Email Marketing for Small Business in 2022
This post focuses on basic email marketing activities available to small business owners that can level the competitive playing field, help identify the right customers and enhance the perceived value of their new business.
Marketing a small business can be a daunting task for start-up small business owners. In addition to all the typical start-up demands, getting the word out is absolutely critical. One of the great things about email marketing is that it is an affordable activity that has the potential to equalize competitors in a subscriber’s email inbox. Of all the current digital marketing activities email marketing has an ROI of 40% yet email marketing does not require extravagant resources.
Small Business Start-Ups Hit Record Numbers
More than 4.4 million new businesses were created in the U.S. during 2020 according to the US Census Bureau. — an increase of nearly 25% from 2019 and the greatest number on record. Applications to start new businesses hit 5.4 million in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million. Half a million new businesses were started in January 2021, alone. A mix of home confinement, spare time, accessible technologies and, for those who lost their jobs, necessity, fueled this entrepreneurial surge. Many of these newly minted entrepreneurs were experienced in their craft or passionate about their dream but they probably don’t have marketing chops.
So, what’s must a new entrepreneur or small business do in addition to creating their unique product or service to be successful? Marketing!
First, let’s define marketing. The AMA (American Marketing Association) through a panel of five scholars, reviews, approves or modifies the definition of marketing every three years. The current definition is
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved 2017)”
Now, let’s define a small business.
The SBA “defines small business by firm revenue (ranging from $1 million to over $40 million) and by employment (from 100 to over 1,500 employees). Going further, “a small business concern is a business that is independently owned and operated, and which is not dominant in its field of operation and in conformity with specific industry criteria.”
Of course, many brand-new small businesses are much smaller than $1 million.
One part of this definition means that a small business must match its products and services to a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. NAICS codes classify businesses based on the product or service they supply. A business will generally have a primary NAICS code, but it can also have multiple NAICS codes if it sells multiple products and services.
Another part of this definition has two significant marketing implications. The first is that a small business has many competitors. The second implication is the target market customer has a lot from which to choose.
Four Small Business Email Marketing Basics
Know your Audience and Segment it
In today’s competitive e-commerce it is critical that you know your target market. For new businesses sending an initial cold email is often a make-or-break moment. Personalization improves the odds that the conversation will continue. Recipients will relate to your email content, increasing the chances of a continuing conversation (engagement). Personalization can be as simple as a geographic reference in the subject line like “Now open for business in XYZ.” Right away the most likely target customers will relate to XYZ and at least open the email.
By further segmenting your audience, you group contacts into like-minded clusters, allowing varying degrees of personalization. This can be in terms of gender, geographical locations, website visits, purchases, and research. Technological advances by Email Service Providers (ESPs) are making it much easier for marketing newbies to tailor emails in response to customer activity and various levels of engagement. For instance, creating different links to several product options in an email in effect automates the segmentation process. Here’s an example from the ActiveCampaign, a popular small business focused ESP, that automates segmenting a list and triggers a post-purchase email. ActiveCampaign calls these Automation Recipes. Each can be altered to a small business’ specifications and needs.
Structure Email Elements based on Your Purpose
The old rule “Form Follows Function” still applies. The structural elements, or building blocks, of an email need to support the email’s purpose. Is the purpose to introduce yourself? To sell something? To inform and educate? Good email design doesn’t just mean visual appeal. It’s meant to help you build stronger relationships with your audience, sell more of your products, and improve your overall return on investment in email marketing. Not everyone has the aesthetic sensibilities or skill set to be a graphic designer, but most new entrepreneurs can relate to and implement the process of “building an effective email following time tested email best practices.”
Probably the most basic building block to consider is the Sender Line. Depending upon the email purpose the sender line can take a variety of forms. Here are a few variations for XYZ Company
[Name of the company] XYZ Company
[Name of the person] from [Name of the company] Tom Smith from XYZ
[Name of the company] [Name of the message or topic] XYZ - Spring Sale
[Name of the department] at [Name of the company] New Products at XYZ
[Name of the employee] Tom Smith-Customer Relations
Other building blocks include
Calls to Action [CTAs]
Social Media Links
There are more to consider.
Checkout this list from GetResponse.
Calls to Action State-of-the-Art
The success of your email effort rides on getting contacts to act beyond opening and reading your fantastic, award-winning email content. Calls to Action (CTAs in email marketing jargon) communicate what you want the recipient to do. As you might imagine, much has been written, studied, and tested by email marketers because the CTA validates that the subject line, preheader, content and visuals of the email have engaged the recipient.
