Email Marketing Guide for Beginners

Email Marketing Guide

Email marketing for small business is like the Swiss Army knife—it’s cost-effective (and could be free), quick, and gets the job done, perfect for managing customer interactions and boosting sales. It’s the best way to keep in touch through emails, whether we’re creating engagement with prospects or keeping our current ones happy. This ability to deliver messages directly impacts sales.

Think of email as your business’s megaphone and listening ear rolled into one. It’s great for sending out tailored messages to nudge your customers and even better for hearing what they think and want.

Curious about how online marketing, specifically email marketing for small business, can work for your business and how to get started without the headache? Check out this handy guide to get started or improve the email marketing your business does.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is engaging with prospects and subscribers who have joined your email list. Effective email marketing can help businesses turn prospects into customers and convert one-time buyers into lifelong loyal customers. The great thing about email campaign is that it is free and easy to get started.

Generally, online marketing through email involves sending mass marketing newsletters to all subscribers who have signed up to receive email campaigns from you, enhancing click-through rates.

Many email campaigns and tools, complemented by SMS marketing strategies, also allow you to split up your list and send targeted marketing campaign emails to people at a certain part of the buying process. So you can keep up with customers through the years and create lasting relationships.

Benefits of Email Marketing for Small Businesses

Email marketing for small businesses offers a range of benefits, serving as an efficient and cost-effective tool for engaging with customers, fostering customer loyalty through email campaigns, and driving sales.

It allows for direct communication with your audience, providing a platform to deliver personalized content, promotional offers, and updates about your products or services.

This targeted approach helps build relationships with leads, enhance brand loyalty, and increase customer retention. Moreover, email marketing campaigns are measurable, giving businesses valuable insights into their effectiveness through metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.

Benefits of email marketing for small businesses include:

  • Cost Efficiency: Compared to traditional marketing channels, email marketing for small business is more affordable, offering a high return on investment.
  • Personalization and Segmentation: Emails can be customized and segmented to cater to the specific interests and needs of different audience segments, improving engagement rates.
  • Direct and Immediate Communication: Email allows for timely communication, enabling businesses to send out instant updates, offers, and important information to their audience.
  • Increased Traffic to Website: By including links to your website, marketing emails can drive traffic directly, supporting other email marketing efforts like SEO and social media.
  • Enhanced Customer Retention: Regular, valuable communication through emails helps in keeping your brand at the top of your customers’ minds, encouraging repeat business.
  • Measurable Results: Email marketing platforms provide comprehensive analytics to track the performance of your campaigns, allowing for continuous optimization.
  • Global Reach: Email marketing can reach a global audience without any significant increase in cost, making it an ideal tool for scaling your business internationally.

How to Get Started with Email Marketing

With email marketing, you have a proven, easy and effective tool to reach your marketing goals. Below are some of the basic steps required to start your marketing campaigns.

1. Create an Email Marketing Strategy

Including email as part of your marketing mix can help maximize the results of your marketing endeavors. The success will depend on the amount of research you put in your strategy. This will help you determine your message; select the right audience; how you will deliver your message and of course evaluate your results and tweak them when necessary. In addition, your strategy should help inform you on how to manage your subscriber list; the design and copy of every email; scheduling delivery time; testing messaging; and analyzing results.

Start by encouraging people to use opt-in forms on your site for your email blog newsletter, providing news about your brand or helpful tips. Utilizing AI to personalize content enhances the ability to engage customers. Utilize FAQs to address common subscriber queries.

With this you can direct traffic to your website’s landing page for additional interactions. It is yet another way of showcasing your offerings to both new and old customers. You can also use email alerts to let your subscribers know about occasional special discount or offers.

2. Pick an Email Marketing Tool

To get started with your marketing efforts, begin by choosing an email marketing tool to manage your email list and data efficiently. Email marketing tools help you to design, send, test, optimize and measure email campaigns. An email marketing tool could be a specific tool related to email marketing campaigns like an email subject line generator, or an inbox placement testing tool, or a suite of tools that enables a marketer to do all their email marketing end-to-end.

A good email marketing software, like Mailchimp, will make the design and execution process a lot easier, optimizing cost and efficiency. Any email marketing tool should help you do the following:

  • Manage your database list of subscribers. It’s where you keep your subscribers
  • Give you opt-in forms to add to your website, so prospective subscribers have a place to sign up
  • Automatically send confirmation emails, and handle the confirmation process for new subscribers
  • Automatically remove those who unsubscribe, so you no longer send them messages
  • Provide easy-to-use templates to compose email messages
  • Handle the process of broadcasting (sending out) marketing emails
  • Provide reports and statistics, so you can improve your email marketing
  • Automate some messages

Here are some popular tools to consider:


Mailchimp is one of the more popular email marketing service providers in the market. It comes free, has an easy email builder, autoresponders’ features, arranges contacts into groups, and analytics. With Mailchimp, you can also set up delivery times based on your contacts’ time zones. Mailchimp offers a free custom domain and can also integrate with WordPress, Shopify, and many other platforms. If you require additional support for your email senders, custom branding and advanced features Mailchimp prices start from upwards of $ 9.99.


