Email Marketing For Small Business

Email Marketing For Small Business
31 August, 2021 • ... • 1106 views
Tatiana Khavronskaya
by Tatiana Khavronskaya

Do you work for a small online store, or an educational service, or an IT start-up and want to take your revenues to the next level? No matter which industry you are in, the right email marketing can be the answer, getting your messages to the top rather than to the spam folder, and boosting trust in your business rather than spoiling it.

Small business email marketing is used to strengthen the relationships with the customers, to encourage their engagement with your company, to share knowledge with them, and to inevitably increase conversion. Even if you are at the beginning of your journey, our tips and tricks will help you make your first steps in the field and get the attention your business deserves.

Why small businesses definitely need email marketing

Let’s say, someone starts a small business these days. When it comes to marketing, usually, the first thing they think of is to register on a social media platform to promote their goods or services. It’s true that social media is the most obvious option nowadays and you should make use of those social media channels that are relevant to your brand, however, fashion comes and goes, and classic email marketing is alive and well like a little black dress, and still takes up a huge portion of the marketing structure.

For starters, ResearchLive says, at least 73% of customers still prefer emails as the main marketing channel. With around 4 billion email users around the world, according to Statista Report 2017-2025 (which is practically half of the global population!). In 2020, Selzy sent more than 15 billion emails.

What makes this means so popular? It’s the personal connection they give.

Email marketing is not dead
Image courtesy:
Jason Hirschhorn

“Email is a 40-year-old technology that is not going away for very good reasons – it’s the cockroach of the Internet.” (с)

Being one of the oldest and yet one of the most powerful marketing tools, email marketing is great for:

  • Building brand awareness and loyalty.

Beginning with your first welcome email and on, successful email marketing is about building strong relationships with a customer and nurturing trust on their part. You are not a stranger anymore, you are someone who cares and keeps in touch with them.

  • Encouraging communication and increasing customer retention.

With personalised emails, your recipients are more closely engaged with your brand. So, they are more likely to tell you what they think about the product they purchased or the service they were rendered. And what business doesn’t want to get feedback to analyze?

  • Increasing click-through rate, thus, conversion.

When you opt for triggered scenario-based emails, your subscribers inevitably get what they are interested in, which is crucial for converting prospects into sales. When a company tailors its messages to offer the customers things that are relevant to them, it can influence consumer behaviour both directly (by a click on an email link) and indirectly (by consideration of the brand).

Here are 6 reasons why email marketing is a must for a small business:

  1. Email allows you to reach almost everyone.
    It’s becoming an even more powerful marketing tool, with people having separate messages for work, private communication, newsletters and deals, etc. No wonder, social media platforms ask for a valid email address to sign you up and send you notifications about likes and shares using this channel, which makes emails almost omnipresent, with no geographical or age distinction. According to HubSpot, 73% of millennials want to receive promotional content through this means of communication.
  2. You own your email list.
    You collect your email list yourself, and you are not tied to the decisions of other businesses like social media platforms (like those who are trying to expand their businesses using only social media channels). It means, the platform sudden collapse won’t take your list down, if anything.
  3. Email is targeted.
    Good email marketing is very direct and personal, getting your message straight into your subscriber’s inbox. The subscriber has already shown interest in your product or service by doing so much as opting in. Since you already know their preferences, you can deliver them relevant offers based on segmentation.
  4. Email communication feels private.
    Small businesses usually underline being close to the roots and supporting the community. Being private, emails incorporate the idea of neighbourly bonds. So, your subscribers can ask you questions directly in private and share feedback with confidence. They will be more likely to come back as clients because they trust you.
  5. Email marketing is affordable.
    Investments are a pain point for every small brand, especially when they are just making their first small steps in the big world of business.
  6. Emails provide valuable analytics.
    It is crucial for assessing your company’s performance and planning future campaigns. Key metrics can help you keep up with your target audience and improve your business strategy.

Statistics: Why you should start sending emails from day 1

Email marketing is a potent, highly converting, low budget, and affordable way to advertise your small business. When done smartly, it is quite the opposite to spam messages everyone finds in their mailboxes once in a while – it’s not distracting from the keynote of your email and doesn’t get on the nerves of the recipient.

Besides, mainstream ads often reach people who have little to no interest in the product offered. On the contrary, emails deliver personalised and highly anticipated messages to their subscribers that boost engagement and conversion.

