How Email Marketing Works for You and Your Business

Email marketing has become an important tool for brands that want to reach new leads and engage their target audiences. But this tactic isn’t just for big businesses with big budgets. In fact, email marketing is both affordable and cost-effective, making it a great option for small businesses working with limited marketing budgets. However, before you start putting together a strategy or developing campaigns, it’s important to understand how email marketing works.

Below, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to small business email marketing that’s perfect for those who are new to this digital marketing tactic or looking for ways to improve their current campaigns. In this post, we’ll explain why email marketing is important, how email marketing works, what best practices look like, and what costs are involved.

Why Email Marketing is Important for Small Business

First, let’s talk about how email marketing works for small businesses. While larger companies are able to test out different strategies and spend money on a variety of tactics, most small businesses have more limited budgets. This means that they have to focus on what works and what will provide the greatest return on investment.

One of the greatest benefits of email marketing is that it’s cost effective. Whether you are handling your own email marketing campaigns or hiring an email marketing agency to help you, email is one of the most affordable ways to reach the largest number of customers. The affordability of email marketing helps small business maximize their marketing budget and get more for their spend by bringing in more qualified leads for less.

Yet another important benefit of email marketing for small business is its effectiveness. It’s important for small businesses to use their time, money, and resources wisely. Since email marketing allows businesses to target specific audiences with their strategic content and messaging, it improves their chances of bringing in qualified leads who are likely to be interested in their products or services. Thus, the success of effective email marketing campaigns helps small businesses maximize their time and resources while boosting their return on investment.

Due to its affordability and effectiveness, email marketing offers one of the highest ROIs of any marketing tactic.

Small Business Email Marketing Best Practices

Knowing how email marketing works is just the first step in creating effective email marketing campaigns. You will also want to stay up-to-date with the latest best practices to ensure that your campaigns are being received well by your audience. The best practices below will help you improve deliverability and open rates as well as encourage engagement from your subscribers:

  1. Define your email marketing goals.

Before you start developing and implementing marketing emails, you’ll want to start with some measurable goals. What do you hope to achieve from your email marketing campaigns? Based on your answer to this question, you can start to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you track and measure goal progress along the way.

Not sure where to start with your email marketing goals? Here are a few email marketing ROI goals and measurements you might start with:

  • Improve Sales Conversions – Every business wants to improve their conversions. But how can you measure if your email marketing is helping? There are a few different metrics that you can track to determine how effective your email marketing lead nurturing is, including engagement, lead acceleration and impact on revenue.
  • Increase Website Traffic – This is another common goal for small business email marketing. If you want to improve awareness and grow your brand, you need to get visitors to your site so that they can see what your company has to offer. The best way to track this metric is by looking at click-through rates.
  • Increase Revenue – This is a goal for most businesses. But how does this pertain to your email marketing strategy? Well, once a person becomes a customer, you should be able to see how email marketing may have contributed to their conversion. For instance, if they clicked on a link to make a purchase, then you will be able to see just how much revenue increased due to your marketing emails.
  1. Segment your email lists into relevant groups.

Email list segmentation is another best practice that will help you improve the results of your campaigns. According to DMA, 77% of email marketing ROI comes from email lists that are segmented and targeted. This is because email list segmentation helps your business provide more relevant content to your subscribers.

This chart shows the many benefits of segmenting your email lists.

List segmentation involves separating your email contact list into different groups based on similar characteristics. There are a few different ways that you can segment your email list for best results:

  • Geography – If you know where your contacts live, you can use this information to segment your email list and deliver content that is geographically relevant. For example, if your business is a clothing company that offers products that may be dependent on terrain or weather, you can use the geographic data to factor this into the promotions or content that you send through your email marketing.
  • Customer Personas – Every small business should create buyer personas, which are basically just generalized profiles of your ideal buyers. Once you create these personas, you can then segment your list based on which persona each individual fits into. This allows you to tailor the content to the needs and behaviors of each unique customer type.
  • Company Info – B2B businesses can use information like job title, industry, or company size to segment their email marketing lists. For example, companies from a certain industry will have different concerns or applications of your product or service. By separating your lists into like groups, you can be sure to serve the right content to the right readers.

