Email Marketing for Small Businesses: A Step-by-Step Guide

Mohamed Natheem
ByMohamed Natheem

15 mins read

The biggest challenge all small business owners like you face is the lack of time and budget to market your business. You might be managing all the product and marketing-related tasks without much help.

You might often wonder whether there is a more effective technique to collect leads to grow your business. Fortunately, there is email marketing. Marketers generate an ROI of 51.52 USD for every dollar spent on email marketing.

However, small business email marketing can be challenging as it involves many things like growing your email list, nurturing leads, setting up the strategy, finding the best ESP, and more.

Hence, here's a complete resource you need to get started and multiply your revenue using email marketing.

Importance of email marketing for your small business

Jay Abraham formulated the concept that companies can increase revenue by increasing either the number of customers (C ), the number of purchases per customer (F), or increasing the average order value (AOV).

With email marketing, you can influence all three growth multipliers at once.

The number of customers (C ) - Email outreach for brand-building and turning your subscribers into customers.

Example: Welcome or onboarding email campaigns, or newsletters.

The number of purchases per customer (F) - Email automation campaigns based on customer actions for promotion and sending valuable content to customers for building brand loyalty.

Example: Abandoned cart or browse abandonment campaigns, product or service update, newsletters, emails containing content like case studies or tips and tricks.

Average order value (AOV) - Upsell and cross-sells through promotional emails, product recommendations, win-back emails, offer emails.

Email can also increase lifetime value (LTV) and customer retention through win-back campaigns.

To understand why email marketing is effective for small businesses, let’s take a deep dive into the benefits of using email marketing to promote and sell as an SMB/SME owner.

Benefits of email marketing for your small business

You might have this question, "Is email marketing good for small businesses?" and here's our answer.

Yes. Unlike other marketing channels, email marketing can help you engage with your customers throughout their journey.

Here are the few notable benefits of email marketing for your small business:

Email marketing benefits

1. Low cost per customer

Most companies spend about $750 to $1,500 per month on SEO, while social media plans tend to range from around $4,000 to $7,000.

Email, on the other hand, has low to no setup costs, and while the price varies on the factors like the number of emails sent the size of the contact list and the email platform pricing. Small and mid-sized companies can get started with email marketing from anywhere between $9 to $1000.

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2. Build customer relationships

Email is the best channel to communicate and engage with your customers. Humanizing the brand helps in improving relationships with your customers.

You can send timely hyper-personalized emails so that people feel connected with the brand while reading them. Need an example? Here's one from Zapier.

Zapier's email marketing campaign

3. Highly reliable marketing channel

Email provides you control over your platform and your audience, making email marketing more reliable and stable.

  1. Platform: Email marketing does not depend upon centralized networks or third parties, nor are you subject to any usage fees.

  2. Algorithm: Another hurdle for small businesses is that they are left out in the cold if they don't catch up with the change in social media or search engine algorithms, but email marketing has no such problem.

  3. Audience: You own your contact list and can access it no matter where you are or which service provider you use. You can move your database between platforms based on your needs.

4. Higher ROI

Email marketing yields better ROI than any other marketing channel, and 87% of marketers plan to invest more into email marketing. Here is the email marketing ROI for different industries.

Email marketing ROI by industry

5. Retain customers

Retaining existing customers is a much easier way to create revenue than finding new ones. Email marketing makes it easy for small businesses to nurture and retain customers.

You can send win-back emails, cart abandonment emails, reminder emails, and more to get your customers back to using your product or service.

Here's an excellent cart abandonment email template to nudge your customers to complete the purchase:

cart abandonment email template

Challenges of small business email marketing

Despite the benefits of using email marketing, there are a few hurdles that you need to jump. We have mentioned the challenges and how to resolve them in the following.

Challenge 1: Delivery issues

Reaching the inbox of your subscribers is one of the most significant challenges for an email marketer.

