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19 small business email marketing tips for successful campaigns

Email marketing is one of the best methods small businesses can use to connect with large audiences in a personalized way, enabling them to build long-lasting relationships and convert people into loyal customers.

We’ve compiled a list of 19 email marketing tips for small businesses that will help you create successful email marketing campaigns, send effective emails that boost conversion rates and improve customer retention.


Table of contents

  1. Add a subscription box to your website

  2. Add a double opt-in

  3. Create a lead magnet

  4. Make a good first impression

  5. Add personalization elements

  6. Write a great subject line

  7. Keep your emails short

  8. Be consistent with your mailing frequency

  9. Start sending emails early on

  10. Optimize your emails for mobile readability

  11. Ask readers to add you to their contact list

  12. Make sure you’re GDPR compliant

  13. Get ideas from your competitors

  14. Underpromise and overdeliver

  15. Use automation where possible

  16. Track your metrics

  17. Get subscribers from Facebook

  18. Promote your list through Twitter

  19. Create partnerships


1. Add a subscription box to your website

If you’re in the process of creating your own small business, or you’re already a business owner, you probably have your own website.

Have you ever imagined what your customer’s journey looks like when they decide to check your page?

They probably go to your online store (if you sell products) or review the testimonials. If they like what they see they may even read a couple of your blog posts.

All these actions are opportunities to turn this reader into a subscriber.

Once a user clicks on a blog post, they have shown interest in the topics you’re talking about.

This is a great moment to ask for their email address via a subscription box. Implement this into your small business email marketing strategy by adding one of the following:

Pop-up box


These forms pop-up on your screen when you perform one or more actions on a website. They’ll generally ask customers to give their email address so you can send them more information through email.

Slide-in box


Slide-in forms are different to pop-up forms as they don’t disturb a customer’s reading experience by appearing on screen and blurring their text – they can choose to ignore them and keep on reading.

Inline opt-in forms


Also known as embed forms, these subscription boxes are strategically placed within the content of a page, asking customers for their email address. Much like pop-ups, these forms are also used to capture an email address in exchange for some sort of value.


2. Add a double opt-in

A double opt-in refers to the authentication process of confirming a new subscriber upon signing up to your email marketing list.

To do this, send an email upon registration where the user has to press on a link to confirm their subscription to your mailing list.

Double opt-ins serve many purposes. Not only do they ensure that the email address you receive is the actual email of the reader, but they also lower your spam score over time since you’re guaranteed to see higher open rates in the long term.


3. Create a lead magnet

Adding a subscription form may be easy to do, but how do you ensure that this will actually lead to new signups?

The best small business email marketing tactic here is to create a lead magnet.

A lead magnet is a form of content that’s offered to your website visitors in exchange for their email address. Users usually receive the lead magnet in the form of digital, downloadable content – such as a free ebook, checklist or useful infographic – which you can offer in many different types of email.

Make sure that your lead magnet is relevant to your audience and that they can find genuine value from putting its contents into practice.


4. Make a good first impression

The first email your new subscriber receives in their inbox will often be an automated welcome email that’s accompanied by the downloadable lead magnet.

Don‘t take this email lightly. When small businesses email someone for the first time it needs to be highly personalized, packed with value, have a great email design and reflect your brand’‘s tone of voice.

If you don’‘t pay enough attention to your first email, you may see your new list additions unsubscribe immediately.


5. Add personalization elements

You can easily check how a customer signed up to your mailing list by going through their journey on your website.

  • Did they offer their email in exchange for a specific lead magnet?

  • Was an order placed under their email address?

  • Did they sign up to receive a giveaway?

The method by which a customer signs up to your list will determine the segment you’ll place them in. Each segment has a set of similarities or common goals, wishes and challenges.

Add personalization to your email by:

  • Using your reader’s name within the subject line and the body of the email

  • Relating to the segment’s challenges and offering specific solutions

  • Offering discounts, freebies or limited offers that suit your reader’s needs

  • Offering a strong call to action (CTA) that’s relevant to the segment

You can find more information about creating personalized emails here.


