The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Small Business Owners


If there’s a particular reason why small businesses love email marketing, it is because of its cost-effective nature coupled with a tendency to produce outstanding results.

There’s an overall better return on investment (ROI) than with many similar marketing alternatives to it.

However, nothing works quite as well as a well-oiled campaign that sticks to the fundamentals.

If you’re a small business looking to grow, you can’t be only focused on short-term goals like quick-fire sales. What you need is to first stick to the basics – building and nurturing subscribers and molding them into long-term customers.

Look at this beginner’s guide to email marketing for small business owners as a resource guide and center.

You’ll learn what email marketing means, how effective it is, the advantages, tricks, and how to manage an effective email marketing campaign.

Also, you’ll learn how to work your way to an ROI that’s worth the effort and what not to do.

Small business is often used to reflect the status of any type of startup. As such, this guide is a reference for businesses that cut across a wide range of industries.

The trend here is that email marketing applies to such businesses, and our guide will give more detailed information for your business.

Seatback and relax as you take in all that you need to know about email marketing.

What is Email Marketing?

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing has long existed since the advent of the internet.

As such, it’s plausible to say that it is one of the most dependable online marketing avenues that businesses can key into.

While it maintains its status as one of the oldest marketing channels, it remains one of the best to this day.

Email marketing is a communication flow that uses email to relay information and foster relationships with your target audience.

While an email marketing strategy refers to efforts aimed at promoting your business’s products and services via email with an objective to incentivize customer loyalty.

It’s further geared towards making your customers learn about the new products you offer, possible discounts or promos, and the latest updates about your business.

All you want to do is keep them engaged between purchases. To that end, your email list should almost always consist of people who are interested in what your business offers.

Such an audience must also benefit from the products and services in offer.

Email Marketing and Small Businesses

For a small business, email marketing starts with collecting email subscribers and sending content and offers to them in the hope of turning them into loyal customers.

The start-up costs for taking this initial step are low, and the email list will always belong to the small business owner.

Email marketing also puts small businesses in control of their marketing assets.

Tools for continual growth are also present and unlike other digital marketing strategies and platforms, it’s difficult to lose data.

For example, if your Facebook page is compromised or deleted, you’ll lose all those followers for good.

That’s not the case with email marketing especially when you get the fundamentals right.

Let’s talk about Email marketing campaigns

Email marketing campaigns

An email marketing campaign refers to a focused collection of messages sent at intervals to subscribers and specially designed to influence customer purchase decisions and to also encourage actions like subscriptions and downloads as it applies to individual businesses.

The most important thing to get your email marketing campaign working is, to begin with the fundamentals.

That way, you’ll get the right campaign strategy in place, and better manage your activities as events unfold.

The numbers also support you. In 2019 alone, 293.6 billion emails were sent and received each day and a large portion of these were one form or the other of marketing campaigns by small and large corporations.

» Email Marketing Fundamentals for Small Businesses

For email marketing, fundamentals represent the building blocks to help you gain a foothold on your marketing campaigns.

Here are some fundamentals to for starters:

  • Attract Subscribers and Build your list

One of the factors that make email marketing spectacular is that you have permission from your target audience to reach out to them.

To that end, you have to maintain the relationship much like your everyday friendships. Such relationships get started when you attract people to your business and invite them to sign up to your email list.

Attracting people to your business is a continuous process and there are working techniques to help you do that.

You can use an email marketing service to help you build a healthy list. For example, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and SendinBlue help you maintain a mailing list.

Other things you can do include the use of landing pages, sign-up forms, pop-ups, and website builders. That way, you can develop new content to attract new customers.

  • Provide Value-based Content

It’s never enough to have a list of customers you can reach. The question is what messages are you sending across to them?

You have to modify your content so that it appeals to subscribers. What your new subscribers want includes things that matter to them.

Thinking back, you probably made them sign up to receive a certain type of content.

