Introduction to

eMail Marketing

by | May 14, 2020 | Communication

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If you are early in your digital journey, one of the marketing channels you need to get up and running first is email.

As a contemporary marketer you may be tempted to place more emphasis on trendy opportunities like Instagram influencers or chatbots but don’t let these newer digital marketing platforms tempt you away from the most established and effective messaging channels.

If you’re in any doubt, consider the fact that email generates an incredible 3’800%4’400% ROI. This means for every 1 rand, dollar or pound you invest in email marketing – you can expect to get up to 44 in return. This makes it a very powerful component of a well-rounded digital marketing plan, especially if you find yourself working with a constrained budget.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that email is outdated and losing relevance; active email accounts approached an astounding 5.6 billon in 2019. One of the key drivers of growth for this unshakable stalwart is proliferation of smartphones. As more people across the globe take up iPhones, iPads and Android devices, more people are able to access their email miles away from a desktop. Email is a cross-channel and cross-device medium. Emails are delivered across multiple platforms such as mobile devices, desktop computers and webmail.

Email will play a key role in your marketing mix to generate leads, nurture leads and grow sales. It is also proven to develop customer loyalty through sales follow-up and education.

Ready to get started? Great, let’s explore an overview of email marketing so that you can get geared up to execute your first email campaign.

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The first step is familiarise yourself with the different types of email. Yes, there is more than type of email – and you need to get clear on the reason you want to send an email. This is important to understand so that you include sufficient detail to comply with anti-spam regulations.

Decide the Purpose of the Email

A useful framing for taking the next step is to consider the main aim of the email that you plan to send. What it’s purpose?

1. Transactional

These emails are NOT proactive but they are critical to a transaction. Typically they will confirm or validate a transaction by delivering a receipt of purchase. Subsequently, they are not deemed to be promotional – and require less detail to comply with regulations.

These emails are NOT proactive but they are critical to a transaction. Typically they will confirm or validate a transaction by delivering a receipt of purchase. Subsequently, they are not deemed to be promotional – and require less detail to comply with regulations.
…or shipping updates.
These emails are also useful to provide customers with account details…
Transactions do not always have to involve the exchange of money. Consider the scenario where a prospect exchanges their email address for a valuable download, e.g. educational resource or access to a webinar.
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2. News (or Newsletters)

These are proactive emails that companies send to their subscriber base; i.e. people who have opted to receive communications. Whether these emails are announcing company news or distributing eNewsletters, they are classified as promotional and should comply with spam laws and regulations.

3. Promotional

These are proactive emails that promote a product, service, person or idea with the aim of generating leads; i.e. ask people to register or sign up for future communication. Essentially, these would require all the necessary details to comply with anti-spam regulations.

Social Media Dental
Social Media Dental
Social Media Dental

4. Personal

Personal emails that are exchanged between family and friends or between work associates across organisations during the ordinary course of life and business do not need to abide by any spam laws.

Once you decide the purpose of the email, you’ll need to move onto making the choice of the format of the content you’ll use to achieve your objective.

Decide on the Content of the email

There is more than one format for content in an email; each with its own set of pros and cons for you to think about.

1. Text

This popular type of email does not contain images. These emails are not developed in HTML and are primarily designed for quick communication. They usually contain a single (or very few) call-to-action (CTA) links and are sent to a particular list segment rather than an entire database. The main benefits of this short, simple presentation of information are fast turnaround, higher deliverability, better open rates and better click through rates.

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This is the preferred type of email. A survey of more than a thousand professionals has shown that nearly 2/3 say that they prefer HTML and image-based emails. These emails require a longer turnaround time for coding to carefully optimise the blend of text and images. They usually contain multiple call-to-action (CTA) links displayed as action buttons, e.g. Click Here, Register, or Download.

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The main benefit of this email type is that there is an effective visual communication of the message(s) incl. branding presentation across multiple platforms. This is a major consideration will the increasingly mobile world.


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However, this format does have some downsides. Turnaround times are longer – you need to plan for the time required to code. Deliverability can be lower than text-based versions, especially if there are broken tags in the code.

Furthermore, research has shown that open rates and click through rates can suffer if there are too many images included.

3. Image-based

This is not a recommended format. This type of email is typically used by small businesses that would rely very heavily on visual communication to convert a sale. This email format provides a clear, strong image without HTML content – which is a cheaper solution.

However, the trick will be to use high quality images with readable text that are mobile compatible. Often the text on images will not be as be as crisp when compared to HTML versions. Another common problem is that not all email clients will render the stacked images correctly, especially on mobile phones. The major risk with this format is that email clients will not really know the content and may in turn – mark it as spam.

Once you have chosen the type of email you will create to meet your purpose, you’ll need to become familiar with the various parts of an email.
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eMail Marketing

Know the key elements of an email

There are 7 primary components of a successful, compliant email:

1. Addresses:

a. Sender address
This identifies who sent the email.

b. Reply-to address
This is the address the reader should reply to, if different to the sender’s address.

2. Recipient

This is the email address of the person receiving the email.

3. Subject line

This tells the reader what the email content is about.

4. Preview text

This is a small portion of the content that displays before opening an email.

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5. Header

Top section of email that helps the reader understand what to expect from the contents of the email.

6. Content

The text and images used to communicate the necessary information in the body of the email.

7. Call-to-action(s)

These are links, often designed as action buttons use to help the reader move along to the next step in the journey, e.g. download a resource or register for a webinar.

8. Footer

The bottommost section of the email that contains important information and links necessary to comply with anti-spam regulations.

eMail Marketing

Build a list

This is most important part of email marketing. You need a list of addresses of people that are interested in hearing more from your company. No list – no campaign. And building a loyal base of subscribers is the best way for you to develop a good reputation with the Email Service Providers (ESP). In turn, this sets up your campaigns for good email deliverability.

