How to Use Email Marketing for Small Businesses

With lower resources compared to bigger companies, small business owners and marketers need to choose their battles. With digital marketing, it’s best to stick to the essentials: a destination page and a means to lead people there.

A destination page, or the place where you want people to contact you or view your products, can either be a website or social media page. But when it comes to attracting traffic and conversions, stick to the most effective channel: email.

Source: Content Marketing Institute

87% of top-performing B2B marketers and 80% of B2C marketers use email as their primary content marketing method for nurturing customers. So if you need to spend extra time and resources on one main digital channel, email is the way to go.

Here’s a five-step overview on how to build and tailor email campaigns for small businesses.

STEP 1: List Segmentation

You definitely want to avoid readers deleting your emails, being marked as read without an open, or getting flagged as spam. Avoid these issues with a one-size-fits-all approach—send the right emails to the right people from the beginning.

80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company offering personalized experiences. This is what list segmentation is for. Don’t send an email using US spelling and grammar to a list of people living in the UK, for example.

A few suggestions on how to segment your email lists:

  • Geographic Area: 86% of consumers rely on the internet to find a local business. Segment emails according to location, especially ones near your business. It gives users the information they need right in their inbox.
  • Demographics: Sending out emails for specific products? Send it to those more likely to buy. Demographics can range from age, gender, company position, and more. Select whichever suits your promotions.
  • Purchase History: Use this list if you want to give something special (like a promo code) to loyal customers. Or, on the flip side, if you want to entice those who’ve never made a purchase.


STEP 2: Storytelling

Craft your email copy with intention. Who and what are your products and services for? Think about the aspirational aspect of your products rather than a bare description. This means you need to move towards thinking of your customers as individuals rather than a collective group of data.

This way, you can combine written copy with related images that can instill a specific emotion in your readers. Check out the email from Stumptown Coffee Roasters below:

Source: Campaign Monitor

They decided to promote their road trip ready coffee brewing gear by playing on the “to-go” aspect of ordering a coffee. Spinning a familiar phrase into something new—a pun of sorts—makes an interesting headline, especially when paired with a travel-associated image like a map. This appeals to a specific customer type: one who loves to travel but also loves having a good cup of coffee.


STEP 3: Responsiveness

The new rule for email marketing: mobile-first design. In contrast to just a few years ago, increased accessibility to smartphones and data plans has allowed most of the world to adopt a mobile mindset. Generation Z, in particular, is accustomed to always being on mobile—A Google study found that 78% of 13-17-year-olds have a mobile device and 53% use smartphones for online purchases. That number goes even higher the older a demographic gets.

Source: Think With Google

It isn’t just Generation Z shifting the status quo away from desktop computers. 56% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device.

What does this mean for small business marketers designing email campaigns?

Design emails to be viewed in one column. You want the experience to be as seamless and visually pleasing as possible. Having to pinch and swipe to read the content of an email could cause your audience to lose interest.

Make the experience uniform. Any links in a mobile-optimized email should open in an equally mobile-optimized website or app. If you’re selling a product and your email looks great, but the ‘add to cart’ or ‘buy’ buttons are hidden somewhere else, that could cost you significant conversions.


STEP 4: Putting it All Together

Now you know the frameworks behind creating good email marketing campaigns. The next step is to give yourself some variety in the emails you send out. If you’re focusing on email marketing, you can allocate more resources to making different emails for different situations.

  • Newsletters – Small businesses have great stories behind them. Sending out regular newsletters containing product updates and some behind-the-scenes anecdotes lets you build a connection with readers by involving them in your journey.
  • Flash deals and sales – Everyone loves an exclusive discount, and this can be a pleasant surprise for anyone’s inbox. You can use this to entice repeat customers, but also encourage first-timers to take the leap into finally purchasing something.
  • Seasonal emails – Keep an eye on your calendar and tailor your copy and imagery to fit the particular season or holiday. Some small businesses are especially busy around certain seasons, so take advantage of that to boost marketing initiatives.


STEP 5: Measure Results with the Right Benchmarks

It doesn’t stop with crafting the content of your emails and sending them out to your audience. It’s essential for any small business to identify what works. You want to prevent excess spend on ineffective strategies as much as possible. That’s why you need to measure the results of your email campaigns.

Below is a list of the email marketing benchmarks you need for measuring performance:

  • Open Rate
  • Click-through Rate
  • Unsubscribe Rate
  • Click-to-open Rate
  • Spam Rate
  • Bounce Rate
  • Deliverability

Comparing your results with industry averages provides a snapshot of how your campaigns are performing. Analytics gives you an idea of what parts of your emails you need to refine (or even disregard) in the future.

Final Thoughts 

Consumers want to connect with the brands they buy from. By using email to inspire the feeling of direct communication with your audience, you can tell your small business’ story in a more personal, engaging way.