There are a number of other ways that you can segment your email lists such as interests, buying frequency, past purchases, or engagement levels. Choose the segmentation strategy that makes sense for your business based on the information that you’ve gathered from your email subscribers.

  1. Take advantage of automated email workflows.

Once you start developing an email marketing strategy, you’ll want to make sure you know how email marketing works when it comes to automation. Email marketing automation not only saves you time by automating the email process, but it often also results in higher conversions as it allows you to increase relevancy.

Before you start creating workflows, think about the path that your customers typically take during their buyer’s journey. For example, many of your blog readers may download a whitepaper or e-book before contacting your sales team. This is an example of a process that you could create a workflow for.

In this case, you might send an automated message to the individual after they subscribe to your blog. This message might thank them for subscribing and point them in the direction of some other places that they can find helpful resources on your site. Based on the content that this individual reads on your blog, you could put them into a segmented list based on their interests so that they get updates on the topics they are interested in.

Your workflow will also map out and automate the next messages that this individual will receive based on their blog behavior. For instance, you could them an automated message with additional suggested content based on their interests. A week later, you might send a follow-up message with a CTA that leads them to contact a sales person.

In this example, you are taking the information that you already know about your customer journey and using it to speed up the sales cycle with your email marketing. By building automated workflows to deliver the right message and content at the right time, your business is able to nurture leads without manually sending messages.

Here’s a visual example of what an email marketing workflow might look like.

How Email Marketing Works

Once you understand why email marketing is important for small business and best practices, there’s a good chance that you’ll be ready to dive in head first. But first, let’s talk about how email marketing works from a logistical perspective.

Before you start sending out emails to your leads and contacts, it’s important to get to know the ins and outs of email campaigns. This will enable you to better develop an email marketing strategy that will help speed up your sales cycle.

From the subject line to the CTA, there is a lot to consider when it comes to crafting marketing emails that convert. To better understand how email marketing works, let’s look at a few different aspects of marketing emails:

Subject Line

Though the subject line may require the least amount of copy, it is one of the most important components of your marketing email. In fact, your subject line can make or break an email.

You have just a few moments to grab your audience’s attention with an inviting and relevant subject. If the subject line doesn’t interest your reader or it seems irrelevant to them, then there’s a good chance they won’t open it. They may even go as far as to add you to their spam list, which may further impact your open rates.

Take time to develop a subject line that is not only compelling but also makes clear what the email will be about. Make sure that the reader knows through the subject line that what they are about to read will provide some sort of value to them – whether that be saving money or learning something new.

Body Copy

In addition to the subject line, you’ll also want to think carefully about the content in the body of your email. Be sure to use language that is in line with your branding and mirrors the rest of your digital marketing campaign content.

Your email body copy should be short and sweet. However, it’s important that you clearly communicate the value of your brand and offering. It’s also vital that your content helps guide them through to the CTA, which will invite them to take the next step.


The overall design of your email has a major impact on both readability and conversion. Design entails more than just the images in your email. This also includes the colors that you use and how you layout the information that you present.

The layout of your email should be clean and simple, while keeping in line with the rest of your branding. The color scheme should be attractive and align with your branding as well. Typically, you’ll want to stick to dark font colors with a light background as this is easiest to read. Go easy on the images as they can take time to load and may impact your mobile readers.

Another important thing to consider is whether or not your email design is mobile responsive. Many consumers are reading their emails from their mobile devices. And if your emails are not mobile-friendly, some recipients may not be able to open, read, or navigate your emails.


The call-to-action, or CTA, helps drive the reader to the next step in the conversion process. Whether it’s to fill out a form, download a piece of content, or even contact your company directly, it’s important that your CTA clearly tells the reader what you want them to do next.

In addition to being clear and direct, your CTA should also motivate action. Use active verbs like “click,” “download,” or “call” to let readers know what they should do next. You’ll also want to highlight your CTA to make it visible. Instead of a plain hyperlink, you can try using a CTA button that stands out and makes it easy to click and go onto the next step.