If you’re going to send a mail to them, make sure you deliver on that promise or objective. What you want to do is provide value to them, not to yourself. The fact is people are giving you their time and can unsubscribe at any time.

Since email marketing is a transaction, you have to provide quality for the time and attention given to you.

Get as creative as you can with your content. After all, email offers result in shoppers spending 138% on their purchases.

  • Write Compelling Subject Lines

The content you write is just one part of the job. Sure, quality content will keep your subscribers happy.

However, it’s worthless if none of your subscribers goes ahead to open your mail. For this reason, it’s important to have a compelling subject line.

There are hundreds of promotional emails that get to subscribers’ inboxes every day.

Therefore, it’s not uncommon for such individuals to scan through their marketing emails before settling on one that grabs their attention.

A catchy or very creative line to influence clickbait to get your mails opened won’t work.

What people want is to know or have a strong idea of what’s in the email.

To that end, you have to make clear your number one priority to improve your open rates.

  • Design your Email

If you’re not a trained designer or artist, you don’t have to worry. You can get things done even without hiring a professional designer.

There are some intuitive services you can use that have features to help you out.

For example, some of them boast features like drag & drop editor, pre-built email templates, and other design features.

With those, anyone can design beautiful newsletters and emails. After a clear message and subject line, aesthetics rank next in line.

Your overall layout and visual composition should be top-notch so that your email is worth reading.

  • Always use a call-to-action (CTA)

Ask yourself this question: “what do I want people to do after reading my email?”

There are a host of functions they can do including fill out a survey form or use a link to visit your website.

Either way, it’s important to know what you want and be specific about it.

Be very clear about what you want your subscribers to do. That way, it’s easy for them to fulfill your goal. All your text and design should be geared towards leading your readers to the end goal – doing something you want.

Including a CTA is a masterstroke for businesses, especially for small startups.

Research shows that more than 90% of visitors who read your headline also read your CTA copy.

Going further, emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

  • Segment your list to Improve Engagement

No two persons are the same. Some of your customers live in different places, use different products, have different habits, and different email addresses.

To keep this division separate, email segmentation is important. It helps you divide your subscribers into smaller, manageable audiences based on the factors you choose.

Segmentation can be done automatically or manually based on the characteristics you feel matter to your email marketing strategy.

For example, if you sell sleighs, you can send potential customers in Atlanta a different mail to those in Hawaii.

What you want is to tailor messages to fit certain groups of people. This results in higher engagement.

Besides, segmented email campaigns have a 14.32% open rate which is higher than non-segmented campaigns.

  • Personalize your Emails

Big businesses have a lot of people to reach out to. As such, a sense of personal touch is often lost in the process.

That’s not the case with small businesses because they have an edge when it comes to personalizing emails.

Their messages have a one-to-one feeling, even though they’re sending out the same email to many people.

With personalization, you have to go deeper to understand what your subscribers will respond to.

It’s not a process to rush so that you don’t miss the whole point.

  • Make automation a key part of your Strategy

Email automation is great and you’ve probably witnessed how it works.

For example, when you sign up for a service, you immediately get a welcome notification followed by other messages almost immediately.

That’s not by human effort but through email marketing automation.

Anybody can activate email automation. As such, you don’t have to spend more by engaging a professional.

There are top email marketing services out there to help you set up automated workflows.

Once you’ve set that up, you can send birthday emails, holiday emails, and others for people that click on a particular link. Reminders can also be automated.

The best part about automation is that it continues to work and reach your subscribers while you focus on other things.

What are the Advantages of Email Marketing?

Top of your thought when reading this guide are the benefits you can gain from email marketing.

Well, there are many important benefits a small business derives from various strategies.

They include the following:

» Email Marketing is Cost-effective

For any service a small business wants to undertake, a basic requirement is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

In other words, such a service shouldn’t be cost-driven. That’s because many small businesses run on restricted funds.

Thankfully, email marketing services are budget-friendly.

When you’re ready, you’ll find there’s always a plan with the right subscription for you.

