Email Marketing for Small Businesses: 10 Steps to Get Started

by | Oct 18, 2023

From email marketing strategies for small businesses to the top email marketing tools, here’s everything you need to know to boost your small business marketing strategy.

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that includes sending content directly to subscribers through an email provider like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo, or an email marketing platform like Mailchimp, Brevo, or Constant Contact. Businesses generally use email marketing to stay connected with customers, promote products or services, increase their brand awareness, and drive sales. And subscribers usually use email marketing to stay updated on their favorite brands.

These are the main types of email marketing campaigns businesses use:

  • Blast email: For important, urgent business updates or sales you need to communicate to customers quickly
  • Newsletter: For news about your business, products, services, or other valuable long-form content
  • Promotional email: For promoting new products, services, or discounts
  • Reminder email: For driving more conversions, often triggered by customer actions like an abandoned shopping cart online, leaving your product page, or a sale ending soon
  • Welcome email: For confirming new subscribers successfully signed up for your emails

Why Is Email Marketing Important?

Email marketing is important for two main reasons—it’s low cost and high reward.

This digital marketing service has the highest ROI of any marketing channel–$36 for every dollar spent. And email marketing revenue is only expected to increase in the coming years, potentially reaching over $17.9 billion by 2027.

Plus, it’s one of the most effective marketing channels, especially for building brand awareness and gaining new customers. If you aren’t using email marketing as a small business owner, this should be your sign to start.

How to Do Email Marketing in 10 Steps

These small business email marketing tips can help boost your efforts from start to finish.

Step 1: Choose the Right Email Marketing Platform

Manually building a mailing list and crafting emails on your own is possible, but it takes up a lot of your time, and adding creative branding elements requires in-depth knowledge of coding languages. The solution? Email marketing software.

Every email marketing platform will include different features, and your goals will impact which email marketing tools are best for you, but here are the capabilities every small business owner likely needs:

  • A/B Testing: Create and send out different test versions of your emails and gather performance metrics to show you which version worked better
  • Branding Capabilities: Store your business logos, photo and video content, and a general brand kit with your colors and fonts to build branded emails
  • Drag-and-Drop Editor: Design engaging visual elements without using code
  • Performance Metrics: Know how well your email marketing campaigns are performing to continuously improve them
  • Personalization Tools: Gear emails to individuals by using a customer’s name in the subject line or sending emails based on where a customer is in the buyer’s journey
  • Responsive Design: Make your emails compatible on a mobile device
  • Segmentation Tools: Sort your audience by different classifications, making email personalization possible
  • Signup Form Builder: Builds your customer sign-up form for you by automatically adding customers to your email list as they sign up

Step 2: Create an Email Signup Form

Before you can send out marketing emails, you need an audience on the receiving end. To get subscribers, you’ll need a form where people can opt into your business’ email marketing communications.

To create an effective email signup form, you can try out the best online form builders like Formstack, Jotform, or Typeform—or some email marketing platforms already come with a built-in form builder.

Your form should contain four parts:

  1. Simple copy that clearly addresses your selling points
  2. Fewer entry fields—just a name and email address are all the personal info you need
  3. Engaging call-to-action (CTA)
  4. Email consent confirmation box, as required by the CAN-SPAM Act

Step 3: Build Your Email List

Once you’re happy with your email signup form, post it in your social media bios and on your website’s homepage, footer, or in popups so visitors can easily find it when they discover your business online.

You also need to give people a compelling reason to sign up for your business emails. Many won’t give out their personal data with little to no reward. So, offer them an exclusive discount or free product in return for becoming a subscriber.

Finally, building an email subscriber list also includes maintaining it over time. Shortly after people unsubscribe, remove them from your list to help keep your emails out of spam folders and improve your business’ reputation.

Step 4: Link to Landing Pages

When customers click on your CTA button, they should be directed to a page that relates to the content in your email–whether that’s a sale or promotion or a specific product or service. This is where website landing pages come in.

