Email marketing is an effective online marketing technique for many small businesses. It helps you speak directly to your customers; it helps you communicate your business messages while supporting your own business goals.
"Successful email marketing, like any other kind of marketing, is all about building trust and relationships with your audience," wrote Kelly Chase, digital strategist for Content Factory. "The best way to do this is to provide value by helping them solve problems and get results."
Chase, along with many other marketing experts, small business owners, and vendors contributed their very best ideas and advice for our giant list of DIY email marketing tips. From building your list to writing subject lines and tracking open rates, this tips list offers something for everyone.
DIY Email Marketing Checklist
Scroll through the list of tips below or use this handy checklist to jump to a specific category of DIY email marketing tips:
- List Building and Opt-In/Out Tips (18)
- Ideas for Email Subject Lines(20)
- Tips for Content, Landing Pages and Images (30)
- How to Plan, Test, Segment and Track Emails (28)
- Improve Call-to-Actions (CTA), Transactions and Conversions(14)
- Mobile Friendly Email Marketing (5)
Be sure to bookmark this page or connect with SmallBusinessComputing on Twitter to be notified when we update and grow this list of DIY email marketing tips!
When it comes to list building, quality trumps quantity. A complete, updated email list ensures that your emails maintain a steady open rate and minimize unsubscribes. If your contacts change companies or job titles, update your lists accordingly.
—Linda Passante, CEO, The Halo Group
Use software or hire a designer to create ebooks and other freebies to give away to people when they sign up to your email list. The fact that it's well-designed helps subscribers feel confident that you will provide great value.
—Louise Hendon, co-founder, Paleo Flourish Magazine
Reduce your list attrition rates by providing a preference center—a landing page on your website that allows subscribers to add, change, or delete their email preferences. It also lets subscribers select how frequently they would like to receive emails from you.
—Shelly Alvarez, director of client services, PostUp
Make sure that the recipient wants and expects your email. Otherwise, your email will end up tagged as spam. Every time that happens, you run the risk of more and more (and eventually all) of your email going to the junk folder, or even being blacklisted.
—Anne P. Mitchell, Attorney at Law, CEO, SuretyMail
Offer your visitors something of value. Make it compelling and hard to resist. Asking for their email address to sign up for your vague newsletter is nowhere near as compelling as offering a downloadable guide that will transform their business in seven days.
—Joe Robison, founder, Green Flag Digital
If you run a B2B company, having a blog with an option to subscribe is a great way to add subscribers to your list. If you own a B2C company, reward people who subscribe to your list with 10 percent off their first purchase. Adding a subscribe pop-up that includes an offer to win—or a percentage off a purchase—can also help grow your list.
—Anna Kayfitz, MBA, consultant, Strategic DB
Offer something for free, but promise to send it in a few days. If people know you'll email the free product right away, they'll use a throw-away email. Instead, tell them they'll receive the digital product in a few days. In my experience, more people will use their real email addresses if you use this strategy.
—Andrew Reeves, founder and CEO, Luxe Translation Services
The lifeblood of any successful email marketing campaign is your subscriber list. After all, even if you get everything else right, it's all for nothing if you don't have a list of subscribers to market to. The best way to grow your list is to offer something of value to your subscribers before they even get their first email. This something could be as simple as coupons and exclusive offers that are only made available to people who sign up for your newsletter.
—Kelly Chase, digital strategist, Content Factory
Write an epic blog post that gives your readers a lot of good, free content. Then, on the same page, offer readers a second piece of free content in exchange for their name and email address. For example, we have a great blog post about understanding Medicare. Throughout the post, two small ads (lead boxes) offer readers a checklist (PDF) to go along with that content. In addition to our contact information, the checklist includes tips and a worksheet to help clients plan insurance costs based on the free information we provided. More than 20 percent of our readers download it, and now they're on our email subscriber list. We can market them throughout the year when it's appropriate.
—Danielle Kunkle, vice president, Boomer Benefits
If you have a particular expertise that you can share, write a whitepaper or case study on it. Give your visitors a taste, and then ask them to subscribe to your newsletter to download the entire copy.
—Matthew White, CEO, Qebot
Use marketing automation to help you respond to leads faster. Your first automated follow-up email should be a thank you, and it should either state when you will follow up again or ask for more details. You can use marketing automation from MailChimp, Active Campaign, or HubSpot to move the customer through the funnel when you're not at your desk.
—Joe Robison, founder, Green Flag Digital
Don't worry about list size, worry about list quality. Clean your list regularly to ensure you're sending emails to valid addresses and to avoid ending up on spam blacklists.
—Mike McGovern, content marketing strategist, YDOP Internet Marketing
Host a contest or a giveaway. A logical connection between what you're giving away and your product creates curiosity about your product, and you can market to the folks who sign up in future emails.
—Nick Leffler, owner, Your Brand by Nick Leffler
Follow best practices or your email marketing will end up in recipients' junk folder, and you could even face Federal fines, lawsuits, or even jail. For example, "cold" email marketing is actually illegal in most countries, and it violates best practices here in the United States. Best practices require that you remove someone who unsubscribes from your mailing list immediately. Federal law gives you 10 days, and after that you're in violation.
—Anne P. Mitchell, attorney, CEO and president, SuretyMail
Direct mail, if used correctly, can be a powerful tool to build your email list. As you build an email list you can reduce your direct mail marketing while enhancing its response rate. Consumers like to get freebies or low-cost items. Send a direct mailing with an eye-catching offer that comes with a subscription to your email list. Direct the mail recipients to an online landing page that captures their email address and a few other details that will help you with marketing to them in the future.
—Victor Clarke, The Marketing Quarterback
We recommend that our clients use sign-up overlays to increase newsletter subscriptions. For example, an overlay prompting visitors to subscribe pops up while they're on your site reading original content. Overlays perform best when you time them to appear about 20 seconds after the visitor hits the page.
—Keith Shields, Designli
Make subscribing easy. Include signup forms on all high-traffic pages; the more people see them, the more people will sign up. Instead of placing a sign-up form on the homepage, switch things up and add it to your sidebar. Keep the form simple, with limited fields, and try and throw in a creative twist.
—Harry Phillips, marketing executive, Itas
If you own a brick-and-mortar store, ask all customers to subscribe to your newsletter to receive updates on special promotions, new products, and sales. If your business is online, make sure you heavily encourage any visitors to enter their email address, and require an email address to create an account. That will also help you link saved or purchased products to customer accounts.
—Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of LogoMix
Minimize unsubscribe rates by sending subscribers relevant, quality content that applies to them. Segmenting your email list is the best way to decrease unsubscribe rates and to increase conversions.
—Courtney Rauch, marketing account manager, CMK Marketing