Getting started with email marketing

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What is email marketing?

Email marketing is the use of email to promote your business to new customers, or to keep your existing customers informed about new products and developments in your company.

Email marketing usually takes two forms:

  • Short promotional sales emails containing new products and special offers
  • Informative and content-rich email newsletters
  • They can also be a combination of the two.

Why use email to market your business?

  • You can contact thousands of people for a fraction of what it would cost to send the same number a leaflet by post or place regular advertising in a newspaper.
  • You can easily measure your success by monitoring delivery, open and click rates.
  • You can send targeted messages to individuals and different segments of your market.
  • It can increase traffic to your website, by highlighting new content and special offers.
  • Regular contact with your customers can help to build recognition and trust.

Choosing the right software

A good email marketing tool will be able to manage your mailing lists, provide reports on deliverability, personalise of emails, check your emails for potential spam content, add opt-out links and much more. Some will even generate a bit of code that lets you cut and paste a sign up form straight into your website. 

Prices vary from free solutions to monthly fees based on how many contacts you send your emails to. Whilst it is possible to use a standard email client such as Outlook to distribute your marketing emails or newsletters, they weren't built for the job of sending out bulk emails so aren't recommended.

Producing a marketing email

There are three main elements to any email marketing campaign:

  • Content
  • Design
  • A mailing list. 

To find out more, read our guide to producing an email marketing campaign.

Stay on the right side of the law

Email marketing is governed in the UK by two laws:

  • Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003
  • Data Protection Act 1998.

These set out how you should collect and use email addresses for marketing purposes. To find out more, read our guide to email marketing and the law.

All email communications are also covered by the Companies Act 2006, which states that your company details and registration number must be present and correct on all emails from your business.

Plus, if you use an American email marketing service provider you will have to comply with the Can-Spam Marketing Act 2003.

Note: If you're sending emails internationally, make sure they meet the requirements of the recipient's country.

When not to use email

Email marketing cannot replace all of your marketing and promotions methods. And nothing will ever beat the relationships you build with your customers face-to-face.

You should not use email if:

  • Your customers do not use email or aren't likely to use a computer
  • It isn't appropriate to your campaign
  • Your message could be mistaken for spam.

This is not only damaging to your ability to send emails in the future but also to your company's reputation. You don't have anything interesting to say. Sending out an email just because you can is a sure fire way to get your subscribers hitting the unsubscribe link.

Read part two of this article: How to produce an email marketing campaign


Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available to small businesses. If done well, it can increase sales and build brand loyalty. But do it badly and you could harm your business's reputation forever. Stick to these rules and get email marketing working for your business.