If you’ve been avoiding setting up email marketing because it all sounds like Klingon, fear not! Today I’m going to go over the basic terms of email marketing and also help you start planning your email setup. Here’s a handy Google Doc worksheet you can download and fill in as we go.


A subscriber is anyone who has signed up to receive emails from you. This does not include people who put their names in a fishbowl to win a prize, or your social media followers, or even people who subscribe to your blog through WordPress. With new regulations like GDPR and existing ones like CAN-SPAM, it’s more important than ever to get clear permission to email people. Theoretically, you can add anyone who has purchased from you in the past two years, but I highly recommend letting people choose for themselves whether they want to receive your updates. Why trick people into joining your list and then getting a bunch of unsubscribes or spam complaints? Not worth the trouble!

Question: Who will care about what you do and what you know? (Not a sarcastic question, hah!) Think beyond your immediate customer: who can share your work or refer customers to you? Who works with the same people you do at a different point in their lives?

Opt-in (verb)

To opt-in, or subscribe, is to choose to receive email communication from a person or company.

Opt-in (noun)

An opt-in is some kind of incentive for people to subscribe to your list. Many people send some kind of PDF download as their opt-in incentive, which is a great start. But you also have a great opportunity to start the relationship off on the right foot with your new subscriber with a free email course, a 1-on-1 consultation, or a group coaching call. To start with, brainstorm some ideas of information or instructions that you could offer subscribers for free as an incentive to subscribe to your list.

Question: What kind of questions is your audience asking? What do they need help with? What do they need to know about before hiring you or buying your product?


A list is the largest unit of email marketing and typically contains all of your subscribers. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to assume you only have one list per business. If you have multiple, very distinct businesses with different business models (for example, you clean houses and also provide virtual assistant services, or you are a consultant with two different direct sales companies), you probably want multiple lists to keep things organized and easy to use.


A group is a user-defined category of subscribers within a list. This is a super important part of your strategy as it will let you send very targeted messaging to your audience. A simple way to divide your list might be Potential Clients and Existing Clients. But dig deeper into who you’re communicating with and why to divide your list into useful groups. A direct sales consultant might have groups for Existing Customers, Existing Hostesses, Potential Hostesses, and General Interest. A music teacher might have groups for students and parents of different age groups or instruments. A virtual assistant might divide her list of clients by industry so she can send them relevant tips throughout the year.

Question: What are some ways to divide your subscriber list? Think about subgroups who might need different information from you.


In MailerLite and Mailchimp (and probably most other email marketing platforms), a segment is a subcategory of subscribers created automatically based on their subscription activity. You can create segments based on when they signed up, what timezone they’re in, how much they open and click emails, and more. You can do some seriously advanced stuff with segments, but for just getting started, we’re going to stick with groups.


These terms are sometimes interchangeable. Both refer to a series of emails that go out automatically in response to the subscriber’s actions. Remember those, “You’ve got something left in your cart!” emails from online shopping sites? That’s an example of an automation, albeit an advanced one. Probably the most common type of automation is the welcome sequence, which starts when the subscriber first opts in to the list. You can also send automations to follow up with a customer after the sale, coach hostesses before their event, or send specialized information after subscribers click on a particular link in a previous email.

Question: What are some processes that you repeatedly walk through with customers, prospects, or hostesses?


A broadcast is a one-time message you send to groups or segments on your list. Broadcasts can be sent on a regular basis but the content is different each time. Monthly newsletters, special promotional emails, and business announcements are all examples of broadcasts.

Question: What kind of helpful information can you send to clients or customers on a regular basis? How often can you send these messages?

Landing Page

A landing page is a standalone page that contains a form people can use to sign up for your email list. Landing pages are good to use when linking from social media or another email message, or any time you want to direct people to do just one thing: sign up for your list!

Embedded Form

An embedded form is a sign-up form that is built into a larger page on your website, or possibly on your Facebook Business Page. Embedded forms are good to use as part of your overall website design strategy. (You can see an example in the sidebar here on my site.)

This is far from a complete list, but these are the basic terms to get started. If you really want to geek out over email terminology, here’s the ultimate glossary from Hubspot.

To learn how to write your own welcome sequence (and get other email marketing tips for writers, bloggers, and other creatives), sign up below.

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