Your Guide To Creating an Email Marketing Strategy

Christy Walters


November 26, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

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Email marketing is a type of direct marketing that uses personalization through mass emails to educate an audience or encourage them to take a specific action. It’s one of the most direct and effective ways to connect with leads and nurture them into customers. Learning how to create an email marketing strategy can help you cultivate your audience so that you get more conversions from the right people.

What Is an Email Marketing Strategy?

An email marketing strategy is a set of procedures that a marketer develops and follows to reach goals with their email advertising. More simply, it’s every choice you make to turn an email from an idea into a tangible concept you can send to your audience to supplement or sustain other parts of your marketing plan, like promotions. There are a variety of strategies you can use with your campaigns, most of which are best developed after reviewing your business model, audience engagement, and company goals.

Why Is Email Marketing Important?

Email is one of the most effective ways to nurture leads because it’s a highly personal and direct messaging tool. Did you know that 99% of people check their emails daily? Think about yourself. Do you have a smartphone? Do you get alerts straight to your phone when you get a new email? Most people do. This could be why that statistic is so high.

Another reason email marketing is important is that you have control over your address list. On social media, the host site or app owns all the accounts, and you’re also subject to their terms of service, layout, and formats. But with email, you have all the access and control. The only way someone can take those leads away from you is if someone deletes their email address or unsubscribes from your messages.

Why Is It Essential To Have an Email Marketing Strategy?

Beyond just using email marketing, it’s important to execute each campaign in a way that makes sense and benefits the business. Specific ways a strategy can help your campaign execution is through:

Business Plans

Having a strategy lets you prepare for your email marketing campaigns in advance. Doing this and adding it to your overall marketing plan helps you sustain longer campaigns or be ready for those with time-sensitive messages like discounts and deadlines. It also helps your team and others notice how email marketing efforts affect other areas of advertising and promotion. This can ensure synchronicity across marketing and sales efforts.


Creating a strategy makes it easier to discover which metrics to track for each campaign. Part of the strategy includes setting goals and choosing how to measure them to see if you’ve made progress. These objectives give your strategies direction and help you see how effective your campaigns are for sales or other business practices.

Tactic Choice

Creating a strategy lets you choose tactics, or tips and tools, that move your campaign forward and make it a worthwhile effort for the company. Knowing which tactics to use from the beginning helps you plan your resources for each one. The larger plan can also show you how they work together and may help you preview where or how to make adjustments as the campaign progresses.

How To Create an Email Marketing Strategy

Use these steps to learn how to create an email marketing strategy:

1. Set Goals

Setting goals can help you understand why you’re creating an email marketing campaign at all. What are you working towards? Why does this effort matter and what value does it provide to your customers and the company? Common email marketing goals include:

  • Increasing customer engagement
  • Maintaining client relationships
  • Maximizing return on investment (ROI)
  • Sustaining customer loyalty

Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish from the beginning can help you with later steps in the strategy, such as picking tools and segmenting your list to achieve the most desired results.

2. Pick Your Tools

There are many tools you can use to execute an email marketing campaign. The most basic, and likely the most important, is an email service provider (ESP). These are one-stop tools that allow you to send your emails to a list of subscribers. They also provide a host of other services, depending on which one you use. Some additional features include:

  • A/B testing
  • Addition of dynamic content
  • Lead capture forms
  • List segmentation

An ESP is likely just one tool in your marketing stack, but it may be the most important for email campaigns and strategy.

3. Define Your Target Audience

Who’s getting your emails? Or, a better question, who should get your emails? Identifying your target audience is key to getting the right messages to the right people. For example, a company that sells electric keyboards may find its target audience is a mix of established musicians, hobbyists, and those just learning to play. If the marketers know this information, they can learn where to find people that fit within the audience and collect their contact information.

