EDM Marketing guide for beginners: Easy step-by-step guide

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

About EDM Marketing

EDM Meaning: What does EDM stand for?

EDM stands for Electronic Direct Mail. Put simply, EDM is marketing email (in 99% of cases). Those emails that flood your inbox with sales and discounts from your favourite online stores are probably the EDMs you are most familiar with.

What is EDM Marketing?

EDMs aren’t all bad. EDMs are actually a lot more than just email, but that’s the slang that has stuck with the term. EDM means spam email to most people.

Businesses spend their time optimising EDM emails to maximise their open-rates and minimise their unsubscribes. But there’s actually a lot more to EDM Marketing.

What is EDM Marketing useful for as a creative?

EDM Marketing is more than selling something – it’s about connecting with people. Big business have given EDM Marketing a bad name by doing mass send-outs that have no real heart to the marketing.

As a creative, there’s a unique opportunity to build and maintain relationships. The solution is probably a lot more straightforward than you first might think, but it’s surprising how many people just write EDM Marketing off as spam email.

Successful creatives know the power of a strong network. As you get more successful, maintaining your network is gets harder with the less time you have to invest in your marketing.

What is the difference between EDM Marketing and Email Marketing?

Electronic Direct Marketing

Electronic Direct Marketing is email marketing paired with other media channels, such as social media, SMS, re-targeting ad-buy and more. Electronic Direct Marketing often includes automation based on user-behaviour.

For example, if you send an art gallery invite, and Person A says they will attend and Person B says they can’t attend, a pre-written follow up email can be sent to Person A that thanks them for coming and a ‘sorry we missed you’ email to Person B.

Email Marketing

You can probably guess by now, but email marketing is strictly marketing by email. No social, no retargeting, just email. Pretty straightforward, but still useful in ways.

Which is better?

EDM Marketing is generally better because there’s a lot more flexibility and considers the ‘what comes next’ part of marketing that Email Marketing doesn’t consider.

Email Marketing is about sending information to as many people as possible, and EDM Marketing is about building and maintaining relationships through digital communication.

EDM Software

What a good email marketing tool needs

Every EDM software platform needs the following at a minimum. If you’re unsure what each of these features are, I’ll break them down for you in an easy-to-understand way.

Audience segments

As a creative, you might have customers, collaborations, partners and other types of people in your network. Each contact you have will probably have a different purpose, so segmenting the groups into different lists will make it easier for you to write different emails.

Worse case scenario will mean you email members on all of the lists, but having your audience segmented will help you write more personalised and targeted communication.

Email templates

Sometimes you’re too busy to create your own email design, and just need to get something out quickly. Email templates will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you or help you get started with a new email design if you have no idea where to start.

Merge tags

Ever wonder how they know to write “Hi Matt” in the email without sending each email manually? That’s what merge tags do.

Merge tags look like %%FIRST_NAME%% or similar. The subscriber receiving the email will have their name inserted into that tag. The raw text in your email will look like this:


I am writing an article about EDM Marketing and I would love to have you appear on the Creative Detour podcast to talk more about EDM Marketing.

Are you interested, %%FIRST_NAME%%?

Speak soon,



Hi Damien,

I am writing an article about EDM Marketing and I would love to have you appear on the Creative Detour podcast to talk more about EDM Marketing.

Are you interested, Damien?

Speak soon,


Custom fonts

This one is simple, but custom fonts is important because you want the recipient to feel it is coming from your brand rather than some system that is seperate to your artistic presence/brand. It’s a small touch that goes a long way.

Subscriber profiles

Each piece of EDM marketing software handles subscriber profiles differently. Profiles should offer the ability to tell you a little more about the contact as you learn about them.

For example, what is the person’s role at the place they work out? What city do they live in? All of these pieces of information tell a bigger story about the person and you can often use this data with your merge tags to target audience members a little more specifically.

EDM Marketing guide Quickstart

Spam filter evaluation

There’s no point trying to contact anyone if it’s going to go to their spam folder. Email gets classified as spam based on a certain criteria that can be reverse-engineered to evaluate the probability of it hitting email purgatory.

