How to manage email marketing for your small business

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Billions of people use email every day. According to data from Statista, there are currently 4 billion daily email users (a number that’s expected to hit 4.6 billion by 2025)—and a whopping 306 billion emails are sent and received each day.

With half of the world’s population using email, email marketing offers an incredible opportunity to connect with your customers, deliver key messaging and drive engagement, sales and revenue for your business. But with so many emails being sent each day, if you want to see results from your email marketing campaigns, you need to break through the clutter of your customers’ inboxes, grab their attention and get them to open your message.

In this guide, we’ll go over the email marketing best practices you need to know to make the most of your email marketing campaigns—and drive real results for your business. Here, we’ll dive into both email marketing basics and advanced tips to help you optimize your campaigns, including:

  1. How to set objectives for your email marketing campaigns
  2. The basics of email list building
  3. How to write attention-grabbing subject lines
  4. Strategies to optimize your email campaigns

1. How to set objectives for your email marketing campaigns

When you’re creating an email marketing campaign, make sure it has a clear objective. This will help you measure the campaign’s success, and will also ensure your email has a clear, cohesive message.

Before you start building your emails, think about what you’re trying to accomplish—and what benefit or value the email is going to bring to your customers. For example, do you have an upcoming sale? Then the purpose of your email would be to get the word out to customers…and you can offer value by delivering an exclusive email coupon, incentivizing them to shop.

It’s also important to define which metrics you’ll use to measure the success of your email campaigns. Some you’ll want to consider tracking include:

  • Open rate. Your open rate is the number of emails customers open, divided by the total number of emails sent and multiplied by 100. For example, if you send 100 emails, and 20 people open those emails, your open rate is 20% (20/100 x 100). According to data from Campaign Monitor, the average open rate across all industries is 21.5 percent—so, ideally, your open rate will be at or above that level.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR). When you send an email, you want people to take action on it—and that generally means clicking a link within the email. This is called the click-through rate, or CTR. You can find the CTR by dividing the number of total clicks within an email by the total number of emails sent, then multiplying that number by 100. So, if you send 100 emails—and 3 people click on it—your CTR is 3%. According to Campaign Monitor’s data, the average CTR is 2.3 percent, so aim for that.
  • Unsubscribe rate. Your unsubscribe rate is the percentage of customers that unsubscribe from your list after receiving your emails. This is calculated by dividing the number of unsubscribes by the total number of emails sent. Ideally, you want to keep your unsubscribe rate as low as possible.

In order for your email marketing campaigns to be successful, you need to define a) what you want to get out of the campaign, b) what your customers are going to get out of the campaign, and c) what metrics you’re going to use to measure your emails’ effectiveness. By setting those objectives, you’ll know how you’re going to measure success—and how you’re going to deliver the kind of value your customers need to engage with your emails and help you hit your success metrics.

2. The basics of email list building

It doesn’t matter what objectives you set for your campaigns or what kind of value you’re willing to deliver. Without an email list, you won’t have anyone to send your marketing emails to. That’s why email list building strategies are so important. The more you build your list (and the more you build it with the right customers), the more people you’ll have to market to.

So, how do you grow your email list—and make sure you’re creating a list of subscribers that are likely to engage with your business? Consider these strategies as you grow your list and plan email marketing campaigns.

  • Offer incentives. People don’t like the idea of giving something for nothing. When you’re building your list, you’re asking your customers for something—their email address. So, why not offer something in return? Incentivize customers to sign up for your email list with a discount code, coupon or helpful resource.
  • Collect as much data as possible. The more information you can collect on your email subscribers, the more effective your emails will be—so, if you can, try to collect more information than just their email address. When you have additional information (like age, location or shopping preferences), you can use that information to tailor your emails for more personalized messaging.
  • Make it easy for customers to subscribe. If you want people to sign up for your email list, you want to give them plenty of opportunities to do so—and make those opportunities as easy as possible. Add sign-up forms to the most visible parts of your website, like the header, footer and sidebar. If you have a loyalty program, make opting in to your email list a part of the process so people can sign up for both programs at once. The easier it is to sign up, the more your subscriber list will grow.

VistaPrint Tip

QR codes are a great way to simplify the email sign-up process for your customers. Create a custom QR code that brings customers to a sign-up form; then, then add the code to business cards, brochures, menus and more.

3. How to write attention-grabbing subject lines

According to recent data, 64% of people decide to open—or not open—an email based on the subject line alone. So, if you want to ensure that customers actually open your emails, you need to come up with high-quality, attention-grabbing subject lines.

Let’s take a look at some tips for writing email marketing subject lines that will make your customers want to open your emails.

  • Keep it clear and concise. According to 2019 data from Marketo, the ideal length for an email subject line is 41 characters. That’s not a ton of space (41 characters translates to about seven words), so keep things clear and concise.
  • Personalize your subject line. Most people are inundated with marketing emails—and it’s easy for all those emails to blend together. But if you want to stand out, one easy way to grab your customers’ attention is to add a personal touch. Including your customers’ name in your subject line is a great way to immediately stand out in their inbox and encourage them to open your email.
  • Use the 4 U’s formula. If you’re not sure if your email marketing subject line hits the mark, consider using the 4 U’s formula. When evaluating your subject line, ask yourself, “is this email marketing subject line urgent, unique, useful and ultra-specific?” The best email subject lines are all four—so if you find one of the U’s is lacking, do what you can to punch up your subject line. (For example, if your subject line lacks urgency, you might incorporate more words to create that urgency, like “limited time” or “last call.”)

4. Strategies to optimize your email campaigns

Not all email marketing campaigns are created equal. If you want to see real results from your campaigns, you need to do everything you can to make the most out of every email by optimizing your campaigns.

There are a number of strategies you can use to optimize your campaigns – here are some to try.

  • Segment your list. You have different types of customers—so why would you send them all the same emails? Segmenting your email list into different groups of customers based on interests, locations, shopping habits or other demographics allows you to send targeted messaging that’s more likely to resonate with the customer.
  • Make sure your marketing emails are on brand. Your customers should be able to tell who your email is from as soon as they open it. Make sure every email you send features your logo, brand colors and any other branding elements.
  • Send your emails at the right time. When you send your emails can have just as big an impact as what is in your emails. While specifics may vary based on industry and customer base, according to data from Campaign Monitor, customers are more likely to open your email on a Monday or Thursday than on a Saturday or Sunday. So, if you want as many customers as possible to see your emails, try sending them during the week—and, more specifically, on a Monday or Thursday.
  • Optimize your emails for mobile devices. According to data from Statista, nearly half of all marketing emails are opened on mobile devices…so, if you’re not optimizing your emails for smartphones and tablets, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to drive engagement. According to data from Mailchimp, using mobile-responsive design in your email campaigns can increase mobile clicks by 15%, so make sure you’re using a responsive email marketing template.