Email Marketing

An exploration of email marketing and why it's a critical strategy for businesses.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is when a business promotes campaigns and communicates with its customers via email. It’s a tactic that’s often used to generate interest in the brand (e.g. announcing a new feature or upcoming sale), nurture leads, encourage customers to convert, and more.

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Why email marketing is still a critically important channel

Email is a relatively older marketing channel, when compared to newer additions like social media, SMS, or content marketing. (Did you know the first email blast went out in 1978?) 

But this doesn’t mean that email has become irrelevant, despite whatever rumblings you may have heard. 

Actually, email marketing is still one of the most effective strategies for engaging customers, whether you’re an enterprise or small business. Today, roughly 4.3 billion people use email across the globe, and that number is only expected to rise in the next few years. Email also generates a huge return on investment. According to one HubSpot study, businesses received $42 for $1 spent on email marketing, which translates to a 4,200% ROI. 

How email marketing works

So how does email marketing actually work? We’ve outlined the overarching framework below. 

Curate your email list

First, businesses need to curate their email list. This is the business’s rolodex, so to speak, which has the email addresses for their current customers or interested prospects. It is crucial that businesses only email customers who have directly shared their information, rather than buying an email list from a third party. Buying an email list erodes customer trust, can portray your brand as spammy, and can also land you in hot water legally for sending an unsolicited message (which the GDPR and CAN-Spam both protect against). 

Having customers sign up for a free account, download a gated piece of content (e.g. an ebook or white paper), or opt in for a newsletter are all examples of how to curate an email list. 

Define your goals for email marketing

Second, define the goals for your email marketing strategy, as this will determine the type of email campaign that would be best used (and the cadence for sending them out).  

For example, if you’re trying to build brand awareness or interest around new pieces of content or product announcements, perhaps a newsletter is the best format. Or, if you’re trying to re-engage customers and encourage a conversion, you could try reminder emails for cart abandoners. 

Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)

Next, businesses should choose an Email Service Provider (ESP) to help build and send out email campaigns. (To choose the right ESP for your business, it’s important to consider the size of your contact list, its ease of use, and how well it integrates with the other tools and apps in your tech stack.) 

Refine email campaigns with personalization and experimentation

From there, you can start fine-tuning your email strategy by segmenting your customers into different cohorts based on their preferences, demographic data (e.g. job title), shown interests, and/or behavioral history. This will help you gain a better grasp on which content is the most relevant to each user. 

Also, you can use experimentation to iterate on email campaigns and gain more insights. (A great place to start is with A/B testing email subject lines to measure any impact on open rates.)

Frequently asked questions

There are numerous different email marketing campaigns to choose from, but a few examples include:

  • Weekly or monthly newsletters

  • Onboarding prompts

  • Re-engagement campaigns

  • Personalized lifecycle campaigns

  • And more!

The most effective email marketing campaigns are those that incorporate personalization into their strategy.

In fact, personalized CTAs in emails are shown to be 202% better at converting subscribers. On top of that, personalized subject lines yield 50% higher open rates.

With the right customer data and APIs, businesses can even send out emails that use dynamic content for open-time personalization.

Constructing an email marketing strategy will be different for every business, but will generally follow this framework:

  • Curate your email list.

  • Define your email marketing goals and benchmarks.

  • Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP).

  • Segment customers by persona, intent, behavioral history, etc.

  • Personalize email content based on customer data.

  • A/B test subject lines, email content, etc. to refine strategies with data-driven insights.

Twilio Engage empowers businesses to personalize customer interactions across all channels with its scalable data infrastructure and extensible communications APIs. With Twilio Engage, email marketers have a real-time, holistic view of customer behavior and preferences, which they can then use to tailor email communications.