You may already have optimized landing pages on your small business website. If so, use these pages in your email marketing strategy as well! If not, it’s time to create them. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Step 5: Segment Your Email List

Segmenting your email list helps you send the right messaging to the right people. There are four main types of segmentation:

  • Behavioral: Classification based on spending habits, buying patterns, browsing habits, brand loyalty, interactions, brand engagement, product feedback, and position in the buyer’s journey
  • Demographic: Classification based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, income, education level, employment, or religion
  • Geographic: Classification based on location data like city, state, country, or continent, which can impact your local climate, culture, language, and population density (urban vs. rural)
  • Psychographic: Classification based on beliefs, personality, values, opinions, goals, lifestyles, and hobbies or interests

Email segmentation is another feature that can be included in your email marketing platform. If it’s not included, you’ll need to manually segment your email list based on the data you collected.

Step 6: Personalize Your Emails

Personalizing your emails with the customer’s name in the subject line, body content, or video, as well as sending personalized anniversary or behavior-triggered emails (like abandoned cart reminders or welcome emails) has great benefits for businesses. A customer’s name in the subject line increases open rates by 26%, and personalized video has been found to increase click-through rates by up to 200%.

You’ll get the information necessary to personalize emails to each customer from the information they give you upon signup, as well as your customer segments.

Step 7: Created Branded Emails

Every email your business sends needs to fit your brand identity—in terms of both design and content.

For design, your first step is to create either plain text or HTML emails that fit your business’ visual identity. With HTML emails, don’t go overboard. It might be tempting to stuff them with videos that boost click-through rates by 65%. But even though this type of content performs well and humans prefer visual content, too many visual elements can have adverse effects. Large file types can negatively impact your email load speed and can also make an email look cluttered and overwhelming.

Instead, include high-quality branded visuals and logos, and design your marketing emails with your business colors and fonts, but keep your overall structure and design simple, clean, and readable.

For content, your email content should sound like it’s written by the same person every time. This means using a consistent tone, style, and register. For example, if your brand is known for being friendly and approachable, your email content should be too. Also avoid using jargon or technical language that your audience may not understand. Instead, focus on writing clear and concise copy that is easy to read and understand.

Before you send any email, be sure to proofread it carefully for any errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. This will help to ensure that your emails are professional, polished, and less likely to be sent to the spam folder.

Step 8: Send Your Emails at the Best Time

There are certain days of the week and times of the day that are more effective for sending emails. In general, here are the top five best times to send email marketing messages:

  1. Thursday, 10 AM
  2. Tuesday, 9 AM
  3. Wednesday, 8 AM
  4. Monday, 1 PM
  5. Friday, 3 PM

But the best time to send an email will vary based on your audience and its contents. To keep up with when you should send your emails, maintain an email marketing calendar. And once you settle into a more defined routine, you may rely on email automation tools to make sure they’re always released on time. Simply create your email content in advance, schedule the date and time you wish to send it out, and let your email scheduling platform do the rest.

Step 9: Conduct A/B Testing on Email Marketing Campaigns

Businesses that A/B test emails see 37% higher ROI on email marketing than competitors who don’t A/B test. You can conduct A/B testing on your subject lines, CTA button design or text, and more.

The point of A/B testing is to have concrete data for what will perform better in your marketing strategies, rather than making decisions based off of a feeling. Make sure you only conduct one A/B test at a time, and run both variations at the same time for two different groups of the same audience.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to A/B test emails:

  1. Choose one variable to change—For example, your subject line
  2. Choose the metric you want to improve—For example, your open rate
  3. Decide on your “control” group and alternate version—For example, “[Customer name], here’s a deal for you!” vs. “Hey [Customer name], check out this sale!]”
  4. Determine your ideal sample size—For an audience of 1,000 or less, 30% is a good sample size
  5. Create two random and equal sample groups from your audience
  6. Identify how long the test should run—24 hours usually gives you enough time to send the finalized campaign on time
  7. Decide how significant results need to be for your alternate version to “win”—For example, your open rate needs to be 50% higher in the alternate version to consider it better
  8. Run your test and monitor the metric you wanted to improve

