- Small-business owners say email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach an audience.
- Newsletters are a more direct channel to customers and can sometimes get better engagement than social media marketing.
- These growing companies share how they saved money and were able to make more personal connections through email marketing.
- This article is part of “Marketing for Small Business,” a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to earn new customers and grow their business.
Brandy Thomason McNair started sending out an email newsletter soon after launching her business, Bella Vita Jewelry, in 2008.
“It just seemed like the thing to do,” she told Insider. “I was so green and didn’t have a business school background or anything. I just thought I needed to keep up with people somehow.”
To encourage newsletter signups early on, she placed a signup sheet on the table she set up at her local farmers market every week, and anyone who joined the email list was entered to win a pair of earrings. Since then, McNair has set up other paths to get the newsletter in front of customers, including a website pop-up notification and mentioning it as customers check out at her brick-and-mortar shop in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Each Bella Vita newsletter, sent out weekly, highlights one piece of jewelry and features other products and event announcements, new items, or sales, McNair said. It has about 6,800 subscribers, and the newsletters have about an open rate of more than 50%, which is higher than the industry average of just over 20% according to a 2019 Mailchimp study.
“I see the value in people opting in to let me send them a message in their inbox,” McNair said. “I think that’s special and important because it means they like what I’m doing.”
Email marketing can be a cost-effective way for small businesses to promote themselves and share information with their target audience. According to eMarketer, 67% of marketing professionals are investing in email marketing, and 48% of millennial consumers prefer to receive deals from brands via email.
Small business owners can launch an email newsletter without a large budget or marketing team. These growing companies break down several potential benefits of email marketing.
It gives businesses a direct pipeline to their audience
Collecting customer information is one of the most valuable aspects of email marketing, McNair said. “I feel like my email list is my most prized possession in a way. I own it. I have full control over it. I know the emails are going to hit someone’s inbox.”
She added that email has become more reliable than social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, which often require businesses to pay for ads. Recent updates to Apple’s iOS 14 have also enabled users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers through mobile apps and websites, which often hinders advertisers’ ability to target specific audiences.
“The importance of the newsletter is you’re actually building your audience,” Anna Gorovoy, cofounder and chief brand officer of Shaker & Spoon, a cocktail subscription box, told Insider.
Owning customer first-party data, which is collected from people interacting with websites or apps, and zero-party data, or information that customers voluntarily share with companies, allows businesses to deliver content that’s more personalized to them, Gorovoy said.
Shaker & Spoon, which was founded in 2015, uses a website pop-up to collect email addresses and phone numbers from visitors. To entice people to sign up, Gorovoy said the company uses a “spin to win” game that people can play to receive a discount code.
Data helps businesses personalize content
About 90% of consumers said they enjoy receiving offers from brands that are based on their interests and purchasing or browsing history, and they’re willing to provide companies with more personal information after a positive experience with them, according to a 2022 Merkle study.
Email marketing platforms can help businesses track which content recipients interact with, the items they browse on an e-commerce site, and what they purchase as a result. These metrics help companies personalize content, such as product suggestions or deals, that’s most relevant to customers.
For example, McNair has used data from email marketing to identify customers who haven’t returned to its website in the past few months and then sent a discount code to encourage them to buy again.
Shaker & Spoon uses data to segment its newsletter subscribers and send different emails to different groups of people, Gorovoy said. Some emails go to cocktail box subscribers, while others go to newsletter subscribers, even if they haven’t purchased anything, she explained. Some newsletters are targeted to specific groups based on past purchases and preferences.
Gorovoy’s company sends newsletters twice a week and often includes details about what’s in the monthly subscription box, alcohol recommendations, or information about deals and events.
Businesses can engage customers and inspire purchases
Experts at Mailchimp say that regular emails can keep a brand’s products and services fresh in the minds of their audience and increase brand awareness.
Shaker & Spoon’s email open rates exceed 50%, which Gorovoy said is a result of directing most email campaigns to subscribers who have been engaged with the emails over the past several weeks. The company also makes a point to send emails no more than twice a week to avoid bombarding customers’ inboxes. “Email marketing has always worked pretty well for us. There’s always a challenge of trying to improve engagement and get higher open rates.”
McNair acknowledged that, while he does enjoy the sales that are generated from their emails, he also appreciates the opportunity to consistently interact with customers and enjoys it when people reply to an email campaign with positive feedback.
“Not every single email that goes out is going to be a winner or get the sales, but I look at it as staying consistent,” she said. “People know you’re there even if they don’t buy anything. And then when someone buys something from your email campaign, it’s really exciting.”
Newsletters generate return-on-investment
For every $1 spent on email newsletters, businesses can see $36 in return, according to Litmus survey of over 2,000 marketers, indicating a higher potential return on investment compared to other forms of digital marketing.
Govoroy handles Shaker & Spoon’s newsletters himself with input from the company’s small marketing team. “I’ve honed my email marketing skills over the past eight years,” she said, adding that she uses online resources like Really Good Emails and subscribes to other companies’ newsletters for ideas and tips.
McNair usually creates Bella Vita’s newsletter but sometimes hires a friend to help. She said she’s considered hiring a marketing firm to take over the newsletter, but feels that it’s most cost-effective to keep doing it in-house.
Both business owners say the time they spend on their newsletters is well worth it for the sales it generates. McNair said a recent email focusing on summer hats brought in $550 in sales.
Emails also build and sustain customer relationships. Govoroy urges small business owners to start a newsletter and experiment to see what type of content works best.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, just try to get started and iterate as you go,” she said. “If you’re not doing email marketing, you’re leaving really important money on the table.”