What Is Email Marketing? And Why Does It Matter?

Here’s something you probably already know:

No business can stand the test of time without a constant stream of leads. It is logical – you need customers to stay afloat but I guess you already know.

However, you probably don’t know email marketing is one of the best digital marketing strategies to initiate contact with prospects, close more deals, and keep customers engaged.

In today’s post, we learn more about email marketing, why it matters to small businesses, tools, and the best strategies/practices.

So, grab yourself a mug of coffee (or tea, perhaps?), and enjoy reading the article to the very end.

What is email marketing?

Startup Bonsai MailerLite account
Source: Our MailerLite account

So, what is email marketing? Well, to keep things simple, email marketing is (you guessed it) using email to send messages to your prospects.

Still, it is not as simple as that, because you just can’t start blasting off emails to your customers. There is a formula to it – one that works wonders.

But in a nutshell, email marketing allows marketers and small businesses to keep in touch with customers via email marketing campaigns.

Here’s a short story just to build momentum:

Did you know that the first email was sent back in 1971 by a computer engineer known as Ray Tomlinson?

Yeah, he’s the guy who introduced the “@” symbol in email addresses.

Seven years later, Gary Thuerk – then the marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp – sent the first marketing email, changing the future of online marketing forever.

Flash forward a couple of years later.

In the ’90s, the internet took root because it was commercially available to the masses, changing how people communicate online.

If you’re still wet behind the ears, that means more people jumped on the email bandwagon.

The result?

Email marketing boomed!

Marketers quickly realized that email was a powerful marketing channel – and digital marketing was never the same.

Today, email marketing is a popular digital marketing strategy that beats the likes of affiliate marketing, social media posts, paid ads, and other forms of digital promotional strategies.

It’s one of the best marketing strategies for small businesses in all categories. And it’s growing every single day.

Small businesses just like yours use email marketing campaigns to promote products or services and incentivize customer loyalty.

Top 10 email marketing statistics you need to know

Are you still doubting whether it’s worth sending your first email marketing campaign? If so, here are some stats that show you how effective email marketing can be.

  1. The average email open rate is 17.8%. That’s impressive considering other channels perform quite dismally.
  2. The average email click-through rate (CTR) is 2.65%. Social media networks average 1.3% on a good day, according to Statista.
  3. Around 80% of small and medium-sized businesses say that email marketing is their most important customer acquisition and retention channel.
  4. Email is 40x more effective than social media for customer acquisition.
  5. U.S. companies have spent more than $3.07 billion on email marketing since 2019. That’s a huge pie mi amigo.
  6. 347 billion emails will be sent every day by 2023.
  7. 99% of people check their email once or several times every day. Ta-da!
  8. 49% of Americans want weekly brand emails?
  9. More than 50% of the world uses email. That’s more than four billion people, which beats social media sites by far.
  10. Email marketing delivers an average ROI of 4200%. That means you make about $42 for every $1 you spend on email marketing. Insane, right?

As you can see, these are impressive numbers that show you email marketing is alive and kicking.

Provided your email marketing campaigns are on point, you stand to benefit even with a tiny budget.

Speaking of benefits, what are the advantages (or benefits) and disadvantages of email marketing?

Still not convinced? Here are 40 email marketing statistics you should check out.

Benefits of email marketing (or reasons to use email marketing)

If the above email usage stats didn’t convince you that email marketing is a remarkable marketing channel, here are a few top advantages of using email marketing.

Conversions, baby!

Email marketing is pure money. Didn’t we just say that the return on investment (ROI) is 4,200%?

And do you know why? Because email marketing campaigns encourage your subscriber to take some kind of action.

You can’t compare email marketing to social media platforms, for instance. On social media, you blast your message to your fans and hope something sticks.

Email marketing is a direct marketing tool that connects your small business directly with the consumer.

In other words, email marketing can help you to build fruitful relationships with your customers.

Whatever your goal – email marketing can help you drive traffic to your blog post, product page, social media, or anywhere else you want.

The best part is email marketing has the highest CTR of all marketing channels.

That means, you can convert more of your traffic into leads and leads into customers and customers into brand ambassadors.

And in case you didn’t know, customers who buy through an email marketing campaign spend 138% more than consumers who don’t receive email offers.

Personalization leads to more sales

Understanding your customers needs

Do you know what your customers love? Their interests and preferences? Maybe where they live? Their gender perhaps?

Email marketing uncover this information and use it to drive more sales.

You can segment your email list by user demographic so you’re only sending subscribers the messages they want to read.

Couple that with the high click-through rates we mentioned earlier and you can see just how powerful email marketing is.

No other marketing channels offer you such personalization capabilities. By all means, you should learn how to craft a personal email.

Don’t worry, however, many email service providers offer you automation, merge tags, and all the tools you need to create the perfect personal email.

Just to offer some tips, remember to address the customer by their first name. They are real human beings, not just email addresses in your database.

Also, use email marketing automation to send out coupons, discounts, and special offers on their birthdays or on anniversaries.