6. Write a great subject line

The subject line determines whether or not a subscriber will open and read your email, but still many email marketing beginners overlook it.

Subject lines need to be both simple and value-packed while piquing the curiosity of your target audience.

To help perfect your subject line, perform A/B testing. This is where you send one subject line to a small group of subscribers and another subject line to another small group. Find out which was the best email (and why) then make any necessary tweaks to your subject line before sending it to the remaining majority of your list.

Here are some tips to remember when writing your subject line:

  • Use strong words that evoke your reader’s emotions. Words like “ultimate”, “epic”, “now”, “only today” are likely to get the reader curious enough to open your email. Make sure, however, that your use of these urgency words isn’t excessive or you might end up in your subscriber’s spam box.

  • Add value to your subject line even if it’s just a single word. Offer an opportunity, a discount, a time-bound offer or an interesting fact that will make the reader open and read your email.

  • Adding numbers can help your subject line stand out. Whether it’s related to the value you offer, the time left to respond to a CTA or simply to reinforce a fact, adding numbers can give a quick overview of what your email is all about.

  • Use emojis to give your emails a relaxed tone and stimulate relatability. In turn, readers may find this creative touch interesting as it’ll make your email stand out in an otherwise boring inbox. Keep in mind that emojis aren’t always a good idea. If your brand has a more professional and business-oriented tone, you might find more value by skipping this step.


7. Keep your emails short

Long and chunky paragraphs of text can quickly turn readers away. They need to understand your email’s message by simply scanning through it.

Try putting yourself in your reader’s shoes.

They likely have an overcrowded inbox (with many other small businesses emailing them), a busy daily life and only a few seconds of attention to spare.

Wouldn’t it be best to convey the message in just a few short paragraphs with eye-catching headers?


8. Be consistent with your mailing frequency

When a reader subscribes to your mailing list they expect to receive your emails with a certain frequency. Whether that’s once a month or once per day, what matters most isn’t the volume of emails, but the consistency.

If you promise to send one weekly email (e.g. a weekly newsletter), only to later send them emails daily, you may see more unsubscribes and lower open rates.

For that reason, when a new subscriber joins your list, make sure to inform them about your mailing frequency. You can then set up automated emails and build workflows using an email marketing service.


9. Start sending emails early on

An email list isn’t built overnight. When it comes to small business email marketing, you’ll gain a lot more value in the long term by building a list organically.

Avoid using rented or bought lists where possible. As with all good things, a powerful mailing list will take time to build but eventually it’ll help your business thrive and increase its revenue.

Until then, you shouldn’t treat your first handful of email subscribers any differently to newer signups. In fact, the first few subscribers are the most important ones. They’ve shown an interest in your business before anyone else and you should respect them accordingly.

Therefore, take the time to craft beautiful and value-packed emails even if you only started building your list recently.

Those first email subscribers are more likely to help you grow faster by spreading your message and recommending you to their social circles.


10. Optimize your emails for mobile readability

Most emails are now read on mobile devices through email apps such as Google’s Gmail and Microsoft Outlook.

So how can you optimize your small business email marketing for mobile readability across all email accounts?

Here are some guidelines:

  • Keep your emails short and value-packed

  • Let your sentences breathe and make the important parts of the text bold (make it scannable)

  • Write subject lines that convey the whole message of your email

  • Use a single-column layout that works well for both portrait and landscape views

  • Enlarge your fonts so they become easily readable

  • Limit image use to decrease email loading time


11. Ask readers to add you to their contact list

Ever heard of whitelisting? It’s when someone adds an email address to their list of contacts within their email service provider account, ensuring all emails from that sender end up in their inbox and not the spam folder. This is exactly what every small business needs.

It may sound forward but the best way to get your email address whitelisted by recipients is to ask them to do it.