Spam filter evaluation will tell you what that probability is so you can make changes to your email copy or whatever else needs to be changed to increase the likelihood of it going to the user’s primary inbox.

A/B testing

A/B testing or split testing is the process of sending one type of communication to one recipient and another type to another recipient to see what was more effective.

A/B testing helps find what is most effective on a small audience sample, and then you roll that effective method out to the remainder of your audience.

Geolocation (for time)

The best time of send email is the time that people are most likely on their computer or using their mobile device. There’s no point sending email to people in the middle of the night.

Knowing where your subscribers are in the world helps time emails accordingly, meaning all emails are received at the same specific time, regardless of location. For example, 9am in NYC time and also 9am in Australian time.

Sign up form builders (desktop and mobile)

Unless you are technically-minded, you most likely would benefit from an easy-to-use sign up form builder to collect email addresses and other contact information.


Automations are important to building a personalised, targeted EDM marketing campaign that takes steps depending on what the audience member did with the previous communication.

For example, let’s say you run a small online clothing store. You might send out a discount code to the people who have made a purchase in the past, but also offer a bigger discount to new customers. You don’t want to offend your past customers, so you build an automation to target the different segments.

A screenshot of a Drip workflow showing the automation steps a person will go through 48 hours after making a purchase.

Another example is if a customer buys 5 items and another customer buys 2 items. You could create an automation that thanks the first customer for being a VIP customer and another email that encourages the second customer to buy three items more to become a VIP customer.

How much should you expect to pay?

Pricing on EDM marketing software scales depending on the number of contacts you have in your audience segments and the features on offer. MailChimp offers a free plan along with a small range of others, but some platforms don’t offer any free plan and start at $50 per month.

You should budget for at least $50 a month to ensure that you can grow into a decently sized audience block.



AWeber is one of the oldest tools around for EDM Marketing, but they’ve maintained it really well.

AWeber targets small and medium-sized businesses, meaning as a creative, AWeber is good place to start. As a creative, you might be a little hard on the user interface and fair enough, it is pretty ugly. But it gets the job done at a lower price-point than some of the more premium solutions like Drip.

There are quite a few EDM templates available on AWeber which makes things easy. Many of the EDM software options offer email templates but AWeber being around for the longest means it has one of the largest template libraries on offer.

There are quite a few EDM templates available on AWeber which makes things easy.

AWeber has an automation component for EDM Marketing but if I’m honest, it isn’t as easy to use as Drip and MailChimp’s automation builders.


MailChimp is the tool that I use because I like the user interface a lot. Plus, I built my audience list there first, and there hasn’t been any offerings from alternative EDM Marketing platforms that have enticed me away from MailChimp.

MailChimp is marketed around EDM Marketing as a whole in the true sense of the term, but what makes MailChimp shine is the tutorials it has available. MailChimp makes it really easy to get started with all of the features it offers, and for that, I give it my tick of approval as the EDM software I recommend.


GetResponse offers a nice visual workflow builder for automation but they lock it behind the PLUS pricing model.

However, GetResponse also offers functionality to help with Paid Ads on Facebook, Google and other social media platforms. If you’re unsure what a Facebook Pixel is or how to undertake retargeting activities, GetResponse offers a nice feature set to make it easier for you.

GetResponse places a lot of focus on a landing page, so if you don’t have a website of your own or are not sure of the science behind sequencing a landing page, GetResponse might be your option.


Drip is an exciting tool because it offers a lot of automation options through a simple visual workflow builder.

Visual workflow builders that are easy for non-tech heads to use are quite rare. Drip’s is very simple to use and I think it’s something that is quite easy to pick up and use.

Drip is also compatible with WordPress, making it easy to allow website visitors to sign up to your mailing lists to contact as part of your next communication push.

There’s also an SMS option, and while I personally hate when I get an SMS from a company, hey, if that fits into your sales funnel naturally then it’s there for you to use.

Drip is focused mainly on eCommerce, so if you sell art or services online, Drip is something you should look at as one of your options.

