How Small Businesses Can Build a Successful Email Marketing Strategy

January 17, 2019

Email marketing helps businesses acquire and retain customers. Learn 10 ways a business can create a successful email marketing strategy.

Every small business should consider email marketing an important component in their marketing plan. 

Email marketing is the best marketing channel for customer acquisition and retention, according to eMarketer. Email marketing offers ample opportunities to drive greater ROI and business growth.

The world of email marketing is competitive, and your subscribers likely receive many other emails from businesses. As a result, small businesses must invest prudently in email marketing to achieve maximum ROI from it.

Let’s discuss how a small business can create an effective email marketing strategy.

1. Build a Healthy Email List

Never buy an email list. Instead, create gated content to work as a lead magnet to get subscribers to your emails. Gated content is content such as whitepapers and e-books that require users to fill out a form before being able to access it.

For example, if you are a small retail business, you can have your website visitors sign up for email alerts in order to receive exclusive discount offers.

After you have a reasonable number of subscribers, create an email marketing strategy. Determine the kind of emails that would resonate best with your target audience based on your industry and ultimate goal. You can send newsletters, promotional emails, or product recommendations accordingly.

To get more subscribers, you can even include a “Forward to a Friend” link in the email with a “Subscribe” button in the forwarded email.

Pro Tip: Maintaining your email list hygiene is as important as getting new subscribers. Remove inactive subscribers from the list at regular intervals, as failing to do so might hamper your email reputation and eventually affect the email’s deliverability.

2. Segment Your Subscribers

Your email marketing is pointless if subscribers do not find the emails relevant and interesting. To ensure relevance in emails, segmentation is important.

Group your email subscribers into different lists based on their age, sex, geographic location, past downloads, and previous purchases. 

This will help you send tailormade emails that will deliver value to your subscribers.

3. Use Hyper-Personalization Tactics

Email personalization started with including “Hey *First Name*” in the emails. However, simply using the person’s name is not enough anymore.

Personalize your emails beyond the subscriber name by including customized offers that match the buyer persona, purchasing habits, and product interests.

For example, ASICS sent me an email based on products I searched on its website.

ASICS email personalization

This personalized email reminds people of a product they were looking at and encourages them to make a purchase.

You can even use demographic data like age, gender or geographic location to create emails that appeal to a specific target audience.

4. Deliver What Subscribers Want

Write your emails to match the buyer’s journey of subscribers in the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.

For example, if a subscriber has just signed up to receive your emails, you can send an onboarding email that introduces the brand and shares what to expect.

In addition, you can send an email promoting other services you offer to someone who has recently purchased from you. This will open upsell and cross-sell opportunities for your business.

Pro Tip: If you are using images and interactive elements such as GIFs, infographics, or videos in your emails, use alt text and suitable fallback to ensure proper rendering. Fallback refers to an alternative image or text that is displayed in emails whose clients’ browsers or inboxes do not support the particular element used in the original HTML email.

5. Place the Call-to-Action Button Prominently

Your call-to-action (CTA) button will improve click-through rates and should stand out from the rest of the email copy and entice customers to click.

You should also take certain design considerations into account to get maximum click-through rates. The CTA button should be in contrasting color for maximum visibility.

However, the size of the CTA button should not be too large, as it may distract subscribers from the email copy and present them with the conversion point before convincing them to make the purchase.

Surround your CTA with ample white space to separate it from other email elements and capture subscribers’ attention at the appropriate place in the email.

Travelocity follows all the best practices that make a CTA button effective.

Travelocity CTA button in email

Travelocity’s CTA button stands out from the rest of the text without being too distracting from the rest of the email – something other businesses should replicate.

6. Send Drip Email Campaigns

After a website visitor has shown interest in your products or services, the next step is to persuade him or her to make a purchase. This is possible by sending drip email campaigns to nurture your leads.

Drip email campaigns include automated (triggered) emails that are sent after the subscriber takes a particular action. They work well because they are generally in line with the buyer’s journey.

It’s a great opportunity for small businesses to drive maximum conversions and increase sales.

Use email automation to send out time-based and behavior-based emails to subscribers, thereby reducing the possibility of human error in emails and saving time.

7. Leverage Social Media in Emails

Small businesses can create a strong online presence with the help of promoting their social media channels in emails.

For example, J.Crew highlights its social media channels along with its blog at the footer of its emails.

J.Crew social media channels in email

J.Crew makes it easy for subscribers to click through to its social media channels. Other businesses should make it this seamless, too.

8. Design Mobile-Responsive Emails

Emails tend to receive maximum open rates from mobile devices. Design mobile-responsive emails for a flawless subscriber experience, regardless of the device on which they open your emails.

Keeping in mind the small screen size of mobile phones, you can even use interactive elements such as hamburger menus, accordions, and sliders in your emails. These elements work as animations that help display sizeable information in the limited email space.

We even recommend a fixed CTA that does not move even when the subscriber scrolls through the email copy. This will ensure the subscribers see the CTA even if they don’t scroll through the entire email; the CTA will be visible throughout the entire length of the email.

The only drawback is that it only works with Android devices and Android Native Email App, Android Boxer App, and BlueMail App. It is not compatible with desktop clients or iOS email clients.

However, all emails should be mobile-responsive, no matter the device.

9. Offer Incentives

Your subscribers love incentives. Small businesses can generate more conversions through email campaigns by offering discounts.

You can even send out “limited-time” exclusive offers during birthdays and holidays, which gives subscribers an urgency to make an instant purchase.

PetSmart successfully promotes discount offers in its emails.

PetSmart email

PetSmart makes its discounts very visible in its emails, further enticing subscribers to make a purchase.

Incentives are more likely to convince subscribers to make a purchase.

10. Make Your Unsubscribe Button Clearly Visible

You cannot please everyone, and the same is true for emails. It’s quite possible that your emails, no matter how good they are, will fail to impress someone, so it’s important to let them unsubscribe easily.

Make the unsubscribe button clearly visible in the email.

Companies such as Typo make it easy for subscribers to find how to unsubscribe.

Typo email with unsubscribe button

Obviously, Typo does not want people to unsubscribe from its emails, but it makes it easy if someone wants to.

Build a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

Small businesses find it daunting to balance priorities at work with marketing expenses.

These email marketing tips will help you generate greater email ROI by fixing your priorities and letting you focus on other aspects of your business.


About the Author

Headshot of Kevin GeorgeKevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing.’ He is a brand magician who loves to engage and share insights with fellow marketers. Check out Kevin's email tutorials and articles at his Email Marketing Blog.