Email Marketing: A Comprehensive How-To On Bossing It

For most online marketers, email is the best source for generating leads and staying in touch with an audience. If you’re not using email to reach out to your users, you’re missing out on what is potentially the most effective channel when it comes to maintaining loyalty and generating conversions.

These days, no one can ignore their emails. If you’re in your users’ inbox, you have a direct line of communication open at all times. With the right approach and tools, you can use that channel to turn casual users into lifelong customers.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know before you get started with email marketing. Then we’ll guide you through the process of setting up your first campaign in five steps and discuss what to do afterwards. Let’s slide into some inboxes!

The Knowledge You Need Before Starting an Email Marketing Campaign

Most websites use email to reach out to their users. They send you welcome emails, discount offers, post roundups, and much more. At any point, your inbox is probably bursting unless you’ve just discovered the internet (in which case, welcome!)

The reason why websites and businesses spend so much time and effort when it comes to email marketing is that it works. To give you an idea, here are some quick stats concerning email marketing:

  • 99% of consumers check their emails daily.
  • 59% of users say that email influences the purchases they make.
  • Over 59% of marketers agree email gives the best return on their investment.

In a nutshell, email is an effective marketing medium. More importantly, the barrier to entry into email marketing is very low; simply grab an email marketing service provider, a way for users to join your subscribers list, and some free time.

Growing an email list takes time. As such, if you haven’t started yet, the best time to do so is now (as in right now).

Launching Your First Email Marketing Campaign in 5 Steps

Launching an email marketing campaign is much easier than you’d imagine. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to set up an email list, start getting subscribers, and create the first message in a campaign.

Step 1: Sign Up for an Email Marketing Service Provider

Not to put any pressure on you, but your choice of Email Marketing Service Provider (EMSP) is essential. This service will enable you to compile a list of subscribers, manage them, and send out marketing emails.

Hypothetically, you can do all that with any old email account. However, regular email providers don’t like it when you send emails to hundreds of users by CCing them. This is a quick way to get your messages sent to the spam bin, and for your account to get banned.

Instead, you need a professional service that makes sure your emails make it to their destination without hiccups. There are plenty of options to pick from, such as Constant Contact. This particular EMSP features a drag-and-drop builder for your emails, dozens of templates, e-commerce integration, analytics, and more.

Contant Contact

Another excellent option is MailChimp. On top of having a better name, MailChimp also integrates with plenty of third-party apps. The service also includes an email drag-and-drop builder, plenty of templates, e-commerce capabilities, and it offers a free tier.


Most importantly, both EMSPs enable you to automate emails, which is a feature we’ll discuss further on. There are also plenty of other options you can look into, but these two offer a great starting point. Constant Contact is excellent if you have the budget for it, and MailChimp is a great option if you don’t want to spend money to experiment with email marketing.

Step 2: Create an Email List

For the rest of this tutorial, we’re going to be using MailChimp’s free plan so you can follow along. The process works similarly for any EMSP you use though, although the interface might change.

After you log into your account, the first thing you want to do is jump to the Audiences tab and select the Create Audience button:

Create Audience

Now MailChimp will ask you to enter your audience name and default email address. That’s the name of your email list and the address you want to send messages from. Keep in mind, MailChimp will ask you to verify that you own the email domain before you can set up a signup form later on.

While you’re at it, also include your name to remind subscribers who you are:

Audience Details

Scroll down and tick the Enable double opt-in and Enable GDPR fields (more info about the GDPR here). That way, you’ll be in compliance with the law and users will get a confirmation email before they join your list:

Form Settings

Save your audience settings and you’re good to go. That’s your email list ready! Now let’s create a signup form for it.

Step 3: Add an Email Signup Form to Your Website

Next, look for the Create option at the top of your MailChimp dashboard and select Signup Form from the options within. MailChimp will ask you select which audience you want to add new contacts to, so use the list you created a minute ago. You also get to choose what type of form to generate – we’re going with a classic embedded option:

Create Signup Form

If your audience is set up correctly, MailChimp will automatically generate a classic email signup form and its corresponding code:

Form Preview

However, this classic design is too clunky for most websites. However, there’s a great-looking and minimalistic Condensed option. Select this, and you’ll see a form like the following:

Condensed Form

Once you select a style and copy its embed code, it’s time to jump over to WordPress to add it manually. You can do this by adding a Custom HTML widget to an area of your choosing.