EDM Marketing ideas

  • Gallery openings
  • Workshops
  • Free giveaways
  • Collaborations
  • Showcasing recent work
  • Testimonials (collecting and showcasing)
  • Tutorials

How to do EDM Marketing

Step 1 – Choose your EDM Marketing software

If you haven’t already started using EDM software, you need to make a decision on which platform you’re going to use.

It might be worthwhile starting a trial if you don’t have any subscribers yet, and seeing what interface makes the most sense to you. There are a few options I mentioned earlier, but there are also a lot of extra alternatives out there.

Step 2 – Build and segment your audience

Once you’ve chosen your EDM software, you need to build your audience and segment them accordingly.

If you’re having trouble getting people to sign up to your mailing list, try offer them something for free. MailChimp has a good tutorial for offering free downloads for people who subscribe to a mailing list.

The free product could be something similar to a free eBook, a Zoom webinar or even use a tutorial or recipe as an exclusive offer for those that sign up to your mailing list. People love free stuff.

I built my subscriber list by offering a free Lightroom presets to those that sign up. The user enters their email to sign up, and they automatically receive an email afterwards with the Lightroom preset attached. That’s our first automation, baby!

When you are creating sign-up forms, make sure you structure them in a way that collects the only data you require. Too many fields will stop people from signing up, but too few fields will leave you with no real information about the subscriber.

If you’re having trouble getting people to sign up to your mailing list, try offer them something for free.

As a minimum, collect the first name and the email address. If you plan on doing SMS, collect their phone number for use later on.

If you have an audience size that you’ve grown over time, you might want to segment them out based on their open rates, location, age and more.

Step 3 – Create your marketing campaign

Write out your main email copy, considering what the recipients want to hear. The key here is to write the email in a way that you would to a friend but with purpose.

A bad example would be:

Hi Damien,

The deal of a lifetime is here! I would love it if you used this coupon code to take advantage of this amazing Summer sale. Make sure you look your best this Summer with our clothing!


Company Name

A good example would be:

Hi Damien,

How are you? Just wanted to get in touch with you because I saw you have bought a fair few pieces of clothing in the past.

Which piece is your favourite? I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, I’ve created this code just for you in case you’d like to check out some of our new range. I’d love to hear what you think of it and how you think it compares to the range you have bought in the past.

Thanks for always supporting us! We really appreciate it, Damien.

Speak soon,

Company Name

The second example feels like an email that was written exclusively for Damien and no one else. But you could have sent out hundreds or thousands of those emails that sound personally written. Writing like you’re writing to a friend is key.

The general structure I use when I’m writing EDM Marketing copy is:

  • Use their name in the first line
  • Connect over a common instance (e.g. Summer being here)
  • Acknowledge their past interactions with you (e.g. the previous purchase)
  • Ask a question (give the email a non-sales purpose)
  • Give context to the question to justify it (give the question some depth)
  • Give a benefit of receiving the email (coupon code)
  • Reinforce the personalisation with the repeat of their name (e.g. We really appreciate it, Damien)

Step 4 – Build your automations

Next, take your personalisation to the next level by building automations.

Keeping with the same example of a small, online clothing store, this might look like a follow up email for customers who have not redeemed their coupon, or a reminder email to share their thoughts if they have used the coupon code.

A screenshot of Drip's Visual Email Builder adding a row of recommended products to an email.

In this example, the coupon code acts as the identifier to determine whether the trigger was hit or not. Depending on your EDM software, the action trigger can be determined based on tracking code automatically inserted in the link to your store.

Step 5 – Evaluate

Did that work? Did the person buy and email you back?

If not, what do you think went wrong? Maybe this is a perfect opportunity to undertake some A/B testing on the next campaign to see what was effective and what wasn’t.

I generally evaluate effectiveness based on:

  • How many people opened the email
  • How many people unsubscribed from future emails
  • How long people kept the email open for
  • Where the person clicked on the email (was it in one section or on a specific link)

Step 6 – Reply to everyone

If the person writes back to your EDM mailout, write back to them. Make them feel seen and valued.

If Damien were to write back and share his thoughts on the clothing he bought with the discount code, a simple “Thanks for sharing your thoughts!” goes a long way to closing the engagement loop.