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Email Marketing 101 for Small Business: The Do's and Don'ts
  • 10 October 2018
  • Rebecca Delaney

Email Marketing 101 for Small Business: The Do's and Don'ts

Regardless of the time of year or season, our inboxes are full with emails touting different holiday promotions, sales, and events. How do you, as a small business owner, make sure your email marketing stands out from the crowd? Especially with the upcoming holiday season? Review these email tips to get the most out of your email marketing campaign to attract more customers during this busy season.

DO: Grow your email distribution list

As a business owner, you should always strive to expand your email list. You want to be able to communicate with these prospects, customers, and loyal evangelists regularly to entice them to use your products and/or services more often.


Think of what makes you want to share your email with a company. Typically, we want something of value or something that we find useful in exchange for sharing our email. This can be referred to as a lead magnet or the value proposition.

A lead magnet could be a coupon, a recipe, or a robust piece of exclusive content such as a white paper or webinar that delves into an issue in your field of expertise. When customers provide their email on your website they receive this downloadable content or special offer, and you add another address to your email list.

Just be sure the lead magnet is something that is directly related to your business and helps make your customer's life a little easier. This will help them see you as a valuable resource and increase the likelihood that they’ll open those emails when they start to show up in their inbox.

DON’T: Send too frequently

One way to ensure customers will start to hit "unsubscribe" is if you email them too often without providing anything of value. Actively monitor your email metrics. Look at the open rates for different campaigns to track whether how that number goes up and down. If you see a negative open rate trend, you may want to back off on the frequency of your emails. Email marketing experts agree that it's ok to email frequently if you are sharing useful content, but not if it is merely an advertisement. Your email will start to get lost in the hundreds or even thousands of emails people get each day, and they either won't bother clicking or may open the email to hit the dreaded unsubscribe link.

DO: Optimize for mobile

With mobile becoming such a dominating force in advertising, commerce and communication, be sure to create emails with the mobile viewer in mind. Keep your sentences short and digestible. Break up text with formatted headings and subheadings. Use images that are optimized for web display.

Format your messages so that someone looking at it from their phone can easily navigate through the email. Use bulleted and numbered lists, graphic buttons, images and links to keep your content interesting. Keep your message well-spaced so that it’s easy for someone to scroll through and read.

DO: Personalize your message

With many of today’s email marketing tools, you have the ability to personalize your emails. Including the customer’s first name is just the beginning. Depending on how much customer information you collect and the business management tool you use, you can set up automated email campaigns that trigger based on a customer’s action, or on specific dates (e.g., birthday).

You can segment your customers into different lists or groups based on their buying patterns, or the type of customer they are. Create email campaigns that speak to these different audiences, even if your message just varies slightly. Think about customers that only buy from you online vs. customers that always prefer to shop in your physical store. Your heavy users vs. occasional shopper.

DO: Develop an email schedule

Avoid becoming an annoyance to customers by sending emails too frequently. Instead, develop an email schedule or content calendar that covers major dates when customers are most likely to be looking for deals and promotions. Make note of important holiday shopping dates in your plan and be sure to send out emails about any big promotions or sales a few weeks before the actual date:

  • Black Friday: November 23

  • Small Business Saturday: November 24

  • Cyber Monday: November 26

  • Giving Tuesday: November 27

  • Green Monday: December 10

  • Free Shipping Day: December 14

  • Last Saturday before Christmas: December 22

DON’T: Try to sell in every email

With today’s digitally connected world, many of us often feel stressed, fatigued, or burnt out. This can amplify as we gear up for the holidays. As a business owner, you want to strive to connect with customers and prospects in meaningful ways – in-person, over the phone, via social, and in email. Find ways to share how your business helps make people’s lives easier.


Certainly, some of your emails should sell your services or products, but you shouldn’t be a pusher in every email. Be human. Use a conversational tone. Share information about something your business does to support the local community. Invite your customers to get involved.

As the holidays roll around, think of ways that your business can help customers’ days go a little smoother. Perhaps you can share some type of holiday checklist, ideas for different gift exchanges (personal or business), and creative ways to give back during the holiday season – just be sure to find a subtle way to relate these to your business.

When done right, email marketing can be an effective tool to stay top-of-mind and help you promote your business. With thoughtful planning, email marketing can help grow your business.

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