Email Marketing For Beginners: What Is Email Marketing & What Are The Steps?

Email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to grow your business online. By capturing leads early and often, you can use effective email marketing techniques to convert those leads into well-paying, long-term customers.

If you’re still wondering, “What is email marketing?” then stick around. This article will break email marketing down so that even a complete beginner can understand.

With a proper email marketing campaign set up, you will be able to capture leads and make sales 24/7 with little effort.

What Is Email Marketing?

what is email marketing

By definition, email marketing is the process of bringing your customers down the sales path by way of sending them emails. However, what specific emails you send them and how often they’re sent will determine your results. Email marketing is a highly effective strategy to implement and is one of the oldest forms of marketing on the internet.

Email marketing is also one of the strategies that will stand the test of time well into the future so you better learn how to do it properly.

Why Email Marketing Is Important

Now that you know what email marketing is, let’s talk about its importance and what it means to the success of your business. Even though social media has become commonplace, email marketing remains the #1 way to nurture leads and create customer loyalty. There are a few reasons for that:

Email is King For Customers

If you want your name to be in front of your customers quickly, the email inbox is the place to be. In fact, 99% of consumers check their emails every single day. That means that it’s almost guaranteed that no more than 24 hours will pass from when you send your email to when your customer sees it.

People go through social media cleanses every now and then (how often do you hear of your friends deleting their Facebook for a while?) but they’ll never go on an email cleanse. Email is one of the pillars of online existence.

You Own Your List

If you have an online business or are an affiliate, there are very few things that you actually own. You rent the space on your hosting servers, you rent space on social media, you rent your funnel-building software, etc. No matter what the tool is, there is a chance that you pay a monthly fee for access. If you fail to pay, everything goes away.

However, this isn’t true with your email list. You OWN your email list. No one can take it away from you. If you suddenly lost everything and your email list was backed up somewhere, all it would take is a simple “here’s where I moved to” email and you’d be back up and running. No one can take your leads when you own them.

Email Converts Better

Email marketing is the highest ROI activity you can engage in. In fact, email marketing has a 4400% ROI on average! That’s because the average order value from an email lead is 3 times higher than that of a social media lead.  It’s simply the best way to make a sale.

How Email Marketing Works

Email marketing can be either a very simple, or a very complex process depending upon how you break it down. However you structure your process, there are generally two types of email sequences:

Automated Follow-Up

The bulk of your emails will be the kind that you write once and program to get sent out automatically. “Boilerplate” emails if you will. This typically consists of 5-10 emails in a sequence called an “autoresponder” and they work in tandem to welcome your customer to your company or get them acquainted with a product they just purchased.

Soap Opera Sequence

The most common type of autoresponder is called a “soap opera sequence” and it’s a series of 5 emails designed to tell your story and present your first offer to the customer. Ideally, you’ve already offered a powerful lead magnet to entice your prospect to join your list. Chances are they did not buy on the first interaction, so this is your chance to warm them up so that they buy at the next opportunity.

Explain your story, talk about how you came up with the product that you’re offering, and how you feel the product can benefit them now that they have a little more context to who you are. If done right, this will capture a lot of “second chance” buyers.

Product Consumption Sequence

If you offer an introductory product at a low price point and later offer something that is at a higher price point, it’s crucial that you get your customer to consume the first product if you want to have a chance at selling them the second.

A prime example of this is the 15-Day challenge from Legendary Marketer. It’s a $7 guided challenge meant to get someone acquainted with making money online. On days 5, 11, and 15, the customer is presented with the opportunity to purchase the Business Blueprints Bundle for $2,500. In order for Legendary (or you, the affiliate) to have a chance at the $2,500 sale, you need to make sure that the prospect completes the challenge.

Proper email marketing will solve this problem. I have an automated sequence designed to “follow” my prospect throughout the challenge explaining my own experiences and nudging them along to complete the challenge.

They get an email from me explaining what I thought of each day in the challenge and when it comes to the blueprints, I tell my own story of why I invested in them myself. This process has led to a much higher than average conversion rate on my affiliate sales.

One-Off Communication

It’s also important that you send your list “just because” or special event emails as well. That’s because it’s impossible to automate email marketing 100%. If your list gets the idea that you aren’t writing any of the emails they get personally, your open rate will plummet. When this happens, the chances that you’ll make a sale plummet too.

