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What is email marketing and how does it work?
6 min read

What is email marketing and how does it work?

What is email marketing and how does it work?

DataValidation starts a new series of articles for all digital marketers and email marketing specialists. If you are at the beginning of your career, this learning journey is specifically aimed at you. Our Email Marketing Essentials course will go over everything you need to know before implementing an email marketing campaign. For the next couple of weeks, we will go in-depth with email-related articles, from start to advanced information.


To be able to provide a specific definition, we need to first mention the terms we will operate with in this article. As you might have figured out from the get go, the most important term is the one of email marketing.

  • Email Service Provider (ESP) - An ESP is an online software solution that offers customers, from email marketers to sales representatives, the option to send out emails to contacts, based on lists or on a one-to-one approach.
  • Email list - An email list is where you store the information you have gathered about your contacts. You can build the list online, using contact forms, subscription forms or via social media contests. You can also use a list that you have generated offline, at events, with your CRM or from your business partners.
  • Segment - Starting from your email list, you can create sub-lists, based on whatever criteria is appropriate for your specific need. These sub-lists are called segments and they are used to better target contacts when planning a campaign. You might use gender to segment lists, but you also have the option to use your contacts’ engagement to create new segments, when you try to increase email marketing engagement.
  • Email metrics - To be able to assess the success of your email marketing campaigns, you will use, at least at first, the basic email metrics that the industry operates with. There are 4 metrics that you need to pay attention to: open rate (what percentage of recipients open your email), click rate (the percentage of users who have opened your email and also clicked on a link or image), bounce rate (the percentage of recipients who could not be contacted) and unsubscribe rate (the percentage of recipients who asked to not be contacted again). The first two metrics refer to engagement, while the latter refers to disengagement. You can create KPIs based on industry or market benchmarks, but we will get to that later in the series.

What is email marketing?

Before we can properly start, we need to clarify what email marketing is and understand what you can do using email marketing platforms.

Email marketing is a digital marketing tactic of targeting contacts via email. It is used to send out email communication or newsletters to customers or prospects regarding company updates, benefits or offer valuable information.

Email marketing ranks at number in terms of return on investment, at $44 for every $1 spent. Obviously, this statistic differs by industry or market, but what you need to keep in mind is that a well-defined and coherent email marketing strategy will help you keep subscribers engaged and up-to-date. That, in turn, will translate into profit for your company. So, if you arrived at this article with an important question about whether or not to start paying attention to email marketing, that answer should be crystal clear by now.

Email use cases

Here are some use cases for email, which could apply to you:

  • Brand awareness: with each American being exposed to up to 10,000 ads on a daily basis, it is really difficult to make a lasting impression. That’s where email can actually help you boost brand awareness and keep your brand top-of-mind.
  • Inbound marketing: Help your subscribers find your content, from blog articles to white papers or e-books. By supporting them with valuable content, they will have a reason to continue reading your emails and engaging with your value propositions.
  • Sales: Start promoting your products or services to your customers, make sure that you are upselling and that you constantly offer them something that they might be interested in. Let your customers know about promotions or discounts.
  • Lead generation: Reaching your prospects, but converting them is a more difficult task. Ask your prospective customers to fill out a form and move the conversation to email.
  • Lead nurturing: Help customers navigate the stages of your marketing funnel with content that will help them achieve their goals.
  • Engagement: From welcome emails to reminders, engagement emails are a good tactic for communicating with clients in a more personalized manner.

Benefits of email marketing

While ROI or return on investment is one of the biggest benefits for using email marketing as a tactic to keep in touch with customers, it isn’t the only benefit to take into consideration.

  • Website traffic: You can easily redirect your subscribers from emails to your website, therefore increasing traffic. Include relevant links inside the email, from blog articles to contact pages or from offers and promotions to important announcements. Not only will you get more people to visit your website, but you will ensure that customers are always aware of what updates you have for them and know where to find them.
  • Drive sales: Users that subscribe to newsletters are more likely to convert into customers, that’s why emails play such an important role in generating sales. As previously mentioned, there is no contender to email when it comes to ROI.
  • Customer relationship: Build and maintain strong customer relationship via email. You might not have the time to personally connect with all customers on chat platforms or by phone, but email provides a great opportunity to bridge that gap.
  • Absolute control: Probably the most important reason to include email in your marketing strategy is the fact that, unlike social media or SEO, with email you own the channel. Of course you need to comply with regulations, but other than that you don’t need to worry about restrictions that other channels come with. You decide who and when, and how often you contact your subscribers, which makes email priceless.

The look and feel of your emails

Templates play a major role in how you are going to interact with your subscribers. A clean and easy-to-understand template will help you get your message across, while also help you keep those subscribers engaged.

First of all, let’s start by explaining what an email template is. Put very simply, an email template is an HTML document that dictates the sections, colors and text density of your campaigns. You can use templates to easily insert both your images and copy to create emails. The best thing about efficient templates is that you can reuse them whenever necessary.

To create an efficient template, make sure you add very few images, include your brand assets (logo, brand colors, social media links) and help distinguish individual sections by using different background colors. Having few or no images means that all email clients will be able to properly render your email. But colors and call to action buttons will actually transmit your brand identity.

Here is a very good example of an email that utilises color more than images to stand out in the inbox and transmit a clear and loud message. Try emulating something like this, especially if most of your subscribers are using business emails, and therefore might encounter issues with loading images. Another aspect that this email aces is the fact that it will look as well on desktop as it will look on mobile. And that is something that, in this day and age, you need to take into consideration every time.

Email templates simplify the process of creating email campaigns by acting as a time saver. You won’t need to repeatedly do the same actions over and over again. More importantly, templates are also good at creating consistency for your communication. Both your superiors and your customers will know what to expect when receiving either a test or a newsletter.


Email marketing is no rocket science, but that doesn’t mean it cannot feel a bit overwhelming, especially for people just starting to test it out.

Here is what we have learned up to this point:

  • Email marketing offers complete control over the experience you deliver to customers
  • Email is the most efficient tactic when it comes to ROI
  • There are two types of metrics you need to pay attention to: engagement and disengagement metrics
  • There are multiple use cases for email: lead generation and lead nurturing, sharing content, sales and promotions, to name a few examples
  • Email brings a lot of value to businesses: driving sales, building strong customer relationship
  • Templates are a great tool for creating consistency and saving time

Now that we have learned the basics about email marketing, we want to invite you to check back next week for our second article in the Email Marketing Essentials series.