Brighter Messaging

How to Run a Successful Small Business Email Marketing Campaign

Today’s digital landscape is a competitive one, with brands vying for their customers’ (ever-shortening) attention spans.

That’s why we’re hitting you with this truth bomb: there’s no point running any old small business email marketing campaign. Email marketing campaigns need to stand out in a cluttered inbox.

So, how do you create a successful email marketing campaign?

What is an email campaign?

An email campaign is a targeted series of emails sent to a group of people to promote a product, service, or brand. It’s a strategic approach to building relationships, engaging your audience, and encouraging them to take specific actions, such as making a purchase, reading a blog post, downloading a lead magnet, or signing up for an event. 

You may also be interested in: Top 10 Benefits of Email Marketing for Small Businesses

What is an example of email content?

In our monthly email, we share our blog content, demonstrate expertise, and publish thought leadership pieces.
BM Email Marketing Newsletter on phone screen

What makes a marketing email successful?

The success of a marketing email lies in its ability to capture and retain the recipient’s attention. In a world of distractions, your email must stand out, provide value, and drive action. Fail to do so, and you could find your email deleted, ignored, or—even worse—sent to the dreaded spam folder.

What are the main characteristics of an effective email marketing strategy?

Simple, clear message

Focus on a single message to avoid overwhelming the recipient. Keep your content concise, and ensure that the purpose of the email is easily understood.


Address recipients by their first name and segment your audience based on key characteristics.

Attention-grabbing subject line

Craft a subject line that piques curiosity or offers a benefit. Avoid click-bait tactics and ensure the subject accurately represents the email content.

Engaging content

Use a mix of text and visuals to keep readers engaged.

Call to action (CTA)

Include a clear and compelling CTA that guides recipients toward the desired action. Make it stand out visually and use action-oriented language.

Mobile responsiveness

A significant portion of recipients access emails on smartphones and tablets, so you must optimize your email design for mobile devices.

Remember the 5 Golden Rs of email marketing

Responsive Design

How to create a successful email marketing campaign

You’ve created your email marketing strategy, and you’re ready to send your first email campaign. Exciting! Ready to do some email marketing for your small business? Here are the steps you should follow to create a targeted email marketing campaign:

1. Set clear goals

Email campaigns are not just a thing we do we do for the sake of getting something out there—every campaign, email marketing theme, and email marketing topic should be backed by strategy and guided by specific goals. What do you want the recipient to do after reading your message?

Typical campaign goals could include:

  • Promoting a sale
  • Educating subscribers
  • Driving event sign-ups
  • Welcoming new subscribers
  • Boosting engagement with your content 
  • Nurturing existing subscribers 


The goal of your campaign will impact everything from the content to the timing and key performance indicators (KPIs) you choose to measure. 

You may also be interested in: How do you come up with an effective email marketing campaign?

2. Get personal

The best email marketing campaign is one that’s targeted. Remember, if your message is for everybody, it’s for nobody—and most likely heading for the junk folder. Customers today have come to expect that brands send personalized communications with highly relevant content, so use your data to customize content for specific segments of your subscriber list.

There are two main elements to creating customized content:

  1. Personalization: No one wants to open an email that starts with, “Dear Sir/Madam.” Address recipients by name and tailor content based on their preferences and interactions.
  2. Segmentation: Segmenting your audience means breaking your subscribers into smaller groups to help you send more personalized and relevant emails to each segment. You can divide them based on demographics, behaviors, or preferences. Studies from Marketing Sherpa have shown that segmenting your emails can improve your click-throughs by as much as 50%.
3. Craft engaging content

The key to creating content that converts is thinking about what you can do for your audience instead of what you want them to do for you. 

Our top tip for how to write an email marketing campaign in one sentence: write concise, engaging copy with a clear CTA that encourages action.

Here are some common sections to include when writing an email marketing campaign:

  • A subject line that grabs attention and accurately represents the email content
  • A personalized greeting and/or a brief introduction that sets the tone
  • Concise and engaging body content that focuses on a single message or value proposition
  • A clear and compelling CTA that guides readers toward the desired action
  • A closing statement and signature

See our email promoting our SEO eBook as an example:

Other content to consider for your email copy:

  • A personal story to help people connect emotionally with the content
  • A poll, GIF survey, or video to keep readers more engaged
  • Something of value to your readers, such as a piece of content, a special offer, useful information, or the resource you’re promoting. Remember to explain the value they will gain from it. 
4. Focus on design

If you’ve ever received a poorly designed email, you know how off-putting it can be, even if the content is decent. If your emails look awful, that reflects poorly on your brand and can make people stop reading or delete them immediately. 

