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Email Marketing

Email Marketing: Brief Summary

Email marketing refers to the practice of sending promotional messages to either individuals or groups of people via electronic mail. Most commonly, this means businesses or other organisations sending emails which are intended to promote their brand, their products and/or their services. However, it can be argued that most email interactions between a brand and a customer have some marketing component, making them a type of email marketing.

The primary goal behind most email marketing efforts is to either establish, develop or enhance relationships with customers, and this goal will usually be connected to wider strategic marketing objectives. For instance, email marketing may be intended to increase sales, generate sign-ups, expand brand awareness, or improve levels of trust. Although it can be extremely effective, email marketing can also be controversial and must comply with regulations.

Email Marketing: Detailed Summary

Email marketing is commonly categorised as a type of direct marketing, where an individual or organisation communicates directly with their target audience, while also providing some kind of option for a direct response. As a concept, it is sometimes seen as a modern equivalent to direct advertising mail, with emails being sent electronically, as opposed to using more traditional postal services. Both concepts are sometimes disparagingly referred to as ‘junk mail’.

The history of email marketing is almost as old as the concept of email itself, and its origins can be traced to the 1970s, when the first mass emails were sent. However, it did not emerge as a mainstream marketing concept until the 1990s, as email adoption became much more widespread, and businesses started to recognise the potential of online marketing.

Strictly speaking, any email that contains a marketing component can be classed as an example of email marketing. This can make the topic difficult to generalise about, because it can take many different forms. For example, emails may include advertisements, sales pitches or be informational in nature, while still having clear marketing components. In addition, even customer communication initiated by the customer can result in marketing emails being sent.

Marketing emails are sometimes divided into three main types, which are as follows:

  • Direct Marketing Emails – A direct marketing email is an email that is sent with the express purpose of promoting a product, service, brand, etc. These emails are often sent to many people at once, using a list of email addresses gathered in a range of different ways. An example of this would be advertising a new product, or a sale.
  • Transactional Marketing Emails – Transactional marketing emails are emails which are primarily sent in relation to a transaction, such as the purchase of a product. The email being sent is usually triggered by the transaction itself, or to update the customer, but they also include a marketing element as well.
  • Permission Marketing Emails – The defining characteristic of permission marketing emails is the fact that the person or organisation receiving the email actually opted to receive it. They are sent with the express permission of recipients, with the most obvious example being a company newsletter that was signed up for.

The initial growth of email marketing in the 1990s gave rise to a number of associated terms and concepts. For example, the phrase “spam” became widely used, referring to marketing emails that cause annoyance because they are sent without the recipient’s knowledge or consent. This led to the introduction of spam folders within many email services, with these being set up to automatically detect and collect spam emails.

Additionally, many countries introduced legislation designed to protect individuals from unsolicited email marketing. For example, many countries insist that personal email addresses can only be targeted with email marketing if they have opted in, while marketing emails must also provide options for users to unsubscribe or opt-out again.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Email Marketing

One of the biggest advantages associated with email marketing, when compared to other types of online and offline marketing, is people’s engagement with their own email account. In fact, research compiled by The Balance Small Business shows that 91 per cent of people with an email account check it at least once a day and more than half of people who receive marketing emails admit that emails do have an influence on their purchasing decisions.

On top of this, it is worth noting that email marketing is relatively easy to set up, provides options to reach a large number of people with the same promotional content, and can be inexpensive too, making it viable even for small businesses operating on a limited budget, or with limited technical expertise. Marketing emails can also encourage specific actions, which can generate more sales, conversions, subscriptions or account registrations.

When it comes to the disadvantages of email marketing, perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fact that many people ignore marketing emails, and this can apply even in cases where they have opted in to receiving them. Furthermore, some marketing emails will be filtered into spam or junk mail folders, meaning users may never even see them.

It is also important to understand that there are a wide number of different regulations governing email marketing and the precise rules vary around the world. It is the responsibility of the sender to know the regulations and abide by them. The relevant regulations in the location of both the sender and the recipient apply and, again, it is the sender’s responsibility to know these. This can make global email marketing strategies quite complicated.

Email Marketing Tips and Common Features

One of the most important elements of email marketing is not the content of the email itself, but the subject line. A significant number of people do not open all of their emails, and this is even more true as cases of phishing continue to grow. For this reason, you need to create a compelling email subject line, which gives recipients a clear incentive to open the email. You also need to keep this subject line short, so that it can be read in full.

It can be beneficial for email marketing efforts to include some element of personalisation. Retail companies like Amazon have become effective at re-targeting customers by sending emails focused on products they have previously viewed, but efforts do not even necessarily need to go this far. One of the most simple and effective ways to personalise marketing emails is to address the recipient by name, instead of addressing them in a generic way.

Most promotional emails are intended to encourage the reader to perform a specific action. For this reason, it is common to include a call to action within the email, and this should usually link to the relevant web page where a user can perform that action, or to a landing page, where they can find out more information.


The term ’email marketing’ covers many different types of email, ranging from newsletters and overtly promotional emails, through to transactional emails or customer service emails which have an additional marketing component. Marketing emails are typically intended to encourage a response from the recipient, or to increase awareness. The most crucial thing is that email marketing should abide by regulations and should not be unsolicited.

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