The Best Email Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business

by Justin Guinn | Published on May 18, 2022

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Email marketing should be the workhorse communication channel for your business. Here are seven tips to ensure you’re getting the most from your email strategy.

Your email marketing strategy plan should be the workhorse of your overall marketing plan. Research shows there’s a 42x return on every dollar spent on email marketing. That’s a 4,200% ROI on a channel that doesn’t discriminate between enterprise or small business email marketing.

Woman working on laptop

Email marketing is essential to a successful marketing plan for any business. Image source: Author

It’s critical that you choose the best email marketing services and define and implement the email marketing best practices for your unique business goals. Take the time to study top email marketing examples and master the fundamentals, such as:

Perhaps the most important fundamental to understand is that email is not a set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy. You must invest time and resources into optimizing your work regardless of whether you’re launching full marketing email campaigns or just one-off promotion emails.

We’ve put together seven essential email marketing management best practices you can implement to consistently boost performance across your organization. Expect some trial and error with these and all email marketing tips. Just be sure to fail fast, analyze, learn, and optimize on your next go.

7 effective email marketing strategies to get emails opened:

  • Capitalize on personalizations
  • Address recipients as humans
  • Analyze email performance metrics
  • Employ automation tools
  • Test everything to inform best practices
  • Create actionable content
  • Celebrate successes

1. Capitalize on personalizations

Personalization comes in many different forms for email marketing. There’s low hanging fruit like addressing recipients by their names, which should most definitely not be taken for granted.

There are obvious personalization tactics like reminding customers about the items they may have left in a shopping cart on your website. And then there are the hard-hitting segmentation and persona-targeting personalization capabilities.

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Personalization has become a leading consumer expectation. Image source: Author

All of your personalization efforts are predicated on your information collection capabilities. These must be in place before you launch any kind of personalization.

It’s critical that you are gathering as much information as possible about your site visitors. It’s this information that’s qualified and quantified into actionable analysis for individual personalizations.

Data capture is primarily driven by conversions, so be sure to design your site so that visitors constantly have an easy path to conversion. Be sure you’re properly recording and storing data as well as keeping it clean on the back end. You don’t want any duplications in your email lists.

And consider going with a solution that provides dynamic conversion fields. Rather than asking a site visitor to provide 20 critical pieces of information, dynamic conversions only show three to five fields.

Then when the lead goes to convert again, three to five different fields will be required. It provides a much improved user experience.

Tips for an effective personalization strategy:

Here are a few email marketing tips to help you build and launch a revenue-driving personalization strategy.

  • Don’t wait, automate: The first step with your email personalization efforts is putting the right systems in place to actually enable and automate personalizations. Regardless of the size of your business, your email marketing services must support automated personalizations.
  • Align your content with your email marketing needs: Great content is what drives your personalization efforts. You need great content on your site that hones in on one key point so that you can customize your emails based on what you know about recipients. Think of it this way, not all McDonald’s customers need to know about the Filet-O-Fish, but there are folks that really want to hear about it.
  • Go deep and then go wide and deep: Similar to the conversation about content, you should launch your personalization efforts by prioritizing personas and segments. Then dive in and create detailed content for that persona to fuel emails with plenty of options to link to. Once you’ve achieved that, move to the next persona or segment on the list and do the same.

2. Address recipients as humans

In all the talk about automations, systems, segments, personas, etc, it’s easy to forget that these are actual individuals you’re communicating with. It is absolutely critical that you never forget this fact.

You must work to build a culture on your email marketing team that keeps this humanity top of mind and displays authentic empathy, compassion, and humor in email creation.

Personalization goes far in helping to humanize your messaging. Simply addressing someone by their name shows that you’ve at least invested some effort in learning more about them. But truly touching on your recipients’ humanity requires more than that.

You want your email creators to balance professionalism and brand voice with a conversational tone. Have your creators write the way they would talk to a lead in person. Make sure they’re not getting too cute with things, but simply writing as humans to other humans.

Tips for humanizing your communications:

Don’t overthink treating your email recipients a certain way. Simply train your team to treat them as humans, how you’d want to be treated, as a human. Here are a couple of tips to help.

  • Offer a real option to reply: An easy way to practice authenticity in your outreach is to send messages from real emails that recipients could actually respond to. In fact, actually having readers responding to your emails would be a testament to your content as well as a great means of further engagement and relationship building.
  • Include an authentic signature: Similar to using a reply-able email to send your communications, you should also have your emails coming from someone and have their signature included at the bottom of the email. Maybe you have advisors or sales folks that specialize in corresponding segments that could “own” communications on those topics.

3. Analyze email performance metrics

Performance metrics are the lifeblood of modern marketing. As marketers take on more and more responsibilities, they must have the ability to accurately articulate their work. This is especially true for email marketing, given all the metrics available for reporting on and tying to revenue.

Similar to personalization, this tactic is dependent on your email marketing system. If you’re looking to adopt a new system, you should be prioritizing analytics capabilities above almost everything else.

These metrics provide the necessary data to see what content, subject lines, jokes, etc. are working and optimize around them.

Key metrics you’ll want to have readily available include:

  • Click-through rate: Percentage of recipients that click the links in the email that send them to a targeted webpage.
  • Conversion rate: Percentage of click-through recipients that then go on to provide information to take the desired action you’ve designed, such as downloading an ebook.
  • Open rate: Percentage of recipients that actually open an email relative to all the addresses that the email was sent to.
  • Unsubscribe rate: Percentage of recipients that unsubscribe from your email list, requesting not to receive future emails.

And of course, you need to be able to measure the ROI driven from your marketing efforts.

