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8 easy steps to creating and managing a successful email campaign

Email marketing campaigns

A solid email campaign can improve any business’s digital marketing performance, boosting customer engagement, sales, retention and advocacy.

When it comes to email campaign marketing, sending a generic email blast every week just won’t cut it. With 87% of marketers using email to distribute content, there’s a lot of competition for your audience’s attention, so you also need highly-targeted email campaigns that share relevant, personalized content throughout the customer journey.

Successful email campaign marketing begins with careful planning and never really finishes, as lasting results require ongoing effort.

Getting started and building momentum doesn’t need to be difficult.

In this step-by-step article, we’ll show you how to create and manage an email marketing campaign that differentiates your business, instills trust in the right people and turns subscribers into loyal customers.

1. Know what you want to achieve with your email campaign

What is an email campaign, exactly? That depends entirely on your objectives, which in turn shape your email marketing strategy, from your target audience to the type of content you send.

Here are a few things you can achieve with good email marketing:

  • Generate new leads

  • Increase website traffic

  • Increase your social media following

  • Collect target audience data

  • Build a community around your brand

  • Boost sales of an existing product, service or range

  • Raise awareness of a new product, service, range or event

Not only will a clear objective help you come up with stronger email campaign ideas, but it’ll also enable you to measure performance once your messages are out. You can then use relevant metrics to optimize follow-up content.

For example, if your goal is to increase website traffic, you can track the number of visitors who click through from each email.

If you aim to increase new product sales using an email-exclusive discount code, you can look at how often customers use that code to determine whether or not it provides enough value.

2. Build an email list of receptive contacts to maximize your marketing efforts

An engaging email is nothing without an audience. With your goals and ideal customer in mind, build an email list of consenting prospects to target. Load the new data into your CRM, using workflow automation where possible.

The various means of gathering names and email addresses are known as “opt-in channels”. Useful opt-in channels include your website, social media, feedback forms and in-person sign-ups.

Let’s look at these channels a little more closely.

  • Website: If someone visits your website, they likely have some interest in your business and could be a useful contact. Include sign-up forms and web forms within blog and product content, with enticing CTAs to convert one-time visitors into long-term subscribers. Use a dedicated opt-in landing page for visitors who already know they want updates.

  • Social media: If someone’s found your social media profile, they know your business exists and could want more information. Include links to an opt-in form in your bio and occasional posts, so it’s easy to find. You can also take advantage of Facebook lead generation campaigns to funnel leads into your pipeline and subsequently nurture them with strategic email drip campaigns.

  • Feedback forms: This is a great way to add existing customers to your list while gaining valuable feedback on products and services. Either in person or online, offer value in exchange for details. That could be a discount on the customer’s next purchase, entry to a competition or a promise of updates relevant to their purchase.

  • In-person sign-ups: Ask customers and prospects for their email details directly when you have the chance, using either a handwritten form (before copying into your CRM, email service provider or email campaign software) or directions to your opt-in landing page.

How to collect and handle audience data safely (CAN-SPAM & GDPR)

When gathering and handling your customers’ data for an email subscriber list, you must comply with all relevant legislation. Otherwise, you could be fined.

CAN-SPAM is a U.S. act that was passed in 2003 giving email users the right to have businesses stop contacting them and outlining the penalties companies could incur if they don’t comply (up to $46,517 per email).

Its biggest impact is on the content and sending of your messages, but you can get ahead when collecting contact data by clearly explaining that subscribers will be able to opt out of receiving email at any point and explaining how they can do this.

GDPR was introduced in 2018 to enhance the protection of E.U. (and now U.K.) citizens’ personal data by increasing the obligations of organizations that collect or process it.

There are three main criteria to consider when building and managing email lists:

  1. Only gather the data you need and make sure you have the legal grounds to process it

  2. Be transparent with your actions and be ready for requests from data subjects

  3. Keep personal data safe and delete it when you’re finished with it

Find out more about how GDPR impacts sales teams, including email contact, in our blog articles:

3. Segment your target audience for powerful personalization and relevance

Accenture reports that 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from businesses that recognize and remember them and provide relevant offers and recommendations. This kind of email personalization will differentiate your messages from irritating spam to increase open rates and reduce spam complaint rates.