Other than that, top email marketing providers like GetResponse and iContact have basic plans below $20 per month.

Not bad if you consider that such plans also give you features like automation, email builders, and more.

» Complete Control

Handing over some functions to another person or third-party means you lose some control.

Not here, though. You can effortlessly plan your communication through a marketing service because you have absolute control over the entire process.

You have a host of functions unique to your small business, including:

  • Quickly and easily design your emails, landing pages, and web forms.
  • Make decisions on the type of email marketing campaign you want at a particular time.
  • Divide or segment your email list into portions for precise targeting.
  • Tag the contacts on the list to personalize messages.
  • Use marketing automation to execute your email marketing objectives.

» Email Marketing is Highly Targeted

When you know the precise number of people you want to target, marketing is so much easier.

To that end, email marketing helps you better target your audience who are keen on receiving newsletters or updates from your business.

How to achieve this? Build your email list naturally.

You can do this by reaching out to those who have expressed interest when you ask them to confirm their subscription status.

When you learn the number of willing subscribers on your list, it’s easier to follow and monitor the results of your marketing campaign and strategy.

The result you get often includes the figures of people who read your emails in comparison to the number that got the mails.

From the knowledge, you gather from the process, proceed to make changes to plans, and also optimize how your email marketing campaign works.

» It is easy to use

Email marketing has easy processes that even the greenest of users can use.

As such, planning and executing a campaign is straightforward. Further, there are functions that assist you on many email marketing platforms.

These include web forms, email creation templates, landing pages, and automation tools.

The fact is many service providers outdo themselves to provide easy systems rigged with the right tools to help you get the best performance over time.

» Results are Measurable

Tracking results is easier with email marketing. That’s because you can incorporate or connect to other tools while using email marketing services.

For example, Google Analytics and Clicky help you measure results.

With the information, you can check performances and track the behavior of users on your website at the same time.

Again, when results are trackable, it’s easier to see goals for your small business via email marketing campaigns.

» Result oriented

Unlike many other online or digital marketing channels out there, email marketing delivers one of the best returns on investment.

The features are designed to work as long as you apply them diligently.

Moreover, you have more guarantees that things will work than with other marketing options.

What you can do to always get the right results is to track your email marketing activities the right way. That way, your efforts can yield a proven source of income for your growing business.

» Your customers love it

DMA has noted that many people prefer to communicate with businesses through email.

The study further revealed that a well-designed email marketing program is one that’s important and non-intrusive.

Other types of services tend to carry an invasive nature.

The best part with emails is that they sit in the inbox until recipients decide to open and read them.

» Automated Choices

Email marketing processes can be fully automated. Depending on what you want, you can create great emails and have a continuous workflow to suit your campaigns.

A good example is automatically sending welcome messages to new subscribers or measuring figures.

Automation is good when you consider that businesses that employ email marketing automation users experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.

» Easy Access to Mobile Phone Users

The figures for people who use their phones to open emails are astounding. This presents an opportunity to connect on the go with them and influence their buying decisions.

Further research also shows that more emails are opened on mobile devices (26%) compared to desktops which have an open rate that is way less.

What this means is that you can connect with your customers at any given time.

To do that, enable a synchronized platform when you make your online marketing campaign compatible with mobile devices.

How To use Email Marketing Campaigns to Promote your Business

With email marketing, you have the platform to relate and reach your target audience with only a click of a button.

All you have to do is focus on the needs and preferences of your subscribers to boost your chances of success.

That’s much better than sending random emails to an unspecified list of people.

You can begin by looking at some general types of email marketing campaigns some businesses use at different stages of the marketing calendar.

Here are some of them that you can adopt for your email marketing campaign.

  • Welcome series of emails: With this, you get to welcome your subscribers. How you welcome them often leaves a telling impression. Since you hope to have subsequent dealings with them, you can take things a step further by being nice and respectful.

A basic welcome email won’t cut it. Send a continuous flow of emails to build a lasting relationship with your subscribers.

