Marketing Emails & Transactional Emails –What’s The Difference?

Marketing emails & Transactional emails –What’s the difference?

This is one of the top questions, many people asked me about how this type of email is different than traditional marketing email. If you do a simple Google search on the difference, you will find blurry definitions that still leave you wondering about when it is and is not appropriate to send transactional email versus a traditional marketing email.

Part of the reason for vague descriptions is because email sending laws vary significantly between countries and any advice given on email may apply to one country, but may get you into trouble in another. So how do we differentiate marketing email and transactional email? Let’s dive in.

First thing first

But before we get to differences, and what type of email you should send let’s define the two email types were talking about.

Marketing Email: Any email sent that primarily contains a commercial message or content intended for a commercial purpose (i.e. nurturing leads through your funnel) is considered a marketing email and must follow local laws. Marketing email is generally sent to groups of contacts that are prospects or customers.

Transactional Email: One-to-one emails that contain information that completes a transaction or process the recipient has started with you. A common example is in ecommerce, after purchasing an item you receive an email receipt that has information about the item, price, and shipment. Transactional email is sent to individuals rather than a large list of recipients.

Few examples

Now that we have definitions, let’s expand on both of those cases and talk about a few examples of marketing and transactional emails. As we talked about above, a marketing email is content that is intended for a commercial purpose. A newsletter is a great example of this, because it’s intended to drive the recipient towards making a purchase or downloading content that brings them further down the funnel.

I recently received this newsletter from Men’s Warehouse which highlights a daily deal, and related items that the recipient may be interested in purchasing. In this case, it’s obvious that this is considered a marketing email. But what about all of those emails you send to promote content and get visitors to download offers?

It’s more of a grey area, but it’s safe to expect most of that email to also be marketing related as it’s intended purpose is to educate and drive clients/customers to some expected commercial transaction, whether that’s making a purchase, upgrading their subscription, or anything that is related to a commercial deal or transaction.

Here are a few emails that are likely marketing-related:

  • Email Newsletters
  • Content Promotion & Offers
  • Sales Emails & Communication

Transactional email is different and contains critical information that is relevant to each recipient. For example, after recently purchasing a new modem, Amazon let me know that the modem had shipped and enabled me to track the package.

Marketing, or bulk emails are “one-to-many” emails, like a newsletter. Transactional emails are sent on a “one-to-one” basis.

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