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The small business guide to email marketing

An effective email marketing strategy is an essential part of any business, no matter the size of your business. It’s a surefire way to help nurture and retain existing customers and generate new ones. Best of all, you don’t need a massive marketing budget to build an effective email marketing strategy.  

Here are five ways to create an effective email marketing strategy. 

1. Have confidence in the plan

Before you begin an email marketing strategy, learn how and why this will impact your business. Also, you must have confidence in its potential. Don’t just start sending out emails without buying into your own plan.  

If you have any doubts, consider a relevant survey found most customers like getting promotional emails. A whopping 96% of people who earn $75,000 – $99,900 say they would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. Also, 92% of those earning $100,000 or more agree with this sentiment.  

Email marketing is also a great way to reach customers on mobile devices. The most popular activity for mobile users (59%) is checking and sending emails. Email marketing is cost-effective, too. The average return of around $40 for every dollar spent.

2. Build an email list 

You need an email list to reach your customers and target audience. You can collect these in a variety of ways: 

  • Do it is in person during checkout or via an in-store sign-up sheet.  
  • Get contact info through printed materials, or online via your website and social media channels. 

When customers say they want to receive emails from your businesses, they’re saying they want to gain value. Be ready to address their common concerns: 

  • What’s in it for me? Let them know how signing up to receive your emails benefits them—whether it’s through coupons and promos, rewards, product or service updates, contests, exclusive offers, or valuable content.  
  • Can I control the emails? Assure them that they can choose the frequency at which they receive emails. They should also know they can opt-out at any time. Let them choose the types they receive, like newsletters, blogs, discount offers, or electronic receipts.  
  • What happens next? Tell them what to expect now that they’ve signed up (e.g., you’ll be getting a verification email; you’ll be getting 20% off your next purchase). 

If your customers are signing up in person, you can relay this information first hand. If you’re targeting online customers via your website or through social media, you can capture potential subscribers in several ways. Standard practices often use bright and clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons or a well-placed contact form.  

Don’t feel tempted to purchase email lists from third-parties. Relying on an outside list is a risky move because the people on that list haven’t necessarily done business with you. Receiving another unsolicited email will likely be annoying and ineffective. It may also violate General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules

Once you’ve started to build your email list, it’s time to write targeted email content. In most cases, expect a slow start since it requires a bit of background information on your customers. But soon, you’ll be able to categorize email contacts into groups based on similar interests or attributes, like: 

  • Past-purchase behavior 
  • Demographics (age, gender, location, income level)  
  • Customer loyalty 

Using customer management software is a suitable way to gather this type of information. Until then, a simple, straightforward email with a clear CTA button will suffice. Make sure it’s responsive so that viewing on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device is easy.  

3. Set up drip email campaigns  

Customers should be able to choose the type and frequency of emails they get from your business. That’s where a drip campaign comes in handy. The name gets its inspiration from drip irrigation methods used in farming, in which small amounts of water are used over long periods to water plants or crops.  

In other words, you’re nourishing your crops in hopes of creating a bounty. In email marketing, it means you’re nurturing your relationships by sending out a series of automated emails. The drip campaigns can be based on a specific campaign schedule or based on actions customers take.  

Drip campaigns work for someone who fits into a specific category or segmentation. That helps ensure they’re receiving the right email at precisely the right time, and eventually leading them to purchase. Most small businesses have a go-to email drip campaign for new customers and another one for existing customers.  

A new customer drip campaign might look something like this: 

  • Welcome email  
  • Promo email for first-time purchase 
  • Relevant content of interest 
  • Cart abandonment (reaching out to customers who add items to cart, but leave before checking out)  
  • Thank you for your purchase 

An existing customer drip campaign may look something like this: 

  • New product release/updates 
  • Regular content marketing emails (sending valuable, non-advertising content to build trust and brand loyalty.  
  • Social promotions  
  • Seasonal promotions  

4. Test and learn 

As you gain experience with email marketing, you’ll be able to experiment with different tactics to see if small changes can impact your results. For example, you can send half your email list a message with one subject line and half another subject line and then compare results. 

These tests should be side-by-side comparisons, also known as A/B testing. For example, comparing one subject line versus another subject line. You run into problems if you’re testing things that aren’t comparable like a subject line vs. a discount offer. 

How do you know if your email program is working? As a small business owner, you may be able to notice the results first hand. You’ll also learn to start tracking key performance indicators like conversion, which means your email inspired an action. That action may be getting a customer to open an email, click a CTA button, fill out an online form, or purchase a product.  

5. Make email marketing social and mobile  

Email and social media play nicely together, especially on mobile devices. If you have some compelling, high-performing social content, try including it in emails to increase visibility.  

You can also do this by adding social logos in your emails, which encourages people to follow your other channels. If you have a website, you should also include a link to that. 

Making emails mobile-friendly matters. There’s nothing worse than opening an email and having to pinch and resize to try to see the content. A recent survey found that 40 percent of respondents say the marketing emails they receive are not optimized for their mobile device.  

Here is your chance to set yourself apart from the rest. Optimizing email for various devices will only increase your open-rates. In turn, this raises your opportunities to convert content to revenue.   

If you’re interested in learning more best practices for small business digital marketing, check out  The Complete Guide to Content Marketing and Four Hacks for Entrepreneur’s Social Media Marketing.

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Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.