Email marketing: Essential tips for small business owners

Why email marketing?

Before we get stuck into email marketing essentials, let’s start with some good old statistics.

So, what does this tell us? 

If you’re not already harnessing email for marketing, you are missing out on one of the most powerful ways to connect, engage and convert your audience.

But, isn’t email marketing complicated?

Email marketing can seem overwhelming at first. But, once you get started and get to know your audience better, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier. Besides, with so many people using emails each day (and that crazy good ROI!), you don’t want to miss out on the potential rewards just because it seems too hard.

Okay, so where do I start with email marketing?

The first thing every business owner needs to do is get clear on what you want to get from email marketing. Because sending random emails isn’t going to deliver the goods for you. That crazy good 4200% ROI? That’s the result of being strategic and purposeful with your content, your list and your approach. 

But don’t worry, we’re going to take you through the entire process so you understand the email marketing essentials you need to have in place to make it a success. 

Step 1: Get started

The first step is getting started. Building a solid foundation for email marketing will set your business up for success and help you realise those potentially amazing returns on investment.

Email strategy

To get the most from your email marketing efforts, you need to understand why you want to email your customers, what your end goal is for email marketing and who you want to talk to. Without some sort of strategy, you’ll find yourself sending random emails to random people and not seeing the results you need.

  • WHY EMAIL? Do you want to provide extra information, attract more sales, promote your offerings, create connections or do something else? 
  • WHAT’S THE GOAL? Do you want to improve conversions, build brand awareness, meet a revenue goal, launch a product or a combination of these?
  • WHO’S THE TARGET? Do you want to speak directly to new or existing customers? What’s your message to them? What language do they use, what are their pain points and why should they care?

Having the answers to these questions will help you build a strategy for email marketing and allow you to connect the right content with the right people.

Email service provider

Unless you plan on manually adding email addresses to every email you send, you’ll need to choose an email service provider to help with distribution. If you’re just starting out or if your existing list is small, you can access free plans with some providers. While this is a great option for the budget-conscious, you’ll be limited in what you can do on these free plans.

Most email service providers offer tiered pricing, depending on the size of your email list and the number of emails you plan on sending each month. While no email provider is better than another (yes, you’re going to have to make that decision for yourself!) some of the more well-known email providers include:

Email List

Once you have your email provider in place, the next priority is to start building your list. To get the right people on your list, it’s important to create an offer, known as a lead magnet. Also known as an email optin, a lead magnet gets prospects to provide their email address in return for something of value, that speaks to their problems and offers them a quick and easy win. 

Lead magnets can come in different forms, including:

  • Offering a free resource
  • Running a competition
  • Promising a discount
  • Hosting an email challenge 

Building an email list can take some time but don’t be tempted to buy a list from someone else to get a jump start on things. A small but highly targeted and engaged list will deliver a better return than a large list of random email addresses. When it comes to building your email list, quality trumps quantity every time.

Step 2: Get creative

With a strong foundation in place, the next stage is to look at the design, style and format of your emails. This is crucial to get your subscribers to take notice and take action.

Clear design & great visuals

Getting creative might seem like the fun part of email marketing but there is a lot more to think about than picking cool colours and intricate fonts. Good email design is simple, clean and easy to read. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with design elements that distract them from the core message or make them want to close your email because it’s all too much.

Here are some quick email design tips:

  • Create a design that incorporates your brand colours to provide a consistent look. 
  • Stick to clear fonts to ensure your message is easy to read and accessible.
  • Use a hero image to provide visual interest without going overboard.
  • Put your most important information first so you grab instant attention.
  • Make your call to action stand out (like a button) so it’s easy for readers to click on.

Mobile friendly

According to Statistica, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 54.8% of global website traffic in the first quarter of 2021. With so many of us using our phones to check our emails, there’s a good chance your beautifully designed email will be viewed on a mobile device. That’s all good if your email design is mobile friendly but if it’s not, that’s going to be a problem.

Whatever design you choose for email marketing needs to be responsive on all devices. That’s why it’s so important to use a clear and consistent style, choose easy to read fonts and put your most important information first. Your email needs to be as compelling on a phone as it is on the desktop you lovingly used to design it in the first place!

What type of email?

The last piece of the creative puzzle (apart from the copy which we’ll look at next) is to identify the type of emails you’ll send. Email marketing is more than a promotional vehicle. With a direct connection to each customer, it gives you the opportunity to build a relationship every time you interact. That’s why it’s crucial to know the types of emails that will work best for your list.

Examples of the types of emails you may send include:

  • Welcome
  • Thank you
  • Promotional
  • Product launch
  • Newsletters
  • Follow up
  • Introductory
  • Explanatory

Depending on your business model (product-based or service-based) your emails will look very different. While product-based businesses may focus on sales, discounts and promotional emails, service-based providers might send more informational, explanatory or follow-up emails. 

In the creative stage, it’s a good idea to map out your email sequence so you identify which emails you need. A good start is to set up a thank you message (after taking up your lead magnet) a welcome email and then look at what your audience will be looking for. This might be a newsletter for service providers or promotional emails for eCommerce businesses.

