Email Marketing for Small Businesses: Why, How, and What to Expect

Melanie Balke
October 31, 2022

One of the most daunting problems for small businesses is customer acquisition.

How can you grow your brand’s influence when you have a relatively limited audience?

In the past, you probably would have turned to direct mail marketing or door-to-door sales. However, things have changed. Now, you can reach a massive market with just a few clicks; all it takes is some know-how.

Email marketing is one of the best ways for a small business to expand its reach. These everyday messages are the perfect way to nurture customer relationships without blowing out the bank.

However, it’s not always as easy as clicking a few buttons. A solid email marketing strategy requires industry know-how, some smooth talking, and a deep understanding of your customers. It’s a lot to juggle when you’re already struggling to keep up with your administrative duties and requisite responsibilities as a business owner.

You could hire an agency, but how do you know if they’ll be any good?

More importantly, how do you know what your business needs from its email marketing service?

Today, I’ll be digging into these topics and exploring the ins and outs of marketing for small businesses! Join me, and let’s explore this exciting marketing frontier together.

Why Every Small Business Needs an Email Marketing Strategy

A header image. The text reads, “Why You Need It: The Many Perks of Email Marketing.”

I’ll start with the basics: Email marketing is amazing. It’s an accessible channel with plenty of reach, and you don’t need a massive budget to run successful email marketing campaigns. Many businesses have flourished with a clever email marketing strategy, and it’s time for yours to do the same.

Emails Adapt to Your Business’ Goals

One of the biggest perks of email marketing is its adaptability.

You don’t need to stuff a sale into every email.

With the right marketing automation service, you can easily set up informative drip email campaigns and newsletters. The simple act of including your contact information in your signature can direct more people to your website.

Emails can help businesses meet goals such as:

  • Announcing a new blog post
  • Boosting customer service
  • Building customer relationships
  • Drawing more website visitors
  • Facilitating direct communication
  • Handing out loyalty rewards
  • Improving revenue
  • Keeping customers informed

And those are just some of the ways that you can use an email!

Emails Can Increase Sales and Boost Revenue

Here’s the most important point for any business owner: An email marketing campaign has the power to dramatically increase your revenue.

One of the most commonly cited facts is that email marketing has a 4,400% ROI. That’s still true, but there are many more impressive figures to consider when looking at email marketing for small businesses. For example:

  • In B2B marketing, 59% of marketers cite emails as the most lucrative marketing channel.
  • Email is 40× more effective than Facebook and Twitter at acquiring new customers.
  • Shoppers spend 138% more when they’re sent relevant email discounts.

There are plenty of other reasons to invest in email marketing — such as improving your brand’s customer lifetime value — but we don’t have time for all of them. There’s still so much to cover, and it’s time to move to the next topic!

How Much Does Email Marketing Cost?

A header image. Text is overlaid on a photo of coins and cash. The text reads, “How Much Is It? The Cost of Email Marketing.”

Email marketing may be cost-effective, but it’s not free!

There are two areas of concern: money and time.

The less you spend, the more time you’ll have to invest in your marketing. To be more upfront: You can do your own email marketing, but the money you save will be reinvested as time spent researching.

So, how much does email marketing cost?

If you’re doing your own marketing, you can expect to pay $9–$1,000 per month. Hiring an agency will make your life easier, but it costs more; a small business with an agency can expect to pay $300–$500 per month.

Should My Business Fly Solo?

I’ll start with the cheapest option.

If you opt to do your own email marketing, you’ll save a massive amount of money. There’s a huge difference between a monthly fee of $9 and $300, but is it worth it?

Honestly, it depends!

An infographic. A photo of leaves features overlaid text. The header reads, “Comparisons: Should My Small Business Do Its Own Marketing?” Smaller body text is below this, reading: “Doing your own email marketing is a huge time investment, but it’s worth the effort for some businesses, such as those that,” followed by a list. The list reads, “Don’t have many subscribers, have an extremely limited budget, have previous marketing experience, and require little to no automation.”

As long as you have some basic knowledge and a good email marketing platform, you can do your own email marketing. Many marketing tools make this even easier with their drag-and-drop editors and built-in tutorials.

On the flip side, you’ll have to do everything yourself. You’ll be responsible for all of the nitty-gritty details of your marketing, and you’ll probably need to learn a lot about optimization. Your business will need to court its own email subscribers and find time to master your chosen platform’s automation features.

Should I Hire an Email Marketing Agency?

