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After decades with big brands, I realized how much I love marketing small ones. I'm happiest around a table (even a virtual one) with clients, sharing plans that help them reach the right people. I'm a simplifier and a creator. Also, a lover of cute office supplies.

  • Writer's pictureStacy McPhillips

Email marketing 101: Strategy, planning, execution, measurement

So, you're thinking about email marketing? I 🧡 email marketing!

Let's walk through the strategy, planning, execution, and measurement for email marketing to see if it's a good fit and get started.

Email Marketing Strategy

First question: Why do you want to start email marketing?

Here are a few good reasons:

  • You want to develop a list that you own. (unlike social media, where you don't have control over who sees your posts)

  • You believe that regular emails will keep your brand top of mind.

  • You hypothesize that conversion rates are higher in email because you can link directly to your products or services.

  • You have value to share with an audience interested in your brand even if they aren't ready to purchase anything.

  • You know that email is part of a larger content strategy and is another way to distribute your message.

  • You have the time to spend crafting emails on a regular cadence.

  • Your audience regularly uses email.

A possible email marketing strategy could be:

To reach my goal of building an engaged audience for my brand's product or service, I will use email marketing. (This will also be useful if Instagram goes out of business or continues to limit my reach unless I start paying them.)


Email Marketing Planning

There are three types of emails brands send:

  1. Campaign or newsletter (promotions, sharing a link to your blog, new product launch, email with updates on items your audience may be interested in)

  2. Automated emails triggered by an event (welcome series, abandoned cart, or a re-engagement after they haven't opened an email from you for a while)

  3. Customer communications (confirmation of an order, and update to a policy, receipts)

You need to understand these as you plan the email setup.

The next thing you need to figure out is how you will get email sign-ups and send emails. You need an email service provider (ESP).

What to look for in an email service provider:

  • Integrates with your website.

  • It's responsive on mobile. That means it renders specifically for your cell phone versus just shrinking the email down to size.

  • An affordable option for your list size.

  • Provides key analytics.

  • Relatively easy to drag and drop email content.

One thing to note is that all ESPs have their quirks. Most have limited fonts. Some even limit colors.

I use Wix's email for my email marketing because there are a few campaign emails and automated emails included in the cost of my website, and it's good enough for my purposes.

I LOVE Klaviyo. And Mailchimp is pretty good, too. Again, they all have their quirks.

What emails are you going to send?


  • You need a Welcome email letting people know what to expect when they sign up to receive emails from you.

  • A template for your regular newsletter or a few templates for some primary campaigns.


  • Expand your automations.

  • Develop templates for all your campaign needs.

You'll need copy and graphics for all of these in line with your strategy.

How often will you email?

It would help if you balanced between a regular cadence and your available time to answer this question. You don't want to overcommit your time, send one email, and then don't email your list for six months. (I see this all the time.)

You also need to have content for the email. So, be realistic. If you can start sending one campaign per month, great. Maybe that becomes a habit, and you can build up to two emails per month.

Automations are great because you just set them up, and they send on their own. You need to check them every once in a while to make sure nothing broke or requires updating.

How do you keep track of all this?!

A content calendar. Use a content calendar to plot your content out—email, blog, social. The further ahead you can get, the better.

How do I build my email list?

Ack! This is tough. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty protective of my email inbox.

A note about email ethics: You need permission to add people to your list if they don't sign up on their own. Don't buy an email list. Don't scrape bulk emails from websites. Read more about the FCC's CAN-SPAM Act and compliance.

You need three things:

  1. A place for people to sign up. I like the footer of your website, a full page for a sign-up so you can direct people right to that link, and maybe a pop-up on your site. But delay the pop-up until they've been on your site a little while vs. jarring them when they just hit your site.

  2. A reason for people to sign up. What's your compelling offer? It could also be a lead magnet/free download.

  3. Persistence. ALWAYS BE BUILDING! It's your new mantra. Promote on social, ask people interested in you if you can add them, put a link in your email signature, add a QR code to a flyer. You get it.


Email Marketing Execution

It's time. Time to send an email or set up an automation. This will take a long time at first. You need to learn the ESP's system of setting up an email. On the plus side, most of them are user-friendly and easy to understand, and reduce time spent after you've done a few.

  • You may want to sketch a rough outline of the email design. This helps me visualize what I want to build in the ESP.

  • Write your subject line (what would make you open this email?) and your preheader text (the secondary line that accompanies the subject line for some more compelling reason to open.) Note not all ESPs have a preheader text option.

  • You'll need to draft your compelling body copy. You can do this directly in the email or in a Google doc to copy and paste.

  • Draft your graphics. Canva and Adobe Spark are great tools, and you can Google your ESP's ideal header graphic size. This takes some experimentation.

  • Remember to add your links. I link everything—photos, text, buttons. If someone wants to learn more, make it easy.

  • When available, add alt text to images so they're accessible to those who may be visually impaired. Don't add too much text to images, so if someone has images turned off, they don't lose the meaning of the email.

  • Send a test to yourself. Double-check all the links. Look at it on your desktop and mobile to make sure nothing is wonky.

  • Select your audience. This will look different depending on your ESP, but you want to select your subscribers. And when you get into advanced building, you can add tags and segments for a more nuanced strategy.

  • Schedule or send it when you think your audience is most likely checking emails.

Some ESPs have great bells, and whistles like A/B send time testing or subject line testing. You can do this, and it's fantastic. Just make sure you have a large enough list size for your results to be significant. I like 200.


Email Marketing Measurement

Okay, now it's time to see if it's working. Here's what I measure every month:

  • Open rate % for all and for campaigns & automation. I think the average for a campaign email across industries is around 22% (so that's my initial gauge, and then I benchmark our performance and try to get better.) Subject lines are key here.

  • Click rate % for all of the above. Again, I think the average is 3%. What can you do to compel people to click?! It's hard.

  • If you have an e-commerce shop, measure revenue from your email types.

  • List size. Always be building, remember?

To optimize, you try to get better at all of this. Or you try to maintain great numbers.


Did you get all that? Easy right?

Like anything else, it takes the most time to set up and then gets more manageable. If you need help, you know where to find me!


Sign up for my emails for more marketing tips if you haven't already! And if you're wondering if your marketing is working, I can tell you.

I'm doing Digital Marketing Audits & Roadmap—perfect for taking your business up a notch.



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