Email marketing for SMBs: 11 Tips
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TL;DR: New to email marketing or want to up your game? These email marketing tips for small businesses (or any business) will help you make the most of your efforts.
How many times have you received an email you immediately sent to the trash? Or you clicked the Unsubscribe button after reading an email that made you question why you subscribed in the first place? We’ve all received dozens or even hundreds of those emails. But how many times have you opened an email and been pleasantly surprised or happy that you’re on their list?
Be the small business owner who sends the emails your subscribers can’t wait to open. And if you’re not sure how, these tips are a great place to start.
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Email marketing tips for small businesses
Let’s explore how you can take your email marketing to the next level and get your subscribers excited about your emails. Yes, it is possible!
Tip 1: Make it about your subscribers by providing high-value content
I own and operate my all things writing business and am obsessively in love with writing. Once you get me going, I can talk about the art of writing for days. And if you ask me about my business, I can talk about that just as long. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear about writing and my business all the time.
Chances are, your subscribers are interested in what you do but don’t want to hear about all the happenings in your business. Especially not in a weekly or monthly email. Instead, send subscribers emails that provide value, and ask yourself a few questions before hitting that Send button.
- Is my content inspiring or exciting? Your subscribers may have signed up for your newsletters, but they probably aren’t interested in every company update or new blog post. Permit yourself to send emails only when you have something inspiring, exciting, or educational to share. Your subscribers will appreciate the value they get instead of having to open yet another sales email they didn’t want.
- When my subscribers read this email, will they be left wanting more? Is your email so jam-packed with value that your subscribers can’t wait for the next one to arrive? If so, keep doing what you’re doing! If not, try focusing on your subscribers and listening to what they want.
If you’re a blogger, you could share a sneak peek at next week’s recipe or ask them what they want to see next. Hosting a webinar? Tell them why they’ll love it—it will show them how to grow their business, guest speakers in their industry, dozens of free resources to transform their businesses and lives, and more.
- Am I focusing on the benefits of my new product or service? While we may think we have the best product or service, rarely are we the only option. So instead of telling your subscribers how incredible your offering is, focus on how it benefits them or makes their life easier. Also, limit the number of sales emails you send and put your energy into nurturing relationships. Don’t treat your subscribers as sales opportunities.
- Would I be happy to get this email? If you would put your email in the spam folder or trash, it’s probably not the best idea to send it to your subscribers. Take the time to write an email you’d want to open.
What I do: I send monthly blog drops I know my subscribers will love. I just recently added in the occasional promotional email, but, for the most part, my emails are all about fun blog posts my readers can enjoy with their morning coffee.
Pro tip: Only send emails when you have valuable content to share. It’s okay to send less frequently if it means every email will make an impact. And we think your subscribers will appreciate that too!
Tip 2: Build and nurture genuine relationships
When subscribers sign up to your email list, they’re inviting you into their digital home—their inbox. You wouldn’t go into someone’s home and immediately sell them on your offerings, so don’t do that when you hit their inbox either. Take time to build and nurture relationships with your subscribers.
- Don’t abuse the inbox. Don’t waste your subscribers’ time by sending sales pitch after sales pitch and valueless content. Instead, send tailored content that feels like it was made for your audience.
- Ask for their feedback. What better way to build a relationship than to ask your subscribers what they want from you? You can send a survey or use a social media poll to ask about the content they love, what they want to see in their inbox, and more. Make sure you implement their feedback (otherwise, it seems disingenuous).
Personalization plays a role in building genuine and authentic relationships with your subscribers, but it goes beyond using [first_name] personalization fields. Show them why you’re in their inbox—to share hyper-relevant content that addresses their problems, inspires them, or educates them. Here are a few ways you can take personalization to the next level:
- If your audience follows you for creative ways to make passive income, you could share blog posts on how to build an online course and create passive income.
- Did you create a social media poll, and your subscribers told you they want you to teach a class? If so, send them a deal when you launch. My subscribers have been telling me to create a course, and I am finally doing it—when it launches, they’ll be the first to get access and a deal!