Sender is a free email marketing tool. It helps provide you with support to create newsletters without any HTML knowledge. It offers a good selection of templates so you can customize images, videos and text to your specific needs. Sender also allows you to personalize email newsletters for each recipient for a better impact. The free plan will let you cater to 2,500 subscribers and send out 15,000 emails a month. The paid plan which starts from $10 a month offers for more robust support.


ConvertKit is a subscriber-based marketing tool and starts with a $ 29 base plan. It helps you track the interests and purchases of your audience through tags and segments. Allows you to see individual subscriber history and profile info by clicking on any subscriber from any part of your list. It also helps you design fully customizable landing pages with customizable templates to help you grow your email lists.

Other providers you can choose from include iContact, EmailBrain, SimplyCast, Conatctology and others.

3. Build a List

Start with your existing network—such as friends, family, and current customers. Ask for permission to add them to your list, emphasizing the value they’ll get from your emails, such as exclusive offers, insightful content, or early access to new products. Utilize your website by adding signup forms with clear calls-to-action, offering incentives like discounts or free downloads for subscribers. Participating in local events or industry conferences can also provide opportunities to gather email addresses, as long as you make it clear how you’ll use them.

The importance of this initial list lies in its ability to create a direct communication channel with interested individuals, fostering relationships, building customer loyalty, and driving sales in a way that’s both cost-effective and highly targeted. This foundation not only supports immediate marketing objectives but also contributes to sustainable long-term growth.

4. Compose Your Messages

You will need to make and plan content for your email marketing campaign before sending out your first email. Just as you would with any other social media content platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook – you need to know what you are going to update subscribers with.

Small businesses can engage their subscribers through a variety of email types, each serving a unique purpose in the marketing strategy:

  • Welcome Emails: Sent immediately after subscription to thank the new subscriber and introduce them to your brand.
  • Newsletters: Regular emails that provide valuable content, company updates, industry news, or tips related to your business.
  • Promotional Emails: Highlight special offers, discounts, or limited-time deals to encourage purchases.
  • Abandoned Cart Reminders: Targeted messages to remind customers about items they left in their shopping cart, often with a prompt or incentive to complete the purchase.
  • Product Launch Announcements: Introduce new products or services to your subscribers, detailing features, benefits, and any introductory offers.
  • Event Invitations: Invite subscribers to webinars, workshops, in-store events, or other relevant events hosted by your business.
  • Re-engagement Emails: Aimed at reactivating subscribers who haven’t interacted with your emails or made a purchase in a while.
  • Transactional Emails: Confirmations for orders, shipping updates, and payment receipts that provide important transactional information.
  • Feedback and Survey Emails: Request feedback or ask subscribers to complete surveys to gain insights into customer satisfaction and preferences.
  • Educational Content: Emails that educate your audience about your products, industry, or other topics of interest, adding value beyond direct sales.

With all of these emails, always make sure your subject line, email text, video all stand out starting from your first email.  Presentation is key here, make sure you don’t go overboard with graphics that take too much time to load. Your emails should be clear, concise and straight forward, and it should be enticing enough to have readers engaged.

You will need to have a content strategy for your email subscribers that is both engaging and helps direct them to making concrete actions. Especially with email click rates, your subject lines determine whether they are enticing enough to warrant a click. Always try to stand out from the subject line as well as in your content.

Additionally, try to avoid spam trigger words such as ‘buy, ‘discount’, ‘earn extra cash’, ‘incredible offer’, free cash and others like these.  These might cause your emails to directly go to the spam box.

5. Send Email Messages

Believe it or not, there are good times to send emails to get the best responses in terms of email open rates and email click-through rates. The best days to send emails are on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Studies indicate that Thursdays enjoy the highest open rates with an average of 18.6%. Wednesday comes in second with an average of 18.3% of messages being read. Sunday has the least impact on open rates with an average of 17.1% across all industries.

The best time to send an email is 11 am according to a study.

For a more effective determination of when to send emails, picture yourself as your customers with which days are good for them to have time to reflect on your offering.

6. Review Reports and Tweak Processes

Your email marketing campaign analytics and metrics can give you valuable insights to track the progress of your marketing campaign. Two common email metrics are open rate and click-through rates.

An open rate refers to the percentage of people who opened your emails from the total number of recipients. This usually means your subject line resonates with subscribers; subscribers are familiar with your name and brand, and recipients associate you either with an emotion or value.

Similarly, a click-through rate is the percentage of people who clicked on a link in your email from the total number of people who opened it. This will show how people are responding to the content of your emails. A positive response entails clicking through to your website for more information or offers.

Good open and click-through rates will result in more visitors to your website and sales. A good way to test your messaging is by running A/B tests on your email marketing campaigns. A/B testing refers to sending one variation of your marketing campaign to a subset of your subscribers and a different variation to another subset of subscribers. The goal here is to work out which variation of the marketing campaigns will provide the best results. Once the test is over and you find the best campaign, your marketing platform will automatically send that version to the rest of your list. Learn how to use all of the tools available to you with the platform you choose.

