Email Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

Email is a powerful marketing tool for small businesses. In this post, you’ll learn some tips on using the medium to the best of its ability!

Email marketing is perhaps one of the easiest and best ways to get conversions for your small business. Not only is it a direct line to your customers, but it has an endless number of parameters that you can tinker with to make the perfect email send. In this post, we outlined some tips on email marketing for small businesses just getting started. This is not an exhaustive list or how-to. However, the concepts are important for any small business owner to grasp before venturing into email marketing.

Which Platform Should You Use?

Most email marketing services work on a “freemium” model, which means that their services — save for a few advanced features — are available for free until you reach a certain number of email subscribers (number of people who have opted into receiving your emails) or email sends. For example, Mailchimp allows you to have 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends before charging for their service. Design wise, their interface doesn’t allow for as much customization as other providers. However, if you’re looking for a service that can give you simple, but effective emails, it’s a great service, especially for beginners.

Building Your List

We’ve already given you advice on building your email list, but here are some easy, cost-efficient ways to build your list:

  1. Splash Page — Even if you’re not quite ready for launch, it’s important to start building up your email list. Of course, you can build it by accepting pre-orders, but another way that you can start fairly early in the process is creating a splash page. A splash page is a full page on a website that has one simple CTA. In this case, it would be to give your email. Include copy that makes visitors interested in giving their email — access to presales, discounts, first-look exclusives, etc. — and give them a clear indication of how often they should expect to receive emails.
  2. On the Street (Guerilla Marketing) — In our digital world, it is very easy to forget that sometimes the best way to get things done is to get your hands dirty. So, a great way to build your email list is to go out and find the people you want to sell to. This could be at a tradeshow or a pop-up shop or even just on the street. Go somewhere where your target customer is going to be and have a pen and paper and start collecting emails. It’s easy, cheap, and if you have something to give away — a sample or giveaway — then you can start building that brand relationship early.
  3. Social Media — It’s known that you can easily get people to do a lot through social media. But did you know that Facebook has an option to add a sign-up button for your newsletter? There are two options: the CTA at the top of the page or on the sidebar. Through MailChimp, you can easily integrate your sign-up form.
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Getting Your First Impression Right

When someone signs up for your list, you don’t want to leave them hanging for too long. Generally, you want to send an email within an hour of someone signing up for a list. This is first to ensure to the subscriber that the sign-up work and, secondly, to let them know exactly what your emails will look and sound like. You should keep the voice and style of your emails consistent throughout a buyer’s journey, so make sure you take some time deciding on a template if you are using one and how you’d like to speak to your customers — similarly to the way you speak to them through your other branding. Your first email should be simple, yet valuable. Here are some good things to include:

  1. A Welcome and Background — The people you’re sending this email to have taken a huge step in the buyer’s journey. They were curious enough about your brand that they’re giving you a way to communicate with them. They also want to learn more. Tell them about your mission, your products, and, most of all, give them a big welcome to your community!
  2. Exclusive — Just like you would expect if you did something for someone, you’d expect something in return. So, make sure you give your new subscribers an “exclusive” for signing up. This could be a promotion, coupon, access to a presale, or simply a thank you card.
  3. Clear Call-to-Action — No matter what, whether it is the first or last email you send to a brand, you must have a clear call-to-action. For your first email, if you don’t have a website to send them to, you can ask them to like one of your social media pages or to share the company with a friend.
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What and When to Send

As I said at the beginning of this article, every business is different, so naturally, all your email sends are going to be different from other brands. That’s why you have to test different pieces of content, subject lines, send times, etc. Thankfully, services like Mailchimp have the ability to find an optimized time and conducting A/B tests. Here are some tips for conducting proper tests:

  1. Test one thing at a time: It’s easy to become overzealous with the perameters that you test in your emails. However, these kind of tests take time. Just because one testing time worked one day doesn’t mean it’s going to work all the time. Give yourself at least two weeks to get meaningful results, then test another parameter.
  2. Take risks — Sometimes it’s hard to take risks with email content, but it’s a necessary part of testing. If you’re going to test a regular “salesy” subject line, then also test a funny one or one that sounds like click bait. The wilder the variations of test you are conducting, the easier it is to tell whether they truly affected your KPIs.
  3. Think like your customers — Ask yourself this question before each email send: Would I open this email? You can look at analytics, best practices, or read article upon article about making the perfect email. In the end, the key to sending the perfect email is knowing your customer.

Reviewing Your Results

Taking a moment to look back at your results may be the most important part of the entire process of email marketing. Of course, you’re going to want to look at open rates, click rates, and the number of unsubscribes. However, you also have to figure out why. Why did one email do better than the other? What changed? Also, keep an eye on your list growth. It’s easy to get distracted by all the percentages being thrown at you that you forget that you have to have people to send your email to. List decay is a natural part of email marketing. You can’t prevent someone from leaving your list other than sending great content. So, just ensure that you are growing your list at a quicker rate than it is decaying.

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Email marketing is a strategy that can be extremely powerful when used well. Starting out, it’s okay to be simple and to copy the format of other brands. Just remember that you are sending something directly to your consumer. Think like they think. Give them what they want.