Email Marketing 101

By |06.08.22

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From promotions to personalization to CTAs, here's how to make messages sing in your customers' inboxes.


What Is Email Marketing and How Does It Work?

At its core, email marketing is the practice of sending emails to contacts who have expressed interest in hearing from your business. Email marketing can be useful in informing customers of new products, promotions and services. They also help you drive sales and foster a community.

When it comes to email marketing, we’ve learned the “spray-and-pray” approach of hitting as many people as possible is far from a safe plan. Taking the time to create segmented lists proved to be more effective.

Why is segmentation so helpful? In a nutshell, it helps marketers deliver more relevant emails to their subscribers based on geographic location, interests, purchase history and much more. While it may seem labor-intensive, you can use automation to do the heavy lifting for you — but, that’s a topic for another post.

4 types of marketing emails
  • Promotional emails share special offers, product releases and content with a clear CTA, or call-to-action. These are built out as campaigns, and sent over several days or even weeks.
  • Announcement emails can keep your customers in the know about service changes, upcoming events and one-time company announcements.
  • Informational emails are a way to share news about your business. Is your business reaching new highs or being featured somewhere? This is the place to share. Make sure that no matter when you run them — weekly, bi-weekly or monthly — they’re consistent. That way your customers know to look out for them.
  • Re-engaging emails help to draw in customers who haven’t used your business in a while. If you really want to get them in, attach a survey to gauge why they’ve been gone so long. Maybe throw in a coupon at the end.

Is Email Marketing Worth It?

You might wonder, “Do people still use email? Isn’t social media better for marketing?” There’s no denying social media marketing has exploded. But all that habitual scrolling could work against you by stealing your audience’s attention.

However, with email marketing, the information is sent straight to known customers. And with 80% of Americans checking their email at least once a day, you’re one step closer to locking in a sale.

Not to mention, you can tailor it to each customer — you can use their name or past services and packages they’ve purchased. This personalization alone increases the chance of a conversion.

40% of Millennials and 33% of Gen Z in the U.S. prefer email for receiving ads and promotions.


Ins and Outs of Spam

What’s the difference between email marketing and spam? Proper email marketing is permission-based, which means your customers have given you their email addresses and indicated they want to receive your emails.

In these instances, you should make an effort to provide content they can use, be it special offers, helpful articles or entertaining videos.

And should they ever decide they no longer want to participate, you’ve provided a clear and simple method for opting out or unsubscribing.

Think of spammers as the goateed evil twins of email marketers (twirly mustache and all). They pollute the email channels with unsolicited and highly dubious offers for weight-loss programs, online degrees and generic pharmaceuticals.

They create so much email noise that your legitimate message gets ignored, filtered out or dragged to the virtual trash bin by mistake.

Spam messages accounted for 45.1% of email traffic in March 2021.

It’s easy for legitimate marketers to end up on the naughty list. Even if you do everything right, you may still find your emails being flagged as spam by an overzealous filter or frustrated subscriber.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to avoid being summarily lumped in with all the “EARN CA$H FAST” and “YOU’RE A WINNER!!!!” emails.

Avoid Spam Filters

Simply including the word “FREE,” or using too many exclamation points in your subject line is enough to get your email banished to the junk heap.

As you might imagine, most spam filters’ algorithms are closely-guarded secrets. The providers don’t want disreputable marketers figuring out how to game the system.

That said, here are some simple guidelines to help you keep accidental filtering to a minimum:
  • Avoid overusing aggressively spammy phrases like “Click here!” or “Buy now!”
  • Go easy on the capital letters, punctuation and special characters.
  • Avoid spelling and grammar errors.
  • Keep your code clean.
  • Don’t send messages consisting only of one big image.
  • Do periodic blacklist checks.
  • Ask subscribers to add you to their approved sender list.

In addition to automated spam filters, email marketers also contend with recipients who manually flag valid messages as spam.

A few isolated instances are nothing to worry about, but widespread flagging will quickly damage your email-sender reputation.



Personalize Your Email

The key to being heard above the noise — whether that’s avoiding the spam label or being noticed in a sea of emails — is to personalize your email marketing efforts.

