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Email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses email as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.

However, the term is usually used to refer to:

  • sending emails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of an advertiser with its current or previous customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.
  • sending emails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately.
  • adding advertisements to emails sent by other companies to their customers.

Researchers estimate that United States firms alone spent US$400 million on email marketing in 2006.

Email marketing is popular with companies for several reasons:

  • A mailing list provides the ability to distribute information to a wide range of specific, potential customers at a relatively low cost.
  • Compared to other media investments such as direct mail or printed newsletters, e-mail is less expensive.
  • An exact return on investment can be tracked (“track to basket”) and has proven to be high when done properly. E-mail marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic.[2]
  • The delivery time for an e-mail message is short (i.e., seconds or minutes) as compared to a mailed advertisement (i.e., one or more days).
  • An advertiser is able to “push” the message to its audience, as opposed to website-based advertising, which relies on a customer to visit that website.
  • Email messages are easy to track. An advertiser can track users via autoresponders, web bugs, bounce messages, unsubscribe requests, read receipts, click-throughs, etc. These mechanisms can be used to measure open rates, positive or negative responses, and to correlate sales with marketing.
  • Advertisers can generate repeat business affordably and automatically.
  • Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of e-mail subscribers who have opted in (i.e., consented) to receive email communications on subjects of interest to them.
  • Over half of Internet users check or send e-mail on a typical day.[3]
  • Specific types of interaction with messages can trigger (1) other messages to be delivered automatically, or (2) other events, such as updating the profile of the recipient to indicate a specific interest category.
  • Email marketing is paper-free (i.e., “green”).
  • Tracking and response metrics enables tuning and optimisation of the Email marketing channel by a process of testing different variants and calculation of statistically signficant results.