Email Marketing for Small Business: A Comprehensive Guide

Email Marketing for Small Business: A Comprehensive Guide

As soon as you start typing “is email…” in the Google search bar, you immediately get two suggestions. The first one is “is email marketing dead”, and the second – “is email marketing effective”. So, apparently, the topic is controversial.

But if you conduct some research, the answer to the first question becomes crystal clear: email marketing is alive and well. However, it has changed a lot over the decades, and if you don’t keep up with the times, YOUR email marketing in particular may be as good as dead. Or, it may not exist at all. 

Some entrepreneurs still don’t do research and prefer to rely on rumors – thus, they presume that email marketing is gone for good, and don’t even try to use this highly effective channel of communication with their customers. That, of course, is a huge mistake. 

There are also others who just don’t have the time to try, like student entrepreneurs overloaded with academic assignments but don’t miss out on business opportunities by leveraging services to get essay help and spend more time on learning something new and useful instead.  One could say the same of enterprises who leverage blog writing services to power their content marketing.

“Well, ok”, you might say, “I’m convinced that it’s worthwhile to try. But how do I nail it without an experienced digital marketing team that my small business cannot afford”? Hang on, we’ll explain.    

What Exactly is Email Marketing? 

Email Marketing

First of all, it’s essential to understand exactly what email marketing is. Basically, it’s simple: email marketing is a marketing activity conducted using email. 

More precisely, every email message you send that’s aimed at establishing some kind of business-customer connection, be it building brand awareness or calling to action such as making a purchase, is an email marketing activity.  

Easy enough, right?

Why Do I Need Email Marketing Today? 

There are several reasons why every business needs email marketing today, supported by statistical data. 

  • There are more email users than social media users. There were about 3.9 billion global email users in 2019, and this number is set to grow to nearly 4.6 billion by 2025.  This is greater than the estimated 4.4 billion social media users in the same year.
  • Multiple studies have calculated the ROI of email marketing to be as high as 40X
  • 80% of business experts name email as the crucial factor in customer retention.
  • 77% of customers name email as their preferred marketing channel. 
  • Despite the increasing popularity of social media, 81% of small businesses rely on email marketing. 

Quite convincing, isn’t it? 

Further Reading: The Top 38 Compelling Email Marketing Statistics

What’s So Special About Emails, Anyway?  

It’s simple: emails are personal. Your social media profiles are visible, but you don’t go around throwing leaflets with your personal email address printed on them, right? You only provide this information willingly – and selectively. So does everyone else. 

So, if you have the right email marketing strategy, you can build a really intimate relationship with your customers. From your first welcome email to weekly/monthly newsletters to special offers, email marketing is all about personalized experiences that no other channel is capable of delivering. 

However, keep it in mind that the golden days of generic cold emails sent at random to anyone available are gone for good. So, better forget about them lest you want to lose customers and gain a doubtful reputation as a worth-for-nothing spammer.   

Further Reading: 15 Amazing Benefits of Email Marketing No One Ever Taught You

Email Marketing for Small Business vs. for Big Business 

“What if you’re not a big, well-known brand with a name one can’t fail to recognize?” you ask. Looks like you’re doomed to be a spammer given the circumstances, does it? Not at all. That is, if you pick up the right strategy – the right one for YOUR business.  

Unfortunately, one cannot just take big business marketing practices and replicate them on a smaller scale. To remain effective, those strategies need to be adapted to suit the specific characteristics of smaller companies. Read on to find out what exactly you need to do to nail your small business email marketing campaigns. 

How to Nail Email Marketing for Your Small Business Step by Step

How to Nail Email Marketing for Your Small Business Step by Step

While it may seem extremely overwhelming to plan and implement an email marketing campaign without an experienced team, it’s quite manageable if you approach the task step by step. 

Below, you’ll find the best strategies that will help you build an effective campaign, set it in motion, and, eventually, increase your revenue using this tool. Surely, we’re not saying it’s easy, but it’s possible. 

Further Reading: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy

How Do I Start? 

