What is Email Marketing?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Email marketing is the advertisement of a product, service, or brand through electronic mail. Email marketing can be used to improve the relationship between a business and its customers or to gain new customers. In order to gain the email addresses of potential customers, businesses must either pay a fee to an email broker, use a subscription service, or rely on referrals from existing customers. Many companies, of course, use a combination of these methods.

Most email services include spam filters that weed out obvious email marketing scams.
Most email services include spam filters that weed out obvious email marketing scams.

Email marketing is especially popular because it can be much cheaper than traditional mail marketing. After all, email does not incur printing or postage fees. This does not mean, however, that email is free. An email marketing campaign may actually incur a number of different kinds of fees. If the company hires someone to design, write copy for, or oversee the emailing in any way, or has a full-time staff member for this type of work, the salary or fee of this individual must be taken into account. Furthermore, there will be a fee if the email addresses are purchased through an email broker.

As part of "netiquette," email marketers should remember that online interactions function the same as those in the real world.
As part of "netiquette," email marketers should remember that online interactions function the same as those in the real world.

One of the great things about email marketing is that it can reach a wide audience in a short period of time. Furthermore, an email marking campaign can include a number of successive emails that build upon one another. One of the most common forms of a building email marking campaign is one that targets a specific upcoming date such as Christmas, Fathers Day, or Memorial Day.

If, for example, a furniture store is planning a large Veterans Day sale, they might send out an email to their customers a few weeks in advance announcing the sale. Additional emails the week before and days before the sale might also be sent as reminders to reinforce the first email. Some companies even include special promotion codes and coupons in their emails.

One of the disadvantages to email marketing is something called spam. Spam is the word for both a tinned meat and email that is sent out to a huge number of people with little discretion. Spam is the email marketing version of carpet bombing. In fact, most email services include spam filters that weed out such emails from the general inboxes of their customers.

If you are considering an email marketing campaign, make sure that your practices are in keeping with spam laws. Adult content spam, for example, has been addressed by legislation under the United States' CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act). Furthermore, if the administrator of your Internet service believes that you might be sending spam, your emailing service might be temporarily shut down.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@Latte31 - I know that some companies will use a rewards or customer loyalty card in order to track purchases and also send you promotional emails regarding targeted offers.

Many supermarkets and drug stores do this. Once you fill out a reward card application they track every purchase and may send you additional coupons based on the email that you provided.

One supermarket in particular requires its customers to sign up for the reward card in order to receive the sales offered throughout the store. This way if you don’t sign up for the card, you will have to pay the regular price for everything. Most people when faced with this situation fill out the card and the company develops its email marketing lists.


@Cafe41 - I agree that targeted email marketing instead of mass email marketing is a better email marketing strategy because you want to target people that have bought from you before because these are the customers that most likely to buy from you again.

Most people reject unsolicited emails and this may damage the credibility of a good company.


I think that a lot of companies realize how damaging spam is and do not want to be accused of sending these unsolicited emails.

What a lot of companies are doing to get around this is to create a customer database and when you shop the clerk will ask you for your contact information which includes your email address.

In order to get you to comply, the clerk will tell you that you will receive marketing offers and information on promotional activities via email.

Most people hear that they will receive coupons and discounts and they usually agree to offer the information and then the company has the customer’s permission to send them email. This type of email marketing strategy works best.

Some of these emails are great because it informs me of sales that I did not know were going on. Sometimes the offers will include free shipping so I can shop from home and take advantage of the deal.

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