Also, it doesn’t make sense to send a user – who is on the other side of the world – an email at 12:00 AM (their timezone), when they prefer to receive emails in the morning/afternoon. They are most likely to miss your email.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how a little effort goes far.

Another thing, don’t forget to add your name (or business name, if you must) to your email subject line.

In other words, just be human. And marketing automation software can help with the donkey work.

Don’t address your subscriber like a rigid corporate bot. Talk to your subscribers like you would a close friend.

They love that. You love that, don’t you? Also, every email campaign doesn’t have to be a promotional message.

You can share tips and educational material that help you to nurture leads organically.

You’re trying to build long-lasting relationships, remember? Don’t be a tool.

The point is to make sure your subscribers are always looking forward to your emails whether you’re promoting a blog post, product, or anything else.

In other words, your promotional messages should still seem like a friendly chat. Use humor if you can. I swear humor works all the time.

Personalization (and segmentation) allow you to do so much more, like sending promotional emails to people who abandon their carts.

Or send a personalized welcome email to everybody who subscribes to your emails.

In other words, personalization and segmentation allow you to send the right marketing messages to the right people at the right time, which – of course – delivers better results.

Try to factor that into your email marketing strategy and you will enjoy success.

Otherwise, you will simply waste your email marketing efforts. And money!

So, personalize your emails as much as possible, which – by the way – is why you should choose an email service provider who knows what they are doing. Automated marketing emails will save your life I tell you.

Analytics & A/B split-testing

ConvertKit Example
Source: ConvertKit

What’s the use of sending marketing emails if you can’t measure your efforts? How would you know if you have an effective email marketing strategy?

Many other marketing channels offer you limited data about your customers. Email marketing blows all of them out of the water.

Most (if not all) email marketing services offer you a ton of data about your prospects. With the data, you can personalize your email campaigns like a boss – just to point out the obvious.

You can measure key performance indicators (KPIs) without breaking a sweat.

Note: Common KPIs in email marketing include:

  • Open rate
  • Click through rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Sales you garner from your email campaigns
  • Amount of website traffic from your emails

Things get particularly easier if you’re using CRM software such as Salesforce, which integrates with most email marketing services.

Other than seeing how your marketing messages are performing, email marketing services allow you to A/B test your email campaign before hitting the send button.

With A/B split testing, you can easily tell which email subject line is working. Additionally, you can easily tell which type of content resonates with your target audience.

Easy to start & affordable

To a first-timer, launching your first email marketing campaign might seem like the most daunting thing you’ve ever done.

You know, like rocket science. Or flying the mighty Executor warship.

But nothing can be further from the truth. Email marketing is the stuff of fourth-graders. It is as easy as pie, and I’m not lying.

You can start sending email campaigns today even if you have never written a line of code before.

You simply need to sign up with an email marketing service, and you’re good to rock and roll.

Most email marketing services come with a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to create beautiful and professional email campaigns without coding.

Most would-be email marketers don’t know this, which is why they believe marketing work (especially via such a medium as email) is hard.

So they give up before they start, and miss out on all the benefits of email marketing.

The best email marketing services offer small businesses the easy-to-use tools they need to make the entire process effortless.

Drag and drop editors come with email marketing templates that allow you to hit the ground running.

You can customize the templates and emails to suit your brand but – generally – you will do little (if any) design work.

On top of being easy to use, email marketing tools are quite affordable for small business owners.

Just keep in mind that your costs will go up as you build your email list and send more emails. At the same time, most services offer free plans and trials that are sufficient for beginners.

Also, email marketing is quite scalable. What I mean is you can send many emails to a large number of people while remaining cost-effective compared to other channels.

Brand awareness & customer loyalty

Do you want customers to remember your business at all times? Of course, you do. How else will they learn about your awesome products and services? Or interesting company news?

As we pointed out earlier, email offers you a direct line of communication with your subscribers.

A personalized email is more powerful than a social media post that you aren’t even sure any of your followers will see.

Remember that most people usually use double opt-in when subscribing to your emails. That means they want to receive marketing emails from you.

Showing up in their inbox regularly (preferably weekly) will help your brand stay current in their minds and solidify the connection you already have.

What should I do with an old email list?

Let us say you have an email list and you haven’t sent them an email for over a year. What should you do as far as brand awareness goes?

You’ll need to start off by reintroducing yourself before you dive into the content. I’d also recommend inviting subscribers to unsubscribe if they don’t want to continue receiving emails from you.

Their needs may have changed over time so it’s important to encourage unsubscribes. This means the subscribers you’re left with will be more engaged.

That’s how you build customer loyalty. And email marketing helps you every step of the way, be it lead generation, nurturing, conversion, onboarding, retention – basically everything you can think of.

However, before emailing an old list, I would recommend using an email verification service like ZeroBounce or Mailfloss.

ZeroBounce Homepage

This will help to clear the list of all the dead email accounts that have been turned into spam traps. As a result – your email delivery rates will be higher.

Larger reach and greater ROI

We already know that email has over four billion users as of 2020 despite the growth and prominence of mobile messengers and chat apps.