Here are top-three proofs of why you shouldn’t hesitate to set up email marketing right away.

  • A Litmus research on ROI says that, on average, every 1 dollar spent on email marketing brings 36 dollars in return, this figure is still growing.
  • A Monetate survey shows that 4.24% of visitors from email make a purchase, as compared to 2.49% from search engines and 0.59% from social media.

According to Oberlo, email continues to be the main driver of customer retention and acquisition for small businesses. And according to Emarsys, 81% of SMBs still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80% for retention.

Best email marketing strategies for small businesses to spin it off

Before launching your email marketing, it’s a good idea to think its strategy over in all detail. Here are some clues to what you should begin with.

Define how you will get new audience and start building your list

An email list is the cornerstone for email marketing and should contain addresses of people who gave you their permission to send them updates and promotions from your company. This way, your list will be potentially active and engaged. So, it’s important to think about how you are more likely to get your targeted audience, depending on your business and who your audience is.

It’s more convenient to gather contacts when you have already registered with an ESP and have a corporate email. This way, you will be able to send a confirmation email from your corporate address.

Here are four tips on how to build a high-quality list:

  • Try out tools that suit your audience most (feel free to apply more than one option): signup forms on your website, landing pages, social media, cross-promotional deals, webinars, etc.

For example, you can try to encourage your website/social media visitors to sign up in exchange for a freebie (e.g. a trial period, a checklist) that works as a lead magnet.

Almost every email marketing service has ready-to-use signup form templates to help you grow your list. For example, with Selzy this feature is free and can be done in a couple of easy steps.

  • Make sure you use a double opt-in to have people willingly click the link in the confirmation email to get to your email list. These people will be your highest quality leads as they went an extra mile to become your subscriber. Also, their double-checked agreement means they are unlikely to mark you as spam, which could definitely spoil your reputation with your email service provider and influence the deliverability of your messages.
  • Never ever buy an email list! It’s like buying friends, which is no good. Bought contacts may be indifferent to what you have to offer or may consider your unexpected messages as spam cluttering their inboxes.

Always follow email marketing spam laws and get the user’s consent to receiving your messages. There are CAN-SPAM, CASL, and GDPR, with the latter two being the most recent regulations. We advise making the checkbox next to the Subscribe button unticked by default so that they manually make their choice.

Download our Foolproof Guide to Email List Building for more insights on how to build a quality email list from scratch.

Karl Murray

“Focus on growing your list all of the time as newer subscribers are more engaged adding to healthier open rates and ROI.” (с)

Decide which emails you want to send

Now that you have thought of the triggers that will boost gathering emails and have a high-quality list, decide what emails you need to send in the first place. You can choose from a wide variety, each best for a particular purpose, including welcome emails, newsletters, lead nurturing emails, abandoned cart emails, promotional emails, re-engagement emails. Use email marketing to send personalized messages to your target audience, promote time-relevant content like product launches and sales, and nurture leads.

Among all types of emails that are used in email marketing, there are three types that every small business should try. They are:

  • Welcome Emails. The study by GetResponse shows that the welcome email open rate is 50% or higher, which makes them 86% more effective than standard newsletters. Your subscribers are just waiting to get your incentive or the content you promised in exchange for their email address, so make them feel valued. For every small business, welcome emails are a wonderful opportunity to stand out and feel personal, especially if you include great storytelling about how it all started. (For more tips, check out our article featuring welcome emails best tips and templates)
  • Promotional Emails. According to MarketingSherpa, about 60% of consumers subscribe to a brand’s list to get promotional messages and deals compared to only 20% that just follow brands on social media. Think about giving these emails a try to boost your open and click-through rates and don’t forget to mention the incentive in your subject line. It’s such an easy and free way to increase your sales, after all!
  • Re-Engagement Emails. Your recipients may lose interest in your messages with time, and it’s ok. According to an Invesp survey, if you increase the customer retention rate by 5%, you can increase your profits by 25-95%. Besides, the same study says, turning an inactive subscriber into a customer is 5 times cheaper than acquiring a brand new customer. You can ask the non-openers why they are not any longer interested and offer them a discount or any other incentive to restart your relationships. If they respond, it’s a win-win. If not, it will still help you learn who is no longer interested in your messages. Delete inactive subscribers to maintain your list hygiene, and your email engagement rate will improve, as well as your reputation among internet service providers.

