relating to upcoming events, and all company updates that may interest subscribers.

Lead nurturing

This type of e-mail is designed and must be created to guide prospects along the purchase funnel. 

Lead nurturing introduces a series of closely related emails with a coherent purpose and full of useful content. Lead nurturing offers more benefits than a single email sent in this context.

They can be designed to promote various initiatives, from marketing materials like blog posts, webinars, and eBooks, to discounted service offers.

These emails are often part of a more structured lead-generation process and can be sent using an automated system, thus reducing overall management time.

Transactional emails

Transactional emails are messages triggered by a specific action performed by contacts in the database, allowing you to complete a specific action. For example, if you sign up for a webinar, fill out a form, and receive a transactional (thank you) email providing your login information to join. If you use a double opt-in, people will receive an email asking them to click a link to confirm their registration.

Transactional messages are also those you receive from e-commerce sites that confirm your order and provide shipping information and other details about a purchase.

Welcome email (and milestones)

The first contact with potential customers is an important moment of empathy that can have repercussions on future commercial actions with a user. 

Nurturing, therefore, is essential to bring leads closer to the purchase phase.

Welcome emails have the best open-and-click rates when they offer a personal touch and introduce the company without emphasizing selling. After building a relationship, it is only effective to propose a new product or service. The welcome email exercise aims to make a good first impression and demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, paving the way for future touchpoints.

In addition to welcome emails, we can use email marketing to communicate with customers at particular moments (Milestones) of the collaboration process. 

Email surveys (customer success) 

Emails built to send surveys and – more generally – to carry out customer success initiatives have become very important. 

Email surveys are a data collection method used to collect information through questionnaires or surveys sent via email to a target audience. They’re a simple, straightforward way to collect customer feedback. 

All clicks are recorded in a database of the email survey software and can be analyzed efficiently. You can see how many surveys have been distributed, how many people have responded, and their responses.

Email surveys can meet customer satisfaction or net promoter scoring needs; they can be used to evaluate the degree of satisfaction after a purchase or an e-commerce activity; they can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a software trial or the quality of a physical or digital event, to name a few. 

How to run an effective email marketing campaign

Email marketing campaigns are just an essential part of any communication strategy. They can drive traffic to the site, obtain contact names, invite them to make a specification, and increase overall brand awareness.

To build an effective e-mail marketing campaign, it is necessary to follow an orderly process that considers a whole series of aspects that must be noticed. 

Establish a goal

Defining a goal is one of a marketing strategy’s most frequently forgotten aspects.

Knowing what you want to achieve from a campaign is very important: do you want to build trust? Do you want recipients to take a specific action?

Whatever your intention, it is important to define a goal to have a comparison parameter to support all the indicators in e-mail marketing software.

Manage the database

For e-mail marketing to be effective, it is necessary to have an ordered list of recipients and explicit consent for receiving messages. It has become essential to manage GDPR and data cleaning orderly.

To work properly, you must:

  1. Import all of your contacts into your email marketing software
  2. Make sure all contacts have agreed to receive the email from you
  3. Regularly check databases and remove contacts who have experienced a hard or soft bounce.

Segment your contacts

Sending your email to the entire population is not a good idea.

Segmenting contacts into lists is one of the most important steps in an effective email marketing strategy; you need to make sure you can send the right information to the right group of people at the right time. 

Age, geographical area, interests, behaviors, purchased products, and downloaded applications are just some of the many parameters for building segments and lists.

Write and customize

I want to assume the template design of your emails (how many English words are in one sentence).

Building a structure or a graphic and code cage set up in the most suitable way for the type of message (e-commerce e-mail, newsletter, etc.) is an indispensable prerequisite.

Fortunately, the best email marketing software offers ready-made templates or drag-and-drop templates. Alternatively, it is better to contact a designer/developer to prepare the html necessary to build the email as you wish.

Another element that has become indispensable is personalization: in fact, it is increasingly necessary to insert personalization elements (attention, I do not mean elements that may be of interest to the buyer person), which can increase opening and conversion rates.

We have written a lot on the subject of writing and copywriting, and it has been written. I’m sure you already know how important it is to take care of spelling, syntax, punctuation, and especially the density of the text and the quality of the message that must be included in an e-mail. 

There are no aspects of the text to overlook – everything is important – but the greatest attention must certainly be paid to the object.

Do A/B Testing

Regarding advanced email, A/B testing can’t be ignored: leading email marketing software can test every element of email to figure out what works best.

As we have written in this blog, it is necessary to test one element at a time (CTA, copy, object, CTA, offer, image) within a much broader testing strategy.

Analyze performance

The minutes that precede pressing the send button are the ones of greatest anxiety. The funniest part, at least for those who deal with data, is the one that occurs immediately after sending.

Knowing how to analyze the performance of marketing campaigns helps to understand how to improve and increase results to get closer to the established goals.

Each software has more or less advanced analytics that can measure the rates of reception, opening, click-through, action on the cta, etc. 

The best email marketing software

To carry out an e-mail marketing strategy, it is necessary to have software capable of satisfying a series of essential requirements. 

Among these, I list the management of the database, obviously sending to a large number of contacts, the possibility of doing A/B testing, the management of the GDPR and subscriptions, the possibility of automating and notifying updates, the presence of analytics advanced, the ability to integrate with CRM and other.

Among the main market software, list: 

  1. sendinblue
  2. Hub Spot
  3. GetResponse
  4. Mailchimp
  5. Freshmarketers
  6. MailUp
  7. Active Campaign
  8. Mailer Lite
  9. Omnisend
  10. Drip

Email marketing KPIs and campaign tracking 

Email marketing KPIs are the reference, the compass, which guides your email marketing strategy; they have performance indicators that help understand the quality of the work done and are certainly an anchor of clarity for every marketer.

