Market Communications

Email Marketing Basics

I know. Everyone struggles with email marketing. It’s almost a given for small business owners.

I have some bad news for you. This isn’t going to tell you what to put in your newsletter. Quite the opposite, I’m going to tell you a monthly newsletter isn’t enough.

I have even more bad news. Most free email services won’t let you do the kinds of things I’m talking about (or you’ll need to buy plugins to make it happen). Services like ConvertKit, AWeber, Constant Contact, and Active Campaign all offer these services. These won’t work with platforms like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, but work well with WordPress and Shopify sites.

Email marketing includes multiple series of messages you want people to get at different times.

It fits into the Customer Journey in two different ways:

  • Consideration: email marketing can help potential customers learn more about your current business and products, making them more likely to buy
  • Loyalty:  email marketing can help give existing customers a reason to come back and buy more, either accessories for what they bought or new products they might want to know about

Before I dig into the details, I want to define a few terms you should know about that relate heavily to what I’m going to tell you to do.

  • Email laws: you can only email people who explicitly signed up for your email list. Otherwise it’s considered “spam”, and some countries will penalize you heavily for it.
  • Segmentation: most email marketing software (EMS) lets you divide customers in some way. The best ones use a tagging system, so you can see every action a specific customer took (like clicking on certain links or bought certain items) and let you base which emails they get on them. You can tag customers based on where you got their email from, what they clicked on in previous emails, and what they bought.
  • Personalization: most EMS lets you add personalized fields, so the customer’s first name or most recent purchase can be listed in the email, making it feel much more personal to them
  • Content links: The email will have a small teaser that tells the reader “Here is something really good that you might like, this is what it’s about… now click for more.” The link takes the reader to a page on your site. The reason for this is that your EMS can track what they click, showing you what articles and pages your customers care about the most. Then Google Analytics can track where they go and the Facebook pixel will let you advertise to them based on what they looked at.
  • Frequency: if you end up using all of the following campaigns, at some point you will be emailing your audience several times a week. In general it’s best not to email people more than once a day, but if you spread them out (one before work and one at lunch time or one after work), it should be ok. If your content is interesting and helpful, they will be ok with it.
  • Call to Action Buttons: yes, “buttons”. Make the links to major calls to action a button, not just a hyperlink. It makes them really stand out.

What follows is a list of different campaigns you should create for your email marketing. I have to tell you up front: it’s a lot of work, but no one said marketing was easy. You have to work if you want your business to grow.

It might shock you how often I use the word “discount.” Remember that these are segmented, so the customer did something to earn that discount and they are not publicly available and you can limit how often a discount code is used.

For each email, I’m going to tell you:

  • Goal – why you are sending it
  • Content – what is in it
  • Schedule – how often it is sent
  • Trigger – what makes a person start getting this email series
  • Audience – who gets it
  • Duration – how long it lasts or what makes it stop

Email Marketing Campaign Types


The goal of this email is to keep your business top-of-mind, reminding people of your business and the benefits it offers.

It contains links to upcoming offers, new content on your website, new product announcements, or education about your existing products. Many of these could be summaries of items in other email campaigns you have.

This email is sent on a regular basis. It can be weekly, every two weeks, or once a month.

The trigger for this email is actually based on the schedule. Whatever your schedule is, this email goes out on a regular basis to everyone on your list.

This is an ongoing email that should keep getting sent for as long as you have your business and they wish to remain on your list.

Launch / Prerelease

The goal of this email is to announce a new product or product line that you are releasing soon, build excitement for it, and get as many sales as possible when it first launches.

It usually contains very little information in the beginning, focusing on the problem it’s solving or the thing people are missing and really want. With each email, a little more is revealed, including the actual item, when it will be available, the retail price, and any pre-order discounts you are offering. I’m a big fan of vanishing discounts which get smaller with each email (20%, then 15%, then 10%, then 5%), which encourage people to pre-order sooner rather than later.

This is usually a reducing schedule, so there’s a week or two between the first two emails, and each subsequent email has half the time since the previous one (14 days, then 7, 4, 2, 1) so it builds the excitement.

This starts when you have a new product coming out in 2 to 3 weeks and want to start building excitement. 

This could go to your entire list or just to certain segments. For example, if it’s more of an accessory item, you could choose to send it only to people who already bought the item it’s an accessory to… or run different campaigns that offer a discount to people who already bought the other item but not to people who didn’t.

This email stops on the item’s release date OR when the customer makes a purchase (again, where tagging comes in).


This series of emails informs your audience of some kind of special event, usually a local show you are doing, a store opening you will be attending, or other place they can buy your product in person and meet you.

This email serves dual purposes because it is meant to get people to attend the event in general, not just to visit your tent/table. The event promoter might have graphics or text they want you to use. It should contain a link to the event so readers can learn more about it.

This could run for as long as you want. As soon as you know for sure you will be at an event, it’s worth telling your customers. If you do a lot of events, you could run this as an ongoing series that tells readers where you will be and when.

The trigger is simply when you are sure you are going to be at an event.

The audience could be your entire list or it could be a segment that would be most interested.

This series will run until the event (or as long as event season lasts).

Automated Email Marketing Campaigns

So far, all of the email campaigns have been something you’re writing as things happen… the rest of the emails will be things you can write once, then use over and over.

Educational / Onboarding

This is a series of emails that a reader gets only once. It could be to teach them something about your product line or how to use it most effectively, or to teach a new wholesale customer how to use your business and what you offer.

Since you want people to learn from it, these should come out daily. This is a “how to” series, so each day contains the steps to a single task…. and people can easily store them to remind them how to do it later.

For an onboarding sequence, the trigger would be someone making their first wholesale purchase. For an educational sequence, the trigger would be someone signing up for it.

This sequence only goes to specific customers, who have more complicated needs.

The sequence lasts as long as it takes to get all the information out. Common lengths are 3, 5, and 7-days.


The purpose of a reconnection email is to see if a customer who hasn’t made a purchase in a while is still interested and get them to make a purchase.

This can be a single email, not a series, which asks a customer if maybe a small discount, free shipping, or a bonus item might convince them to make a purchase.

The trigger for this isn’t short. It’s usually 6 months or longer.

This doesn’t go to everyone. It only goes to customers who made multiple purchases, maybe 3 to 6, and hasn’t bought in a while.


This is the opposite of the Reconnect email. This email is a thank you to someone who buys frequently, maybe 5 orders per month.

You can recommend products you think they will like based on what they already bought.

As a thank you, offer them a discount on accessories that go with what they have already bought. It’s also a great chance to ask them to leave a review.

This email goes out any time a customer reaches a set number of orders since the last email. How many is up to you, but aim high on this. Don’t do it for people who order just once a month.

Followup / Abandoned Cart

The goal of this email is to convince someone to make a purchase on something they clicked on from a previous email. Maybe it was a prerelease email or maybe it was just a newsletter, but they clicked on a link to an item but never bought it.

This email lists the benefits of the item, how awesome it is, how it can be used, and how wonderful it would be in the customer’s home.

This is usually a one-time email and is sent a day or two after someone clicked on the item but didn’t buy. It does NOT offer a discount. It’s purely a way to remind them that they looked at something, maybe even added it to their cart, but didn’t buy it.

If they only clicked on it, send one email 24 hours later. If they clicked on it and added it to their cart, send a second email 48 hours later, telling them that the item is still in their cart and (if your site supports it) will be removed from their cart if they don’t buy it in 24 hours. It’s not a threat. “Just wanted you to know in case you were looking for it.”

So that’s a HUGE crash course in your email marketing. I hope you’re able to start to apply it to your business.

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