Business Online

Online Marketing Basics #6: Introduction to Email Marketing

May 23rd, 2015

The sixth part of our series on Online Marketing Basics deals with email marketing. We will discuss its main aspects and how to do it. Furthermore, we explain some regional legal aspects that come in handy if you want to do a campaign in Europe. Email marketing is by definition very appealing – after all, this marketing tool gets you right into the inbox of your prospective target group.


Mailing lists are a treasured asset in online marketing. They allow you to directly reach out to your potential customers. That’s why email marketing promises high conversion rates. This is only true, though if people shared their data deliberately and if they are part of your target group at all. If not, you might not only face insufficient conversion rates but, in the worst case scenario, even legal challenges.

Learn About 3 Kinds of Email Marketing

  • Newsletter: Newsletters are emails that are regularly sent to subscribers. They contain useful information and news, or plain commercial content, or a mixture of both. For newsletters to be successful they have to be sent at least every two months, but not more often than once a week. Of course, they ought to be appealing design-wise. If you send a newsletter too often, you might be regarded as spamming people’s mailboxes.
  • Direct email: These emails are the online version of printed direct mail sales letters. They are not sent regularly but only to selected recipients on special occasions, like special offers, invitations to events, surveys, etc.
  • Personal email: This one goes out directly to a client of your choice, be it support issues, inquiries, presale activities, complaints, etc. All depends on a fast turnaround time here. This way, you can build trust and make clients stick with you. A customer who waits for a reply for weeks is most certainly lost.

How to Design and Prepare Marketing Emails

symbolbild: gestaltung werbe-e-mail

You probably know that situation: Sifting your inbox you come across emails you can’t delete fast enough. They look unprofessional, unappealing, or maybe even unsafe if they appear to be spam, phishing emails, or your next best step to get infected with malware.

But there’s another kind of marketing emails. You will recognize them straight away. The subject line (your email marketing ice-breaker!) hits an issue you are actually interested in. So, at least, you open the email to have a look at it. If you find the content appealing, you might even click a call-to-action link and get directed to an excellent landing page. The quality of the content (or the offer) will decide if you get converted to a customer, a caller, a subscriber, etc. The email did its job anyway. To achieve this as a sender, you at least have to follow some basics:

  • Your email address needs to look trustworthy. It should be clear who sent this email.
  • Subject line: Focus on a real need! The subject line decides whether an email is opened or not. (So it’s similar to website headlines.)
  • Treat your email to a professional design. If you send HTML newsletters, model it after your website design.
  • Provide real added value with the content. Subdivide it with headlines, every one of which should speak directly to a need. The general online marketing content rules apply.
  • Direct your readers to the subpage with the most relevant content (could be a specifically created landing page), instead of your homepage. After all, the specific content was the bait to get the reader interested.
  • Don’t cover too many issues at a time.
  • Don’t forget a call-to-action area: Tell your readers what to do.
  • Provide sufficient contact data at the end of the newsletter.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Stay away from emotive words, spam words or a spammy style, like IMPORTANT INFORMATION, SPECIAL OFFER, etc.

How Do I Get My Hands on Mailing Lists?

Getting your website visitors to subscribe to your newsletter themselves is a good and well-tried approach. It’s telling you they are actually interested in your content and offers. This way, your list is 100% target group and it’s legally safe.

Another option is to ask for contact information when selling a product or service, when giving out free samples or white papers, or when staging a sweepstake. Make sure you want this person to be on your list, and you will send them stuff regularly afterwards.

Additionally, you could buy email addresses for promotional purposes by the thousands. But as with other online marketing shortcuts you might miss your target group. Worse yet, you might get considered as a spammer, standing on fragile legal ground.

To actually send your newsletters it is recommended to use a newsletter tool. They will provide you with adaptable HTML newsletters, plus they will manage an automated double opt-in, and opt-out process. With a double opt-in, prospective subscribers have to not only click a subscribe link, but also to confirm this by clicking another link in an email sent to them afterwards. Opt-out means you can easily unsubscribe by just clicking the respective link, usually at the bottom of an email. Well-known vendors are:

  • CleverReach
  • Newsletter2Go
  • MailChimp
  • rapidmail
  • cleverelements
  • benchmark-email and more

Most of them offer you a free test trial or even a defined number of recipients and emails per month for free.

Legal Stuff You Need to Know

Symbolbild: Rechtliche Situation

Considering your newsletters or marketing emails get right into the inboxes of prospective clients, such a campaign can be hugely successful. That be said, you cannot simply send emails to thousands of people. Before long, you will get legally binding, written warnings. To be legally safe when sending out newsletters take care of the following:

In Germany, consumers have to agree explicitly to receiving marketing emails. As said, that’s a double opt-in. Additionally, there’s an Unfair Competition Act (UWG) which defines emails as an unacceptable annoyance if 1. the receiver’s confirmation is missing, 2. the sender hides its identity, 3. the email lacks a valid address/option to unsubscribe. This further implies the obligation for your email to carry a complete, legally valid imprint.

Court rulings have validated and reinforced the aforementioned double opt-in process. This method ensures the subscriptions have not been done by a 3rd party. So you should always log your orders/subscriptions. In the event of you getting a warning notice this information can bail you out, proving your legal compliance.

There’s one exception to the rule: It’s ok to contact existing clients. If you got a customer’s email address due to a purchase on your site, you are allowed to stay in touch. As long as your emails cover similar products or services, that is. So it’s not ok to send someone who just bought a shirt on your site an email promoting an „awesome, innovative saving account“. However, even in the former case, the client must not have objected to getting promotional emails and have to be able to do so at any time.

In Austria, the respective legislation looks similar: email marketing is covered in §107 of the Telecommunications Act (TKG). It’s not allowed to send marketing emails without explicit consent, if the sole purpose is direct advertising or if it is sent to more than 50 recipients. So you have to get confirmation all the time. The same exception applies: it’s ok if you obtained the email address because of a sale of a product or service, if the email content relates to similar products or services, and if it had been possible for the customer not to disclose his contact data. Furthermore, the recipient must not have objected to receiving promotional emails in general via the so-called RTR list.

What is this RTR list about? The Austrian E-Commerce Act (ECG) requires the RTR (the regulatory body of the Austrian telecommunications industry) to enable people and companies to not receive any marketing emails at all by registering with this list. So if you want to send marketing emails in Austria you have to take this list into account.

What’s Next in Our Online Marketing Series?

The next part will discuss online video advertising. We explain the basics of this online marketing tool and when best to apply it. Furthermore we provide an introduction to YouTube and how to utilize this platform in connection with your website.

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1 year 4 months ago

Thanks for your article.
You don’t talk about it but, according to you, what is the best trick to increase mailing list sign up?
I mean, a lot a paid plugins (for WordPress in my case) like optin monster, Thrive leads … have a lot of features like popup, exit popin, scroll boxes, floating bars …
What is the best feature to use for you?