Give it a go. In your next email, ask your subscribers (in a kind and respectful way) to add your email address to their contact list, so they can keep receiving your valuable free emails in their inbox. It could help your deliverability rates and open rates massively.


12. Make sure you’re GDPR compliant

The General Data Protection Regulation (also known as GDPR), is a policy that applies to all businesses that process information of EU-based data subjects.

The policy focuses on protecting the personal information of consumers and gives people more control over how their data is used by third parties.

When it comes to small business email marketing, you should always comply with these regulations to avoid any potential fines.For example, if someone wants to download a lead magnet by giving you their email address, you need to make sure that the reader is aware of the way their data is used. This includes whether or not they’re added to an email list to receive future email campaigns.

If a customer doesn’t want to receive your emails, they have the right to be forgotten instead of becoming a target for your next drip campaign. In this case, you’re not permitted to use their personal information for anything except the download of that lead magnet.

A great strategy here is to create an autoresponder action for everyone that opts in through the downloadable lead magnets. Send them an email stating how their data is used and to which (if any) newsletters they’re subscribing to.

Finally, it’s also important to state how often you’ll be using their information and if there are any third parties involved in the process.

Here are a few questions to help you understand whether or not your small business email marketing is GDPR compliant:

  • Do you allow your subscribers to be completely removed from the list when they unsubscribe?

  • Does your opt-in come with checkboxes that aren’t automatically ticked?

  • Do you have methods to help you trace the exact date and reason your subscriber opted in for your newsletter?

  • Can you erase the subscriber’s data upon their request to unsubscribe?

  • Do you inform your subscriber about the way their data is used, including whether any third parties will be involved?

  • Is your privacy policy clear and simple?

By answering yes to the above questions you can ensure that you’re GDPR compliant.

Finally, always send a confirmation email with every sign-up form and inform your customer that they can opt out of your emails at any time.


13. Get ideas from your competitors

When first starting out you’ll probably have many ideas for content, but what happens when you’ve drained all your creative juice?

Continuing to write captivating and value-packed emails can get harder and more time-consuming. Thankfully, there’s a way to constantly get new content ideas. It’s as simple as subscribing to your competitor’s newsletters.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Your competition probably already implements similar small business email marketing strategies to increase its list growth, so chances are their content is inspired by others.

Start by finding your direct competitors through industry/niche research, then also look to businesses that offer similar services or products to you.

After subscribing to your competitors’ email newsletters, check their content topics, language and calls to action. Perhaps they’re targeting a demographic you hadn’t considered or promoting new products with special offers. You can easily use bits and pieces of this information to create new email content for your own list.


14. Underpromise and overdeliver

How do you feel when you subscribe to an email list after being promised to gain “exclusive access to industry secrets” only to later get emails promoting a paid webinar?

Making misleading promises that you can’t deliver on may get you a few subscribers initially, but it’ll be devastating for your small business email marketing in the long term.

The reasons why are pretty simple: Your readers are real people with real problems. Once they realize you can’t keep your word they’ll be disappointed in your business. Before you know it, they’ll unsubscribe from your list.

On the other hand, let’s say you start off promoting a weekly newsletter that only provides interesting information. Any additional value you then offer is welcomed with open arms.

Imagine: you subscribe to a weekly newsletter to keep up with a certain industry and after a few weeks you receive a free monthly subscription to a software tool, or a checklist to better organize yourself, or a pricing coupon.

Given the offer is valuable, wouldn’t these add-ons put an instant smile on your face? Wouldn’t it prompt you to engage with future emails?

Underpromising (keeping things humble and transparent) and over delivering is a great tip for successful small business email marketing.


15. Use automation where possible

Small business email marketing is all about efficiency. For that you need email automation.

Most days you’re busy working on various digital marketing tasks. As such, email marketing can only take up a small part of your day and you need to get the most out of it.

Start by estimating what an hour of your time is worth, depending on the industry you work in. If, for example, you offer fitness training services, your hour may be worth $40-50.

Now, make a list of all the tasks you need to perform on a weekly basis for your email marketing efforts and calculate how much time these take.

