You may have heard the term “email marketing,” or come across it in a blog you read, but what is it exactly and how can you use it?
Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that uses email as a way to communicate and connect with a targeted group of people to achieve a specific goal, like increasing leads, closing more business, retaining clients, or increasing interactions with clients.
While it’s not the newest or trendiest marketing strategy small businesses can use to achieve their marketing goals, email is a proven solid investment for businesses of all sizes. If you’re not sure about the effectiveness of email marketing has to offer, check out these statistics.
As digital marketing evolves with newer ways to grab peoples’ attention, email marketing gets a bad rap because it’s no longer the newest or trendiest thing out there. If you’ve heard the myth that email marketing is dead, don’t believe it. It’s not. Email marketing is still alive and one of the most effective ways to communicate with leads and clients.
Even if you’re in favor of using newer marketing methods, like SMS, chatbots, or Facebook and Instagram ads, email marketing should still be a part of your overall marketing strategy.
If email marketing is new for you, or you’re not sure how to use email marketing to get optimal results, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about email marketing, and how you can use it in your business.
When compared to other digital marketing strategies, email marketing is an effective and powerful strategy for small businesses. It offers many benefits, especially for businesses on a tight marketing budget. With a well thought out email marketing strategy, emails can be the most valuable communication channel for small business.
Still wondering if email marketing is worth your time or whether or not your business will benefit from it? Surely these benefits will convince you it’s time to stop wondering and start doing.
Email marketing is cost effective (and the ROI is amazing)
When it comes to affordable marketing, email marketing is your best option. There are no print costs involved, no advertising rates to sweat about, and no postage fees to deal with. As mentioned in the statistics earlier, for every $1.00 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25.
Email marketing is targeted at the right audience
With help from client management software with email marketing built right in, you can segment your leads and clients into organized buckets based on their demographics, product or service preferences, buying behavior, and more. That way you can personalize your emails for each lead or client depending on the segment they’re in and get results from your marketing emails.
Email marketing helps you build trust with leads and clients
Building relationships with leads and clients takes time. Email marketing can help you develop relationships with leads and turn them into clients. Just like any relationship, communication is key. Email marketing allows you to communicate with leads so you can move them through the buying process while earning their trust.
Email marketing increases brand awareness
When you send email to people who have subscribed to your email list, it increases their exposure to your business and your brand. As long as you’re being mindful about how often you send emails, and including valuable content in your emails, over time your email subscribers will become more familiar with your brand and your business will be top of mind when they’re ready to purchase your product or service.
Email marketing makes it easy for you to stay connected
Re-engaging with unconverted leads you haven’t heard from is easier with email marketing. A re-engagement email is a great way to reach out and gauge someone's level of interest in your business.
The great thing about email marketing is that you can do so much with it.
Let’s go through some of the different ways you can use email marketing in your small business.
Welcome people with open arms
Welcome emails are used to introduce yourself and your business to people you just met or people who just showed interest in your business by subscribing to receive information or promotions from your business.
The nice thing about welcome emails is that people want to receive them. On average, they’re opened by 50% of people. And when the email is sent in real time, like right after someone signs up to get emails from your business, the open rate jumps to 88%.
Here’s an example of a good welcome email from The Modern Desk. The owner of The Modern Desk does a good job of sending an email introducing himself to new email subscribers—self-portrait included —so they can put a face to a name. He also does a good job of setting expectations on how often he’s going to send an email.
We know getting started with email marketing can feel daunting so we put together a complete welcome email guide to help you put your best foot forward with the perfect welcome email along with more examples of welcome emails to inspire you.
Send out an offer that’s hard to resist
People love receiving coupons and special offers from businesses. Sending out special offers, like a flash sale, is a great way to bring in new sales or pique the interest of clients you haven’t heard from in a while.
Check out this flash sale email example from Designmodo. Talk about grabbing your reader’s attention. Not only is the design eye-catching, but their offer is hard to resist.
