Marketing guides

The beginner’s guide to setting up your first email marketing campaign

Have you just started a blog, small business or e-commerce site? Are you daunted by the prospect of connecting with your audience or customers by email and don’t quite know where to start? This beginner’s guide to setting up your first email marketing campaign will point you in the right direction, and with a bit of practice you’ll be an email marketing whizz in no time!

Email has definitely not had its day and continues to prove an extremely powerful and efficient marketing channel when done well. It’s very affordable and I believe that anyone can create successful campaigns when equipped with the right advice, so it’s ideal for people like you who may just be starting out in the world of blogging or ecommerce.  It gives you a chance to really connect with your audience, engage and nurture your leads and ultimately turn them into customers. You can also automate email campaigns, which means you won’t need to spend hours each day working on them, giving you more time to devote to other areas of your business.

So what have you got to lose?! There are a few steps that you will need to take to get your campaigns off the ground and to stand the best chance of success.


1. Build your list    

Of course email is no good unless you have a group of people who have given their permission for you to talk to them! So you’ll need to start thinking about building a list – in layman’s terms – capturing email addresses!  Provide a value exchange – If you just go ahead and ask customers to enter their email address and don’t give them a good reason for doing so, more often than not, they won’t bother. So you should aim to provide some kind of value exchange (sometimes known as lead magnet) such as a discount code, free pdf download, ebook or email series.

Also, tell them the kind of things that they can expect to hear about from you – for example, be the first to know about our new offers / ranges / releases

In addition, an important thing to note if you’re looking to sell them something, either in the future or right away, is that emailing people who have not explicitly asked to be contacted by (by providing you with their email address) are much less likely to become  customers.


2. Choose an email service provider (ESP)

Put simply, an ESP enables you to send out email marketing campaigns to a list of prospects.

As well as giving you the ability to send your emails out and ensure they are delivered into the customers inbox, most ESPs provide a broad range of services including the ability for you to create and build your subscriber list, customise your email templates, add personalisation and dynamic content (that is content that’s tailored to a particular audience), reporting and analysis.

Here is a small selection of ESPs that you could look at:

When deciding which provider is right for you, it’s recommended that you start by thinking how you will use email, and what features you think that you will need to fulfil this. If you’re just starting out you won’t want to over complicate things, but here are some things you’ll want to look for:

  1. Does the provider have a range of eye-catching templates to choose from? Plus, people tend to open emails on a mobile device so check that their templates are mobile friendly, ensuring that your emails will look awesome no matter what device they are viewed on.
  2. The ability to schedule your campaigns.
  3. Easy to understand tracking and reporting – you’ll want to know how your emails are doing so make sure that your ESP offers an easy to navigate reporting dashboard so that you can quickly check your opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes.
  4. Support – There will be times when, no matter how easy their platform is to use, you will need a little help. Check that your ESP has a support team that you can contact day or night.
  5. Budget – Once you’ve shortlisted a few ESPs based on the points above, you’ll now want to dig into their fees as you will need to ensure that the service fits into your budget. A lot of the providers will offer monthly plans based on the number of customers on your list.
  6. Delivery – It’s no good spending precious time creating your campaigns only to find that they don’t end up in the customer’s inbox! Check the ESPs delivery rates – you should ideally only shortlist ones that boast over 98% delivery rates.

3. Create your email!

This is the exciting part where you get to be creative. You need to think about the objectives for the campaign and who you are talking to. Be sure to keep your customer front of mind when putting your email together and make sure that the content is benefits driven – the reader will want to know very quickly what is in it for them.


Try and keep the copy concise and make use of bullet points to break it up a little. Think about what you want the customer to do, what action you want them to take, and make it really obvious!

Call to action:

Call to action box – make the call to action really stand out, use a coloured button with text on that tells them exactly what to do (ie: Get a quote / Register here / Get your free ebook).

Subject line:

Don’t neglect the subject line! Again, make it benefits lead and not too long – it needs to give them a good reason to open the email.


Don’t overuse imagery – as although the email will look fantastic when images are enabled, a lot of email clients won’t automatically enable images, so the customer will see lots of blank boxes and your message may be lost. Also, make sure you always append alt tag descriptions to your images so that even if the images don’t render (ie they’re not displayed) the user will know what the spaces are.


Place your logo at the top of the email, so that the customer instantly recognises that it’s from you and that it’s legit which means they are more likely to want to find out what you’ve got to say.


At the very least you should be including the customer’s name in the email. You can also try including it in the subject line too (to find out the impact on your open rates you can always AB test this – ie send 50% out with no name in the subject line and 50% with the name and see which one performs better).


Footer – You must put a valid contact address at the end of your emails, usually in a ‘footer’ area, not necessarily in the main body of the email.

Data protection:

Unsubscribe link – you must always give customers a chance to opt out of receiving further communications from you, and you need to act on the request too! It’s always worth familiarising yourself with the data protection laws that apply to your country.  For the UK, you need to comply with the Data Protection Act and in addition, for electronic communications including email, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. For more information on the PECR visit


4. Hit send!

Once you’ve written your email, go through it a couple of times and check for spelling errors, typos and grammatical errors.  Once you’re happy with it, you can select who you want to send it to (or select your entire list) and hit send!


5. Measure

You’ll want to know how your email performed!  Again, when analysing your campaign, re-visit the original objectives of the campaign in order to determine what metrics you are going to use to gauge performance.  Typically you’ll always be interested in open rates and click throughs (how many people clicked the call to action), but you may also want to establish what the customer did once they’d clicked through – the onward journey. If you were offering a free download of an ebook, how many clicks turned into successful downloads? If you were trying to get them to buy something, how many sales did you get off the back of that particular email campaign?  You get the picture.

As you get more competent with email marketing you can then start to test various elements such as subject lines, time of day, day of week, offer types (ie a percentage off vs a £ discount), length of email (short v long copy), images. The list goes on!

I hope you’ve found this beginner’s guide to setting up your first email marketing campaign helpful, and all that remains to say is good luck with your campaigns!