Email Marketing: The Why, the What, and the How

Jan 27, 2022 by Cristian Mihai— 12 min read

Launching an email newsletter as a new distribution and marketing channel seems like a simple and straightforward process.

However, properly launching an email newsletter takes time and strategic thought about:

  • The type of emails you want to send out
  • The audience you’re trying to reach
  • How you’ll manage your workflow
  • The resources you are willing to allocate

Leveraging a distribution channel, be it a blog, a social media account, or an email newsletter, has to offer a clear value to a specific audience. If you already have an email newsletter, answering and revisiting these questions is still a helpful exercise.

The Why

I know what you’re thinking… but isn’t email dead?

Far from it.

Actually, email is not even slowing down, let alone going away. The average person checks their email about 15 times per day. They also spend around 352 minutes (about five hours and 52 minutes) each day going through emails.

Compare that to the 153 minutes they spend on social media, and you get the sense that email is probably one of the distribution channels you’ve got to take advantage of.

Still not convinced that email marketing is worth it?

Let me share with you a scenario I wish would never happen to you. Let’s imagine you never use email marketing. At all. And you rely on all the other platforms. Social media. Blogging platforms. The platforms of other bloggers and content creators, whenever you publish guest posts, get featured or interviewed by them.

But what if there’s an algorithm change to a social media platform? What if search engines decide to penalize your website? What if other platforms ban you?

And there’s this other thing… email provides you the most direct line of communication with your audience. That makes it crucial for converting first-time visitors into subscribers, and then turning them into paying customers, which is why email is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Email marketing is a distribution channel you own. Not happy with your email service provider? Easy. Export your list and switch platforms.

And, then, five minutes later, you’re using a different platform.

What else?

Audience segmentation.

The vast majority of email marketing providers allow you to segment your list, based on any number of characteristics. You can break down your audience based on a number of characteristics, so you make sure that you send them articles that they’re far more likely to engage with, or present them special offers that truly makes them think, “it feels like they’re reading my mind.”

It’s almost like magic.

And if you use some basic automations with that, you basically turbocharge your blog. You are able to create fantastic welcome series for your readers, or offer an email course, or provide assistance to a certain segment of your audience. This is phenomenal.

The What

Before you begin work on creating a new newsletter or refining an existing one, it is critical to define three things:

  1. Value proposition
  2. Goals and measures of success
  3. Resources

As you sit down to define your email marketing strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • What is the value proposition of your email newsletter to your reader? In other words, what problem are you trying to solve? By flipping the question into one that is reader-centered, you’re forced to align your incentives (i.e., solving a problem readers actually have) with delivering value to your reader. You know you’ve delivered sufficient value when you can successfully “pitch” your newsletter to potential readers and attract them with no other incentives required.
  • What is your primary goal? What are you trying to achieve? Examples of goals could include driving more readers to new content, increasing page views, or learning more about your audience. These goals should align with the value proposition outlined above.
  • What are your resource limitations? Determine which email product(s) best serve your readers, and what is feasible from a production workflow perspective (more on this in later sections of this guide).

When doing research for your email marketing channel, you also need to take into consideration the following:

  • Which “features” are both urgent and important (i.e., launching an event-based newsletter is urgent and important because there’s a timing issue; launching with an ambassador/referral program is likely important, but not urgent).
  • Desirable: does the reader need this problem solved?
  • Feasible: is the newsletter project technically possible?

Opt-In, a helpful diagnostic survey tool developed by the Seattle public media outlet Crosscut, will guide you toward deciding which type of newsletter strategy is sensible for your blog.

The quiz starts by asking whether you are launching a new newsletter or optimizing a current one, and in total takes about an hour to complete.

Email is not only the best way to consistently bring visitors and readers back to your blog, but it also allows you to reach out and communicate with your audience in a more personal way.

Even something as simple as a newsletter that provides updates on your latest content and what you’re working on will go a long way towards building trust with your readers.

