What Is Email Marketing?

When it comes to using digital marketing to gain leads, email marketing is one of the most effective methods to connect and engage with your audience. In general, the term “email marketing” refers to the marketing emails a company sends to their subscribers and not the spam that bombards everyone.

Of course, I am talking about emails where an expert within the company or an outside marketing professional/agency writes high-quality copy. I am talking about targeted, relevant emails sent to a list of people that have willingly signed up to receive them or who have otherwise interacted with the company. The benefits of email marketing for this kind of email campaign are astronomical.

Indeed, many pieces of research suggest that the right email marketing strategy is the single most important digital marketing technique you can use.

What is it that makes email marketing so powerful?  There are 5 key advantages of email marketing.


1. You get a chance to consistently connect with customers

Stop and reflect for a minute on this question: how often do you check your email throughout a day?  For most people, that question is really hard to answer. Why? Because most people have email connected to their mobile devices and/or have their email program running all day. So how many times you check your email is almost unquantifiable. It is simply a steady stream all the time.

If you’re curious as to the amount of time that people spend, the numbers are pretty stunning. The average professional spends 28% of their workday on email. If you add in checking personal email as well, the average American spends almost 6 hours a day on email.

The statistics don’t end there:

The point is that people check email pretty regularly, so if you employ an email campaign, you can feel pretty confident that your customers will see it.

Compare that to social media, TV, radio, or other forms of advertising. People spend far less time on those media, and you often need customers on the media at the exact right time to see/hear your content. The response rate on direct mail campaigns is also less than email.

The bottom line: with an email marketing campaign, you can feel confident that customers will see your message relatively quickly. That is a huge benefit of email marketing.


2. You can show off your branding

What will your customers see when they open the email you sent? Whatever you want them to see!  That is another email marketing benefit: with this engaged audience, you get a chance to create an image for your company.

For example:

  • If you want to be seen as a brand that is casual and fun, you can send emails that are more tongue-in-cheek.
  • If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, you can send how-to’s or quick tips/hacks.
  • If you sell tangible products that you want to emphasize, you can use product photos.
  • If you want to show common pain points that you solve, you can use a captivating subject line that references a problem your customer may have been thinking about just minutes before.
  • If you want to build up your credibility, you can send testimonials or case studies.
  • If you want to show your value or an exclusive deal, you can send a promotional email.

And of course, you aren’t limited to just one kind of email. Most companies send several different types of emails every month (and often send different emails to different people, as I will describe below). Some send monthly newsletters that accomplish several of these goals at once. The point is, a great benefit to email marketing is that you have lots of flexibility with email to tell your story.

Combine all of this with the idea that you can send email fairly regularly (it is free to send, after all). Put it all together, and the result is powerful.

When customers need a service or a product, what name is going to pop in their heads? Your business’s name, and that of course is the main goal of any marketing campaign.


3. You get to personalize your messages

Being able to differentiate your emails for different customers is one of the key benefits of email marketing that set it above other forms of marketing.

What do I mean by personalization?  In email programs, you can build different messages and send different emails to different people based on how they have interacted with your content in the past.

So, if someone is brand new to your email list, that might trigger a welcome series. If you send out a promotional email announcing your new sale, you can send a different follow-up to those who never opened your first message vs. those who opened it but didn’t click through vs. those who clicked but didn’t make a purchase vs. those who made a purchase.

You can send different emails to customers who have bought different products in the past. You can use different strategies for recipients who almost never open your emails vs. those that occasionally do vs. those that almost always do.

Even if you send every customer the same email, you can add small acts of personalization, e.g., putting the recipient’s first name in the email. This seemingly tiny step can increase open rates by as much as 20%.

With personalization and segmenting, you can customize your emails in any numbers of ways!

Every other type of marketing is basically one-size-fits-all.  Let’s say you are going to run a radio spot.  You certainly would analyze the demographics and psychographics of the station. You would likely run a different advertisement on an oldies station than a hard rock station. But once you put the advertisement out there, it is static. You are sending out the same message to all listeners.

Social media advertisements and certain other online marketing can personalize to some extent, but that is based on general user activity or demographics.  Only email marketing allows you to send different messaging to different people based on how they have previously interacted with your content.


4. You own your emails and your email list

The other email marketing benefit that really distinguishes it from most other types is that email lists are something you own.

With most other types of marketing, this benefit simply doesn’t exist. With other forms of media, you must fit within the confines of what that company will allow, and you aren’t the one who has the list. For example, a magazine editor ultimately gets some say in what you can put in their publication.  And of course, they own the subscription list.

Social media, a very popular form of modern marketing, is probably the worst when it comes to restricting content. Everything that you put on social media is owned by the company, not by you. And their rules are, to put it kindly, often infuriatingly confusing or inconsistent. Many businesses have complained about losing their Facebook Business Page with no warning at all and for no discernible reason. Certainly, plenty of people have complained about censorship and unfair consequences from Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms as well.

With email marketing, you own the email list, and you get to decide how you run your email marketing.  Of course, you can’t send anything illegal, and you must abide by CAN SPAM laws as well as your email provider’s terms and conditions. Still, as a general rule, no one can really prevent you from reaching out to your own list of customers in whichever way you would like.

Note: buying email lists of potential contacts is a separate form of email marketing called cold email marketing. That method is not covered in this blog and has more risks. More to come on that soon!

So again, owning your list and your marketing is a huge benefit of email marketing.


5. You Get Results

While all of the other email marketing benefits I have mentioned are important, let’s be honest: this one is the most important. Really, none of them would matter if email marketing didn’t lead to incredible results. And it does—better results, in fact, than other forms of marketing.

Marketing studies have consistently found that email marketing has a profound impact on your business.  Here are just a few of the impressive statistics:

  • Email marketing has a median ROI (Return on Investment) of 122%, 4x higher than other forms.
  • Some studies find that the ROI for email marketing is as high as $42 for every $1 spent, if not more.
  • Email is 40 times more effective at gaining new customers than social media.
  • Over 80% of marketers say that email marketing increases customer acquisition and retention. Email marketing was by far the most popular choice for both categories.
  • Engagement rate for email is nearly 23%, compared to less than 1% for social media.
  • 60% of customers say that they sign up for company emails with the hope that they will receive a promotional email. So when they do, they aren’t resistant; they welcome the message.
  • 44% of consumers will check their email for a deal from a company while only 4% will look at the company’s Facebook page.
  • 60% of consumers have made a purchase from an email marketing message, but only 12.5% have made a purchase from a buy button on social media.

Bottom line: email marketing is a low-cost (not a lot of human capital needed, very little to no material expense) way to significantly increase revenue. Thus, the benefits of email marketing far outweigh the relatively miniscule costs. No wonder marketers consistently choose email as their favorite type of marketing.


Next Steps

Hopefully, at this point you are seeing the clear benefits of email marketing. However, you may be wondering what to do with your newfound zeal for email advertising.

The answer is…it depends.  The next moves change based on where you are in the process right now.  The first step to any email marketing strategy is that you need to create a thriving email list. So, if you don’t have such a list yet, that is where to start.

If you do have a good list built up, the next step is to start sending out emails. Many different kinds of emails can be effective, so read a few email marketing tips and send out something authentic for your business.

If the prospect of working out your own email marketing campaign feels scary, a professional copywriter or marketing agency can help. Again, research on the topic says that you can expect a huge return on any money you spend.

Just please don’t send out any emails filled with typos and suspicious links.  We’ve got enough of those in the world!