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eMail basics

You will use e-mail to communicate with your associates, suppliers, affiliates, prospects and clients.

Depending on the purpose you’re using it for, e-mail takes slightly different forms and is initiated in different ways. Regardless of how it is initiated, e-mail is transported by only one mechanism and received by only one mechanism. The differences between different kinds of e-mail are in the way they are formatted and in the way they are created and transmitted.

How e-mail works

Let’s take a few moments to look at some essential technical concepts about how e-mail works. The following diagram shows how e-mail moves from your PC across the Internet to its destination.

Internet e-mail transport

The sequence of events goes like this:

  1. Having created an e-mail message in your e-mail software you click the “Send” button.
  2. The e-mail software negotiates a connection to your ISP’s mail server using SMTP (“Simple Mail Transport Protocol” is the language PC’s and mail servers use to send e-mail to one another).
  3. Having established a connection, your e-mail software transmits the message and any attachments to your ISP’s mail server along with the address it is destined for.
  4. Your ISP’s mail server then looks up the address of the mail server where the destination e-mail account is hosted, negotiates a connection and transmits the message, once again using SMTP. Incoming e-mail messages are stored on this mail server until requested by the destination PC when it comes online.
  5. Once online, the e-mail software on the destination PC negotiates a connection with its mail server using POP (Post Office Protocol is the language used by most home computers to download e-mail from the ISP) and requests download of all waiting e-mail messages.
  6. The owner of the e-mail account you addressed the message to do now read it.

Corporate environments are generally slightly different in that they don’t use SMTP and POP to communicate between individual PCs and corporate mail servers. Usually corporate mail systems use proprietary software and protocols for internal communications. Once outgoing mail reaches the corporate mail gateway however, SMTP is used to communicate across the Internet to other mail servers.

SMTP is the standard protocol (computer communication language) used to transmit e-mail messages across the Internet.

POP is the standard protocol used by ISPs and their clients to query mail servers and download e-mail messages.

There is another standard called “IMAP” (Internet Message Access Protocol) that is gaining in popularity. IMAP provides more sophisticated PC to mail server communications and functionality. A key feature of IMAP is that it works more like corporate mail systems allowing users to store mail messages on the server rather than downloading them for local storage.

E-mail formats

Plain text

The simplest e-mail format is known as “simple text” or “plain text”. This is the most basic form that e-mail can take. It uses only text and includes no formatting or text style commands and does not support embedded images or any other fancy tricks.

Plain text e-mail is what you use if you want to be absolutely certain that the receiver will be able to read it.

Rich text (HTML)

Rich text or HTML based e-mail is commonly used in the business environment. It supports many of the same text formatting capabilities offered by modern word processors. It enables you to format your text with areas of Bold, Italics, Underlining, Different fonts, etc.

HTML based e-mail provides you with virtually the same functionality available in standard web pages. You can even include images and hyperlinks.

Be careful using images in e-mails. Images in HTML based e-mail are not embedded in the message; they must be hosted on a Web server somewhere that is referenced by a standard HTML image code embedded in the document. For the image to be displayed, the viewer must be connected to the Internet. Remember also that you must include the full URL (Internet address) of the image. If you use the relative address to the file on your hard drive, you will be able to see the image but nobody else will be able to see it.

The downside to using HTML formatted e-mail is that some e-mail software is not equipped to display HTML formatted messages. People using these systems cannot read HTML formatted messages.

To solve this issue you have three choices:

  1. Only ever send plain text formatted e-mail messages,
  2. Send HTML formatted messages to individuals who have specified they can receive it and plain text messages to the rest. You can capture this information at the same time you ask for people’s name and e-mail address.
  3. Some e-mail systems have the ability to send both plain text and HTML in the same message. It should enable everybody to get the message while those with better technology get the nice formatting as well.


Of all but the most basic of e-mail systems in use today support “attachments”. This facility enables the sender of a message to attach one or more “files” in the form of documents, images, programs, etc.

