The Foolproof Guide to Email Marketing for Beginners

I don’t care what you’ve heard, email marketing is NOT dead. In fact, you’re losing out on a huge percentage of revenue if you don’t have an email strategy set up! Neil Patel quotes email marketing at an estimate of 23% of a total business revenue. The good thing is, it’s not too late to build your email-marketing strategy. So if you’re a beginner and want to learn about email best practices, this is a great place to start.

1. Define your goals.

With any business, your mission statement is the backbone of everything you do. It can also help you find your brand voice, the type of content your customers want, and the relationship you have with your customers. Who are you? A friendly guide? A funny friend? A passionate ally? Different emails call for different tones, but having consistency can nurture a long-lasting relationship with your customers.

2. Choose the best email service provider (ESP) for you.

It can be overwhelming to choose from the plethora of ESPs out there, and you might think that starting off with your cheapest option is the best option, but that’s not necessarily always the case. Choose one that makes the setup, segmentation, and analytics reporting clear and easy, while working best for you!

To start, here are some common platforms that small companies like to use:

  • Mailchimp: Most companies start off with Mailchimp because it’s so user-friendly! It’s one of the most widely used platforms, it’s easy to navigate, and has an incredible free account for those starting off fresh with their newsletter list.
  • Klaviyo: While it can be on the pricier side, Klaviyo makes e-commerce integrations, building out flows, and A/B testing (more on that later) seamless and easy.
  • Emarsys: Not only is Emarsys a wonderful email marketing platform, it also has customer relationship management software built in. If you’re looking for a more holistic platform for your marketing team, Emarsys might work best for you.

3. Set up the essential automated email flows.

You’ve chosen an ESP and are ready to go. Now it’s time to think about the most essential automatic email flows. A flow is a series of emails that have an automated trigger to send to your customers, typically based on a customer’s behavior. When a customer signs up for your newsletter, it’s important to engage with your new customer almost immediately. Below are three automated flows you’ll want to set up.

Welcome Flow

When someone adds their email address to your contact list, they should almost immediately receive an email greeting them to your newsletter list. This is most likely going to be your company’s most opened email of all time, so make it count!

The welcome email sets the tone of how you’re going to communicate with your customers, but it can do so much more. Using a series of two to four emails, take time to introduce yourself, let people know about your mission statement, discuss your values, and add some customer reviews of your top products or services. It’s your time to shine!

Abandoned Cart Flow

You know the one. You’re shopping online and you see something you like, so you add it to your cart. Before you can hit “Complete Checkout,” you exit the browser to save your coins. BUT THEN, you receive an abandoned cart email, reminding you about the cart you were about to leave behind. It’s a great time to get creative with your message and presentation of the almost forgotten products. Customers have outsmarted a lot of us e-commerce marketers by knowing they may get a coupon code out of it—which is why this flow should never be just one email. Marketo notes that three is the winning number of emails in this series, so you can use the first two emails to pack a punch and convert window shoppers before you shell out a discount.

Post-purchase flow

This (occasionally forgotten) email flow is the key to turning someone from a one-time purchaser into a repeat customer. Keeping your business top-of-mind for someone can be attributed to how they feel after they’ve already made an order. Remind them that they made the right decision, show evidence of that with testimonials, and give personalized product recommendations in a two- to three-email flow.

One important metric to track in your overall marketing strategy, is your customer lifetime value (CLV). That’s the total amount of money someone will spend at your company before disengaging. Because this metric is so important, the work isn’t over once someone makes a purchase. You have a goal of turning someone from a one-time purchaser into a repeat customer. 

4. Create an email marketing calendar.

Thinking ahead can ease all the worries of sending out a last-minute email to a list of thousands of people. Look at least one month ahead so you can have ample time to make any design, copy, or link changes before scheduling the email. With this time, you can decide which holidays you want to celebrate, if you’re going to have any sales or new product launches you’d like to announce, and any other content you want to send out. A great place to start is a newsletter—and you can read how to draft a perfect newsletter here!


You can’t know what works without trying different things. That’s why A/B testing is so important. A/B testing is when you experiment with different elements in your email to see which one converts better.

Some common A/B tests might include:

  • Send Time
  • Subject Line
  • Send Name
  • Plain Text vs. HTML
  • Offer ($ Off, % Off, Free Item, etc.)

The two key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll likely be testing for is open rate and click-through rate (CTR.) No marketing is complete until you review your analytics, so make sure to keep track of what works for your customers. For a creative like you, this might sound tedious, but you can be innovative across all the different elements you want to test! Discover Hubspot’s comprehensive article on all things A/B testing to get started.

6. Do what you can to avoid customers unsubscribing.

There are actual laws you have to follow when sending out emails. Thanks to the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), our emails are protected. So companies actually need permission before sending you an email and they cannot be misleading just to get people to click. If you don’t get permission? It affects your deliverability, you could be blacklisted, and all your hard work will be for nothing. Don’t learn it the hard way—just send good emails and follow the rules.

TLDR: Despite what you were previously thinking, email marketing is not dead. It’s alchemy. There are so many moving parts and best practices to ensure your email marketing strategy is effective and prosperous. When you get it right, the results will be bigger than anything you can imagine.

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