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A small business guide to email marketing

It’s been 48 years since Ray Tomlinson sent the first ever email.

The history of email itself is one thing, but the evolution of email marketing is quite another.

When the first ever marketing email was sent in 1978, resulting in an astounding $13 million in sales, the power of email marketing was proven.

This method of marketing, however, has not always been met with positivity. At one time or another we have all received newsletters or sales-driven emails that do little to engage our interest and often down-right annoy us, so small businesses must tread very carefully when incorporating emails into their marketing strategy.

Effective email marketing takes a special kind of approach that does not make the recipient feel like your business is ‘clogging up’ their inbox. Instead you are there to offer useful guidance, tips and informative content which feels personalised and relevant to the reader. And the statistics speak for themselves, with research finding that 59% of people are influenced by the marketing emails they receive. As active email accounts are expected to reach an astronomical 5.6 billion this year*, email marketing is something that small businesses should definitely consider including within their strategy.

We’ve explored the basics of email marketing, and how you can adapt your strategy to get the highest returns:

Email strategy

A detailed strategy is your first port of call for any email marketing activity, to ensure you put your best foot forward with recipients from the outset. First and foremost, consider who you are marketing to and what value your emails should bring to them. Are you answering a pain point? Offering a discount? Sharing quality content? It’s also worth considering how often you will send emails, the type of campaign you wish to send and what your goal is.

Choose your software

Not all small businesses will have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that incorporates an email marketing function. However, there are countless platforms out there that offer the same, if not more advanced, functionality to these systems. Such platforms include MailChimp, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor and Constant Contact, to name a few. Choosing the right platform comes down to a number of factors such as usability, cost, capabilities, reliability and integration with your site. We recommend you shop around, sign up for a free trial and choose one which you feel most comfortable with using.

Developing your email list

Many people believed that GDPR would be the death of email marketing, as their email lists would diminish significantly as a result of stricter rules of data collection. Whilst the new regulations did have some impact on marketing lists, email is still a very viable way to market your business.

Opt-in forms are a must for any small business carrying out email marketing, but this alone will prove relatively slow. Instead, offering audiences something of value in exchange for signing up is an extremely effective method, whether it be an infographic, webinar, whitepaper, competition or discount code. One thing we must stress, however, is that you brush up on your GDPR knowledge and ensure that you are collecting information compliantly at all times.


An engaging design is vital to attracting people to read your emails and encouraging those all-important click-throughs. Take full advantage if you have someone in-house, or an outsourced marketing company, on hand that can develop HTML newsletters and emails. But these days, leading software will offer a great alternative, with simple drag and drop functionality that will leave your emails looking professional. Something to note when it comes to designing your emails is to ensure your font is clear and displayed at an appropriate size so that it can be read easily by recipients. And don’t forget about mobile, with 46% of emails opened on mobile it’s important your templates are responsive across all devices.

Get your subject line right

Whilst the body of your email must be well written, many ineffective email marketing campaigns come as a result of a poorly written subject line. Your subject line should clearly summarise the contents of your email and ultimately entice your contacts to open and continue reading. To give you an example, we would suggest avoiding ‘August newsletter’ as a subject line and instead opt for something along the lines of ‘Tips to help you survive the summer holiday period.’

Choose the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to email marketing, but for every business and every industry, this may differ. Carefully analyse your target audience and think about when they are most likely to be engaged on their emails. Will they be in work? At home? On their commute? More often than not, this will be a case of trial and error, sending initial emails out and analysing when they received the highest opens and click-throughs. It’s also worth considering how often you will be sending out your newsletter – whatever you decide, you need to be consistent. If you usually send your newsletter once a week on a Wednesday, and then all of sudden you change this to once every month, your recipients are unlikely to embrace the change well which may result in unsubscribes.

A/B testing

Knowing precisely what your audience will respond to and what they won’t can be a guessing game, and therefore A/B testing should play an integral part of any email strategy. There are a number of variables that you can test in these instances, from subject lines to design, the call to action used or even the images and colours. Test these factors one at a time so you truly know which works best, and subsequently these results can be used to support your ongoing strategy.

The power of email marketing is vast and can make a significant difference to your overall marketing efforts. One of our best tips is to ensure you take the time to report on your campaign and analyse what has worked and what hasn’t, as this will reduce time wasted on ineffective methods and ultimately increase your success rate. Great emails, received by engaged subscribers, will serve you well in the long run.

Source – *

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