what small business needs to know about email automation marketing


What Small Business Needs to Know About Email Marketing Automation

I recently wrote a post in quora about someone’s question regarding how to email a list of nurses for the purpose of promoting their businesses. It made me begin to think how a lot of businesses are eager to use email as a marketing or lead nurturing weapon to engage their prospects and website visitors. A lot of the time, an “over-eager emailer” will lead a client into trouble because of out-dated approaches that will get one penalized by email clients such as Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail, as well as many others. You may have already noticed that your spam folder has become one of your most hefty and over saturated folders just for yourself.

If business is not sending out emails with the goal of building themselves as the thought-leader in this industry or service, then they’re blowing the point of email marketing. In this post, we’ll cover what exactly that means and how to maximize one’s email marketing automation, along with several other related insights.

This is a 4-part series of articles. In this post, we’ll be exploring and covering:

  • 1) How small business should philosophically and practically approach email marketing, and email marketing automation in general.



  • 2) Strategies that you should consider when writing copy and communicating with your customers.
  • 3) 3 free services to start collecting your first subscribers.

In subsequent posts, we’ll cover:

Email Marketing 101: No One Cares About Your Message

no one cares

That’s right. No one cares about what you have to say, at least not most people. Believe it or not, when people try to develop marketing emails, they often forget this key point. All that they (i.e. your readers/subscribers) care about, is if they receive benefit out of your content. It’s a tough idea to swallow, but that’s simply the fact in most cases. It’s not bad fact, in fact we’re all guilty of this; and furthermore such a mentality is basically human nature. When you sift through your emails in the morning, do you really care about how great someone else is? No. You’re thinking: “what can I can get out of this.”

Give Your Customers Value

small business customer value pyramid

“We want… what we value.”

For every single person, value will mean something else. To some that can simply mean good deals at discounted prices,  to others that’ll mean a solutions to their specific problems, but as small businesses, we are strapped for time and resources, so it’s difficult to invest the time to give every segment of customer exactly what they want.

But slowly and surely, you will accumulate the reasons why your clients approach your help and what their questions are. Don’t delay to provide your customer want they’re looking for. If let’s say you’re a plumber, and you already know that people who seek plumbing services already search for certain specific queries or have specific needs – then draft content that answers their exact need. In most cases, the needs are already known and predictable because you already know why your customers are coming to you in the first place. Thus, if you consistently sell plumber-related services to home-owners, what would your customers value? In most cases, one place to start is simply with any and all sound advice that prevents your customers to spend a lot of money. By helping your customers save money and/or time, they’ll build trust with you.  That leads us to the next concept. 

Be the “Go to” Expert in Your Trade 

im an expert meme dog law

source: makeameme.org

Whether you’re a doctor, a pest exterminator, a roofer, or a plumber… you’re not going to be able to engage your customer or subscriber all of the time and they’re not always going to be consistently buying from you every week, but the goal with your prospects is to simply build your reputation as the “go-to expert” in your trade. As the expert, you know what questions and concerns your customers already have because they should be already coming to you with those questions and concerns.

Answer those concerns proactively, tactfully and completely. Furthermore, for small businesses, it’s incredibly important that you stay in connection with your customer every week or two, so that they’re actively keeping you in mind. This could be as small as sharing a difficulty that you had in the week, and sharing how you fixed or approached it. 

If You Don’t Know, You’re Obligated to Find Out

If you don’t know those questions and concerns that your prospects or customers have, approach people as someone who is thinking about creating a solution in a specific market or space, and ask people for their thoughts. Almost always, people will share what they have to say if it’s about sharing opinions (versus being pushed to buy something). 

You’ll want to use lingo like, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a business to do “x” by doing “y,” and I’m just looking to get people’s feedback on that idea.” You’ll have to quickly establish that you’re not going to sell them anything. They’ll usually give you a little time to answer at least a few of your questions, but the key is to make sure that you’re approaching your target audience as much as possible. If you want to create custom suits online and you figure that there’s at least a $350.00 price point for a suit, you won’t want to target people who likely won’t be able to afford it. If you really don’t know your audience, you can start broad and then narrow it down as you gain more info. 

find your niche market

source: medium.com


KISS Me: Tell Yourself to Keep It Simple, Stupid 

When I worked as a marketing service provider for PayPal, the team wanted to try all kinds of visual and effective email templates. From our data that we collected, we couldn’t justify that being sleek attributed to high gains, and often times the creative templates that our firm would charge immensely for, would result in little return value.

