Do It Yourself Email Marketing | How To Build A List On A Budget

Do It Yourself Email Marketing

If email marketing isn’t a part of your overall marketing strategy, make it one.


Let me explain.

Why Use Email Marketing?

The basic understanding of Email Marketing is using email to promote your products or services. However, in the marketing world we look at email marketing as much more than just that.

Email marketing in 2019 is all about building loyalty, relationships and trust with your customers. It’s one component of an overall online marketing strategy along with social media, blogs, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click advertising)..

It’s the modern version of direct mail, except that it doesn’t just focus on selling your products or services. It’s used to build your brand identity, engage with new customers and keep your current followers informed.

What Makes Email Marketing So Effective?

Email marketing has been around a long time (at least since 1978), and a lot of people will argue that it’s no longer as effective as it once was. I beg to differ.

In fact, over 98% of emails reach their target destination. So what makes it so effective?

Engaged Audience

An email campaign is usually part of a big funnel. Funnels are the modern day practice of taking people who are unaware of your business and turning them into thriving customers.

When people subscribe to your email list, it suggests that they are either interested in your business and the value that you provide, or they’re already a customer. Nowadays, with GDPR, people have to opt in to your list, rather than having to opt out. This may mean it’s slightly more difficult to acquire subscribers but, on the plus side, you can guarantee that they are interested.

It’s Personal

Most people subscribe to your email list to keep up to date with your latest articles, product updates and offers. But just because it’s a list of people doesn’t mean you have to write as if you’re talking to a room full of people.

It’s like public speaking. The best speakers make you feel that they are connecting with you on a one to one level. Email marketing is no different. In fact, email subject headlines which contain a subscriber’s name are 26% more likely to be opened.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Email marketing undoubtedly has the highest ROI of any form of marketing. Actually, the average ROI for email marketing is 38:1. This type of return is double that of any other marketing channel and blows away that of the more traditional channels like tv and radio.

What Email Marketing Software Should You Use?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of email marketing softwares out there. I’ve chosen three of my favourites, starting from the lower and rising up to the higher prices.

Mail Chimp

Mailchimp is the cheapest of the three email marketing softwares as it is free for your first 2000 subscribers. It’s best for small businesses that are just starting out with email marketing.

With MailChimp, you can easily create, execute and analyze ad and email campaigns. The platform enables you to manage subscribers, generate custom reports, view click-through and success rates, track your emails and ensure full transparency of campaigns.

Designing your templates is a breeze. You can create custom templates or choose from a selection that are already pre-made.

Mailchimp Email Templates


Aweber is another popular platform among intermediate to professional marketers. Although they don’t have a free version, their starting price is $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers.

Aweber has over 700 templates to choose from, meaning there is no real need for you to have to build your own. It has tons of free stock images to choose from and excellent support options.

If you’re new to email marketing, they offer regular live webinars for added instruction and training. A great tool if you’re trying to DIY your own email marketing campaign.

Active Campaign

Due to its many added features, ActiveCampaign is a slightly more complicated and pricey platform, compared to the other two, and it integrates seamlessly with other platforms such as WordPress and Facebook.

Active Campaign also integrates with Google Analytics, meaning you can track what users are doing from the moment they open your email. You can track what pages they’ve visited and what they’ve bought so you can later re-target them with ads or follow up emails.

Their recommended monthly plan starts at $49 for up to 500 subscribers. If you’re a larger business, looking to create highly customised email marketing campaigns, this would be a good solution for you.

Creating An Email Marketing Campaign

Since I use Mailchimp, and this article is written for people trying to DIY their own email marketing, I’ll focus on that.

So, what should you do first?

Understand your objectives

Before you start any email marketing campaign it’s important to understand what its objectives are. Here’s a list of some things you may use email marketing for:

  1. Increasing sales
  2. Driving foot traffic to your physical store
  3. Bringing visitors to your website
  4. Increasing event attendance
  5. Asking for referrals or reviews

Once you understand your objective, you can begin to plan your email marketing campaign. You might have multiple objectives that can be combined into one campaign, or you may choose to keep them separate.

Create Your Campaign

Once you have your objective in place, and you know how many campaigns you want to run, you need to build a list within Mailchimp. Melyssa Griffin has written a detailed guide all about setting up your first Mailchimp email marketing campaign.

Now that you have your campaign set up, it’s time to start attracting subscribers.

How to Attract Email Subscribers

Attracting subscribers is actually the most difficult part of email marketing. So how do you attract relevant, engaging subscribers?

Have A Great Offer

If you want people to give you their information, you have to provide them with something that is of high value to them. (Unless you’re like me, that is, someone who, for research reasons, has an email address used purely for signing up to email lists. But most people aren’t as willing to share their details).

Some of the best things you can offer are free webinars, ebooks or guides. However, in order to get the most out of these, you need to put the right offers in front of the right people at the right time.

What does that mean?

Consider this, imagine you have a website about fitness and you write a blog post about dietary habits. Now, let’s say you have two offers, one free webinar about changing your diet and a free ebook about home workouts. Which offer should be placed on that blog post?

