Email Marketing For Small Business Owners

A staggering 69.7% of Internet users state email to be the preferred method of communication from businesses. It’s clear that email is where your customers want to be reached.  And the customer is always right.

Email marketing is one of the most direct ways of contacting customers, and building and sustaining strong relationships with them.  Despite the overwhelming argument for email, small business owners still tend to shy away from the channel in favour of simpler, more familiar methods of communication such as Social Media and their website.

With 4,300% ROI – for ever $1 spent on email, businesses receive $4300 in return (ExactTarget, 2014) – email is significantly more effective than SEO, Direct Marketing and Social Marketing.

If you’re starting out with email, follow our easy steps to email success.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Define Your Strategy
Before you embark on this new marketing initiative, take a step back and work out what you’re trying to achieve from it.  Are you looking for leads? Sales? Regular communication with your customers?  Once you’ve got a clear direction in mind, you can use it to inform your overall email strategy.

What’s In it For Customers?

You’re going to get in touch with your customers more regularly, which can only be positive for your business.  But what’s in it for them? Why should they hand over their personal details to you? It’s important to define this right from the beginning.  If you don’t have anything valuable to offer, who’s going to bother to read it, let alone sign up.

Know your Competition

In order to inform your own email strategy, it can be useful to consider what competitors in your space are doing.  Don’t be shy about signing up to their emails and look to them for guidance on timing, frequency and even the type of products they promote.  After all, their customers are your customers – or at least fit the same profile.  With a good understanding of what they are doing, you can use their experience and actions to help inform your strategies.

Step 2: Define your Content

Design Your Email

Ensure your email looks well presented and professional.  Use your brand colours and logo in the header so that there is an immediate sense of familiarity with the customer upon opening. You have just 3-4 seconds to grab your readers’ attention and interest them enough to open and read your email (Source: Litmus, 2013) so make it stand out.  Content should be scannable and broken into short paragraphs, with the most important messages clear upon opening.

Make it Mobile

After reporting on one of our clients, we have found that 61% of all email opens are on a mobile device. Mobile email use is taking over desktop, so everything you send should be mobile friendly.  Ensure your email design is mobile responsive and looks as good on the desktop screen as it does on mobile, otherwise you’re losing almost half of your potential market straight away.

Create a Content Calendar

Sending one email out and then forgetting about it, can be worse than not having an email at all.  You’ve captured the interest of your subscribers, and they want to hear from you.  Ensure you send regular emails by creating a publishing calendar that defines future content, topics and designs.  Have a few emails ready to go before you send your first one so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute for content.

Step 3: Grow Your List

Create a Subscription Form

Make is as easy as possible to subscribe.  Create a subscription form that gethers the bear minimum amount of data that you need (ie. name and email address).  Put it on every page of your website, and even consider a pop-up to draw attention to it.  Remember to include ‘What’s in it for Them’ on every form.

Use Social Media

If your business is active on Social Media, you already have a group of followers that want to hear from you.  Promote your email across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other sites you’re active on.   Ask your followers to register, but also explain the benefits of doing so

Make it Sharable

The best way to grow your email list is to create content that people want to share with others.  If your subscribers share your email with their online networks, it will significantly expand your organic reach.  Emails with social sharing buttons increase click through rates by 158%. (Nonprofit Hub), so be sure to include these in your design.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

Growing a list organically can be tedious and time consuming, but it’s worth it when you create a list of subscribers that truly want to hear from you.  If you take the easy road and buy an email list, you’re likely to regret it in the long run – shortcuts don’t bring results.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Efforts

Look at Your Statistics

Every time you send an email, you should monitor its performance so that you can learn from it for next time.  Even the most basic email platforms offer statistics.  Always look at your open rate and click through rate, and pay more attention to specific details such as the parts of your email that are being clicked.  This can help inform what information your customers are interested in and what to do more if in future emails.

Test Everything

When it comes to email, don’t just monitor, but test continuously.  Timing, content, subject line and use of images can all be tested in order to give you the best idea what works for you and your customers.  Remember that there’s always room for improvement, so even if you think you’ve found the perfect structure, there are always things that can be tested.  Furthermore, results can be used to inform other marketing initiatives such as the content you post, and the best call to action to use, so devote enough time to get the most out of your reports.

Email is one of the best lead generation tools for small and medium sized businesses.  But, before you go down the email route, remember the golden rule: only send an email if you have something to say!


Kim McNeil is a Marketing consultant at The Lead Agency, a Melbourne based B2B Marketing Agency.  A certified Google expert, with focus on Content Marketing, SEO, Adwords & Analytics, she knows what it takes to convert marketing conversations into sales.  Link: