Email Marketing For Dummies 2020: A Complete Guide To Online Sucess

A Complete Guide to Online Success WITH EMAIL MARKETING FOR DUMMIES + Templates (2021 UPDATED)

Email Marketing For Dummies

A truly complete guide to email marketing for dummies. This is a long post so strap down and get ready to put these best practice guide in action. Follow suggested strategies and templates to improve your skills.

Email marketing has been a silent success story for many years, but budget allocations often fail to reflect this. The average percentage of marketing budget focused on email (in comparison to TV, print, social media, and internet advertising) is just over 1%; which is ludicrous when you consider the benefits.

Email marketing, on the other hand, provides a clear customer trail, just like social media marketing. Within 24 hours, you can find out exactly which messages have been opened, who opened them and who didn’t, and what happened regarding the click journey that took place afterward.

Of course, there’s the argument that email marketing yields just 5% of total sales.

But perhaps that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If companies are spending just 1% of their total budget on email marketing, that’s actually a pretty good return. Imagine how much less you might spend overall if you focused more of your time on email marketing…

Email leads to sales through other routes – some can be tracked, some can’t. If a potential customer places items in their shopping cart and never fulfills the order, you can send them an email to track it – abandoned shopping cart emails claw back 29% of lost sales, after all.

Email prompts all sorts of spending patterns – so that 5% of total sales, is, perhaps currently undervalued.

The ROI (Return On Investment) on email marketing, according to Direct Marketing Association, is – get ready for this –


And think of all the trees you’ll have saved!

Make it a Value Exchange

We’ve all received marketing bumpfs in our inboxes which have gone straight to the trash can. But at the same time, if the message is right – pitched at an appropriate level, providing something you need – it works.

Good email content develops a relationship, grabs the attention through effective subject heading, and uses a distinctive voice (WITH GOOD GRAMMAR!!!)

Read on for tips, tests, and trials that will get your emails popping and your audience coming back for more.f



Establish Goals

Before you set about composing your campaign, it’s essential to have a clear idea of what your objectives are – what is it that you want to achieve?

Perhaps you want to:


Companies such as BuzzFeed make their money by selling prominent advertising space around their stories, articles, and interactive quizzes. Their regular email newsletter contains multiple links to their website, with the goal of increasing hits, thus maximizing the number of people who see their advertising, in turn raising their advertising revenue. It’s a cyclical food-chain of attraction and pay-off that seems to work for them.

Email Marketing For Dummies - Visits

Increasing Sales

Rip Curl generates their revenue through the sale of surf-gear. They use email marketing to promote new products by enticing visits to their website via blogs and special offers.

Email Marketing For Dummies - Increasing Sales

Gather Donations

Although the charitable sector has been getting rather bad press of late, UNICEF has been running successful email marketing campaigns for years. They reach out to their donor base by educating them with regards to their current aid projects, seeking donations for their needy causes.


A momentum is a pressure group associated with the British Labour party who used email marketing to reach beyond the powerful, vocal, British right-wing press. They created a supremely co-ordinated email campaign during the run-up to the 2017 General Election, speaking directly to their potential voters, raising social concerns that the current government and the national press were burying under slander and distraction tactics. Although Labour didn’t win the General Election, they won enough to derail the existing government – and a lot of that was achieved via their email campaigning.

Email Marketing For Dummies - Momentum

Their campaigns included:

Learn How to Build a Website and Start earning passive income:

Wealthy Affiliate Simple 4 Step Process

Gather an email list

You might be tempted to buy an email list.


Now that Data Protection Laws are changing, you’ll face a hefty fine if you’re in contact with people that haven’t given you express, written permission to contact them.

Unless you’re granted express permission to correspond with a user, your email will be considered spam and will most-likely end its life in the Trash Can. It could get your domain reported to your ISP; get you on a search engine blacklist; or banned by your mail provider.

No-one likes it when their personal email account gets clogged with mail that they don’t want.

That includes you, I’m sure.

People who haven’t actively opted into your email list aren’t the people who are going to buy from you. You might catch a straggler, but it’s not really worth muddying the name of your business for the sake of a couple of customers.

Use converter pop-ups on your website that aim to capture a visitor’s contact details before they leave your site. Or you can use tools such as OptinMonster that helps you set up opt-in forms.

Import the contact details of your existing client base into your chosen email marketing tool. You can usually import an Excel file or manually add them to your marketing list.

Building your mailing list from scratch

There’s a tried-and-tested 2-part formula that helps you build a list:

Offer a valuable incentive + simple subscribe opportunities = a large response and a big email list.

It’s a classic over-simplification, of course, but there’s a certain logic behind it – offer something, and get something in return. And if you’re offering a decent incentive, it needs to be super-simple for people to subscribe.

But what makes a great incentive?

If your aim is to develop your mailing list, they have some clear opportunities for your website visitors to join. Use a Header Bar that sits at the top of every page of your site, offering the chance to join your mailing list. Or use a Slider pop-up that contains a CTA, and an offer to keep them informed.

Have a clear CTA, derived from your objectives

So, once you know what you want your campaign to achieve, have some clear, totally obvious ways of getting your reader to follow through with that action.

If you want them to visit your website, have a button that takes them to the exact page.

If you want them to buy your product, make it easy – add buttons that take them directly to your product page or Shopping Basket.

It sounds obvious, but aesthetics are important – minimal word count (with perfect grammar), great images (with excellent lighting), and a CTA button. That’s all you need. Don’t oversell – it comes across as desperate and pushy. Make it feel like an opportunity and express how much you’d love them to take a bite of the apple.


What Type of Campaign Should you send?


An email newsletter is a regular correspondence, focused on a specific interest.

If you want to keep your existing mailing list up to date with industry news specific to your (and hopefully, their) business, then a regular, relevant, quality newsletter is a great way of keeping your brand at the forefront of their minds.

Become the first brand that comes to mind when someone on your mailing list needs to know something business-related. They will seek you out by visiting your website if you become an essential business-essential resource for them.

Some tips for great newsletters

1) Use a “From” name that your subscribers will recognize – if you sign up for a newsletter from Walmart, would you expect it to come from Walmart or James Briggs?

The From name is one of the first things people see when they receive a newsletter. If they don’t recognize the name, it will go straight to the junk pile.

Use an enticing Subject title – don’t just title your newsletter “September newsletter”. That’s just boring, and it doesn’t tell you anything about the contents.

“From Walmart – September newsletter”


“From Walmart – Buy your iPhone X, get a free iPad! September newsletter”

Now we’re talking.

Of course, you don’t have to bankrupt yourself to get attention. Just make the contents of your newsletter sound exciting.

2) Don’t use big paragraphs! – Breaking your newsletter into consumable chunks is a great way to keep your reader’s attention.

Think about what people are doing when you send your mail (we’ll explore the best times to send a mail later!). They might be waiting in the queue at the supermarket, in a meeting, grabbing lunch. In other words, if it looks complicated, they’ll leave it for later.

Later never comes!

Make it glance-able. If your newsletter features more than one story, try presenting them in different boxes (we’ll look at this later).

Email Marketing For Dummies - Do Not Use Big Paragraphs

This newsletter has a card-based design, with a headline and a CTA which sends you to specific places if you want that piece of information. It’s concise; it’s easy to glance at. It has professionally mastered images and CTA buttons.

3) Make your language proper innit

You’re presenting your brand. Take it from me – people are genuinely offended by bad grammar, bad spelling, and slack composition.

They’re gonna hate it when they’re name is spelled wrong, innit.


Learn the difference between there, they’re and their. It’s easy.

We’re and were. They’re two different words.

Chips and chips. Do they belong to someone? I don’t think so.

It can’t be stated more clearly – spelling and grammar matter.

Bad spelling, clunky phrasing – they’re major turn-offs.

Those princes from Nairobi might have actually received the details of bank accounts to transfer their millions into had they have used spell-checker and Grammarly!

There really is no excuse for incorrect spelling these days. Spell-check. Grammar check. Use grammarly if you’re unsure. Even if you’re confident in your writing, it’s still a tremendous proof-reading tool.

