We know, we know. There are terrible examples of email marketing for business done wrong (a quick look at your spam folder will reveal exactly what we mean)—clickbait, phishing, glitchy content, unsolicited communication, and pop-ups all over your screen. Yuck.
Unfortunately, this kind of email content has given email marketing a bit of a mixed reputation. But successful businesses understand the importance of developing a more productive strategy.
Email marketing helps you:
Here are some of the email marketing basics for beginners.
On the surface, email marketing is just what it sounds like: marketing via email. But there’s more to it than that. Successful email marketing is about building relationships with your customers and prospects, not just clogging their inboxes with unsolicited promotion of your business’ products or services.
Here are the 5 key components of an email marketing campaign:
Goals and objectives
Clearly defining your campaign goals and objectives is essential. Whether it’s generating leads, increasing sales, driving website traffic, or building brand awareness, having specific goals helps guide your campaign strategy and measure its success.
You may also be interested in: What email strategies work best for small businesses?
Who are you talking to? You need to understand your audience’s demographics, preferences, and behaviors to be able to tailor your messages to their specific needs and interests.
Building and maintaining a quality email list is vital. This includes:
Personalization and segmentation
Personalizing means using people’s names, preferences, or past interactions in your emails to make the content more relevant to them. Segmentation means sending targeted emails to specific groups based on demographics, behaviors, or interests.
Automation and workflow
Email automation workflows take the guesswork and manual grind out of effective email communication, allowing you to send timely and personalized emails based on predefined triggers.
Email design and layout
Your email templates need to be visually appealing and user-friendly, or there’s a high chance you’ll land up in the dreaded spam folder. A well-designed email should have a clear hierarchy, engaging visuals, balanced text-to-image ratio, and responsive design to ensure it looks good on various devices.
Compelling subject line
The subject line is your first chance to engage and entice! It should be concise, compelling, and relevant to get people to open the email you’ve spent all this time conceptualizing. Personalization, urgency, and curiosity can be effective techniques to improve open rates.
Crafting engaging and valuable content is crucial to keep recipients interested and encourage them to take action. The content should be informative, relevant, and personalized. Use a mix of text, images, videos, and call to action buttons to enhance engagement.
Call to action (CTA)
Including clear and prominent CTAs is essential for telling your reader what you want them to do, whether it’s making a purchase, signing up for an event, or downloading content. CTAs should be persuasive, well-placed, and accompanied by compelling copy.
One of the coolest things about email is the opportunity to test various elements—such as subject lines, CTAs, or email designs. Testing allows you to understand what resonates best with your audience and refine your strategy accordingly.
Tracking and analytics
Monitoring and analyzing campaign performance helps you become a better email marketer. Key metrics to track include open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, unsubscribe rates, and overall return on investment (ROI). More on these later.
Compliance and legal considerations
Take note of new authentication requirements
In early 2024, Gmail and Yahoo will implement stringent guidelines for bulk email senders, necessitating compliance with three critical requirements:
Although these rules target bulk senders, they benefit all email marketers by enhancing email hygiene.
These adjustments prioritize recipient preferences and aim to curb unwanted emails, aligning with the evolving email landscape toward user-centric content.
Below are a few examples of the types of email marketing used by small businesses.
Promotional emails are designed to drive sales, conversions, and customer engagement. Examples include:
Building and nurturing relationships with your customers is crucial for long-term business success. Here’s how email communication can support relationship-building:
Transactional emails are essential for providing information, updates, and support. Here are some examples of transactional emails:
Here at Brighter Messaging, we include newsletters in almost all our marketing packages. They’re such a great way to stay connected with your audience and keep them informed about the latest news, updates, and developments. Here’s how newsletters can benefit your business:
Automated emails are a powerful tool for streamlining communication. They are triggered by specific actions or events, so you don’t need to lift a finger once the initial automation has been set up. Here are some common types of automated emails:
Direct mailers can cost up to $1 per target. Let’s not even get into billboards in major cities (unless you have thousands of dollars a week) or television commercials, which can run into the millions! Most small businesses simply can’t afford that kind of publicity. Email marketing offers small businesses a cost-effective solution to reach a large audience, which = a high return on investment (ROI).
A billboard ad needs to have broad appeal, but through email, you can send tailored messages that address individual needs, preferences, and pain points. And when you deliver relevant content and personalized offers, you’re more likely to build stronger relationships, foster trust, and increase engagement with your customers.
We all know that it’s far cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new one, and email marketing has a role to play in helping small businesses to engage and retain their customers. By providing valuable information (such as industry insights, educational resources, or case studies) and positioning yourself as an industry authority, you can strengthen customer loyalty, encourage repeat business, and increase referrals.