This problem can be solved by:

  • Remove unresponsive individuals

  • Testing and validating email ids before sending

  • Having an active sun-set policy

Challenge 2: Avoid being spammy

Landing in the inbox and not the spam folder is a huge challenge. This can be resolved by:

This problem can be solved by:

  • Sending relevant emails

  • Regularly update your mailing list

  • Make it easy for the users to unsubscribe to avoid spam complaints

  • Domain warmup

  • Monitor and work on your sender's reputation

Challenge 3: Design problems

One of the major challenges of email marketing for small businesses is that people receive emails on different gadgets. Hence, the responsive design is a must so that readers can view the email comfortably, regardless of the device they are using.

However, creating responsive design requires development work which could be a huge challenge for you.

This problem can be solved by using an email marketing platform that can help you create responsive emails without any hassle.

In email marketing, one needs to become strategic and do smart work. Not everyone will want your services, but your work is to find the customers.

Find the ones with the wants and desires. Some people need your product, and some people want it. So, focus on ideas and plans to make your marketing campaign appealing.

It is better to keep a conversational tone, even if email marketing sounds professional. How you communicate and the style of conveying play an important role.
Nathan Hughes, Head of Marketing @Diggity Marketing

Creating an email marketing funnel

An email funnel is a process and journey to convert your target audience to leads to customers through a mix of informative and promotional content.

The biggest disadvantage small businesses face over large-scale businesses is the awareness of their product among regular folks. Hence, it becomes even more important to have a detailed and robust email marketing funnel for small businesses.

Below are the four stages for building an email marketing funnel:

Steps to create email marketing funnel

Stage 1: Building your email list

An email list generally refers to the subscriber base you build through your website or blog. Building your email list is the first and most important stage of an email marketing funnel.

Some of your contacts may unsubscribe or opt out of your email campaigns if your emails lack relevance or interest in your product.

Email list enables you to keep your potential customers engaged and nurture them through their journey. While email marketing strategy and campaigns generally revolve around conversion, growing your email list is an important goal that calls for its own strategy and plan.

You can generate leads in two ways.

1. Add opt-in forms on the website or dedicated landing page

The landing page educates your viewers about you and your work. It gives them a fair idea of what value you can add by email communications. Hook up the form to your email campaign.

Zapier lead gen form

Source: Zapier

2. Lead magnets (ebooks. Checklists. Newsletters, etc.)

A lead magnet is a free service that is provided to gather data from your viewer. Examples of lead magnets includes, ebooks, checklists, newsletters, product samples, case studies, surveys, and polls.

Mailmodo lead magnet

Source: Mailmodo's State of Email Report

Stage 2: Nurture your leads

Once you get a lead, you should keep engaging and nurturing them by sending them the most relevant and personalized information. Lead nurturing helps you gain their trust and increase the chances of them becoming paying customers.

Here is an example of a lead nurture email:

lead nurture email

Source: Really Good Emails

Stage 3: Convert leads into customers

If your customer has crossed the first two stages, it is highly likely that they will become a customer. To ensure that, you can give them time-sensitive offers, send them emails about the products they are interested in, etc.

Here's a cool labor day sale email template you can use:

Stage 4: Retention of customers

Being an SMB, you can’t miss out on any customer. So it is important to convert your occasional customers into regular customers. You can do these things to convert every customer to a regular customer:

  • Good customer support

  • Keep your customers engaged and updated about your product

  • Offer incentives to them for being loyal customers

How to set up email marketing for your small business?

To set up a robust email marketing channel for your business, we recommend you follow these steps:

  1. Create your email strategy and plan

  2. Choose an email marketing platform

  3. Choose the type of emails to send

  4. Design to perfection

  5. Set up the campaign

  6. Track the results and optimize

  7. Automate further

Step 1: Create your email strategy

Failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Defining your strategy and plan in the early stage of email marketing is very important for SMBs as they have very little time at hand and no money to waste. Here are points your email strategy should address.

  • Email marketing goals

Email marketing goals are the targets you want to achieve from your campaign. Without goals, you will not have a clear path to follow, reducing the ROI of email marketing campaigns for your business.