Most people will check their emails on their phones, and would much rather expect an “email delivery” that’s easy to read, provides value, and flows nicely. Make it easy for people to take the next step – in this case, make it easy and clear with clearly defined calls to actions as to where you would like for your readers to click; whether it’s to your blog, your website, or elsewhere. Don’t worry so much about creating the next big design, it’s not always going to play into your favor. 

click me

source: imgflip.com

Nurture, Not Nag

Part of the idea behind email marketing automation is simply about “nurturing” your connection with your leads (regardless of how they come into contact with your business, and become a lead for you). 

Lead nurturing via email

source: titandpm.com

Whether or not someone became a lead with a more immediate need to buy, or whether or not someone became a lead because of light to moderate potential interest is irrespective to the fact that people still need to get to know you and still build confidence in your work.

3 Ways to Use Digital Marketing Build Trust (We’ll Review Them Quickly)

There are generally 3 different methods people can build trust with your prior to actually meeting with you. They include:

1. Online reviews on directories such as Facebook Local, Google My Business, and Yelp (to name a few).

Supposedly, these platforms offer unbiased reviews from real customers. That’s not always the case given that there some fake reviews that exist, but a study by BrightLocal in 2019 showed that most people look for at least 10 reviews before trusting that the reviews accurately build confidence for prospects, as well as that most people reference third-party reviews second to word-of-mouth. If you’re looking for a creative service that generates reviews for your business, take a look at our service which utilizes several different methods of requesting reviews or collecting feedback from your previous customers. 

Related: Sign Up to Use Our Free Review Embed Tool

2. Sharing professional knowledge.

Most of this article advocates for the use of email marketing automation as a channel to provide complementary professional knowledge to people seeking services that you provide. Simply by providing sound advice, one not only verifies one’s professional understanding of his or her trade, but it also helps someone understand the character of the business or service professional. It’s better to write your own content, but it’s acceptable to have someone else write your content for you as long as you review it for validity. Keep in mind that it’s much, much better to draft much fewer robust, high quality content that’s ideally 1,500 words or more than it is to pump out hundreds of articles with little depth. 

Content Tip:

-Often times when someone begins to think about writing content for their site, they freak out. Already under stress with current commitments, such a task seems daunting or expensive. The thing is, you don’t need to have 100% of the content ready by tomorrow. Our recommendation is for most business owners, to actually avoid planning all of your content in outline form (it’s better if you do, but it’s not mandatory). If you’re the type that gets stressed out, just start with one idea, and write a piece on it. 

Ensure your content:

  • Is broken up into 3 to 4 sentence paragraphs, this helps with digestibility of the content for the reader.
  • Your content is properly titled and subtitled with proper HTML tags; this helps Google properly understand your content.
    • Proper html tags means either using <h1>title</h1>, <h2>sub-title</h2>, <h3>supporting title</h3> in your code. 
    • Use proper keywords that people search for within your titles. 
      • For a plumber, that can be keywords like “faucet repair,” “backed-up toilet,” and “unplug backed up toilet.”
    • For more information about, check out our page on SEO for small businesses.
  • Utilizes several images throughout the content (be careful to use small file sizes – you can do this by reducing the image quality and size with free software such as Paint.Net ). 

3. Recommendations / Online Word-of-Mouth Marketing

People may confuse recommendations with reviews, but that’s not actually the case. A review is not necessarily a recommendation as much as a recommendation isn’t necessarily a review, but there can be overlap. One example to really make this principle clear is affiliate marketing. One real life example of affiliate marketing is that CapitalOne bank offers existing customers $100 for every referral that their customers provide, with terms and conditions. Referral-based marketing is a type of marketing that’s historically been connected to “offline” marketing in the sense of something that’s not technically marketing at all, and is by all merits, the best form of marketing – which is “word-of-mouth” marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing happens when under mostly casual and natural situations a product or service is recommended. There is however, ways to propel or motivate word-of-mouth / recommendation-based marketing. MLM (Multi-level-marketing) firms tend to do this one the best by getting people to draft their friends and family into business ventures in a never-ending cycle of new clients or customers. 

Some ideas include:

  1. Running a giveaway with a free tool like KingSumo, so that someone receives an incentive for referring your product/service, with such a service there’s an incentive to share via social media and communication channels.
  2. Offer your customers a credit, discount, or other incentive for any referrals. Depending on the type of businesses, these can work very well, or not really at all.
  3. Pay or incentivize in other ways for people to create online or video (Youtube) reviews of your product or service. 
nielsen study 2011 buildingtrust

source: referralcandy.com / nielson 2011 advertising study



Focus On Helping, Not Selling

source: imgflip.com

Yes, people who visit your landing pages and websites know you have something to sell, why else are you in business? But if your content in your emails doesn’t answer a significant need, whether by providing information or a discounted price, and those emails don’t ultimately provide value, then there’s no real need to engage (i.e. subscribe, open, read, skim, or click) your emails, blogs, videos, or any other media channel. Thus, why would you think your readers or subscribers would want to pick up the phone and call you about buying your product if they won’t even engage with you when the content is free? A business shouldn’t fear “giving away the solution” to their readers, as most studies find that most people will not resolve all of their own issues since simply there’s not time in the day; the 320 million people in the United States won’t all become mechanics even if you tell them exactly what to do to fix their cars. There’s simply not enough time, patience, and interest in the day.

