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6 steps for effective small business email marketing

6 tips for effective small business email marketing

Key takeaways

  • Take advantage of free plans or free trials to find the right email marketing software
  • Grow your email list before investing your time in single-use campaigns
  • Use email templates and automation to streamline your process

Of all the marketing channels in the world, email is by far the most preferred by consumers. Even if people don’t love email, they’re certainly familiar with it—the average person checks their email 15 times per day. That’s why implementing a small business email marketing strategy can be a powerful way to reach your audience and spark them into action, no matter what industry you’re in. Follow these six steps to maximize the results of your future email marketing campaigns.

1. Identify your small business email marketing goals

Email marketing can help small business owners achieve a wide variety of goals. But when you have limited time and a limited budget, it’s useful to focus on 2-3 specific results you want to see.

Here are a few examples of email marketing goals:

  • Boost quarterly sales from new leads by 200%
  • Increase the total number of monthly returning customers by 100%
  • Increase monthly website visitors by 150%

Let your goals help guide your decision-making as you continue onto the next steps.

2. Select your email marketing software

Using software to manage your campaigns will help you launch more effective email campaigns much faster. Rather than manually designing and sending out emails—which can take hours—you’ll have an organized dashboard that helps you streamline (and even automate) your email marketing.

To choose the best email marketing service for your business, consider common features that business owners use, as well as your own marketing budget. Here’s what to look out for when shopping for your small business email marketing tool.


Small business email marketing: Closeup of a credit card and laptop

Cost is always an important factor for small businesses when investing in marketing tools. Pay attention to monthly pricing, and find the most cost-effective platform that covers all your email marketing needs.

Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable options. Some service providers like Mailchimp, ConvertKit, MailerLite, and Sendinblue even offer free plans (with limited features) that may be suitable when you’re first starting your business.

You should also consider investing in a paid plan. Many email marketing platforms offer low-cost options—costing around $10–$20 per month—that give you access to far more features than free plans. Plus, platforms like ActiveCampaign and Constant Contact offer free trials that you can take advantage of before you make a purchase.

Software limitations

Email marketing services often limit the number of subscribers you can save in your account. Consider the current size of your email list, as well as how quickly you plan to grow it, when shopping for software.

If you choose to start off with a lower-tier plan, be aware of your options for scaling. For instance, if you max out your email list, do you have to immediately upgrade to a higher-tier plan? Or can you add on a number of subscribers for an extra monthly fee? Can the tool keep up with your business growth over the next few years at the minimum?

Some email marketing tools also limit how much you can segment your audience, which is the process of dividing your subscribers based on their demographics, interests, or other characteristics. Segmentation is vital for sending certain messages to the most relevant subscribers, so take note of any restrictions.

Email marketing tools may also limit the number of emails you can send each month. Choose a plan that supports your expected email volume, or find one that offers unlimited emails.

Email marketing automation

Automation is key to achieving a higher return on investment (ROI) on your small business email marketing. It can make sending emails a completely hands-free process.

Email scheduling is usually a basic feature offered by any software, but depending on your needs and goals, you may want to find a platform that lets you:

  • Create drip campaigns, which are pre-written series of emails sent to leads or customers over a period of time.
  • Create transactional emails, which are triggered by an event or action. For example, a dental office may create a confirmation email that sends when patients make an appointment.
  • Connect to your customer relationship management system (CRM), which helps you better track customer data. Some email marketing software may double as a CRM.

Content creation features

Many email marketing tools offer features to make content creation easier. Consider prioritizing features such as:

  • Email templates: Drag-and-drop editors are the simplest to use for small businesses. As the name implies, you simply drag and drop specific features (such as a photo or title) into the template to create a custom design.
  • Dynamic content: Some tools offer merge tags, which allow personalized emails with customer data, like their name or city. Advanced plans may offer entire dynamic fields, which allow you to customize which sections of an email specific customers see.

