10 E-mail Marketing Best Practices for Small Businesses

With proper planning and optimization, e-mail marketing can yield high ROI. Email offers the right message to the right person at the right time.

If you’re interested in creating an e-mail marketing program for your business, see below for best practices to get started.

Gain subscribers through incentives

The first step is building your subscriber base. Give incentives for customers to sign up for emails. Is there an offer or promotion you can provide? Exclusive content? Leverage in-store and online opportunities to invite customers to sign up in exchange for something valuable in return.

Define clear objectives and the audience for each email sent.

Before creating an e-mail, it’s crucial to have a solid objective and know who the intended audience is. For example, an e-mail with the objective of driving sales, which is measured by transactions, would be structured differently than an e-mail newsletter driving views of branded content, which would be measured by engagement. Similarly, if you’re selling a product targeted towards an older audience with families living in suburban areas, it would be written with copy and visuals specifically catered to this audience versus younger individuals living in urban cities. Remember to always include a clear call to action.

Categorize and automate your e-mail deployment

Use an e-mail automation service to categorize and manage your campaigns for subscribers. Mailchimp is a popular option. This will make it simpler to send triggered e-mails that are more timely and relevant, without the need to monitor each individual subscriber’s activity. Basic categories to include are:

Welcome e-mails – sent immediately after a subscriber signs up. Consider including the option to personalize the subscription by choosing how often they receive e-mails and the types of content they will receive. For example, someone might only want one e-mail a week with new product updates, while another subscriber may prefer daily updates.

Loyalty e-mails – sent to acknowledge customer activity with your company. These messages can be sent to thank customers for a recent purchase, request a review for a product, celebrate customer birthdays, or provide updates on their reward balance if they are part of a loyalty program.

Abandoned cart emails – sent after a customer places items in their shopping cart but does not go through with the purchase. This is treated as a reminder to drive purchases.

Ensure your e-mails are mobile optimized

Half of all e-mails are opened on a mobile device. Use responsive design so e-mails can adapt to any device, whether a phone, tablet or laptop.

Be strategic with your timing

There are optimal times to send out emails to your subscribers based on your service, product or content.

During weekdays, recipients are typically looking for content that informs.

Weekends open up to leisure browsing and indulging in entertainment.

According to Mailchimp, e-mails sent on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings yield slightly higher open rates, but remember that many factors can affect the results so be sure to experiment with different emails and times and see what works best for your needs.

Use concise, compelling subject lines and pre-headers

Most recipients open emails based on the subject line and pre-header visible from the inbox.

Use 10 words or less for the subject line to avoid cut off.

Spark curiosity with numbered lists (5 ways to…) or a question (Ready to…?)

Create a sense of urgency (Limited edition clearance sale until this Friday!)

Personalize with names and other known information (How are you enjoying your new…)

Send targeted emails

You can target your e-mails by age, gender, location, career, or any other information shared by your subscribers.

Keep it simple

Minimize use of large attachments such as video, gifs and images, which can slow the load time of e-mails. Avoid blocks of text that discourage readers from clicking through to the call to action.

Measure your performance

The most useful KPIs include open rate, click through rate, unique clicks, active subscribers, and unsubscribe rate. Observing results and learning from previous emails will enable effective testing and learning for upcoming e-mails.

Check out Mailchimp’s E-mail marketing benchmarks for your specific industry to see what standard performance is.

Test and learn

Which emails did consumers open or click through the most? Which emails did they not open or click through? What type of offer gets the most engagement? Identify reasons why some e-mails may have performed better than others in order to test and optimize performance on an ongoing basis.

Elements such as color palettes used, image placement, and copy can also be A/B tested to see what your subscribers prefer.

Thank you to Andrew Tu for this week's guest blog post. Mr Tu is the Chief Marketing Officer for Fluid Business Resources.  Fluid Business Resources is dedicated to helping small business owners with multiple financing options to grow and sustain.

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