If you’re struggling to reach your target audience or finding that you don’t have enough time for email marketing, then it’s time to consider hiring an agency.

While this approach will cost more upfront, it comes with its own inclusive email marketing tools and a cadre of dedicated marketing experts.

For a small business owner, a marketing agency can be a lifesaver. These companies formulate marketing strategies, create unique email marketing campaigns, and provide clients with the best email marketing services. Behind the scenes, these marketers will also be able to study your results. They’ll find your weaknesses, and they can tell you where you need to improve.

An infographic. A photo of leaves is overlaid with text. The header reads, “Comparisons: Should I Hire a Marketing Agency for My Business?” Below is smaller body text reading: “A digital marketing agency costs more, but it’s perfect for businesses that: Cannot afford in-house marketing, have less time to dedicate to marketing, have many subscribers, require advanced marketing automation,” and “Want more interactive content.”

Obviously, these companies will bring in more potential customers. They have their own team of designers who can create gorgeous promotional emails. They have dedicated email service providers to promote high deliverability. To make a long story short: They have a little bit of everything, and those tools will scale alongside your business needs.

How to Make Amazing Email Marketing Campaigns

A header image reading, “What It Takes: What Goes Into Email Marketing.”

With all of these perks, it’s safe to say that email marketing is a great way to boost your small business. However, you’ll need to have some know-how and a few tools at your disposal before you start to plan your emails.

The Pre-Game Checklist

Anyone interested in investing in email marketing for small businesses starts with a basic toolkit. Most popular email marketing services come with these tools, although the functionality of each will vary from one provider to the next.

Before you start to run campaigns, you’ll want to have the following services and features in place:

  • Clear business goals
  • Email marketing software
  • An email service provider
  • A landing page builder (and some landing pages)
  • Opt-in forms
  • A verified and professional email account

You may also need to learn a few new tricks.

Email marketing is constantly evolving, and you must know the basics before climbing the ranks. For small business email marketing, you’ll want to learn about:

That’s a lot of information to learn. However, if your email marketing efforts will be fairly limited, you can (probably) do your own marketing.

If you don’t feel like learning all of that, email marketing agencies are always available to help!

Getting Started With Email Marketing

A header image reading, “The Process: What It Takes to Create Amazing Email Marketing Campaigns.”

Now, this can go one of two ways: You can take charge of your own business’ marketing, or you can let a skilled agency handle your needs. Regardless of which option you pick, the process will remain the same.

Someone will still need to find a good email marketing service, and a team will still study your small business's target audience. The only difference is who performs these duties.

Find a Good Marketing Automation Tool

An email marketing service is a must in this industry.

Trying to handle your marketing without software is futile, and it’ll cost your business valuable time. Instead, you (or an agency) should use an email marketing software.

An infographic. The header reads, “Pro Advice: How to Find the Best Email Marketing Service.” Smaller body text reads, “When you’re shopping for email marketing software, look for the following features: automation, design, integration, scheduling, and segmentation.”

These program bundles are amazing and come with all the tools you’ll need to handle your small business’ marketing efforts.

You’ll want to define your needs before you start shopping because there are many options available. Some of the most popular picks come with inclusive features for generalized digital marketing, while others (i.e., Klaviyo) focus on email marketing.

The Cost of Email Marketing Tools

As a quick aside: Larger subscriber lists will cost more to maintain. While many popular providers offer a free account or trial, these initial provisions will quickly grow obsolete. If you have a massive email list, then you’ll probably have to invest in high-cost plans with unlimited emails.

Fortunately, most small businesses won’t have to worry about these expenses, and many email software companies offer extremely affordable plans to businesses with less than 1,000 subscribers.

These plans usually come with a collection of basic features (i.e., sign-up forms and integrations). Users will generally pay more for advanced features.

Gain a Devoted Customer Base

Modern legislation has made email marketing a bit more complex, but don’t let that scare you away! Permission-based email marketing isn’t hard to master; you just need to understand some basic regulations.

There are many variations in national spam legislation, but the key point is that customers must opt-in to receive your emails. The best way to abide by most spam laws is to:

  • Abide by common laws when sending transactional emails
  • Avoid spam triggers and deliver relevant messages
  • Confirm emails for new subscribers (commonly known as “double opt-in”)
  • Have a consistent schedule with constant contact campaigns
  • Implement a simple signup form on high-traffic webpages
  • Include simple opt-out links in every email
  • Limit how many automated emails you send
  • Maintain a high sender score
  • Optimize your emails for mobile devices
  • Send a timely welcome email to new subscribers
  • Take advantage of customer retention strategies (i.e., re-engagement and win-back emails)
  • Understand domestic and international privacy laws
  • Use clear and honest subject lines

(… or you could hire an agency.)