  • Target audience

The target audience is the group of individuals your campaign is aimed at. These individuals are most likely to convert to actual customers based on the targeted email campaign you send. Finding your targeted audience and marketing your product to them only saves time and resources, which becomes crucial when you are an SMB.

  • Frequency of campaigns

The frequency of your emails mainly depends on your target audience, the marketing strategy, and the type of business you own. Therefore, finding the right frequency of emails is very important for a successful marketing campaign.

  • Follow-up plan

You should have a plan to follow up for optimal conversion. Statistics show that only 20% of the leads are followed up, resulting in a low customer conversion rate and being an SMB, you can’t afford to miss out on any lead/customer.

Chalk out a strategy over a period of time for sending different campaigns, as per your business requirements, customer profile, and journey.

Step 2: Choose an email marketing platform

Getting the best result from your email marketing campaign while saving time and money is the most important goal for an SMB. Email marketing platforms are meant to help you with your goals in the most efficient way.

However, every SMB requires different features based on the domain of the business. So it becomes important for SMBs to find the perfect email marketing platform for them. Below are the factors/features you should consider as an SMB owner while choosing an email marketing platform.

  • Cost-effectiveness of the platform

  • Number of emails you want to send and the number of emails the platform allows you to send in a month

  • Does the platform have a drag-and-drop email builder?

  • How the platform helps you in list management?

  • How the platform helps you in segmentation and personalization?

  • Customer support of the platform

Step 3: Choose the type of emails to send

Now you have your strategy and email marketing platform in place, it's time to decide on the email campaign you need to send to your audience.

Your small business email marketing objective will directly impact the type of email you send. In light of this, you can send the following types of emails:

πŸ‘‰ Transactional emails

Transactional emails are automated emails that are sent based on the customer actions on your website. Some examples of transactional emails are abandoned cart emails, password reset emails, account alert emails, etc.

Here is a transactional email example from Squarespace:

enter image description here

πŸ‘‰ Promotional emails

Promotional emails are emails sent to drive sales and revenue for the business. They notify customers about offers, events, product launches, and more.

Here is an example of a promotional email:

Promotional email template

Use the email template

πŸ‘‰ Email newsletters

You can send newsletters to educate and engage your audience with regular informative content, product updates, and more. You can send weekly or monthly newsletters depending on the engagement and content production.

Step: 4. Design to perfection

It's time to create the email content and design to help you stand out from the hundreds of daily emails your audience receives.

Email content best practices:

πŸ‘‰ Focus the messaging on your audience

πŸ‘‰ Keep it simple and avoid jargon

πŸ‘‰ Write short email content

πŸ‘‰ Nail the subject line

πŸ‘‰ Humanize the email

πŸ‘‰ Include a clear CTA

Email design best practices:

Your email service provider should have an email templates gallery where you can pick one based on your campaign needs and start designing it.

Or else, you can create the email design from scratch using the drag-and-drop template builder.

πŸ‘‰ Use responsive email design to suit various devices

πŸ‘‰ Create interactive AMP emails to delight your audience

πŸ‘‰ Use minimalistic email design with clear messaging

Step 5. Set up the campaign

Hurray! You are now all set to send your first email campaign. But before doing that, make sure to test your emails to avoid errors.

You can send test emails to verify the email or use the email testing tools available to create error-free campaigns. Also, segment your audience list to send the email campaign to the right people.

Step 6. Track the results and optimize

Tracking your email marketing metrics helps you understand your marketing campaign success. In addition, tracking enables you to understand which strategy works, and as per the success rate, you can optimize your marketing strategy and get the best results.

Step 7. Automate further

Email automation helps connect with your audience at the right moment with the right messaging. For example, you can send welcome emails to customers who sign up on your platform or purchase your product automatically to create better relationships and guide them to use the product.

Here is an example of a SaaS welcome email automation flow that you can use:

enter image description here

Best email marketing services for small businesses

Here are the few best email marketing platforms you can use to level up your marketing.

