Email is one of the most effective ways for any businesses to communicate with its current and potential customers. It’s not only effective in generating visitors and actions, it’s also cost-effective especially when compared with direct mail. In short, email marketing allows businesses to directly engage with their customers. In this article, we will explore why email marketing is crucial for small businesses and discuss proven techniques to boost engagement and drive conversions.
Before getting started, it’s worth remembering that there are rules in place in the UK and Europe (called GDPR) and in the USA (called CCPA) that regulate how a business must manage its contact data and deal with requests from contacts to delete their information. Following these rules is a must and it also helps you improve the way you communicate with your contacts.
Email marketing is crucial for small businesses
Email marketing is a cost-effective and efficient way for small businesses to communicate with their customers. Unlike social media platforms, where algorithms determine the reach of your posts, email marketing ensures that your message reaches directly into your contact’s inbox. And almost everyone has an email address and in many cases both a personal and a business email address.
Every business wants to build a loyal customer base and email is great way of nurturing a relationship with your customers. By sending personalized and relevant content, you can establish trust and credibility, leading to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. In fact, studies have shown that email marketing has a higher customer acquisition and retention rate compared to other marketing channels.
What do you need to start?
To start with you could send your customers an email straight from your normal email software on your laptop – for most business users this will be Microsoft Outlook or perhaps Gmail. You could even keep a small list of your customers on Outlook and send a regular message.
However, since neither Outlook nor Gmail are email marketing platforms, this way of working will very quickly become difficult to manage for several reasons. First, it does not offer unsubscribe options (which you should include at the bottom of all your emails to allow a contact to remove themselves from your list); second, you’ll have to manually add new contacts to your list; you won’t have easy ways to add a sign-up form to your website; and you won’t be able to create multi-part email campaigns.
To manage your business email marketing you really need to use an email platform. These are services hosted on the web that let you manage your contact list, design emails, add sign-up forms to your website, view analytics and much more. There are hundreds of different services available with big name brands such as MailChimp popular with many small business owners.
Email marketing statistics and trends
Before diving into the practical tips, let’s take a look at some email marketing statistics and trends that highlight its effectiveness for small businesses:
- According to a study by DMA, for every £1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment (ROI) is £42.
- Personalized subject lines increase email open rates by 26%.
- Segmented email campaigns have a 14.31% higher open rate compared to non-segmented campaigns.
- Mobile opens account for 46% of all email opens.
- Automated email campaigns drive 320% more revenue than non-automated campaigns.
These statistics show that email marketing has a significant impact on the success of small businesses. By leveraging the power of personalization, segmentation, and automation, you can maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Starting point: Building your email list
To start your email marketing efforts, you first need to build a good email list of contacts who are genuinely interested in your business. Here are some strategies and best practices to grow your email list:
- Offer valuable incentives: Offer something that a visitor to your website will want to exchange their email address to receive. This offers are called ‘lead magnets’ and examples include a free e-book, exclusive discounts, or free resources that your target audience would find valuable. In exchange for access to these incentives, ask visitors to provide their email address.
- Optimize your website for conversions: Place prominent sign-up forms on your website, including pop-ups, slide-ins, or static forms. Make sure they are visually appealing and clearly communicate the benefits of subscribing to your email list.
- Leverage social media: Use your social media platforms to promote your email newsletter and drive traffic to your website. Encourage followers to subscribe by highlighting the exclusive content they will receive.
- Run contests or giveaways: Organize contests or giveaways where participants need to provide their email addresses to enter. This not only helps grow your email list but also generates buzz and engagement around your brand.
- Utilize guest blogging: Write informative articles for popular blogs in your niche and include a call-to-action at the end, inviting readers to subscribe to your email list for more valuable content.
By implementing these strategies, you can steadily grow your email list with engaged subscribers who are more likely to convert into customers.
All good email platforms include tools to add sign-up forms to your website, many provide features to run a competition or offer an e-book or discount to someone signing up.
Crafting compelling email content
Once you have an email list of interested customers, it’s time to create compelling content that will engage your subscribers and drive conversions. Here are some tips for crafting effective email content:
- Personalize your emails: Address your subscribers by their first names and tailor the content to their preferences and interests. Personalization creates a sense of connection and makes your emails more relevant to the recipients.
- Write attention-grabbing subject lines: Your subject line should be concise, intriguing, and evoke curiosity or urgency. A well-crafted subject line entices the recipient to open your email and discover the valuable content inside.
- Keep your emails concise and scannable: Most people skim through emails, so make sure your content is easy to digest. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and subheadings to break up the text and highlight key information.
- Include a clear call-to-action (CTA): Every email should have a specific goal, whether it’s to make a purchase, download a resource, or sign up for an event. Use a compelling CTA button that stands out and clearly communicates the desired action.