This type of email is known as a “Seinfeld” email because they can be emails about absolutely nothing. Tell your list about how your day was or share a funny story about something that happened. This lets your list know that you’re human and will make them more likely to consume your other emails.

You can also use these emails for special promotions as well. If you are launching a new product, a quick email to your list explaining the launch will often generate a few quick sales to get the ball rolling. Just make sure that you keep a good mix of “just because” and promo emails. Too many promos and you’ll start to lose subscribers.

Building An Email List

Now that you have an idea of how email marketing works, let’s talk about how you actually build your list and get people to agree to let you email them. There are generally three things you need to make that happen. A lead magnet, optin form, and traffic to see them.

This section focuses on the lead magnet and optin form. I wrote another article on traffic if you want to check that one out.

What Is A Lead Magnet?

what is email marketing

Put simply, a lead magnet is something of value that you are offering in exchange for an email address. Ideally, this is something digital so that you can deliver it instantly and without any fulfillment costs. Remember, there are no limitations on what it can be. Just get creative and offer something you think your ideal customer would pay $19.99 for. That’s because if they would pay 20 bucks for this item, they’ll certainly provide an email address to get it. Here are some examples of good lead magnets:

  • ebooks
  • cheat sheets
  • case studies
  • 1-hour long recorded webinar
  • free trials
  • free quote or coaching call
  • a coupon

Whatever you choose to offer, make sure it’s valuable, actionable, and represents your company well. This will be your customer’s first taste of what you have to offer so make sure it’s a good one.

Optin Form Best Practices

Even if your lead magnet is something that’s high value, the optin box needs to be sorted properly. If it’s not, no one will ever opt-in to see what you have. Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your optin box:


Your headline needs to be attention-grabbing and clearly define your lead magnet.


Describe your lead magnet in as few words as possible. Be clear and concise. Use bullet points if necessary.


Make sure the optin box stands out from the rest of the page. Use contrasting colors and make it large. Also, include a visual representation of your lead magnet to increase conversions. People love “seeing” what they’re getting.


Your optin box is a form of interruption marketing. It must be understood quickly if you want it to have a shot at working. Keep the box simple and try not to overcomplicate your message.

Compelling CTA Button

The actual button your customer clicks on should be enticing as well. Instead of having a simple “submit” on the button, try something like “send me my thing now!” Be sure to use a bright color and get creative with the words on the button.

You’ll start to see your optins begin to rise over time.

This is a GREAT optin box by OptinMonster

Segmenting Your List

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’ll know that customers are not all the same, they tend to fall into different categories and subsets. The customer who spent $20 with you on impulse is different than the customer who has spent $15,000 with you religiously over the years.

Ideally, you’d like to convert the $20 customer into the $15,000 customer. However, at first, they have different needs and interests.

This is why you need to segment your email ist properly to get the best results.

Why Should You Segment Your List?

As a marketer, if you segment your list properly, it leads to increased open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately more sales made. This is because the emails going to each person are tailored more specifically to their exact situation. Each email feels like it’s written specifically for the customer who gets it.

This also makes it easier to write targeted subject lines and calls to action.

How Do You Go About Segmenting It?

Every email software has a section where you can “tag” a lead once they complete a certain event. You can create these tags based on product purchases, form opt-ins, anything really. As long as you feel a group of leads have something in common, you can create a tag for it. You can get as specific as you’d like. There really aren’t any hard-and0fast rules for segmentation. Just make sure that you can remember how you have people split up.

Improving Open Rates

Your email open rate is one of the most important KPIs in your email marketing. After all, if no one opens your email, how can they read what you have to say and click the link to go buy the thing you’re selling? Here are a few ways to increase your open rates and get some more “at-bats” with your customers:

Get Around Spam Filters

This is the most obvious problem you’ll encounter, but one of the easiest to get around. Spam filters are there to protect people’s inboxes from unsavory characters and spammy offers. To get around them, we just have to prove that we’re a real person who’s offering real value.

To start, use a reputable email provider like ActiveCampaign or GetResponse to send your email. These providers have been vetted and verified, and their IPs can be trusted by inboxes. This simple fix will solve a lot of your spam troubles quickly.