One of the main advantages of email marketing is the ability to target specific segments of your audience with tailored messages. For example, if you’re a day spa and you know that your clients who are bookkeepers tend to get stressed during the tax season, you can send a timely email offer with a massage special just for them. Delivering this customized content to the right people helps small businesses improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and drive higher conversion rates.
Email marketing provides small businesses with valuable insights and measurable results. You can use email analytics to track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and unsubscribe rates. Most importantly, you can then apply this information to help you refine your strategies, optimize your campaigns, and make data-driven decisions to improve marketing performance over time.
You may also be interested in: What are the 5 advantages of using email marketing?
While email marketing has many benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges for small businesses.
Beware the dreaded spam filter! To ensure your emails reach the intended recipient’s inbox and comply with anti-spam regulations, it is crucial to follow best practices and obtain consent from your subscribers.
Some people are fiercely protective of their inboxes; others have thousands of unread messages. Just as important as ensuring the members of your email list have opted in to hearing from you is getting the frequency right.
How many emails should I send for email marketing?
Bombarding your audience too often or sending irrelevant messages can lead to email fatigue and high unsubscribe rates. All businesses should focus on respecting subscribers’ time, delivering quality over quantity, and striking a balance between providing valuable content without inundating subscribers’ inboxes.
Automated email workflows, such as welcome sequences or abandoned cart reminders, can save time and nurture leads. But don’t let that be the only time your audience gets an email. It’s important not to sacrifice personalization in the pursuit of efficiency, so try to find the right balance to create meaningful connections.
The wide world of email marketing is continuously evolving, with new trends, technologies, and regulations emerging regularly. Small businesses need to stay informed and adapt to these changes to remain compliant and effective in their email marketing efforts while maintaining a competitive edge. If the thought of staying up to date gives you anxiety, consider leaving it to the professionals.
You may also be interested in: Does email marketing work for small businesses?
Here are some common email marketing pitfalls to avoid:
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to have a hard time getting there! To make the most of email marketing, small businesses must start by directing email marketing campaigns toward specific, measurable outcomes, like generating new leads, improving conversion rates, and growing a subscriber list.
You may also be interested in: How to run a successful email marketing campaign
Setting goals and objectives is the first step in developing an effective email marketing strategy. Clearly defining what you want to achieve with your email campaigns allows you to align your efforts, track progress, and measure success.
When setting goals, it’s important to consider the specific outcomes you want to accomplish, such as:
For example, instead of setting a goal to “improve conversation rates,” you may define the goal as: Get 20% of your subscribers to download a new piece of content within the next three months. (SMART, right?)
The specificity of that goal will give you direction for crafting the email, and the target percentage plus timeframe will make it clear whether you’ve achieved it.
Identifying your target audience and effectively segmenting your email lists are essential components of a successful email marketing strategy for your small business. TBH, if you don’t understand and speak to the diverse needs, preferences, and behaviors of your audience, you’re probably just wasting everyone’s time.
Tailoring your emails to meet customers where they are—whether they are new subscribers, loyal customers, or at risk of churning—helps nurture relationships and deliver a more personalized experience. For example, you can send exclusive discounts for a particular product line to customers who have previously shown interest in that category.
SEGMENTATION IN TWO STEPS
You may also be interested in: What are the steps of an email campaign?
Successful email marketing depends on getting your message in front of the right people. To do this, you need a good marketing list. But people don’t just hand over their email addresses willy-nilly! Here are a few ways to get started:
Go through your contacts, pull out the business cards you gathered at industry conferences, and gather contact information for past and current customers. Remember that recipients must agree to receive your message, so you’ll need to send them an initial message asking them to opt in.
The goal of social media is to grab the attention of the right kind of people who would be interested in what you have to offer. Once you’ve got their interest piqued, it’s time to direct them to your signup landing form.
Don’t forget to include a link in your profile bio that leads directly to that enticing signup form. The folks who are already following you on social media are at least somewhat interested in your products or services. Now it’s up to you to transfer that interest to your mailing list.
Make it easy for people to sign up. To attract subscribers, create compelling opt-in forms and landing pages that clearly communicate the value they will receive by joining your email list. You can consider offering incentives, such as exclusive content, discounts, or freebies.
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Give the people what they want! People will be happy to give up their email addresses if they can’t resist what you’re serving up. A popular lead generation tactic includes creating gated content (such as e-books or webinars) that require visitors to provide their email addresses in exchange for the content. Running contests or giveaways that require email submission can be another effective tactic.