And if you’re really uncertain of your own abilities, then hire someone whose job it is (sorry, I mean “whose job it is”) to make sure that you don’t look a dunce.

OK. I think I’ve made that clear.

Let’s move on! 🙂

4) Get To the Point

Here’s a great copywriting exercise:

    1. Write what you want to say in 100 words.
    2. Read it back. Underline just the important words and phrases.
    3. Rewrite it in 50 words, making sure that you focus on those underlined words and phrases.
    4. Read it back. Underline just the important words and phrases.
    5. Rewrite it in 25 words. Focus on those underlined words and phrases.

And you’ve got your paragraph.

5) Use words sparingly – like you want them to be read. Make them count.

But, if in doubt – hire a copywriter. You can try or Your words are representing your company.

Marketing Offer

This type of mail-out aims to evoke a direct response in the reader. You could encourage people to purchase new stock or offer them a discount or special promotion.

If you’re looking to drive sales directly, then the marketing offer is a recognized way to bring your special attention. Have a CTA button that encourages an impulse purchase or visits to your site.

Again, make sure that you’re offering your services to people who have expressed an interest in them. It does nothing for your reputation if you send complete strangers special offers – it’s suspicious. And if you’re a big brand, it’s annoying, because the receiver will wonder how the heck you got their email address.

Other Types of Campaign

You might want to make an announcement or send an invite to an event. Either way, the above rules apply –

    • Have great images and a minimal word-count.
    • Have at least one CTA that’s super-simple for the reader to enact.
    • Don’t sound desperate.

Whatever your objective, the rules are pretty simple.

Be clear and present yourself impeccably.


Creating Your First Campaign

You have:

  • Identified your objectives.

  • Created an audience.

  • Decided upon the type of campaign.

now’s the fun part: building your campaign.

We’ll talk about email service providers that offer great templates (such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, etc.) in a few seconds, but let’s focus on your copy.


Build Your Campaigns for Easy Reading

People scan-read emails unless they’re of particular importance. An average adult has an attention span of eight seconds. Long, wordy campaigns don’t usually work (unless your target demographic is university professors, perhaps).

Your words and images should guide the reader towards your CTA. That’s the whole purpose of your email.


Consider The Inverted Pyramid

Email Marketing For Dummies - Triangle
  • Succinct headline – identify the key message of the campaign in the subject field

  • Supporting information – what do they need to know? Images and a concise copy will guide them to a

  • Prominent Call To Action – making it crystal clear what the reader can do next.

Segmented Lists

Research suggests that campaigns sent to segmented lists can achieve a 760% revenue increase.

It’s possible to segment your lists so that you’re sending relevant offers only to the people you think are likely to respond.

Back to Rip Curl:

Rip Curl sell surf-wear to both men and women. So when they have a deal for, say, a new male wetsuit, they send it to their male subscribers. Ditto for female wetsuits.

By making sure that they’re only sending relevant information, the reader knows that when they receive an email, it’s going to be something they’re going to be interested in; increasing the chances of a click-through.

We’ll be talking about the reporting capabilities of email campaigns – the way in which you can gauge the effectiveness of a mail. There are lots to learn from reporting that will help to hone a clear understanding of your mailing lists. Read on for more info.

 You can segment your mailing list using a wide array of categories – age, gender, geographic location, purchase history, people more responsive on Fridays… If you can gather the demography information, you can use it to pinpoint each campaign to the right people.


Great Images

The average duration an adult spends reading a newsletter after opening it is just 51 seconds. The brain of an average adult processes images 60,000 times faster than text. So, compelling images and a great layout are essential to delivering your message.

If you don’t have great images, you can buy licenses from image libraries, such as iStockphoto, or shutterstock.

Alternatively, save yourself some money and learn how to take some great photos for yourself.

Tips coming up!


Avoid using badly composed photos you’ve taken on your smartphone unless you’ve applied some rules of composition.


Lighting – badly lit photograph can make a penthouse apartment look like a divey crack-den. Use natural light as much as possible.

