How to Create an Email Marketing Strategy

May 17, 2018

Your success with email marketing can only be as good as your email marketing strategy. If you take the time to build a strategy and integrate it with your content marketing strategy, you’ll be able to take advantage of a form of marketing allowing many businesses to lessen their dependence on expensive ad campaigns.

The benefits of email marketing are endless, but they mainly revolve around being able to connect with your audience on a deeper level than social media allows and using that connection to increase your revenue without needing to spend thousands upon thousands on advertising.

In this post, we’re going to go over everything (or most of the things) you need to do to build an email marketing strategy capable of helping you achieve your overall marketing goals. We’ll go over how to define your email marketing goals, my email marketing service provider suggestions, how to use lead magnets, how to set up email campaigns, and more. Since you can’t know which way to turn without knowing where you’re going, let’s start by defining our goals.

Defining the Goals in Your Email Marketing Strategy

Many businesses don’t have a plan when it comes to their email lists. They add a few email forms to their websites using “Subscribe for Updates” as opt-in incentives and grow massive email lists without actually doing anything with them. Sure, they’ll send out weekly newsletters and important announcements every now and then, but there’s nothing there as far as marketing goes let alone a marketing strategy.

Let’s change that. By defining your goals, you’ll be able plan better and strategize your email content so you can turn casual visitors into subscribers and subscribers into customers. The specific goals you set for yourself will be dependent on your business, niche and collection of products you have to sell. Typically, you want them to be along the lines of these:

  • Sell more copies of a certain product (even if it hasn’t launched, yet).
  • Sell more copies of a certain category of products.
  • Build an audience of loyal followers who will provide repeat business.
    Increase customer engagement so you can learn more about them.

The list goes on and on, but you get the gist of the types of goals I want you to set for your business. Some marketers suggest setting a certain number of subscribers or a certain percentage of open rates as goals, but both of these are meaningless if you aren’t using them to accomplish something that will actually help your business grow.

Building Your Content Marketing Strategy

Email marketing and content marketing go hand in hand. It’s not 100% necessary, but growing your email list and using it as part of your marketing strategy is much more effective when you add your blog to the equation. We published an entire blog post showing you how to create a content marketing strategy if you need a little help with this.

Basically, you need to define the goals you want to accomplish with content marketing, define your audience, find out what problems they’re having and develop an editorial calendar designed to solve these problems. Where does email marketing come into the mix? Well, your content marketing goals and email marketing goals are going to look very similar, if not identical. An email list is a powerful tool that will allow you to accomplish those goals by attracting visitors to your blog and turning them into leads (and eventually customers) by having them subscribe.

Choosing an Email Marketing Service Provider


I’m assuming most of you already have an email list, therefore you already have an email marketing service provider. However, you can’t build an email list without a way to store the email addresses you collect and send emails to your subscribers, so I wanted to include this section for those who have yet to start an email list or are unhappy with their current service providers.

First, let’s go over what to look for in an email marketing service provider based on the top three features that will help you optimize your email marketing strategy:

  • Segmentation – It doesn’t do you any good to build a complex email marketing strategy targeting different parts of your audience to encourage them to purchase different products of yours if you aren’t able to send targeted emails to each individual part. That’s what email segmentation is for. Every service handles this differently, but it essentially allows you to separate your list into segments based on a number of different factors. For example, if I have two products, Product A and Product B, I can separate my list into four segments. One for subscribers interested in Product A, one for subscribers interested in Product B, one for subscribers who have purchased Product A and one for subscribers who have purchased Product B. I can then write separate, targeted emails to each individual segment.
  • Automations – Adding a subscriber to a segment and manually sending them a welcome email and every email in your campaign would be pretty tedious. Fortunately, email marketing service providers offer what are known as “automations,” key email marketing techniques that happen automatically. It’s a “set and forget” type deal. You set up an automation once, and the service does everything for you automatically when a new subscriber joins your list. We’ll talk more about segmentation and autoresponders in a bit.
  • Reports – I could sit here and tell you what to do with your email list, and you could follow my advice to the T. However, nothing beats hard data. As you build your email marketing strategy and grow your list, pay attention to the reporting features your service provides. They’ll tell you which forms convert best, what your open rates are, how many subscribers you receive over time and more.

Since this isn’t an “X Best Email Marketing Service Providers” type of post, I’m simply going to list a few quality service providers who offer the features mentioned above:

Analyzing Your Content

In order to accomplish your goals with email marketing, you need to build links that connect your content to your email list. You’ll use many of the email forms you’re already familiar with, only instead of using the generic “Subscribe for Updates” opt-in incentive, you’ll use targeted lead magnets. Lead magnets are incentives you can offer readers in exchange for their email addresses. A few examples include free trials, free ebooks, free worksheets, free consultations and more. Not only do they make it more likely for your readers to subscribe, they allow you to target readers and ensure you fill your list with subscribers who are most likely to buy your products.

