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Handy cheat sheet to creating your email marketing strategy

· 11 min read · Email marketing · November 8, 2018

Email can be a powerful marketing tool. But before you start blasting out emails, there’s one thing you MUST do to find success.

Okay, the title gave away my big reveal. You need to develop an email marketing strategy before anything else. 

Without a strategy, you’ll have no purpose, no direction and no way to determine if your campaigns are working.

Bloggers use email to keep their readers updated with their latest content. Retailers share promotions and drive a large portion of their revenue through email marketing. And B2B marketers agree that email is their most effective channel.

The question is not if email marketing works. The question is, “Will you make it work for you?"

The reality is that most people are only scratching the surface of what email can do for their business. To get the most out of email marketing, you have to implement an effective email marketing strategy. Let’s get started!

Email marketing strategy basics to get you started

Email marketing has evolved into a dynamic marketing channel with the ability to target small groups, personalize messages and automate entire campaigns. 

These are all amazing features that improve your campaigns, but at the same time, you can easily get overwhelmed if you dive in head first.

In this post, we want to take a step back and share the basics of creating an email marketing strategy that will turn visitors into subscribers.

We’ll cover:

  1. How to set goals that help you achieve email marketing success.

  2. How to start growing your email list without feeling overwhelmed.

  3. How to convert subscribers to customers by building relationships.

  4. How to optimize your email strategy for healthy growth.

Email strategy starts with a clear goal

Always start with a goal. It can be something simple like ‘increase online sales’ or ‘grow my newsletter.’ A clear goal gives a purpose to your email campaigns that will guide everything else you do.

Without a goal, there's no way to measure how well your campaign is performing. If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.

First off, determine why you're sending the emails.

If you sell a SaaS product, your goal could be to convert email subscribers to customers. If you sell merchandise, your email marketing goal could be to get your subscribers to buy certain products.

Coursera sells online courses. Their email marketing goal is to get their subscribers to register for courses, so every once in a while they send a newsletter like this:

coursera email example

Coursera gauges the success of their email campaign based on the number of people who end up registering for the courses. The goal is clear and the email is designed to achieve it.

Your goal will determine the structure of your campaign – from what you write in your email to even how frequently you email your subscribers.

2. Keep building your email list

Once you know what you want to achieve with email marketing, the next step is to get subscribers.

This is where email marketing becomes challenging for most people. We've all heard of companies or bloggers with thousands of subscribers. Just thinking about how far you are from that may make growing your email list seem like an impossible task.

Whatever you do, don’t buy a list! Not only will purchasing a list likely land you in legal troubles through the CAN-SPAM Act or GDPR, but your email engagement rate will suffer and your business will lose its credibility.

Thankfully you don't need to have thousands of subscribers to start getting results. Rest assured that businesses with huge lists began slowly with a sound list-building strategy.

How to get subscribers the right way

We have written several articles on how to grow subscribers and we’ll include all of the links in this section. While each article will explain different ways to get subscribers, they are all rooted in one common theme: Offer something valuable first.

Figure out why people want to hear from you and then give them something that convinces them you are worth their time.

Your visitors won't just hand over their email addresses. You have to give them something in exchange first. We call this a lead magnet in email marketing.

For example, if you sell online courses, you can give people a free course in exchange for their email. If you run an e-commerce store, offer them a discount in exchange for their email.

The subscriber form below includes a content upgrade as a lead magnet. In this case, the form offers a blog checklist that complements the content on the site.

lead magnet form example

Want to learn more about building your subscriber list? Here are our most popular guides to help you:

How to Grow a High-Quality Email List
13 Easy Ways to Get More Email Subscribers Today
Creative and Super Simple Ways to Grow Your List

And MailerLite makes it incredibly easy to create sign-up forms:

3. Focus on nurturing relationships

You have a clear goal. You have a plan to grow your subscribers. Now it’s time for step three: sell, sell sell.

Hold up! Selling might seem like the next logical step, but you have to be patient.

Don’t reach out to people only when you want to sell them something. That's the equivalent of that family member who only calls when they need cash. 

email marketing strategy sell

Email marketing at its core is about building relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more your subscribers will trust you and conduct business with you.

Your subscribers need to see you as a valuable source of information; as someone that genuinely cares about their lives, not another salesperson. This is what lead nurturing is all about.

For example, let’s say you sell cosmetics. You become a trusted source by helping your subscribers solve their makeup pain points, which might include tips on skin care or teaching them how to choose the right products for their skin type.

Beyond providing continuous value, there are some other ways to use your email technology to help nurture subscribers into loyal followers.

Automate a welcome email sequence

Make a positive first impression by automating a welcome email that is sent right when someone subscribes. Give them a warm welcome and start the relationship off by offering the value that you promised.

Here's a nice welcome email example sent by Sidecar Digital Goods:

welcome email example

Welcome emails like this set the tone of the relationship. They are human, provide relevant information and give clarity on what the subscriber should expect in the relationship.

Here's how to set up an email automation in MailerLite:

Segment your list to improve targeting

While it is okay to send relevant emails to your entire subscriber list, you will get much better results when you segment your audience to send more targeted messages based on specific characteristics such as demographics, geography or interests.

Breaking your broader audience into smaller groups allows you to get more personal with each segment and nurture a stronger relationship.

Let’s say you are an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction. You can separate your subscribers by their favorite book genre and send them information that you know they care about.

Learn How to Segment your subscriber list.

How to segment subscribers in MailerLite:

Don’t be annoying 

It might be tempting to email your subscribers every day so you can build the relationship faster. News flash: that's annoying. Around 78% of people unsubscribe from email lists because they get too many emails.

So what’s the magic number of emails per week?

A recent survey from Mapp Digital found that the majority of US internet users preferred brands to email them once a week. The second most popular choice was once a month.

The truth is that it depends on your type of business. We recommend that you test out a frequency and tweak it until you find a sweet spot. How do you find your sweet spot? It’s all about measuring performance.

4. Measure and improve your campaign performance

You've set your email strategy, built your campaign and pushed send. It feels good, but your work is not done. Now is the time to move from creating to sustaining a healthy email campaign.

Once the campaign is underway, you want to measure your results, find the bottlenecks, and optimize your campaigns.

Here are the key metrics you need to pay attention to:

Opt-in rate

How many people who see your lead magnet convert to subscribers?

Delivery rate
Open rate

How many people open your email?


How many people click through to your offer?

Unsubscription rate

How many people unsubscribed from your list?

If you send an email and only 5% of your subscribers open it, then that would indicate that your content is not resonating with your subscribers. Or, if only 2% of website visitors who see your lead magnet subscribe, perhaps your offer is too weak.

You must continuously learn what is happening and try new things to improve. If you stick with it, you will optimize your campaigns.

What are the benchmarks in your industry?

Email marketing isn’t rocket science, but it’s just as cool

Creating an email marketing strategy can be summed up in four words: care about your visitors.

It doesn't matter how advanced your strategy is or how many subscribers you have. If you genuinely care about the people you're serving, about their pain points and about helping them achieve their goals, then email marketing will work for you.

You’ll get amazing results, but only when you dedicate your time and energy in focusing on these four fundamentals:

  • Setting goals

  • Growing your email list

  • Building relationships

  • Measuring and improving your campaigns

It’s not as complicated as one might think. And it is definitely gratifying when you go from working to making your marketing strategy work for you. 

So are you ready to start growing your business with email marketing?

How do you plan to change your email marketing strategy? We want to hear from you in the comments section below!

Jonas Fischer
Jonas Fischer
I'm Jonas, Content Manager at MailerLite. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!
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