Send Your Email From a Human

For example, rather than a general email from Pest Pros, use Chris at Pest Pros. It will feel like it’s coming from a person rather than just another faceless company.

Hook Them With the Subject

The subject provides your customers with their first and only hint as to what the message is about. Make it too generic, and they’ll delete it. Make it too spammy, and email filters will wipe it out before they ever see it. Make it something YOU would rush to open.

Use Your Customers’ Names

Take advantage of your customer database and greet your customers personally. Being referred to as a “Valued Customer” is the opposite of personal. If your business deals with other businesses, it’s important to separate business names from personal names. Otherwise, you could end up with odd salutations like “Hello, Mr. Company.”

Keep it Conversational, But Professional

It’s important to come across as professional in your emails. But you can do this without being stilted and dull. Be personable and try to strike a friendly tone. Concentrate less on selling. Instead, try to address customer needs and acknowledge their pain points.


Make it Pretty

We’ve all seen some pretty hideous emails. Distorted photos. Antiquated fonts. Dated graphics. And then there’s color.

Many email marketers have tried to crack the code of which color is most appealing to readers. By and large, however, most have come to the following conclusion: It all depends.

Each audience’s likes and dislikes are different. Your branding, industry and a slew of other factors affect their perspective. The only way you’ll know which colors resonate best with your audience is to test them.

36% of Apple iOS users take advantage of dark mode.

A more recent update in the email graphic design world is the addition of “dark mode.” Dark mode uses a darker color palette for low light or nighttime reading. It’s a reversed color scheme that features a black background and text in white or light colors.

And it’s a fan favorite. It’s easier on the eyes, reduces screen brightness and can improve content legibility. Consider trying a dark mode test of your own to see how your audience responds.


Scrubbing Your Contacts List

Did you know that if you repeatedly email people who don’t engage with your communications, you actually tarnish your company’s “domain reputation”?

That means email service providers will start putting your “From” address on the naughty list and consider you untrustworthy. Eventually, this can lead to your emails getting marked as spam.

Contact lists can be a beast to keep up with.  But keeping them clean and up-to-date will help you stay off that naughty list. More is not more. Scrub your contact list two to three times a year to keep it organized and clutter-free.

“If you have inactive subscribers on your active send lists, you’ll decrease your chances of hitting the inbox,” explains Brittanie Begeman, manager of acquisition email marketing at Thryv.

Contacts you can identify and get rid of are:
  • Invalid and blocked email addresses
  • Unsubscribes
  • Duplicate names and email addresses
  • Contacts who’ve been unresponsive for an extended time
  • Any obvious typos or incorrect items
Get Them Off the Fence

Deleting the bad eggs isn’t the only action you can take, though. According to Begeman, you want to identify contacts who fall somewhere in the middle. Maybe they open about half the emails you send, but aren’t clicking through.

“Put them in another list and segment them on their own,” she shares. “Two advantages here — you can send them different messaging to get them to re-engage (WIN!) and protect your sender reputation. Both help you make sure your emails are delivered to the inbox.”

You can also send the folks on that list a permission pass. A permission pass is an email that explicitly tells the consumer why you’re making contact.

It lets them know you want to keep in touch but that you don’t want to overstay your welcome in their inbox. This email offers them the opportunity to opt in or out of future emails.

If someone opts in, then it’s time to target them with a specific re-engagement campaign. These could include informative blog posts, a reminder about your location and hours, seasonal tips or a special offer.

If they still fail to engage with this campaign, it’s best to remove them from your list.


Crafting the Perfect Call to Action

A good or bad CTA can have a huge impact on whether your prospects and customers want to keep interacting with you. And it can help you guide your reader to the next step in their purchasing journey.

So before you hit send, make sure your next email CTA is helping (not hurting) your marketing efforts by avoiding these 10 faux pas.

1. You’re Not Using CTAs

If the only clickable portion of your email is the legally mandated “unsubscribe” link, you’re in trouble. There’s very little chance your emails are going to result in increased website visits, signups and, ultimately, sales.