Essentially, what you need to do is create content targeting your audience’s pain points, create lead magnets that help solve those pain points even more and offer those lead magnets as opt-in incentives in strategic places.

You need to analyze the content you already have as well as the content you plan to release in your editorial calendar. To grow your email list quickly, start by identifying your blog’s most popular content. These posts receive a lot of traffic, giving you plenty of opportunities to increase your conversions without creating new content. Next, identify content you feel solves your audience’s top problems best. Do this with content you’ve already published as well as content in your editorial calendar.

Adding Lead Magnets to Your Site

You should start noticing a few patterns as you build a collection of content suitable to offer lead magnets on. First, pinpoint content that directly relates to your products. This will help you build segments in your email list for readers who would most likely be interested in your products. Next, try to organize the content you’ve collected into two to five categories that represent your audience’s top pain points.

This will help you brainstorm lead magnet ideas. There are a few different methods you can use here, and they depend on the amount of time and money you can dedicate to the creation of lead magnets. First, you can take the content that directly relates to your products and think of lead magnets for them.

Second, you can think of a different lead magnet for each piece of content you collected. This lead magnet should have a direct relation to the topic each post is about. Lastly, and most easily, you can think of one lead magnet idea for each category you came up with and offer that lead magnet on every post you placed in that category.

Here’s a larger list of lead magnet ideas:

  • Ebook
  • Course
  • Email Course
  • Video Course
  • Worksheet
  • Cheat Sheet
  • Resource List
  • Case Study
  • Trial
  • Quote/Consultation
  • Discount
  • Guide/Plan/Schedule
  • Giveaway
  • Downloadable Products (PSD templates, icon set, images, music, etc.)

Adding Email Opt-In Forms to Your Site

Thrive Leads

You can use your email marketing service provider’s email forms, especially if you’re on a budget, but I highly recommend creating more advanced forms with a lead generation software. Here are a few good options to use for WordPress:

You only need one of these tools as they all more or less offer the same features. They offer well-designed templates and advanced reporting features. Use them to add forms to your header as a sticky notification, after posts, in the middle of posts, as a pop-up when the reader scrolls to a certain percentage or tries to leave your website, and more. If you want to learn more tips about where to place opt-in forms, read our post on the best places to display them.

Building Email Campaigns

Okay, so your email marketing strategy should have the following components at this point:

  • Goals.
  • An email marketing service provider.
  • A strong content marketing strategy.
  • Lead magnets to offer.
  • Advanced email forms to promote your lead magnets.

Now, you can start building email campaigns, which are a series of emails you send to a new subscriber (using your service provider’s autoresponder feature) to encourage them to complete your goal. I used a made-up photography blog as an example in our content marketing strategy post, and I’m going to call on that example once again for the purposes of this post.

Let’s say I have a course that teaches the basics of photography to beginners. I also have three blog posts teaching them how to choose their first camera, how to perform routine maintenance on their gear and how to choose a camera bag. I want to use these posts to get novice photographers on my email list so I can market my course to them.

To do this, I’ll promote a free mini course called “Setting Up the Shot” that teaches them everything they need to do in the moment to take a professional photograph. This is highly related to my course topic, so if they’re interested in this mini course, they’ll likely be interested in my paid course.

Creating the Email Campaign

Email campaigns should be between three and five emails. Let’s use a five-email campaign as an example:

  • Email 1: I’ll welcome the reader to my list and will provide a link to my first lesson. The lesson should be hosted in a way where it can’t be accidentally accessed by regular visitors. Doing it this way over adding the lesson directly in an email allows me to train my audience to click in my emails, which is something I’ll want them to do when I ask them to buy in a few emails.
  • Email 2: Short email containing a link to the second lesson.
  • Email 3: Another short email containing a link to the third lesson.
  • Email 4: Yet another short email containing a link to the final lesson, but I’ll also throw in something along the lines of, “This mini course focused on one aspect of taking a professional photograph, but you and I both know there’s a lot more to it than that. I actually have an entire course that teaches you the entire process if you’re interested. I’ll tell you about it later.”
  • Email 5: This is where I’ll promote my product. I can even offer an exclusive discount.

Let’s wrap this post up.

Final Thoughts

My example used a specific goal, a specific lead magnet and a direct path between my content and goal, but there are many different ways you can build your email list and create marketing campaigns. One thing I highly recommend researching more is segmentation. You won’t get very far if you continue sending every single email you write to your entire list. Learn how to create optimized segments, and work on targeting your emails to each individual segment.

Other than that, as you start growing your list, use your service provider’s reporting features as well as the reporting features in the lead generation software you use to optimize every little aspect of your list. Play around with HTML templates, plain-text emails and subject lines especially.

If you want to learn more about email marketing, check out a few additional articles we’ve published on the subject: