How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy From Scratch

by John McIntyre

In this post, I’m going to teach you how to build an email marketing strategy from scratch…

“Gross! I can’t believe you use email to try to sell your stuff!”

The average man would take this as an insult (especially if you’ve spent hours building an email marketing strategy). But I am NOT the average man. (According to a litany of tests I’m FAR below average.)

This was the response I once received while speaking with other dog training business owners in a Facebook group of which I’m a part (none of whom are even copywriters).

Believe me, I get it.

Whenever you talk with email marketing haters about building an email marketing strategy, you’ll hear the same old reasons why it sucks:

  • People don’t open emails anymore
  • Email inboxes are flooded and people ignore them
  • People won’t trust you enough to buy something from an email
  • Using email is SPAM!!
  • An email marketing strategy is something that Hitler would have used if he had access

Whenever I’m confronted with these reasons not to do marketing emails, I always respond with a dejected, eyes-toward-the-ground, “You’re right.”

But on the inside, I rejoice.

Because as long as my competitors WON’T use a solid email marketing strategy, it leaves me with a healthy advantage (one that I’ve learned from many years of being a copywriter)

The funny thing is that the list of complaints about email marketing is totally true!

Even if you’re the best email marketer in the world you’re still going to find people thinking you’re spamming them, people who won’t open their email inboxes, people who ignore your stuff, and people who will never buy something, no matter how great it is, because of your email.

I’m amazed at the amount of people who don’t know why an email marketing strategy is important.

But even if you’re only a GOOD email marketer you’re going to find that there is ENOUGH of a response rate, ENOUGH of a buy rate, and ENOUGH of an engagement rate to make it one of the most effective marketing platforms you can have in your bag of tricks.

But you’ve got to do it well, obviously.

So I’m going to share my simple email marketing tips on how to create an email marketing strategy that I use for weekly emails that go out to my list, as well as autoresponder emails that go out to my prospects automatically.

How To Write A Marketing Email (For Dummies)

1- The Email Subject Line

What’s totally accurate is that your prospect’s inboxes are FULL. They get plenty of emails.

This is why an expert email marketing strategy is important.

So what can your email do to stand out? The first thing, of course, is the subject line.

But, be careful.

A lot of email marketers will use some sort of interesting or seemingly unrelated one-liner in their subject line. They do this in order to stand out and capture attention.

And I actually AGREE with this method. I do it with most of my emails, and I build it into my email marketing strategy because it’s effective at increasing email open rates.

But if the inside of the email is boring, too pitchy, doesn’t relate to the subject, or is too salesy — you will very quickly lose trust.

You’ll get your subscribers to open up your emails once or twice. But they won’t keep making that mistake if you’re delivering stuff they don’t like.

So it’s important to be really clear on the link between the subject line, the email content, and the CTA / offer in your email marketing strategy.

And seeing as I’m using a seemingly non-related subject line I always like to add a parenthesis at the end of the sentence and remind them what it’s about.

For example, subject lines for my dog training company emails may be something like:

  • Lost my pants on the tower! (Dog training)
  • I thought they were going to cut off my feet (Dog training)
  • Hiding in the bushes outside Taco Bell (Dog Training)

Those lines correspond with the stories I tell in my email and they’re thought provoking enough to encourage someone to open.

A big part of your email marketing strategy should be to increase open rates through interesting, captivating, and humorous subject lines (that relate to your email content).

2- The Hook

Okay, now you’ve got to get your subscribers to read your email.

If you want to get your subscribers to your offer (usually at the end of the email), they need to keep reading.

My emails are story based and this is what I teach my consulting clients to do as well when crafting their email marketing strategy.


Because story-telling increases email conversions by 30% according to Marketing Words.

So you should really incorporate story-telling into your email marketing strategy.

Your email story could be something interesting from your life, something in the news, a story about how your product is used or has benefitted someone, or a multitude of other types of stories.

The types of stories to use is a whole other article for another day.

But whatever your story is, you want to create a hook from that story that gets your prospect interested in what comes next.

You want to create a tiny cliff-hanger that gets them interested in reading the story in order for them to actually get to the offer.

For example, one of the most popular stories I’ve used in an email marketing strategy was the time my friend and I, as teenagers, hid outside a Taco Bell with a drive-through headset on and messed with the people going through the drive through ordering their food.

In creating my hook I’d write something like…

“So there we were. Trembling and afraid we waited in the dark in the bushes outside Taco Bell while we saw the police pull up looking for us. We didn’t know if tonight was the night we were going to go to jail.”

A hook like this is HIGHLY effective at getting immediate engagement and getting your reader to ‘tune in’.

You can do this with any type of email, whether it be humorous like mine, or case study story, or success story, or whatever you’re sharing.

So, be sure to incorporate story-telling into your email marketing strategy.

3- The Tease

The hook gets your subscribers to want to read your email further. It’s important to tease them about the offer to come.

I like to use simple language like…

“I want to tell you the rest of the story about what happened that night at Taco Bell. But make sure to read to the end of the email. I’ve got a free dog training book that I want to send you in the mail.”

The tease is something your subscribers will hopefully want. But it also preps them that there IS an offer so they don’t feel betrayed when they get to the end only to find that, gasp!, you’re trying to sell something.

Because when building your email marketing strategy, you should always include an offer.

4- The Story

Tell that story!

Make it humorous.

Make it poignant.

Make it dramatic (add some embellishment here and there).

Make it real and applicable to your subscribers. Make it enjoyable and entertaining. Whatever you do, make it something that leads them from one paragraph to the next.

But — be sure to keep the story relevant to your subject line and offer. And don’t blow out on the word count (otherwise you might lose your readers).

And finally, the last part of your email marketing strategy should be…

5- The Wrap Up

Once you’ve told the story about your life or about someone’s success or about your product — make sure to tie it in to your reader.

Help them realize that this applies to them.

Show them.

Align your story with the subscriber’s pain points (a key part of EVERY email marketing strategy).

Not everyone will make the connection without you helping them.

You have to guide your email subscribers through the process.

6- The Offer

If you’ve done a good job here’s the neat little things you’ve done in your email marketing strategy:

  • You’ve piqued your subscribers’ interest
  • You’ve used storytelling to entertain and get them on your side
  • Perhaps you’ve shared something about yourself. Maybe even something vulnerable or endearing that makes them want to like you more
  • You’ve tied things together to help them understand how you can solve their problem
  • You’ve included a CTA or offer that solves your subscribers problems

Someone who has gone through that little email marketing cycle is FAR more likely to be amenable to an offer than someone who gets a sterile, corporate sounding email, that does nothing to engage them on an emotional level.

So don’t listen to the haters! Having an effective email marketing strategy can boost your email open rates, increase conversions, and lead to more sales in the long run.

That’s why email marketing is important.

But – it’s an ongoing process that you’ll need to test over time, refine, update, and automate where possible.

Make sure you focus on building solid, authentic relationships with your subscribers (they’ll love you for it).

Get out there and try it!

This is a guest post about building an email marketing strategy by Ty Brown. Ty tripled his business in two and a half years using stories and persuasive copywriting. Now he speaks, writes,  coaches, and consults with other businesses on how to do the same. Find him at Ty the Speaker.

Leave a Comment