Tips for analyzing email marketing metrics:

Email marketers must be able to prove value by showcasing campaign performance. Here are a couple of tips you can employ for your performance analysis.

  • Give yourself a break measuring ROI: Be generous with your measure on ROI and don’t put too much value or restriction on the timeframe, but do be sure you’re consistent. For example, maybe allow revenue attribution for an email conversion that eventually led to a purchase a few months later.
  • Dig into irregularities: Consistency may be comforting for more general email marketing campaigns, but you want to seek and learn from irregular spikes as you segmentize and personalize your marketing efforts. What’s important is that you learn from these spikes, regardless of whether metrics spike down or up.

4. Employ automation tools

Email automation capabilities are must-have tools for your marketing efforts. Automation capabilities such as an autoresponder for sign-ups are included in most all email marketing systems.

These capabilities have never been more accessible, affordable, and easy to use. They put hours back into your week and are worth every dollar.

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Determine the automations you need and find a solution that excels at them. Image source: Author

These automation tools are actually critical for achieving email personalization efforts. For many systems, these automations take the shape of journey or experience builders. These journeys are essentially paths individual audience members can take based on their actions and behaviors.

For example, say you sign up for a newsletter about marketing. If you explicitly interact with email marketing content in the newsletter, you could be put into an email marketing path and receive more focused communications around email best practices.

Email automation tools are a must-have to enable you to provide these types of experiences.

Tips for email automation:

Email automation must be a critical component of your overall strategy as well as your tool set. Here are two tips to ensure you’re maximizing value from your automations.

  • Design paths to purchases: Prioritize email automation tools that feature journey builders so that you can boost your personalization efforts and design experience paths that lead to purchases.
  • Be flexible in your automations: Setting up email automations should save you time, but you still need to spend some time ensuring your automations are achieving what you set them up to achieve. Successful email programs are constantly tweaking settings to optimize communications, personalization, and other automated processes.

5. Test everything to inform best practices

A central beauty of email marketing software is the ability to test everything. You should take advantage of that to build best practices for optimizing communications. And don’t worry, it may sound time-consuming but your email marketing solution should do most of the work for you.

Tests can include variations of email subject greetings, such as comparing open rates for subject lines with and without numbers. Or tests can be more complex and overarching, such as testing segmented content as we discussed above to see if it moves the needle on click-throughs.

The benefits of testing are the learnings. You can test thousands of variations on word usage, designs, etc. These results may be interesting, but if there are no learnings to be gleaned from the results, then is the test actually worth it?

Tips for testing everything:

Here are a few tips for setting up testing best practices so that you can get the best results for optimizing future email campaigns.

  • Don’t chase your tail: While testing and email optimizations are highly valuable, you must keep yourself and team from going down a testing rabbit hole. Strike a balance between creating great content for emails and creating variations worth testing.
  • Move on, but come back: Feel free to set best practices for all your email components once you feel you’ve done enough testing. But if you do set best practice guidelines, be sure to come back and test regularly to ensure the results still hold.
  • Test send days and times: Knowing when to send an email can be as important as what the email actually contains. If you’re not using send optimization, you can do it manually by testing different times and days for emails and recording the performance variations.

6. Create actionable content

Email marketing serves you by driving recipients to take action. Your content must reflect this principle. It starts with creating subject lines that catch the eye and invite recipients to open the email and read more. There’s no secret sauce to share about writing engaging subject lines.

It’s a personal journey that your email marketing team must take. Draw from your brand voice and tone, test, and figure out what works best for your audience.

The actual content in your email should follow a similar process of optimization. You have to test to determine what engaging and compelling means to your readers.

For example, maybe your email needs to have a bulleted list to maximize click-through rates. Or maybe a particular segment of your audience needs an image above the fold in your email.

One thing that’s certain with creating compelling emails is that you have to give enough to engage and entice readers to click through and learn more, but you can’t give too much so that they feel satisfied from the email alone.

Tips for creating actionable email content:

Here are a couple of tips for creating actionable email content that consistently engages your audience and boosts marketing performance.

  • Define the give: While you don’t want to give away too much in your emails, you should be giving something. Set a best practice to identify what exactly the “give” is in each email you send. This will force creators to be more intentional about the emails.
  • Map to your brand: Email marketing best practices really highlight the importance of having a strong and consistent brand to fall back on. The candor and language with which you create emails must match that of your brand. If you’re having a hard time hitting your numbers, consider updating your branding.

7. Celebrate successful campaigns

Email marketing is a hugely important component of all marketing teams. And sometimes, given the volume and scope, the entire process can feel like finding a needle in a three-story high haystack.

Data shows that in 2019 alone there were 290 billion emails sent every day across the world. All this is to say, if you land a successful email campaign, take the time to celebrate.

Much like marketing in general, email marketing involves a mix of analytics, strategist, creatives, technologists, and more. So a successful campaign requires a harmonious combination of efforts from all these folks.

Whether it’s stickers, bringing in coffee, or accumulating points, celebrating a campaign is a great way to build morale across different marketing disciplines.

Tips for celebrating successful email campaigns:

Here are a couple of tips for how to celebrate successful email marketing campaigns with your team.

  • Solicit ideas: Since you’re celebrating the work of so many people, you should take the time to see what celebrating looks like to them.
  • Don’t forget long-term goals: While celebrating a successful campaign is important, it might be taxing once you get up to speed and sustain consistent success across all campaigns. So be sure to celebrate big quarterly goals as well.

Make email marketing an ROI workhorse

Email marketing and its ridiculous ROI should be the workhorse of your overall marketing strategy. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy path to success, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

Get the right systems in place for your business, coach your team on the fundamentals, take creative risks to test new content ideas, and continuously learn and improve.

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