Wish someone a happy birthday or happy holidays
Everyone enjoys a little birthday wish or holiday greeting. Sending birthday emails and holiday emails to leads and clients improves your relationship with them by making them feel special and showing them you care. While you’re at it, throw in a gift like a birthday or a holiday special coupon or a valuable piece of content (e.g., ebook, podcast recording, etc.).
Here’s an example from Grammarly encouraging customers to continue their subscription by offering a discount on their 1-year anniversary.
Here’s an example of a holiday email from NextDoor. In this email, they offer helpful advice and tips their readers will find useful during the holiday season. Remember, you don’t always have to offer a discount. People also appreciate information that can help them solve a problem or simplify their life.
Stay on your subscribers’ radar
Just because someone subscribes to your email list, doesn’t mean they’re going to remember your business. People are busy and moving from one thing to the next. That’s why it’s important to stay on their radar by always following up and staying top of mind with your email subscribers.
Email helps you stay connected. One of the most popular ways small businesses stay connected is by sending an email newsletter. It can include content like blogs you’ve recently written, information about your business or industry, or tips and advice.
Reconnect with clients
Remember Bob? The one who said he wanted to get more work done in a few months? It can be easy to forget Bob, especially when you’re busy running a small business, and even more so if you’re doing it all on your own.
With a bit of help from client management software, you can set up automatic processes that help keep you connected with leads and clients like Bob so you’re not missing out on opportunities to close more business.
It may feel overwhelming getting started, but the good news is there are ways you can streamline email marketing and make it automatic so you’re not spending so much time working on maintaining it. Client management software like Keap can help you launch and maintain a successful email marketing program for your business.
Email marketing is exciting, but before you get started, you need to be aware of some important regulations and best practices. Understanding email regulations and best practices will help you protect your sender reputation and increase the number of your marketing emails that make it into your email subscribers’ inboxes versus getting blocked. This is also referred to as email deliverability.
As you familiarize yourself with email marketing, you’ll quickly realize there are many acronyms used that you may not be familiar with. To help you out, we put together a glossary of email marketing terms you can reference as you go through this section.
The foundation of successful email marketing is a good sender reputation. Think of it like your credit score. It takes time to build up a good score, but it can easily and quickly be destroyed. Maintaining your sender reputation through email marketing best practices will help you get your marketing emails successfully delivered to their goal destination—the inbox.
1. The content you include in your emails
The content that goes into your emails will impact your sender reputation and deliverability. Things like:
When you’re putting together your email content, think of the people who are receiving it. Make sure your email content is relevant and actionable with a call-to-action (CTA), including the email subject line.
2. The email service provider (ESP) you use
The reputation of the ESP you use (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) and their deliverability standards can also affect your email deliverability. The good news is ESPs want to maintain a high deliverability rate and they proactively monitor their customers to make sure they maintain good standings. The bad news is ESPs can change their deliverability standards without notice and send your email deliverability on a downward spiral. Email content that was once considered average can suddenly become bad and get blocked without you even know why things suddenly changed.
While you can’t control your ESPs deliverability rate or changes they make to their standards, you can make sure you’re doing your part by only sending emails to people who have given you permission to send them marketing emails, and only sending emails containing content they’re interested in.
3. Your sender domain
This is the domain part of your email address. It starts with the “@” and ends with “.com.” Unlike an ESP where you can switch providers, your sender domain follows you wherever you go.
Next, let’s go over some key email marketing best practices that will be vital to the success of your email marketing program.
Know and follow email-related laws
Email-related laws like the CAN-SPAM Act, Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL), and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) protect consumers and their personal information. Make sure you’re aware of the laws, including international laws because you may have email subscribers who live in other countries.
As a business owner, you are required to follow the laws of your country and other countries. Failing to comply with email-related laws can hurt your sender reputation and result in serious legal consequences.
Get permission from email subscribers
While it may be tempting to start sending marketing emails right away to see the type of results you’ll get, asking people for permission to send them marketing emails is a critical best practice. This is also referred to as opting-in. According to the CAN-SPAM Act, it’s illegal to send spam—unsolicited, commercial, bulk email.