2. Using Generic CTAs

Shop Now. Submit. Sign Up. Remember, most people won’t actually read every word you so painstakingly include in your message. So it’s important to be specific about where your CTA takes them.

Here are some great examples of highly specific CTAs:
  • Get my free proposal
  • Request a demo
  • Sign up for a free month
  • Get my moving quote
  • Schedule a maintenance check
  • Schedule my next appointment

3. You’re Not Making it Personal

Studies have shown that personalized email messages improve click-through rates. Take this concept even a step further by framing the CTA in first person.

Instead of “Get your free quote,” try “Get my free quote.” This slight change forces the reader to visualize themselves performing the prescribed action.

Businesses experience a 90% jump in conversion when changing the word ‘you’ to ‘me’ in the CTA

4. Your CTA’s Words and Colors Are Dull

A call to action should be enticing — visually and emotionally. Most email CTAs are found in the form of colorful buttons and contain language suggesting a sense of urgency.

Here are a few eye-catching CTA copy examples:
  • Memorial Day Blowout: 50% off!
  • Reserve now (Limited Seating Available)
  • Today Only: #treatyoself to 15% off

5. You’re Burying the Lead

Always remember — users have short attention spans and are probably quickly scanning their emails, deciding what to discard and what to read. Keep your CTA toward the top of your email to increase the likelihood your reader will see and hopefully click it.

6. You’re Too Pushy

No one likes a pushy salesman. CTAs that are outlandish, assumptive or even downright rude can be a huge turnoff to your audience. While negative phrasing can be effective, use it with great caution.

Examples of destructive email CTAs are:
  • Show me how to stop screwing up my email conversions.
  • Don’t be the fluffy guy at your next reunion. Start working out now.
  • No, I’m not an idiot. Give me the free trial.


Tip: The best guideline is to keep things positive and speak to your audience the way you would like to be spoken to.


7. There Are Too Many CTAs

This one goes hand-in-hand with being too pushy. Emails should be short and to the point. Having more than one CTA can not only come off as desperate or pushy, it makes it hard for your reader to focus.

Keep each email clear and focused. Use one CTA to make your content easier to digest and allow the reader to easily find it later.

Longer and simpler pages enjoy a higher conversion rate — up to 220%!

8. Your CTA Is Too Small

An easily missable CTA might as well not be in your email at all. Make your CTA stand out by adding white space around it and using a bold color.

9. Your CTA Is Too Large

Interestingly, worse than a too-small CTA can be one that’s too big. Users often find threateningly large lettering unappealing, consciously or subconsciously. It can also come off as pushy or desperate. 

10. You’re Not A/B Testing

The only sure way to determine whether your CTAs are effective is to test them.

A couple of things to remember when testing your CTAs:

Don’t test more than one thing at a time. Whether it’s color, font size or copy, you want very specific and narrow data on what’s working and what isn’t.

A slight preference may not be statistically significant. Let’s say you send 500 emails — 50% have a blue CTA button and 50% have green. You notice you get a 28% click-through rate with the blue CTA button (70 users) and a 32% clickthrough rate with the green CTA button (80 users).

While click-throughs from 10 extra users may seem great, it’s only 2% of the entire sample. This small percentage could fall within the margin of error and not actually show a true audience preference. If you conducted the test again and found the same result, you might have a good case to support the preference for the green button.

Avoiding these common mistakes when crafting your CTAs can boost your email marketing efforts and help you have better interactions with your existing and prospective customers.

Brittanie Begeman’s Top 3 Tips

Diversify your CTAs! The more chances you give your readers to click, you’ll likely see an increase in CTAs. However, don’t go linking every little word in your email — be strategic.

  1. Link text that creates emotion — such as, “Could your unkempt yard scare off buyers?”
  2. Don’t get link happy — if you create too many text links, your email becomes less readable and your readers don’t know what to click.
  3. Use images for CTAs — this allows you to further brand your emails and create eye-catching content readers want to click on.

Take some of the friction away from these important interactions with Thryv’s Text and Email functionality. This feature helps you manage large-scale campaigns and makes it easier to meaningfully converse with your audience.


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