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9 email marketing tips every small business can use

Email marketing tips every small business can use

Key takeaways

  • Email personalization and segmentation helps you deliver the most relevant emails for better engagement
  • Testing different types of email campaigns allows you to improve conversion rates and strengthen your email communications
  • Every email you send should have one clear call to action that encourages interaction 

Email marketing was one of the first forms of digital marketing and remains an effective way to connect with customers—both existing and potential. Research shows small business owners can expect an average return of $42 for every $1 spent on email marketing.

However, the digital landscape is always changing, so you need to stay up-to-date with the latest email marketing practices. Follow these email marketing tips to strengthen your email program, maximize efficiency, and take your email marketing efforts to the next level.

1. Understand different types of emails

Before you start emailing your email list, it’s important to understand there are different types of correspondence. Email marketing isn’t just about sending promotional emails with discounts and offers. While these types of emails will likely be a major component of your email marketing strategy, there’s much more to it.

Here are the three different types of emails to consider:

  • Marketing: These are informational or promotional emails sent to subscribers who are interested in updates and communications related to your business
    • Examples: Discounts, special offers, surveys, or email newsletters that direct people to your website to read a new blog post 
  • Transactional: These are typically automated emails that are sent when a subscriber completes an action or interacts with one of your marketing efforts
    • Examples: Welcome emails, registration confirmation, or payment received notifications
  • Operational: Any updates or information related to your business and its operations
    • Examples: Store closures, revised business hours, or store events

Each of these emails requires a different approach with its own unique style of copywriting, so there is some customization involved. (More on this below.)

2. Personalization is a must

Emails with a personal touch help build a genuine connection with your audience. When you personalize your email marketing campaigns, it makes people feel like they’re part of an exclusive group. It shows that you’re invested in building a relationship with them, rather than solely conducting business.

One of the easiest ways to personalize your email communications is using the name of your subscribers. Emails that have personalized subject lines with a recipient’s first name increase open rates by 26%. Most email service providers—like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Sendinblueallow you to automatically insert the first name of email recipients in the subject line or other places in your email.

Another way to build a connection with your subscribers is to send emails using your own email address rather than the name of your business. This gives your emails a human element and fosters a stronger connection, so your recipients feel as though they can reply to a real person from your business rather than an automated bot.

For instance, receiving an email from “” is more approachable than “” The former email address has a personal feel and serves as your customer service address. It also doesn’t necessarily need to be your personal address—it can simply appear to be.

3. Segmentation drives results

Segmenting your email list allows for an additional level of personalization. Email list segmentation consists of splitting your email list into different categories depending on subscriber interests, preferences, or behaviors.

Each email subscriber has different interests and needs. By segmenting your list, you can deliver relevant emails that have a higher chance of success. In fact, email campaigns that use segmentation have click-through rates two times higher than those that don’t.

You can start segmenting your email list as soon as people sign up for communications by requesting additional information on the signup form. For instance, a heating and cooling company could differentiate its clientele by asking subscribers if they’re interested in receiving service for their home or a commercial business. By segmenting these groups, a small business owner can email clients more relevant content or promotions. 


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4. Automation is your best friend

Email service providers allow you to automate your email campaigns. Automation enables you to create drip campaigns, which are staged emails that are sent at designated times after someone has subscribed to your email list.

For example, you can automatically send new subscribers a welcome email as soon as they sign up for your email list. Three days later, you can send them an email containing promotional content, like a first-time customer discount. One week later, you could send an additional email reminding them to take advantage of the limited-time offer you sent previously.

Automation means you can spend less time doing email marketing and more time doing other activities that will help your business grow.

Pro tip: Although you can use pre-designed templates to save time, you should still personalize them and integrate some of the other email marketing tips in this list (like using a personal email address) to make these automated emails seem less robotic.

5. Optimize emails through A/B testing

One of the best email marketing tips you can implement is called A/B testing. This type of testing means sending two slightly different versions of the same email to separate sample audiences to determine which version performs best.