According to Litmus “Sending great content and hoping that a subscriber remembers you is not enough (although that helps). You need subscribers to take action immediately, and CTAs are the way to do that.”
A CTA has three parts: language, design, and a destination link. Of these, language is the most important because it describes the value or what will happen when the recipient clicks on it. A CTA should not be passive, like Click Here, but rather include action-oriented verbs like Buy, Learn, Schedule, Sign Up, See, Run, etc.
Embrace the Whirlwind of Change
For new small business owners getting started with email marketing can seem like a whirlwind of change. In addition to trying to start a business, learning a new skill in a fast-moving industry like email marketing might be intimidating. However, embracing the changes in the email industry is one of the more productive things a new entrepreneur can do to increase their odds of success. Here are four 2022 trends in email marketing that the professionals are monitoring.
Agile marketing is an approach to marketing that utilizes the principles and practices of agile methodologies. This includes having self-organizing, cross-functional teams doing work in frequent iterations with continuous feedback. It requires a strategic vision, as well as short, medium, and long-term marketing planning. The Agile Marketing Manifesto lays out five values:
Practicing Agile Marketing keeps things simple, is action-oriented, encourages experimentation, learns from mistakes, and assigns trust to individuals and teams.
Industry Consolidation and Trends
The first network email was sent by computer engineer Ray Tomlinson in 1971 and through 2010 the industry appeared relatively mature. However, during the next decade innovation in the email space provided the stimulus for larger digital operators and ESPs to swallow smaller niche oriented ESP’s and data providers. In many cases the drive has been to merge data owners with distribution providers. For instance, in late 2021 Intuit, makers of QuickBooks, TurboTax and Credit Karma acquired Mail Chimp, an email service provider with a large presence in the small to medium size business arena. According to the November 2021 press release,
“Together, Intuit and Mailchimp will work to deliver on the vision of an innovative, end-to-end customer growth platform for small and mid-market businesses, allowing them to get their business online, market their business, manage customer relationships, benefit from insights and analytics, get paid, access capital, pay employees, optimize cash flow, be organized and stay compliant, all assisted by experts at their fingertips.”
The acquisition combined huge amounts of data with an established, broad-based agile email delivery. Again, from the press release,
“The companies began testing a one-way integration between QuickBooks Online and Mailchimp in July 2021, and since then QuickBooks customers have imported more than 400,000 customer contacts into their Mailchimp accounts to use for customer segmentation and marketing. In the coming months, a key benefit of the acquisition will be a deeper integration, enabling the syncing of customer purchase data between QuickBooks and Mailchimp and tailored recommendations to help small businesses optimize their marketing efforts.”
The jury is out as to whether this will lead to a better email experience and happier subscribers or simply put more private data into the hands of current Mail Chimp clients and precipitate unsubscribes.
The push for greater email personalization faces some strong consumer privacy headwinds. In 2021 Apple introduced its Mail Privacy Protection process as part of the release of iOS15. The net effect has been to hobble the classic email Open Rate KPI (key performance indicator), challenging email marketers, ESP’s and other related providers to find other ways to gauge email engagement. Compounding this is the rise in email volume beginning in 2019 triggered by the pandemic, inundating subscribers’ inboxes, and increasing unsubscribe rates. A new business owner should enter this area gingerly.
Customer Experience Automation (CXA)
The last few years have witnessed significant advances in and availability of automated experience paths for email marketers. Once the province of sophisticated html coders and in-house tech teams, automated customer experience paths are now readily available to the novice email marketer. At its most basic level an automated experience path pre-programs an IF/THEN series of timed and triggered emails. The expectation is that personalization, relevancy, engagement and increased will sales result.
CXA, however, is more than triggered emails. CXA integrates all customer facing elements of an organization. For instance, a small business owner can connect all major marketing channels including email, web pages, messaging/text, social media, and chatbots with the ActiveCampaign Experience Automation (CXA) Platform. This automates workflows across channels and make the most of each channel’s personalization and targeting capabilities.
ActiveCampaign offers a free trial for its CXA.
There are millions of newly minted entrepreneurs and small businesses as a result of the pandemic and other reasons like job loss and necessity. Among the tools available email marketing is an accessible activity with a proven ROI. By focusing on a handful of actionable basics, such as customer segmentation, personalization and constructing emails with solid building blocks, small business entrepreneurs can improve their chances of success significantly. Email marketing, although nearly 50 yeas old, is undergoing rapid change and entrepreneurs are in a position to benefit significantly by staying informed.