- Test and optimize: Continuously test different elements of your emails, such as subject lines, content format, and CTAs. Analyze the performance metrics and make data-driven decisions to improve your email engagement and conversion rates.
By following these best practices, you can create email content that resonates with your subscribers and drives them to take action.
Designing visually appealing emails
The visual appeal of your emails plays a crucial role in capturing the attention of your subscribers and enhancing their overall experience. Here are some design tips to make your emails visually appealing:
- Use a clean and professional layout: Keep your design simple and clutter-free. Use white space effectively to give your content room to breathe and make it easier for readers to focus on the important elements.
- Use eye-catching visuals: Incorporate high-quality images, graphics, or videos that are relevant to your content. Visuals not only make your emails more engaging but also help convey your message effectively.
- Choose the right font and colours: Use fonts that are easy to read and align with your brand’s personality. Select a colour scheme that complements your branding and creates a visually cohesive experience.
- Ensure mobile responsiveness: With a significant portion of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s essential that your emails are optimized for different screen sizes. Test your emails across various devices and email clients to ensure a seamless experience.
- Don’t overlook the preheader text: The preheader text appears right after the subject line in an email. Use this space wisely to provide a preview of your email content and entice recipients to open it.
Remember, a visually appealing email not only grabs attention but also enhances the perception of your brand, making your subscribers more likely to engage with your content and take action.
All good email platforms come with great-looking professionally-designed templates that you can use and tailor for your business.
Personalizing and segmenting
Personalization and segmentation are powerful techniques that allow you to tailor your email campaigns to the specific needs and preferences of your subscribers. Here’s how you can leverage personalization and segmentation in your email marketing:
- Personalize your subject lines and greetings: Use merge tags or dynamic content to insert the recipient’s name in the subject line and greeting. This small personal touch can significantly increase open rates and engagement. If you run an e-commerce site, you should be able to add merge tags to include the last item the contact bought so your email campaign might be as personal as ‘Dear Simon, thank you for buying a new iPhone 15 last week – we wanted to say thank you and offer you…’
- Segment your email list: Divide your email list into smaller segments based on demographics, purchase history, browsing behaviour, or engagement level. This allows you to send highly targeted and relevant content to each segment, increasing the chances of conversion. For example, you might have a segment of visitors to your website who have created an account but not bought anything, or who live in a particular city, or have an interest in a particular product or topic.
- Send triggered emails: Set up automated triggers based on specific actions or events, such as abandoned carts, birthdays, or subscription anniversaries. Triggered emails are highly effective in nurturing leads and driving conversions. For example, you might setup automated triggers to send an email to a customer a week after they have bought a product to ask for their feedback.
- Dynamic content: Use dynamic content blocks to customize the content within your emails based on subscriber preferences or behaviour. This ensures that each recipient receives content that is most relevant to them, increasing engagement and conversion rates.
- Behavioral targeting: Monitor how subscribers interact with your emails and website. Use this data to send targeted emails based on their behaviour, such as recommending related products or following up on abandoned purchases.
By personalizing your emails and segmenting your audience, you can deliver hyper-relevant content that resonates with your subscribers, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.
Almost all email platforms support segmentation, personalisation, triggered emails, and targeting. You will normally need to connect your email platform to your website so it can track visitors and allow you to see who has clicked on which email.
Automation and email marketing tools for small businesses
Automation is a game-changer when it comes to email marketing for small businesses. It allows you to streamline your campaigns, save time, and deliver timely and relevant messages to your subscribers. Here are some key automation features and email marketing tools for small businesses:
- Welcome series: Set up an automated welcome series to greet new subscribers and introduce them to your brand. This series can include a sequence of emails that provide valuable content, showcase your products or services, and encourage engagement.
- Drip campaigns: Drip campaigns are automated email sequences that are triggered based on specific actions or time intervals. Use drip campaigns to nurture leads, onboard new customers, or re-engage inactive subscribers.
- Abandoned cart emails: If you run an e-commerce business, set up automated emails to remind customers about their abandoned carts and offer incentives to complete their purchase. Abandoned cart emails have a high conversion rate and can significantly boost your sales.
- Email marketing platforms: There are various email marketing platforms available that offer automation features tailored to small businesses. Some popular options include Mailchimp, ConvertKit, and Sendinblue. These platforms provide user-friendly interfaces, drag-and-drop editors, and analytics to track your campaign performance.
- Personalization tools: Utilize personalization tools such as dynamic content blocks, merge tags, and conditional logic to automate the personalization process. These tools make it easier to deliver personalized content at scale.
Automation and email marketing tools empower small businesses to create sophisticated campaigns without the need for extensive technical knowledge or resources. By leveraging automation, you can engage your subscribers at the right time, with the right content, leading to increased conversions and revenue.
