Email marketing – a guide for small businesses

I recently had an interesting conversation with a small business owner, who did not want to bother with email marketing and did not understand the value. It was an interesting view and one that confused me slightly. Email marketing for small businesses is like a gift and in our “Email marketing – a guide for small businesses” we consider some of the key things you need to work through, to ensure your activity is a success Yes, it takes time to plan what you are going to say, but you are likely to be planning your content for the month ahead anyway. With an estimated return on investment (ROI) of 40:1 – Why would you not look to use this valuable marketing tool?

Despite the increasing popularity of other digital communications such as social media, email marketing has managed to continue to be a key player in the marketing mix for any small business owner.  With an estimated 306.4 billion emails sent and received each day in 2020 and the total number of global email users expected to reach a total of 4.6 billion in 2025, there is a strong argument to say that it is still a valid way for us to connect with our ideal client. (Source: Statistica).

It is almost impossible to browse the Internet in today’s digital world without brands asking us to sign up to a newsletter, in exchange for a special offer or incentive. The reason for this is that businesses are very keen to obtain the email address of those visiting their website, why? Well, because it shows that these visitors have expressed an interested in your brand, they have heard about you and looking to discover more. As the brand owner, you want to introduce yourself, show them around and take them on a customer journey, to build a relationship with them and ultimately making a purchase of your product or service. All of this happening for a relatively low level of investment. So, what do we need to consider? Below we share our top seven tips for email marketing – a guide for small business owner, to get you started:

1. What are you trying to achieve?

Before you begin email marketing, you need to be clear on what it is you are trying to achieve. Just sending an email because you think you should, does not work. It should form part of your content strategy and compliment the other parts of your marketing activity. Before you even begin to write your copy, be clear on what you think success looks like. Do you want your audience to read your latest blog, book onto a workshop or purchase your product or service? for example.

2. Get Personal

It is all about delivering the right message, to the right person at the right time. By defining your target audience and personalising your communications to answer the challenges they are facing, underpins all of your marketing activity. By being clear which segment of your base you are talking to will also make this easier. Make the content relevant to me, perhaps use my name in the subject line eg: “Sophie, we have a special offer for you” or in the welcome sentence “Dear Sophie”.

3. Segment your base

By grouping likeminded customers together based on their needs, life stage or purchase history, can really help you to tailor your messaging accordingly. Through the support of a CRM system you can make this work even more efficiently. Boots for example does this really well. My birthday is in August and even year they send me special offers for my birthday month, based on my purchase history, so they are actually of perceived value. I am sure behind the scenes I have tags against my file that has my birthday month, that I like Sanctuary products and often buy children’s products.

4. Email Automation

Email deployment tools are now so sophisticated that you can set them up deploy a series of emails out to a customer or potential customer to help them convert or encourage them to buy more. So, if you were a clothing brand, say Next or Hobbs, if I have just bought a dress from you, don’t send me an email to buy another one, focus on some shoes or a jacket that might go with it. As a small business owner there are some great free tools out there that can help you to do this, two ones most commonly used are: Mail Chimp and Mailer Lite.

5. How often should I send an email?

One of the biggest objections I hear from many small business owners, is that they don’t want to bombard their customers or potential customers with lots of emails. I completely agree! The suggestion is to build frequency to remind your base you are there, but to also only commit to what you can deliver when you are really busy. There is no point promising a weekly email, if when you get busy you don’t send one for a month. A good place to start is to plan and design a monthly newsletter, as your business grows; and your systems increase with sophistication, then start to get cleverer with frequency and what you deploy. Always remember your audience’s time is valuable to be sure to add value to their day.

6. Grow your base

You will find that your email base will evolve and change. Don’t be offended it people unsubscribe, you wish to ensure that you have a strong base of potential customers who wish to hear from you, rather than a base which is completely disengaged. It is better to have a smaller engaged base, vs a large disinterested base. Don’t forget about GDPR, ensure you treat your audience’s data with respect and gain opt in where relevant.

7. How did you do?

Email marketing is brilliant at quickly assessing if it has worked or not. Generally, you see the open rate within about 4 hrs from the time you deploy your newsletter. So, with this in mind it is also key to be really considered in the day and time you deploy your emails. For example, I used to work for a large hotel chain, they identified through customer research, that there was a tipping point at about 6pm on Wednesday evenings when people would start to think about the weekend ahead and be in the right frame of mind to book a last minute weekend break. Great insight, so that is when the last minute offers email used to drop Into their inbox. You can easily check open and click through rates, quickly understanding which content people liked best and of course if you are more sophisticated, you can also track straight through to purchase.

Don’t forget that you can also conduct an A/B split test on your creative, subject line or content, this can be really insightful and really help support you to hone your marketing messaging. Unfortunately this facility now requires some investment into most email marketing deployment tools.

In conclusion, email marketing for any small business owner really can be a gift, done well it can remind your audience that you are there, keeping you forefront of mind, communicating how you can help them and complement your other marketing activity. All elements for the marketing tool kit have their role to play and email marketing is still very definitely an important part of that mix.

If you have enjoyed our “Email Marketing – a guide for small businesses” and would like to kick start your email marketing, why on check out our “Email Marketing Master Class” or if you have a question, please get in touch to arrange a no obligation discovery call.

Sophie Comas

A highly successful self-motivated and results driven, senior marketing professional. My passion lies within developing and delivering marketing solutions which make a difference in today's complex digital market place. A marketeer with a strong academic background and broad ranging level of experience working with small businesses and in the travel and hospitality sector, across the Thames Valley, I love a challenge!

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