Your Get-Started Guide to Email Marketing: Defeating that Overwhelmed Feeling

If you haven’t used it previously, email marketing may seem scary or overwhelming. It requires paying for a new software product and using both design and writing skills. On top of that, there are also spam and GDPR compliance laws to contend with, and your small business can’t afford to end up on the wrong side of a law you don’t fully understand.

That may explain why only 36% of small businesses invest in email marketing. With limited time, money, and energy, business owners have to be picky about the marketing tactics they try—and email marketing may seem like too much of an effort. But for all the reasons that email marketing may seem scary, there are even more significant ways it can be valuable to small businesses. Below, we’ve outlined a few ways to begin an effective email marketing strategy that won’t make you feel overwhelmed.

1. Use an email marketing software designed for small businesses.

The first thing you need to start email marketing is the right software. Luckily, there are a few email marketing companies that specifically offer products for small businesses. An email marketing software designed for small business will be easy to use and priced affordably for a small business budget.

Even affordable email marketing options provide valuable features like pre-designed templates, analytics, and personalization options. Most small business email marketing options also offer a trial so you can get a feel for the service before starting a subscription. Take some time to review your different options and figure out which one feels right for you.

2. Build (don’t buy) your email list.

This is probably the hardest part of email marketing, but non-negotiable. If you buy an email list, you risk running afoul of spam laws and getting kicked off your email marketing software. You’ll be reaching people less likely to care about your emails anyway.

An email list made up of people who made the active choice to receive your emails will be more effective—people will be pleased to see your emails show up rather than annoyed. Some techniques you can use to build your email list include:

  • Promote your email signup form around your website—on the homepage, on your blog, on product pages, etc.
  • Consider offering visitors an incentive to sign up, such as 10% off their first purchase or exclusive email-only deals.
  • Promote your list on social media.
  • Consider creating high-value gated content that people will provide their email addresses to access.

It may take time for your email list to grow, but by only sending emails to people who want to receive them, you’ll ensure you’re reaching the right people and stay on the right side of the law.

3. Give subscribers a chance to opt in.

After a new subscriber signs up, you want to make sure they really want to receive your emails by sending them an email that allows them to click a button to confirm their subscription. For instance, you don’t want your emails going to someone with a similar email address to your real subscriber due to a typo.

Most email marketing software either does this step automatically or makes it easy for you to set up yourself. It’s a good practice for ensuring that you’re only interacting with the people who care about your business and will be glad to see your emails.

4. Make the unsubscribe option easy.

This is another feature that’s important in terms of spam laws. Anyone who chooses to receive your emails but decides in a year they don’t want them anymore must be provided with an easy way to unsubscribe. Usually that means a small link at the bottom of the email they can click on to remove their name from the list.

While including an unsubscribe option may seem self-defeating, it’s yet another way to make sure your emails are actually going to someone who wants them. It doesn’t do you any good to email people who don’t want to hear from you.

5. Create an email marketing strategy.

As with any type of marketing, you’ll do better with email marketing if you approach it with a plan. Try to get inside the heads of your customers when developing your plan: what emails would they most want to see? Consider asking them directly by sending a survey to your early subscribers.

Your plan should include some promotional emails, but you don’t want every email you send to be pushing a sale. One of the great things about email marketing is the ability it gives you to connect with customers and build their trust. Figure out how to use your emails to do that. Your email marketing plan could include sharing your valuable content or creating helpful newsletters once a month.

Make sure you have a plan to guide when and how you send emails to keep your subscribers happy and reduce the chances of them clicking the unsubscribe button.

6. Email regularly.

If you sign up for an email list and don’t hear anything from the brand for a year, what happens when they do finally get in touch? You probably don’t remember who they are or why you should care, and as a result either delete the email or unsubscribe.

Your subscribers need to know who you are each time they see your email in their inbox. If you go too long in between each point of contact, you lose out on the sense of connection and familiarity email marketing is all about. Make sure your email strategy involves sending regular emails, even if it’s just once a month. And do your best to keep them relevant and valuable to your subscribers.

7. Pay attention to your analytics.

Figuring out what your subscribers want to see in their inbox is one of the big challenges of email marketing, but you have a good resource for learning as you go: your email analytics. Monitor how people react to your emails. What subject lines get them to open an email? Which types of emails get them to click through to your website? And what emails drive purchases?

Use that information to strengthen your email marketing strategy over time. If you start out sending newsletters and no one bothers to read them, switch over to emails that share your top-performing content. If emails promoting your storewide sales don’t get people to click, but those touting exclusive discounts for subscribers do, then send more of the latter.

Your subscribers will tell you what they want through their actions. Don’t worry too much if you have emails that fall flat when you’re just getting started: you have room to try out different things and learn as you go.

Final Thoughts

Email marketing does provide an investment of time and money, but the return for small businesses can be powerful. Don’t let fear stop you from building a stronger connection with your customers and seeing the higher profits that come with it.