We have a lead magnet on our site that provides value to our target audience by sharing some easy-to-implement SEO tactics.
You may also be interested in: Tips for building your email marketing list
Our free eBook “5 things your small business can do right now to improve SEO” contains five SEO tactics you can apply without significant expertise or web developer intervention.
Needless to say, crafting compelling and captivating email content is essential for small businesses to grab the attention of their subscribers and drive meaningful engagement. We’ve been beating on this same old drum because it’s true: the key to crafting engaging, converting email content is understanding your audience and tailoring your messaging to their needs and interests. (We’ll probably say it again, too.)
“Uh-oh, your special offer is expiring in 2 hours”
“GET YOUR OFFER NOW”
Which email are you more likely to read?
The subject line of your email is the first impression you make on your subscribers, and it plays an important role in determining whether your email gets opened or ignored. To grab attention, it’s important to make your subject lines compelling, concise, and relevant to your audience.
Consider using curiosity-inducing phrases, personalized touches, or urgency-driven language to entice readers to open your email. For example, instead of “On Sale Now!” you could use something like “24% off sitewide for the next 24 hours.”
A good subject line:
Keep email copy concise, engaging, and relevant. Here are our top tips:
In today’s visually driven world, video is considered the King of Content. Incorporating visuals and multimedia elements in your emails can significantly enhance engagement and convey your message more effectively. Consider including relevant images, product photos, or infographics that support your content and capture attention. For instance, if you’re a fitness brand, link to a brief workout video or an animated GIF demonstrating an exercise technique.
Email marketing is both an art and a science. Once you’ve established your goals, created your content, and built segmented email lists, it’s time to focus on factors that impact deliverability, experiment with different variables through A/B testing, and use data to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Choosing the right email service provider (ESP) is essential to ensure that your emails reach the intended recipients’ inboxes. Look for ESPs that have strong deliverability rates, robust spam filtering, and authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. If you don’t know what any of that means (fair), be sure to check with your provider.
Other factors that have a significant impact on deliverability:
For example, instead of using spammy phrases like “Get rich quick,” focus on providing valuable information or exclusive offers that genuinely benefit your subscribers.
Here are the Top 10 types of words that spam filters hate:
A/B testing is a powerful strategy that allows you to experiment with different elements of your emails to identify what resonates best with your audience. Instead of revamping your email strategy, change only one variable at a time and measure how it impacts performance. Test variables like subject lines, email copy, call-to-action buttons, visuals, or send times to determine the most effective combinations.
How to A/B test emails? Try this:
The beauty of email is that it’s highly trackable, so make sure you use the data to measure the success of your campaigns.
Some key metrics to monitor include:
Analyze these metrics to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. For example, if you notice low click-through rates, you may need to revise your email copy or call-to-action to make it more compelling.
CAUTION: Some metrics are more reliable than others. For example, although a lot of email platforms emphasize open rates, the data can be misleading. The only practical, automated method to count open rates is to place an image within an email. The tool then counts the number of times that image is accessed per unique user.
But some emails are read in preview without downloading images, some email clients block images, and some emails are read in mobile clients which track differently and skew results. We recommend focusing on the metrics that matter, like conversions and ROI.
An email marketing platform, software, or tool helps you manage your list, design an email campaign, and automate the process to save time while boosting conversions and engagement.
Full disclaimer: we are 100% biased about to email marketing service providers and email marketing software. This is because we only use one. ActiveCampaign ticks all the boxes for small business email marketing.
Here’s why we love it:
Heard of HubSpot? HubSpot is another popular top-of-the-line CRM platform that also offers sales and marketing automation features. Here’s our comparison of ActiveCampaign vs HubSpot.
When choosing an email service provider (ESP) for your small business, just choose ActiveCampaign (promise we’re not paid for this!). You can also do a free trial to see if it’s the one. OK, fine, it is best to do your research and find a tool that offers the right features and benefits to support your marketing efforts, so here are some features to look out for:
When someone subscribes or signs up for your newsletters, they’ve given you permission to engage with them through email. With that in mind, it’s important to respect your customers’ inboxes and only enter with consent. Compliance with regulations is non-negotiable.
Permission-based email marketing is not only an ethical approach but also a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. In the US, email marketing falls under the CAN-SPAM Act, which requires obtaining permission from recipients before sending commercial emails. Implied consent can also be valid if there is an existing relationship between you and the customer.