2 ways to ask for permission:
Online: When someone visits your website and signs up to get emails from you (e.g., subscribes to receiving a newsletter, discounts, etc.), include an unchecked checkbox so people can choose to leave it unchecked if they don’t want to receive marketing emails from you or check the box if they agree to receive marketing emails from you.
In-person: When you meet someone in person, ask them if you can send them ongoing marketing emails to the address they shared with you.
And to be absolutely certain you have permission, we recommend double opt-in. After getting their permission, confirm it by sending them a double opt-in link. People who double opt-in are truly interested in your business and will most likely open your emails and take action.
Set expectations with your email subscribers
When people sign up to receive your emails, they don’t know how often they’ll receive your emails. Set expectations early on, like when you send a welcome email after they subscribe to your email list. Tell them how often you’ll send them emails and the type of information you’re going to include in your emails.
Play it safe with content
When writing marketing emails, it’s best to keep your content conservative and avoid anything that might be considered questionable or inappropriate. Even if someone agrees to receive emails from you, their spam filters will pick up on any questionable content and block your emails. Eventually, this will come back and haunt your email sender reputation and negatively impact your email deliverability.
Focus on adding value, not the results
Email deliverability is important, but it’s not the only thing you should focus on. The quality of your emails will make a significant difference in your results. Quality emails have a personal feel to them and resemble a personal letter. They have a limited number of images and links in them, and avoid spammy words like “fast cash.”
Keep a clean email list
In the email marketing world, this is referred to as email list hygiene. It’s a good idea to regularly remove undelivered or bounced email addresses from your list and reach out to your entire list to see if they’re still interested in receiving emails from your business. Maintaining a clean email subscriber list means your list only contains people who have given you permission to receive your emails and they’re actively interacting, or engaging, with your emails.
Make it easy for people to unsubscribe
Yeah, it’s no fun when people want to stop receiving your emails, but you are required to include an unsubscribe link that’s easy to find in your marketing emails. It’s better to make it easy for people to leave than to continue sending emails to people who don’t want to receive your emails and end up marking them as spam.
The nice thing about email marketing is that you have some options for getting people to join your email list.
A landing page is any web page people land on (pun intended) after interacting with an ad or link. Most commonly, landing pages are used to get the person visiting the page to take a specific action, like making a purchase, downloading a document, or entering their contact information so they can receive something from you (discounts, newsletters, etc.). Once the person has entered their contact information, which includes their email address, they become part of your email list.
Here’s an example of a page that offers visitors something valuable in return for their contact information.
Once the visitor clicks the call-to-action (CTA) button to sign up, a pop-up appears where they can enter their information. It looks something like this:
Client management software like Keap can be helpful in capturing these types of leads because it will automatically add the person’s information to your email list. Then, after you’ve asked them for their permission to send marketing emails, you can include them in your email blasts and begin developing a relationship with them so you can turn them into a client.
A lead magnet is something that’s compelling enough to leads that they would give you their contact information to get it. Lead magnets work really well because they’re a win-win for your business and leads. Similar to landing pages, once you have someone’s contact information and their permission to send them marketing emails, you can keep them on your list and go from there.
Here’s an example of a lead magnet:
The way this lead magnet works is this: to get 10% off, the person has to sign up to receive email updates. If they really want the offer, they’ll provide their information.
See more lead magnet examples to get ideas and inspiration to help you build your email list.
Meeting people at live events you already go to, like conferences or local networking events, is a great way to build your email list at the event as you interact with people. The nice thing about live events is people can connect a face with a name so they may be more likely to remember you when they get your email.
These are just a few ways to build your email list. There are plenty more ways—get more ideas here. Plus, we asked 5 small businesses to share how they grow their email lists. Find out what other small businesses are doing to grow their email list.
The one thing you never want to do to build a list is to buy a list. While it may be tempting and will save you time in the short term, it’s always, always a bad idea.