Get People Interested in Your Business

A key part of growing your email list is strategic visibility. While it would be nice for your website to be at the top of every relevant search, that’s just not realistic.

Instead, you’ll want to do what the pros do: Keep a close eye on your website visitors and track how they engage with your content. When you notice a page has high views, take advantage of it!

These high-traffic pages are the perfect place to put a signup form.

How you choose to do this will depend on your audience. While a basic sidebar signup form will work for some sites, others find more success with pop-ups and lead magnets. For a truly optimized experience, you should consult an expert. They’ll be able to tell you what the data means.

Some email marketing platforms will be able to advise you automatically, but a robot’s advice is secondary to a marketer’s. A full-service marketing agency will likely be able to implement these suggestions immediately. However, any good agency will be able to interpret your data.

Send the Right Message

A header image reading, “Examples: Email Marketing to Inspire You.” The text is on top of a photo of an email icon.

Before I wrap up this blog post, I want to provide a few examples of amazing email marketing!

Every business can use emails, and small businesses have a lot to gain from this marketing channel. If you’re struggling to think of ways your business can reward its loyal customers and engage with new subscribers, then these emails might be the inspiration you need.

A Catchy Subject Line and Visual Appeal

If you’re one of the many small business owners in the toy industry, you’ve probably heard of Squishables. This brand produces plenty of huggable plushes, and their marketing team is fantastic!

Check out this example email:

A screenshot. The Squishable logo is positioned above a pastel photo of a plush flying pig. The call-to-action reads, “Enjoy!”

The subject line for this email campaign was remarkable! “Flying Piglet will make you happy. Enough said.”

That’s a clickable subject line, and it’s the perfect way to showcase how email marketing strategies can tap into people’s curiosity. This message also shows that personalized messages don’t have to be your only approach. Sometimes, your small business just needs a catchy subject line and a fun idea.

Learn More About Your Customer Base

Small businesses are all about connection, and the best email campaigns are built on personal details. That’s why many marketers will use email campaigns to gather more information about their consumers.

A sample of how small businesses can ask customers for more information. The image header is the Scoot logo, and the body asks for more information about recent purchases.

Scoot is a perfect example of this!

In its email, the brand asks for some simple feedback. In return for this direct contact, Scoot promises better service for its loyal customers.

Remember: You don’t need to make every campaign a spectacle. Sometimes, the best email campaigns are simple.

Regardless of how you choose to send these requests, make sure that all of the relevant sign-up forms are ready! There’s nothing more embarrassing than a broken link.

Win Back Subscribers With Your Email Marketing Tool

One of the most effective automated email campaigns is the ubiquitous abandoned cart. These emails get sent when someone stalls at checkout.

Beardbrand has a lovely example of an abandoned cart campaign, and its original subject line — “Quick heads up…” — draws plenty of attention to the message.

A sample email from Beardbrand. The message includes a photo of a jar of balm and a message informing users that their purchase will expire soon.

There are a few flashy elements in this email, but it’s done its job well. The email campaign highlights the “abandoned” product and creates a sense of urgency. It’s a super effective combo tactic: Show them what they need, then tell them when to get it.

Simple But Effective

You don’t always need a bunch of flashy features. Sometimes, all you need are straightforward subject lines and good information.

Check out this simple message, which is undoubtedly one of many automated transactional emails for this business:

A screenshot. A simple transactional email with shipment details and support links. The item is accompanied by a photo.

Here, the focus is on maintaining strong customer relationships with good customer service. Buyers aren’t usually looking for pizzaz when they check out; they want to know what they bought. This message delivers, and it does so beautifully.

Need Help?

A header image reading, “Enlist Experts: Hire an Agency. Make It Easier.”

There’s a lot that goes into marketing for small business owners. Few things are as simple as the drag-and-drop editor makes them seem, and it’s easy to find yourself drowning in work. If you’re sick of monitoring your marketing channels and tweaking your campaigns, then it’s time to enlist the experts.

Small businesses already have a lot to handle, and marketing shouldn’t be a constant worry.

Chat with me!

I understand how small businesses work because The Email Marketers is a small business! I’ve worked with plenty of brands, and I can help yours, too. Together, we can refine your needs into a defined email marketing strategy and knock your small business’ email marketing out of the park!