The first step is the most difficult, as always. As in most cases, you should start with a strategy. 

Every person and every team has their own approach to creating campaign plans, and some approaches are rather idiosyncratic. However, there’s a tested algorithm that works in most cases. Here it is, step by step:  

Determine Your Goals

Determine Your Goals

Before you start planning a campaign, it’s vital to define the goals you want to achieve with it. These can be establishing rapport with your new customers, raising brand awareness, increasing customer loyalty, selling a particular product, etc. 

Once defined, your goals will determine all other aspects of your campaign, such as email types, the content of your emails, and more. Remember to consider all significant factors before you set your goals, and follow the SMART pattern (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).  

Define Your Audience

The next crucial step is to define your audience. Who are your typical customers? Why should they be interested in what you’re selling? What are their needs and pains, and how can you help them solve their problems?

All this is very basic marketing stuff. No campaign, regardless of the medium and scale, can proceed successfully without this information. If you don’t know how to define your audience, find a professional consultant for help, but don’t ever skip this vital part of the process. 

Build Your Email List 

At this point, you can finally start building your mailing list. This is probably the most difficult part, as it takes a lot of time and requires ingenuity and patience. However, quality is more important than quantity here. So, don’t worry if your list builds up slowly – just make sure that it consists of those people (usually called “leads”) who really can be your potential customers. 

There are many ways how you can gather emails for your list, from offline promo events to targeted ads on social media. The channel of choice yet again depends on your target audience. So, look for it where it typically hangs out. 

Further Reading: How to Grow Your Email List: 10 Best Practices to Follow

Create and Send Emails

Now, when you know your goals and audience and have a large enough mailing list, you can start working on the actual emails. Approach this task with caution: remember that your first contact with the customer is the most important one. 

You might need to write many drafts before you nail the exact style and tone of voice and find the layout that looks best with your text content. Don’t worry, it’s normal: the best things usually take time to cook. 

Further Reading: How to Create the Perfect Content for Your Email Marketing

Track the Results 

Track the Results

Vital as it is to create amazing emails, it’s equally important to track their performance. Analytics is a businessperson’s best friend, so don’t forget to check the results after you’ve sent your awesome copy to your customers. Remember: the campaign is not over until you do that. After you do, analyze the results and draw conclusions.   

Further Reading: How to Measure Your Own Email Marketing ROI

Understand the Basic Types of Email Marketing 

As you being to create and send emails, its important to begin to strategize the different types of emails that you can send. There are many types of email marketing, but for small businesses, there are the main four that you should be aware of.

Welcome emails

This is your first interaction with a customer, and it can make it or break it for your business. A welcome email is basically an introduction of your company to a new customer and a promise of a future fruitful relationship. 


After you’ve established rapport, it’s critical to send gentle reminders so that your new customers won’t forget about your company. Newsletters can be weekly, monthly, or have any other regular cadence, which really depends on how much news you have that is worth sharing. 

Customer acquisition emails

These emails are aimed at acquiring the loyalty of new subscribers who haven’t yet decided to become your customers. In these emails, you can give special offers and provide information that can increase the value of becoming your customer.  

Retention emails

Once you’ve acquired the loyalty of your subscribers, it’s vital to retain it. For this purpose, you can send emails with exclusive offers for loyal customers, such as special sales, events, etc. It can also be worthwhile to kindly ask for feedback. 

Promotional emails

These are emails with a direct call to action. Their aim is to introduce a new product/service and, eventually, sell it. Many special offers also fall into this category. 

4 Foolproof Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses 

4 Foolproof Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses 

In addition, here are some more tips to ensure your marketing campaign runs smoothly. 

Hire a Copywriter 

Writing your own copy can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not too good at writing in general. However, the quality of your emails is of high importance, so it’s better to delegate this part of the job early on. Hire a professional copywriter with experience in email marketing, and you’ll instantly feel relieved.  

Segment Your Audience 

Sending generic messages to your whole customer base is not a good idea, as we’ve already mentioned. It is not very effective. Moreover, it’s generally annoying to most people. But how to avoid it? By segmenting your audience. 