4. Identify List-Building Tactics

One way to find those audience members and collect information is through list-building tactics. There are many options, but collecting subscribers is common. Encouraging people to fill out a subscription form on your website that collects basic information like email address, first name, location, or other demographics is a way to learn more about the people who visit your site. This also helps keep you connected with them in a more personal way. Using chatbots, text messaging campaigns, or integrations with social media channels are other ways to build your contact list.

5. Segment Your List

Segmenting your list allows you to send more targeted email campaigns to subscribers. Segmenting means breaking down your overall email list into smaller groups of leads or subscribers. For example, think about communications that may travel through a high school. Some go out to the entire school, but some may apply only to the senior class. And that group could segment further into only students on the varsity hockey team or ones with third-period AP Biology.

Your segments can be more specific or broader, depending on who you’re trying to target and which goal you’re trying to reach. The point is to send customized messages that appeal to your customers, which may require different approaches for different subsections of your audience.

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Image via Unsplash by @hellolightbulb

6. Choose Email Types

There are a variety of email types you can send to your list. Some include:

  • Brand stories: Informational emails that tell subscribers more about your company, brand, locations, or values
  • Lead nurturing emails: An inbound marketing tactic that’s automated and timely to help your subscribers work through the sales funnel to become paying customers
  • Newsletters: Regular communications with your subscribers to share company news, upcoming promotions, events, or other relevant information
  • Re-engagement emails: Emails that go out to inactive clients or subscribers to re-establish a connection between the lead and the business
  • Review requests: Emails that ask customers to review a product or service they’ve purchased or engaged with
  • Sponsorships: Paid advertisements where your content appears in another advertiser’s mailers or you share someone else’s content in yours
  • Stand-alone emails: Also called dedicated emails. Sent for a one-time notice or event for information that doesn’t fit within another email type
  • Transactional emails: Messages triggered by a specific action, such as an event registration confirmation, thank you email for a purchase, or a receipt
  • Welcome emails: Messages that are sent to subscribers the first time they complete an action, such as making a purchase, registering for an event, or subscribing to your mailing list

Based on your target market and goals, you can decide which type or types of emails are right for your campaign. You may use a combination throughout your strategy to nurture leads.

7. Set a Schedule

Part of an email marketing strategy is learning how and when to send your emails so that people open them and read them through to the end. Many emails go out automatically on a trigger. For example, transactional emails send in response to an event. A purchase thank you hits an inbox after the system processes the order confirmation. Other emails still go out automatically, but on a schedule that you set. Newsletters are an example of this type.

The time of day may be most important when setting your schedule. Sendinblue found that sending emails between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. or around 2:00 p.m. are the best chances for engagement. Your audience may be a little different, so using data from past campaigns and experimenting with send times throughout your strategy could help you get more accurate times.

8. Format Email Content

In email marketing, the presentation is as important as the context. Discuss features like template, format, fonts, and text sizing during strategic planning. Consider if you intend to use elements like infographics or other images inside the body. Keeping elements like colors and fonts consistent across email types can help with branding. Setting a precedent for these features during strategy can save you time later during email creation.

9. Optimize Messages

Make sure your strategy accounts for people who open your emails on mobile devices. Mobile clients make up 41.6% of all email opens. This means that if you’re not optimizing content for those people, you’re not strategizing for a large part of your audience. Some ways you can optimize your emails for mobile include:

  • Using short subject lines
  • Sending and viewing test emails on different mobile devices
  • Using a larger font
  • Avoiding menus or secondary scroll bars
  • Using small images
  • Using single-column templates and limiting width to a maximum of 600 pixels

10. Conduct Testing

Incorporating a testing phase into your strategy can help you collect information about your audience and how its members perceive and interpret your emails. A/B testing allows you to send two versions of the same email with minor changes to areas such as:

  • Calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Images
  • Link placement
  • Subject line

The test allows you to monitor which version performs better with the audience to determine which version the full segment should receive later. You can use the data to influence upcoming campaigns, too.