So here are some indicators you could set for your next strategy; they are not all, of course, but they can be a good starting point:

  1. Open Rate: The number of apples opened out of the total volume of apples that have been submitted.
  2. Click-through rate: emails contain links, and this index measures the number of times recipients have loaded them, reaching the landing page.
  3. Conversion rate: how many recipients have clicked on a link within the email, completing the expected process. 
  4. ROI:  the rate of return on email marketing campaigns in the expenditure-to-revenue ratio.
  5. Unsubscribe rate: the percentage of subscribers who have decided not to follow your email or newsletter anymore.
  6. Share Rate: If people start sharing your content, the party is starting too. 
  7. Growth rate of subscribers  This is the index representing the number of new newsletter subscribers calculated on the total number of subscribers to your company’s email marketing services. Usually, this acquisition takes place through site forms and lead-generation activities.
  8. Bounce rate:  the number of emails sent and not delivered to recipients’ mailboxes; there can be hard bounces (unrecoverable) and soft bounces (possibly recoverable).

ROI in email marketing (ROI and not ROY)

The ROI formula generally known is the ratio between net profit and total invested capital. Therefore, if we wanted to transpose this concept to email marketing, the ROI can be calculated between the profit generated with an email marketing campaign and the expense invested in the activity. So: net profits over the capital invested in email marketing.

However, we are talking about a fact that has a relative meaning, and that is only interesting up to a certain point, given that it makes more sense to try to determine the ROI of an entire campaign and therefore evaluate the role of importance that email marketing has had in the attribution model. 

Do you want to calculate the ROI of your email marketing campaign? Well, collect the total expenses you had to bear (enter part of the software cost, the costs of validating and acquiring the lists, the time of the people employed in the activity, etc.) and try to determine the profits of the initiative. 

Can you calculate the direct sales that the email has generated? This can be easy for e-commerce, less for a complex B2B, and when you need a product page to lead the user to. In the proceeds, also consider a part of the new subscribers because they can be your future customers. 

ROI in email marketing

Email marketing and GDPR

With the entry into force of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the world of e-mail marketing has undergone a substantial upheaval in data protection management. 

To have a database that complies with the requirements of European regulation, it is necessary to adapt data and behavior to the provisions of the law.

In this sense, many software makes “permission campaigns” available, campaigns that involve sending a single email that explicitly requests each contact’s explicit consent to the possibility of receiving marketing emails from our company; this operation often also allows you to clean up the CRM database from active or inadequate contacts, avoiding score penalties in the quality of the e-mail sending and possible fines.

Furthermore, a good e-mail marketing strategy also allows re-subscription forms to give those who have changed their mind the opportunity to resubscribe to the newsletter or DEM service.

From the moment the company decides to make its strategy GDPR compliant, all forms and digital contact points of the company must provide the possibility to give explicit consent to receive emails in a clear and detailed way. 

Another key rule of the regulation states that individuals can withdraw their consent to object to the use of their data at any time.

To this end, email marketing software must allow contacts to withdraw their consent on the subscription preferences page easily; when this choice occurs, the contact record must be automatically removed from everything to which they had given consent in the first phase.

B2b email marketing campaigns: what’s the difference with B2C?

Email marketing is a B2C marketing tool. This is probably because we receive many emails daily from private users, some convincing us to purchase products or services.

In reality, email marketing is also one of the main marketing tactics and communication channels of B2B and – even if with different purposes and results, at least in the immediacy of the sales process – still today it guarantees very interesting conversion rates, to the point to make it essential.

B2C marketing and B2B marketing are different from each other, have different execution methods, and must follow distinct action patterns. The structure of the communication and the tone of communication, for example, often need to be different. But that’s not enough; the communication changes, but also the expected effects change.

In B2B, email marketing contributes to brand awareness and allows companies to remain in the memory of many readers. Furthermore, it allows you to obtain very valuable data to guide the execution of other tactics if you carefully analyze the monitoring data present in the analytics. 

In B2C, email marketing can exploit (or guide) purchase moments and predispositions with the – very direct – purpose of increasing sales. 

The immediacy of the conversion and the different lengths of the purchase path change the communicative approach, the design, and the way of expressing the message.

B2C purchases, to explain better, require clear and complete information, exhaustive in the most relevant details but concise to the point of not distracting the reader. Even the structure of the pages and the navigation elements must contribute to this path of focus, which only happens in B2B emails. 

In this case, it is better to concentrate the writing and the design elements towards a more linear path, paying attention to providing all the information that increases awareness of the offer. 

Email marketing automation: how to automate as much as possible 

Oh yes, all these emails are a lot of work. There are many, they must be drawn and written (as well as thought), and they must be sent to hundreds of different contacts in different ways. Easy then? Not at all, even when you have a marketing team with many people.

Which solution to think about, then? Fortunately, email marketing software helps us. These computer systems often have automation functions that take some work and effort away from the communicators. 

What types of automation are there? Today it is possible to automate some communication processes, from the creation of lists through workflows that allow you to classify contacts according to specific properties to A/B testing (doing it by hand would be impossible), from sending transactional emails that start automatically when the user takes a specific action (purchase or a subscription) to the notification of the most important changes in the analytics. 

Automating is indispensable because it is necessary to free marketing professionals from repetitive and boring activities to allow them to give their time to strategic choices aimed at better performance.

And yes, it’s true, now there are bots and digital services that allow computers to write email texts (by the way, they’ve also become very, very good) or to draw images using artificial intelligence. However, this does not deprive the human being of creativity, who can always be present to bring the company closer to people. 

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