Identify your light source – images with strong backlighting will silhouette the subject of your photo.


Email Marketing For Dummies Identify Your Light Source

Place your subject so that the light hits it (or them) – if you can see the light source in the image (be it a light bulb or the sun), move so that the light source is behind the person taking the photograph, and shining directly on the subject.

Place Your Subject In The Light
Make sure there’s no reflection of the photographer – we’ve all seen those odd, naked guys reflected in the mirror on eBay. It really detracts from the iPhone they’re trying to sell. (And why were they naked?!)

Composition – Your subject doesn’t always need to go in the center of your image. It can (and that’s fine), but sometimes there are more interesting ways to present your subject.

The Rule of Thirds separates your image into nine sectors. If you look at your camera settings, you’ll probably find the “grid”.

Rule of Thirds

The grid helps you to compose a great photograph. The lines are called Powerlines, and where they cross, they create PowerPoints.

A general rule is to position the most interesting visual elements on powerlines, with the focal point on a PowerPoint.

Photo Correctly mapped
Benefit-focused headings
By now, hopefully, you’ve realized that people scan-read marketing copy. With that in mind, make it easy to scan.

Create headings so that your reader knows whether each section is relevant to them. Remember, the clock is ticking – 51 seconds isn’t very long. So, get them to the essential info as quickly as you can by signposting.

Call To Action

A button is always good – use minimal text to confirm what will happen if they hit that button.

“Go to our website if you’re interested in buying our new multi-colored socks.”

doesn’t scan as well as

“Buy our funky socks!”

 People know what to do with a button – they press it. So make sure that your CTA is clear.

Email Marketing For Dummies - Do Not Use Big Paragraphs
Remember this image? This email is just headlines and a CTA button for each subject. It’s effective because it’s easy to see what’s going to be relevant to your reader immediately.

Consider the size, design, and color of your CTA.

  • Your CTA button should be large enough to see instantly.

  • Make your CTA button stand out with design features, such as shadows, gradients, and other effects such as exciting textures or frames.

  • Give your button a prominent color that contrasts with the rest of your design.

Maintain your brand

Chances are someone subscribed to your mailing list because they visited your website, or found you on social media, so try to keep your mail-out visually consistent with your branding in terms of colors, fonts, logos design, etc. This sends the message that your brand is reliable, focused, professional, and trustworthy.

Conversion is key

Research suggests that 41% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so make sure that your campaign looks great on all devices. Most templates provided by mail clients such as MailChimp offer automatic mobile conversion, but make sure that your campaign looks at its best by sending test messages before you commit to sending your mail out to your mailing list. You only really get one chance to get it right.

Screen across devices

Measure Results

Once you’ve sent out your mail, don’t just leave it at that. One of the best things about email marketing is the ability to measure success. You might not get it right the first time, so analyze your hit-rates so that you don’t continuously make the same mistakes.

Each template-based mail client has its own method of reporting (and may call it different things), so you’ll be able to see, first and foremost, who has opened your email and who hasn’t. Give it some time – don’t expect immediate responses. If people haven’t opened your campaign after a couple of days, you could try resending it (but don’t resend it to people who have already opened it).

Measuring Results

You’ll also be able to see your “bounce rate” – these are addresses that rejected your mail. This usually means that an email address is not valid.

 However, it doesn’t stop there. You should also assess the success of your campaign on the increased hits of your website (if driving visits was, indeed, an objective), so check your website’s analytics, or use Google Analytics to analyze your traffic.

Reporting mechanisms will allow you to identify Click-Through Rates, which is the number of people who clicked on a link within your email.

Other features of the mail report provide information regarding Unsubscribe requests, Spam Complaints, and Shares (the number of people who have forwarded your mail to a friend).

This analytics provide a clear indication as to the success of your campaign.


Email campaigning isn’t an exact science. Stick to these tips, and you’ll get results, but use the measurement of those results to learn what works for your potential clients and what doesn’t. At the end of your email is a person with wants and needs, and every person is entirely different. Your business may very well appeal to a really specific demographic, so learning about what they want is key to your success.

