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How to Advertise with Email

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

At pennies (or even less) per message sent, email is one of the most inexpensive and effective tools for promoting sales for a business. Why? Regardless of what some social media gurus might say, people STILL check their email almost every day, sometimes multiple times per day, increasing the chances that a message will be seen and read. But you must learn how to advertise with email properly to make it work.

Is Advertising with Email the Same as an Email Newsletter?

No! While email newsletters can be a key element on an online advertising strategy, they are not the same as advertising emails. Why? Because the goals for each are different.

Though they may contain some advertising elements, email newsletters are designed to keep in touch with customers. Newsletters are also part of a content marketing strategy which draws people in by providing helpful and interesting information, tips and entertainment. Additionally, a newsletter that is simply an extended sales pitch will quickly be tuned out or even unsubscribed.

Advertising emails are designed to do one thing: SELL! Their intent is to provide special offers, discounts and product information, along with strong calls to action (e.g. "Click Here to Buy").

Buying or Building Email Lists

Purchasing or creating an email list is the first step in any email advertising program.

Buying an Email List

Buying a list of email addresses is a possibility from list vendors. However, you run the risk of people not opening emails since they may not recognize an unknown sender's name. Worse is that messages could be flagged as spam.

List are purchased in the same manner as lists for direct mail by selecting various marketing demographic factors such as geography, age of prospect, hobbies or any other factors.

CAUTION! Many email broadcast providers strictly prohibit the use of purchased lists! Check their Terms of Service prior to uploading any purchased list.

Building an Email List

A company's email list is a primary business asset. Unlike social media follower lists, this list of subscribers will still be available if a social network changes dramatically or even disappears. Building this list should be a major goal of any sales and marketing efforts.

Take building this list one step further by segmenting it by product interest, type of prospect, geography or any other marketing demographics that are relevant. Depending on the email marketing system chosen, this could be done by sorting based on fields of information OR separate lists could be created for each type of customer.

Including only customers and those who have opted in or requested to receive information from you will help keep you out of the CAN-SPAM Act violation zone (Federal Trade Commission).

Word of Caution: Do NOT email from Microsoft Outlook or regular email accounts. Many email providers flag emails like this sent to hundreds of recipients as spam and they will be blocked. Use an email broadcast system such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp or AWeber.

Make 'Em Want to Be on Your Email List

Why would anyone sign up to receive advertisements by email? If polled, it's likely most people would say they don't want any more sales emails. But ask them if they would like discounts or coupons by email and they'll likely say yes.

This is a very important part of building an in-house email list. A suitable incentive must be provided to encourage people to opt in to receive advertising emails. Some effective incentives are:

  • Promo codes for special offers or promotions.
  • Discounts and coupons.
  • Limited edition or availability updates, good for lists selling such items as collectibles.
  • Free gifts, products or services such as a free dessert for a restaurant email list signup.
  • Free ebooks, reports or other information of value.

Place a signup form or a link to a subscribe page prominently on every page of the business' website, as well as in every email broadcast. Include a "If you have received this email, from a friend, click here to subscribe to get your own offers." link in emails. Some email systems allow recipients to share these offers on social media as an option which can help spread your message to even more potential customers.

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Top 10 Ideas for Advertising Emails

Once the email list is set up, it's time to start thinking about what should go into the advertising emails. Here are several possibilities:

  1. Coupons that can be printed and redeemed at brick-and-mortar locations.
  2. Discounts, freebies and sales promotions that can be redeemed online.
  3. New product announcements.
  4. Featured product of the month, week, etc.
  5. Seasonal specials and buying tips, e.g. holiday gifts, gardening supplies for spring.
  6. Event announcements such as grand openings, open houses or online webinars.
  7. Customer service updates such as changes to hours of operation, new phone numbers.
  8. Upcoming pricing increases with a "Buy Before Prices Go Up" offer.
  9. New sales personnel introductions, particularly for companies that have an outside or regional sales force.
  10. Announcements about updates and improvements to websites and e-commerce sites.

The Most Important Part of an Advertising Email: Subject Line

Regardless of how good the information in an email is, if the recipient is not enticed to open an email by the subject line, the information is not going to get through.

A good subject line is like a good headline for a press release or news story. It must provide incentive and pique curiosity. One of the best resources for learning how to write great subject lines is the advertising classic Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples.