Facebook has about 2.96 billion active monthly users, and Twitter (hello, Elon Musk) stands at a little over 290 million active users per month.

Combined, both social media networks have nothing on email in terms of reach.

As we saw earlier, 99% of email users open their inboxes daily, so you can do the math. What’s 99 percent of four billion? I think you get my drift.

Additionally, email is the preferred communication channel for many where businesses are involved because – well, we mainly use social media for personal communication and keeping up with friends and family.

Email is a much more professional channel to deliver your marketing message. So if you want to reach more customers, you’re better off with email marketing compared to social media.

We already mentioned that email ROI is insane! An average of 42 bucks for every dollar you spend? That’s just stupendous.

No other marketing channel can deliver such results, which is why email marketing is worth every dime you spend.

You own your data

It is your data, and you have every right to it. Could it belong to somebody else? Or does it?

When I was researching this post, someone special gave me an analogy. In the process, she reminded me of Myspace and how popular it was back in the day.

It got me thinking.

What if you built a huge following on Facebook (or any other social media site) and after a few years the platform goes the way of Myspace? What, then, would happen to your huge following?

You would lose everything, right? Every single contact. And that would probably drive you nuts, right?

Enter email marketing and the day is saved. You own every contact. You can keep the contact list with your email service provider, or download a CSV file whenever you want (you know, just in case the email marketing platform you’re using decides to shut down).

And it’s good to keep a backup always.

Disadvantages of email marketing

Everything that has pros must also have cons. Email marketing is no different. There are some demerits you should know before you send your first email campaign.


As an email marketer, you don’t want your marketing emails to end up in the spam folder.

Nobody will see or read them, especially with modern email clients that sniff and snuff out spam long before it reaches the reader’s inbox.

You shouldn’t, therefore, buy email lists, no matter how tempting the offer is. You should create your email list organically.

In other words, you should only send messages to people who have consented to be on your mailing list,

But since we’re talking about the cons of email marketing, spam is a huge problem. It’s exactly why we have the CAN-SPAM act and other regulations in place.

To make sure your emails get to your subscribers, ensure your opt-in forms require double opt-in.

Also, you must follow other regulations, such as the local law and GDPR, among others.

If you get in the habit of sending unsolicited emails, you will land in hot soup. That is why it’s important to ask your subscribers to use double opt-in as opposed to single opt-in.

Your email marketing platform should offer you this option. They offer both options but always spring for double opt-in.

Some software will offer spam testing functionality as well. But if not, you can always Mailgenius’s free spam testing tool.

Mailgenius Free Spam Testing Tool

Design issues

Email marketing is great and everything but the design part of it sucks, more so with so many email apps.

Nowadays, consumers access email via different devices such as phones, tablets, watches, and computers.

This presents a problem when designing emails.

Your users might see a less-than-ideal version of your email if they use a different device.

To circumvent these issues, you should aim to create emails that work on mobile devices. Or any other device for that matter.

The good thing is many email service providers offer responsive email templates that work on all devices.

If you have some coding skills, some services allow you to design your emails (and signup forms) from scratch using HTML (you don’t want this as a beginner).

All in all, it can be a pain in the neck working with some email marketing services. Do your diligence in advance to avoid disappointment later.

Best email marketing strategies/practices

Startup Bonsai email sign up example

The first thing customers will notice in your email marketing campaign is the trusty email opt-in form.

But there’s a bit more to it than that.

Marketing via email goes beyond buying the best email marketing software in the market. There are a few best practices to keep in mind if you want to realize email marketing success.

Here is a quick list:

  • Don’t buy email lists no matter what. Email service providers have spam filters. If you send unsolicited emails, your emails will end up in the spam folder.
  • Send targeted emails to your audience. Take advantage of personalization and segmentation. To make things easier, use email automation.
  • Develop an effective email marketing campaign from the word go. Formulate a working marketing strategy before you send out your first email campaign.
  • Use double opt-in to ensure everybody on your email list wants to be on there. Sometimes spelling mistakes happen, and the issues of data privacy and SPAM are kind of a big deal nowadays. There are email marketing laws.
  • Segment your email list, so you can send everyone in your target audience exactly the content they need when they need it.
  • Remember to personalize your emails because you’re talking to real people, and not robots. Optimize your email subject line, sender name, and preview text.
  • A/B test your email marketing campaign.
  • Clean your email list. For instance, get rid of inactive subscribers.
  • Keep track of your email marketing campaign.
  • Use email marketing automation to your advantage.
  • Choose a great email marketing platform.
  • Create an email marketing strategy that incorporates your future plans.
  • Treat email subscribers like real people because they are.
  • Remember that most email marketing services offer you every tool you need. Your costs, however, can go up depending on the features you need.
  • Take advantage of email templates to speed up things. The best part is you don’t need coding or design skills.

Wrapping up

We hope today’s post helped you to learn more about email marketing. We hope you can launch your first campaign today, and start enjoying the many benefits of this amazing marketing channel.