Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated! Email is not dead. On the contrary, email marketing is growing! According to a 2011 survey by BtoB magazine, 63% of respondents were likely to increase spending on email in 2011 (second only to websites) with 29% keeping spend constant. Also, The Email Marketing Institute recently released Q1 2012 email results stating, “North America Email Trends and Benchmarks Results showed a 21.4% increase in average volume per client from Q1 2011 to 2012.”

This blog will cover some background on email marketing, why you should consider email, and provide a Glossary of Email Terms. Our next blogpost, 6 Essentials for Successful Email Campaigns, shares details on email list development,  email design, email software and email service providers, email timing and frequency, email testing and campaign measurement.

What Is Email Marketing?

Long before blogs, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, marketers used email to communicate with customers and prospects in a similar mode as direct mail. Deploying a message to a list, with an offer, to generate a response.

The elements of email marketing include the list, the email layout and copy, the subject line and the offer(s). Most emails are distributed by email software or an email service provider (ESP). For a modest fee, the ESP provides an interface to design or upload the email (copy, images, html files), upload or manage lists, and provide metrics or dashboards on campaign results. The ESP also has built-in features for opt-outs and removal of duplicates (de-dupe).

Why Consider Email Marketing?

The major reason to consider email marketing is because it works, and in comparison to direct mail, email is a bargain. While list costs (when required) may be similar or slightly higher than mail, email does not have printing or postage costs. And when using email software or an ESP, the metrics or campaign measures are robust and include open-rates, click-through-rates (CTRs), bounces and opt-outs. The immediacy of email is untouchable by any other marketing medium. And the combination of metrics and immediacy allow you to test subject lines, even offers (more on testing later). Certainly email integrates nicely with websites and e-commerce. And email campaigns can easily be customized, personalized and otherwise targeted to the individual or market segment. Finally, email lends itself to ongoing communications with customers and prospects who opt-in to newsletters and related communications.

But email marketing is not perfect. In email’s infancy (around 1998-2000), open rates and click-through-rates were stratospheric until spam-blocking firewalls rained on the parade. Then anti-spamming legislation almost killed email. Now with spam-ware adopted by all email hosts, email open rates are much lower, averaging 10-20% for a business-to-business category.

Despite these issues, with the marketing mix rapidly evolving to Internet, SEO and social media, email is an important conduit to these electronic assets. And the promise of communicating quickly and inexpensively to captive customers and opt-in lists generated from all these Internet assets is too good to pass up.

So, the holy grail of email marketing is how to be more effective; how to maximize campaign effectiveness. Before we get into tips and tricks of email marketing and how to measure our efforts, lets cover some important email marketing terms.

Glossary of Email Terms

If you are new to email marketing there may be some basic terms you do not know yet. We have compiled a list of what we see as the most important email marketing terms. Note: This is not a comprehensive list.

Blacklisting – Lists of domains and IP addresses that have been reported or accused of sending spam. You can check blacklists at and

Bounces – Emails that have been sent back to sender as the recipient email address was invalid or presently not working. Hard bounces are bad email addresses and should be removed. Soft bounces are most often out-of-the-office notifications, or temporary server issues.

CAN-SPAM Act – A law that establishes rules for commercial email and requirements for commercial messages. Its main requirements are to not use false or misleading header information and deceptive subject lines, identify the message as an ad, tell recipients where you’re located and how to opt out of future emails, honor opt-out requests promptly, and monitor what others are doing on your behalf. Violators are subject to tough penalties.

Click-Through-Rate (CTR) – Hyperlinks within the email that are tracked by the # of times it is clicked on by email recipients, especially offers. Most ESPs report CTR.

Click-through tracking – Measuring the number of clicks that occur on each link in an email message.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – The ability to keep track of every interaction with every prospect and customer and keeps tracks of trends and tabulates results of such notes on an aggregate scale. Essentially, an intelligent interface that allows keeping notes of every action, sale, phone call, email, fax, etc.

CSV – A file format in which each new field is separated by a comma. This file format is used by ESP’s to build email lists, where each email is separated by a comma. Outlook and other email services allow you to export your entire address book in this format.

Database – A storing of records. Databases are made up of tables. Tables are made up of columns and rows. Data is stored in a field (aka cell). Popular types of web databases include SQL and MySQL.

De-Duping – The act of removing duplicates from a list.

ESP – ESP stands for Email Service Provider. An ESP is a specific type of Application Service Provider (see ASP). iContact is an example of an ESP.

HTML templates – The most common programming language for emails. The acronym HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language.

Mail merge personalization – The ability to, on the fly for each email, insert data from the database into specific fields in an email. For example, one may place Dear _____ in an email. When each email is sent out, a call to the database is made to retrieve the actual first name of that subscriber. It then ‘pastes’ this data into the email. Dear John, Dear Judy etc. will result.

Message scheduling – The ability to set a time in the future for a message to start to be delivered to recipients.

Open Tracking – The ability to keep track of the number of opens (“reads”) a message gets.

Opt-in – A term that refers to any subscriber that has specifically requested an email newsletter. If they have signed up through your web site, they are opt-in.

Opt-out – See ‘Unsubscribe link’ below.

Spam – Unwanted email that was sent without the permission of the recipient. Also known as unsolicited commercial email.

Unsubscribe link – The link at the bottom of each email which allows visitors to unsubscribe or modify/update their information.

Whitelisting – Opposite of blacklisting. Many ISPs have lists of sites with which they have built good relationships with and trust. If your sending fits their standards, it may be possible to add yourself to a whitelist. If you are on a whitelist, your mail has a much better chance of being delivered.

WYSIWYG Editor – Stands for “what you see is what you get.” Allows users to create their own HTML newsletters right on the sending page, without knowing HTML.

Please comment on your experiences with email, and share this blog with your network via the social tools below!