Never be satisfied with OK. Strive for improvement by learning what works for you.


So, now you know how to get started with your email marketing campaign, we can cover some of the significant advantages of email as a marketing tool.

The most convincing argument is the one that states that for every $1 spent on developing your email marketing campaign, $38 is your ROI. Despite the fact that there are many other ways of getting the word out there, marketers keep going back to email.

Email Marketing Advantages
 However, the world has changed, and so has the way we use email marketing as a device for engagement.

Do it Yourself

As technology has developed, so has the ease in which we get tasks done. What would have taken an IT department a week to do ten years ago, can now be done from your bedroom in a matter of minutes.

Your email is representing your brand, so making sure that you get that pixel-perfect image across is essential.

If you want your message to get lost between the emails from your gran and the requests for bank details from Nigerian royalty, then go ahead with a blank text email. Otherwise, embrace the huge array of pre-designed and professional templates available, and present your brand as a cutting-edge company with all the know-how.

Mail platforms such as MailChimp and Optimizely have a plethora of templates that will send your message with style.

Be Multi-platform

60% of online adults access the internet and their email from more than one device every day, so make sure that whatever you send looks right on each device. If you use template-based mail clients to compose and send your campaigns, this multi-platform formatting will be done automatically for you. It’s important, so don’t overlook it.


With great email marketing power comes great responsibility (or is that Spiderman?). Once you’re up and running, you should consider your behaviors!

Make sure that you follow appropriate etiquette to ensure that you keep your audience once you’ve found them, and to improve your chances of successful ROI.

Embrace the DIY attitude

Long gone are the days where you’d create a campaign and wait for days for developers to code your email (WTF?!). Now we’re in control of how our email looks for ourselves.

If your email represents your brand, it’s important that you project an image of professionalism (even if your business idea is fashionably slack). Today’s email service providers offer a plethora of solutions that allow you to keep your messages consistent, stylish, and accessible.


Regardless of the purpose of your mail (newsletter, announcement, promotion, etc.), you should remain consistently on-brand. Your audience should be able to glance at your mail and know it’s from you straight away.

Using Templates

There are plenty of pre-designed templates available through providers such as MailChimpSquareSpace, and Optimizely who offer easily-customizable templates that look great every time (there are some examples later on in this article).

Free accounts include hundreds of great-looking templates, but they usually include branding from the provider at the bottom of the mail. You’ll need a paid subscription to remove their branding.

Most providers use drag-n-drop technology to help you to build your email template to perfectly suit your campaign, with the ability to use brand colors and fonts.

Remember Mobile

The world has gone mobile-crazy. We love it. And mobile is fast becoming the medium of choice for users accessing their email, social- and web-content.

Between 2010 to 2017, emails opened on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets etc) increased by 30%. There are more who pick up their email on one device and continue reading them on another.

Again, using a reliable email provider, with funky, customizable templates, is the best way to secure your formatting across multi-platforms.

Email Marketing Open Rates
So, we’re firmly living on a multi-device, multi-screen planet that has gone mobile.

The long-and-the-short is – make sure that your email displays beautifully on mobile. Of course, you should never neglect how it looks on other platforms such as Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, and the like. But neglect mobile to your chagrin (ooh, good word!). 

Be Relevant. Or Be Deleted.

Harsh. But true.

If the content of your mail isn’t relevant to your subscribers, it will end up in the Trashcan. Worse still, it could be manually marked as Spam, and your email address will forever bob-about in the greasy confines of the Spam box (or is it tin?).

Don’t get manually black-listed. Deliver the right message to the right person. At the right time.

 Relevancy is the fastest route to revenue, and email with a personalized subject line is 26% more likely to capture an audience. Segmenting a campaign, so that specific groups of subscribers receive specific messages is said to increase mail-derived revenue by a whopping 760%.

What was that? Segmentation?

Segmentation is a great way to group your customers using demographic, purchase history, and their browsing activity. Using this data, you can tailor your messages to specific groups. According to, 74% of consumers of online products are incensed by content that appears in their inbox but has no relation to their interests.