Generally, it is recommended that the subject line be 50 characters or less since many email systems truncate the subjects to this number of characters. Having to pack incentive and curiosity in that small space can be a challenge! Consult a copywriting professional for assistance if needed.

How Often and When Should an Advertising Email be Sent?

While is varies by industry and campaign, emailing an advertising email much more than once a week can be very annoying to recipients. Plan on at least once or twice a month at minimum to start. Weekly would be ideal, especially during peak sales periods.

When to actually send the broadcast will depend on the market. For B2B (business to business), during business hours is recommended. For B2C (business to consumer) offers, ideal times can be all over the map, again depending on what is being offered and the market. It will take some experimentation with different days and times. Doing split A/B testing can help home in on the best broadcast schedule. The email broadcast services noted earlier offer performance reports on each campaign. Over time, a pattern of open and click through rates will help make scheduling more effective.

Once optimal broadcast days and times are determined, stick with as consistent a schedule as possible. For example, if Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. in the target time zone is best, send broadcasts at that time every time. Recipients will begin to expect the emails and even look forward to them if the offers and information are valuable.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Steven Thompson on October 15, 2014:

Your welcome heidithorne! I look forward to see more of your hubs! Have a great day too!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 15, 2014:

Hi whoissthompson! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, keep in line with CAN-SPAM rules is pretty important. Have a great day!

Steven Thompson on October 15, 2014:

I just came across this article and I must say it is very good. The best part for me was how to keep yourself off the spam list.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 26, 2013:

Oh, Au Fait! You are sooooo right! I'm so very glad that we have these folks to watch over us and decide what's important to us. Not!

I know the email broadcast services do represent a cost. But if you do decide to go that route, these services can provide enhanced deliverability to your subscribers and offer some great analytics on your campaigns. Just keep them in mind for future reference.

Thanks so much for joining in on the conversation!

C E Clark from North Texas on October 26, 2013:

I've never heard of those services you listed before. I looked a couple of them up and they want more money to use them for a month than I make on HP in a month. I guess it's the same old story; if you have money you can do and get away with anything, but if you don't have money the powers that be want to make damn sure you never get any either.

I've noticed that GMail and Yahoo make absolutely certain I get every possible tip and hint on how to enlarge my boobs and how to make sure my shmeckie is size HUGE, too -- I guess they're talking about my borrowed schneckie since most people I know do not have both boobs and a schmeckie incorporated into their own body.

Nice GMail and Yahoo are so concerned for both my own body and my sex life too. Apparently they concern themselves with these things because that is the main concern of the majority of the population and they're just trying to please as many people as they can, and assuming that I share those values.

My mail is blocked, but you have to admit they make sure the really important stuff gets through to everyone. After all, everyone depends on HUGE Boobs and Schmeckies, and if we have those things, what else do we need to live a perfect life?? Good that GMail and Yahoo are so very particular about their email/Spam policies to protect us all.

Nice that we have BIG BROTHERS GMail and Yahoo looking out for our interests and what is morally good for us. After all, my newsletters about my HP articles and those of other hubbers could be very subversive and cause no end of problems and bad things in a world full of nothing but good things as it currently stands.

Better to keep dumping the essential info about Huge boobs and even BIGGER schmeckies into people's mail. Oh yes, and thank God prostitutes constantly pack my mail with their hot sexy pictures so if I ever decide to go lez I'll know who to call. What on earth would we all do without Big Brothers Yahoo and Gmail to look out for us and make sure we have the most important information at our fingertips??

I've written an article about how to deal with Spam, and I honestly don't understand why it's such a big issue with some people. Spam is so much easier to deal with on computers than it is on the phone or in the snail mail. I have no trouble at all dealing with Spam, it's having my mail blocked from being sent that is the problem. Maybe if I included info about enlarging boobs and schmeckies and where to call when a person succeeds, my mail would go faster than the speed of light?

The obsession some people have with Spam seems to be what is guaranteeing that the only Spam we are going to get is about developing BIG boobs, super huge schmeckies, how to contact prostitutes, or what number to dial for phone sex. At least it's limited to the important stuff, right?

