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After you encourage your customers to sign up for your email list, you can sort your subscribers into categories based on demographics and behaviors. — Getty Images/Petri Oeschger

As a small business owner, you know that effective email marketing can be a game-changer for your company. The right strategy engages audiences, increases open rates, and drives conversions. But with so many rules and best practices to consider, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Don’t settle for mediocre campaigns when you can be a pro. Explore email marketing guidelines for audience segmentation, newsletters, A/B testing, and more. Here’s the inside scoop on perfecting your techniques.

Email lists: building and segmenting

Nearly 90% of people want to “hear from companies they frequent,” reported Square. They provide contact information; you can store it in your e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS), or customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. From there, you can pull email addresses to create email marketing lists.

Although text and messaging apps are popular, especially for customer service, Square found that 60% of consumers “still want to hear from businesses via email.” This communication channel is less expensive to manage because you can automate many interactions. For starters, encourage shoppers to subscribe to updates during checkout online or in-store. Direct social media followers to a landing page where they can register for your newsletter or agree to receive emails after downloading content.

The next step is to segment your audience. This email marketing tactic groups people according to shared characteristics like location or behaviors. For instance, you can put existing customers into one category and potential buyers into another. As your list expands, you can refine the segments further.

Automatically categorize contacts using CRM email marketing platforms, such as:

[Read more: Email Marketing Trends for SMBs]

Optimize email marketing campaigns

To ensure a return on investment (ROI), emails should provide value and build trust. After all, consumers receive countless emails, and too many messages are spammy with clickbait headlines. Reduce unsubscribes by stating the “who” and “why” immediately. Then, deliver concise and audience-relevant information.

Improve your campaigns with the following email marketing tips:

  • A/B testing: Split-testing email designs, subject lines, and preview text can help you see which formats and headlines your audience prefers.
  • Timing: Use email marketing analytics to see when people are most likely to open and read emails. Remember, patterns may change during different times of the year.
  • Personalization: Customize email marketing templates with your client’s name or favorite products.
  • Visual appeal: Think of how your emails look on mobile and desktop devices. Create scannable paragraphs and add images or GIFs.
  • Trigger-based automation: Plan drip email campaigns that activate once leads opt-in after taking an action, like signing up for a discount.

With the right approach, email marketing can build trust in your brand. But there’s a fine line between providing value and appearing spammy in the eyes of your audience.

Produce engaging and purposeful newsletters

Email newsletters help small businesses cultivate long-term customer relationships and increase sales. You can share industry news, promote local happenings, and offer seasonal tips. Like other email marketing tactics, you must analyze your audience and set goals when starting a business newsletter.

Understanding your target market is crucial. It’s not only about demographics. What content do they want from your business? How often do they want to hear from you? Will they read whole paragraphs, or is it better to add links to website content or visuals like infographics and memes?

Ideally, your newsletter objectives align with your content strategy and overall business goals. Let’s say a company wants to improve customer retention rates. The content plan supports this objective by increasing loyalty reward signups and awareness about a referral program. Email newsletters may have a call to action (CTA) reminding customers to register for an immediate discount on their next purchase or share testimonials from newly referred clients.

Also, consider how you will send newsletters. CRM tools and email marketing solutions offer contact management, newsletter templates, and automation features. In addition, several e-commerce platforms and website builders have built-in newsletter capabilities, including WordPress.com and Shopify.

[Read more: Small Business Newsletter Tips]

Follow email best practices and rules

With the right approach, email marketing can build trust in your brand. But there’s a fine line between providing value and appearing spammy in the eyes of your audience. The law is more precise and outlines specific email marketing rules. Therefore, small business owners should respect consumer requests and track unsubscribes diligently.

A few email marketing best practices include:

  • Make it easy to unsubscribe: Let recipients remove themselves from your email list with a one-click unsubscribe button. Many email marketing platforms provide tools for seamless customer experiences and compliance.
  • Adhere to email laws: Avoid fines and reputational damage by reviewing email marketing rules like the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) Act and the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).
  • Monitor email metrics: Use email marketing tools to track key performance indicators (KPIs). Many systems offer dashboards and automated reports showing delivery, open, unsubscribe, conversion, click-through, and spam complaint rates.
  • Keep a clean list: Set reminders to scrub inactive contacts from your list annually or more often. This action can save money if you pay per contact. It also makes your metrics more reliable because you’re not looking at data from inactive recipients.

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