All email service providers boast all sorts of goal-oriented email templates that are easy to adjust to your brand identity using the incorporated block builder. With them, you don’t need design or coding skills to create a professional-looking email. We especially recommend using them if you are just making your first steps in email marketing.

Create your branded email design and content

To increase customer engagement, companies need to be customer-centric, building trust by making their emails targeted, relevant, and the benefits clear. This all begins with the content and the design you choose for your campaigns as marketing psychology still works wonders. The goal of an email design is to make reading your message a memorable experience so that your subscriber wants to stick with you.

Talu Tales personalized email.
Talu Tales offers personalized content and recognisable design. In addition to a free download, they encourage reading other articles a subscriber might like.
Andrea Mignolo

“I want to do business with a company that treats emailing me as a privilege, not a transaction.” (c)

Here are 4 things to consider from a psychological point of view:

  • Every appealing email begins with a catchy and personal subject line. It’s like the image of a person that attracts your attention before you have exchanged a word. Make use of your subject line to entice your subscribers into opening the email and getting your message through. More converting subject lines are known to contain names, emojis, FOMOs, metaphors etc.
  • Consistency is a key to recognition. And when people recognise you, it means stronger bonds with your brand. In practice, consistent design and content for all of your emails in a series or types of series mean your recipients will understand it’s you before they have even started reading. And make sure that your email properly displays on different devices and has a recognizable layout if, for example, the subscriber opens it on its iPhone first, and later on a desktop (In fact, Litmus says, 23% of consumers who open an email on a mobile device will open that email again later on desktop).
  • People prefer simple and clear information. Remember Hick’s Law stating that the more choices you present your users with, the longer it will take them to reach a decision? So, keep textual and visual hierarchy clear to help your recipient digest all you have to say and offer. And don’t forget about prominent (without overdoing it) CTA and Unsubscribe buttons – they are all about your subscriber’s freedom of choice.
  • Subscriber’s behavior can be influenced by visual and verbal cues. So, push them to a positive response by highlighting certain information. Integrate user-generated content, or social proofs and grab the attention of your consumers effectively to build trust for your small business. Another hint: try to use the same color for the wording of your offer and your CTA button, which will help the recipients’ brains tie them together.

For more insights, check our detailed article about how to approach your email design in a smart way.

Analyze the performance to improve future campaigns

When your campaign is sent, it’s time to analyze the efficiency. With the right tools, email marketing is your most measurable channel. It includes basic metrics like deliverability, unsubscribes, open, click-to-open, and conversion rates — all created to track each subscriber’s behavior and preferences.

To analyze the campaign’s performance, you can use your ESP, a postmaster, or a service like Google Analytics.

Keep in mind that regular campaigns are easier to analyze and assess than sporadic ones.

Here is why a small business needs to track the performance of its campaigns:

  • To learn what your subscribers like about your emails. What works for your audience, and what doesn’t.
    The analysis of clicks is a great tracking tool here allowing you to predict what will work in the future for your recipients.
  • To assess how your list grows and decays, how many people unsubscribe or mark you as spam.
    It is useful for keeping your list clean and up-to-date. Sending emails to those ones who are not interested may inflict a spam folder.
  • To learn how many emails were delivered and how many were considered spam by internet service providers.
    This info might be used to timely save your campaigns, if anything.
  • To assess your technical settings like the domain and IP address and their reputations.
    We don’t advise using free domains (meaning, your personal account rather than your corporate one) for your campaigns. If someone using the same free domain has a bad reputation as a sender, it will harm your reputation as well. It’s like collective responsibility. Besides, free domains can’t be integrated with postmasters.
  • To study the behavior and preferences of your subscribers on your website.
  • To assess your email marketing ROI.

Take your time and analyze your performance, as such a valuable lesson learned will help you improve your email marketing campaigns in the future.

As a level-up, analyze such advanced metrics as conversions, LTV, CAC and sender reputation to make the most of your report.

Small business email marketing tips

HubSpot statistics on the tactics that increase email performance.
Here is HubSpot statistics on the practices email marketers prefer to increase email performance. Here message personalization and mobile-friendliness are ranked top two.

We are going to share with you the following four tips.

