Here’s why small businesses need email marketing

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I freaking love email marketing. Freaking love it. I get asked questions like “do I really need a blog?”, “should I be on Instagram?”, and “how many networking events should I go to?” all the time. My answer is always that if you want to do it, and have the resource and drive to keep improving, do it. When I’m asked “do I need to do email marketing?” my answer is yes, yes you freaking do.

Here’s a bunch of reasons why email marketing is the tits. One: you own the data. If you have a huge Instagram following, loads of Facebook page likes and a queue at Frome Independent every week, that’s great. But they could all shut down or change their terms tomorrow, and then what do you have?

Your mailing list is always yours. Regardless of the tool you use to make contact, the email addresses and the consent to contact remains with you. Noice.

Reason two: email marketing has a freaking insane return on investment. Freaking insane. And it’s going up again, even with new GDPR considerations. DMA (the Direct Marketing Association) have been collecting stats for the average dolla dolla gained per £1 spent on email marketing, which I have hardcore Googled below:

  • 2018: £32.28
  • 2017: £30.03
  • 2016: £29.64
  • 2015: £38.00
  • 2014: No report
  • 2013: £24.93
  • 2012: £21.48

Now I’m not sure what happened in 2015 (and whatever you do, don’t follow my example and read The Guardian’s biggest stories of 2015) but those stats are crazy good – at least 10x better than the next best marketing channel. Now I know that’s an average, so might not be realistic for you but GIRL – that is also an average – meaning loads of businesses make more than that too. Whaaaaaaa!

Reason 3: it’s super, super easy. Like usual, we just need to stop overthinking and start using email marketing in the way it works best.

Email is the OG social media

I’m 31, and haven’t really lived in a world without social media. At the leading edge of the millennial generation, from Lycos Chatrooms through AIM, my bae MySpace, Facebook (pre-parents being allowed to join) and now Instagram, online connectivity is all I’ve known.

16 years before I graced this Earth with my presence, a nice fella called Ray took this first step in creating a form digital communications, and sent himself an email. Then we waited like 20 years for the internet to catch up, and then we spent 20 years using pretty much only the medium of email for personal and professional social communications.

“Now Aime, that was a fun yet reductive history of email, but what dies that have to do with my small creative business?”

Well girlfriend, is has everything to do with how you should use email marketing for your business.

What you shouldn’t do: the death of newsletters

Email is probably the worst possible platform for sending a newsletter. It’s one of my many, many bugbears that the term ‘newsletter’ has become synonymous with email communications and email marketing.

A newsletter is just that, a letter filled with news. For hundreds of years, it was a way for corporations to share internal changes, appointments, developments and promotions to their customers and colleagues on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

One day, some fella (who probably wasn’t quite as nice as Ray) realised that they could save a buttload on print and post costs by emailing a newsletter instead. And for a while, it worked. I’ll let the 7 year-old comic below explain better than I ever could.

Email marketing now vs then
Full credit to ‘Pooftytoo’, via Tumblr.

When newsletters first moved to email, they were read because there wasn’t much else to read. We dedicated more time to our inbox, and weren’t being spammed by hundreds of emails every week demanded our attention and our money.

Thing is, email has never been a good channel for communicating large volumes or varieties of content. Us humans are lazy, and we just don’t read it. You know that moment when you open a long email from a friend, colleague or client? Or any email from your mum? That full-body sigh is the exact feeling your customers feel when you send a long-ass marketing email.

And remember, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

What you should do: say less, get more and be social

Never email your mailing list just because you think you should, unlike social media where a bad post will likely just be ignored, bad emails result in unsubscribes and spam complaints. You should only send an email when you have something interesting and valuable to say.

Luckily, we shared 39 ideas for brand messaging, and because you’re cray organised and read our post on campaign-based marketing for small businesses, you’ve got loads of really interesting, relevant content ready to go.

Choose your favourite, most appealing and profit-inducing message for your email, because lazy humans are only going to click on one thing, and you want to control that thing. If you have multiple important things to send someone, then send multiple emails – just space them out nicely.

Include a clear-ass button or link so it’s super obvious where to click. Again, us humans are lazy, and we need to be told what to do.

Give a mild option B. As much as we want to control the thing they click on, it’s good to give a second clickable resource for anyone who has opened your email but doesn’t one the main thing. Calling our your social media accounts is a great option B.

MailChimp is just great.

I love MailChimp, it’s super affordable for small businesses like ours because most of the time, it’s ruddy free. It’s also super easy to use and has the best knowledge base and support services of any marketing platform I use.

MailChimp is crazy powerful and releases new features all the time. A lot of which, I’m gonna tell you to totally ignore. Let’s just sort out the basics first, Templates (your branded blank canvases) and Campaigns (the emails you send with real content).

Always start with making a ridonculously simple Template with your logo, brand colours and fonts. You can pick from an extensive library and edit the settings to match your website. Do this once, and use it for your Campaigns until you feel confident enough to learn more features.

How to get people to join your mailing list

Ask them.

It’s really that simple. People rarely join mailing lists without being asked, so just ask. Asking someone to join a mailing list is a totally normal thing for a business to do, so don’t feel shy or ashamed to brazenly say ‘hey, can I send you emails?’.

Now there are pretty strict recommendations around how you ask for data, and this is covered by GDPR. The blog post isn’t about GDPR, and I highly recommend all business owners spend a little time learning about this super-important, super-boring regulation but, as a light guidance from someone who is not a lawyer, make sure anyone signs up knows what they’ll receive by signing up, how they’ll receive communications (in this case, by email).

Think less ‘join my newsletter’ or ‘get on our list’, and more ‘Love small business advice? Subscribe for expertise from our blog, updates on our creative workshops and the occasional sales promotion by email.’.

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