  • Onboarding email campaign: This is a great way to introduce your business and the products and services you offer to a target audience.

This should be a deliberate and well-planned onboarding campaign so that your subscribers have an idea of the products you have and how they benefit them. That can spur them on to make a purchase.

  • Product announcement campaign: You can use this means to inform your subscribers about an impending product. That way, there’s an air of expectation towards that product.

You can achieve this by creating and sending a series of emails that show the different features and advantages of the product. That’s much better than sending a single email.

  • Sales campaign: With a sales campaign, you’re aiming for one thing – more sales. As such, let your messages be geared towards boosting conversions.
  • Re-engagement: Many times over, subscribers are bound to become inactive. That’s not the end, though. Don’t make any attempts to remove them just yet. Rather, implement various re-engagement programs for subscribers who have stopped reading or using the links in your emails.

How can Email Marketing help grow my Business?


That’s a question on the lips of many small business owners. They want to know how email marketing can boost their chances of growing and succeeding.

The whole essence of marketing is that you reach your target audience with your business offers.

To do that, you have to constantly communicate with your customers.

Whether they’re making a purchase or not, your campaigns should take them on an enlightening trip from being subscribers to loyal buyers.

That said, here are ways email marketing can help lift your business:

Create more awareness:

Email marketing comes to its peak potential when you create and use web forms, landing pages, and other features that help you better connect with your target audience such as inviting potential customers to subscribe to your email list.

Using a good email service like Drip or SendPulse will give you the option to seamlessly present your business brand in a way that generates the publicity you seek.

Pitch your products and services:

Let’s face it, your customers will always compare your offers and even emails to those of the competition.

For this reason, you have to give a succinct explanation of why your products and services will better meet their needs, or satisfy them.

To get this done perfectly, you have to put together a great email marketing campaign. Such a campaign will assure them that they have what they want right at their fingertips.

Become an option for potential customers:

Starting small doesn’t mean ending there. You can get your business to be among the most sought-after with email marketing ploys.

That way, you become one of the best options for potential customers.

Hit the mark:

At this stage, it’s up to you to persuade your customers to buy your products and services.

The fact is they already know what they want or need. Also, they understand just how helpful your products are after a comparison to that of your competitors.


It’s not uncommon for business transactions to end with a sale. In fact, that’s what’s expected most of the time.

However, it shouldn’t end there. You have to work beyond the period of purchase.

While marketing, you need to keep in touch with your customers or maintain a relationship that outlasts a single purchase.

Moreover, you need to seek feedback from clients and detect if your goods and services live up to their expectations.

Remember, a satisfied customer will most certainly be looking forward to making a future purchase. They’ll also spread the word about your brand to those around them.

What’s the ROI for Email Marketing?

From a Litmus study conducted in 2018, the return on investment for email marketing(ROI) is estimated at 38:1.

In line with that, if you invest $10 into email marketing-related activities, you can expect a return of $380.

The estimate above may not be fixed. However, it gives you a clear picture of the limitless possibilities of email marketing.

There are some factors that influence the ROI. They include:

  • The relevance of your email list
  • The number of subscribers to your services
  • The relevance of the content you send
  • The email template used
  • How clear and persuasive your CTA is.

How to Calculate ROI for Email Marketing

Understanding the average value of email marketing is one thing. Another is to be able to know how to measure your return on investment. That way, you can compare the ROI to the expected minimum for your industry.

Estimating the expected ROI for your email marketing campaign is not a difficult proposition.

All you have to do is take note of your overall revenue and divide it by the total amount spent.

For example, let’s assume you generated $600 in the sales of some products while investing $100 in the campaign. You can estimate your ROI thus:

Total Revenue: $600 – $100 = $500

Total Spent: $100

ROI: ($500/$100) * 100 = 500%

How can you get started with Email Marketing?


Perhaps you’ve already made up your mind to use email marketing, but still want to know how you can get started.

Well, you’re in luck! This post will provide a guide on how you can do that for your small business, and probably grow from scratch to an automated and fully functional sales-generating system.