Another good practice to get into is to avoid super salesy language in your emails. Email inboxes have a set of spam “trigger words” that will direct an incoming email to the spam folder automatically. Avoid using phrases like “super mega ultra discount! today only! buy buy buy!” when writing a promotional email.

Now I’m obviously exaggerating the point, but you get the idea. Simply write your promo emails like you’re telling a friend about a good deal you saw at the store and you should be fine.

You should also include your location and an “opt-out” button in your emails. Spam filters are trying to weed out fake email accounts and deceptive offers, so if you can demonstrate that you’re an actual human and give your customers a chance to say “no thanks,” the filters are more likely to let you into the main inbox.

Clean Your List Periodically

There’s no worse feeling than actively removing people from your list. However, it needs to be done from time to time. Inactive subscribers who never open your emails are dead weight and need to be eliminated. Not only do they bring your stats down and may affect deliverability, but they can also actually cost you money.

Most email providers charge a monthly fee based on the number of subscribers you have, so if you’ve accumulated 500 dead subscribers, you could be bumped to the next payment tier with no additional benefit. Make sure you trim the fat and keep your list clean even if it hurts.

Time Your Emails Right

Timing is everything when it comes to emails. Ideally, you want your customer to be able to open and read your email as soon as they get it and you don’t want to get buried in a stack of emails that came in the night before.

You should always test your list and see what times get the best open rates. I can’t really give you a hard and fast recommendation on this one because every segment of customers is different.

However, some email providers offer “perfect timing” settings. The software will analyze and test the open rates for you and if you select that setting, your email will go out at the perfect time every time. Of course, you need a learning period first so the software can get calibrated, but it’s worth looking into.

Write Awesome Subject Lines

Once you’re past the spam filter and you’re in front of your customer in their inbox, the subject line is the only thing that determines if they open or not. If you can hook their curiosity and create a question in their mind, there’s a good chance they’ll listen to what you have to say. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Entice Curiosity
  • Include Numbers
  • Use a Conversational Tone
  • Speak the way your subscribers do

Mobile Optimization

This is probably the most overlooked aspect of increasing open rates but it’s likely the most powerful. Make sure that your emails are optimized for mobile devices since most people check their email on their phones nowadays. This easy to overlook because most marketers write their emails on a desktop instead of a mobile device. This can cause a disconnect along the way.

Sure, the page-long email with 17 high-resolution pictures arranged in 3 columns may look beautiful on your 27-inch monitor at the office, but on the customer’s phone, it’s a jumbled mess.

I find that the most effective emails are pretty much text-only with only a handful of pictures. This allows phones to load them fast and the message doesn’t get shuffled when it’s arranged into only one column.

It helps to send a test email to your phone to see how your customer will see it before you hit send…

Getting Your Customers To Act – Calls To Action

If you forget everything else I’ve told you in this article, make sure you remember this one thing. ALWAYS include a call to action in your emails. The sad truth is, most people won’t do anything without being told online.

You could have written the best email ever selling your product, but if you didn’t instruct your reader to click through and buy it, most people wouldn’t. They would simply go “hmm” and go about their day. Make your calls to action as clear and convenient for your customers as possible and you’ll watch your conversions skyrocket.

Monitoring & Improving Your Numbers

Here’s where we get to the “flossing” of email marketing. Watching your numbers. All of what I said above this is great, but it really means nothing if you can’t establish baseline numbers and improve upon them. After you get your sequences up and running, let them run for a month and then take an inventory of your stats.

Take note of your:

  • Opt-In Rate (How Many People Accept Your Lead Magnet Offer)
  • Deliverability Rate (How Many Emails Make It To The Inbox)
  • Open Rate (How Many People Read What You Wrote)
  • Click Through Rate (How Many People Take Action And Visit Your Site)
  • Conversion Rate (How Many People Actually Buy)

Then, try experimenting with subject lines, optin boxes, and calls to action and see if you can improve upon your numbers. There’s no right answer here. Get creative and see how high you can push your numbers.

It may take some time and you may make some mistakes along the way, but ultimately you’ll be better for doing the testing and improving along the way.


Now comes the time where you take action! Get yourself some email software, write a few basic sequences to get yourself started, and start implementing what you just learned. All of this means nothing if you simply finish reading this and go back to what you’re doing. Remember, email marketing is the single highest ROI activity you can do in your business so it’s NEVER time that’s wasted.