Email Marketing Tips & Strategies for Small Businesses

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If you’re a small business owner — regardless of industry — email marketing can help you foster better customer relationships and build a stronger brand to help you keep growing.

Small business owners often assume that small business email marketing isn’t effective — and that email is just for the big guys.

But they’re wrong!

Email marketing is frequently cited as the most lucrative form of online marketing boasting an ROI of 4400%. And the good news is that this massive ROI isn’t just reserved for the big players. Even little guys on small budgets can profit substantially from email marketing!

So what are you waiting for?! It’s time to get your small business started with email marketing and we’re here to help. This article is divided into two categories:

  • How to launch a small business email marketing strategy
  • 10 small business email marketing tips for 2021

Launching your small business email marketing strategy in 4 easy steps

Building a successful email strategy really boils down to four things:

  • Email list building
  • Planning out the types of emails you need
  • Email design and content creation
  • Sending the campaign and studying the results

1. Start building your list

Before you start sending out emails, you need to have contacts to send those emails to.

In order to do that, you need to create a signup form and place it on your website, social media, and anywhere else you see fit. Be sure to include text that explains what users are signing up for when they give you their email.

When setting up your email subscription form, be sure to avoid common mistakes so you can be sure to get the largest number of subscribers. This will help you reach a larger audience and continue to grow your small business through email marketing.

Also, for those operating in the EU or have customers in the EU, make sure you follow GDPR guidelines for compliance.

2. Decide which emails you want to send

Now that you’ve started to grow your list of contacts, it’s time to decide which types of emails you want to send.

The types of emails you send will depend on what type of small business you have. It’s always safe to start with a monthly email newsletter. Some other examples might include:

  • Promotional emails for special offers or sales
  • Seasonal messages (for holidays or special events)
  • Loyalty programs for your most dedicated customers
  • Transactional emails (eCommerce receipts, appointment notifications, etc.)

3. Create your email designs and content

After planning out the emails you want to send, you’ll need to actually create the content and email designs.

The key to this step is to always keep your customer and the goal of your email campaign in mind. You want the content of your message to be clear along with the action you want subscribers to take.

Writing the email content for your campaigns

The best way to write targeted content is to first segment your email contacts into smaller lists with similar interests.

If you send a mass email to all of your contacts, it’s nearly impossible to craft a message that is relevant for everyone. But if you’re able to find contacts with similar needs or interests and group them together, this challenge goes away.

There are a number of ways you can segment contacts depending on the data you have, including:

  • Demographics (gender preference, age group, geography)
  • Past purchase behavior (preferred product categories, number of purchases, whether or not past purchases were during promotions or sales)
  • Brand loyalty (new leads, longtime customers, VIPs)
  • Email engagement (customers who click on all of your emails vs. those who have never opened an email)

Once you break out your contacts into small groups like this, it becomes much easier to craft a message that resonates with your audience and drives more engagement.

Creating the design of your emails

Another important element of building your emails for your email marketing strategy is the design.

The number one thing to keep in mind with small business email marketing is that you don’t need to be over the top with your designs. Email is supposed to save you time, so don’t waste it trying to create the next Mona Lisa with your monthly newsletter.

When thinking about your design, make sure you add a very clear call-to-action (CTA) button that corresponds to your offer in the email and tells readers what you want them to do.

CTAs are usually a button that sends readers to your site to:

  • Read an article you’re promoting
  • Browse through new products on your site
  • Make a purchase using a discount code
  • Download an eBook that you wrote

Whatever you’re promoting, make sure you have a clear CTA for the readers. If you’re not sure about what the best practice are, look for some call to action examples to get inspiration.

You should also avoid having more than one main CTA. This can get confusing for the readers. If you have more than one goal in mind for an email campaign (e.g. you’re promoting multiple articles), create a hierarchy to let contacts know which is the most important. This will improve your click rates and conversions.

For a foolproof process for creating successful campaign, check out our email marketing checklist.

4. Press send and analyze the performance to improve future campaigns

If you think you’re done once you hit ‘send’, think again!

Email marketing provides a unique opportunity to learn from your customers. You should always be analyzing the performance of your emails regarding your email marketing KPIs.

If you notice certain types of emails perform poorly with your audience, look for new ways to improve on the next campaign.

10 small business email marketing tips for 2021

Now that you know how to launch an email marketing strategy for your small business, what’s next? To get better and better results, of course! ?

When creating email campaigns, routine is the enemy. You should always be on the lookout for new email marketing tips that could be the secret weapon to unlocking the true potential of your emails.