In terms of placement, the CTA typically comes at the end of the email content. However, you can also include CTAs earlier in the content as well. This helps guide eager readers who already know what they want to the next step in their buyer’s journey.

This CTA button uses a clear and direct call-to-action that’s highlighted with a green button.


Every email that you send should be relevant to the person who is receiving it. This is where targeting comes into play and also the meat of how email marketing works. You should not send the same email content out to everyone on your email marketing list. Instead, strategically develop targeted content that’s specific to each particular audience’s needs and challenges.

Segmenting your email lists based on certain characteristics can help you improve open rates, and thus boost conversions over time. For instance, if you sell sports equipment, you might segment your lists based on your contact’s sports interests. Then develop offers and content that appeal to these interests specifically. This helps improve relevance and conversions.


When consumers open your emails, they will find themselves wondering what value your company can provide. That’s why it’s important to present a relevant offer or incentive in your emails that will encourage readers to open them up, read the information inside, and then take the desired action.

Whether you provide them with a free content download, a promotional offer on a good or service, or even just helpful information, you will get more respondents if your emails offer some sort of relevant incentive. Be sure to make this incentive clear in the subject line to maximize open rates.

Landing Page

If you want your email subscribers to convert into customers, then you will need to develop a targeted landing page that helps guide them to the next step in the conversion process. Don’t rely on hyperlinks to your home page or service page to do the work. This leaves readers guessing about what the next step is.

Instead, tell readers exactly what you want them to do next by designing a landing page that shows them how to take the next step. The content on your landing page should be conversion-focused, offering readers the information and motivation they need to make a purchase.

This landing page explains the relevant offer that visitors can take advantage of, along with a fillable form for more information.


Timing is also something that you need to consider when developing an email marketing strategy. You don’t want to send emails to subscribers during the times of the day when they are most likely to be busy or sleeping. In addition to the best send times, you should also be conscience of what days or times of the month you are sending emails.

To optimize open rates, you should test and measure your email timing to find what works best for your business. You may find that certain target segments prefer one frequency and timing, while another prefer something else. The only way to find out is to test your emails and see which send times have the best open rates.

In addition to these factors, you should also consider how you plan to integrate email marketing into your other digital marketing campaigns. Marketing emails don’t work in a vacuum. They should be used in conjunction with other tactics like social media or content marketing to create comprehensive campaigns.

Taking an integrated approach to your email marketing will help you get the most out of every campaign. In what ways can email support your social media efforts? How can it help you improve your customer retention campaigns? As you build your digital marketing strategy, carefully consider the ways in which you can incorporate marketing emails to help improve the effectiveness of your lead generation and nurturing efforts.


The Costs of Email Marketing

Now that you know the benefits of email marketing and how email marketing works when it comes to logistics and best practices, it’s time to talk about the costs. There are relatively few costs involved with email marketing, which is what makes it such a great tactic for small businesses to use. In fact, for every dollar spent on email marketing, a business will typically make about $44.

However, there are a few different costs that you will need to consider before you begin implementing your email marketing campaigns:

  • Email Marketing Automation Software – If you aren’t already using email marketing automation software to build and implement your campaigns, it’s time to start. These types of programs allow you to use attractive and mobile-friendly templates, making it easy to create great looking marketing emails in no time.
  • Supporting Staff – If you don’t have someone currently dedicated to email marketing then you will need to factor in the costs and time that it will take for someone on your team to manage your email marketing campaigns. If you have to hire an additional staff member, this is another added expense.
  • Email Lists – The quality of your email list will also factor into the overall costs of email marketing. If you have a quality, permission-based list, then you can start building and sending campaigns right away. However, if you don’t have a strong list of subscribers, then you’ll have to factor in the time and costs of building this list out.
  • Content and Creative – You’ll also want to factor in the costs of content and creative. Whether you have team members who can handle this for you or you have to hire additional help, your business will need someone who is experienced in writing email marketing content that converts.
  • Working with Email Marketing Agency – Instead of hiring an additional staff member, you might consider partnering with an email marketing agency. Working with an email marketing expert can help you save money in the long run as they know just what it takes to create effective campaigns without the guess work.