Step 3: Get strategic

With an email list in place and your design elements sorted, it’s time to work on your messaging and strategy to achieve that crazy good 4200% ROI that email marketing can deliver.

Must-open subject line

Of all the elements involved in email marketing, the subject line is the most important. Think about your own inbox. You’ll open certain emails first because of the subject line. It’s something we all unconsciously do. So, to ensure your customers and clients open your emails, you need to attract their attention with a must-open subject line.

There are many different types of subject lines to try:

  • Informational (The ultimate guide to copywriting)
  • Personal (Sarah, this deal is just for you)
  • Urgent (72 hours and it’s all over)
  • Clever (We saw you checking us out)
  • Direct (Join us in Sydney next week)
  • Lists (7 must-have looks for 2021)
  • Statistics (Over 95% of marketers do this)
  • Questions (Want to know the secret to stress-free parenting?)
  • How-to (How to get more from your insurer)
  • FOMO (Time is ticking – act now or miss out!)
  • Location (Newcastle’s best-kept secret, revealed)
  • Controversial (Why your skincare routine is all wrong)
  • Sneak peek (Just in – get a glimpse of our summer stunners)
  • Offers (Our treat – get 30% off your next purchase)

Effective subject lines will depend on your audience and your industry but don’t be afraid to put a bit of personality into it. That little bit of you may be the difference between your email being opened or being sent to trash.

Killer copy + irresistible call to action

After grabbing interest with your subject line, it’s important to keep it with effective copy. Keep the needs of your audience in mind when writing your content to ensure it resonates with them. For instance, if you’re spruiking a new product, be clear on how it will help your audience by including the benefits of the product in easy read bullet points so they are primed to buy.

Talking of purchasing, ensure any calls to action are clear and easy to follow. Ideally, display them as an attention-grabbing button, checking that all the links work. Use active language to encourage action – buy now, subscribe today, download guide, check out the range, etc.

Segmentation & personalisation

Here’s another statistic for you. According to Campaign Monitor, marketers who used segmented campaigns noted as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Segmentation involves breaking up your list into smaller related groups to increase relevance. 

So, you could have lists of new and older subscribers that receive differentiated content. Or you could create lists based on age, gender, location or any other demographic that you choose to collect on sign-up. Segmenting your list means you can send people more specific information and offers that directly relate to them, increasing your chance of a conversion.

The same study found that personalisation also increased open rates by 26%. Using someone’s name in the subject line and in the email copy is a simple way to create a connection and encourage action. Personalisation can usually be incorporated easily into your email template using tags such as [First name].

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Step 4: Get results

With all the elements in place, you are now ready to make the most of email marketing. But to be in a position to achieve the best possible ROI, you need to constantly analyse your results.


When it comes to email marketing, sending an email is half the job. The other half is measuring how well your email performed against a series of metrics. Analysing email open rate, click-through rate and the number of unsubscribers can illustrate whether your email hit the mark with your audience or whether it fell flat.

The best thing about using email service providers is the level of analytics they can provide. All the major players will provide insights into the performance of your emails so you can see what works and what doesn’t. This is crucial so you can tweak your email marketing efforts to increase the number of people opening emails and clicking through to make a purchase.

A/B testing

Many email service providers offer A/B testing which gives you the opportunity to perform split testing of subject lines and content. So, you can send half your audience an email with one subject line and use a different subject line for the other half. This allows you to test which subject line works best in terms of open rates, click-throughs and unsubscribes.

Split testing can also be used to identify the best images to use, confirm optimum CTA placement and uncover the most effective messaging for your email marketing. Taking the time to test what works best can be the difference between a successful launch and a lacklustre one.

Frequency & timing

Another way to get the most from your email marketing efforts is to work out the best days and times to send emails to your audience. This will take some tweaking but understanding when your audience is best placed to read and explore your emails is key to email marketing success. Again, your email provider may be able to provide insights to help you with this process.

Deciding on email frequency is another important element. Sending consistent content helps your audience know what to expect. You might settle on on a weekly email update or assign particular days of the week to a topic (i.e. Mad Monday, Tuesday Tips, Wellness Wednesday, etc.). Whatever you decide, stay consistent to keep your audience primed for your content.

Email marketing examples for service-based businesses


This follow-up email from APM College of Business & Communication gives the reader instant access to helpful information while promising a personalised call to answer any questions.


This newsletter from The Bucket List is full of bright colours, nostalgic images and is perfectly themed for Easter, with lots of upcoming events and a clear CTA to book for Good Friday lunch.

Email marketing examples for product-based businesses


Go-To Skincare is a master of email marketing. From the irreverent tone and the captivating copy to the vibrant visuals and branded colour palette, this promotional email is hard to ignore.

Thank You

This thank you email from Frank Body doesn’t feature any images but it’s a great example of an effective email. It helps the audience know what to expect with some subtle humour.

Think you need help with email marketing? 

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to email marketing but once you have the essentials in place, you’ll find the results of your investment will be worth it. While you might want to give it a go yourself, you might find you need a bit of help to get started. That’s where we come in.

The team at Naked Digital can help you master the art of email marketing and get your hands on that crazy good ROI. Schedule a free 30-minute chat with Desiree to discuss your needs and discover how we can help you get the most from email marketing.

Schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with us to learn more

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