If you don’t have a list, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you could develop one by leveraging your existing marketing activities, both online and offline.

It all begins with asking people to subscribe. Approach existing customers, past customers or co-operative partners if you can – and invite them to sign up to receive emails.

The most efficient route to get them onboard would be to direct them to an opt-in form that you’ve already set up on your website.

eMail Marketing
eMail Marketing
With their permission you can quickly share a link to the page (that has the opt-in form) via personal email or instant messaging.

Alternatively, there are offline scenarios which you could help you build your list too.

If you or any colleagues are exhibiting at a congress or trade show – or operate a brick and mortar office/store – you could arrange with prospects or customers to fill in a form. Be sure to clearly state that they are giving your company permission to send them emails.

Another effective tactic is to engage your sales reps that are calling on customers. Give them a link for a landing page with an opt-in form that that they can quickly connect to via their tablet which they use for eDetailing. During a call, they could invite your prospect or customer to sign up and hand over their device for completion.

As a contingency, you could give the sales reps copies of the form used at exhibitions.

Collecting emails will be an ongoing process, so be sure not to stop once you have an initial list to launch your email marketing.

The gold standard for building a list of subscribers is to offer valuable content – hosted on your company website, or a bespoke educational platform – in exchange for email contact details.

At this stage you will have identified the purpose of your email and ideas for the content you’ll need to include to deliver the messages to the list you’ve collected. The next step is choosing an Email Service Provider.

Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)

Before we explore more detail of a method you can follow to identify your ideal ESP, there is a common misunderstanding that we need to clear up. Do you know the difference between and ISP and an ESP?

If you do, please skip to the next paragraph. If not, please continue with this paragraph. ISP is probably the more commonly used acronym. ISP refers to Internet Service Provider – the supplier that provides you (at home) and your business with access to the internet. Whereas, an ESP is an Email Service provider that provides bulk email management and services to businesses. 

As far back as the 1990’s, ISP resources were being overwhelmed by millions of users using their private email accounts to spam millions of others users all around the world. This uncontrolled sending of bulk email clogged up servers and bandwidth.

[NOTE: Spam remains a persistent problem; taking up 54.68% of total global email traffic in September 2019].

In turn ISPs began to limit the amount of email sent, spam filters and antispam laws were born.

This gave rise to ESPs , to keep email traffic largely separate from regular internet traffic– and to offer specialised services. Today, this is a very competitive market and one is spoilt for choice.

If you are employed at a large global healthcare product manufacture or service provider, it is highly likely that the global HQ will have identified a preferred vendor. If you are unsure, it’s advisable to check in with your local IT department and discuss your intention to start with email marketing. This should fast-track things because there is probably a global account in place and your team may just need to be added as a user.

Some popular solutions are Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget), Eloqua (recently acquired by Oracle), Adobe Campaign and Veeva Approved Email.

For businesses that have more independence, you can start by exploring some of the following well-established ESPs.

eMail Marketing
eMail Marketing
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eMail Marketing
eMail Marketing

In order to make your selection, the key factors you’ll need to consider are:

  1. Goals: how many emails are you aiming to send every month?
  2. Budget: how much do you have available to invest each month? (Discounts are common for annual payments)
  3. Support: how much technical support are you likely to need?
  4. Integration: does the provider offer easy integration into CRM or social media?

Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll be ready to get your first campaign written, designed and coded. Then it’s time to launch!

You’re live, so now it’s time to track your campaign effectiveness to extract learnings – and course correct, if necessary.

Understand the metrics for success

There are four key metrics to track for each email campaign.

Firstly, you need to assess how many emails were delivered. Ideally, view this as a percentage (%) of total. The closer to 100%, the better. Email bounces are a red flag for ESPs – the raises the questions about the quality of your email list. Are your email addresses accurate? 

Next, you need to take a look at the Open Rate (OR). This is a guideline that helps us understand how many emails were opened.

Open Rate = no. of emails opened / (no. of emails sent – no. of bounced emails)

 A more important metric, is Click-through Rate (CTR). This is an accurate view of the % of recipient’s that took action, e.g. clicked to landing page to register for a webinar.

eMail Marketing

Finally, you need to assess the most important metric, the Conversion Rate (CR). The purpose of the campaign determines the ultimate conversion point – and CR indicates the intended results. E.g. 1’000 GP’s reached the landing page to register for a webinar related to managing Covid-19 patients – and the net result is that 278 doctors registered to attend, your CR is 27.8%.

In an upcoming blog we will explore various industry benchmarks that you can reference when assessing the success of your future email campaigns.

That brings this blog to a close.

If you’re new to email marketing, you should be feeling more confident about how to get started. In summary, you need to get clear on why you want to send an email campaign. Then you need to determine what content will help you achieve that purpose. Hereafter, with the help of your inhouse designer and IT department – or a partner agency you need to write, design and code the email for upload to your chosen emailer service provider. Review the metrics. Learn and repeat.

If you need further assistance, please visit our blog and resource centre again for more information. Or feel free to contact us for more personalised support.

About the author:

Michael MacDonald (B Sc)

Michael has more than 20 years’ experience in the marketing industry including brand and marketing management roles for leading Healthcare, FMCG and Direct Marketing companies. Over the past 4 years, Michael has turned his focus to online marketing and has completed numerous international digital marketing certifications. His traditional marketing foundation enables sure-footed influence with integration of the latest digital tactics. His approach values data with the aim of maximising ROI.

Michael cross-trains for his quest to reach 100 years healthy and happy. So, chances are you’ll find him mountain biking, running or paddling a canoe when he’s not behind his keyboard.

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