Want to Send Marketing Emails That Actually Make You Money? Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide

You probably do this every single day. Multiple times a day, even!

You open your inbox, see a great big pile of marketing emails, and delete, delete, delete without even opening ‘em.

(It’s cool. I do it, too.)

And that might make you think things like, why bother with email at all? Nobody fricken’ reads it, right?

Well actually, it turns out that isn’t exactly true – and that email is STILL a reigning champ when it comes to effective marketing. I’ve mentioned it before in this post about the reasons people share content, but it turns out that email is pretty darn useful not just for THAT, but for making sales, too.

A few weeks ago, a study came out revealing that email marketing is THE most popular catalyst for online shopping – by a lot.

Out of thousands of consumers polled, a whopping 64% said that they’re likely to drop whatever they’re doing and click an email link from an online retailer. And how often, exactly? About 604 times per year – an average of 1.65 times per day.

So yeah, people are clicking. (Are they buying? Well, that’s a totally separate question.)

What’s the point, then?

Basically, if you’re trying to make sales online, you HAVE to take email just as seriously as you take flashy, fun, out-in-the-open marketing like social media. That means writing subject lines that get clicks, emails that drive traffic, and sales pages that seal the deal.

You want to reach the 64% of consumers who are ready and waiting for your marketing emails? Here’s a step-by-step guide to making every email count.

Sending Marketing Emails That Actually Make You Money: Step-by-Step


1. Use an email marketing program

If you’re managing your email list in Outlook, Excel, or heaven forbid, a Word doc, it’s time to upgrade. Nobody likes spending money on tools, but if you were trying to cut down a tree with a pocket knife, don’t you think a chainsaw would be a worthwhile investment?

Programs like Infusionsoft and MailChimp give you everything you need to create and manage effective email lists, and to streamline alllll of your email marketing. (Behind-the-scenes trivia: I use Infusionsoft to send things like The Dash, and MailChimp for pretty much all of my Edgar marketing emails. Trust me – it’s WORTH IT.)

MailChimp report screenshot

Tools like MailChimp give you all kinds of sweet stats that’ll make you feel like one part awesome marketer, one part INTERNATIONAL SUPERSPY.

Programs like these aren’t just useful because of how they organize the people on your list(s) and allow you to send super awesome emails, either – they’re useful because they show you how effective your emails are. That’s going to be important a few steps from now, so keep it in mind as we keep going.

2. Create a plan (or two)

You’ve got something you want to promote. (Uh, obviously.) But no matter how amazing that thing is, just sending a mass email with a link ain’t gonna cut it!

You need to develop a strategy for your emails, and that means answering questions like:

  • Who is your product/service FOR?
  • Why would they want it? What problem does it solve? (Do they even know that they need it yet?)
  • What’s at the end of the cycle you’re setting up? (A demo? A free trial? A consultation? Or just a straight-up sale?)
  • How familiar are you to the person you’re writing for?

Here’s a huge tip: There’s more than one answer to ALL of these questions. And that’s one of the reasons I have to stress the importance of using an email program.

I’ve mentioned the One-One rule of email marketing before, and I stand by it. Basically, it says that every email should be written for just ONE person, and with just ONE goal in mind. Yeah, it’d make your life a lot simpler if you could write just one super amazing email that appealed to literally everyone on your list, but it’s not possible! (Ever tried ordering a pizza for a group of people? Evvvverybody wants something different.)

This means you’ve gotta break down your audience into segments, and tailor your email messages for each and every one. An easy example would be a list of people who have bought from you in the past, and a list of people who haven’t. Think of how differently you would address those two groups of people! Think of all the things the people in the first segment know that the people in the second segment don’t – think of how much they know, like, and trust you already.

When you divide up your list into segments, you can answer those questions above more accurately, and abide by the One-One rule WAY easier.

3. Write killer emails (and a killer sales page)

The most important part of your email is the subject line. That’s just a fact. If it’s not amazing, it doesn’t matter how good the email itself is, because nobody’s gonna read it. (How many times a day do you see an email subject line and think, “Yeah, right?”)

There’s a LOT that goes into writing an effective subject line – literally enough to write an entire blog post JUST about that, which I actually did (catch up on writing irresistible subject lines right here).

Email spam filter screenshot

A good subject line can mean the difference between landing in the inbox and the spam folder.

But just like in love and jelly doughnuts, what’s INSIDE counts, too. Remember the One-One rule – every marketing email is written not only for just one person, but with just one goal in mind. Don’t get bogged down by making lots of announcements, or even by making it too long (one of my most-clicked emails was only two sentences long).

