Strategic, professional and personalized email campaigns aren’t just for big companies. Email marketing is a powerful communication tool that works for small businesses too. Strong ROI, automated sending and premade templates make email marketing a worthy investment.
Why email marketing?
While some marketing tactics are implemented to build brand awareness or share corporate news, small businesses’ marketing goals usually involve driving immediate sales. Email campaigns deliver some of marketing’s largest returns on investment (ROI). Some studies claim ROI as high as $44 for every $1 spent.
Email is not affected by an algorithm. This means that, unlike social media and organic search efforts, email can be optimized based on industry best practices for great results. It’s predicted there will be over 3.8 billion email users by the end of 2018. In comparison, social media users will number 2.95 billion by the end of 2020. This means that using email as a marketing tactic for your small business gives you access to almost a billion more people than social media.
Email marketing gives you the opportunity to personalize your messages to specific subscribers. Automatically using a subscriber’s first name in a greeting and splitting your email list into segmented groups are just two of the ways email can be used to share customized messages. This tailored communication encourages a relationship between your business and your (potential) customers.
Collecting Email Addresses
Before you begin sending emails, you need to collect email addresses. There are a lot of ways to do this without a large investment of time or money.
Import your existing email contacts. As a small business owner, you probably spend a lot of time emailing employees, suppliers and customers. Transfer any relevant email addresses from your personal account into the tool you’ll be using to send email campaigns. Make sure you remove out of date emails or typos to ensure you don’t trigger any spam filters.
Collect emails in person. Encourage customers to leave their email address while they’re in your store or at your event. Many shoppers will love getting updates and sign up without hesitation. If you know a client previously refrained from sharing their email address, don’t ask each time you see them.
Optimize your website. Capture website visitors’ email addresses with strategic forms. Placing a signup within your website’s footer or a sidebar means the option to join your mailing lists is always available. For a more visible signup option, consider a well-designed popup or a form within a relevant blog post.
You can also ask people to opt in to your email newsletters or automations when they reach out through your contact form or make a purchase via your ecommerce solution.
Small Business Email Marketing Ideas
Now that you have email addresses and are continuing to grow your list of subscribers, you’ll need to decide on an email communication strategy. There are plenty of ways to utilize your new collection of email addresses!
Welcome new subscribers. A welcome automation is a series of emails triggered when someone signs up for your emails. This doesn’t need to be long or incredibly detailed. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer interested in staying in touch with your business. A sincere “thank you” message followed by emails highlighting your most popular products, a collection of resources related to your company and links to your social media are all appropriate for almost any small business.
Send monthly newsletters. Keep potential customers, past clients and regulars up to date with your latest news. Upcoming events, in-store sales, press coverage and blog posts can all be included. Monthly newsletters are common; as long as you stick to a regular schedule, feel free to send weekly updates or scale back to semiannual emails.
Celebrate personalized milestones. One opportunity to personalize your email strategy is to celebrate customers’ relationships with your business. Send birthday messages, loyalty club standings or a note on the anniversary of their first purchase. This sounds time consuming, but in reality, these types of messages can be automated.
Remind customers about their carts. If you offer an online shopping experience, you probably have customers placing items in their shopping carts and leaving your site before making a purchase. With a little bit of integration, you can send emails to these website visitors reminding them to return to your site and purchase the items in their carts.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Following best practices increases delivery rates, as well as measurable metrics like open rate (the number of people opening your email) and click through rate (the number of people clicking on a link within your email).
Comply with CAN SPAM. CAN SPAM is an act created by the Federal Trade Commission with the aim of protecting customers from abusive emails. Violating this act can be costly, but it’s easy to comply. The FTC has an easy-to-follow compliance guide and email marketing tools help you email within the law. Most notably, you need to include a physical address and obvious unsubscribe button.
Use a high quality list of emails. An email will only deliver to an inbox if that inbox is valid. Otherwise, it “bounces.” If enough of your email addresses are invalid, it affects your reputation as a sender. As long as you’re collecting email addresses yourself and sending emails regularly (older addresses can bounce even if they were once valid), your bounce rate will stay in a healthy range.
Don’t be annoying. Because email marketing is so direct and personalized, it can begin to feel obtrusive to some customers. If your open rates dip downward or unsubscribes go up, consider sending less frequently.
Use tools to simplify email marketing. There are lots of affordable tools that make email marketing easier for small businesses. At Parkway, we love MailChimp!
Focus on subject lines. Before your subscribers can click on a link within your email, they need to open your email. What makes people open emails? Subject lines. Write a compelling subject line and preview text and consider testing variations through your email marketing tool. If it makes sense for your business, emojis in your subject lines can increase open rates. Be sure to avoid spammy words and phrases like “buy direct,” “cheap,” “save $,” and “free.” These will send your email straight to the spam folder.
Segment your email lists. Separating your email addresses into segmented lists helps you personalize your messages. Send specific messages to current customers and newsletter subscribers who have never made a purchase. Depending on your business, you may segment in other ways. If you sell clothing, you could separate by gender. For continuing education companies, separation by profession makes sense.
Design with mobile users in mind. Responsive web design is incredibly important because more and more users are viewing sites on their phones. The same is true of emails: 54% of emails are opened on mobile devices. To ensure your emails look good across all devices, use a responsive template and preview the template on your desktop and mobile device. Think about the action you want readers to take from your email and place your call to action in a place that viewers on all devices will see.
Send from a valid email address. You’re sending emails to your customers, so it’s only fair they should be able to send emails back to you. Use a valid email address you regularly check to make sure any questions or concerns are answered promptly.