Customer support

Customer support can be invaluable for small business owners. Even the best tools can have bugs every so often, and even when the tool is working fine, you may need help navigating certain features while on a deadline.

Though customer support might not be a priority if you’re fairly tech savvy, take note of your service provider‘s support availability, including office hours and communication channels.

Performance tracking

Your email marketing solution should offer some analytics capabilities. Make sure you’re able to track open rates, subscriber growth rates, click-through rates (which show if subscribers are clicking on your buttons and links), and other metrics that are relevant to your goals.

3. Plan your email campaigns

Smiling woman shopping online

The next step in your small business email marketing plan is determining the types of campaigns you want to create. When narrowing down your options, think about how much time you have in addition to your goals. Some campaigns may take more time to create than others, and you still want to be able to engage with your audience on a regular basis.

Though you may not need to utilize all of them in your email marketing strategy, here three common types of campaigns that businesses use.

Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns are automated sets of emails that a subscriber will start to receive as soon as they’re added to an email list. They’re most often used to push a lead toward a purchase when they’re still interested.

For example, if a lawn care company gets a quote request, the potential client may then receive a quote, followed by emails about the importance of lawn care and lawn care tips, as well as reminders to book their first appointment.

Drip campaigns can also be used for:

  • Cart abandonment: Re-engage potential customers when they add an item to their shopping cart on your ecommerce store, but don’t check out.
  • A welcome email sequence: Give customers insight into your brand and the first steps for becoming a customer when they choose to subscribe.

Emails within a drip campaign sequence only need to be created once. However, keep in mind that not every plan offers this functionality.

Email promotions

Promotional emails are one-time emails that may promote a sale, new product or service, or other timely news. They’re usually brief, but they must have an eye-catching subject line and email design to be effective.

Email newsletters

Newsletters are sent on a recurring basis, perhaps once a month, to keep subscribers engaged with your brand. They can be great for promoting your most recent blog posts on your website, business news, or upcoming webinars. You can also use them to feature certain products or people in your company.

You may need to spend more time on writing content for newsletters, but you’ll only need to design your email template once and follow the same workflow every time.

4. Grow your email list

Though you can launch email campaigns as soon as you have your software, you may want to grow your email list before you create certain types of campaigns, especially one-time emails. For example, if you want to launch a contest but only have 10 email subscribers, you may get no results for your efforts.

Pro tip: Aim for at least 50 relevant subscribers before you invest time in timely campaigns.

You may be eager to grow your email subscription list, but don’t purchase your email list. While there are companies that sell email contacts based on your target market, getting a fully engaged email list is all about finding potential customers who are actually interested in your brand and content. Instead, earn new subscribers by promoting your sign-up form on social media, your website, and other relevant channels. You can set up online ads to expand your reach as well.


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5. Streamline your email content creation

When you’re ready to start building your first campaign, use the tools your small business email marketing software offers to make content creation easier. If possible:

  • Customize and save email templates that you can reuse
  • Save your logos and other commonly used visuals to your email builder
  • Test how your email campaign will look on different devices directly on the platform before sending it out to your subscribers

In addition, outline each email before you start so you’re not coming up with content on the fly.

6. Track your metrics and adjust

Finally, don’t forget to check your email marketing analytics regularly—ideally once per week, especially if you have ongoing drip campaigns. Your metrics can reveal how you can improve your strategy over time. For example:

  • A high unsubscribe rate may be a sign that your content isn’t relevant to your audience
  • Poor email deliverability rates may reveal that your emails are landing in spam folders
  • Low opt-in rates may show that you need to better promote your sign-up form

Create results with your small business email marketing strategy

Becoming a great email marketer always starts with goal-setting and planning, but you don’t have to execute your strategy alone. Great email marketing software is invaluable for startups and small business owners as it can help you save time and energy in every step. This way, you can continuously engage your audience while earning back time to grow your small business through other channels too.

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.