1. Mailmodo

Mailmodo is the best email marketing service for small businesses and startups. It offers the best in class features like interactive AMP emails, deliverability service, and email automation at a low cost compared to other service providers.

Pricing: We offer a 21-day free trial for all users. Post that, our plan starts at $49/month for 40,000 contacts and 75,000 email sending credits.

Review on G2 - 4.5 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.6 out of 5

"We switched from Mailchimp to Mailmodo to explore interactive emails and direct checkouts. Customer actions in the email helped us scale up faster." - Ridhima Achaliya, Growth Marketer at Traya.

2. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is the pioneer in email marketing. They offer some great features like automation and advanced segmentation to help you engage and convert your prospects. It is suited for businesses with larger subscriber lists and can be a little overwhelming.

Pricing: Mailchimp offers a freemium plan with a 500 contact limit. And the pricing plan starts at 9.30$.

Review on G2 - 4.3 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.5 out of 5

3. Sender

Sender is one of the most affordable email marketing platforms for startups and small businesses. It offers powerful features, including email and SMS automation, advanced segmentation, drag-and-drop email builder, and detailed analytics & reports. With these features, you can create personalized email campaigns that boost engagement and sales.

Pricing: Sender offers a Free Forever plan for up to 15,000 monthly emails. Its paid plans start at 15$ per month.

Review on G2 - 4.4 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.6 out of 5

4. Sendinblue

Sendinblue is another great email marketing software for small businesses to create and send their email marketing campaigns. It comes with cool features like an easy email editor, email A/B testing, and more.

Pricing: Sendinblue offers a free plan with the ability to send 300 emails per day. The pricing plan starts at $25 for 20,000 emails per month and increases depending on your email-sending volume.

Review on G2 - 4.5 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.5 out of 5

5. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign offers various marketing tools to help marketers grow their businesses. It offers great features like email A/B testing, CRM, and other automation capabilities. But the email editor and the platform itself are not-so beginner friendly.

Pricing: ActiveCampaign doesn't offer a free plan. Their basic plan starts at 29$ per month for 1000 contacts.

Review on G2 - 4.6 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.6 out of 5

6. Moosend

Moosend is another great tool for sending better email campaigns and other marketing automations. It offers easy-to-use email editing, automation, landing page builder, and more.

Pricing: Moosend offers a 30-day free trial for all users, and the paid plan starts at 9$ per month for 500 contacts.

Review on G2 - 4.7 out of 5

Review on Capterra - 4.7 out of 5

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You should now have a clear idea about email marketing for your small business and how you can leverage it to grow your revenue. But as a beginner, it is hard to get started.

But with the right tool and support, you can start attracting customers to your business faster. Sign up for Mailmodo and send interactive email campaigns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Around 64% of SMBs use email marketing as their primary customer acquisition channel. So, email marketing is still one of the primary revenue generation platforms for startups and small businesses. And it yields high ROI with low investment. You can set up the campaign once and automate it further.

Mailmodo is one of the few email marketing platforms that support interactive AMP emails. Interactive emails help increase conversion rates. You can insert forms, calendars, shopping carts, etc., directly inside the email.

Here are a few small business email marketing tips for 2024:

  • Always clean up your email list and segment them.
  • Never buy an email list.
  • Create an effective sunsetting policy.
  • Warm up your email domain properly.
  • Authenticate your email domain.
  • Abide by email privacy laws.
  • Use a clear subject line and CTA.
  • Keep your copy concise.
  • Always test and preview your email.
  • Avoid unnecessary redirects or use AMP emails to reduce drop-offs.

5 must-use email marketing ideas for SMBs:

  • Create a weekly industry specific newsletter.
  • Send surveys to get feedback on your product.
  • Run referral email campaign.
  • Automate welcome emails to create relationships instantly.
  • Make use of seasonal offers and campaigns.
  • Include social proof/testimonials to create trust.
  • Send nurture email campaigns.
  • Send creative quizzes to boost engagement.
  • Use spin the wheel widget inside email to gamify email campaigns.

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