You likely have a lot on your plate as a small business owner – you wear the hat of manager, accountant, marketer, and possibly everything else. So, it’s important to know where to focus your attention, and email marketing might worth a sliver of that attention.

Why Email Marketing

Let’s start with the stats:

Email is also one of the only platforms that you actually own. You aren’t at the mercy of the algorithms – it’s estimated that less than 6% of users that see your account on Facebook will ever see your post in their news feed. Some research shows that 90% of emails delivered will land in someone’s inbox – after a few are bounced or get blocked by spam filters.

As a business, it’s important that you know the Return on Investment (ROI) for your Marketing Campaigns. How much are you spending to acquire a customer? You’re more likely to build a successful business if you ensure that you’re spending your marketing dollars (and your time) effectively. Email marketing has consistently demonstrated a high ROI.

There’s clearly a strong case for why email marketing should be a part of your marketing plan. So how do you do it? There are a number of free or low-cost email marketing platforms you can use for your small business: Campaigner, MailChimp, and Benchmark, among many more. For more options, see BDC’s list of free and low-cost email marketing software for small businesses.

What to include in your email marketing campaigns

It’ll be important to align your email marketing campaign content with your brand, ideal client, and general marketing strategy. Here are some examples of email marketing campaigns you can test:

  • Editorial roundups: a collection of relevant information or news on a specific topic; Ex. Taproot Edmonton roundups
  • Gallery: a collection of images of your products or services with links to your ‘shop’ page
  • A ‘letter’ to your audience: depending on your brand, it could be appropriate to get personal. Don’t be afraid of a little length
  • Abandoned Cart emails: an email sent to someone who had added something from your site to their shopping cart and then abandoned it. You can usually automate this on your eCommerce platform
  • Announcements: share updates on upcoming events or offerings, new products, promotions and sales, and more
  • User-generated content: showcase positive reviews, testimonials, or content generated by your followers on social media (best to ask their permission to share first)
Email Marketing

Send your emails to the right inbox

It’s important to have a very clear audience in mind when embarking on any marketing campaign. You can target potential customers or clients through segmentation – creating separate ‘audiences’ for email campaigns can increase open and click-through rates and ultimately, get quality leads through the door; MailChimp’s’ user data shows that segmented campaigns get 64.78 more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

Segments to explore:

  • Geographic – country, city, in a certain part of the city
  • Demographic – age, gender, income, education, occupation
  • Psychographic – lifestyle, interests, opinions, values
  • Behavioural – past purchases, buyer stage, user status, engagement

An example: if you’re an Alberta business that has a location in Edmonton and Calgary, you may want to create one list for your Edmonton location and a separate one for your Calgary location. This will allow you to target the right customers if there is a promotion or special event at one location and not the other. There are a lot of small businesses competing for a spot in a customer’s email inbox – it’s important to ensure that you are only sending clients information that is relevant for them. Value your client’s time as much or more than you would value your own.

How to build an email list

One of the benefits of building an email list is that if you get too busy, you don’t have to use it; it’s always there, and unless you’re sending emails, your subscribers are unlikely to unsubscribe.  Unlike social media, whether or not your subscribers see your emails is not based on mysterious algorithms that watch engagement and post frequency (and everything else) on your business account.

This doesn’t mean that you should send random, sporadic emails. An email marketing campaign works best when it’s strategic and intentional. Best practice is to send a regular email to your subscribers – you can start at 1-2 times a month and increase your frequency if and when you are able and comfortable. This part is very important – don’t overthink it. There is a fine line between perfection and procrastination.

Email Marketing

Here are a few easy tips on how you can build an email list:

  • Embed a sign-up form strategically on your website.
  • Use a subscriber pop-up. Note that people like personalization – when designing a pop-up, using the real ‘faces’ of your business can be a game-changer.
  • Gated content on your website. Tools like Canva have made it incredibly easy for you to make an e-book, for example, that you can add to your website as a resource that you provide to users in exchange for an email address.
  • Offer a freebie. A lot of businesses successfully use a ‘freebie’ to grow their subscriber list. You could offer a 3-day meal plan if you’re a nutritionist, a 15% off coupon if you’re a hairstylist, restaurant, or massage therapist for example. All you have to do is set up the automated emails once, and your subscribers would receive an email with a discount code or a link to download their freebie.
  • Let your followers know about your mailing list on social media. Don’t shy away from a little self-promotion.
  • Add a subscribe button to your email signature.

Don’t be a spammer

Before you hit send on your first campaign, familiarize yourself with the basics of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (often referred to as CASL) so you aren’t spamming your subscribers. Being respectful of your subscribers is important and can impact your brand.

Creating an email marketing strategy for your small business could be a valuable part of your marketing plan and get more paying clients through the door (a real door or a virtual one). It only takes a few minutes to set up an email marketing list and there are plenty of reasonable options for marketing businesses or freelances who could take the task on for you.