Examples of successful email marketing campaigns for small businesses
To inspire your email marketing efforts, let’s take a look at some examples of successful campaigns by small businesses:
- The Re-engagement Campaign: A clothing retailer sends an email to inactive subscribers with a subject line that says, “We Miss You! Enjoy 20% Off Your Next Purchase.” The email includes personalized recommendations based on past purchases and highlights the benefits of shopping with the brand again. This campaign successfully re-engages dormant subscribers and drives sales.
- The Exclusive Offer Campaign: A local bakery sends an email to its subscribers announcing a limited-time offer for a free pastry with any coffee purchase. The email includes mouth-watering images of their delectable pastries and invites recipients to visit the bakery to claim their free treat. This campaign not only drives foot traffic to the bakery but also encourages repeat business.
- The Event Invitation Campaign: A yoga studio sends personalized emails to its subscribers inviting them to an exclusive yoga retreat. The email includes a compelling description of the retreat, testimonials from past participants, and a clear CTA to register. This campaign generates excitement and encourages subscribers to take part in the event.
These examples demonstrate the power of email marketing for small businesses. By understanding your audience, personalizing your content, and delivering targeted offers, you can create impactful campaigns that drive engagement and conversions.
Measuring and analyzing email marketing performance
To determine the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, it’s crucial to measure and analyze key performance metrics. Here are some metrics to track and tools to help you analyze your email marketing performance:
- Open rate: Measures the percentage of recipients who opened your email. A low open rate may indicate that your subject lines need improvement or that your emails are ending up in spam folders. Tools like Google Analytics and email marketing platforms provide open rate data.
- Click-through rate (CTR): Measures the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link within your email. A low CTR could indicate that your content or CTAs are not compelling enough. Email marketing platforms typically provide CTR data.
- Conversion rate: Measures the percentage of recipients who completed a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form. Tracking conversions allows you to assess the overall effectiveness of your email campaigns. Most email marketing platforms offer conversion tracking features.
- Bounce rate: Measures the percentage of emails that were not delivered to the recipient’s inbox. High bounce rates could indicate issues with your email list quality or email deliverability. Email marketing platforms provide bounce rate data.
- Unsubscribe rate: Measures the percentage of subscribers who opted out of your email list. Monitoring your unsubscribe rate helps you assess the quality of your content and the relevance to your audience.
By regularly monitoring these metrics and analyzing the data, you can identify areas for improvement and optimize your email marketing strategy for better results.
Email marketing for local businesses
For local businesses, email marketing offers unique opportunities to engage with their community and drive foot traffic. Here are some tips to make the most of email marketing for your local business:
- Local events and promotions: Keep your subscribers informed about local events, promotions, or special offers. This creates a sense of exclusivity and encourages them to visit your store or attend your events.
- Customer testimonials and reviews: Share positive customer testimonials and reviews in your emails. This helps in building trust and credibility within the local community.
- Location-based targeting: Utilize location-based segmentation to send targeted emails to subscribers in specific geographic areas. Tailor your content to their local interests and needs.
By leveraging the power of email marketing, local businesses can strengthen their connection with the community, increase foot traffic, and boost sales.
Integrating email marketing with other marketing channels
While email marketing is a powerful standalone marketing channel, it works even better when integrated with other marketing channels. Here are three great ways to connect your email marketing with your overall marketing strategy:
- Social media integration: Promote your email newsletters and lead magnets on social media platforms. Encourage your social media followers to join your email list for exclusive updates and offers.
- Content marketing synergy: Align your email content with your blog posts, videos, or other content marketing assets. Use your emails to drive traffic to your content and vice versa.
- Cross-promotion with partners: Collaborate with complementary businesses or influencers to cross-promote each other’s email newsletters. This allows you to reach a wider audience and tap into new markets.
By integrating email marketing with other channels, you can create a cohesive marketing strategy that amplifies your message and drives better results.
The worst thing you could do is to buy a list of email addresses and send them all a daily email promoting your business. You’ll be quickly blocked, your domain name will be marked with a high spam score and you could face issues with the regulator.
There is definitely a right way to use email when marketing your small business and in this article, we cover the ten top tips that you should use to help you create an effective email marketing campaign.
Perhaps the most important tip is that you must stay GDPR-compliant when managing your contact data. It’s a crucial part of email marketing and the rules must be followed or you will risk a hefty fine.
To remain GDPR compliant, you need to follow a set of rules that help prevent a business mis-using personal information and sending someone unsolicited and unwanted emails.
You must follow a number of actions to maintain compliance; here’s a quick check-list:
- Register with the UK Government’s ICO
- Make sure you use an email provider rather than sending direct from your laptop – this helps you manage the data list securely and also helps with unsubscribe and account management features.