7. Grow Your List

For optimum results in your marketing strategy, you will need to employ best practices to continue growing your opt-in email list, respecting GDPR and CAN-SPAM regulations for compliance. Growing a small business email list involves employing strategic methods to continuously attract new subscribers who are interested in your offerings.

The key is to provide value in exchange for their email addresses, ensuring that the content you plan to send is relevant and beneficial to them. This not only helps in expanding your list but also in maintaining a high level of engagement among your subscribers.

Tips for growing your email list:

  • Offer Incentives: Provide compelling reasons for people to sign up, such as exclusive discounts, freebies, or valuable content like ebooks or whitepapers.
  • Leverage Social Media: Promote your email sign-up through your social media channels, highlighting the unique benefits subscribers will receive.
  • Optimize Website Sign-Up Forms: Place email sign-up forms prominently on your website, especially on high-traffic pages, and make the process as simple as possible.
  • Use Pop-Ups or Slide-Ins: Implement timed pop-ups or slide-in forms on your website that trigger based on user behavior, such as when they’re about to leave your site.
  • Host Contests or Giveaways: Run contests or giveaways that require an email sign-up to participate, ensuring the prize is relevant to your target audience.
  • Content Upgrades: Offer content upgrades within your blog posts or articles, like additional tips or a downloadable PDF, in exchange for an email address.
  • Encourage Referrals: Create a referral program that rewards current subscribers for bringing in new sign-ups.
  • Engage in Networking Events: Collect email addresses at trade shows, markets, or local business events where potential customers might be present.
  • Collaborate with Other Businesses: Partner with non-competitive businesses to promote each other’s email lists to similar target audiences.

8. Perform List Hygiene

Always remember that email lists expand and contract. As your email list gets bigger, the more money you will have to pay your email service. What is key is to know how engaged your email list is. After some time, people might opt to stop opening your emails. They may actually cause you to waste resources on unresponsive recipients.

This is why it is important to always monitor and update your lists by deleting people who no longer open your emails. Always keep your email list fresh and filled with engaged subscribers. Your VIPs are those that open your emails the most often.

9. Segment Your List

You should also break up your subscribers into smaller groups based on specific criteria to make them more personalized and relevant. Not all clients and their needs are the same so you should be able to tag and segment your recipients based on whether they are new to your company or have made previous purchases.

The goal here is to avoid sending irrelevant messages to everyone and risk sending your emails to spam purgatory. You might want to include a checkbox on your opt-in form for those who wish to receive emails with discounts and offers and others for new product launches.

10. Automate

Another advanced practice involves setting up automation. You will need to keep leads warm and maintain marketing “touches” with your list to stay top of mind for when they are ready to buy (again). Since you may not always have time to do this manually, this is where automation comes into play.

For example, an autoresponder is simply a series of emails that are sent out automatically once triggered by a certain action. Through your lead magnet, you can offer an e-book that would require customers to sign on to your subscription platform. This helps you send an email series to increase engagement with customers over time.

Email Best Practices

There are many tips for email marketing campaigns, but certain practices should be followed. For example, experts recommend the following best practices:

  • Think like your customer — By thinking like your customer you better understand why the customer subscribed or purchased from you. Then you can better meet their needs with brand association
  • Write good subject lines — Your subject line will determine whether or not the recipient opens your emails. Subject lines should have a call to action and get the recipient interested enough to click and open the email
  • Make your emails mobile-friendly — The majority of emails today get opened on phones. So it’s good to ensure they look right and are easy to read on mobile devices
  • Send emails at the most effective time — The best time varies by industry, the purpose of the email and other factors. Check metrics to see at what times people are opening your emails
  • Offer email-exclusive content — Send content that is available only to subscribers. It encourages new subscribers and delivers something unique
  • Provide the option to opt-out of receiving future e-mails
  • Emails should include your physical address
  • Email subject lines do not mislead
  • Your emails have to clearly state it is a solicitation
  • Send a welcome email to all new email list subscriber
  • Send periodic permission reminders to confirm if subscribers are still interested in your emails
  • Be transparent while describing your email’s content and the typical frequency in your sign up process

Email Marketing Laws

When email marketers use sent out mail, they have to allow their subscribers the opportunity to opt-out of their mailing list by being transparent on how to unsubscribe. It is extremely important to be upfront about what subscribers can expect from subscribing to a mailing list as well. No one likes to be duped in getting unsolicited emails that simply cram up their inboxes.

You will need to comply with spam laws. Always be sure to be transparent and above board on how you acquired your subscriber’s email address.

The CAN-SPAM and GDPR regulations are strong when it comes to enforcing illegally obtained email addresses in a bid to protect individual privacy rights. This includes purchasing an e-mail list from a company that allows you to keep the e-mail addresses as a data file; collecting e-mail addresses from web sites and other online directories; using an e-mail address collection service (unless there is confirmed permission from every subscriber).

Further Reading: Email Marketing for Small Business

See the following articles for more tips:


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Samson Haileyesus Samson Haileyesus is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 5 years. He has several years of progressive experience in media, communication and PR working with government, NGOs and private sector.