Email Marketing for Small Business; A Primer

In my previous post, I discussed the main benefits of leveraging the power of email marketing for small businesses as part of your wider advertising campaign. In this post, I will focus on the strategies and tactics of implementing an email marketing plan. A step-by-step ‘how to’ guide for developing your email marketing strategy.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

First thing’s first; what are you looking to achieve with email marketing for small businesses? Everything you do hinges upon this and no work can begin until you have a clear and defined objective.

Are you looking to entice new customers? Retain existing ones? Increase traffic to your website? Highlight a new product or service offered by your company or organization?

An email marketing campaign can serve dozens of functions, but it won’t serve any of them effectively without proper planning and a clear focus. So decide what effect you want your campaign to have on which target audience, then move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Select an Email Marketing Service

There are a ton (metric, not imperial) of email marketing tools available to businesses and advertisers, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Many of these services offer free trials, and some even offer no-cost options for small businesses, so you can try before you buy and ensure that the service you ultimately choose to go with is suited for your purposes and offers the functionality you desire.

Once you have selected your email tool, get comfortable with its interface and functionality. Most of the better services offer tutorials and even ‘how to’ videos to help you get started. This will be the tool with which you build your email marketing campaign, so it is in your best interests to become an expert on it.

Step 3: Develop a Contact List

An expertly crafted email isn’t going to do you much good if no one sees it. Developing a comprehensive and segmented contact list will provide you with a pool of recipients that can be broken down into demographics for targeted email marketing for small businesses.

There are several methods for building a contact list. Some retailers place email sign-up sheets on premises and offer customers exclusive deals or a company newsletter in exchange for their contact information. Some online businesses offer customers who provide them with their email addresses exclusive content or free services.

If neither of these tactics is a valid option for your business, you can also purchase contact lists from consumer database companies like infoUSA. Purchasing consumer information can provide a company with a wealth of new contacts in far less time than it would take to source them organically. It is worth mentioning, however, that organically sourced contacts almost always deliver a higher success rate than purchased lists.

Step 4: Develop Content

Here’s where the magic happens! Once you have your objective set and your contacts ready, it’s time to start building your email. It may seem simple, but email design is a digital art form, one that requires as much care and attention to detail as any other medium.

The layout, copy, and color choices you make contribute greatly to the success or failure of email marketing for small businesses. Usability and aesthetic appeal should be chief among your design concerns. If your email isn’t eye-catching or engaging, no one will bother to read it. And if your copy is muddled, off message, or confusing, those who do read it will walk away with a negative impression of you, your company, and your service.

Put in a little extra effort at this step; it can make or break your entire marketing effort.

Step 5: Write a Catchy Subject Line

Here is a step that often gets overlooked or underdeveloped. The subject line of your email will be the ‘hook’ that prompts the recipient to open it. Internet users receive dozens of email every day, and if you don’t want your message getting lost in the clutter, you need to develop a subject line that jumps out and say “Hey you! Open me!”

A generic or selling-centric subject line can cause a recipient to dismiss your message, or simply filter it out entirely. On the other hand, an overly friendly or unprofessional subject line can make it hard for a recipient to take you seriously. You have to toe a fine line, between professionalism and fun, to develop an effective subject line.

Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes; would you take the time out of your day to open an email with your selected subject line? If not, you can bet that your audience won’t either.

Step 6: Pick a Time

You’ll next have to select a time and day to send out your email campaign. The time and day you select should be informed by the characteristics of your targeted demographic. For example, an email targeting professional young males would be most effective if deliver when they are capable of checking their emails, either in the early afternoon while they are at their desks or after 6 PM when the majority of them are at home.

email marketing

Do your homework, and find out when your audience will be most receptive, and on what day. While some online advertisers swear by sending out marketing emails on weekdays, others suggest sending them on the weekends when consumers have more free time and less on their minds.

But again, the time and day you choose to deliver your emails should be decided by the particulars of your audience, not by some universal marketing standard.

Step 7: Make Sure Your Message Mobile Friendly

This one’s a bit of a ‘modern’ concern. A large portion of your audience will be viewing your email on their phones or other mobile devices. In fact, it is predicted that mobile web usage will surpass PC web usage by mid-2015. As such, it is important to make sure that your email design looks as good on a 6” iPhone screen as it does on a 22” computer monitor.

Step 8: Test in House

The only guarantee in the world of digital marketing is that there are no guarantees. Just because you’ve built an amazing, engaging, and effective email, does not mean that you will be delivering an amazing, engaging, and effective email. Test send your email to email addresses you own and check the received message to ensure that your design stayed properly formatted upon delivery.

Check your sent email on all available web browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer. You want to confirm the consistency of your message across all platforms and the only way to do that is to do a little leg work.

Additionally, the testing phase will give you another chance to check your own work for spelling mistakes or design flaws.

Step 9: Analyze

The importance of analyzing the effectiveness of your email campaign cannot be overstated. The aim is to maximize your ROI and increase the effectiveness of future campaigns. By analyzing your email marketing results, you can identify areas that need improvements, such as time of delivery or subject line. See what demographics are most receptive to your campaign and adjust future efforts accordingly.


Remember, just because your marketing email is sent, doesn’t mean your work is done. The real work is in staying on top of key metrics and performance indicators and seeing how you can improve upon the impact of future campaigns.

And there you have it, the 9 steps for conducting an effective marketing email campaign. It may seem a little intimidating at first, especially if you’re new to digital marketing, but just take each step one at a time and keep faith in your own efforts. If you have any questions about implementing email marketing for small businesses or if you find yourself stuck at any step along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help!

Sound Off

We want to hear from you!

Have you or your business ever launched an email marketing campaign? What strategies and tactics did you employ? What kind of results did you experience?

Drop us a line in the comments section and for more reading on email marketing, check out Part: 1 of Creative Click Media’s blog series on e-mail marketing.

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