Email marketing software like Campaigns by Pipedrive allows you to segment your target audience based on:

  • Demographic information

  • Psychographic information (lifestyle, hobbies, etc.)

  • Geolocation

  • Buying behaviors and habits

  • Common problems and pain points

  • Current satisfaction levels

  • Previous engagement rates

When you’ve effectively segmented your audience, you can come up with email campaign ideas to send the right content to the right people at the best times to boost engagement.

Pulp & Press employed email marketing automation to send the below email to a prospect based on their website activity (perhaps an abandoned cart).

It reminds them of a product they’ve looked at using a personal touch (“we think it’s a perfect fit for you”). Later on, the email recommends related products the prospect might also be interested in.

Pulp and Press email campaigns

Learn more about email personalization for use in cart abandonment emails and more in our article.

4. Pick an email frequency that keeps your audience engaged

There’s a fine line between annoying and engaging your target audience.

The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) reports that “receiving too many emails” is the main driver for prospects unsubscribing from email lists. The point of email marketing is to cultivate and maintain an ongoing relationship with your audience, so it’s vital to find the right balance.

No study will give you the perfect email frequency for your audience but Databox reports that the most common choice among marketers is weekly. Use this as a starting point for your campaign.

From there, monitor unsubscribe, click-through and open rates and adjust accordingly. The same Databox study found that two-thirds of marketers adjust email frequency based on how engaged recipients are.

You’ll find that some recipients want more contact than others, too, so provide the option of weekly, monthly and quarterly updates. Do this at the start to set expectations and leave the option open using links in your email or a “preferences” hub, as this could lower your unsubscribe rate.

Above all, make sure every email has value to the person receiving it. If you’re sending emails solely to keep a rhythm, you’ll likely see spam rates and unsubscriptions rise. That could, in turn, damage your sender reputation and email deliverability.

5. Choose lead magnets that entice valuable interest

Always build your email campaigns around audience value. This value will encourage readers to take your desired action, whether that’s getting in touch, visiting your website (via a relevant email landing page) or completing a purchase.

The value provision starts when you’re building your email subscriber list, as you’ll need to offer strong lead magnets (items, services, offers or useful content) in exchange for people’s contact details.

Don’t stop there.

Even when you have the email details you need, you can use lead magnets within your email content to encourage your audience to move further through the customer lifecycle.

For example:

  • A coupon or free trial might be what it takes to get a new subscriber to try your product for the first time, giving you a way in.

  • A link to in-depth problem-solving content could give your prospect the confidence they need to trust your business or a specific product, making future purchases more likely.

  • Community membership access and event invites allow your recipient to become more involved in your brand while helping you create a more loyal, committed audience. Consider webinars as well as in-person events.

Clothing retailer Alder sent out the offer email below to subscribers who hadn’t yet made a purchase (likely early in their journey with the brand). It could easily turn one of its subscribers into a first-time customer.

Alder email campaign

6. Craft content that engages readers, instills trust and inspires action

The best email content pulls at curiosity levers. It makes people want to read more so they can know more.

You can break down any powerful marketing email into four elements:

  • An attention-grabbing email subject line

  • Compelling, value-packed body text (with useful links)

  • Attractive, complementary imagery

  • An inspiring call-to-action (CTA)

Each one is as important as the next and together they will ensure recipients open, read, enjoy and act on your message.

Let’s look at this great email campaign example from fashion brand Cole Haan.

Cole Haan email campaign

The attention-grabbing subject line

What is an email campaign good for unless you can entice your readers to open it?

Your subject line is one of only two chances you have to get readers to open your emails (along with the sender name). Cole Haan uses theirs – “You’re going to love these” – to convey the email’s value succinctly and directly. It’s short, personal, direct, casual and emotional.

The value-packed email copy

The email copy lives up to its subject line. It starts directly and personally with the text “You’ve got great taste” before providing targeted recommendations that could be useful to the recipient.

The complementary imagery

Cole Haan uses imagery to set an aspirational tone (i.e. here’s what our products could do for you) before showing the exact products on offer. It’s easy for the reader to scan the message to find something they like.

