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Updated Oct 20, 2023

Small Business Guide to Sending Marketing Emails

Successful marketing email campaigns aren't easy. But if you know the steps to follow, your emails can make a difference.

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Kiely Kuligowski, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Many of us are familiar with the process of deleting automated emails without reading them. But surely there has been at least one that caught your eye, persuaded you to pause and skim through it, or maybe even made you click the link.

It is more difficult than ever to cut through consumers’ discerning filters in a world saturated by ad campaigns. By the end of 2021, there were 4.1 billion worldwide email users. Statista estimates that by 2025, 376.4 billion emails will be sent daily. That’s a lot for users to sort through.

But fear not, marketers. There are still plenty of ways to create marketing emails that actually get read. The following steps will guide you in creating email campaigns that drive the conversions you want to see:

  1. Sign up for an email service provider.
  2. Manage your contact database.
  3. Determine the types of marketing emails you should send.
  4. Get permission.
  5. Understand your audience.
  6. Be authentic.
  7. Provide valuable content.
  8. Monitor your success.

Editor’s note: Looking for email marketing software for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

1. Sign up for an email service provider.

Before you so much as draft a marketing email, you should have a top email service provider (ESP). These products and services are fundamental to successful email marketing campaigns, as they both send emails and track key campaign metrics. They give you the tools to execute and analyze email marketing campaigns, all from within the same interface.

To start off your search for an email marketing software on the right foot, determine your email marketing goals. Then, figure out your budget and the features you most need from your ESP. Read reviews about each ESP’s ease of use, security features, customer support, integrations, and tools for marketing automation and data tracking. 

Seek out top email marketing software that promises delivery on at least 98% of emails. To learn about some of the best options, read our Constant Contact review.

Once you’ve found an ESP that checks all these boxes and is within your budget, signing up should be easy. 

2. Manage your contact database.

As you start sending marketing emails, you’ll also need to manage your contact database. The first step is to send a welcome email to customers who have just signed up for your list. The process continues with giving customers the option to receive more or fewer emails from you. Next, it moves on to what might be the most important step: removing unnecessary email addresses.

Duplicate, incorrect or invalid addresses are inevitable. You should delete any such addresses alongside those that result in soft or hard bounces. The more of these email addresses you keep on your list, the lower your sender reputation will become. And with a lower reputation comes a greater likelihood of your emails going to spam.

As you delete unnecessary email addresses from your list, look for contacts who haven’t been engaging with your emails recently. Isolate these contacts for reengagement campaigns. Finally, ensure all your emails have an obvious unsubscribe or preferences button, and avoid purchasing email lists – develop your own instead.

3. Determine the types of marketing emails you should send.

With your ESP assembled and your list put together, you can send all kinds of emails. These include emails announcing new content, product updates, events and internal updates. Other marketing emails can confirm recent orders or form submissions, distribute newsletters, co-market another company, welcome subscribers, or nurture leads. 

4. Get permission.

This step is a legal requirement for email marketers. Consumers must opt in to receive your emails, or you risk your emails being labeled as spam (and never read). You might even accrue hefty fines under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Did You Know?Did you know
You can be fined for sending emails to audiences that haven't opted in.

Because this step is largely about convincing the consumer that your emails are worth subscribing to, spend some time honing your language and graphics for the permission request.

“Consumers respond best to personal, targeted [language], with a clear call to action and beautiful imagery,” said Kristien Matelski, digital marketing specialist at Vizion Interactive.

The permission request doesn’t have to be dry and boring – this is the place to let your copywriters run free. Think personality, cleverness, and short, punchy copy – but don’t overdo it. “The No. 1 thing businesses do wrong is overselling,” Matelski said. Explain why the consumer should want to read your emails, and outline what you’ll be sending them so there won’t be any surprises. 

5. Understand your audience.

Knowing who you’re emailing and why is almost as necessary as getting permission, since it will determine the nature of your content, how often you send blasts, and to whom you send which emails.

Your email campaigns will depend on your business and what it offers. Jakub Kliszczak, marketing specialist at CrazyCall, said that his customers look mainly for informational updates. 

“We send marketing emails whenever there is an important thing happening with our software. We give an in-depth explanation [but] put no effort into trying to push recipients into signing up for a trial. Yet we always get a handful of people who decide to check out the software.”

Pay attention to buying trends, demographics and customer feedback if you have access to it. If you lack customer feedback, consider sending out a survey to gather information on what your customers want to see in your emails. Then, base your content on those responses.

6. Be authentic.

Many companies fall into the pit of marketing for the sake of marketing, rather than putting effort into a campaign that means something for the company. If you’re jumping into email marketing just to keep up with the Joneses, your consumers are going to sense that and unsubscribe. 

Authentic marketing is more important than ever, so sit down and understand what your vision is and what you want the email campaign to accomplish.

“Marketing emails [should] always be useful,” said Ruggero Loda, founder and publisher of Running Shoes Guru. “Each email should have a goal for the sender and provide value to the reader.”

7. Provide valuable content.

It’s hard enough getting people to sign up for your emails; it’s even harder to get them to stay. As the saying goes, content is king. Make sure you’re sending personalized email, and the content is engaging and relevant to both your readers and your company.

“The more you can make the receiver feel wanted and like you actually know and care about them, the better response rates you’ll achieve,” said Matthew Tudge, digital marketing manager at WDA Automotive Marketing.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and only send emails you would want to read. Keep them simple. Allie Danziger, president of Integrate Agency, recalled a client that overloaded their emails with images and blocks of information, tucking their call to action below the fold. Her team simplified the template and defined the client’s goal, which led to a 71% increase in open rates.

“This proved why simple is better,” Danziger said, “and why laying out goals at the forefront can dramatically impact effectiveness.”

8. Monitor your analytics.

Many email marketing services come with analytics capabilities or integrate with third-party providers like Google Analytics. The three most important analytics for email marketing are open rate, click-through rate (CTR) and unsubscribes.

Your open rate shows how many people open your email and will tell you how engaged your readers are. If the rate is low, identify where your emails are missing value for your readers and work on developing a stronger personal relationship with them.

The CTR shows how many people clicked on any links in your email. A low CTR reflects poor or mistargeted copy or links your readers are not interested in. Increase your CTR by improving your copy, observing what types of links your readers do click on, and modeling your emails accordingly.

The unsubscribe rate reflects how many people are clicking on the unsubscribe button at the bottom of your emails. Check your unsubscribe rate in relation to your opt-in rate. If the unsubscribe rate is high, you need to figure out where you’re dropping the ball, because this shows that people are engaged enough to opt in but are getting lost in the middle.

Getting a marketing message to the consumer is not easy, but if you remember your goals, keep it simple, and watch your analytics, you’ll be well on your way to launching successful campaigns.

Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Kiely Kuligowski, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Kiely Kuligowski is an expert in project management and business software. Her project management experience includes establishing project scopes and timelines and monitoring progress and delivery quality on behalf of various clients. Kuligowski also has experience in product marketing and contributing to business fundraising efforts. On the business software side, Kuligowski has evaluated a range of products and developed in-depth guides for making the most of various tools, such as email marketing services, text message marketing solutions and business phone systems. In recent years, she has focused on sustainability software and project management for IBM.
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