November 4, 2020 - By Hawke Media

Email Marketing Strategy 101: The Basics

Lifecycle Marketing

Email is one of the most important revenue drivers for any business with a digital presence. It’s part of your customers’ daily (if not hourly) routines. Without an optimized email marketing strategy, you’re missing out on the chance to stay top-of-inbox and top-of-mind. If you know your audience like they’re family, it’s time to develop personalized email campaigns to guide them along their customer journey.

Getting Started

Before you even think about sending any emails, you need to make sure you’re set up for success. That means having the right tools to create and manage your campaigns, as well as grow your list.

Choosing Your Email Service Provider (ESP)

Your email service provider (ESP) is the platform where you’ll organize and manage your entire email marketing strategy. Each one has different advantages, so do your research and choose one based on your needs. The most important criteria to consider when selecting your ESP are price, functionality, integrations and analytics.

Growing Your Email List

The fastest way to grow your email list is through an email capture pop-up on your website. Capitalize on traffic you’re already generating to earn long-term, valuable subscribers. Like ESPs, there are many email capture platforms out there – once you’ve chosen one that’s right for you, create your pop-up with consistent branding and a compelling incentive for users to give you their email address.

The below is a great example of an engaging, on-brand pop-up.

Some other ways to capture email include:

  • Subscription forms on various pages of your website
  • Content lockers requiring users to enter their info to access content
  • Check-boxes to subscribe on purchase or account creation screens

Growing your email list organically is the best approach and almost always provides stronger leads. Giveaways can be effective, but it’s risky to rely on them too often. One thing you should never do? Rent or buy lists from third-party companies.

What and When to Send

Your email campaigns are designed to move a customer toward purchase. These campaigns help build strong relationships over time. Start by considering content, timing and frequency.


What content will best resonate with your various user segments? Diving into value props is always a good place to start for your welcome series, but your emails should get more specific about your products as you move through your workflows. You can also position your brand as a source of valuable information related to your industry. No matter which direction you choose, always provide value to the recipient.

Whether you’re demonstrating how your products or services are unique or providing lifestyle tips, keep content clear, concise and engaging. Link back to your website, a landing page or social channels whenever possible without cluttering the copy with hyperlinks. As always, make sure your messaging and voice are consistent among your emails and all other marketing channels.

Pro tip: Repurpose successful content you’ve created for other marketing channels to make the most of the resources you’ve invested and the assets you’ve already developed.

Timing & Frequency

Once you’ve determined the content of your campaigns, give careful consideration to timing and frequency. The right message at the wrong time might not even get opened or, even worse, it could miss the mark and disrupt a potential customer’s progression toward conversion.

When are your users most likely to engage with an email from your brand? If you’re marketing to professionals, maybe 9am isn’t the best time. How often should you be reaching out to them? Blast them too often and you’ll see a lot of users unsubscribe from your list. On the flip side, if too much time passes, they might forget you exist.

Setting Up Your Campaigns

Email marketing is about delivering the right message at the right time. Segmenting your list allows you to personalize your content for the various customer segments of your audience, delivering the right message, while automating your sequences based on various triggers guarantees your messages hit at the right time.


Your email list is made up of (hopefully) thousands of subscribers, each at various stages of their unique customer journeys. What resonates with customers who have purchased from you will be very different from what resonates with users who have just signed up for your email list after visiting your website for the first time.

By segmenting your list, you’ll be able to deliver more specific content that will reach users where they are in their customer journey, resulting in better engagement. Use demographics, interests and behaviors to separate out the various groups within your subscriber base.


Make technology do the heavy lifting by setting up automated sequences. While every email strategy should feature an automated welcome series that educates new subscribers about your brand and products, the rest of your automated sequences will depend on your industry, your audience and their habits.

You can set up your workflows based on various triggers, like how long it has been since a user visited your website, or behavioral triggers, like an abandoned cart.

When setting up your campaigns, always follow these best practices and be sure to avoid these misconceptions.


Numbers don’t lie. Here are some key data points and metrics to keep an eye on to make sure your email campaigns are moving in the right direction.

Deliverability Rate

Formula: (number of emails delivered) / (number of emails sent)

This is the percentage of your emails that actually hit inboxes. If a significant portion of your emails are bouncing, email service providers are more likely to tag your messages as spam which, in the email marketing world, is akin to a death sentence. Keep your deliverability rate high by cleaning up your list every six months or so, removing addresses that don’t receive your emails (and even those who do receive them, but consistently ignore them).

Open Rate

Formula: (number of unique opens) / (number of emails delivered)

Open rate is not a perfect measure of effectiveness, but it’s definitely the best way to gauge whether or not your email community is interested in your content. There is no universal standard for a good open rate, as it varies based on industry, audience and type of email, but you can find some averages based on industry here.

No matter what your open rate is, you should always be looking to improve it.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Formula: (number of unique clicks) / (number of emails delivered)

OK, so you’ve got a solid open rate. They’re interested in reading your email content. But is the content effective in getting them to visit your website and landing pages? You want your CTR to be as close to your open rate as possible. If everyone who opens your emails is clicking through to your website, you’ve got some damn good content! If your CTR is low, it’s time to rethink what you’re sending out.

Pay attention to what specific links are getting the most action. This will reveal what your customers are most interested in. Are they only clicking on deals? Or are they more interested in your blog content? By identifying where they’re going, you can reshape the content of your emails to give the people what they want.

Bounce Rate

Formula: (number of website visitors who leave after visiting only the landing page) / (total number of website visitors)

This metric measures user behavior once they’ve clicked through to your website or landing page. If a significant portion of users bounce right away, you need to diagnose the problem. There needs to be consistency between your email content and the pages you’re directing your users to. If they don’t find the products or content they’ve been made to expect from the email that brought them there, they won’t stay long. Even if it’s the right stuff, it still has to be compelling. Nobody wants to stick around a boring landing page.


Although it can be difficult to attribute sales directly to email marketing efforts, looking at your revenue figures in conjunction with the other metrics discussed here can produce some important insights. If your other email statistics are generally strong, but sales are weak, you may discover deficiencies in other elements of your marketing strategy. If sales are strong, but email figures are ugly, you could be missing out on email-related revenue.