Email Marketing Guide

1. How to Develop Your Email Marketing Strategy

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Small Business Marketing

How to Develop Your Email Marketing Strategy

Jun 22, 2023 • 10 min read
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Table of Contents

      Is your small business ready to start email marketing? Great idea—email offers $36 in ROI for every $1 spent. It’s an important point of contact that, unlike many other channels, isn’t regulated by ever-changing algorithms. However, it’s important to establish a strategy before diving into email. This guide will help you get started.

      Creating Your Email Content Strategy

      Even if you already have a lot of ideas for your email campaigns, it’s important to establish a strategy before you start sending emails. Our top tips are here, but let’s go through a few strategies that will inform your content and help you plan more focused campaigns, boosting your overall ROI in the long term. 

      Establish Email Goals

      How are you defining success for your email content strategy? Do you want to boost sales? Do you have a target open or click-through rate? Start with a few quantitative metrics that will help measure your success.

      Determine Your Target Audience

      Who’s receiving your emails? Your customers are, of course, but who are your customers? Who in your target audience is likely to take action from an email? What kind of approach should you take to appeal to them? Knowing who you’re talking to will help your emails—particularly their voice and tone—take shape.

      Decide Your Primary Content Focus

      There are a lot of different types of emails you can send. Outline which ones are most relevant to your business. This can include sharing content published elsewhere, like blog posts from your website or social media posts. 

      Create Your Email Design

      Before you dive into your email builder, find inspiration from existing email campaign strategies. You should look at your competitors, but don’t be afraid to go beyond your industry and get ideas from other brands you like. Explore Milled and Really Good Emails to find examples. From there, you can begin building from a template, unless you have someone experienced in email design who can create a custom email template. 

      Determine Your Send Schedule

      Finally, decide how often you want to send emails. This cadence should be primarily informed by what is most realistic to you. Don’t aim to send out emails twice a week if every other week is more feasible for you and your business. 

      What Types of Emails Should Small Businesses Send? 

      What kinds of emails should your small business be sending out? This is a great place to start when creating your email marketing strategy! There are several different kinds of emails you can send out. Your overall email strategy should be informed by your business and how you want email to support it. If you sell products, you’ll likely send out sales and special offer emails. If you run a B2B company, you may opt to create a newsletter with updates. 

      Small business email strategy includes:

      • Sales – Always alert customers about the latest discounts and offers.
      • Newsletters – If you don’t do sales or promotions, a newsletter is a great way to keep customers updated on the latest news in your business or the greater industry.
      • Events – Hosting an event? Make sure people know through email.
      • Product or service alerts – Back in stock, price drop, new product alerts, and more are all important notifications to send out.
      • Subscription reminders If you offer a subscription service, it’s helpful to send out reminders about an upcoming order or renewal.
      • Welcome emails – If your email provider offers automated emails, it’s smart to send out a welcome email to every new subscriber that details what they can expect from being on your email list.
      • Re-engagement emails – It’s wise to check in on inactive subscribers (those who haven’t opened or engaged with your emails in a while) to see if they want to remain subscribed.

      This is just a sampling of small business email marketing strategy ideas. Whatever content works best for your business is your best strategy. Don’t be afraid to try different ideas and see what clicks (pun intended). 

      Build Your Email List

      In order to send out emails, you need to have subscribers. While it might feel daunting to build an email list as a small business, you probably aren’t actually starting from zero. You have existing customers–you just need them to opt into your list. 

      One of the best ways to build your email list is through your website. You can create pop-ups and forms that show up throughout your site that prompt users to sign up to stay up to date on the latest news and offers from your business. 

      If most of your business is through a physical store, you can create a sign-up either through your point-of-sale device or using good old-fashioned pen and paper. 

      You can also ask customers to sign up via your existing social media channels. You can make a post announcing that you’re launching a newsletter and include a link to sign up. 

      You should not buy an email list or email previous customers without their consent. Your email practices need to be fully GDPR-compliant to avoid any penalties, which can be significant.

      Segment Your Email List 

      As you build your list, consider how you can segment your audience. Unless you have a large list of 10,000+ subscribers, most of your content will probably be relevant for your full list. However, it’s wise to segment users, so that you can send them more targeted content. In fact, segmentation has proven to be the most effective email marketing strategy.

      You can create segmentations in a few ways. If you’re using a digital form to collect emails, like through your website, you can include a few questions about why they’re interested in your products or services. If you collect additional information, like their location or age, you can also use that for segmentation.

      Here are a few ways to segment your email list:

      • Company Interactions – Segment your list based on how your customers have interacted with you, such as a recent purchase.
      • Location – Geography is relevant for location-based services or for any in-person events you may host.
      • Gender – Gender can play a role in consumer industries. Be careful to review any legal restrictions on using demographic data in your industry. Financial services should not target based on gender, for example. 
      • Interest(s) – Segmenting by interest is important for consumer product companies or B2B, especially if you offer a wide range of products or services. 
      • Industry or job title – B2B businesses benefit from industry segmentation if they target different leadership levels with different services. 

      When and How Often Should You Send Emails?

      Your email send schedule should make sense for your business and how often you can manage to put together content. You shouldn’t send so many emails that people want to unsubscribe, but not so infrequently that they forget about you and forget they signed up in the first place (which could drive unsubscribes).

      You can use holidays and important milestones to select send dates on top of your normal cadence. If you’re using emails to push sales, it’s likely that you’ll send out emails that correspond with holidays (Ex: a Black Friday sale). 

      Finally, determine what time of day you’ll send emails. When do you think your customers are most likely to be looking at email? (Hint: it’s probably not 2 am.) This is a great thing to test, too. You can either A/B test send times, or you can keep your timing consistent for a few months, then try another send time for a few months and compare open rates. 

      What Email Metrics Matter 

      As we discussed earlier with goal setting, it’s important to know what metrics to look at when determining the success of your email marketing strategy. These numbers are the most indicative of overall success:

      • Open rate – What percentage of subscribers opened your email?
      • Click rate – What percentage of people clicked a link within the email? 
      • Unsubscribe rate – What percentage of subscribers unsubscribed after receiving an email?

      Each individual email will have these metrics, but you can also aggregate them to gauge your overall rates. 

      You should compare your numbers against your industry average. Open rates vary across industries, and the numbers might be lower than you expect (a 2% click-through rate is often a pretty good number, for example), so it’s helpful to have a benchmark. If your numbers are lower than average, don’t worry. It takes time to hone your email marketing strategy, and you can always make small changes and test how they impact your numbers. In fact, you should test, tweak, and adjust your email approach over time–that’s the best way to improve your email marketing strategy.

      About the author
      Maeve Ginsberg

      Maeve Ginsberg is a copywriter & storyteller. She is a marketing strategist a Picante Collective where she helps businesses with marketing strategy and brand voice.

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