- Pro tips are always a hit. Do you run a travel agency? Send your subscribers emails packed with tips or more in-depth blogs that can help them take the pain out of trip planning and inspire them to travel.
What I do: Using Flodesk Checkout, I sell my ebook online and give customers the opportunity to opt-in to my list. When subscribers join through my checkout page, I automatically add them to my ebook segment so I can tailor content that relates to my ebook (which they purchased because they saw the value).
Pro tip: Did your subscriber purchase your upsell on your checkout page? Send them content that aligns with the content in your upsell, providing even further value.
Tip 3: Don’t purchase email lists!
We love big numbers. Whether they’re our social media following that finally reached a thousand, how many “likes” our content gets, or our growing email lists, the bigger, the better. Right? Well, not always.
It can be tempting to purchase an email list and tout your 100,000 subscribers. But there’s a difference between quantity and quality. Your focus should be on quality. When you buy an email list, here’s what you risk:
- You’re sent directly to the spam folder. No one on the purchase list asked to receive your emails. They did not give you permission, so when you show up in their inbox uninvited, they will, at best, ignore you, and, at worst, send your emails to spam and report you.
- Your reputation. When you get sent to the spam folder over and over, you risk your reputation. You also hurt deliverability rates and damage your credibility as a business. Yikes!
Growing your list takes time. And if you grow your list slowly but steadily, you’ll get quality subscribers who want to hear from and engage with you. It’s worth the wait!
Tip 4: Keep your sign-up process simple
K Zylstra Studio keeps her sign-up form simple, offering subscribers the option to set preferences.
Is it easy for your subscribers to sign up for your email list? Or do they need to dig to find your sign-up form and enter too much information just to join? You don’t want viewers to leave your form because it takes too long or asks too many questions. Keep it simple.
- Use pop-up, in-line, or full-page forms on your website so viewers can effortlessly sign up—no digging required.
- Have clear calls to action (CTAs). Wherever you use CTAs—on your website, blog, or social media—make sure they’re actionable. Tell viewers that you want them to sign up and clarify what they get by joining your list—exclusive content, deals, and more.
- Don’t ask for too much. We all want our subscribers’ names, birthdays, and preferences, but when we ask for all that information upfront, it can overwhelm viewers. Collect the basics—first name and email address—on your form and follow up later with a preferences email.
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Tip 5: Stay compliant with anti-spam laws
We’ve already talked about why you shouldn’t purchase email lists, but another part of avoiding the spam folder is being compliant with anti-spam laws like the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act protects consumers like you and me from unsolicited emails landing in our inboxes. Here’s how I make sure I’m not spamming people:
- I only email people who have subscribed to my email list, likely through one of my sign-up forms or by checking the opt-in box on my Flodesk Checkout page.
- I use a double opt-in, which requires subscribers to verify their email addresses before I add them to my list. This helps ensure they’re valid addresses and that they actually want to receive emails from me.
- I have an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email, making it easy for subscribers who are no longer interested to opt out of my email marketing emails.
Pro tip: Do all the above to stay compliant and keep your subscribers happy. And, of course, to help limit the number of emails that users send to the spam folder.
Tip 6: Don’t neglect the visuals
With so many articles about writing welcome subject lines that convert or how-tos for writing emails, it’s easy to get lost in perfecting the copy for every email. And, as a writer, I’m all for that. But you know how the saying goes: a photo is worth a thousand words. So don’t neglect the visual elements of your emails.
Let’s start with branding. I use Flodesk to send all my emails, so once I upload my brand colors, I’m good to go. But if you’re not there yet or use another platform, write down your brand color hex codes for easy access and use those colors throughout your email. I also suggest adding your logo (I have mine at the top) so people quickly begin to associate your logo, vibe, and content with your brand.
Do you use images in your emails? What about videos? Breaking up blocks of text is a great way to keep readers engaged and tell a story in a new way. I use images relating to the blog posts I share to give context to the titles, break up the text, and give subscribers another way to access the blog by linking the images.
