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From setting a budget to selecting a tool, there are several steps to creating an effective email marketing campaign. — Getty Images

Small businesses have to watch their marketing budget more closely than big corporations. With so many marketing tools out there, it’s crucial to invest carefully in the marketing channel that will bring in the most customers.

Email marketing, especially for a new business, is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to reach customers. Email marketing can do a lot in one simple communication. A great email campaign builds customer trust, reinforces your branding, builds your credibility and maximizes ROI. Research by Campaign Monitor found that every dollar spent on email marketing led to a $38 return.

New businesses face the challenge of starting their email campaigns from scratch. Merchants must select the right email tool, build out their list of email addresses and figure out how to convert readers into customers, all while sticking to a budget. Here’s how to get started with email marketing for new businesses.

How to: Build an email list

Email marketing doesn’t work unless you have a list of people who you know are interested in your product. Therefore, the first step is to begin collecting email addresses. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Offer an incentive if customers give you their email, like a 10% discount or free item.
  • Integrate receipt via email into your checkout process.
  • Prompt your website visitors to sign up for your email list on every page.
  • Put your best content behind an email sign-up gateway.
  • Host a giveaway on social media if viewers provide their email.

The best tactic is to offer something in return for a person’s email address. This ensures the address they give you is valid and being used regularly.

How to: Select an email tool

There are plenty of great email tools out there at many price points. Companies like MailChimp offer free accounts to get you started. If you want a service that includes more advanced features, expect to pay a bit more.

[Read more: How to Choose the Best Email Marketing Software]

To start, look for a tool that is easily customizable, with templates that can be personalized and branded with your marketing palette. Platforms should provide tracking on key performance metrics (open rate, clicks, etc.). They should integrate with your social media platforms and other customer relationship management tools. Email marketing tools should make it easy to handle customer responses.

Once you’ve got your list of emails, the right platform, and a visually appealing campaign set up, it’s time to send your business’s first email.

How to: Budget for email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most inexpensive marketing tools out there. Depending on your needs, most email marketing tools are between $0-$30 a month. But, that’s not the only cost associated with getting started. Other costs include time, design work, discounts or giveaways, and maintenance. A small business owner can expect to pay the following estimated costs:

  • Email platform: $0-$30/month.
  • Employee or freelancer time: $15-$100/hour.
  • Design elements, stock images, etc.: $0-$150.
  • Discounts: $0-$200/month.
  • Total: $15-$500/month.

If you’re worried about making your emails look good, try a free tool like Canva or a free stock image site like Unsplash.

How to: Write your first email

Once you’ve got your list of emails, the right platform, and a visually appealing campaign set up, it’s time to send your business’s first email. There are a few best practices to keep in mind for your first missive out of the gate.

Text-heavy emails perform poorly. “You need to structure your emails to help draw people into reading your content while guiding them toward the email’s call to action,” said industry experts at Campaign Monitor. For example, an introductory email that included video received a 96% boost in click-throughs. Try to use visuals as much as possible.

Likewise, make sure your campaign is personalized and relevant to your audience. The first email is not the time to get in the weeds with things like customer segmentation, optimum timing and A/B testing, but you do want to make sure the first email makes a good impression. Pay attention to your subject line to make sure you don’t get sent straight to spam. Include the same color palette and logo that you use on your website. And, most importantly, give your audience a reason to keep reading.

How to: Convert emails into customers

It might take some tinkering to see what works best for your audience. Try different subject lines or different giveaway offers to entice customers to open your emails regularly. Start developing a funnel over time by offering great content before you start to get to the hard sell.

[Read more: A Guide to Growing Your Business with Email Marketing]

“When plotting your email campaigns and choosing the content to include, aim for an 80/20 mix using the Pareto Principle. Simply put: 80% of your content should be devoted to valuable and useful information, and 20% should be devoted to the promotions, sales, and products/services you’re selling,” recommends Campaign Monitor. Don’t be shy about trying new things. Email is a great growth marketing tool for businesses of every size.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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