Small businesses have used email marketing to connect with their customers for over 40 years—and with good reason. Large-scale email campaigns help companies convert prospective buyers into customers, promote new products and services, and keep loyal followers top of mind and engaged. But with the rise of social selling, digital ads, SEO, and so many other ways to digitally promote products and services, is email still worth investing in?

There are several reasons why we say yes, it is. Email marketing is not only still popular, with up to 87 percent of marketers using it, but it’s also effective, with over 80 percent of small and medium-sized businesses successfully acquiring and retaining customers with it too. And some data shows email marketing to be lucrative in that with every $1 spent on this practice, it offers a $42 return on your investment.

So yes, incorporating email into your digital marketing strategy is smart when you do it correctly.

Keep in mind that not all email campaigns are equally effective.

So here are some tips to optimize your open rates and get more out of your efforts: 

  1. Strategize when customers will hear from you.

To avoid sending out sporadic emails (or forgetting to message customers altogether), create a schedule for contacting your mailing list. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you have regular sales and promotions, sending emails 2-3 times per week could keep your customers up-to-date. You might also consider staggering your messages to segmented audiences based on where customers are in the buyer’s journey—for example, sending emails to new or prospective customers twice monthly, then increasing the rate for those who are frequently engaging with your brand.

  1. Send content your customers want to read.

What type of content will your customers want to see? There are limitless options, but a few popular ones include:

  • Exclusive content (stuff that isn’t on your website)
  • Product recommendations
  • Rewards for loyalty program members
  • Important industry and educational information.

You also shouldn’t send out the same content to every person on your list. Think segmentation: how might you welcome new customers to your mailing list? And how can you show appreciation to those who have been followers for years? And develop a catchy headline!

  1. Email people who want to hear from you.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, many businesses are tempted to buy email marketing lists rather than gain followers organically. While email lists boost your number of contacts, they often make your emails’ performance plummet. Strategize how you can draw more traffic to your list. Do you ask people to join when they visit your website, when they make a purchase, and (if applicable) if they visit your physical location? In addition to getting more people on your list, it’s important to routinely remove people who are no longer engaging with your brand. For those who have “abandoned” their carts on your website, sending a reminder email complete with cart contents and cost often spurs them to action.

For others who have remained inactive for a month or more—not opening emails or otherwise interacting with your brand—consider reaching out to encourage their re-engagement. If you still don’t see a response, letting them go will remove unwanted content from their inbox. (And the unwanted strain on your performance stats.) 

  1. Optimize the format of your emails.

The presentation of your messages can determine if your audience engages with them or if they’ll be filtered to spam. First, to make your mass emails more personal, send them from an account with a person’s name, rather than an “info” or a “no-reply” tag, and customize the greeting with your contacts’ first names.

Use fonts that are web-safe and 10 to 12-point size. Try to limit to no more than two font types per email. Make sure the subject of each email is clear, and all the important information is “above the fold”—visible without the customer having to scroll. Include your signature and logo and be sure to keep the look of your message consistent with your brand.

Email marketing can be a crucial part of your small business’s strategy, and it takes a lot to get it right! Remember you don’t own your social media followers so if a channel goes away tomorrow, you won’t have that audience‘s attention anymore. You do own your email list so it’s ideal access to prospects and customers.

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