woman checking email on smartphone
From choosing an email provider to testing and refining your process, these basic steps will help you get started in email marketing for your business. — Getty Images/oatawa

Email has become the backbone of not only business communication, but all online communication. While it isn’t new technology, it’s also not going anywhere. Studies show email communication is expected to grow to 4.3 billion users by 2023.

For businesses, using email effectively can grow your business substantially with little effort. However, if you stray from a well-defined path, you could end up annoying your customers and detracting them from engaging with your business.

Follow these five steps to set up an effective email marketing strategy.

[Read: The Best Email Marketing Template for Your Business]

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is communicating with your customers through a medium that they already use on a daily basis. It’s a targeted, simple, effective way to get in front of your customers. Different content can be created to accomplish different goals: Coupons and deals sent via email can entice customers into your store, emails highlighting blog content can funnel them to your website, and customer contact information can help you better understand your audience.

How to get started with email marketing

The following five steps can get you started with email marketing:

Choose an email marketing provider

The first step toward building an email marketing strategy is finding a provider that works best for your business. There are countless email marketing tools out there, like MailChimp, Constant Contact and Hubspot, all with differing features. In order to choose the one that makes the most sense for your business, determine your email marketing goals, some marquee features you need, the size of your audience or contact list, and overall budget for your marketing program. Your email marketing provider should be flexible and cost effective.

Establish your goals

As you begin to set up your email marketing provider and build your new campaign, consider the overall goals of your email marketing and digital marketing efforts. Set benchmarks to measure your campaign’s overall success. This means thinking about things like customer acquisition, open rates and how email marketing will build into your overall strategy. Remember, your email marketing campaigns should be targeted and purposeful. Don’t just send a hodgepodge of messages with random news about your company. By establishing some early goals, you can maintain the proper course as your marketing efforts grow.

As with planning your overall goals, set up your first campaign with goals and benchmarks to determine its overall success.

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Build your contact list

To have an effective email marketing strategy, you need to have a solid contact list. Some good tips to get started include featuring an email newsletter sign-up section on your website, adding an opt-in form as part of the e-commerce section of your website and adding opt-in forms on order confirmations and other customer surveys. Keep in mind that effective email marketing starts with customers opting in to receive messages. If you send emails to customers who haven’t opted in, you’ll end up in the spam folder.

Plan and execute your first campaign

As with planning your overall goals, set up your first campaign with goals and benchmarks to determine its overall success. The main goal of each campaign should be to feed into your overall marketing goals. Focus on template design to create a beautiful message type that fits your business. Consider other important aspects, like subject line, open rates and conversion rates to better plan your overall email marketing effort.

Test and refine

Email marketing is a process that will never truly reach perfection. It’s constantly changing, and your approach to building an effective strategy should be done with this in mind. As you introduce new campaigns, make sure you track different aspects of your emails. This includes deliverability, open rate, click through rate and conversion rate. Keep measuring these benchmarks as you optimize subject lines, overall design and message frequency. As you get better at email marketing, you can fine-tune these aspects to create an efficient program.

[Read: Email Marketing Guide for New Businesses]

Email marketing is an essential tool for small businesses today. It's the best way to get in front of your customers in a way that is both organic and effective. By taking the time to establish your goals, find the right partner and better communicate with your customers, your business can reap the benefits of an effective email marketing strategy.

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