And where does the marketing email go? Spoiler alert: your sales page.

That’s where things can get REALLY interesting.

Because while the sales page people are taken to MIGHT just be the one you already have set up for everyday traffic, it doesn’t have to be. You can get really crazy with the customization here – for example, you could create unique sales pages for each of your segments, so that the entire process is totally unique to that segment from start to finish (One-One rule, yo)!

Alternatively, you could create more than one sales page per segment, and test which ones are the most effective – which brings us to the final (and maybe most important) step.

(By the way, if you want to check out some sales page secrets that the pros use, check out this breakdown of the top 10 must-steal tactics – I guarantee you’ll never look at a sales page again.)

4. Test, test, test

I’m a huge fan of online testing, but I’m just one person – and you don’t have to take it from me. Recent studies show that it’s continually growing more popular, and that more and more of the marketers who do it think that it’s worth it.

And if you need MORE proof, all you have to do is give it a try yourself.

Remember when I said earlier that email programs like MailChimp are useful because they show you how effective your emails are? This is one of the things I’m talking about.

Start with the subject line. You could send the same email to all the people on your list, but send half of them one subject line and half of them a different subject line. Which one gets opened more? (You might be seriously surprised, in some cases. I know I am.)

Then go INSIDE the email. There are plenty of ways both big and small that you can edit an email, sending one version to some people and another version to another. You can change things like:

  • Length
  • Tone
  • Information given (price, product details, etc.)
  • Postscript
  • Format (images, CTA buttons, etc.)

An email program will show you how your emails perform by providing details like open rate and clickthrough rate, so you can learn exactly what your audience responds to (and what it doesn’t respond to).

It doesn’t end with your emails, either. Split-testing your sales pages can make an enormous difference, as well. For example, below are two different signup pages for Edgar. Despite only one or two teeny tiny differences between them, one had a 32% higher conversion rate than the other!

So don’t convince yourself that any changes you may be curious about are too small to be worth testing. You may find that something as simple as the color of a CTA button can make your sales page considerably more effective – and in the long run, that information is SUPER valuable.

So go ahead – show your email strategy some love

If you’ve been neglecting email as a powerful marketing tool, this is your cue to STOP! You know how valuable it is. You know what to do, and what you need to do it. So the next time you’re planning a product launch, a sale, or whatever, keep the steps above in mind!

(In the meantime, are there any email marketing tactics you love – or HATE? Let me know in the comments below!)

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. From my experience doing a lot of sales, the key to using email to eventually sell something is to not sell something 80% of the time.

    According to a lot of studies, you need to contact a prospect 6-10 times to you stay on top of their awareness when they are ready to buy.

    To do this through email, it’s most effective to set up a drip campaign where you slowly educate the prospect on the product and its benefits. Throwing in juicy bonuses like ebooks and interviews along the way. This way, by the time they are ready to make a buying decision, they still:

    a) remember your brand
    b) trust your brand

    leading to the all important:

    c) wanting to buy from your brand

  2. Great points Laura and what a fab open rate you have.
    I think the problem for many of us who are experienced marketers is that we know these things but don’t have the time or energy on top of everything else, to create so many versions and split tests. I can see when you have a sizeable team, you’d be looking for things for them to do but with most of us perhaps just having one assistant and a lower tech biz it’s tricky keeping up with basic marketing and clients! Cleaning the list is a very good reminder though. Thanks and Happy New Year

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      You’re right, Rachel – finding time for this stuff isn’t easy (even when you DO have a team)! Don’t be discouraged, though. It can be tempting for an entrepreneur/marketer to look at things like this and decide that they can’t do it because it’s a prohibitively big undertaking, but you don’t have to do it all at once, either. A lot of times, we’ll have a certain email or landing page in place for some time before we decide to add a segment or create a new version to test it against! When you focus on building things like this bit by bit over time instead of doing it all in one fell swoop, it’s a lot more manageable, no matter who you are.

      • I agree completely! Even if we do feel daunted by a supposedly insurmountable tasks, separating them into doable, smaller actions will see us through to greater success!

  3. Love your articles Laura!

    I’ll be sending out our first Quarterly Newsletter via email in the next 30 days, so your post was a timely read for me. I’m using MailChimp and so far I’ve been impressed with the service, very easy setup a template and list.
    Great suggestion on using two different pushes so response can be traced.

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      First newsletter, that’s awesome! You’ll love MailChimp even more once you start seeing the data it gives you.