Some common A/B tests can be conducted on the following email elements:

  • Subject line
  • Calls to action
  • Time of day sent
  • Day of week sent
  • Email content
  • Messaging
  • Email length

For instance, a cafe promoting its new spring menu could test two different subject lines, even though the actual email copy is the same. One subject line might say “It’s spring, coffee is on us!” while another says “New menu and free coffee!” These two subject lines would be sent to two different audiences to see which one receives higher engagement.

After you’ve figured out which version has the best conversion rate, like email open rate or click-through rate, you can use that subject line with the rest of your email list. You can also use this information to adjust future campaigns and improve overall email performance.

6. Write compelling email subject lines

Successful email marketing only works if people actually open your emails. You can have a great email offer or update, but if you don’t grab the reader’s attention with the subject line, it could very easily end up being deleted. 

One tactic many email marketers use in their subject lines is the curiosity gap. A curiosity gap involves giving just enough information in the subject line to pique interest and entice recipients to open your email.

For example, to market an auto mechanic shop, you could write a subject line that reads: “This simple trick will increase your gas mileage by 10%.” Recipients will be inclined to open your email and find out how they can save fuel and money. The key to subject lines is to avoid coming off as spammy.

Another tactic to try is to optimize the preheader, or preview text—the first text people read when they see your email in their inbox. This text will usually show up next to the subject line in a person’s email inbox, and it essentially doubles the length of your subject line, creating a more engaging narrative.

Other email marketing tips for subject lines include using emojis (in moderation and as appropriate), avoiding words or phrases in all capital letters, using interesting numbers and statistics, or even using movie titles and song lyrics to improve open rates.

7. Have a clear call to action

All of your emails should have a specific goal in mind and include a clear call to action (CTA), the action you want recipients to take after opening your email. Common CTAs include redeeming offers or clicking on links to your website, social media channels, relevant blog posts, or landing pages.

For example, a landscaping company may want to urge readers to request a quote for service. An effective call to action could be helpful information about keeping a lawn weed-free, followed by a button that says “Get a free quote now.”

Limit your calls to action to one per email. If you give readers too many choices, they may not take any action at all, or they might get overwhelmed and abandon the offer. This is called decision fatigue.

Case in point: There’s a well-known experiment conducted by Columbia University with customers interested in buying jam. Those who were offered samples from six choices purchased products 30% of the time. And when they were given 24 options? Only 3% went on to make a purchase. 

Along with being kept to a minimum, your CTAs should also be crystal clear. Every call to action must be easy to understand and clearly visible. It should also be above the fold, or at the top of the email, so a reader doesn’t need to scroll down to see it—especially on mobile devices.

8. Make unsubscribing easy

Although your goal is to keep your unsubscribe rate low, you must still make it easy and accessible for users to unsubscribe from your email list. Fortunately, most email service providers provide this feature in their email designs

When it’s difficult for users to unsubscribe from your emails, you increase the chances they’ll flag your emails as spam. When too many people flag your email communications as spam, your future emails risk landing in spam folders. It’s also against the law to send emails without an option to unsubscribe. Bottom line: It should be just as simple to opt out of an email as it is to opt in.

9. Clean your email list

It may be tempting to grow your email list to as many subscribers as possible, but this may not be the best strategy. Instead, you should focus on quality over quantity.

Email marketing best practices include periodically trimming your subscriber list. This can improve your overall email deliverability rates and ensure you’re dedicating resources to people who are actually interested in and receptive to your marketing.

In some cases, emails may no longer be active, invalid, or are from spam accounts. In others, people may not be interested and haven’t opened your emails in nearly a year. It’s best to take a look at your email list routinely and get rid of low-quality subscribers.

Email service providers will enable you to see inactive or invalid email addresses, along with people who haven’t interacted with your emails for an extended period of time. From there, you can remove these emails from your subscriber list and focus on engaging with those who want to hear from you.

It’s time to give these email marketing tips a try

Successful email marketing won’t happen overnight, so be patient. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to produce effective email marketing campaigns time and time again.

Focus on personalizing your emails and using segmentation to deliver relevant information to your audience. From there, you can turn to email automation and testing to take your email content to the next level. For more ways to increase customer engagement, take a look at these four types of digital advertising that can help grow your business.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.