So, segmenting your audience is a way of ensuring that you’re catering to their need – not just yours. Because that never works out well.


It’s impossible to give direct attention to every single customer, but you can email them at the right time to make sure that they’re not likely to be in the middle of something else. There are plenty of studies that have found the most responsive times of the day (read on), and most email suppliers will give you the option of scheduling your mail to suit those windows of opportunity.

 Email automation allows you to create workflows that will send personalized, relevant email in a timely fashion.

  We’re living in the future, guys!

Analyze.. or die!

OK – perhaps a little dramatic, but here’s a heck of a lot of data out there. And you either use it. Or you don’t.

If you don’t use it, you’ll never know how your campaign is received. Back in 2014, there was a spurious claim that “90% of the entire world’s data was generated in the previous 12 months”.

Woah – that sounds like the premise of a movie.

However unlikely it sounds, there’s plenty of data to back that up. And if that was the case in 2014, I’m almost afraid to broach the subject in 2018. It’s gonna be – like – huge.

There are a couple of methods that you could employ to make sure that your mailing priorities are hitting the right buttons.

Email Marketing AB Split Testing

A/B testing can improve conversion by up to 49%. Every audience has their own wants and needs – and split testing allows you to experiment until you get things right, helping you understand the aspects of your campaign that drove engagement or influenced decisions that led to purchases, or which CTAs actually evoked a response that led to a sale.

A/B testing is a long-term learning curve – you’ll discover for yourself what works, but it takes a little time. But that time will help to produce results.

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are automated emails that you probably don’t even realize that you send. Traditionally, developers embedded these follow-up emails as a result of a subscribers action or (perhaps, more significantly) their inaction. So, if a subscriber didn’t open the mail, the system automatically resends it a couple of days later (at an optimum time).

Transactional emails are effective. In fact, according to Experian, the open-rate of transactional email is four to eight times higher than with stand-alone mail.

A transactional email could be sent when a subscriber has left items in your website’s shopping basket, or when confirming an order. Often they happen without your knowledge because they’re embedded in the code of your website.

 Find out if these emails are being sent – and customize them so that they remain on-brand.

Don’t send Graymail

The definition of spam has evolved. Just because a subscriber willingly surrendered their details, doesn’t mean that your email isn’t spam.

If you send a mail and they don’t open it, you’re failing to engage. If they fail to open one mail, there’s a distinct unlikelihood that they’re going to open the following. If they continuously fail to open your mail and you continue to send correspondence, you’re sending graymail.


That makes you a spammer.

If they’re not opening your mail, they’re telling you something. Can you decode their refusal to engage?

Avoid graymail by being relevant – make your objectives clear, and make sure that it appeals to them. You can suppress the user for a while, or segment them, just don’t graymail them.


There are some commonly-used methods that the most successful email marketers use.

Email Marketing For Dummies - Triangle


You might think that it doesn’t matter when you send an email because it just sits there in the inbox waiting to be opened. But there are statistics that demonstrate that if you send a mail the wrong time, it’ll get lost in the inbox.

Tuesday through Thursday morning, right?

Common wisdom was that the optimum time to send a marketing email would be from Tuesday to Thursday, between the hours of 8-10am. Avoid Monday because everyone’s asleep from the weekend, and avoid Friday because they’re either taking the day off or they can’t wait to leave, and they’re not going to read non-essential email.

Actually, this has been disproven completely. According to a study conducted by Experian that spanned all industries, they discovered that an email es more likely to be opened at night! Check out below chart:

Best Times To Send Marketing Emails

Experian discovered that 21.7% of the unique open rates were between 8 pm and 11.59pm, with a whopping 17.6% likely to open them between 12 am and 4 am.

And these Rip Van Winkles of the business world are more likely to click-through. And revenue from click-through at these times was highest. 

The change is due to mobile access to email – no longer are people’s lives dictated by the 9 to 5. In fact, in this study, more than 54% of all the emails were opened on mobile devices.

 So, get your emails mobile-friendly, is the moral of that particular story!