Pro tip: If you embed a video or use images, make sure they look great on smaller screens like phones, where many people view emails. Design a mobile-friendly email with readable text, clear buttons, and easily visible images.
Tip 7: Send emails they love by segmenting
A smart but less considered tactic for personalizing your outreach is to segment subscribers based on shared interests or behaviors. You can do this based on a few things:
- How subscribers opted in. Did they opt in by signing up for your webinar? Or from a specific freebie on your site? Segment them and send content tailored based on how they joined your list.
- How they interact with your content. Do you have subscribers who engage with every email or none at all? Add subscribers who don’t interact with your content to a re-engagement segment or your highly engaged subscribers to a loyalty segment that rewards them with discounts or exclusive content.
When you personalize your audience’s experience by segmenting them, you show them you value their time. How? By sending them what they love and nothing they won’t.
Tip 8: Make automation your best friend
Sending a one-off email to a friend or colleague can be pretty quick, but when it grows to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of emails in a day, it can be overwhelming—which is why I highly suggest automating your email marketing.
You can design your emails days or months in advance and schedule them to go out automatically—set it and forget it. Or, you can set up workflows that trigger email sends based on specific actions or after a certain period passes.
What I do: When a visitor subscribes to my list (the trigger), I automatically send a double opt-in email. If they opt-in (another trigger), my workflow automatically sends a welcome email. I also have time-bound triggers that send the next email in my workflow 45 days after I sent the previous one.
Tip 9: Keep your emails concise
Have you noticed anything about this blog post? There are bullet points, numbered lists, and even a few images. This is by design.
Breaking up blocks of text into short paragraphs, lists, and bullet points makes your email more skimmable. But it also helps readers pull out the most important parts more easily.
I generally keep my emails under 200 words. But I don’t send a lot of content either. If you have a lot to share, consider:
- Sharing snippets or highlights that link to a blog post, article, or landing page
- Using images with short sentences to tell your story
- Asking subscribers to visit your blog, website, or social media pages to learn more about your business, updates, and more
- Break up a lengthy email into a few emails and make it a series (smaller chunks spread over more emails)
- Get creative with your sign-off to add a link to even more content
Have you considered cross-promoting your brand and offerings on social media and in the inbox? Social media is the perfect place to build a following and sense of community. Your community might include:
- Friends and family
- People passively interested in your content
- Followers who can’t get enough of you or your brand
Why not build and nurture relationships with your community by inviting them to join your list for more exclusive content and deals? You can then tailor your content based on triggers and how they joined to provide even more value.
And you can promote your social media channels in your emails by offering behind-the-scenes photos or videos, special giveaways, or a Facebook or Instagram live to get to know you.
Here are a few ways you can cross-promote:
- Use social icons in the footer of every email so subscribers can click one button to find your social pages
- Add email subscription links to your social media profiles
- Let your social followers know about exclusive email deals and show them how to join your list
- Send an email about a social media giveaway that requires them to at least follow you to enter
Tip 11: Clean your list regularly
Quality over quantity. It’s exciting to have large subscriber lists and to see that number grow. But there’s something to be said for high-quality subscribers, even if there are only a few.
When it comes to email marketing, the value comes from having subscribers who are excited by your offerings. They are the ones who will open your emails, sign up for events, or support your business. The subscribers who report you as spam, never open your emails, and don’t engage with your content don’t provide any value to your list.
To maintain a healthy and engaged list, clean it regularly. Remove subscribers who don’t interact with your content or open your emails and make your Unsubscribe link easy to see so they can remove themselves. It may seem counterintuitive, but by weeding out these subscribers, you’re increasing the quality of your list.
Flex your email marketing muscle
Who’s ready to send an engaging and exciting email to their subscribers? Get started with Flodesk for free for 30 days. Implement a few or all of these tips when executing your email marketing strategy to grow a healthy, clean subscriber list and send out emails your subscribers will love. We can’t wait to see what you’ll create!