4 reasons why you should never buy an email list:
1. It violates email-related laws
This reason alone should be enough to not buy email lists. Sending emails to people who don’t know you or give you permission to send them marketing emails isn’t worth the serious legal consequences and fines it could end up costing.
2. You'll damage your sender reputation and your brand
Nobody likes spam email, especially the people on the list and email service providers (ESPs). Your emails will likely be marked as spam by a significant amount of people on the list. And if that’s not reason enough, ESPs monitor everything in their system because they want to maintain a good sending reputation. Purchased email lists definitely raise a red flag in their system.
3. You won't get the quality you think you're getting
Even if you bought a targeted list with demographics you selected, the people on the list don’t know you and they didn’t give you permission to send them an email. Also, purchased lists are highly likely to contain addresses that are no longer active.
4. Engagement with your emails will be low
When you use a purchased list, you’re not purchasing subscribers who signed up to receive your emails, you’re purchasing contact information so you already have the odds stacked against you. People most likely won’t open your email, and even if they do, the chances of convincing them to engage, or take action, is slim to none.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s talk about the different things you can do with email campaigns.
Here’s an example of a newsletter email we send at Keap.
Each newsletter shares the 3 recent blog posts we’ve published along with a promotion to sign up for a free trial, demo, or any other promos we’re running at the time the newsletter is sent.
Newsletter email campaigns are effective because they help establish a relationship and earn trust with leads as you nurture them and move them forward in the buying process.
Chick-fil-A does a nice job of building up anticipation announcing a new service they’re adding in their app. It’s no surprise Chick-fil-A is always thinking about bringing their customers pleasure, is it?
They included CTA links to download the app to encourage email subscribers who don’t use the app to download it to take advantage of the coming-soon service. And for fun, they included a countdown clock to add to the excitement.
Here’s an example of a beautifully designed email from Flywheel that catches the reader’s attention with its bold color, and not to mention the CTA button to a free ebook.
You too can create beautiful emails like this one, and you don’t need to be a top-notch designer to do it. Client management software with email marketing features like Keap includes email templates you can customize with the ease of dragging and dropping images, text or image boxes, and more.
Transactional emails, like a notification email or an email containing a quote or invoice, are often overlooked when it comes to marketing. However, transactional emails can include up to 20% marketing or promotional material. They’re the ideal spot to upsell and cross-sell, and increase engagement with your clients.
Here’s an example of an invoice email which contains a small piece of promotional content—a subtle prompt inviting the reader to sign up for an upcoming webinar.
With a little bit of marketing in your transactional emails, you can stay connected, and keep the relationship from going stale.
Email marketing campaigns continue to be an effective strategy for developing relationships with leads and clients and still ranks as the highest in terms of ROI when compared to other marketing strategies.
Email list segmentation is a technique used in email marketing. Segmentation allows you to send targeted, personalized emails by organizing your email list into smaller segments based on things like product or service preferences, interests, behaviors, or any other criteria you choose to divide up your list.
Segmenting your list of email subscribers will result in better email marketing results because the emails your subscribers will receive contain only the information that’s relevant to them. Email list segmentation is a powerful technique that will help you send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Here are some examples of how you can segment people on your email list.
Birthdays can help you build relationships with people on your email list. People love celebrating their birthday or being celebrated on their special day. When you send a personalized birthday email, it adds a personal touch and makes the person receiving the email feel special.
How to use segmentation with birthdays:
Send a personalized birthday email on the email subscriber’s birthday wishing them a happy birthday and throwing in something free or a special birthday discount on your product or service.
Check out this birthday email from Runtastic:
If you offer multiple products or services, you can segment your email list based on the product or service people are interested in. When you segment this way, you’re able to send personalized emails that contain information that’s relevant to the reader.
Sending relevant content decreases the likelihood of people marking your emails as spam and it helps your subscribers trust you because they start to feel like you understand what they want and you’re not bothering them with email content they don’t care about.