Usually, you find email signup forms in sidebars, but you can also place yours in a footer area. Simply paste your embed code within the Custom HTML widget and save your changes:

wp widgets

The second option is to use a plugin to create a new form within WordPress. Although there’s no official MailChimp plugin, the EMSP itself recommends you use one of the many options compatible with their service:

Mailchimp Plugins

For this example, we’re going to use the MC4WP plugin because it’s the easiest to use. Once you enable the plugin, you need to connect your MailChimp account with WordPress by going over to the MC4WP tab:

Mailchimp for WP tab

The MC4WP plugin requires an API key to connect to WordPress. To get one, return to MailChimp, access your profile, and go to Extras > API Keys:

Extras Api

Scroll down and select the option to Create A Key:

Create A Key

MailChimp will provide you with a new API key now, which you need to keep private (hence why we’re not showing you!). Copy yours and use it to connect the MC4WP plugin with your MailChimp account.

Once you’re connected, you can jump to the MC4WP > Form tab. Inside, you’ll see a list of your available audiences and you can create a new form using a built-in editor:

Plugin form

When your form is ready, the plugin will give you a shortcode you can use to place it anywhere you want on your website. This means visitors can start signing up for your list right away. Before that happens, you want to figure out a way to welcome them. Let’s take care of this next.

Step 4: Design the First Email in Your Campaign

A lot of websites send their subscribers a warm welcome email when they join the list. It’s a great way to set expectations for future emails, not to mention plain old good manners.

Since we want to make our grandmothers proud, let’s go ahead and hit the Campaign tab in MailChimp, then select the Create Campaign option:

Create Compaign

MailChimp will ask you what kind of campaign you want to set up, so select Email and set a name for it. On the next screen, you need to configure several settings, including who to send your campaign to, its subject, and content.

Campaign setting

Let’s take it from the top and select the Add Recipients option then select the audience you set up a while back. Now hit the Add From button and confirm the name and email you want to appear as the sender in your campaign:

Campaign Form

Moving on, let’s add a subject and preview text for your email. Since this is a welcome email, you don’t need to overthink it. A simple greeting will do:

Add Subject

Finally, it’s time to edit your email’s content, so click on the Design Email button. Right away, MailChimp will throw a lot of layout options and themes at you:

Mailchimp Themes

In this case, the easiest approach is to use a basic layout to design your email. For a welcome email, we recommend the Make an Announcement option:

Tell Story

Now, you get to play with the drag-and-drop email builder. You’ll want to include your logo, a brief welcome message, and maybe talk a bit about what to expect from future emails. Take a look at this example from Virgin America:

Suscrtiption Email

Using the drag-and-drop builder is straightforward, so we recommend you play around with it until you’re happy with the results. If you’re stuck, check out MailChimp’s email design guide.

Step 5: Schedule (or Automate) Email Delivery

Earlier on, we talked about automation. Most EMSPs enable you to automate emails, which means to schedule them. This frees you from the task of having to send campaigns manually, which is not feasible if you’re going to be using email often (you should be!)

However, automation goes well beyond scheduling. For example, if we’re talking about welcome emails you can set a ‘trigger’, which would be a user joining your list:

Welcome new subscriber

There are a lot of triggers you can use to automate emails. With MailChimp, you can create fully automated campaigns that contain multiple messages. This means you simply design them, set the triggers, and wait for them to send automatically.

You’ve just created your first email, so you probably have a lot of other questions before you start automating full campaigns. With this in mind, let’s go over what to do now you know the basics.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing isn’t something you want to do casually. Ideally, you’ll reach out to your subscribers often. This means throughout the life of your website, you might send hundreds if not thousands of emails.

If you’re going to put that much effort into anything, you might as well do your best work. To get started, you’ll want to read up on how often to email your subscribers. It won’t surprise you to know, most people don’t want to receive dozens of emails per day from you.

Beyond frequency, it’s also important you take some time to come up with great email subject lines. A little work in this aspect can dramatically increase click-through rates, which means how often people open your messages.

Finally, you’ll want to look up examples of compelling email copy, so you can figure out ways to make your messages more compelling. With a little practice, email marketing should become one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.


As a website owner, passing up on email marketing is a lost opportunity for almost every type of project. Whether it’s an online store, a blog, or a forum, using email enables you to stay connected to your audience in a way that no other channel does. What’s more, emails aren’t intrusive, so as long as you don’t spam subscribers, you’re golden.

The best time to get started with email marketing is as soon as your website launches. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign up for an email marketing service provider.
  2. Create an email list.
  3. Add an email list signup form to your website.
  4. Design the first email in your campaign.
  5. Schedule (or automate) email delivery.

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