Email Marketing Best Practices to Benefit Your Business

Learn how you can succeed in emailing your customers and prospects.


1. What is email marketing and why does it matter?

Email marketing is the use of email to reach customers, build relationships with them, and ultimately drive sales. A thoughtful email marketing strategy provides customers with valuable information that helps them make smarter purchasing decisions. Simple, straightforward messages will position your company as helpful rather than invasive or salesy.

As the campaign journey advances, an authentic connection of trust develops between your brand and your customers as they look forward to your emails. Email marketing helps you drive conversions and revenue by delivering quality information that helps your customers achieve their own goals.
Email marketing has been around for decades. In fact, the first marketing email was sent in 1978, driving $13 million in sales and proving the value of the channel. Given its long history, email marketing has gone through several changes since its inception. It’s a powerful marketing channel to promote your business’ products or services. It can also assist with lead generation, brand awareness, building new relationships, and keeping customers engaged between purchases.

Salesforce Easy: It's never been easier to email your prospects and customers.

Digital transformation across industries has pushed email marketers to evolve and adapt to meet the changing demands of businesses and consumers alike. As the number of digital experiences exploded with the rise of social media and mobile apps, successful email marketers are now using tools like AI and automation to deliver their messages across channels.

Marketing automation has helped businesses shift away from traditional email tactics — generic messages sent to lengthy subscriber lists — and get more personal. More comprehensive data collection and management now make it possible for emails to focus on the specific wants and needs of each individual customer.


of marketing organizations use email as a channel.


What are the advantages of email marketing?

Today’s marketing automation platforms allow businesses to segment audiences by a number of identifiers like age, location, interests, and buying history. This targeted approach to email marketing means customers receive highly targeted communications that are relevant to them. As a result, businesses are more likely to see higher engagement and more conversions from their messages.

This is particularly true if your audience has opted in to your email outreach — it means they’re interested in your business and how your products or services can be useful to them. That presents an opportunity for your marketing team to capitalize on and develop trust with audiences that lead to stronger customer relationships.

One of the top benefits of email marketing is its ability to personalize messages. Personalization turns a simple marketing strategy into a unique opportunity for brands to develop customer relationships. Another benefit is complete control over the message, since there are no third parties involved. You control how, when, and why you connect with your customers.

Email is the number two channel (behind phone) preferred by consumers when communicating with brands


Email marketing’s flexibility and customization make it a valuable channel to achieve a number of marketing and sales goals, including:

  • Building customer relationships
  • Boosting brand awareness
  • Generating and nurturing leads
  • Marketing products and services
  • Promoting content and useful resources

Now let’s answer some specific questions about getting up and running with email marketing.


2. Is email marketing easy?

Optimizing your email marketing campaigns for maximum effectiveness can take time, but starting with a sound strategy and leveraging digital tools like marketing automation make the process straightforward. It’s all about laying a foundation, listening to the data, and making adjustments as you go.

For starters, build your foundational strategy around segmentation, personalization, and automation. As the previous section outlined, segmentation and personalization allow you to reach individual customers with highly targeted content that’s meaningful to them. That means they’re more likely to engage with the emails and, in turn, your brand. Marketing automation is the engine that makes segmentation and personalization possible at scale.

There’s a great Trailhead module, Email Marketing Strategies, that lays out best practices for designing and executing winning email campaigns. Going through the whole module is highly recommended for a quick, but detailed and actionable, dive into the process. For now, though, here’s a high-level look at the steps.

1. Craft Effective Marketing Emails
From eye-catching subject lines to the power of dynamic content, email marketing is equal parts what you say and how you say it.
2. Follow Legal Compliance Guidelines
Abiding by laws meant to protect consumers from spam is important. It’s also just good business to make sure you’re not spamming would-be customers, or otherwise invading their privacy with your emails.
3. Improve Email Deliverability
Don’t let your emails get lost in cyberspace. Make sure to properly address your emails, and take steps to ensure that they don’t bounce back or wind up in spam filters.
4. Acquire New Subscribers
There are so many ways to build your subscriber list. Make sure you activate your outreach channels, online and in person.
5. Engage Your Subscribers
Acquiring subscribers is just the start. Opt-in incentives, coupons and offers, curated content, and personalized messaging are all proven ways to keep subscribers engaged.

What are the advantages of email marketing?

The cost of email marketing depends on the size of your business, the size of your audience, and the number of emails you send each month. Those costs will fluctuate for your business, as you move in and out of busy times of the year, launch new products and services, and so on.

That said, the good news is twofold:

  • One, it doesn’t have to cost much at all to get started with email marketing, especially if you do it in-house. A small business can get started with email marketing for under $100 per month, while the average midsize company is likely to spend anywhere between $10 and $1,000 monthly.
  • Two, the return on investment for email marketing is high. Really high. Industry experts put the ROI of email marketing at $36 for every dollar spent, on average. That number climbs even higher for certain industries, like retail and ecommerce.

List of cost considerations

The cost of email marketing breaks down into two main buckets — technology and labor:

  • Technology costs include software, email service provider, and internet service provider.
  • Labor costs span writing, design, and campaign management.

