I recently caught up with co-owner and marketing mastermind behind Boston co-retail space For Now, Kaity Cimo. She runs the space with friend and business partner Katharine ReQua. They opened a year ago and have played home to over 80 brands in that time.
16 Experts Share Small Business Email Marketing Tips & Metrics
What do all effective email marketing campaigns have in common? That’s the million-dollar question and we figured the best way to get to the bottom of it was to ask the people who are already killing it with their campaigns.
After all, you don’t mess with success.
So we went straight to the horse’s mouth and asked small business owners and marketers for their top tips about email marketing. We also asked what metrics they recommend tracking to measure the success of their email campaigns, and compiled the results.
Here’s what we found out.
Top email marketing tips and best practices
As expected, different marketers had had different ideas about best email marketing practices, but there were definitely a few common threads running through the responses.
Some tips came up time and time again – tips that pretty much everyone can agree are super important, and that we thought we should pay special attention to. Let’s explore them.
Focus on personalization
Personalization is an essential part of modern email marketing. It involves modifying your email template for specific customers, or groups of customers, rather than sending out exactly the same email to everyone on your mailing list.
Email personalization can take many forms. At its most basic, it might mean simply including the recipient’s name in your subject line.
“…make sure to add a bit of personalization to every email campaign. We all receive hundreds of emails per day, and usually, it’s easy to quickly sort and delete spammy-sounding emails just by reading the subject line.” writes Tony from Carsurance.
A more sophisticated approach to personalization involves segmenting your customers into several different groups.
“Small businesses, particularly e-commerce businesses, can never take too much liberty with segmentation. One of the few benefits of having a smaller customer base is that you can build a more exact profile of each customer based on their past purchases. Email marketers should use this data to build out segments based on customer preferences, and in turn, deliver more personalized messaging in their email campaigns.” explains Ellie from Conversion Giant.
As Bryan from Bryandigital.sg points out, you can also personalize your campaigns based on how your customers have interacted with your previous emails.
“After sending out your campaign, follow up with another re-marketing campaign to those who’ve opened and show interest to your email. This is proven to increase the conversion rate, converting leads into sales and existing customers to loyal customers.” he writes
Pay attention to frequency
Another topic that came up several times in our responses was email frequency. The frequency at which you send out emails to your mailing list can have a big effect on the success of your campaign. Too often, and you risk annoying and alienating your list. Too infrequently, and you might end up forgotten and consigned to the junk folder.
“The number one problem I see with small business owners in their email marketing is that they don’t send out emails often enough. Many think the safe bet is the monthly, and even, heaven forbid the quarterly newsletter. The problem is that infrequent newsletters allow just enough time to pass for your subscriber to forget about you or wonder why they signed up for your newsletter at all.” explains Lovelyn from Bettison Copywriting.
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“You need to show up in your subscribers’ inboxes often in a positive way to keep your company and product top of mind. You build trust by being a consistent voice. If you are only emailing monthly, try stepping it up to once a week. If you’re already emailing weekly, good for you. Why not try your hand at emailing twice a week? Every email you send is another touchpoint with a customer. It’s another chance to put your offer in front of people.” she continues
However, a higher frequency isn’t always better, as Adam from Better Proposals points out. He argues that marketers should “stop sticking to schedules.”
He goes on to explain, “It’s not necessary to send out 4, 8 or 10 emails per month to succeed with your emails. Many marketing managers think that if they’re not mailing out every other day, that they’re wasting their potential and not maximizing on their lists. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We’ve come to find out that 2 or 3 (at a maximum) emails sent per month work best for us. We tried emailing our entire user base 4, 8, 10 times per month, or even every day of the week for one period. We found that 2-3 emails monthly work best and we no longer feel pressure to send emails just for the sake of sending them.”
Collect emails early and easily
According to our respondents, marketers shouldn’t delay when it comes to building their list.
“The best email marketing advice I can give to any small business owner is to start collecting email addresses as early as possible. Email gives you an easy way to get in front of potential customers. You don’t have to wait for them to show up on your (virtual) doorstep. You can get right in their inbox.” writes Christoph from SaaSEmailMarketing.net.
That’s all well and good, but how do you actually get your customers’ visitors to sign up for your mailing list? Tonya from ThoughtLab sheds some light on this.
She says businesses should “Make it easy to subscribe. The more information that you ask for, the less likely someone is to take the time to fill it out. You want to avoid form fatigue by keeping things simple, clear and concise. Make your subscribe button noticeable and easy to find. If you can, provide a little incentive to entice someone to sign up.”
Maintain a clean/quality list
It’s not just all about the number of leads on your list, but the quality of those leads too. Having a clean list full of people that want to read your emails can help to improve email deliverability, open rates, conversions, and other key metrics.
In fact, Jeff from Moriarty’s Gem Art says that this is crucial to the success of his campaigns. He writes, “The one thing that improved our whole campaign through email was cleaning up our list. We used to do it once a year, and now we do it monthly. This has increased our deliverability rates, which has helped increase revenue and traffic through email.”
Stacy from Accelerated Growth Marketing provided some actionable advice on how businesses can keep their lists clean. She writes, “My best email marketing tip for a small business is to use a double opt-in. This helps make sure your emails don’t end up in spam filters and gives you a higher send and open rate with your email provider.”
“Using a double opt-in will make sure the first email your subscriber sees goes into their main inbox, and it will drastically cut down on the number of emails you send that go directly into spam without your subscribers even getting a chance to see it.”
