How Does Email Marketing Work?

Last Updated on July 16, 2023 by Monica Snyder

“How does email marketing work?” you ask yourself after hearing all about it in your quest to understand online marketing.

The short answer is that email marketing is a great way to drive traffic, grow your list and make some money.

I've used email marketing to:

  • create new business partnerships
  • learn what my audience wants so I can give it to them
  • generate revenue (from few hundreds of dollars in sales to consistent 6-figure months)
  • automated increases in customer lifetime value
  • and much, much more

It's one of my most loved digital marketing tools.

But it's also an area with a lot of confusing questions. Like, how do you find emails to send people? How do you get people to open your emails? How does it work for my business? So, this blog post will answer these questions and more!

What Is Email Marketing?

I'm going to start with defining what it IS before explaining what it DOES. I learned this from my favorite college professor. This has helped me a lot, especially with complicated topics.

Email marketing is a way of sending a commercial to people. They can see it on their computers and phones.

Most emails are sent with marketing automation software that is called an autoresponder. But not always; if you're doing cold outreach (discussed below), those are done with your normal email account.

How Does Email Marketing Work?

Email marketing works by enticing the readers to take an action you want to achieve a goal in your business. Email is the delivery mechanism of the message.

To get started, you need to have an email address (or many) to send the marketing message.

How to Collect Emails for Email Marketing?

There are many, many ways to collect emails through your other online marketing efforts but they are grouped into two kinds of list-building: inbound and outbound.

  • An inbound marketing email funnel is when you build your email list by getting people to sign up. This works by giving a person a reason to sign up such as free gift or amazing information. 
  • An outbound marketing email funnel is when you find someone's email address and then send them an email. This is called cold emailing because they have not given you their email address. 

Constant Contact has a great list of 15 Ways to Collect Emails for Email Marketing that you should check out.

I also have created an automated way to do this using a simple lead funnel and Facebook ads. It's called Automated Audience, and I use it every day in my business to collect emails on auto-pilot for me.

Once you have the email, you need to work to build a relationship with the person, and then they will take action that meets your goals.

Remember that people are on the other side of your email. They want to be treated with the same respect as if they were talking to you in person. This helps with building a great relationship!


How Email Marketing Works for your Business


You can grow your business by doing 3 things.

  1. Get New Customers
  2. Increase Your Average Transaction Value
  3. Increase Your Customer's Buying Frequency

Each email marketing campaign should be set up to reach one of these three goals so let's jump into some specifics for each one!

Get New Customers

This one is simple… turn your email readers into customers by giving them a reason to buy.

Here are a Few Ideas to Get You Started:

  • Coupons/Discounts
  • Limited-Time Special Deals
  • Additional Bonuses/Extras for Being a Subscriber
  • Free Shipping (this one is huge if you're sending physical products)
  • Upgraded Shipping

You can also create a brand awareness campaign asking your current subscribers to forward your emails, so you get new subscribers!

Increase Your Average Transaction Value

This one is where you add on something during the checkout/purchase process.

Two great examples are

  1. when any restaurant asks, “would you like fries with that?”
  2. In a store, the small items right next to the checkout you can quickly grab

Both of those serve the same purpose, to increase the amount of money you're spending during that purchase (your transaction value).

This is a little trickier with email because it usually happens during the checkout process. But, one of my best email marketing strategies is to add one of these “little extras” to the receipt email and ask them to buy it if they didn't before!

Try it and see how it goes for you!

Increase Your Customer's Buying Frequency

This is my favorite one of the three ways to grow a business with email marketing. You can use marketing automation to set this up and let it run. That way you create passive income!

You already did a hard job… getting someone to buy! And now customers want you to help them with more problems!

You do that with drip campaigns (also called sequences or series). These are automated email messages sent at specific intervals (i.e., daily, weekly, monthly) to drive customer loyalty and increase sales.

The ideas here are endless, but here are three campaigns that work very, very well:

  1. Flash Sales (24-72 hours only and run them once a quarter)
  2. New Product Promotions for when you have something new happening
  3. Existing Product Promotions because they don't know everything you have to offer!

In any email campaign, make sure each email in the series has a strong “call to action” that is very clear so the reader knows what to do.

Why is Email Marketing King?

Email marketing is king because it is the communication platform you own.

What do I mean?

Social media and other websites can kick you out of their playground anytime you annoy them. Just look at what happened with Twitter and Donald Trump. If social media platforms will kick off a United States President, they will kick you off too.

With an email list, you control the platform. It's your playground. You can email them as much as you want without worrying about getting booted.

Technically any software you're using can kick you off too so always back up your email list. It is one of the top assets in your business.

What is the Most Effective Email Marketing Strategy?

This depends on your business goals. But, really, the most effective email marketing strategy is the one you implement.

For reals.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email has an ROI of around $47 per dollar spent! It is one of the most effective internet marketing tools available to you.

So pick one that sounds easy to you and get it implemented in your business today!

How Do You Get People to Open Your Email?

A strong subject line is critical for high open rates! Make it relevant, concise, and unique.

Two great subject line writing tips are:

  1. Add curiosity to the subject line, so they want to know what is inside! Just be sure to tell them once they do open the email!
  2. Add one emoji to your subject line

Good subject line writing is hard but it will make your email more noticeable. It should stand out from the spam messages in other people's inboxes.

Can You Do Email Marketing Without a Website?

You sure can!

With most marketing automation software, you can create a simple landing page that allows you to collect email addresses without having a website.

If that's important to you, be sure to look for software that has that as a feature.

Is Email Marketing Dying?

Nope, it is not. And it never will.

Let me tell you 3 reasons why:

  1. Email is older than the Internet.
  2. It is the official communication tool for many businesses and governments.
  3. Email is how new communication platforms (think Slack, Yammer, etc) send notifications about their messages!

Email marketing evolves just like anything else, but it is here to stay.

What Else Can I Do With Email Campaigns Once They're Written?

So, so many things!

I had one client take an email campaign and turn it into a private podcast to get more people to consume it!

You can also

  1. reuse your email campaigns on social media with a light reformatting
  2. turn your email(s) into a blog post
  3. turn your email into an infographic
  4. turn your email(s) into a video
  5. develop a case study from your campaign
  6. add them to a long-term automation to nurture readers

Really, you are only limited by your imagination!

Bottom Line, Is Email Marketing Worth It?


I've seen single emails generate $100 to $1 million (no, that's not a mistake).

One friend of mine needed a big hit of cash to pay a tax bill. She emailed her list with a new, exclusive offer and had $60,000 in her bank account within a few days.

In my previous business, we generated over $100,000 per month with our email list.

A client sent her list one email about an existing $3,500 offer, and 7 people signed up!

I've sent affiliate marketing promotions to my email list in newsletters and made $147 sales.

All for learning the art of email marketing.

These results are possible, but it is hard to get the same results unless you put in a lot of time and effort.

Building a relationship with your readers is critical, and I have an online course that will help you do that! 

It's called Relationship & Revenue and it is the 3-part foundation for your email subscribers to feel welcomed, trust you quickly, & be ready to buy your offers. 

Tell Me, What Is Your Biggest Take-Away or “AH-HA!” Moment from Reading This?

Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links. What that means is that we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase after clicking links on our site. There is no additional cost to you. This allows this site to be reader-supported and only recommend things we use and love.

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