Fact: Email marketing is one of the most effective digital marketing techniques accessible to small businesses. Not only can you use email for lead nurturing and building relationships with existing clients, but also to boost sales and increase profits—and the numbers confirm it.
Recent market research shows that around 66 percent of online consumers made a purchase as the result of email marketing. Comparatively, only 20 percent did so as a result of a Facebook promotion. Moreover, when buyers get their products through email, they tend to spend 138 percent more than folks who never receive email offers.
Of course, nailing your email marketing isn’t as easy as simply doing it—you still need the right approach and execution. So to help get you there, we put together some tips from small business owners and fellow marketers: what they do to increase email marketing ROI and what results they’ve seen after implementing them.
1) Attract the right audience to your email list.
According to Erhu Oshodi, email conversion copywriter, your email list is “the most important asset you'll ever own.” If you want a successful business, you need to start building an email list as soon as possible.
The most significant advantage of having an email list is that you can directly communicate with your customers, almost the same way you would through 1:1 conversations. Not having to depend on social media channels means your business won’t suffer if your audience doesn’t use them, if their terms or structure change, or if they simply don’t provide a platform for meaningful and conversational engagement.
Plus, you can send your messages directly to your audience’s inbox, with no need to worry about algorithm changes or spending your money on ads.
To attract the right people to her email list, Oshodi created a lead magnet (content offer/freebie) and set up an opt-in page on her website to capture the subscribers’ details in exchange for the content.
The secret is to offer a lead magnet that speaks to the pain points of your ideal clients. This way, you attract only the people who are likely to buy from you.
If you want to use this technique, you’ll also need email marketing software to collect your subscribers’ details. You can use free options (Mailchimp, Mailerlite) or paid tools (Active Campaign, ConvertKit). Then, you can start nurturing your subscribers by sending them regular emails.
You get to connect with your ideal clients and communicate with them regularly. “Building a trusting relationship with subscribers leads to loyal lifelong buyers ready to buy what you're offering,” says Oshodi.
2) Turn buyers into subscribers.
The buyer’s journey isn’t a predefined path from A to B. No rule says people first land on your email list and then become buyers. Sometimes, you must work backward and turn buyers into subscribers.
People don’t voluntarily search you online just to subscribe to your newsletters. You must help them find you and remind them that being on your email list comes with benefits.
Every time you list your products or services online, make sure you add a link that leads to the page where people can consent to receive commercial emails from you. Then, nurture them as you do with your leads to convince them to buy more.
You increase your customers’ lifetime value, which means you have higher profits with small costs. Jeni Fred is a published author under a pen name and uses this technique to sell more books. “Every time I release a new book, two things happen. I get new mailing list subscribers, and old books get bought because, after the last page, there’s a link to join my list. When you join my list, you're told about other books,” explained Fred.
3) Use automation to sell more.
Email marketing automation is an excellent method to leverage your time and get more done. Simply put, you use software to send emails to new subscribers in a specific order so that people feel welcomed and learn more about your business.
According to Rob and Kennedy from Email Marketing Heroes, automation helps you create context for each subscriber so that no one feels confused by your emails. This way, everyone receives all the information they need to take action and make educated buying decisions when they’re ready.
For example, Rob and Kennedy use two email marketing campaigns to nurture new leads. “Put a simple welcome sequence in place; we teach one called the 4-Day Getting to Know You Sequence that introduces the subscriber to who you are, what you do, and what to expect. Following that, we have something we call an Overture Sequence that introduces one of your products.”
If you send an immediate welcome email, your open rates will grow by 78 percent, and you can even double your click rates. Plus, chances are you register 12X more revenue per email than sending welcome emails at a later time.
You write the email sequences once, and they sell for you repeatedly. You can focus on bringing people to your list and delivering an excellent experience while the software takes care of converting leads into customers.
4) Provide valuable insights and advice to build authority and gain people’s trust.
Two things matter the most for an email marketing campaign’s success: who sends the email (your reputation is gold) and the subject line. With this email marketing tip for small businesses, you can influence the way people perceive you, your emails, and even your brand as a whole.
People care about the sender. Campaign Monitor research revealed that 68 percent of Americans say they base their decision to open an email on the “from” name. If they know you and associate your name with valuable information, they’re more likely to open your emails.
“Be authentic. Even if you use a template, make sure you use your own words and showcase your brand. You want your audience to know who you are so that you can build that trust and love factor,” says Samantha Giles from Giles Writing Services. When you design your email templates and write the copy for your emails, make sure everything is on-brand and reflects your voice and personality.
The first win is improved open rates. In the long run, you’ll see an improvement in the quality of your list. That’s because when you keep your promises and provide value, the right people will remain connected to your brand for long periods.
5) Make your subject line click-worthy.
The subject line is the second most important element to consider after the sender’s name. You want to pick the right words to open a conversation that can raise interest and generate engagement.
People have, on average, 200 emails in their inbox every day. Boring subject lines don’t cut through the noise, and your message will pass unnoticed.
Each audience is different, so it’s hard to tell what will make your recipients take action. Ideally, you want to experiment with different subject lines and measure engagement to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Consider not only how many people open your emails but also what the recipients do after they read your message.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some stats about email subject lines and their performances:
- Words that evoke emotions increase the effectiveness of marketing by 70 percent.
- Emojis in subject lines can improve open rates, and emails with emojis have a higher click-through rate, but use them carefully—emojis can also create negative sentiment for your brand.
- Numbers in the subject line can increase open rates in specific industries.
- Best performing subject lines leverage curiosity and fear of missing out (FOMO).