Later, it uses a brighter, more striking image to highlight a message on sustainability.

Cole Haan complementary imagery

The action-inspiring CTA(s)

Short, simple and conveniently-placed CTAs throughout the email give readers every opportunity to visit the online store where they can make a purchase.

Cole Haan Action inspiring CTA

As well as the direct shopping links, Cole Haan invites readers who reach the end of the email (i.e. those who are fully engaged) to sign up for its membership scheme, using value to entice action.

Cole Haan Membership CTA

Cater to your mobile audience for maximum engagement

Mobile is the most common channel for email consumption. Let that influence everything about your email content.

Make sure that your email designs are mobile responsive so that short subject lines and paragraphs display comfortably on smaller screens. Most mobile devices display content in portrait or landscape based on how the user’s holding their handset, your content needs to work in both formats.

Also keep in mind that large images can slow loading times, especially on mobile data connections. If this negatively impacts the user experience, they’ll be more likely to move on or unsubscribe.

7. Schedule your emails and monitor results to help you optimize future campaigns

It’s easy to schedule emails to be sent later using your email marketing platform. However, sending is a surprisingly small part of the email campaign marketing process. It’s your strategizing, planning, crafting and analyzing that will get results.

After your messages go out, use the following email marketing metrics to gauge engagement:

  • Open rate

  • Click-through rate

  • Bounce rate

  • Responses

  • Social media follows (if you’ve included social media links or a CTA in your email)

  • Spam complaint rate

  • Lead magnet downloads

  • Website traffic (trackable in a tool like Google Analytics)

  • Inquiries

Use what you learn from these to tweak and optimize your next emails (even if they’re already scheduled) and future campaigns for maximum impact.

For example, if your email has a poor open rate (this Gartner study, which looks at email open rates across six industries, puts the general average at around 25%), consider making your subject line more concise, direct and personal.

If your spam complaint rate spikes, look closely at your tone and language. You might have sent too many promotional emails or you could have used too many words that appear on spam trigger lists.

A/B test emails to learn what works

A/B testing (also called split testing) is a type of experiment you can use to determine which version of your email content is the most effective.

It involves splitting a small section of your audience into test groups and sending them different variations of your email (e.g. shorter vs. longer subject lines, alternative imagery). You can then look at the results to determine which version should go to your wider subscriber list.

Over time, you should build a strong understanding of what works for your subscriber list. You could also start creating a library of tried-and-tested email campaign templates. Email templates are a great way to speed up content creation.

8. Plan follow-up emails to keep your audience involved and engaged

Effective email marketing is a process of constant contact, not a one-time action.

To build trust over email you must be consistent not only with your tone, email design and types of email but also with the timeliness and frequency of your follow-up contact.

If you tell your audience in your welcome email that they’ll get an email newsletter, “helpful tips” or “exclusive coupons” once a week, they’ll expect to receive a series of emails in weekly intervals. Fail to meet those expectations, and the lead will go cold or disappear.

Accept that you’ll naturally lose subscribers over time. People will retire old email addresses or their needs may change (if they’ve made a purchase elsewhere, for example). However, there is always a chance of re-engagement for prospects that simply stop opening, reading or clicking through.

Content marketing agency CEO Kelsey Raymond offers practical re-engagement advice in this Forbes article:

Try sending an email from a real person offering something of value. Don’t try to re-engage cold leads through an automated email; it just won’t work. Instead, we have our sales development representative reach out with a customized email, sending leads a piece of content that is specific to what we know about them and their needs. This results in a much higher success rate than putting them through a new automated sequence.

Remember to remove subscribers every once in a while if your re-engagement efforts fail, as having an unnecessarily large subscriber list could slow you down or affect the pricing of your email marketing service.

Final thoughts

With such huge ROI and versatility on offer, email remains one of the most powerful marketing tools available to large and small businesses.

This article’s steps, email campaign examples and marketing tips for small and large businesses form a repeatable recipe for long-term success. Follow them, and you’ll have the know-how to reach, engage and nurture prospects at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

Driving business growth