Depending on the size of your business and complexity of your email marketing needs, you may well be able to absorb some of these costs into preexisting budget items. For instance, most businesses are already paying for internet and email service. If you have graphic designers in-house, you likely already have the software needed to design images for email campaigns. And so on.

Whatever the specifics of your business, one thing is clear: The ROI for email marketing is well worth it, whether you’re investing $10 monthly, or thousands.


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3. Examples of email marketing


Four types of emails

Experts often point to three or four types of emails most commonly used in email marketing. The exact names and descriptions will vary depending on where you see them, but the general organization of marketing emails into these buckets is helpful in understanding how to build campaigns. You’ll also want to be sure to track the email that you send.

Email tracking is a key part of the buyer’s journey.

1. Craft Effective Marketing Emails

Email newsletters are one of the most common types of marketing emails. Newsletters that show up regularly in subscriber inboxes are a great way to keep your brand top of mind for customers and prospects alike. Successful newsletters often deliver a mix of content, including material on thought leadership, how-tos, and new product and service announcements. The benefits of newsletters are myriad, including:

  • Building and strengthening relationships with subscribers
  • Increasing brand engagement
  • Increasing customer retention
  • Building customer loyalty

In fact, 31% of marketers say email newsletters are the best way to nurture B2B leads.

2. Promotional Emails

Another commonly seen type of marketing email, promotional emails are used to make direct offers to your email list. Offers can range from discounted pricing on specific products to content that directly promotes a product or service. New product announcements, brand news, white papers, and webinars are all examples of content typically found in promotional emails. When it comes to driving purchases, email accounted for 19.8% of all transactions, trailing only paid search (19.9%) and organic traffic (21.8%) among digital channels. So it’s no wonder promotional emails are so popular — they work!

3. Relational Emails

Relational emails are designed to build relationships with prospects and customers by adding value upfront. That value comes in the form of free content and information, such as subscriber welcomes, blog articles, surveys, social updates, and more. Newsletters are often categorized as relational emails, though we think them significant enough to warrant a category of their own.

4. Transactional Emails

Relational emails are designed to build relationships with prospects and customers by adding value upfront. That value comes in the form of free content and information, such as subscriber welcomes, blog articles, surveys, social updates, and more. Newsletters are often categorized as relational emails, though we think them significant enough to warrant a category of their own.

Interactive emails

Whatever types of emails you’re sending, it’s well worth looking into adding interactive components to your messages.

Interactive emails provide the web-like functionality necessary for recipients to take actions within the inbox. This means customers have the ability to add items to their cart, book a hotel room, watch a video, and more without leaving the body of the email.

The main benefit of including interactive elements in your emails is a boost in engagement. Interactive content gives your customers something to do versus just reading an email. Visual and interactive elements can even lead to a 300% increase in click rates.
By using interactive emails, you have the opportunity to update the email in real time, even after it’s been sent. You can also include form-fills in the body of the email. These options ensure your emails are providing the most recent information and giving customers a chance to get even more personalized content from you.

Examples of interactive emails include options for:
• Booking an appointment via a form
• Seeing up-to-date product information in a shopping cart
• Quizzes, polls, and surveys about interests or experience

The most powerful email platforms support interactive and personalized messages to expand the possibilities of your email marketing. For example, Salesforce Marketing Cloud supports AMP for Email, which allows you to embed interactive elements like carousels, purchase buttons, and more.

4. What is the best email marketing tool?


A great email marketing tool gives marketers the power to run email campaigns start to finish, and analyze the results to make the next campaign even better. With the right tool, you can handle everything mentioned in this article:

  • Writing copy and designing templates for email messages
  • Creating dynamic, personalized content to include in emails
  • Acquiring subscribers and managing leads with CRM integration
  • Segmenting leads and running personalized drip-and-nurture campaigns
  • Tracking analytics and optimizing campaigns in real time

With that in mind, let’s wrap up with our top five tips for choosing the right email marketing tool for your needs. This quick, “What to Know” list is also a great way to recap the main points covered in this article.

1. Know Your Business Goals for Email Marketing
First things first: Define your business goals. Knowing what you need to accomplish will help you hone in on the tools and features you need in an email tool.

2. Know What Emails To Send
From newsletters to interactive, transactional messages, there are multiple kinds of marketing emails you can send. Make sure any tool you consider supports the easy design, distribution, and analytics tracking of your preferred formats.

3. Connect Emails to Customer Data
Choosing an email marketing tool that integrates with your customer data system makes it easier to send emails with dynamic content, run automated drip-and-nurture campaigns, and so much more. Email tools that integrate with CRM systems, like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, open the door to advanced functionality and scalability.

4. Integrates Email Marketing With Your Other Business Tools
Once you start growing subscriber lists and collecting analytics data on campaign performance, you’ll want to share that information across your organization. This is another way in which integrated tools like Marketing Cloud have a leg up on the competition.

5. Make Sure Employees Can Use the Tool Easily
The best email marketing tool in the world won’t do your business much good if it’s too complicated to use. Look for a tool that’s user-friendly and supported by solid documentation and support. Salesforce Marketing Cloud offers a host of self-service support options to help business users find the answers they need, on demand.


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More Resources



The Transformation Playbook


State of Marketing, Seventh Edition


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