The How

If you’ve never built your own email newsletter before, here’s how you actually start.

1. Pick your ESP

The first step in building an email list is picking your email service provider, ESP for short. ESPs are a dime a dozen, and while they all generally provide the same basic fundamental features they can vary wildly in how sophisticated those features are.

So what does an email service provider provide?

  • The ability to grow your own database of subscribers
  • The ability to send emails to multiple addresses simultaneously
  • The ability to create and share signup forms through your website or on landing pages/embeddings

But those are just the basics of what an email provider does.

What you need to be looking for while choosing the right one are some key features and abilities that will dictate exactly which ways you can use the marketing platform you’re building.

The 3 key features to look for when it comes to an email service provider are:

1. The ability to create automatic email-flows

Most ESP’s will provide this in some shape or form. Some will only be able to let you send simple flows like an automatic welcome email series, while others can let you perform much more sophisticated structures based on hundreds of possible criteria and subscriber properties.

2. The degree to which you can segment your users based on custom criteria

The extent to which your ESP allows the categorization of your subscribers is a key component for the longevity and success of your email list. The email service provider that allows you to create these lists/segments in the most possible ways will end up paying off best.

For instance, some ESPs will only let you segment by tags, while others will allow you to segment users with hundreds of possible criteria.

3. The analytical features they provide

Analytics allow you to make informed decisions on how to improve your methods, strategies, and email practices. The more analytical features you have, the more informed you’ll be.

Email service providers we recommend for beginners:


This is the ESP we’ve used the most, and it’s both the most affordable, and one of the most beginner-friendly and intuitive platforms out there.

Try MailerLite


Trusted by over 175,000 users, Sendinblue is a complete platform, offering email marketing, SMS, chat, automations, transactional emails, landing pages, and more.

It does offer an interesting free plan, which you can use if you’re just starting out until you grow your list.

Try Sendinblue

Constant Contact

While not as feature rich as the other platforms so far, Constant Contact does offer all the necessary basics of setting up a proper newsletter for your blog.

To name just a few: list segmentation, landing pages, signup forms, and automation workflows.

Try Constant Contact


Another interesting email service provider, especially if you also run a Shopify store for your blog, Drip offers a plethora of integrations, while being priced competitively among other similar tools.

Try Drip

2. Pick a lead generation strategy

You’ll have to give people an incentive to join your list, at least in some shape or form. What are subscribers getting? Why would they agree for you, a total stranger, to send them e-mails? You’ll have to be able to answer these questions.

Content incentives

Offer exclusive content or a free digital download for subscribing. This could draw in members who are actually interested in what you have to say and share. Incentive examples: free weekly recipes, learn investing fundamentals in ten days, stock market news every morning, etc.

Monetary incentives

Offering a discount or gift for subscribing can be a highly effective strategy for rapidly growing your audience. However, this method does have its own drawbacks like the potential to draw in subscribers that are there only for the freebie. Incentive examples: book a free ten-minute consultation, ask a question, sign up to get 10% off your first order, etc.

3. Create your signup process

Design the form that people will use to sign up for your mailing list. Here you can choose what kind of data and information you would like to collect from potential subscribers. This could be things like their names, birthdays, phone numbers, and more.

Depending on the purpose of your email list, you may want to start with collecting just the necessary information at first. This could just be a subscriber’s first name, and of course, their e-mail address.

A lengthy signup process asking for too much personal information could hinder the number of signups your list gets. Of course, your potential subscribers’ threshold for information sharing will vary from niche to niche.

Information about your subscribers is great, it allows you to easily personalize e-mails, deliver even more relevant content, and work toward building a real personal connection with each of them as time goes on. Just be wary of reaching their information-sharing threshold before they even get a chance to know you.

Building a personal connection with your subscribers will be key to maintaining high open-rates, generating engagement, and keeping a low churn rate.

Your churn rate is the average number of subscribers you lose in a specific time period.

