What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the promotion of products or businesses through the use of emails. These emails are produced to spur sales or transactions, foster customer relations or enhance brand awareness.  According to Forrester, businesses spent $1.5 billion on email marketing in 2011 and this is expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2016.

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There are three major categories of email marketing:

  • Direct emails–Like its conventional counterpart, direct email promotes a sale or offer that encourages the subscriber/recipient to contact the business and make a transaction.
  • Newsletters–These informational emails cultivate stronger relationships with existing or prospective customers.
  • Transactional email–A recipient may conduct a purchase or transaction with the company directly through the email.  These typically have a higher conversion rate than merely promotional ads, due to ease of use.

Email marketing has become a commonplace business practice due to its many advantages:

  • Return on investment–The Direct Marketing Association reports that for every dollar spent on email marketing there is a return of $40.56.  This enormous cost effectiveness is the principal reason a majority of businesses engage in some form of email marketing.
  • Large customer response–Potential customers are much more likely to respond to emails than almost any other marketing channel.  According to Datran Media 39.4% of industry executives cited emails as their most effective form of marketing.
  • Instant delivery–Emails may be sent to subscribers almost immediately.  This is extremely important in situations where time is a premium, such as limited time offers and reputational repair.
  • Quick conversion–The time window for conversion on emails is so narrow that an email marketing strategy can be implemented and analyzed in a very short amount of time.  This permits streamlined refinement of a marketing strategy.
  • Segmentation–The ability to specifically segment or differentiate the target audience allows for much more personalized and effective emails.
  • Reinforces other marketing channels–Social media and other marketing strategies are much more effective when combined with email.  Email helps solidify relationships that other marketing campaigns initiate.
  • Data driven–Emails are heavily dependent on market research, which is increased with every email pulse. This constant data acquisition and refinement makes emails very successful.

Email marketing remains one of the most heavily policed forms of marketing.  In its early days, emails could have been sent to virtually anyone on the internet.  This was later curtailed by legislation prohibiting email services from sending emails without permission from the recipient.  These anti-spam laws have been complemented by actions of the internet service providers and email operators who will prohibit or limit emailers that abuse the system.

In response to these restrictions, email marketers have developed highly sophisticated strategies that improve conversion rates.

  • Deliverability–Email marketers must format subject lines and content to circumvent spam filters.
  • List building–Acquiring the names and email addresses of receptive subscribers is a major activity of email marketers.  They must cultivate consumer interest through a variety of social media, SEO and other marketing strategies.
  • Behavioral targeting–The use of coupons, promotional offers and other actions can combat consumer apathy and re-engage customers.  Effective analysis of consumer behavior can help target peak points of consumer activity like certain holidays or national events.

The email marketing industry continues to face challenges that make it one of the most competitive channels in marketing.  Although there is widespread use of emails to promote sales and develop customer relations, very few businesses or marketing firms can boast that their email marketing strategy is optimal.  The constant infusion of more sophisticated marketing methodologies requires email marketers possess strong analytical skills and a dedication to ongoing education.

Email Marketing Professionals

The skills necessary to function successfully as an email marketing professional are usually acquired through a strong educational background.  Most email marketers possess at least a Bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, graphic design, business administration or information technology.  Prospective email marketers should possess a firm grasp of data analysis, market research techniques, computer technology and spreadsheet management.

Professionals seeking a management position in email marketing are strongly encouraged to possess multiple or advanced degrees due to limited number of managerial positions available and the intense competition for them.

Email marketers seeking an advantage for jobs or clients may wish to enroll in a certification program with an academic or a private association.  The University of San Francisco possesses a notable online email marketing program, as do many other online or campus colleges and universities.

There are a number of legitimate email marketing associations that can award certification upon successful completion of their courses.  The most important certifications are offered by:

  • eMarketing Association–Upon completion of their training programs, an email marketer will receive either a Certified eMarketer (CeM) or Certified eMarketing Associate (CeMA) designation.
  • Digital Marketing Association–The DMA in collaboration with the Email Experience Council offers two day courses in Email in the Marketing Mix.

There are plenty of online organizations that offer diplomas or certifications for email marketing, but these certificates may possess less industry heft than expected.  It is necessary to research any accrediting body before enrolling to ensure that clients and other marketing professionals accord their training program due respect.

Occupational Outlook

Email marketers are primarily found in the marketing industry, while some specialists may be found in industries or businesses that are heavily dependent on emails. According to MailChimp.com the following industries have a greater reliance on email and report opening rates of 20% or higher:

  • Agriculture and Food Services
  • Creative Services
  • Construction
  • Health and Fitness
  • Home and Garden
  • Insurance
  • Photo and Video
  • Restaurant
  • Social networks
  • Telecommunications

This industry has declined since its heyday in the early part of the century, but the advent of social media and mobile marketing are contributing to a revitalization of email marketing.  Social media’s ability to generate relationships and new contacts is complemented by the use of effective email marketing.  With 56% of internet users still employing email as their exclusive means of communication with brands, emails retains enormous importance.

Mobile marketing is in its incipient stage, but its reliance on short message services and multimedia services provide a mirror to the email marketing industry.  Many of the tools used in emails can be easily translated to text and graphical messaging.  Furthermore, emails received on a mobile device are significantly more likely to be opened than on a desktop.  This increased conversion rate has renewed interest in emails as an effective marketing tool.

According to BtoB Magazine 70% of companies in a 2011 poll reported they would invest in email marketing, while 63% stated an increased investment in this type of marketing.  The importance of email is expected to surge in coming years as it is combined with social media and mobile marketing.  Most professionals in this field should expect a growing reliance on cross channel synergy.

The email marketing remains a vibrant, evolving sector that will grow more dependent on dynamic emailing strategies that are increasingly born from market research and analytics.  Email marketing will be a very competitive field with many entry level positions while only a select few that display exceptional creativity and predictive talents will attain positions of authority.


Most email marketing specialists earn between $35,000 and $90,000.  According to Zenedy, an email marketing specialist in New York City averaged an annual income of $87,000, while a similar position in Boulder, Co could expect to earn about $57,000.  Entry level positions in email marketing could earn $35,000 and $40,000 a year.  A survey by Glassdoor.com showed an email marketing specialist at Experian earned as much as $73,000 for 2011, while a similar position at eBay could earn up to $80,000.

Salary.com reported that email marketing managers could earn from $45,000 to $70,000 annually, with the approximate average of $60,000 in 2010.  Salaries for this career can vary widely due to geographical location, educational background, work experience and industry of employment.

Professional Associations

There are a number of organizations that serve the email marketing industry by providing information and other resources.

These organizations can be instrumental in developing a business network for a marketing professional.  Most of these groups have local chapters for regions or major cities.  Independent marketing professional organizations that serve local areas can also be valuable resources.

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Top Firms

According to TopSEOs.com, the largest email marketing companies in the United States were:

  • Topica, Inc. of San Francisco, CA earned over $10 million in 2011
  • ExactTarget of Indianapolis, IN earned over $10 million in 2011
  • iContact of Morrisville, NC earned over $10 million in 2011
  • Vertical Response of San Francisco, Ca earned over $10 million in 2011
  • Elite Email of New York City, NY earned between $3 and $5 million in 2011

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