The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Winning with Email Marketing

Illustration of email marketing

Crafting an email? Piece of cake. But when it comes to email marketing, it’s an entirely different ball game.

Email marketing stands out as a powerhouse in the marketing world for both budding entrepreneurs and seasoned small business owners. Regardless of the industry, the size of the business, or the audience, this strategy is sound and, when done right, ROI-positive.

Why? Because email marketing is not just about sending out messages. It’s about fostering genuine engagement, driving sales, and building lasting relationships with people. It offers a cost-effective avenue to spark conversations, promote what you’ve got, and keep everyone in the loop with newsletters.

But, as with any strategy, success in email marketing doesn’t just happen; it’s designed. From laying out a clear strategy to setting precise goals and sweating the small stuff, there’s a method to the magic.

Why email marketing is essential

In today’s digital age, amidst the buzz of social media and evolving online platforms, some might underestimate the significance of email marketing.

However, this traditional tool remains relevant and incredibly potent in marketing. Bridging the gap between businesses and consumers, email stands as a personal, direct, and customizable medium. Here’s why email marketing is essential:

  1. Cost-effective. Email marketing offers a high return on investment with minimal costs. Unlike expensive advertising campaigns on search engines or social media, email marketing requires a minimal investment. It allows online businesses to reach a vast audience without the high costs, boosting ROI. Email marketing can replace or supplement traditional advertising methods like flyers and newspaper ads for brick-and-mortar stores, resulting in significant savings.
  2. Direct communication with customers. Emails land directly in a user’s inbox, ensuring a direct line of communication. This can increase traffic to an online store and keep customers updated about new product launches or sales. Email helps local businesses inform customers about in-store promotions, events, or sales, encouraging visits and purchases.
  3. Easily segmented and personalized. E-commerce platforms can segment customers based on purchase history, allowing for targeted promotions. This means more relevant offers and better conversion rates. Local stores can tailor emails to loyal customers, offering exclusive deals or previews of new stock and enhancing customer relationships.
  4. Measurable results. Email marketing platforms offer analytics, enabling businesses to measure open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. This data helps refine strategies and improve ROI. By using unique promo codes or in-store offers via email, businesses can track how many customers were influenced by the email to make a purchase.
  5. Builds strong customer relationships. Regular updates, newsletters, or exclusive deals help online businesses maintain a continuous relationship with customers, fostering loyalty. Personalized thank-you notes or event invitations can make local customers feel valued and more connected to the store.
  6. Flexible design options. Emails can include multimedia like videos or interactive content, enhancing user engagement and increasing sales. Historically, such content was expensive to produce. But today, you can use AI video makers to quickly and inexpensively generate high-quality videos. You can use emails to showcase in-store events, highlight products, or share customer testimonials, creating a vivid picture for your audience.
  7. Immediate impact. Flash sales or limited-time offers promoted via email can generate immediate traffic and sales for e-commerce sites. Announcing a one-day sale or event can quickly drive foot traffic to the store.
  8. Environmentally friendly. Digital marketing minimizes the carbon footprint, aligning with the sustainability values of many modern consumers. Email campaigns reduce the need for paper-based marketing, resonating with eco-conscious local customers.
  9. Global reach. Emails can reach an international audience, allowing e-commerce sites to promote to consumers worldwide. For local businesses looking to expand or target tourists, email marketing can inform a broader audience about offerings.
  10. Automation capabilities. Automated drip campaigns can nurture leads, retarget abandoned carts, or upsell products, ensuring consistent communication without manual effort. Reminder emails for events, sales, or annual sales can be automated, ensuring timely communication and reducing workload.

Let’s dive deep into 17 essential email marketing best practices to help you nail it every time.

1. Build your email list the right way

Purchasing an email list might seem like a shortcut, but it’s confusing. While you may initially reach many people, many might not be interested in your product or service, resulting in low open rates and high unsubscribe rates. Worse still, using bought lists could land you in legal trouble, especially with GDPR.

An e-commerce store using purchased lists risks GDPR violations, exposing itself to substantial fines.

A local bakery sending unsolicited emails to neighborhood residents risks harming its reputation. Instead of engaging potential customers, they may alienate them.

Growing organically ensures engagement and trust.