Marketing Tip:

-Often times when someone begins to think about writing content for their site, they freak out. Already under stress with current commitments, such a task seems daunting or expensive. The thing is, you don’t need to have 100% of the content ready by tomorrow. Our recommendation is for most business owners, to actually avoid planning all of your content in outline form (it’s better if you do, but it’s not mandatory). Just start with one idea, and write a piece on it.

What’s important is to be consistent; pick a time in the week where you can dedicate an hour, to two, or three, writing on a specific subject relating to the customer needs of your industry. As you build content, you can slowly build your website that answers the needs of your customers and potential customers (( Need a website? we can help you build a wordpress website that you manage yourself ))


Email Marketing Strategies for Small Business 

Strategizing for email marketing campaigns is similar to the game of Risk; in every turn you have a certain number of pieces to place or to utilize (depending on what’s going on currently with you or your business). One needs to be strategic about how one applies his or her game pieces. However, winners of  the game of Risk don’t simply act upon the results of the dice, they must think ahead several turns and attempt to predict who the other players will place their own pieces. Thus, when strategizing your email marketing approach, you’ll want to also have in mind the future thoughts, emotions, and needs of your customer.

Below we’ll give you some practical tactics and recommendations to consider when planning out your email workflows / automations.

Strategies to Engage Your Customers via Messaging & Email

Prepare the Strategy

1. Segment Your User Acquisition: Don’t Start with an Offer, Unless Your Visitors Want It

On your website, you should have multiple different ways for people to subscribe to receiving messaging from you, with different incentives. If you’re using the same 10% off offer for every opportunity you can get to throw it out there, you’re going to miss the boat and likely that visitor will never see you again… but let’s say you’re a plumber and you have some content on “preventing your plumbing systems from getting backed up,” it’s more sensical to promote on that specific content, somewhere within the content itself some financial incentive that’s related to maintaining or fixing one’s plumbing systems than it would be to put a 10% off offer everywhere. In the end, when it comes down to a certain need, whether it’s cooking thai food, plumbing, floral design, exercises/health advice, or any other topic – the goal is to show that you’re the local and trusted industry expert to your prospects and customers.

If people are looking for an offer, it’s not a bad idea to have one handy as some shoppers are either looking for a deal or are shopping around based on price. It’s often a good idea to market a “surprise offer” or “surprise deal” in return for someone subscribing to one’s emails. 

2. Don’t Use Full Screen Entry Pop-Ups to Collect Emails

It might sound attractive to put a big pop-up ad to push people to subscribe to your newsletter, but it’s also a great way to annoy your visitors. Large pop-ups are good reminders, but unless they’re timed correctly, they’re bit annoying and detract from the overall goal. We use timed and triggered notifications that show to the side, they’re much less annoying, still capture attention, and furthermore you’ll avoid a search-penalty from Google. That’s right, Google doesn’t want you showing those annoying pop-ups either. 

For 3 Free Easy to Use Services to Capture Emails, Check Here:

1. EmailMunch – Capture emails and integrate with email service provides like MailChimp from unlimited visitors for free (however there aren’t so many templates in the free version). 
2. AivaLabs – Capture emails using innovative and crafty triggers and incentives using gamification (although there might be a bigger learning curve in the beginning). 
3. Privy – Capture emails for 5,000 visitors per month for free with a wide range of templates as well as the tool is fairly easy to use. 

3. Predict What Your Customers Want, and Give it to Them

It might sound a little crazy to ask you to predict what your customers want but the truth is, you already know what they want. If you’ve been in the game for at least some time, your customers are already asking you the same questions and contacting you regarding the same concerns. You don’t have to innovate something crazy, be responsive to the requests already encompassing your business and transpose it into content. 

4. People Skim Emails; They Don’t Read Them. Don’t Make Your Content Too Long… or Too Short

Average Time Spent Reading Emails

source: twitter.com / Litmus

Studies in the last decade have indicated that people will spend no more than 30 whole seconds, or less, on reading an email, with the average being around 10 – 15 seconds. This means that in most cases, it likely doesn’t make sense to make your email too lengthy, however caution should be taken to not make them too short. Often times many people assume that their emails should more or less be a few lines to get their reader to a landing page or article on their website… however the truth is it’s much harder to get someone to click on a link that it is for them to read a few more paragraphs of text. Be sensitive to the length of your emails however include enough content within the email to hook the reader to want to read more. 

