When it comes to marketing your small business it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming faced with all the options out there. Should you pay for ads? Focus on your social channels? Emails? Or maybe all four and more.
Now that social media has turned into such a goliath it might be tempting to divert all your efforts onto the big platforms, but actually, time and time again, the humble email has been shown to outperform any other form of marketing in terms of customer acquisition.
Yup, emails musn’t be overlooked, but how do you create a killer campaign on a budget and limited timeframe, we hear you cry? Don’t sweat it, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to creating a simple yet effective email marketing campaign for your small business. But first…
Why are emails so important?
Besides the aforementioned fact that emails outperform other marketing activities, there’s also a handful of other benefits to be had:
- They’re inexpensive - you can reach a large audience at a very low price.
- Email marketing generates a superior return on investment than other strategies.
- They’re super personal - think about it, an email lands directly in a customer’s personal mailbox which oftentimes is in the palm of their hands thanks to smartphones.
- You can customise them - you can include customer details and preferences in emails to really go that extra mile and drive loyalty.
- You can easily track their performance using software (more on this later).
Convinced? Let’s get on with it.
Creating an email campaign in three simple steps
First things first you need to get your creative juices flowing - what will you actually send out to your subscriber list? Emails can be used for loads of different purposes, including:
- Promotions and special offers - these sorts of emails are full-on clickbait for consumers, who doesn’t love bagging a bargain? You could include a discount coupon, details of a special offer or time-limited promotion.
- Topical campaigns - as a business owner aiming to stand out from the competition it’s all about presenting yourself as a thought leader in your industry and valued source of information, and a topical campaign can achieve this. Think along the lines of a monthly email packed full of the latest industry news, sprinkled with your opinions and guidance, and including your latest releases. For example, if you run a ladies clothing boutique you could share the best dressed at London fashion week along with your thoughts on the outfits and the on-trend items you’re currently stocking for your customers to ‘get the look’.
- Loyalty programme reminders - if you have a loyalty programme set up to show your valued customers how much you appreciate them then use your emails to let them know how many points they’ve amassed or how many more purchases they need to make before they’ll bag your reward. Loyalty programmes are a brilliant way to encourage repeat purchases and boost brand affinity.
- Welcome campaigns - start as you mean to go on by reaching out to your new customers and saying hello. You’ll foster trust and loyalty from the get-go and can follow these up with your other campaigns to keep them engaged.
- Cross-sell efforts - did Joe Bloggs just buy a duvet set from your new bedroom range? Then follow up the purchase with an email highlighting the complementary curtains, lampshades, and rugs you have in stock to encourage further purchases. To up your chances of success you might even offer a promotional price for the next item.
Once you’ve decided which type of campaign you’ll run it’s time to hone in on the exact details, create a mock-up or first draft, and move onto step two.
Never, and we can’t stress this strongly enough, send out an email campaign without having at least one more pair of eyes take a look over it. It’s so easy to overlook a glaring error in a piece of content you’ve created yourself and if this is viewed by all your subscribers it’ll reflect pretty badly on you.
It’s a really clever idea to try and put your email in front of someone who’d fit the criteria for your target audience, so if that’s 20-30-year-old men do you have a staff member, friend, or family member who fits the bill that you could show it to? Ask about:
- Subject line
- Configuration of ads
- Size of text
Basically, the idea is to work out if your design will get the seal of approval from your audience - will they get a good feel from your email and be likely to skim over it and potentially click-through rather than sending it straight to junk?
Assess and re-work your email until it gets the thumbs up from your panel of evaluators and you’ll up your chances of success.
It’s time to release your baby out into the big wide world, but there’s one more step to take before you can hit the ‘send’ button, and that’s deciding which platform you’ll use to do it with.
By using a platform you’ll get access to loads of nifty features like customisable templates and themes, social media integration in some cases, but most importantly campaign tracking.
By tracking your campaign you’ll be able to see how many people opened your email and clicked-through, and that’s ultimately the goal in email marketing. You’ve got options for email marketing platforms, and the features on offer and cost will vary between solutions, so work out which ones are important to you and how much you’re willing to pay.
Big names on the market include:
- IONOS email marketing - starts at £4 per month
- Campaign Monitor - starts at £9 per month
- Constant Contact - starts at £15 per month
If none of these options float your boat there’s plenty of competition in the market for email marketing platforms.
8 top tips for success
Before we leave you to go and smash your email campaign, we wanted to share some important tips for ensuring it’s the best it can be.
- Don’t bombard consumers with emails - if you send too many you’ll overwhelm your subscribers and chances are they’ll hit unsubscribe before long.
- Offer value - don’t email for the sake of it, be sure your email contains something useful for the recipient, whether that’s information, savings or otherwise.
- Consider timing - don’t just send off all your hard work at any old time of day, timing is important. The best time for your customers will depend on your sector as it will vary between industries so you’ll need to do a bit of homework to find their sweet spot. Some research suggests early evening is the prime time to send business emails, but our advice is to do some digging rather than chancing it.
- Always include a call to action at the end of each email so it’s clear what the consumer needs to do to proceed.
- Include links to your social feeds too - this will up engagement with your brand long-term and could improve the success of future campaigns, even if the customer doesn’t go for your offer this time.
- Add social sharing buttons - if a reader finds it useful they could market for you by sharing the content with their inner circle.
- Do not buy email addresses - email marketing can be successful because it’s targeted at consumers who want to hear from you. Buying addresses is counterintuitive and spammy. If you’re looking to up your subscriber list organically check out our how-to guide.
- Optimise for mobile - mobile makes up 46% of all email opens, if they’re unreadable on mobile then you’re effectively costing yourself nearly half your audience. So, when evaluating your campaign, don’t forget to check it works on mobile too!
We wish you every success in your next email campaign - follow our three steps and top tips and you’ll be sure to smash it. For heaps more guides designed especially for small businesses head over to our dedicated blog.