For example, offer exclusive discounts to first-time site visitors to entice sign-ups. A loyalty card or monthly recipe newsletter in exchange for an email at the point of sale can do wonders for a local bakery.

You can also start a blog and, using email sign-up forms, build your email list organically.

2. It’s all about timing

Timing your emails is about merging your audience’s habits with the message you want to convey. You wouldn’t want your meticulously crafted email to drown in a sea of unread messages. Knowing when your audience is most likely to check their emails and, importantly, engage with them is crucial for achieving the desired impact.

A digital agency might find that midweek emails around midday yield the highest webinar sign-ups. A local gym might catch the Monday motivation wave, noticing increased sign-ups for classes when emails are sent at the week’s start.

Special occasions offer unique opportunities. Showcase seasonal collections or exclusive offers to tap into festive shopping moods. Offering timely reminders and promotions can help your audience make the most of special days.

3. Strike the right email frequency

Flooding inboxes can be counterproductive. While it’s essential to remain present in the minds of your audience, overdoing it can lead to decreased engagement or, worse, increased unsubscribes. It’s a balancing act: keep your audience informed and engaged without overwhelming them.

A monthly subscription box service might find a sweet spot with bi-weekly updates, ensuring anticipation without fatigue. A bookstore’s monthly digest can keep the excitement alive for the next read without burdening inboxes.

Remember, the timing of your messages is as essential as their frequency. Effective email campaign management ensures you don’t upset your target audience.

4. Dive into email drip campaigns

Drip campaigns, often automated emails based on specific timelines or user actions, are invaluable in nurturing relationships over time. They help keep the engagement alive, allowing for a progressive introduction of your brand, products, or services without overwhelming the recipient.

E-learning platforms can map a journey from course introductions to testimonials and instructor spotlights.

For new patients at a dental clinic, a series starting with a welcome, followed by dental care tips and eventually reminders for regular check-ups, can be immensely beneficial.

When setting up these campaigns, ensure they align with other marketing endeavors to avoid information overload.

5. Captivate with engaging subject lines

The email’s subject line is its first impression. A well-crafted one can be the difference between an open and a skip. Incorporating personalized elements, arousing curiosity, or providing value from the subject can drastically increase open rates.

Using personalization tokens, an online store might tease: “Jane, a summer surprise just for you!” A local pizza joint could entice you with: “Tom, a cheesy deal for your next visit!”

Content alignment is vital; never mislead just for the sake of an open.

6. Be all ears: encourage email replies

Encouraging replies promotes engagement and signals email providers that your emails are wanted, improving deliverability. A simple gesture like ensuring people can reply to your emails can humanize your brand and create two-way communication.

Software feedback emails from a founder’s address highlight the value placed on user insights. Workshops actively seeking post-class feedback demonstrate a genuine interest in participant experiences.

7. Keep your email list fresh

Bounced emails are not just a nuisance; they can hurt your sender’s reputation. Email lists can become outdated as individuals move between jobs, change personal email addresses, or companies shut down. Regularly cleaning out invalid addresses is essential to maintaining high deliverability rates.

An e-commerce store can reduce bounce rates by running quarterly list-cleaning exercises, ensuring their sales promotions land in active inboxes. A local spa might increase bookings after regularly updating its mailing list, removing outdated contacts, and adding new ones from recent visitors.

8. Craft email copy that resonates

While getting the email opened is the first hurdle, retaining attention is the next. Your copy should be clear, concise, and compelling, resonating with the reader and encouraging them to take action.

An online magazine can get high click-through rates by making its content teasers concise and alluring, nudging readers to click and read more. A gym can successfully re-engage lapsed members with tailored emails reflecting their past activities, sparking interest and motivation to rejoin.

9. Continuously test and refine

The essence of successful email marketing is continuous testing. By employing A/B testing methods and an email marketing tool like Mailchimp, Active Campaign, or Constant Contact, marketers can identify what truly works for their audience, whether the subject line, content, or sending time.

An online shoe store can test two different subject lines. One focuses on a discount, while the other emphasizes the latest fashion trend. They might discover the fashion-forward subject line resonates better with their younger demographic.

A restaurant can test sending out their reservation promotions at different times and might find that mid-afternoon, just before the end of the workday, yields the best results.