If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, it can help you segment everyone on your email list. It’s faster—and more accurate—than trying to manage segmentation in a spreadsheet.
Writing marketing emails can be a bit of a challenge if writing isn’t your thing. You’re not sure what to write about, or you’re just strapped for time because you’re busy with all the other things that need your attention.
Here are some email content best practices you can use to help you craft your email messages, ensure they’re mobile-friendly, and send them with confidence.
Email copy is the main part of your email—it’s the message you’re sharing with your email subscribers. The copy is made up of text, links, images, and video. The type and the length of your copy depends on the people receiving your emails.
Email copy best practices that will make your emails stand out:
You probably already know this from all the marketing emails that make their way to your inbox. The subject line is super-important to getting your emails opened or read. Those few words (50 characters or less perform the best) will determine whether or not someone opens and reads your email.
Email subject line best practices that can boost email open rates:
As you start to think about subject lines for your emails, don’t shy away from creativity. Subject lines are the first thing that grabs your email subscriber’s attention. It needs to be creative and interesting.
The preview text is another piece of super-important email real estate that can impact open rates.
The preview text is the copy that’s located to the right of your subject line. You’ll want to include attention-grabbing secondary messaging next to your subject line.
Here’s an example of preview text:
Email preview text best practices that can boost email open rates:
Email CTAs, or calls-to-action, are a small part of your email copy, but they have a mighty job. CTAs encourage the reader to take action, like sign up for something or schedule a meeting with you.
Placing a direct, informative CTA in your email copy will increase engagement with your reader’s and help you achieve your email marketing goals.
CTA best practices that can increase email click-through rate (CTR):
Need more CTA ideas? We’ve compiled a list of 25 effective CTAs to inspire you and help you turn leads into clients.
Adding images and video to your marketing emails can help them stand out from the competition and increase engagement with your readers.
People love receiving videos in their email. Video has become increasingly effective because it’s easier than reading, it’s more engaging for the reader, and it gives them quick information. In fact, including the word “video” in the subject line increases open rates by 6%.
Best practices for using images and video in marketing emails:
Keep your email below 102KB to prevent your email from being marked as spam and delay loading times—think mobile-friendly. Fifty-five percent of marketing emails are opened on mobile devices.
Finally, before you hit send, make sure you take the time to proofread your email. It’s always a good idea to send a test to yourself to make sure the email loads properly, images are where they’re supposed to be, and links are working properly. View it on your desktop and mobile device to make sure it looks right on various platforms.
After all the work you put into creating marketing emails, you’ll want to know if your clients are opening your emails and taking the actions you hope they’ll take.
In this section, we’ll talk about email metrics, or measuring email marketing success. There are a few metrics to watch for in email marketing, but the email open rate and click-through rate (CTR) are 2 key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll want to measure to get the insight you need to determine what’s performing well and what’s not.
Email open rate is the percentage of people on an email list who open an email. Additionally, there is a unique open rate which measures the number of email recipients who opened the email at least once, and the non-unique open rate which measures how many times the email was opened by an individual person on your email list.
Email subject lines impact email open rates because they’re the hook that convinces someone to open or delete your email. Words and phrases you use in your email subject line can make a big impact on your open rate results. Keep subject lines in mind if you don’t get the results you want when you start sending marketing emails. They’re the first place you’ll want to test out different variations of copy to see what gets the best results.
Email click-through rate (CTR) measures how many times people click a link in your email. This metric is how you’ll know if email subscribers are engaging with your emails. There are a couple of different ways to measure CTR and a CTR calculation formula you can use to figure it out. The 2 ways to measure one click is either by individual clicks or the number of clicks made by an individual person.
As a rule of thumb, the best thing you can do to have a good CTR is to make sure you’re sending emails with content that’s engaging and relevant. Sending people content they’re interested in will make them naturally want to click on the call-to-action (CTA) link or button instead of unsubscribing.