5. Your Emails Should Support a Goal

If your emails simply exist just because you have content and want to share it… that’s recipe for someone to eventually lose interest. Let me explain.

Let’s say you run a life insurance brokerage, and someone who has some vague knowledge or interest subscribes to you because you offer subscribers some valuable knowledge about investing or about the in-and-out’s of life insurance. Your follow-up emails should be tactically positioned to meet your goals. If the goal is to get a customer to buy a specific plan, or maybe the goal is just for them to sit with you so they can you can personally assess their needs… then your automated list of emails needs to plan for that

You may think, “ok – my subscriber just downloaded my guide… he may or may not read it, or at least he may not read all of it. So I have to plan for that situation when he or she doesn’t engage with my content, and remind him or her to ensure that they read through it. If someone doesn’t know anything about myself, and I sent him another email, what would draw that person closerI would need to advertise something of incredible value, and that person would not likely be ready to connect with me yet.” 

You see? The goal is not just to push content, but to tactfully draw someone closer to accepting you as a “thought-leader.”

6. Get People to Engage Based on What They Don’t Have, or What they Can Have.

make 6 figures online pinterest

source: pinterest.com

Let’s do a little personal experiment. Think of something you want for your business. Are you thinking? Ok. So let me guess that whether or not you thought about the following, I would bet that you want to triple or quadruple your revenue and profit for your business? Sounds good, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

In fact, if I told you to: “follow these 10 steps exactly to triple or quadruple your income.” Your ears would definitely perk up. Maybe you could be skeptical, but at least you would think hard about checking it out, especially if you’re already familiar with me or my brand. Use language that either provides or prevents a certain outcome.

It doesn’t matter what it is; for instance, if you’re a traffic lawyer, you can create content on: “avoid paying that next $500 speeding ticket!” Somebody facing a traffic violation would no doubt be attentive to the fact that the lawyer is offering a solution to avoid paying a ticket. Thus, using language that promotes an outcome can be largely engaging. 

7. A/B Test the Crap Out of Everything You Can

Yes I know what you might be thinking… A/B testing takes time. It’s true. Even though many email marketing services include complementary A/B tools in their free plans, many people don’t take advantage of them. The truth is, there is no real way to ensure that a) you’re growing in your methodologies and thus taking steps to grow in your business, and b) that you’re for sure making the right decision with regards to any changes. One of my former bosses used to drill into me how important it was to A/B test. I hated it – there was so many things to do… I just thought to myself, if my next campaign does better, that change was the right move, correct?! It turns out that I was wrong. Because there are so many variables in a given campaign, the only way to know for certain if a tactic or strategy works better, is to apply the statistically-sound approach of A/B variate testing.

Test Small

The right way of doing A/B testing is to test small changes… small offers… small graphical changes… and small copy changes… testing sending a specific email 2nd in the automation versus the 3rd… the reason why is when we test smaller changes, we have more control and assurance that our test is valid. When we test between two completely different emails, offers, subject lines, and so on all at the same time, there were too many variables influenced and we can’t make accurate conclusions. By testing small changes like subject line tests, we can have more promising insights and the best part is that it usually doesn’t take so much time to implement an A/B test on a small change as opposed to a big change. 

Record Your Results Accurately & Draw Conclusions.

One area where people make large amounts of mistakes is by not recording their findings down. This causes time, money, and effort to go to waste. Yes – the 10 or so minutes it takes to analyze and record the results can be tedious at times, but months or years later when you’re reviewing your lessons learned, you’ll want to make sure that you’re able to properly review all of the tests and campaigns that you’ve conducted. 

Related: Free Tool/Template for Tracking Email & Social Media Marketing Campaigns:

smbfission email marketing calendar template

Use Google Sheets (the link is to our Email Marketing Campaign Calendar and Record Template), make a copy of our template, and use it to record, plan, strategize, and review your email marketing (or also social media marketing) campaigns. We hope that it’s useful for you! We’ll be only making updates to the template found in the link above, so be sure to subscribe to our emails to know when it gets updated.  

8. Don’t Reinvent the Email Marketing Wheel

We’re all guilty of this… when we should have done a few Google searches and either done the research, or paid someone $10 – $100 who has already put in the hard work of finding out the info themselves and buying their guide or workshop to tell me exactly how I should write my emails, and what I should say.

Don’t worry, we’re working on getting this to you, for free. But until we’re ready with our assortment of effective emails, it might be worthwhile to buy some templates from a marketer/or business who has done the work of testing and understand which specific email copy, types of emails, and subject lines are the most effective to garner results.