Email is still one of the top channels for marketing a business. Used correctly, it can be an effective and inexpensive way to drive sales and leads, grow brand engagement, increase customer loyalty, promote events, grow your fanbase and conduct research. Whereas communicating with fans on social media relies on the social platform’s algorithm, if you grow your own email database you control how and when you communicate to it. This article explores practical pointers for getting started and tips for improving your email marketing strategy. 

How should I use email marketing?

First, choose which email service provider you will use. There are many email marketing platforms available where you can store data, design templates, create, send and track your campaigns. One of the most popular is MailChimp - it’s free, easy to use and integrates well with web builders like WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace. Others include Drip, dotmailer, Constant Contact - take a look to see which has the features and interface that appeal most to you. 

As well as promoting your products, services, promotions and events, emails should give people information that is valuable to them and not purely focus on sales messages. You can offer tips, advice, news and stories that align with your brand values

Emails should be sent at regular frequencies (but not so often that you are bombarding) and it’s a good idea to create a content plan for the year so that you can organise your time and plan send outs around events and promotions. 

 Events and promosContent ideas
JanuaryNew YearHealthy recipes
FebruaryValentine's Day / New menu launchInterview with chef about new menu
MarchFree bottle of wineBook a meal for two or more in March and get a free bottle of house red / white

Email marketing ideas for small businesses

Take a look at these different small businesses to see how they use email marketing

Dan runs an ecommerce business called Mount Hope selling handmade leather notebooks. 

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Mount Hope

Mount Hope send out a monthly email that focuses on how the notebooks are made, the materials used, charities they support and profiles with pictures of customers that use the notebooks for interesting reasons like sketching, poetry and songwriting. 


Toni runs an Italian street food stall called Pizza Pie. 

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Pizza Pie

Every Monday morning Pizza Pie sends an email to its customers with a lunchtime special offer for the week that’s exclusive to the database, they also confirm the week’s opening times, locations and the ‘pizza pie of the week.’  


Pavan is a PR freelancer for hotels.

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PR freelancer

Pavan sends out a monthly email that features her top five hospitality industry news stories from the last month, the top five hotel job vacancies and a short case study of one of her latest clients with the press and results she achieved for them. 


Jemima runs an online shop business selling wedding rings called Eternally Yours.

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Eternally Yours

Eternally Yours produces a seasonal wedding ideas online brochure four times a year, available for download when you sign up. The catalogue features latest wedding trends and other partner wedding suppliers as well as the latest Eternally Yours rings. The other suppliers also share the catalogue. It then follows up with bi-weekly sales and latest collection emails to the subscribers whose weddings are still up and coming.  


How do I make sure my email campaigns are successful?

Follow this best practice checklist to go through the steps and considerations to maximise the performance of your campaigns. 

How should I measure and optimise my email campaigns?

Any marketing that you do should be tracked and measured so you know if it’s giving you a return on investment and which content is working best. Any data is better than none so start now, keep it simple and start small. Your email service provider will have reporting tools that will provide you with a wide range of stats, the top line being: 

  • Open rate (how many people are opening your email and the industry average) 
  • Click rate (how many people click on a link within the email)
  • Subscribers and unsubscribes  
  • Orders and revenue generated (add the supplied code to your website to track orders and revenue generated)


For tracking user behaviour on your website beyond the click and purchase, you can tag the links in your email campaigns with Google Analytics (presuming your website is already using Google Analytics). You’ll be able to compare how your email campaigns stack up against your other referral channels (for example, other websites, Facebook, search engines). 

What is email marketing automation?

Automation means that certain campaigns can be automatically sent out so your marketing can tick along in the background without you having to constantly manage it. They can be set up in your email service provider and will offer additional revenue opportunities and will help to eliminate repetitive tasks. Personalise your automated emails so that you’re saving time without compromising on creativity.


Abandoned cart email



Thanks for signing up email (free download)



Thanks for your web enquiry email



Happy birthday email


What other resources are there to get me started with email marketing?

You’ve chosen your service provider, you’ve started a calendar for content, events and tracking and you’re ready to get started. Here are a few more really useful resources and tools to teach you more and help you with brilliant marketing emails… 

  • Unsplash - Beautiful photos for you to use for free and without needing to credit.
  • Canva - A great free design tool with loads of templates and images for designing emails, ads and marketing materials.
  • Really Good Emails - Blog and resources about creating really good emails plus a stack of other companies’ actual emails for inspiration.
  • How to Gather 100,000 Emails in One Week - The Tim Ferris Blog - Never one to do things by halves, Tim Ferris explores Harry’s (a men’s grooming business) pre-launch campaign that gathered 100,000 emails in one week.
  • The Story of Telling Blog - A blog that will help you discover where your value lies and how to tell your brand’s story.
  • HubSpot - Inbound marketing experts HubSpot share resources and blogs to help you, including sales email templates, improving your subject lines and more.
  • Shopify - A useful guide from the ecommerce platform on everything email marketing for your shop.

Next Steps

Keep your data safe and secure

Your business will process data everyday including email addresses and other customer information. It’s extremely valuable to you so you must keep it safe and you’re legally obliged to keep it secure. 

Read more

Create a lasting brand for your small business

Branding should be consistent across all your marketing channels. It should appeal to your target audience, represent your personality and be easily recognisable. 

Read more

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