Reports. Either you love them or you don’t. But even if you do love them, as a small business owner, you probably don’t have time to manually pull insights and put reports together to see how things are going with your marketing emails.
Fortunately, there are many options when it comes to email marketing software which includes email marketing reports so you don’t have to spend time hunting down metrics. And even better than that is client management software with email marketing features and reports so you can do everything from one place.
If you’re like most people and want to run in the other direction when you hear the word “reports” mentioned, you can rest assured knowing there are tools that have come a long way and will make email marketing easier from start to finish.
Running a successful email marketing program on your own is no easy feat, especially when you’re trying to run your business. But why go at it on your own (or hire someone to do it for you) when you can use automation to do the work for you?
You may think automation is too technical, or it’s difficult to use. However, there are many email marketing software options available today to make email marketing easy for small business. From easy-to-customize templates, automatically sending emails at the right time, to autoresponders that help you start building relationships with your email subscribers, there’s no reason why you’d want to do email marketing any other way, really.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways email marketing automation can help busy business owners.
Welcome people to your business
Welcoming someone you just met in person, or someone who just subscribed to your email list can easily get missed when you’re busy running a business. While you have all the intention to make a good first impression, it’s one of those things that sometimes slips through the cracks or you get to it after your window of opportunity has passed.
You can set up an automation that sends, or triggers, an automated welcome email after the person’s contact information is entered. This works hand-in-hand with client management software, which is where the contact information is stored. From there, the new person can go into a long-term nurture email series that will help you develop a relationship and turn your new lead into a client.
Reconnect with leads and clients
Automation can help you reconnect with leads you haven’t heard from in a while. You know, the ones that are just sitting there in the “I’ll reach out to these people when I have time” pile? With automation, you can set up a re-engagement series of emails to reconnect with leads and clients you haven’t heard from in a while.
A seamless experience like this can all be automatically taken care of with automation once it’s set up on the back end. For example, an email series can start off with a promotion or coupon to regain their interest. If they engage with your email, great. If not, you can also ask them if they wish to continue receiving emails from you.
Maintain a clean email list
Automation can even help you keep your email subscriber list clean and maintain a good sender reputation.
Automation can be set up to send an email to unengaged email subscribers to see if they’re still interested in receiving your emails from you and then tagged appropriately based on their action, or no action. That way you can easily go through and identify the subscribers who need to be removed from your list. Maintaining a clean email list is vital.
Proper email list hygiene will help you:
Marketing emails aren’t always part of a nurture email series, there are times when it makes sense to send a 1-time email to your subscribers. These emails are referred to as email blasts or email broadcast.
They’re typically sent when you have exciting news to share or when you’re running a limited time offer or flash sale to boost sales. Email blasts can be a powerful email marketing tactic for small businesses. Here are some email blast examples to inspire you before you blast away.
Now that you have a good grasp of email marketing and the powerful impact it can have on your small business, you may be wondering how you can get started.
1. Build your email list
As we mentioned before, don’t buy a list. Use your current list. Create a landing page with a lead magnet to attract new leads that fit your target audience to build up your list.
2. Choose the right software
There are a plethora of tools you can choose from. We recommend using client management software with email marketing features built right in. Keap software offers this functionality all in one place.
3. Set your goals
Don’t go in blindly. Take some time to create an email marketing plan before your first campaign. Figure out why you want to start an email campaign and what you want people to do when they get your email. Also, decide which KPIs you’re going to measure.
4. Figure out the type of email campaign you want to send
After you develop a strategy and set your goals, decide which type of campaign you want to send. Will it be an offer? A newsletter or free content? The possibilities are endless.
5. Measure the results
Go in with a test, learn, and repeat mindset. Measure the results from your campaign to see what’s working and what’s not. With practice and testing, you’ll be able to discover what resonates with your audience.
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when you’re getting started, but it’s better to start than to never start at all.
Email marketing has proven time and time again that it’s an effective, low-cost marketing strategy for small business. What are you waiting for? Find out what email marketing can do for your business.