Five things about email marketing every small business owner should know

Five things about email marketing every small business owner should know
Minal Patel
Minal PatelMarketing by Minal

Posted: Wed 15th May 2024

Email marketing is a direct channel to your audience. For me, it’s the digital tool that lets you build personal connections and drive engagement.

It's a versatile tool that can adapt to any marketing strategy and it gives you the opportunity to really personalise your emails by segmenting your lists so you can send them what they want.

If you look at email marketing as a route to building relationships and communities, it becomes a lot less scary. Yes, of course, you need to sell your product or service, but when you build a community of engaged, interested subscribers, the selling part isn’t as nerve-wracking as you might think. It’s like you’re talking to friends. All this helps you to find new customers and turn them into loyal ones.

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the five things you need to know before you embark on your email marketing journey.

1. Building your email list is crucial

This might seem obvious, but it’s not about collecting as many email addresses as you can.

When you’re building your list, it’s about gathering your tribe – relevant contacts who are interested in your business and what you have to say.

So, how do you do it? It’s all about how and where you ask.

  • How: You have to tell them what’s in it for them. No one is going to just hand over their email address. So, before you ask, you need to figure out the types of content you’ll include. It needs to speak to them. It needs to make their lives easier in some way

  • Where: You should ask in all the places you come into contact with your target audience. These are places you own, as well as ones you “rent”, like social media. Don’t forget to ask during in-person interactions too

Top tip: You can also look for complimentary businesses you can work with for co-promotions, so you can help each other grow your lists.

And remember, a healthy list ebbs and flows. People will come and they will go. Don’t stress about the unsubscribes too much. Understand why they happen and whether you need to tweak anything if you’re getting loads.

The last thing you should remember to do is clean your list. A healthy list produces good results. Remove bounces and (shock, horror) remove anyone who hasn’t opened an email for ages. Not only are they not engaging but they’re also costing you money if you pay for your email marketing tool.

Watch this webinar to discover how to grow an email marketing list with people who want to hear from you:

2. Personalisation and segmentation

You know those one-size-fits-all clothes, aren’t they awful? Just like those clothes, sending the same email to everyone all the time is a great way to turn your list off.

Let’s talk about personalisation and segmentation.

Personalisation is easy to understand. You’re personalising the email for each recipient and it goes beyond adding their first name. Personalising means tailoring content based on their past interactions, preferences and behaviour. That means understanding your subscribers.

You might think segmentation is a complex thing for you to do. It’s really not!

All you’re doing is grouping people into 'buckets'. You might have a geographical bucket. Maybe you have content that’s only relevant to women. Maybe you want to reward engagement; create a segment of your top engagers.

I do this and every quarter, they are invited to a special event. It’s my way of rewarding them.

3. Crafting compelling content

Let me tell you this. You have lots of content to share and your list wants to hear about it. Remember, they signed up because they’re interested in what you do.

But that doesn’t mean you should spend all your time talking about yourself and your business. You need to find ways to keep your readers interested.

What you send them needs to inform, entertain or inspire your readers. And here’s the thing…

If you spend 80% of your time sending them content like this, then the 20% of the time you send sales messages, they will be more open to receiving them.

And the more you can make that 80% relatable, the better engagement you’ll get. That means crafting stories your readers will identify with. These can be your story – the reason you started your business. Or you can share customer success stories, which show how you have helped people who had the same challenges your readers have.

It doesn’t end with the words you use. How you design your email also impacts your success. Make sure you create emails that work on any device. They need to be accessible, which means using the right fonts and sizes, as well as colours.

Lastly, make your call to action (CTA) obvious. A really good way of doing that is to add a button in a contrasting colour. We’re used to clicking on them, so your readers will know exactly what to do!

4. Understanding email marketing metrics

For me, the magic of email marketing happens in the metrics. If you’re yawning, bear with me.

You want to know how well your emails are performing. And nothing will tell you that more than the metrics in your email marketing tool.

Those metrics reveal things to help you make your emails better. Let’s look at the two main ones more closely.

  • Opens

When you look at this number, it’s telling you a few things. Firstly, you’ll find out if you’re sending your email at the right time for your list. Take a look at when the biggest clump of opens happens, then tweak your send time/day if you need to.

Opens also tell you that your subject line was effective, as well as your subscribers recognising the email was from you. If you feel your opens are low, test your “from name”.

Write compelling subject lines (but not clickbaity ones). I run my subject lines through Subject Line – it rates your subject line and gives you alternatives.

  • Clicks

This metric tells you if your content has hit the mark with your readers. Did you send an email that got way more clicks than normal? What did you write about? Work out how you can give your readers more content like that.

Some email marketing tools also include 'heat maps'. They show you where people clicked on your emails. This information is gold dust. You can use it to format your emails, so you get more clicks.

Every time I check mine, 100% of the clicks happen on images. That’s helped me create better images that encapsulate the whole email. You can tell what it’s about just from the image!

5. Staying compliant with email regulations

Privacy laws vary significantly across regions but they have a common goal – protecting an individual's data and ensuring businesses communicate responsibly.

For instance, GDPR requires explicit consent before sending marketing emails, meaning subscribers must actively opt-in, typically through a tick box that isn't pre-ticked.

Similarly, CASL (in Canada) needs a clear message about what subscribers are signing up for, including the types of emails they will receive and how often.

Understanding the specific requirements of the laws applicable to your audience is crucial in crafting a compliant email marketing strategy.

If you’re exporting and collecting data from those countries, don’t get caught out. Know what the data protection legislation is so you stay on the right side of the law.

Another thing you are responsible for is making sure your subscribers’ data is secure. You should have a privacy policy which details what you do with that data.

And you should make it really easy for people to opt-out. In fact, requirements from Google and Yahoo! (they came into force in February 2024), state that there should be a one-click opt-out for their users. That’s why using an email marketing tool is so important. They manage this for you.

You want to be a trusted brand and ensuring you’re compliant with data protection legislation will help you. It will also help you grow your list.

I hope I’ve shown you that email marketing is more than sending the occasional email. It’s about building and nurturing relationships. Really meaningful relationships that help you find your next best customer, as well as keeping all the loyal ones you already have.

Email marketing is more than a promotional tool, it can help you deliver on your goals of growing your business and making sure people buy from you again and again.

Relevant resources

Minal Patel
Minal PatelMarketing by Minal
Is marketing a mystery to you? Well, I want to demystify it and help give your marketing more focus. Every business owner can do their own marketing if they need to, and I'll show you how.

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