Automate your email campaign
With all the sophisticated technology marketers have at their disposal, you’d have to be mad not to leverage it to help execute your email campaigns, and one way you can do this is through email automation.
Related: Comparing Klaviyo vs. MailChimp
“a small business owner [should] automate it in some way, shape, or form. Whether that means using a strong subscription service with robust customization and automaton options or outsourcing it to a freelancer, just get the tedious parts of the task out of your way so you can get back to focusing on the rest of your business.” writes Spencer from IRC Sales Solutions.
Allison from Fashionably Cleveland agrees, adding “Running a small business means you have to be as efficient as you can (at everything, not just email marketing.) We schedule weekly emails to be sent at the same time every week and automate the content in our newsletter via RSS feeds. It helps to know what someone doesn’t have to babysit the newsletter every time it goes out, freeing time that can be spent on other things.”
A/B test your emails to see what’s working
According to the experts, it’s not good enough to just get your email right once and leave it at that. Marketers should regularly test their campaigns to see what’s working and what’s not – this means split testing or ‘A/B testing’ your emails to compare how they perform.
“Improving conversion rates can make a more significant difference in your bottom line than many other marketing efforts. Many marketers, when shown tips to increase conversion, implement it into their email marketing efforts instead of first testing to see if it works for their audience. That’s why using the A/B test to try out new techniques and formats is an excellent technique in email marketing, especially for those with smaller budgets.” writes Michael from Ivy McLemore & Associates.
“The best email marketing tip for a small business is to look at results and test continuously. This can be done through A/B testing different creative, subject lines, or send out times. Analyzing results monthly is important to detect trends and base future emails off of.” adds Emma from Traktek Partners.
Most important email marketing metrics
Ok, so now we know what the top tips are for making your email campaign a success – but how do we measure that success? What are the most important email marketing metrics to track?
Here’s what our experts had to say:
CTR, or clickthrough rate, measures how many of your email recipients are clicking the links within your email copy and is super important.
“The most important metric to us is clickthroughs to the website. If small businesses are running an email campaign and not getting clickthroughs to their website, then the email marketing isn’t working. If they are getting clickthroughs but not seeing any further action, then they know the landing page isn’t working.” writes Spencer from IRC Sales Solutions.
So what can marketers do to improve their CTR metrics? Lovelyn from Bettison Copywriting suggests “Send emails with one purpose in mind. Every email you send should have one focused objective. Putting multiple links in your email is an excellent idea because they give your subscribers multiple chances to click, but all those links should lead to the same place.”
Another metric that pretty much all of our respondents mentioned was email open rate, but not everyone places the same level of importance on it. Some marketers don’t consider open rate to be as important as other metrics, while others consider it crucial.
Adam from Better Proposals is part of the latter camp. He writes, “The metric we follow most closely is our open rate. We realize that our customers get a lot of spam and just getting in front of them means a lot to us – so we aim for high opens. We’re not too concerned with click-through rates at the moment.”
Tony from Carsurance adds “Using apps such as Streak, you can keep track of how many emails were opened. This is important data since the subject line is one of the most important aspects of email marketing. You should also monitor the statistics and see which subject lines work and which ones are leading to unopened emails. Getting your recipients to open and ready your email is the first step to successful email marketing.”
Conversions is a metric that measures customer action, rather than engagement. The ‘action’ in question can differ depending on the campaign – it might mean a sale, an email opt-in, or something else entirely.
For some marketers, conversions are everything. Mike from the Wilderness Times believes that “the #1 metric is sales. Tracking opens is useless because opens don’t pay the bills. No matter who you are, figure out a way to track sales.” However, as he goes onto explain, measuring conversions isn’t always straightforward.
“If you’re an e-commerce business, this is easy since you can track how many people clicked the link in the email and bought. For brick and mortar, you might have to get a little more creative. You can track sales by offering online-only coupons or offers, which will show you how well your emails are performing.”
But how should marketers use conversion rate data? What does it tell us about our email campaigns and where we can improve?
Tonya from ThoughtLab explains “Depending on where someone is within your conversion funnel will determine if they should be at the buying stage or not, and which emails they should be receiving. If you’re getting a high conversion rate, you’ve successfully created a well-crafted conversion funnel. If you’re not, then you might want to rethink and restructure your funnel.”
The delivery or ‘bounce’ rate was another metric that many of our respondents measure. It measures the number of emails that fail to be delivered to the recipient, and thus provides a good indication of the quality of your list.
Saul says that for Websand “Delivery is super important, so we always monitor bounce rates to make sure our sending reputation is as high as possible.”
A higher-than-average bounce rate could indicate a poor-quality list. Emails can also bounce if your recipients have added you to their ‘blocked’ list. Therefore, if a lot of your emails are failing to deliver, it might be a warning that your subscribers don’t want to receive your content.
The final metric that was often mentioned is ‘unsubscribes’. Your unsubscribe rate is the rate at which those on your email list are opting out of further communications. A lot of marketers look at this in conjunction with other metrics, like their subscribe rate, to judge their overall mailing list growth.
Marcus from Bowler Hat is one of them: “It really depends upon objectives but from a high level I want to ensure emails are engaging the target audience – if not, we can address why before we pick that up with too many unsubscribes.”
If you didn’t find the tip you were looking for you can also check out our guide to 40 Email Marketing Statistics that Are Shaping the Future – it’s a great deep dive into some stats are gaining in popularity!
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