Translate the hours you spend on your small business email marketing to money earned.

If you spend 10 hours per week crafting emails and sending them to your subscribers, you’re looking at $400-500 worth of your time.

Instead of that, why not automate the process through a powerful email marketing software platform? These email marketing tools are cost-effective and can dramatically help small business owners improve functionality. Once you’ve used marketing automation, you’ll probably wonder how you ever ran a campaign without it.


16. Track your metrics

No small business email marketing campaign is ever complete without analyzing your metrics. You won’t know if it was an effective email until you do.

You can start by focusing on the three most important metrics that will help with future campaign optimization.

  • Open rate: How many people opened your email

  • Click-through rate: How many people opened your email and clicked on the call to action

  • Bounce rate: The percentage of undelivered emails


17. Get subscribers through Facebook

Join groups within your niche and create compelling posts to promote your mailing list. A good strategy here is not to make your posts sound overly promotional since most groups don’t like or allow the publishing of promotional posts.

Instead, with the permission of the group’s administrators, you can create a compelling piece of content accompanied by a link leading to a signup form or a lead magnet.

Before you know it, this small business email marketing strategy will have people signing up to download your lead magnet in order to gain value from it.

Finally, Facebook is considered by many to be a great networking tool. You can ask your social circle to share your posts on their profiles in order to expose your newsletter to more people.

Doing so will lead to more signups and, eventually, even more brand awareness on social media.


18. Promote your list through Twitter

Twitter has become a goldmine for people looking to monetize mailing lists related to ecommerce and money-making opportunities.

The social media platform, which only allows users to create 280-character posts, has been the foundation of success for many mailing lists as the quality of tweets can easily hint how valuable their email campaigns are.

Therefore, if you haven‘t already, consider creating a Twitter account and ask your network to share your landing page with their followers to boost awareness and email signups.


19. Create partnerships

Creating partnerships with other established businesses in your niche is a great way to leverage social media and the mailing lists of others.

For example, if your mailing list focuses on dog lovers and you own an ecommerce store that sells dog collars, you could partner up with a dog food brand for some promotional emails.

Offer to create a giveaway in which people would have to sign up to both mailing lists to participate. This way, you’ll gain subscribers and so will your partner.

The same goes for random mentions of industry-related businesses. If you happen to mention another business in your newsletter, don’t hesitate to contact that business and let them know about it. They might return the favor by adding a link to your landing page in their next email.

This small business email marketing technique is widely used and could not only increase the size of your mailing list but also your network.

When it comes to partnerships, you have to be creative. Find opportunities to increase your mailing list’s exposure while still offering value to your subscribers.


Final thoughts

Small businesses need digital marketing now more than ever. Unfortunately, many tend to underestimate the power and potential of email marketing, turning a blind eye to the many businesses that have managed to grow solely through this channel.

If you embrace an email marketing strategy and follow the tips in this guide, you’ll be able to create a stronger connection with your audience and build longer lasting relationships.

Here’s a recap of our email marketing tips for small businesses:

  • Make sure you add subscription boxes to your website

  • Include a double opt-in to gain quality email addresses

  • Create and offer a lead magnet

  • Make a good first impression

  • Add personalization elements to your emails

  • Write a great subject line

  • Keep your emails short and value-packed

  • Be consistent with your email frequency

  • Start sending emails early on

  • Optimize your emails for mobile readability

  • Ask readers to add you to their contact list

  • Make sure you’re GDPR compliant

  • Get content ideas from your competitors

  • Underpromise and overdeliver

  • Use automation where possible

  • Track your metrics: open rate, click-through rate and bounce rate

  • Get subscribers through Facebook

  • Promote your channel through Twitter

  • Create partnerships

Now you’ve got the know-how, it‘s all about hard, consistent work from here on. Before you know it, your small business email marketing will help you grow your mailing list, your customer base and ultimately your revenue.

For more business email tips, check out our article on cold emails.

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