Email marketing is one of the most cost effective ways to promote a business, particularly when that business is tied to a web site. It is natural for the user to transition from an email message onto the web site of the company which sent it to them, especially if you have taken care to match the design of your email to the look and feel of your site.
However, there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to email marketing, and most folks have difficulty thinking about where to get started. This article will provide you with some basic steps to help you get started, and give you some ideas about how to leverage any existing resources in expanding your efforts in this new medium.

1. Build up your mailing list

This is the big sticking point to getting started with email marketing. It’s not worth sending out messages if no one will see them, right? But how do you get a list of people to send to? This is where most people take a wrong turn and end up frustrated. Don’t bother buying an email list; it’s not worth the money you’ll pay and you’ll see few if any conversions. Worse, you may damage your ability to get emails delivered at all. Every time someone marks your message as spam, it is less likely to get delivered to everyone else. So you really don’t want to send your messages to anyone who doesn’t specifically want them.
So, you need to build up your own mailing list. Obviously, people will have to be interested in your products or services before they will be interested in receiving messages from you, so you must first have some kind of traffic to leverage into a mailing list. That can be web traffic or foot traffic. Existing customers make the best future customers, so if you have a brick & mortar business, keep a signup sheet right by the cash register or front desk. Train your staff to ask every single person who walks in to offer membership in your exclusive email list. Offer some incentives for doing so–discounts, the promise of special information or offer, anything that makes sense in your business model.
If your business is based around a web site, do the same thing. Make sure every visitor is exposed to an offer to join your mailing list, and give them a good reason to do so. If your web site is about information, then offer exclusive information not available to the general public. If you sell a product or service, offer discounts, special offers, or other incentives. Make the signup form prominent enough so that it cannot be missed and attractive enough that people can stand to look at it.

2. Create and send your messages

In an earlier post I gave a pretty detailed explanation of how to write for email marketing, so I won’t go into too much detail about copywriting technique here. But I will say this: write for your market, be clear and concise, and paint a picture for your reader. Subscribe to a few mailing lists for businesses you are interested in (especially your competitors) and pay attention to what you like or don’t like about them.
Then, write a few different versions of each message, switching up the writing style and approach. Use an email marketing solution to split test the various versions of your message against random samples of your mailing list. This way you will begin to learn what gets a response from your readers and what doesn’t. The things you learn about your market this way can not only inform your future emails, but the rest of your business as well.