Make your emails mobile-friendly

According to OptinMonster, 99% of us check inboxes every day, with some of us doing it as many as 20 times a day, no matter what age group each of us is! And Litmus found out, with a smartphone always with us, even in a restroom (sic!), mobile opens account for 46% of all email opens (followed by a desktop and a tablet). It means that we all are constantly clicking the inbox icon, preferably, on a smartphone. So, if your emails are not mobile-first or at least mobile-optimized, you’re missing out on a lot of potential connections, customers, leads, and sales.

Here is what Aesop email looks like on, on Iphone8, and on GmailApp for Android8. All the versions look nice and boast good adaptability to all screens.

Aesop mobile-friendly emails.
Aesop mobile-friendly emails.
Aesop mobile-friendly emails.

Most email service providers offer responsive email templates that are based on grids to help you keep design consistency on any screen.

Send automated emails to a segmented list

Small businesses typically find themselves strapped for time to do marketing, as they have operational tasks to perform. To create a continual stream of business and to find new customers, businesses need to unceasingly market themselves.

And here is when automations are of great help. They spare your time for more important strategic tasks while taking care of the routine. Isn’t routine what we all want to get rid of?

  • Ask subscribers for their preferences and take advantage of customer behavior and insights like geolocation, past purchases, customer status, and more to make their experience as personal as possible. At this stage, it’s not a monologue anymore, it’s a dialogue, which is great for communication and building rapport.
  • Take care of segmenting the new list before sending your first campaign. It will make your campaign relevant and unique to a particular group of recipients. As a result, it will boost opens and conversions, as the content of emails to segmented audiences is what they are really waiting for. Say, the male audience of an online underwear store won’t be bombarded by female bra offers. Besides, according to Campaign Monitor, marketers who used segmented campaigns noted as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
  • Consider sending an email series – flexible trigger-based (preferably dynamic – changing with the choices made by the subscriber) messages that adapt to subscriber’s behavior boosting their experience with your business. The first thing to do here is to analyze which triggers influence your subscribers’ behavior.
The diagram comparing emails with dynamic content and without it.
These statistics show how the use of dynamic content improves ROI by 22%.
John Caldwell

“To get the right message to the right person at the right time you first need to get the right data to the right database at the right time.” (с)

Encourage sign-ups anywhere you can

Sign-ups help you promote your business, so try to encourage them as much as possible. Try to use several sources to build your list online and offline:

  • A website (use embedded sign-ups, pop-ups, etc.). Probably, the most straightforward place for a sign-up form with a CTA. You can put it anywhere: in the header, in the footer, or to the side of your website. If it is a pop-up, make it easy to perceive and timely.
  • Social media (use giveaways, YouTube Cards, Pinterest, Twitter Chat, etc.). It is most useful for addressing wide targeted audiences interested in the same topic.
  • Other options (use contests, quizzes, retargeting, podcasts, etc.). It’s an absolutely versatile group of sources for sign-ups, most of them can be linked to a landing page of all kinds.

“Signing up is a powerful signal of intent to buy. Send them emails until they do.”  (c) Jordie van Rijn

Don’t forget about double opt-ins at this stage. With them, marketers can send out promotional materials automatically without being afraid of being marked as spam. Besides, according to a Litmus study, brands that rely on double opt-in see an ROI that’s 13% higher than that of brands that primarily use single opt-in. So, now you shouldn’t be afraid of encouraging too many sign-ups, given that you use double opt-ins and your way of growing your list is clean and green.

To encourage sign-ups, use all your marketing channels in combination and analyze which tools work best for you.

Double opt-in vs single opt-in diagram.
Double opt-in increases ROI by 13% compared to single opt-in.

Quality over quantity

The top 3 reasons by Optin Monster why people unsubscribe from an email list are: too many emails (59%), info no longer relevant (43%), or don’t recognize the brand or remember signing up (43%). And with 53.5% of emails sent classified as spam as shown by Statista, it’s easy to see how consumers could easily be put off by getting irrelevant and persistent emails.

Many will report emails as spam if marketers don’t get the content and frequency right, even if your email isn’t actually spam. Consumers have the power to get rid of the irrelevant messages that are cluttering up their inboxes, so make their experience with your small business exceptional and memorable to escape the spam folder.