Here are some quick tips for an appealing email design.

  • Use a template to ensure consistency (and make your life easier). 
  • Use a responsive email template so your email resizes automatically for every device. 
  • Remember that many inboxes disable images in email by default, so don’t rely on images to convey your email’s main message. Use copy that gives your recipients a reason to allow images in your message!
  • Use bullet lists, headlines, and different sections to make the content scannable. 
  • Employ visual hierarchy to allow your email content to be easily scanned and understood. 
  • Place CTAs strategically and make them stand out.
BM Email Marketing on phone screen
5. Automate campaigns

Part of running our email marketing campaign may include setting up automated workflows to ensure timely communication without the manual effort. Nurturing your audience at certain critical moments during the customer journey helps you build strong relationships with them and can win you more business. Common automations include workflows for onboarding new customers, reaching out to those with abandoned carts, and re-engagement campaigns.

We use automated workflows in ActiveCampaign when marketing lead magnets, like our client Blueline’s Building The Business Case for Immersive Learning guide.


When someone clicks ‘Send My Guide’, they are automatically emailed a link to access the guide.

Blueline guide form example

A few days after receiving the guide, they are sent an automated email to ask if they have any questions Blueline can help with, along with other resources they might enjoy. This nurturing sequence keeps Blueline top-of-mind and might encourage the recipient to one day become a client.

Inspired to learn all about email marketing for your small business?

Get our comprehensive guide: The Power of Email Marketing for Small Businesses.
6. Preview your emails

Don’t be like the U.S. military, which accidentally sent sensitive information to a company that manages Mali’s internet domain for years thanks to a simple typo (caused by the similarity between the .MIL and .ML domains, which are used for US military and Malian email addresses, respectively). 

Proofreading and previewing your emails before sending them is a basic aspect of running a small business email marketing campaign, but it’s often overlooked. You can have a beautiful design, catchy subject line, and the best email service provider, but if there is a typo, poor choice of words, or a broken link, you’ll lose credibility with your subscribers. Before hitting the big SEND or SCHEDULE button, send a test email to your company’s most eagle-eyed employees to thoroughly check that all links are working, no grammar gremlins have slipped in, and the design is working as it should. 

7. Send away!

You’ve got your goal, segmented your list, created and tested your message, and set up automations. It’s finally time to unleash your hard work to the world (or, at least, your carefully-curated target list). But if you’ve only finished doing all of the above by 1 am, it’s probably best to schedule rather than send it straight away. 

Much analysis (sometimes conflicting) has gone into the best times and days of the week to send marketing emails. But every business is different, and we think it’s best to use your common sense based on what you know about your specific target audience. For example, if you’re targeting people who work a night shift, then 1 am may well be a good time to send an email! The beauty of email marketing is that you can experiment with different times and determine what works best for you. Sometimes, sending at off times can lead to higher open rates simply because so many other senders are following the conventional wisdom.

8. Analyze metrics

Emailing is just the first step in achieving small business email marketing success. Email marketing provides a wealth of data you can analyze and use to refine your strategy and improve future campaigns. It’s always exciting (and hopefully a positive experience) to check your email stats after a campaign to monitor click-through rates, conversion rates, and other metrics to measure campaign effectiveness. 

CAUTION: Some metrics are more reliable than others, and there are a couple of red herrings out there. We recommend focusing on the metrics that matter, like conversions and ROI. 

9. Test and iterate

Testing is the secret sauce for successful email marketing. From design to copy, subject lines, send times, segments and calls to action, you can test virtually any aspect of your email campaigns. The key is to pick one at a time, aka A/B testing. A/B testing involves selecting one element to change in an email, such as a subject line. 

Here’s how A/B testing works:

  • Split your email recipients randomly in two
  • Group 1 gets email subject line 1
  • Group 2 gets email subject line 2
  • Every other variable remains exactly the same
  • You can use the data (in this case, mainly open rates) to see which performed best
  • Use these learnings to improve future campaigns 

You may also be interested in: Does email marketing work for small businesses?

Ready to run your next email marketing campaign?

Running a successful email marketing campaign for your small business requires a strategic approach that considers your audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors. Remember, the key is to provide value, foster relationships, and deliver content that means something and adds value to your subscribers.

Need a partner in small business email marketing?

If you need help creating and executing an email marketing strategy for your small business, our team would love to hear from you. We can provide strategic guidance or take the whole project off your plate.

Ready to develop a digital marketing strategy that builds your business?

Brighter Messaging is a digital marketing strategy company that specializes in supporting small, service-based businesses in their digital marketing efforts.

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