- Personalized emails generate 6x higher transaction rates.
Track all your emails to measure their performance and use data to understand what represents “click-worthy” subject lines for your audience.
Subject lines can break or make your email strategy. Megha Shrimali from Pixelated Egg Digital Ventures saw impressive results after optimizing her subject lines: “Our emails saw a better open rate, which led to more visits to the website via embedded links and eventually sales. We went from an open rate of 20% to 70% for multiple campaigns.”
6) Write for one person.
Even if you segment your email list into multiple categories and send personalized emails, you still create one email for hundreds of people. However, it doesn’t mean you should write your copy with all of them in mind. Pick one recipient and write as if you’re speaking directly to that person.
“The thing with email is that it's highly personal. If you're showing up in someone's inbox at least three times a week, that's the (virtual) equivalent of going to someone's house three times a week. You need to make it worth it. You need to speak to that ONE PERSON so when they open the email, they feel recognized and special,” says Sumble Khan, copywriter.
Conduct market research to learn as much as possible about your target audience so you can connect with your recipients and appeal to their interests. When you know what fires them up, you can make the readers feel seen and heard, building trust and loyalty.
When you write for one person, you turn your cold audience into a warm public — as Khan did. “The more you're in touch with your ideal clients and customers, the more that relationship and trust factor builds. Open rates went up, and my client started to see more engagement with their emails. More replies were coming in once readers started to feel acknowledged. It was easier to sell to a warm audience.”
7) Add a powerful call to action (CTA).
When using email marketing, you want more than above average open rates. People opening your emails may be flattering, but their appreciation alone doesn’t pay the bills. You want people to take action after reading your email, and that’s when CTAs come in.
CTAs show your readers what the next steps are. They can go to your website for more information, subscribe to your event, request a demo, schedule a call, or even buy something. Without a CTA, people don’t know what you expect them to do, and may simply move on instead of moving forward.
You want to make the whole email a pleasant experience from start to finish. This way, the reader is more likely to take action. Kunal Mehta from DSM suggests:
- Use a powerful and relevant subject line (no clickbait).
- Send meaningful content consistently so that people don't press the Unsubscribe button.
- Use content that doesn't seem like a sales pitch.
- Add a strong call to action for more information.
This way, you first educate your audience, build trust, and consolidate the relationships, which eventually drives sales.
A call to action will improve your email click-through rate. Using a CTA in an email can increase clicks by 371 percent and sales by 1617 percent. What if you don’t want to sell anything right now?
Chinmaya Sadangi, the founder of The Addictive Brain, keeps his emails to the point and always adds a call to action to increase awareness about his project: “I got more traction for my website and my social media channels,” Sadangi said.
8) Email marketing is all about relationship building and nurturing.
As much as 83 percent of global consumers say they prefer email when receiving communications from brands. That’s because, with emails, your customers are always in control over when and whether they read your emails. Under this light, you want to rethink the purpose of email marketing beyond just closing sales.
Depending on the time you send your emails, your message can be one of the first things your recipients see in the morning — around 50 percent of Americans check their emails before breakfast. It’s an opportunity to make a positive impact, lead with empathy, and create content that is less about your brand and more about your readers.
“Treat writing emails the same way you would when you're making new friends. Put down the bullhorn and just speak with the readers,” explained Kelli Koladish, marketing consultant, designer, and creative entrepreneur.
“Reframing the way I thought about email in this way actually helped build loyalty with my clients/readers. It also makes coming up with ideas on what to say in each email easier,” says Koladish.
9) Use mobile-friendly email templates.
Almost everyone uses responsive email templates today, but you want to make sure you pay attention to all the details that can impact the user experience.
People open and read 81 percent of emails on mobile devices. They’re on the go and if your email doesn’t look good on their smartphones, they’ll delete it in seconds.
Use email templates that look good on all devices and make it easy for readers to consume content whether they’re reading your email from the car, public transportation, or the bathroom. For instance, when you embed text in images or use GIFs in your emails, check how the content appears on smartphones. Moreover, if you plan to send folks to third-party websites, make sure they can access the page from any device.
Email formatting can influence click-through rates and eventually, sales. Furthermore, people are more likely to unsubscribe if your email looks odd on mobile devices. So, by using mobile-friendly email templates, you minimize the risks of losing subscribers.
10) Hire a professional writer if you can’t put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Email marketing can be an excellent way to keep potential customers informed about what’s new in your business. At the same time, it’s a cost-effective way to introduce your existing customers to new products and services. Either way, you should promote your brand with empathy and professionalism.
People get bored quickly if you talk too much about yourself. “If you are too close to your product, you may be tempted to write a lot of information that can bore the customer, making them stop reading. This is not your goal!” — Kimberly Roberts, copywriter. A professional writer has a fresh perspective of what your products can do for your clients and state it in a simple but effective way.
You want to hire a copywriting professional who understands your products’ unique characteristics and how it meets your target audience’s needs. At the same time, you want someone who can write in your voice, following style guidelines. That’s because your personality should still be present in your copy, even if someone else is doing the work.
Professional copywriters are persuasive and know how to trigger the right reactions. According to Roberts, “If you use this tip, you’ll see more customers engaging and purchasing.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that can boost email marketing ROI. If you run a small business and wish to experiment with email marketing, remember that every audience has different needs and expectations.
These tips come from small business owners or marketers who work with small businesses, so they’re easy to implement. However, they need to be tailored to what your ideal clients want from you. To succeed, make sure you test, measure, and adjust your marketing efforts to make the most out of your investment.