Benjamin Murray

“Quality over quantity — Emails may be cost-efficient but it’s no excuse to not produce quality content to give to a targeted audience.” (с)

How many emails to send then? Well, it depends on the type of messages you are sending. A good tip here is to set expectations and to tell your recipients how often they will hear from you (and probably what day of the week/ time of day, if you write twice, for example), which you can do as early as in your welcome email.

Moreover, our experience shows that if you decrease the number of emails to inactive subscribers, the relative metrics for your campaigns will increase, and the deliverability of your emails (which is based on how your messages are read) will improve, as well. And psychologically, for a subscriber, it’s nice not to have their inboxed crammed with piles of emails. Besides, usually, if you send less, you will have to pay less to your ESP.

How to choose the best email marketing service for small business

Email marketing services are special services that are used to send email campaigns, track and analyze their efficiency like Selzy, Mailchimp, GetResponse, SendPulse, etc. And the market is practically crammed with such services and software. Just imagine, ChiefMartech created a landscape of 8,000 solutions existing today with hundreds that are used for email marketing!

But wait a minute, you might wonder why there are so many of them, why people are just not sending commercial emails from their personal email accounts?

  • They are not intended for bulk emails. So, if you still use a regular mailbox for your campaigns, they will likely get into spam folders or not reach inboxes at all!
  • They can’t provide you with the stats to analyze your campaign’s performance.
  • You can’t manage unsubscribes with them. And campaigns without such an option are illegal.
  • It’s difficult to create a beautifully designed email, as there are no templates in your regular mail.

Since we are speaking about small businesses, here we will discuss only pure marketing services, setting aside tools like CRM marketing software and plug-ins. 

A lot of your success with email marketing depends entirely on the email marketing software you choose because they are responsible for making sure that your emails actually get delivered. And if they get delivered instead of ending up in the spam folder, it means, they are more likely to get opened and to take the users to the destination you want them to get.

When it comes to email marketing, most of the technologies offered by an email service provider are invisible, while the user interface is easy to learn and apply.

Things to look for when choosing email marketing software:

  • Deliverability. Does the service have a good reputation with email providers so your messages get to the inboxes? All responsible ESPs take care of their ratings with internet service providers, so deliverability mostly depends on the client themselves – on the quality of the list, the usage of dedicated IPs, the setting of authentification.
  • Automations and segmentation. Does the service allow you to set up marketing automations, schedule your campaigns, and segment the list by tagging the audience?
  • Integrations and other communication channels. Is it possible to integrate the service with other business tools you use? Is there a possibility to send SMS, or set up web pushes for your website? It’s an important point as it helps grow your business and conveniently keep all business activities in one place.
  • Analytics. Does the service have strong analytic features so you can understand what to improve and optimize?
  • Usability and ready-to-use templates. Is the service intuitive to use, both for standard tasks and advanced functions? Does it have a variety of templates for any campaign you would like to send? Usually, small businesses don’t have a designer for that, that’s why it’s convenient when you can easily create an email with a block editor.
  • Support. Is support service available 24/7 and how fast do they respond? It’s very important to get help fast, especially for a small business that usually has to deal with marketing themselves.

Take the following 2 steps to choose your best email service provider:

  1. Decide which criteria are crucial for you.
  2. Sign up with several services with a free plan to try out the interface and the available features.

Key takeaways:

  1. Email marketing is not dead, being one of the most cost-effective and conversive forms of digital marketing today. Besides, it is the main driver for customer retention and acquisition.
  2. When used wisely, it drives not only a positive customer experience (which builds trust) but amazing ROI.
  3. When designing a campaign, stay true to your brand identity, use personalization which is one of the most popular email marketing tactics, create lifetime value for your subscribers, and keep your email marketing customer-focused. It will help you build a strong connection to your subscribers and make your emails memorable, thus, increasing sales through customer loyalty.
  4. Make mobile integration a key part of your email marketing strategy, as more and more people use mobile devices to check their inboxes.
  5. Email marketing software allows you to automate and personalize your marketing, sparing you the time for more important business activities. So don’t forget about automation and segmentation.
  6. Last but not least, stay consistent and analyze the performance of your campaigns. It will help you define your weak points and improve future results.
31 August, 2021
Article by
Tatiana Khavronskaya
University professor, copywriter and email marketing addict. Keen on learning new things and exploring the world.
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