Inboxes in 2021 are going to be a battlefield for marketers. Your contacts are receiving more and more email solicitations from other companies and competitors. So you’re going to have to fight for the attention you deserve.

Here are 10 email marketing tips for small businesses to help you beat the inbox competition in 2021.

1. Quality over quantity

One of the keys to email deliverability and engagement in 2021 will be the quality of your email content. Forget about the number of emails you send. Nobody likes to be bombarded with constant promotional messages.

Instead, focus on writing emails that your subscribers actually want to read.  Always ensure your campaigns include value-added content for your subscribers.

2. Use an embedded sign-up form rather than a link in your menu

Many sites still use a link when asking people to sign up for their newsletter. But, why use a link when you can just embed a form directly in your website?

3. Encourage sign-ups anywhere you can

Still on the topic of sign-up forms, make sure you give your customers as many chances as possible to subscribe to your emails!

One of the best email marketing tips we can give you is this: Pepper your website with email sign-up forms wherever appropriate. Include a sign-up CTA on your homepage, contact page, and your footer.

If you have an ecommerce store, be sure to provide an option on the checkout page to opt-in to emails while customers are already submitting their email addresses to complete orders.

4. Make your emails mobile-friendly and optimized for purchases

More than 50% of Americans are reading emails on their phones so make sure your emails are mobile-responsive. In 2021 there’s really no way around it. Your email design absolutely has to “respond” to the type of screen (desktop, tablet, mobile)that your reader is using and render accordingly to provide the best experience.

The last thing you want is your subscribers to have difficulties reading your emails. All it takes these days is one negative experience for a consumer to lose trust in a brand.

What’s more, people aren’t just reading emails on their phones – they’re also using them to complete purchases. Make sure that any webpages your email links to are fully optimized for mobile conversions.

5. Create a list segment for your most engaged customers

If you have repeat customers or subscribers who are already engaging with your emails, this is a fantastic opportunity to build brand loyalty and increase sales. These subscribers have shown a deeper level of interest in your business and these relationships should be cultivated.

A great way to do this is to create an email list specifically for these contacts. That way you can send them special offers and discounts to encourage them to make purchases through your business. 

6. Send automated emails

If your small business still isn’t sending automated emails, then make it happen in 2021. Automated emails save you a lot of time and do wonders for growing customer relationships.

If you send a regular newsletter, set up an automated welcome email for new subscribers. This will start your relationship off on the right foot and build trust between your brand and your new contacts.

You can also set up automated emails based on a contact’s past behavior. For example, you can contact your users about their favorite products or complementary products to items they recently purchased.

7. Make your emails accessible to readers with cognitive or visual impairments

Having accessible content is going to be a hot topic for email marketers in 2021. Email accessibility refers to having content that can be accessed by visually-impaired subscribers using voice assistants and screen readers.

There are few things you can do to make sure your emails are accessible:

  • Make your content concise and legible. Use bullet points, short sentences, and avoid difficult words.
  • Use headers so that screen readers can figure out the hierarchy of the content.
  • Provide helpful descriptions in the ALT Tags of any images.
  • Choose a font, layout, and colours that make the email as readable as possible.
  • Use descriptive anchor text for any links. For someone using a screen reader, a link labelled ‘Click here’ doesn’t provide enough information about the destination URL.

8. Stick to your sign-up promise!

Now that permission-based email marketing has become the norm, inboxes have become somewhat of sacred space. For many the inbox represents a curated collection of personal content.

It comes as no surprise then that people are a lot more cautious about what they sign up to with their email address. Further to that, they don’t think twice about hitting ‘unsubscribe’ if the content loses its relevance.

To retain your subscribers you need to religiously stick to your sign-up promise in terms of content and timing. If you promise a monthly newsletter on chocolate cake recipes, then you send that newsletter with chocolate cake recipes on a set day every month.

9. Get new subscribers to add you to their list of contacts

What’s one way to increase your chances of showing up in your subscriber’s inbox? By being in their address book!

When sending out a welcome email to new subscribers, include text that asks them to add your sending email address to their contacts list. This email marketing tip will improve your deliverability because the contacts are essentially telling their email service that they want to get your emails.

Another tip for increasing your open rates for subscribers who use Gmail: Ask them to move your email from the ‘Promotions’ tab to the ‘Primary’ tab.

10. Make sure your email design reflects your brand

Your emails should be instantly recognizable and always reflect your brand. This means keeping your logo at the top and following your brand design guidelines for fonts, color palette, image, styles, and everything in between.

You can (and should) also use similar elements from your website design, such as the navigation bar, to make your emails even more user friendly and consistent with your brand.

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