Always include an “Opt-In” box on your signup forms. This is so you have written consent to contact subscribers as long as they are subscribed. It might also be required by law.

Your signup form can be presented to potential subscribers in several ways: embedded in content, pop-ups, landing pages, or even through the use of interactive elements like quizzes and web tools.

4. Build a welcome e-mail flow

Greet your new subscribers right away, and start delivering them content with an automated e-mail sequence. You probably won’t have time to send out a newsletter every time you get a new subscriber, so it’s best to just set it all up in advance.

An e-mail flow is a pre-constructed sequence of e-mails that can be automatically sent once certain conditions/triggers have been met. For example, an email flow delivering regular recipes to members could start automatically sending a recipe every week to each new subscriber.

Your welcome e-mail flow doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, it’s typically where you can confirm and thank your members for signing up, as well as share other places they can connect with you.

You can even include some incentives and offers in this flow. But in most cases, it’s best not to directly sell something in the very first email your new subscribers get from you.

Subscribing to a newsletter and starting a new relationship online is like wandering into a shop for the first time. For a digital business, your email confirmation saying ‘Welcome to my list!’ is the welcome mat into your showroom.

People agree to enter your corner of the internet and are willing to browse your offers. This is your best opportunity to show your new customers around your little shop.

Imagine if that shopkeeper had welcomed us with a smile and said, “We just got some new books in, over on that wall. What kinds of books do you like?” I would have happily told her all about my interests, and she could have learned about the sorts of things she could sell to me easily.

Your new subscribers can be treated the same way. Right after they confirm their subscription, fresh email subscribers are the most open to learning about your brand, your offers, and your story.

Make your new email subscribers feel welcome.

Your automated welcome email series sets the tone for your relationship

Some best practices when it comes to designing a welcome email series include:

1. Set expectations with your automated welcome email

After someone subscribes to your list, you can say, ‘I’m going to email you again in three days with a message about x.’ And then, your email onboarding system automatically sends that message. The fulfillment of expectations builds trust. Be clear about the kind of content they can expect to receive and what you will be asking them to do.

2. End every automated welcome email with a single CTA

Every email in your onboarding series should have a call-to-action at the end. It’s best to have just one because if you provide too many choices your user will take none of them.

3. Invite connections across platforms

Email is only one of the channels we use to communicate online. If you are active on Twitter, or Instagram, or Medium, invite your new subscribers to follow those accounts, too.

5. Make it public

Once you’ve decided on the data you want to collect from your subscribers, you’ll have to choose where and how you want to present your signup form to the public.

Have a website? Create a pop-up or embed a simple form with your content.

Operating solely through social media? Create a landing page for your form. Basically, a one-page website specifically designed to sign up new subscribers.

6. Test, rebuild, and test again

From here, you’ll probably need to repeat steps two and three, or at least optimize your execution on them. Chances are, you didn’t pick the best possible way to lead in new subscribers and that’s okay, it’s why we have analytics.

Analytics at this stage will be your best friend. The stuff above is just setting up your foundation, but the analytics will give you all the clues you need to find the direction you need to go.

Getting a lot of signup form views but little signups? Maybe change your incentive or ask for less of their information.

Do certain types of emails consistently cause people to unsubscribe? Then cut back on those types of emails.

Do certain types of email campaigns or certain offers result in more sales? Do more of those.

Remember to always segment your subscribers as well. This allows you to target people on your list who are, assumingly, the most interested in what you have to offer at any given point in time.

Another important aspect of refining your email marketing strategy is to understand how your actions as the sender and the subscriber’s actions influence your deliverability.

This will help you better optimize your sending strategy, your list hygiene, and how you choose to interact with different segments of your list.

And that’s it! With consistent attention to your analytics and quality content, as well as sufficient traffic to your signup forms, you can start building your very own email list.

For a more in-depth view of email marketing (and its various aspects and elements), check out our course, Email Marketing Masterclass.

Source: loaded 28.01.2022

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