It is no secret that small business owners are strapped for time and cash, therefore email marketing continues to be a top choice when it comes to promoting their brand and selling their products or services online. The reason is the proven effectiveness and high ROI of this channel.

Email marketing yields an average 4300% return on investment for businesses in the US, according to the Direct Marketing Association. It also has the highest conversion rate at 66% when compared to other marketing channels, including search and social. 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter, marketers consistently ranked email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention.

With a large array of email marketing software tools available today, it should not be difficult to find one that is budget friendly. Besides providing the right infrastructure to send mass emails, email service providers also offer additional services like responsive templates, analytics and automation which make it easy to create and send emails. Having features such as analytics, allows easy access to obtain data regarding open rates, click through and conversions enabling  businesses to see what is working or to make adjustments very quickly.

A recent survey from Constant Contact concludes that small business owners who learn how to use an email marketing software effectively consider its worth to be $273 an hour. The ability to reach customers directly and quickly without breaking the bank is what makes email marketing very attractive. While these benefits make a strong case for email marketing, it’s easy to miss out on some key opportunities that the channel offers. Here are top tips for a small business owner on how to effectively use this channel.

Set Your Strategy

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It’s amazing how many small businesses want ‘to do email’ but don’t think beyond that. It’s important  to understand your customer’s journey and relationship with your brand because that will help determine the top priorities for email marketing. For example, does your business require that a customer be onboarded? If yes, then you will need to send out a welcome and onboarding email to your new customers to get them started. Additionally, customers not only love getting offers via emails, they also like to be educated and engaged.

Your email marketing focus will depend on your business, brand and the customers’ buying habits. So figure out what makes the most sense for you before sending out emails, be it promotional or newsletters.

A good strategy is to regularly test various options and analyze the data (open rate, clicks, and conversions) to find out what works optimally.

Find the Right Frequency

How frequently you send emails is a balancing act. The good news is that consumers like getting emails, just as long as they aren’t redundant. As a general rule of thumb, most businesses find it helpful to email their entire list on a monthly basis and send segmented communications on a weekly basis. According to Marketing Sherpa’s survey, 60% of the customers surveyed prefer a weekly frequency. A  higher than a weekly frequency could get  a higher number of unsubscribes, while with a less frequency, a business runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.

However, this cannot be overemphasized: frequency depends on relevancy. The message needs to be relevant, valuable and anchored in your strategy. If the communication is not relevant, you will see a higher number of unsubscribes. Period. If you see an opt rate of higher than 2% from your email communications, take the time to consider either your frequency or the message.

Once you have a strategy figured out based on your business, brand, and customer habits, think about what gets the best engagement. The frequency of the emails can be determined thereafter.

Keep your current customers close to you!

Most businesses under value the use of email to keep the connection with their existing customers. They focus on sending primarily promotional type emails centered around making a sale or they will send holiday wishes a few times in the year.

Use your email marketing to connect smartly and frequently with your customers and stay top mind. Regardless of the buying cycle of your business, it’s important to stay connected with your current customers to encourage repeat sales, loyalty or word of mouth marketing. The key is to ensure the content is useful to your customers, examples of such content might be tips, guides, or how-tos. Let’s say, you have a local boutique selling women’s clothes. Apart from emailing your customers about sales, you might also let them know how to take care of wine stains on their whites or accessorizing for work. This type of useful and engaging content is likely to be appreciated by your customers and encourage retention.

Segmentation is Key

With today’s technology, creating segments of your email lists is easy and a must! Your customers are not all same; they have different needs at different times. Hence, one message should not fit all. There is enough data that shows when you group your email list into segments and send customized emails that are relevant to the group, those emails are more likely to be opened, clicked and acted upon, thereby increasing the conversions manifold. Segmentation is key to increasing revenue from email marketing.

As a small business owner, your focus should be on determining how you can best segment your list. Again, analyzing your customer's’ buying journey will give you a good starting point. For example, you have an online flower business. One segment you might consider would be  first-time customers to whom you email a one-time welcome offer; another segment might be your regular customers like wedding planners to whom you offer volume discounts. Then there might be another of floral enthusiasts to whom you email regular tips and pointers about taking care of flowers. Segmenting your customer database intelligently, and emailing them content that is relevant and personalized will get them to engage and convert more instead of emailing everyone the same, broad message.

Choosing the Right Email Service Provider

Last but not least, a critical step, is choosing the right email service provider for your business. You, as the business owner, will send out your emails through their servers because their servers are specifically set up for these services. If you tried to send mass emails through your regular Internet Service Provider (ISP), your campaign could be blocked, as regular ISPs are not developed for mass mailings.

Therefore make sure you do your research really well when shopping for an ESP. Evaluate at least 3 services and consider their value, features, customer service, infrastructure, speed to send, ease of use, analytics and overall reputation of the service. A key consideration should be that their templates are mobile friendly, as more than half of emails are read by people on their mobile devices. Avail of their free trial offers before you sign up. Only once you are absolutely sure the ESP is a good fit for you then sign up for a full term contact.

Email marketing is amongst the most cost-effective channels to increase revenue and stay connected to your customers. The key for a small business is to not just ‘do email’ but to do it smartly by following the tips above.