To stay on the right side of the law and maintain best practices, there are a few key requirements to follow:
When you consistently deliver valuable content, you build a relationship with your subscribers. For example, if you send a monthly newsletter, your subscribers will come to expect your email around the same time each month. If you’re succeeding, they should be excited to see the latest updates, promotions, or insights.
Consistency not only keeps your brand top of mind but also helps you avoid being forgotten or buried in crowded inboxes. Whether you choose to send emails weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, sticking to a consistent schedule demonstrates professionalism and reliability.
But how often should you email your audience?
Well, it depends. Consider factors such as your target audience’s preferences and behaviors. It’s also worth looking at your own workload and content schedule.
As much as sticking to a schedule can be a productive tactic, you also need to ensure you have something valuable to say. High-quality, valuable content trumps quantity every time.
Segmentation refers to dividing your audience based on similar characteristics, which results in a 46% greater open rate and 112% higher click-through rate than generalized messages. Once you have a growing email list, segment your subscribers based on demographics, interests, or purchase behavior to allow for targeted and personalized email campaigns. You can then deliver relevant content that resonates with each group. Remember, personalization goes beyond addressing subscribers by their name—it means providing customized product recommendations, personalized offers, or tailored content based on individual preferences.
Use your social media, content marketing, and advertising to create a multi-channel approach. Here are some ideas:
A major email marketing benefit is increasing brand awareness and visibility for small businesses. Consistently delivering valuable content to your subscribers’ inboxes allows you to establish a connection with them.
Email marketing is not just a one-sided affair where the brand does all the talking—it’s more like a dynamic conversation where the customer plays an equally important role. Instead of bombarding your subscribers with content and crossing your fingers for sales, focus on building a solid subscriber base, taking the time to understand them, and engaging in meaningful communication.
You need to be responsive to their concerns, keep them in the loop, analyze your own performance, and stay tuned to what matters to your audience. Remember, it’s a two-way street, and treating your customers as active participants in the process is the key to long-term success.
Email marketing can also drive traffic to your website and boost your online presence. Use compelling calls to action in your emails to direct subscribers to specific landing pages, blog posts, or product pages on your website.
While we’re on the topic, click here to sign up for our email list. Each month, we cover topics intended to help small business owners be strategic with their marketing efforts.
Email marketing and social media can work hand-in-hand to amplify your brand’s reach. Include social media buttons and shareable content in your emails, which will help encourage subscribers to share your content with their networks. For example, a restaurant can send an email with a mouth-watering image of their special dish and include social media icons to make it easy for subscribers to share it with their friends.
Benefits of social sharing:
Email marketing is a great sales side-kick!
Strategic email campaigns can help you guide potential customers through the buyer’s journey and increase their chances of making a purchase. Let’s look at the example of someone who’s downloaded our SEO eBook.
Ideally, when they know they could benefit from an agency’s services (partially through our content), Brighter Messaging is top of mind and they become a customer.
Cart abandonment is a common challenge for e-commerce businesses, but email marketing offers an opportunity to recover those lost sales. Set up automated cart abandonment emails to remind customers about the items they left behind and provide incentives to complete the purchase. For instance, an online retailer can send an email offering a limited-time discount or free shipping to entice customers to return and complete their purchase. As consumers, we all know how irresistible it can be!
Email marketing allows you to capitalize on upselling and cross-selling opportunities, increasing the average order value and customer lifetime value. After a customer makes a purchase, follow up with personalized emails recommending related or complementary products. For example, a CPA firm can send an email to customers who recently requested tax preparation services to suggest a full financial planning engagement.
To actually enhance customer loyalty and retention, delivering relevant and valuable content is a non-negotiable. Service-based businesses have an opportunity to shine by sharing their expertise in a way that helps subscribers recognize when they need to bring in a professional. For example, a marketing agency like Brighter Messaging can send out email newsletters with industry insights, case studies, and practical tips for improving marketing strategies.
Actively seeking customer feedback and conducting surveys through email can be a powerful tool for enhancing customer loyalty. Sending out surveys or feedback forms can help you gather valuable insights into customer satisfaction, preferences, and areas for improvement. And acting upon this feedback and making meaningful changes based on customer input demonstrates your commitment to meeting their needs and strengthening the relationship. You can also use the information you collect to improve your email list segmentation.
Providing exclusive offers and rewards to your customers through email can drive loyalty and increase retention.
Here are some examples:
At its core, all marketing is about building relationships. Well-strategized email marketing can help you reach your target audiences with valuable content, and address their needs effectively. Look, it’s not a quick fix or a one-time solution. But by consistently providing value and staying engaged, you can build trust, establish meaningful connections, and hopefully be first on the list when someone is ready to make a purchase or take the desired action.