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Written by

Samantha Robert

Toronto digital marketing tips.

What Type of Emails do I Need to Send? A Look at Promotional vs Transactional Emails

Awesome Web Designs favicon

Written by

Samantha Robert

Email inboxes, much like traditional mailboxes fill up every day and often times it can be a
hassle to sort through what are necessary and what are from a mailing list you signed up for on
a whim.

When you check your mailbox some of the pieces of mail have your name on it, and are
sent with a specific intention (like a bill, or a letter). Most of the time those are mixed in with
things such as flyers from your favourite stores, coupons, or invitations to the new store opening
up that are mailed out to everybody in your area. These pieces of mail are similar to the two
different types of emails we send out as business owners/entrepreneurs; transactional, and

Both types of emails serve a very specific purpose, and as such require different
setup, maintenance, and possibly different email providers. It’s important to know the use of
each and the best service providers, so you can better anticipate your business’ needs, or hire

Do you need help setting up your promotional or transactional emails?

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Promotional (or marketing) Emails

Promotional emails are the type that are sent when a person subscribes to your list, through
your website or in-store etc. An individual must “opt-in” by giving you their email address and
agree to begin receiving marketing emails. These emails usually communicate an offer to your
customer (such as a new product, or a sale) or a piece of content or information that is
interesting to them (such as a newsletter or an announcement). Marketing emails are usually
planned in accordance with other important marketing content pieces, and include a specific call
to action for your customer to do something such as buy, subscribe, watch, or visit.

In order to communicate these key marketing pieces, emails are generally sent out to the entire
list of subscribers or targeted subgroups at the same time. If you have an automated marketing
funnel set up, promotional emails may still only be sent to one person at a time, such as when
one subscribes to your mailing list it triggers a sequence and they are sent a “welcome email”.

These “one-ofs” are still considered promotional as you are sending the same email in the same
sequence to everyone who enters the funnel (or triggers the sequence) with the intention of
getting them to follow a call to action. Emails sent at a regular frequency, such a monthly
newsletter or weekly “product features” are also considered promotional emails, as they’re still
used to communicate some type of information to your customers with the intention of creating
trust, or a transaction.

Most common uses for promotional emails include: announcing a sale, offering a coupon, give
information about your business, inviting to an event, launching a new product or offering,
“welcome” email sequence, and a periodic newsletter.

Best Service Providers for Marketing Emails

Mailchimp – These guys are arguably one of the most well known email providers and are great
for small businesses and beginners. One of the most popular services available right now,
Mailchimp is easy to use and free for basic use (up to 2000 subscribers). They offer affordable
options after that, with a standard plan starting at $14.99/month for 500+ subscribers. For those
without an in-house graphic designer Mailchimp offers many different templates that you can
easily drag and drop to customize without much experience required. Additionally, they offer
integrations for a multitude of the most popular websites and services including Canva and
Shopify, make it extremely versatile to install plugins and set up automated email sequences.

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ActiveCampaign – ActiveCampaign is a lesser known contender, that offers more advanced
features that may be better for business with more substantial email needs. Starting at
$55/month for the 2000 subscribers you get for free with Mailchimp, they are a little bit more
expensive but certainly worth the value if you’re looking to do more than just send simple emails
to your list. ActiveCampaign offer advanced automation features, with an easy drag & drop
editor. If you are someone with a large list of email subscribers, ActiveCampaign offers more
powerful list management capabilities that are simple to use. Furthermore, you can actually set
up a sales pipeline (including an automated email sequence) and manage a CRM list all through

Transactional (or operational) Emails

Transactional emails are the opposite of promotional, in that they are only sent to share a
specific piece of information with one user at a time. They are strictly information based, not
content based (think crucial notification, or account information). These emails are sent on a
need-only basis and will still be received even by customers who have unsubscribed from a
marketing mailing list. All transactional emails are unique and sent with a specific purpose to
your customer about a purchase, account, or other important information or notification.

Using one of the service providers mentioned below, there are a number of plugin options to set
up for your ecommerce business, website, or other apps to automatically send after an action is
triggered, such as a purchase is made. If you are well-versed in coding however, it’s easy to set
up your own templates that deliver quickly. Establishing a separate provider to send
transactional emails, instead of grouping them with promotional emails is a good idea to ensure
that all customers receive vital information and you can verify quick and accurate deliverability
of all emails.

Most common uses for transactional emails include: sending shipping information, giving order confirmation, account setup information, resetting a password, sending account invoices, and
requesting customer feedback after a purchase.

Best Service Providers for Transactional Emails

SendinBlue – SendinBlue is a sophisticated email provider, that also host a myriad of other
services that are great for small to large businesses alike. Send up to 9000 emails a month for
free, with several other affordable options starting at $29/month for up to 100k. Their interface is
fairly user-friendly and easy to setup, with a considerable amount of ecommerce plugins and
drag & drop templates available. SendinBlue also has a wide range of features including email
& SMS marketing, and abandoned cart recovery notifications. You’ll also be able to view
in-depth performance reports to ensure the deliverability of your emails.

SendGrid – Currently gaining in popularity as the industry leader in transactional service,
SendGrid is a great provider to get started with. Free up to 100/emails day, their pricing starts at
$14.95/month after that for up to 50,000 emails. SendGrid offers 24/7 live customer support (on
any paid plan), but their interface is easy to use and contains helpful setup instructions. You’ll
also get detailed email analytics with SendGrid so you’ll know exactly how many emails were
opened, clicked, undelivered, or even reported as spam.