11. Monitor Results

Remember why you set goals at the beginning of the email marketing strategy? So you could track your progress. Monitor the performance reports that your tools generate automatically to learn more about how your emails resonate with the audience. Some analytics to track include:

  • Bounce rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Deliveries
  • Marked as spam or junk
  • Open rate
  • Unsubscribe rate

Tips for Better Email Marketing Strategies

Use these strategies to help perfect your email marketing campaigns:

Segmenting Your Email List

Providing additional files in your email sign-up form can help segment your list without additional work. For example, if your store offers a variety of products or your company has services in different niches, encourage people to check the boxes for the information they’d like to receive. You can also segment by demographics with these forms by asking for information like gender, geographic location, or birthdate.

You can also segment your list by customer behavior. Track data about the things customers click on throughout the website. These behaviors may include those who abandon their carts or view multiple products in a similar price range. You can group people by activity to retarget them more effectively.

Improving Email Open Rates

Even if you have the best email marketing strategy, if nobody opens your messages, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you’re paying attention to how spam filters operate to keep your emails out of them and in inboxes. Some best practices include:

  • Making sure your entire list has opted in to receive your emails
  • Sending your emails from a good IP address that hasn’t sent spam previously
  • Sending your emails through a verified domain
  • Using only clean code in your email templates
  • Personalizing the “To” field with merge tags
  • Encouraging subscribers to whitelist your emails and add your address to their address book
  • Avoiding the use of sales language and spam triggers like “clearance,” “discount,” or “cash”
  • Including an opt-out link for subscribers

You can also remove inactive subscribers from your list to get more accurate open rate numbers. Creating an original subject line and writing in a tone that sounds like you’re addressing the individual rather than a collective are two more ways to increase your open rates.

Choosing Automated Email Marketing

An autoresponder is an email sequence sent to a segment of your email list, triggered by specific events. These events can be anything, including making a purchase, abandoning a cart, or completing a download. The programs allow you to create trigger emails in advance so that they get sent out at the right times, without your intervention. This can nurture your leads by providing them with the information they want right when they need it. It also helps to turn your prospects into customers by keeping them moving through the sales funnel while they’re invested in the activity.

Providing Incentives

A lead magnet is the exchange of an incentive for an email address. The incentive attracts people enough to make them share their personal information for the reward. What you offer as an incentive may vary based on your company or industry. Common incentives may include discount coupons, free shipping, or free resource downloads.

Sending Welcome Emails

Welcome emails are just one type of message you can include in your campaigns and strategies. They are your chance to make a positive first impression on a new subscriber or customer. Welcome emails can function as standalone emails or come in segments to educate the new audience about your company. You may also include special offers in your welcome emails as a “thank you” for connecting with your company.

Upselling and Cross-Selling

You can use your email marketing strategy to upsell and cross-sell to customers. Both are ways to get people to buy more or spend more than they originally intended. Cross-selling involves showing recommended products that customers might buy together. For example, a clothing store may recommend items to complete an outfit that complements a single piece someone bought or put in their cart.

Upselling means urging people to buy a more expensive or better quality product than their initial choice. This may work with electronics, furniture, or bigger items that already cost more money. This is because when you’re already making a large purchase, spending a little more money doesn’t seem like as big of a burden. Sending product suggestion emails to customers or reminders to cart abandoners may be a way to do either of these things.

Sending Milestone Emails

Milestone emails commemorate a certain stage in the customer lifecycle. Examples may be a client’s birthday or a customer’s first purchase with your company. To send milestone emails, collect certain date information from each person. These may include birthdays, the date of first purchase with the company, or other significant events. You can also send milestone emails to reward club members when they reach a certain point level or achievement.

Rewarding Customers

Speaking of club members, you can use your email campaigns to reward your loyal customers for their continued support. You may create an email segment for those in your loyalty programs. Send these lists their milestone emails and other offers, such as discounts, links to exclusive content, or additional perks.

An email marketing strategy can help you execute and sustain longer campaigns. Understanding the steps to create one can help you feel prepared and track the success of each email that you send to your target audience.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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