Step 10: Track the Right Email Marketing Metrics

How do you know if your marketing campaigns are successful without tracking data? On social media, you have engagement rates and follower counts, and on your website, you have page session time and search rankings, but which metrics should you be tracking in your email marketing campaigns? Here are the top five to keep your eye on:

  • Bounce Rate: Percentage of emails that weren’t able to send to the customer and were “bounced” back (How to improve: updated email list)
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Percentage of people who clicked any link or video in your email (How to improve: link text, button design and prominence, video quality)
  • Conversion Rate: Percentage of people who completed a desired reaction based on your email—like made a purchase, subscribed to a newsletter, or visited your website (How to improve: CTA, website landing pages)
  • Open Rate: Percentage of people who opened your email (How to improve: subject line, time email was sent)
  • Unsubscribe Rate: Percentage of people who unsubscribed from your email list (How to improve: personalization, targeting, frequency of emails)

According to Hurrdat’s Digital Strategist, Grayson McCartney, “Which KPIs you should be focusing on for your email marketing campaign of course depends on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with email marketing. But, in general, open rate is something every business should pay attention to, but the average rate varies by industry.

Open rates are usually lower for e-commerce brands, but 18% or higher is a good start. Once you meet that goal, you’ll want to get a clearer picture of how your sales funnel is working by keeping an eye on your click-to-open rate (CTOR). This metric will tell you what percentage of people who opened your email clicked on a link to your site, where it should be easy for them to make a purchase.”

Best Email Marketing Platforms for Small Businesses

Below are a few of the best email marketing platforms for small businesses that have a variety of capabilities like personalization, A/B testing, drag-and-drop editors, and more.


  • Cost: Free or starting at $12.50/month
  • Features: A/B Testing, Branding, Drag-and-Drop Editor, Performance Metrics, Personalization, Segmentation, Sign-up Form Builder

AWeber lets you start with pre-made email templates or generates email templates from your Facebook account and business website. It also has a direct Canva integration for visuals and can create email landing pages and auto response emails for you.


  • Cost: Free or starting at $25/month
  • Features: A/B Testing, Drag-and-Drop Editor, Performance Metrics, Personalization, Segmentation, Sign-up Form Builder

Brevo is a CRM system that not only helps with email marketing, but can also help with SMS marketing. The platform helps you create landing pages, edit visuals with a built-in image editor, and store your email contact list.

Constant Contact

  • Cost: Starting at $12/month
  • Features: A/B Testing, Drag-and-Drop Editor, Performance Metrics, Personalization, Sign-up Form Builder

Constant Contact is an email-focused marketing platform with AI integrations to help you generate content like subject lines and body text. The platform even has a mobile app where you can track and edit your email marketing campaigns while on the go.


  • Cost: Free or starting at $20/month
  • Features: Drag-and-Drop Editor, Performance Metrics, Personalization, Responsive Design, Segmentation

HubSpot provides email marketing help for all levels. This platform’s email marketing tools allow small business owners to do everything themselves, without needing a separate design team or IT expert on their payroll.


  • Cost: Free or starting at $13/month
  • Features: A/B Testing, Branding, Drag-and-Drop Editor, Performance Metrics, Personalization, Responsive Design, Segmentation, Sign-up Form Builder

MailChimp is probably the most well-known email marketing platform. It’s a great platform for absolute beginners in the email marketing sphere, with AI capabilities and over 300 platform integrations available, including Canva, Google Analytics, Jotform, Salesforce, Shopify, and more.

Just getting started growing your business with email marketing strategies? Local Search Fuel by Hurrdat offers services to help with small business website development to help effectively supplement your email marketing strategies. Get started today!

Stefanie Vanderbeek

Stefanie Vanderbeek

Stefanie Vanderbeek is a content strategist and writer who specializes in long-form digital content and website SEO optimization. Stefanie earned her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Advertising and Public Relations in 2021. In her free time, you can find Stefanie reading, deep diving into video game lore, singing in her professional vocal group, or traveling the world!

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