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Email marketing strategy 101 for small business

When I say the words “email marketing” what springs to mind for you? 


Email newsletters?

Those pesky cold sales emails?

Here’s the thing. Email marketing can be *so much more* than what I see so many businesses using it for. 

It can be so much more than an ad hoc newsletter. It can be so much more than a consistent newsletter, if you’re simply blanket sending it to your entire list each week. And it can sure as hell be so much more than an illegal – and frankly uninteresting – cold sales email.

So let’s dive into email marketing strategy 101.

Let me ask you another question. 

What are your email marketing goals? 


Are you hoping to sell more of a particular product or service? 

Are you growing and warming your audience ahead of an upcoming launch?

Are you trying to win repeat purchases from previous customers?

Maybe you’re aiming for all of the above!

Step one in email marketing strategy 101 is to know your goals.

And yes, you can absolutely have more than one. 

But, as a small business owner myself, I know the perils of shiny object syndrome and spreading your focus too thin. So I’d personally encourage you to prioritise your goals and subsequently tackle them, one at a time. 

Feel free to take a moment to write your goals down if it helps.

Because I want you to take your biggest goal – the highest priority for your email marketing at the moment – and go a step further by asking yourself:

What does successfully completing these goals look like? 


If your goal is to win more repeat purchases from previous customers, for example, success could be to have 10 previous clients engage your services again within the next six months. 

This paints a great picture of what success looks like because it is specific, measurable and has a clear deadline.

So now you’ve got a clearly defined goal, let’s move into the practicalities of making it happen. 

To execute on your email marketing goals, your email marketing strategy should cover the following: 

1. Who are you targeting?


If we are to keep using the same example, you’re targeting previous customers clearly. But let’s get deeper. 

Remember, the more personalised an experience you can create the more likely you are to see success. Research from Experian shows that personalised emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.

So how can you get more personalised? You might want to segment your previous customers by what service they last engaged you for or when they last engaged your services, for example. Another example would be segmenting by job title or business size.

2. What does your audience want to hear?


What are the questions, pain points and motivations that will help you to empathise with, intrigue and inspire your audience?

How can you make it clear to them that they’ll be able to overcome their frustrations and unlock their desires by engaging with you again? 

Understanding what messages your audience needs to hear ultimately comes down to how well you know them. If you feel like you’re making assumptions rather than basing your content on real insight into who your audience is and what they think, do some market research. This is so often the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating compelling content that converts to a purchase.

Depending on the scale of what you’re hoping to sell, it’s unlikely that your subscriber will be ready to purchase after one email. After all, you might have to convince them that a) they have a problem that can be solved b) you have what they need to solve it c) you’re the right business to provide the solution and d) they can’t afford to delay – they need what you’re offering NOW. 

Understanding the multiple decisions your audience may need to make in coming to the ultimate decision to purchase from you again will help you map out the order of your communications. 

After all, if they haven’t realised they have a problem that can be solved, diving straight into selling your solution isn’t likely to work out. That would be like trying to sell me swimming lessons before I’ve realised that I want to be a better swimmer – I’m more than likely not going to be receptive to that message.

Here’s a truth bomb: you shouldn’t be “selling” to your audience in every email you send. By understanding what your audience wants and needs to hear, you can determine what call to action is suitable for each of your emails. 

For instance, if the goal of my email is to educate my audience that they have a problem that can be solved, I might direct them to a blog post on the topic.

3. When is the right time to make contact with your audience?


There are two parts to this question that I want to cover. 

Part one is knowing what days and times your audience is more likely to engage with your email content. If you don’t know this, I highly recommend conducting some A/B testing within your email newsletters or automations to start finding out. 

For example, you could send a newsletter to half of your audience on Monday and the other half on Tuesday in order to gauge how this difference impacts engagement and conversion. 

Now part two of this equation is a bit more interesting. And if the entirety of your email marketing is based around newsletters rather than email sequences, I want you to pay extra attention to this bit. 

Because knowing when is the right time to make contact with your audience isn’t only about what days and times your list is more likely to engage. It’s also about using behavioural cues. 

So what the heck am I talking about when I say behavioural cues? Here’s an example to illustrate:

As part of your email marketing strategy to win more repeat business from your previous clients, let’s say you send an email promoting a blog on your website. 

If a subscriber clicks on the link in your email to read the blog, we can see that they are showing interest. Your email engaged them.

Now let’s compare them to another subscriber that didn’t open the email. 

These are two very different behavioural cues. On one hand, you’ve got interest. On the other hand, you’ve got a lack of engagement. 

Is the most strategic approach to send both of these subscribers that same next email? Absolutely not. And this is where the beauty of email automation and email personalisation truly lies. 

As Experian’s research showed us, personalised emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.

Understanding the behavioural cues that show you where each of your subscribers sits within your marketing funnel is powerful. 

So, before you send your next email I want you to ask yourself these six questions: 

  • What is the ultimate goal of my email marketing?
  • What does success look like?
  • Who am I targeting?
  • What message do I need to deliver?
  • What action am I trying to encourage?
  • When is the right time to send this email?

Email marketing strategy 101 is in your hands.

Have you listened to our podcast yet? Prepare yourself for email marketing tips & tricks right in ya ears, whenever and wherever you want them.

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