10. Make unsubscribing straightforward

As counterintuitive as it sounds, a smooth unsubscribing process can boost your brand image. When users feel they have control over what they receive, they’re less likely to view your brand negatively, even if they opt out.

A digital magazine typically sees fewer spam reports after introducing a one-click unsubscribe process.

A monthly community newsletter can reduce negative feedback after they clearly print the process to opt out of physical mailings.

11. Infuse personalization for enhanced engagement

Generic messages are easily overlooked. Personalization is more than just adding the recipient’s name; it’s about tailoring the message to their behaviors, preferences, and needs, making each email feel specially crafted for them. You can also experiment with QR codes for marketing to add a personal and creative touch to your emails.

A digital art platform can send curated artist recommendations based on a user’s browsing and purchase history, driving higher engagement.

A local bookstore can promote personalized reading recommendations based on a customer’s previous purchases, enticing them to return and discover new titles.

12. Deliver consistency in your communications

Being unpredictable can work in some areas of life, but consistency is critical regarding email marketing. When subscribers know what to expect and when to expect it, they’re more likely to engage.

Career Contessa understands the power of consistency. They’ve built trust by reliably sending quality newsletters focused on professional development for working women every Sunday. As a layer of trust-building, they showcase subscriber feedback, underscoring their commitment to delivering value.

Brand consistency – from tone to visuals – ensures a memorable user experience. Think of your emails as an extension of your brand’s voice and personality.

13. Cherish and reward your loyal subscribers

Loyalty should never be taken for granted. Demonstrating appreciation can significantly enhance subscriber satisfaction and engagement levels.

Consider the success of Hotel Tonight’s HT Perks (we’re frequent users). Their loyalty program doesn’t just offer enticing discounts; it cultivates a deeper relationship with subscribers. By coupling this with an exclusive referral program, they magnify both brand loyalty and customer acquisition.

14. Seamlessly blend email with social media

Your audience lives in a multi-platform world. Integrating social media platforms into your email campaigns ensures you remain connected across all touchpoints. Encourage subscribers to join your social circles and vice versa.

While emails are a direct channel to your audience, social media fosters community engagement. Highlighting your active social presence in your emails indicates you’re reachable, modern, and invested in fostering genuine connections.

15. Design with a clear CTA in focus

Every email should have a purpose – a desired action you want the reader to take. Making this action clear and compelling is crucial. Whether it’s reading a blog, purchasing a product, or signing up for an event, the CTA should be the shining star of your email.

The team at Oaky discovered that making a CTA stand out isn’t just about color or text; placement is crucial. Their research found that optimally placed CTAs could enhance click rates by a significant margin. Therefore, investing in email design isn’t about aesthetics alone; it’s about functionality and guiding user behavior.

16. Optimize for mobile devices

In an era where most emails are accessed via mobile devices, ensuring your emails look as good on a smartphone or tablet as on a desktop is crucial. This isn’t just about scaling down; it’s about redesigning for thumb-friendly navigation, ensuring text is legible without zooming, and making sure CTAs are easily clickable.

Imagine a user getting your promotional email while on their commute. The images load perfectly, the text flows smoothly, and the CTA button is prominently displayed and easy to click. Mobile optimization ensures that users don’t skip over your email just because it’s inconvenient to read.

Beyond just making the email mobile-friendly, consider the entire user journey. If your CTA leads to a website, ensure that the site is also optimized for mobile to avoid drop-offs.

17. Make use of analytics and feedback

Every email you send is an opportunity to learn more about your audience. Analytics tools can provide insights into open rates, click-through rates, and even the time spent reading your email. Beyond the numbers, consider periodic surveys or feedback forms to understand what your audience likes or dislikes about your content.

A monthly newsletter can see a dip in its open rate. They can discover that the drop started when they changed the email design through analytics. They can A/B test the new design against the old to determine if that was the cause.

Numbers tell part of the story, but direct feedback fills in the gaps. A simple feedback form asking subscribers what they want more or less of can be a goldmine of information, guiding your future content strategy.

While numerous marketing strategies exist, email marketing remains a cornerstone of effective communication and business growth. By internalizing and acting on these best practices, entrepreneurs and businesses can carve out a competitive edge in their industries.