If you said the webinar about diets then you’d be correct. If people are reading about a particular subject, and you have an offer that is highly relatable to that subject,, they’re much more likely to exchange their information in return for that valuable piece of content.

Below are some of the highest converting locations on your website where you should place your offers.

About Page

When people visit your blog posts, they’re looking for free information or guidance about a particular subject. But when people visit your about page, they want to know about YOU.

These are highly interested people that want to know more about your company, the people that work there and how you can help them. It’s where you position yourself as an authority and convince people why they should subscribe to your newsletter.

It’s also likely to be one of your most frequently visited pages.

Here’s an example of how Brian Dean at Backlinko uses signup forms on his about page.

About Page Email Signup

Feature Box

The reason why feature boxes are so effective is that they are normally placed above the fold. This means users don’t have to scroll down the page to find the signup form.

Ensure you use a compelling call-to-action, and good design with contrasting colours, so that it really stands out.

Here’s a great example from Social Triggers.

Feature Box Signup Form


The sidebar is most often used on blog posts or blog archive pages. If you’re not using a signup form at the top of your sidebar, do it now.

Once people begin reading your blog article their attention is focused on that. But when people first land on the article it takes them a couple of seconds to decide what they’re going to look at. Again, aim to use contrasting colours so that the sign up form stands out from everything else that is going on.

In addition, you might want to use a scrolling sidebar that stays in the picture when people scroll up and down your blog post.

Bottom of Blog Post

So you’ve written a 1500 word article. You’re ranking that article and visitors are flooding in. People are finding great value in your article. They read all the way to the bottom and think “what a really helpful article that was”, and then you hit them with an even more valuable offer.

What do you think people are going to do?

You can view it as a sort of up-sell. Human psychology tells us that the best time to sell someone something is when they’ve just bought, or they’re just about to buy. It’s why companies like Amazon offer additional products via their “people also bought” section.

Here’s an example of Search Engine Journal’s bottom of page form.

Bottom of Blog Post Signup Form

Exit Light Box

Exit Light Boxes detect when a visitor is about to leave your website and it suddenly presents your sign up form, or an irresistible pop up offer, to them. It’s a last ditch effort to try and capture their information, or get them to make a purchase, that actually works remarkably well. Especially with e-commerce.

For example, I visited Bulk Powders recently and had a look at one of their products. I wasn’t in the mood to buy at the time and I was just about to exit the page when, all of a sudden, I was greeted with a 35% discount offer, which of course was relevant to my onsite activity.

Exit Lightbox

When you’re designing your light box, be sure to make it appealing. Here are a few examples of great light box pop up designs.Ebook Covers

Ebook Covers

Books often cost money, so to receive a book for free can feel like a ton of value.

Ebook Signup Form

Seasonal Offers

People enjoy certain seasons, so they associate seasonal offers with feelings of joy.

Seasonal Popup Designs

Free Forms

People love free stuff. Let them know whatever they’re signing up for is free.

Free Popup Form


Notice the “No, my business isn’t important button”. When you see this, you’re likely to think twice about the decision you’re about to make.

Humour Signup Form

Two Secret Methods

Okay, they’re not quite secrets, but they’re strategies that not many people are using.

Landing Pages as Blog Posts

In this example, you can see Neil Patel’s latest blog post, or at least what looks like a blog post. It’s actually a link to his landing page for one of his webinars. It works great because, for people who aren’t sure what they’re looking for, they’re likely to click on the most recent blog post first. And so, by making this ad stick to the top of his blog, he’s able to drive people to his webinar registration.

Blog Page Opt in

Have a Necessary Opt In

Similar to your light box and sign up forms, something that Brian Dean at Backlinko does on his blog archive is to lock certain high value articles. Now of course, in order to do this, all of your articles should be of high value in the first place. But when things are locked, people tend to feel that they want what’s inside, and are are more likely to give up their information for that content.

Locked Content Opt In

What Should You Send To Subscribers?

Ok, you’ve done the hard part, built a list. The next part should be easy, right?

I wish it was (actually I don’t, because then I’d be out of business).

But here’s a strategy for your first email marketing campaign.

The Subject Line

The subject line of your email is possibly the most significant factor in deciding whether a subscriber opens your email.

If the subject line doesn’t compel subscribers to open your email, the message you’re trying to deliver will be lost forever.

A good subject line should pique the subscriber’s interest and entice them to open your email.

The guys at Digital Marketer break subject headlines into three types:

1. Curiosity Subject Lines

Curiosity headlines are fairly self explanatory, they’re designed to make subscribers curious about your message.

A good example of a curiosity subject line by Eat This Not That is “9 Disgusting Facts About Thanksgiving”.

People associate Thanksgiving with being a time of joy and good food. This subject portrays quite the opposite and, therefore, creates curiosity.

2. Benefit Subject Lines

Similar to curiosity subject lines, benefit subject lines are self explanatory. They explain how the subscriber will benefit from opening your email.

Often, with benefit headlines a number, or list style benefit, is used to generate interest. For example, Office Manager sent a headline to their subscribers that read “38 Employee Engagement Ideas”.