So even though people have said they want to receive my newsletters, GMail and Yahoo know better than they do what is good for them, and refuse to allow them to receive my mail -- more accurately, they refuse to let me send it in the first place. What's good for them? BIG boobs, HUGE schmeckies, prostitutes, and phone sex. If your newsletter isn't about these things, forget about sending it.

Yup, Yahoo even decided for a time that my regular mailings that I have been receiving for months from New York Times, Huffington Post, and other news media wasn't good for me and put it in my Spam folder -- I'm surprised it came through at all given how damaging they can be to anyone who reads them -- ah, but the essential info about enhanced schmeckies and boobs came through unhindered. Yes, and Stephanie's messages about her hot sexy pictures and how to contact her got right through too. So glad Big Brothers Yahoo and GMail have strict policies in place to look out for my moral safety and delicate mind . . .

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 23, 2013:

Hello Au fait! Thanks for reading and venturing into advertising with email!

Are you using a service such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Mail Chimp or AWeber? Usually these services have better reputations with Internet service providers, helping to get your emails into people's inboxes. But even then, some ISPs are very strict and anything that even hints at being bulk mail will be trashed or put in the Spam folder. As well, some users have very restrictive filters on their email accounts which means very little gets through. It happens to the best of email marketers! Also, Gmail has changed in that anything looking like a newsletter or marketing is dumped into a "Promotions" tab without the user's input. This is a nightmare for email marketing. And then there's always the problem of getting people to open the darn emails. They have their itchy Delete key fingers positioned and ready. :(

I'd be really curious to hear if you're having these spam/block troubles with an email broadcast provider like those listed above. I've had very few issues, but nothing significant. As well, do you have any stats on open, click rates, etc.? If you're getting even 20-30% open rate, that's awesome.

Hang in there! You have company with these email marketing challenges!

C E Clark from North Texas on October 22, 2013:

A very informative article!

Perhaps you know the answer to my problem. I started sending out emails advertising my own hubs and hubs that I liked of other hubbers, and while some people asked to be removed from my list, many wanted to continue receiving them.

My email providers all blocked me sending any emails saying I was Spamming, even though several dozen people had said they wanted to continue receiving these emails, which were basically newsletters, not selling anything.

I have no trouble at all putting a newsletter together that looks good, but how can I send them out without my email account being blocked from sending?

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 01, 2013:

Thanks, alocsin, for stopping by! Glad you found it helpful. Good luck with your website advertising program. It will take a little trial and error, so be patient and keep working at it. Took me quite a while. But now email marketing is something I use regularly. Have a wonderful week!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 01, 2013:

I'm exploring this avenue for advertising my website and so appreciate your dvice. Voting this Up and Useful.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 01, 2013:

Hello Elisha! Glad you found the information helpful. Good luck with starting your business and keep us posted on your progress!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 01, 2013:

Hello tdimobilead! Agreed, there is a lot of chatter and marketing going on the social networks (I'm a Twitterer). My concerns with relying heavily on them is that the platforms change so frequently and advertisers have little control in those situations. But I totally agree that integrating both email and social media marketing is THE winning strategy for today's marketplace. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Elisha Jachetti on July 01, 2013:

I am in the process of starting up my own business and this article has given me a lot of food for thought as something to implement in the future. Thank you.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 30, 2013:

Hello point2make! Glad you found the info helpful. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week ahead!

point2make on June 30, 2013:

Very interesting information ...I never thought of e-mail advertising before. Thanks for the help and the explanations...I appreciate it.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 30, 2013:

Hello rajan jolly! Thanks for sharing and kind comments! Have a lovely day!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 30, 2013:

Very useful tips, Heidi. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and shared.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 28, 2013:

Hello psbhatt! Agreed, Aweber can be expensive. What I really like about them is their blog broadcast service which other email services don't have. Saves a ton of time and effort. So I consider the cost in light of that. Sounds like you might, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


Aweber overcharges though its services are good. Great blog.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 27, 2013:

Hello younghopes! It's all about incentives. It's why free mobile apps work, too. Thanks for your kind comments and voting!

Shadaan Alam from India on June 27, 2013:

Thanks Heidi for such a useful hub, i really liked the "Top 10 Ideas for Advertising Emails" because as you said most of us do not prefer to read sales oriented emails but with such ideas the advertising would be worth the cost for sure, voted up

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