Forget the advice and other information you gleaned off the internet. When you want to get down to business with email marketing, the 5-step method outlined below will guide you.

Besides, building a perfect email marketing system isn’t a daunting task.

Follow these steps to learn how:

1. Build and grow a massive list

Building and growing a massive email list takes time. Yet, it’s impossible to come up with a functional email marketing strategy without a growing email list.

What you can do is build your customer database by researching and going after the right audience to market your goods and services to.

As such, the question remains – how can you build a quality email list and keep it growing every business day?

Well, let’s start by implementing the following:

  • Give out incentives to your customers who refer friends and families your way.
  • Host a contest or giveaway on popular social media platforms and after, collect email addresses from participants.
  • Requesting for account sign-up during the checkout process and after a successful purchase from your store.
  • Produce fascinating written blog posts and content
  • Using reward programs to gift points to subscribers to your email list.

2. Mapping out your customer’s journey

Your customers are important to you. At least, that’s what many small businesses say until they become big. But you can initiate a long and lasting relationship with your customers through email marketing.

It takes good communication, especially at an individual level.

Technology is there to give you a helping hand. With it, you can instantly send follow-up messages to an unlimited number of customers depending on your marketing goal.

You’re able to build a road map for your customers at every stage of the relationship and follow them up closely.

This whole plan can be aided by taking a walk in your clients’ shoes. Ask yourself these valid questions:

  • How do my customers find me?
  • Where do they come from?
  • What areas do they view when they go through the homepage of my site?
  • How long do they stay on the site?
  • How many pages do they visit before making a purchase decision?
  • At what stage do they abandon the cart?
  • What category of products/services do they embrace the most?
  • How long does it take for customers to make a new purchase?

3. Develop an email marketing flow

It’s possible to predict the responses and actions of your customers. But first, you have to plan on the type of emails to send to them at each step.

Your emails should be relevant, targeted, and have a human angle to them. That way, it all feels personal and useful to your customers.

First of all, define the conversion goal you hope to achieve for a set of customers. That way, you can customize the appropriate content that is fitting to them.

Furthermore, be as innovative as you can. Even when you see a possible dip in conversions, you can find a way out of the problem with an excellent message that will convert potential customers to addict buyers.

4. Choose the right email service provider for your small business

The right tool works wonders for your business. You can save a lot of time, money, and effort when you use the right to execute your email marketing campaigns.

When you’re in search of the right tool for your business, get an email marketing service provider that provides for key features like segmenting, A/B testing, drag & drop, etc.

5. Make decisions based on data

Email marketing helps you measure your progress at no extra cost. So when you’re marketing, make informed decisions based on metrics.

Conduct a series of tests and optimize your methods to get the best.

For example, to decide if a newsletter campaign will thrive or not, consider the following information:

  • open rate,
  • Click-through rate
  • conversion rate,
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • and
  • the ratio of the expected revenue to actual revenue at a specific time.

However, don’t forget to cover all related costs to get the program up and running, including:

  • Fees per email sent
  • fixed fees for your email marketing service provider,
  • coupon codes offered,
  • labor costs and
  • other costs.

With the above factors, you get to figure out the true return on investment (ROI) for the campaign.

Further, it’s possible to boost the performance of your campaign when you monitor and compare your marketing metrics to that of top guns in your industry.

What are the tips for Successful Email Marketing?

There are three keys to successful email marketing every small business owner must possess:

  • A Well thought out strategy
  • Formidable tactics, and
  • The right tools.

1) A Well thought out strategy

An email marketing strategy refers to a series of planned courses of action as well as the long-term vision you have for your email marketing activities.

To get the results your efforts deserve, it’s important to have the right strategy.

Why you need an email marketing strategy

You need one because any campaign you undergo will be based on the foundation you lay.

As such, a well-mapped out action plan, analysis, and information gathering for different stages of the marketing journey are important. It’ll help you build a good relationship with your customers.