Note: this type of subject line should be used sparingly and may best suit a free download or blog post. When appropriate, it can be very effective.

3. Scarcity Subject Lines

Again, fairly self explanatory. No, they’re not used to make people jump. Scarcity subject lines are used to make subscribers feel they might miss out on something. Otherwise known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

I love this subject line by JetBlue, the low cost American airline that reads, “You’re missing out on points.”

People love points, and the more valuable those points are, like cheaper air travel, the more likely they are to open your email.

Personalise Your Messages

Personalising your email marketing doesn’t mean spending 8 hours a day writing emails to each individual subscriber.

Most email softwares will allow you to use customer data to send personalised messages. Personalised messages have been demonstrated to garner 6x higher transaction rates and 29% higher open rates.

However, personalisation starts way before you send your first email. It all starts with your sign up form. Make sure you capture the information that you need to personalise your emails. This will most likely include a name but may also include other details such as the subscriber’s company, location etc.

Using personalisation in your subject line can also produce greater open rates. For example, imagine if JetBlue’s email subject line had read “Daniel, you’re missing out on points”. Now it’s making me feel like I’m the only person who’s missing out.

Segment Your Lists

Segmenting your email lists basically takes personalisation a step further.

By segmenting your lists you’re able to send the right people the right offer. Let’s say you’re an estate agent offering multiple services like lettings and sales.

If someone has signed up to your list by downloading your free ebook about “staging your property for sale”, it’s likely they’re interested in selling their property. Sending them emails about letting their property is likely to see much lower open rates, or click through rates, than information about selling property.

Professional marketers say that segmentation is second on their list of initiatives.

Email Marketing Initiatives

Email Timing

This is a tricky one because, really, it depends on the type of campaign you’re working with.

But since this is a DIY guide, let’s cover the three main types of email you might send.

1. Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are emails that you send in response to an action that a customer has taken. These include messages such as confirmations, receipts, coupon codes, shipping notifications, password reminders etc.

It’s best to respond to your subscriber immediately with these types of messages as they will expect the information quickly.

Depending on your CRM, you should have no problem setting these up.

2. Promotional Emails

Promotional emails are the most common type of email today. They present offers such as free webinar registrations, brand announcements, new product releases or trial offers.

Their primary objective is to tee up sales. They’re great for lead generation, customer retention and loyalty. This is especially apparent with customers who have previously bought from you.

If you have an online store, or online course of some kind, the best time to send promotional emails would be around your peak purchase times.

You can track these peak purchase times provided that you’ve properly setup Google Analytics.

Once you’ve done this, you can set up ‘abandon cart emails’. So often, e-commerce sites see customers add something to their shopping cart but fail to process the order. However, you can re-engage customers into buying that product by offering them a discount on it. I’d usually set this for 2 to 3 hours after they abandoned the cart.

3. Relational Emails

Relational Emails deliver value to your customers by providing free content and information such as subscriber welcomes, newsletters, blog articles, social updates and contest announcements.

They help to build relationships with subscribers and encourage them to visit your website or landing page.

Timing these emails is a little trickier and, to some extent, may depend on the type of content you are offering. For example, subscriber welcomes should be sent immediately. Blog updates, on the other hand, may best be sent either in the mornings or in the afternoons, depending on which is the more effective. Testing your delivery times will give you the best answer to this question. Try sending a blog post update in the morning once a week for a month, and then test the exact same thing a month later, but in the afternoon.

Include Call To Actions (CTA’s)

Once you’ve written your unique subject line and added your beautiful, personalised email, it’s time to get people to click.

A good rule of thumb is never place a link in your email without a CTA. Even something as simple as ‘Click to find out more <insert link>’ is better than nothing. But it’s not optimal.

A more optimal solution would be to ask a benefit driven question such as ‘Do you want to generate more sales without any extra work? Click <insert link> to find out how.

Or it might present a takeaway like ‘This is your last chance to get the high ticket sales training course at 25% off: Click <insert link>.’

Final Thoughts

Email marketing continues to deliver results.

As a business owner you might run multiple types of email marketing campaigns. The principles in this article should stand you in good stead to build your brand, sustain relationships with your subscribers and promote your products and services.

A good email marketing campaign requires planning. A great email marketing campaign requires testing. By testing your open rates, using different subject lines across different segments, with different copy, is ultimately how you will get the most out of your marketing campaigns.

I’ve covered in detail the basics of email marketing. Building out an entire email marketing strategy takes time and planning. We can help you with that. If you’re looking for an email marketing strategy today, give us a call to see how we can help.

Digital Marketing Berkshire

Daniel Davies

Daniel Davies is Co-Founder and Head of SEO and Social Media at DigiPlix. He is a Kingston University graduate and also a former professional ice hockey player. Daniel developed an interest in business during his GCSE's, however it wasn't until he found Digital Marketing that he decided to begin his entrepreneurial career.


Leave a Reply

Notify of

Need help? Contact one of our specialists to discuss your requirements

Get a free quote