- Ensure you’re only emailing customers who have a genuine interest in your business products or services – so make sure that the contact has opted in to your email list.
- Don’t buy email lists, as people won’t appreciate getting an email from someone they didn’t want or expect.
- If someone marks your email as spam or reports your business to their email provider, your domain name spam score will be negatively impacted and you’ll find your future emails will be automatically marked as spam (or your email provider might even block your account).
- In every email you send, include a link that allows subscribers to unsubscribe from the list and give subscribers the ability to delete or request you delete their contact details.
Following these guidelines will keep your contacts informed while also keeping your business compliant.
Practical tips for great emails
To be effective, think of the action you would like your reader to take after reading your email and then write and design a concise email message around this call to action. For example, you might be offering a special discount or announcing a new product or service.
Most people tend to scan emails so you might find short sentences or bullet points work and it’s worth ending the main text of your email with a short reminder of the offer or news.
Add visual elements to your emails
Email marketing shouldn’t be limited to words alone and you’ll find images and videos embedded make the email more visually interesting and also convert well to clicks.
Don’t forget that many users will be viewing your email on their phone, so make sure the visuals are optimised for a mobile device (your email platform should have templates that are mobile-optimised, meaning they will display correctly on either a laptop or phone screen size).
Include a follow-up action
The reader should be able to clearly understand what you want them to do from your email if it is written simply enough.
For instance, the email might ask the recipient to click on a link to a particular blog post or website that allows them to learn more about your goods or services. Or it might ask the reader to arrange a meeting with you via a calendar link, or it might ask to be connected to the appropriate person in the company.
Your email should push the reader to take some further action and you should aim to make it simple for them to carry out the action, which will help improve your conversion rate.
Experiment and test
It is always worth experimenting to see how your contact list responds to different messages, designs, even colours of buttons. A simple way of running an experiment is to split your list into two (your email software should support this using a feature called A/B testing) and send slightly different emails to each group and compare the response and conversion rates.
Then you can contact as many customers as possible.
A simple A/B test would be a smart move. Select the factors you would like to test (such as CTAs, subject lines, and various addressing styles, such as “Mrs. Parker” vs. “Elizabeth”).
You should check the open and click-through rates. This is your first step toward greater conversion rates.
Think about your subject line
Keep the subject line succinct and direct. If you have an email list of mostly consumers (rather than business users) then maybe test personalising the subject line – eg ‘Hi Mark, here’s news about our forthcoming workshop’. Some audiences engage well with this, others badly.
It can be difficult to condense down what the email is to just a few words. However, the shorter the subject line, the better and specify what this email is about in the subject line.
Avoid being among the group of people whose emails don’t get opened because of poor subject lines.
The subject line is your selling point to get customers to open your email and see what you have to say.
Keep an eye on your engagement
Measuring engagement – how often your contacts open or click on a link in your emails – will give you a good indicator of how often you should send a message. The most engaged audience are obviously interested in your products and services and will be interested to hear from you.
Be consistent with your rules though: nothing is more annoying than signing to receive a free coupon and then receiving 200 emails with various offers. Or, on the other hand, you sign up to find out more about something, and weeks later, someone contacts you about it.
If a recipient hasn’t viewed an email from you in more than three months then you should stop sending them emails. They are obviously not engaged and either ignoring or deleting your emails and might start marking you as spam.
Also, it is pointless to send emails to someone that doesn’t want to receive them. Also, it is pointless to send emails to someone that doesn’t want to receive them, though this might be due to a range of reasons including seasonal variations – so for example, a customer is likely to be less interested in gardening furniture in the autumn.
You may notice that you go through periods where certain emails aren’t getting much attention compared to others.
Use the engagement monitoring features of your email platform to build a rule that stops sending emails if there is no engagement after three months and before that use the same tools to work on ways to engage your readers.
What value are you offering in your emails?
Sending out uninteresting material via email is a mistake that many companies and marketers make.
Make sure that you understand your customer’s profile and what drives them to be interested in your products and services.
Most customers or potential customers are not particularly interested in your business development specifics but are interested in how it might help them.
Focus on the value of what this issue is going to solve and how it can benefit the customer.
Or talk about new products or services that you are going to be rolling out soon.
As a result, you should always ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this an email that I would be thrilled to receive as a customer?’
If the answer is no, then you should think about editing the email so that it is something you would want to read.
If you don’t want to read the contents of the email, then why would your subscribers!
Emails are still a really effective way to market and promote your small business and work well alongside an effective website and overall online marketing plan.
You can use email to keep your subscribers up to date on what is happening with the business and how your new products and services can help them.
By following all of these tips, you can create and maintain a successful marketing campaign for your small business.