Analyze your customer base and divide it into segments depending on specific factors like age, gender, location, previous interactions with your brand, etc. Based on this information, you can send targeted, more personalized messages to every segment. 

Further Reading: How to Use Email Segmentation to Boost Marketing Conversions

Use Autoresponders 

An autoresponder is a program that automatically sends pre-written answers to the subscribers on your mailing list. It can be a separate piece of software or a part of a more complex program designed to handle email marketing campaigns. Either way, it’s a great way to optimize your time and resources.  

Find Software Solutions That Fit 

Email marketing campaigns, even for small businesses, involve a lot of processes that are very hard to handle without automation – like responding to your subscribers in a timely manner, and a lot more.  

There’s a whole bunch of such software on the market, ranging from simple and cheap ones to very complex programs that are more suitable for large-scale campaigns. In the list below, you’ll find our top five suggestions most fitting for small businesses.  

Further Reading: What is Email Marketing Automation and How Much Can You Actually Automate?

Top 5 Email Marketing Tools to Manage Your Campaigns 

From one of the market leaders to a simple program suitable for a novice entrepreneur, here is our list of the best tools to handle your email marketing campaigns.  


ConvertKit is another very popular product highly suitable for small businesses. It offers great functionality with lots of useful options that come in handy as your business grows, and also has a free plan. However, most popular plans are not that cheap at all, and they also have certain limitations. 

Learn more about ConvertKit in this video:

YouTube video


Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing software solutions out there. It’s equally suitable for big and small businesses and has various pricing plans with different functionality. You can even get a free plan if your list doesn’t exceed 2,000 contacts. The standard plan currently starts at $14,99 (with a 500 contacts limitation, but a bigger range of functions). 


If you see the ROI in email marketing and want to leverage a full-featured tool at a reasonable price, then ActiveCampaign should be your choice. While it will get expensive as you grow your list, until you have 10,000 members on your list it can be quite cost-effective. Of course, with additional functionality comes increased complexity, so ActiveCampaign is not recommended for beginners!


EngageBay provides email marketing functionality that is part of a suite of products that acts as a singular platform for all of your Marketing, Sales, and Support teams. From an email marketing perspective, all of the advanced features you would want are there: Forms & Landing Pages, Email Sequences, Marketing Automation, and an Email Template Builder. EngageBay comes at a very reasonable price for the full suite beginning with free for 1,000 emails, $12 for 3,000, $40 for 25,000, and $80 for 50,000.


Omnisend is a popular email and SMS marketing platform that’s ideal for businesses of all sizes. It offers diverse pricing plans that come loaded with list collection, email, SMS, automation, and many other features. You can start with a free plan that gives you unlimited access to all their features, while the paid plan starts at $16 per month. Whether you’re a beginner or ready to go omnichannel, Omnisend has a solution for you.


Need something even more simple? MailerLite is perfect for novices due to its utter simplicity. It also has a free plan, but the limitations are more strict than in Zoho – 12,000 emails per month and only 1,000 subscribers on the list. 

Further Reading: The 16 Best Email Marketing Tools to Consider Investing in Today

Bottom Line 

Email marketing, despite the recurring rumors about it being dead and buried, is still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. With billions of users worldwide, it continues to play a vital role in customer acquisition and retention, and there are no signs of this channel dying out any time soon. 

For small businesses, this tool is even more significant, being one of the cheapest and easiest ways to raise brand awareness, build a personal rapport with customers and, eventually, increase sales. 

Moreover, email marketing is not too difficult to learn. Even after reading this one guide, you’ll be able to create your own small campaigns, and the rest is practice. 

Further Reading: 15 Best Free Email Marketing Services to Check Out

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This is a post contributed from one of my marketing partners.

Hero photo by Justin Morgan on Unsplash 

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  1. Highly agree with the importance of retention emails. There are ways to automatically follow up with old clients after a certain amount of time, allowing you to keep your clientele engaged with your product or service. Email can be leveraged for more than leads acquisition!

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