How to develop a simple email marketing strategy?

Building a workable email marketing strategy from scratch isn’t as difficult as it seems.

For starters, there are a good number of free online resources to kick start the process. Enlisting in a professional course is another way to go.

Nonetheless, here are a few tips to guide you along the way:

a) Your long-term goals

When you decide on the marketing goals you want to achieve during the campaign, write them down. But ensure such goals are achievable for your startup and equally measurable.

Consider the following template for setting goals:

  • Increase the number of subscribers by 15 % before a set date.
  • Improve email open rate and click-through rate by 3% before a set date.
  • Grow ROI for sales campaigns by 25% before a fixed date.

b) The Ideal audience

In your quest to draft an email marketing strategy, figure out the people who are most likely to benefit the most from your offerings.

When you know more about how they’re likely to behave, it makes it easier to develop a working strategy.

c) Highlight your competitive advantage

Without a unique selling position (USP), you’ll have a hard time creating an email marketing campaign to persuade your ideal audience to buy your products.

Your target audience will often ask “why should I buy from you?” Your USP provides the answer to this question.

To get your USP, review your products and services, and their benefits to your customers. Let it be short, well described, and solve their issues.

To have a competitive advantage, you could reach your customers and ask why they picked your business rather than others in the same industry.

Their answer will influence your overall marketing presentation.

d) Assets

List out the necessary instruments and personnel necessary to the success of your email marketing campaign.

Your resources can include email marketing specialists, necessary email marketing tools, graphic designers, and content designers.

e) Key Performance Indicators

There are lots of metrics to the track. Align all of them with your business targets and outline the relevant performance indicators that will guide you to make the right business decisions.

Below are a few important indicators you could consider:

  • Number of subscribers on your email list
  • Email open rate: frequency at which your emails and newsletters are opened at set dates.
  • Click-through rate(CTR): the ratio of the total number of clicks made by your subscribers on a given link present in an email.
  • Click-to-open rate (CTOR): for this, your email must be worth opening.
  • Conversion rate: percentage of subscribers who have completed the intended action or fulfilled the campaign goal

f) Customer journey

Map out the full pathway your customers have meandered during the course of this important journey.

It’s only necessary to evaluate determine from this tracking at what point you could make the best returns at every step of the way.

2) Formidable tactics

These represent those email marketing activities that you employ to achieve your goals. Consider the following tactics to implement:

  • List building: Getting the best result is possible with a huge database of relevant potential customers. That’s why list building is a crucial part of the process. Invest in web forms and landing pages that will draw your relevant audience to subscribe to your business.
  • Segmentation: Divide your email list into categories of subscribers that share important metrics and interests. It then becomes easier to send personalized content.
  • Relevance: This is important for engagement. It’ll help subscribers to open emails, click links, and follow CTA’s. Relevance is achievable when you know the preferences and problems of your subscribers.
  • User-friendly blueprint: This will significantly affect conversion. If you can employ an experienced designer to lead this all-important aspect of crafting your emails, web forms, and landing pages, the better the results.
  • Tracking: Results are trackable when you know what data to give attention to and subsequently go after them.
  • Testing and optimization: It’s not uncommon for successful businesses to arrive at the best formats for their emails after years of trying various things and optimizing based on results. As such, tweak certain components of your campaign and measure the effectiveness of these changes on overall performance.

All these factors can greatly affect your email marketing campaign.

3) The right tools

The right tools can make the difference in your quest to grow your base and hit more conversions.

To that end, you will be unable to implement your strategy and ensuing tactics without investing in quality tools.

In fact, such tools should be part of your campaign’s strategy.

There are many angles to view the key success factors of an email marketing campaign. For beginners, focus on building a list of your audience. After that, you can proceed to reach out to them according to their needs.


Since you’re now well equipped with the key steps to starting email marketing for your small business, there’s no stopping you.

Settle down and take your time to apply all that you have learned from this informative guide. The only way for your small business to go is up!