This makes e-mail an ideal mechanism for the distribution of information products. Once somebody has paid for a product you simply send them and e-mail with the product attached.

Be aware that this only works for reasonably small attachments. Most ISPs place limits on the size of e-mail messages (including attachments). If your combined e-mail and attachments size exceeds a few megabytes you may find your client unable to receive the product.

Casual e-mail

Casual e-mail is the kind you would use on a day-to-day basis to communicate with your friends and close associates.

Each message is handcrafted and as such is very personal. Unfortunately handcrafting e-mail messages is a very time-consuming business and is not workable for large volumes of e-mail. If you try to keep in contact with all of your prospects and clients through this manual system you will quickly find yourself unable to keep up with the workload.

Automated e-mail

Automated e-mail is your most powerful marketing tool. It enables you to keep in contact with thousands of prospects and customers on a regular basis by automatically generating personalised messages to each individual in accordance with your instructions.

Automated e-mail systems take many forms but the most popular and useful to you are as follows:

  1. Autoresponders: These are quite simple programs that run on a “Mail Server”. And autoresponder receives messages sent to a particular e-mail address and instantly responds by e-mailing back a prepared message. A classic example would be to set up and autoresponder on the e-mail address that responded with a standard price list for your products.
  2. List servers: List servers are used for sending identical e-mail messages to large numbers of recipients. Most list servers also have the ability to add and remove individual e-mail addresses to and from the least through the receipt of specially formatted requests or through special e-mail addresses.
  3. Bulk e-mail programs: These programs, either running on your desktop or on an Internet based server are used for sending personalised messages (including names and other details) to large numbers of recipients. They are very similar to list servers except for the personalisation capability.
  4. Smart or serial marketing systems: These systems are the pinnacle of current technology for e-mail marketing. They generally include all the functionality of the previously mentioned systems. In addition they have the ability to send a sequence of personalised messages to each of thousands of recipients. They keep track of the status of each individual recipient.

    Some of these systems integrate with purchasing systems so that when an individual buys a product they are transferred automatically to a different list and subsequently receive different messages.

    These systems are very sophisticated and incredibly useful tools for Internet based entrepreneurs marketing information products

Of all the automated e-mail systems I strongly suggest that, if you are serious about marketing the product via the Internet, you should use option 4 – a smart e-mail marketing system. This will encapsulate all the functionality you need and provide you with the most cost-effective and powerful solution.

For specific information about available e-mail marketing systems go to “Marketing:Automated e-mail” in the “Tools” section of this tutorial.


No discussion about e-mail marketing systems would be complete without looking at “Spam”. Otherwise known as “Unsolicited e-mail”, spam is one of the most controversial subjects in the Internet marketing world.

The use of unsolicited mail is conceptually very similar to the use of “Junk mail” that we are all familiar with receiving through our letterbox at home and the same frustrations apply for those who hate to have their mailbox cluttered with things they have never requested.

Using spam is a marketing tool is a lot like firing a machine-gun in the general direction of the target in the hope of hitting something. The vast majority of the effort is wasted, but if enough bullets are fired eventually something will be hit. With Spam, tens of thousands of e-mail messages are blindly sent to e-mail addresses of unknown quality across the world. Spam is indiscriminate and in the opinion of many people it is also indefensible. In my opinion it is at the very least unprofessional and in any case unnecessary.

Research indicates that the vast majority of e-mail users are both frustrated by the quantity of unsolicited e-mail they continually receive and angered by the content of much of it. Many users refuse to even open e-mail they consider to be spam. An increasing number of users are actively putting in place systems to filter out unsolicited e-mail.

Although there are individuals who have made and continue to make fortunes through the use and promotion of spam, I strongly advise you that it is not necessary. If you follow the guidelines in this tutorial you should not need to resort to spam to promote your product. You should be able to attract quality inquiries and follow a high percentage of those inquiries through to a productive close.