Top 3 Email Marketing Tips for Beginners

By Shai Coggins, Digital Specialist | Blog

Feb 20

Email Marketing Tips for Beginners

One of the things that we haven’t talked about much here at Vervely is email marketing. Perhaps, partly because out of “The Big Three of Online Publishing,” email marketing seems the least sexy. It feels very Web 1.0.

Yet, contrary to some beliefs, email is not dead. And, no one should ever underestimate the power of email when it comes to delivering a full online communications suite. Email is still one of the most important parts of a digital media campaign.

That’s why I thought I’d share three simple tips for those still considering email marketing as an avenue, or for those needing a refresher.

1. Build your email list as soon as possible, and as best as you can.

If you’re setting up a new business or organisation, it’s always good to start a mailing list as soon as possible. However, be conscious that you must only ever add people to your mailing list when they have given permission to do so.

I’ve encountered people and organisations who automatically add people to their mailing lists with it their express permission and it left a bad impression for their contacts. It is always best to ask first. Either have a quick form or digital sign-up ready, or ask their permission verbally when you’re talking to them in person or on the phone.

Quick Case Study:

Once, I have worked with an organisation that boasted of 10,000+ subscribers to their mailing list (or some similar number). After analyzing their email information, I found out that more than half of their so-called subscribers were “data mined” and therefore did not request to be added to the list. I was shocked. Not only were they spamming and hurting their brand in the process, they do not even acknowledge the fact that this activity is, in fact, illegal in many countries. Including Australia (Spam Act).

That’s why one of the first things that I did was work with their technical team to clean out the mailing lists, without completely eradicating what they’ve built up over the years. We’ve developed a plan on how to clean up the mailing list while building it.

The strange thing was, when they were sending emails to 10k ‘subscribers’, their open rates and clickthrough rates were so low (around than 1-2%, from memory) that it makes you wonder why they bothered with the fake number.

When we finally cleaned up the mailing list mess, not only did we increase open and click through rates, we also increased conversions for up to 30-35%. We may even have hit 50%. Yes, the mailing list subscribers reduced from 10k to about 3.5k. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but 30-35% of 3.5k is way better than less than 1% of 10k, right?

And, with the improved approach to the whole mailing list building, the value of getting the right kind of subscribers equalled to better conversion rates (and improved branding) too.

2. Get the best email marketing tools.

By the best, I mean, the best for your organisation. Not necessarily the flashiest and most expensive email tools around. Some useful tools to have:

  • A mailing list manager – This will handle your mailing list database, including the sending of email blasts. There are several tools around, ranging from free to enterprise level solutions. Find one that suits your organisation’s budget, skills, and goals. Some popular third party email list managers include: MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Aweber. Tried them all, but currently use MailChimp. There are also self-hosted mailing lists like phpList. While cheaper off the bat, these self-hosted mailing list managers will require more technical support. Your existing content management platform might also have its own mailing list manager via a plugin, extension, or module.
  • A content calendar and schedule for email publishing – Even if your calendar only contains the days/dates you will be publishing to your email list, the types of content you will be sharing, and the sources of content, you would already be better organised. Email publications are a challenge, unless it’s something you really love. So, being more organised by committing to some kind of calendar will already help you immensely.

Quick Case Study:

In another situation at an organisation I worked for, there were hardly any systems to email publishing. So, one of the first things that was developed was a publication schedule. From being ad hoc at any given month, we scheduled publication a particular day at a particular time of the month (eg, every first Tuesday of every month, etc). With this, we knew what we needed to prepare for and when.

We also developed a system of alternating types of emails sent out. For example, the mailing list wasn’t mean to be sent promotional emails every single week. And, promotional and value-added (learning emails) were alternated. There were also systems put in to place on where to source content, and what types of content need to be covered at different times.

3. Watch and learn from your analytics.

Whether you use a third party or a self-hosted solution for your email management system, make sure you look at your statistics every time you send out a campaign. Note days and times you’ve sent your email blast. Look at your open rates and clickthrough rates. Look at what people are reading/clicking through. And, if your email management system allows you to experiment, try doing A/B split testing.

The information that you collect will guide you better when it comes to coming up with your content calendar and plan. Such things help when it comes to improving your email campaigns and increasing conversions.

Quick Case Study:

As mentioned in the quick case study in point one, the analytics I’ve collected for the organization I worked with helped to take us towards the right direction. Apart from that situation, another case study I can point out is when I was sending out email newsletters for another organization where the open and clickthrough rates were already quite high to start with, sending out mailing once a month, first week of the month, mid-week, during office hours.

Once, the mailing went out a bit later than usual and was sent through in the evening (after office hours), and the open and clickthroughs immediately plummeted. That quickly showed us that our readers prefer the initial schedule we set. Also, that consistency is also key when it comes to email marketing.

Photo source: ilco,


About the Author

Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).