All Articles Marketing Marketing Strategy How small brands can act like big businesses through email marketing

How small brands can act like big businesses through email marketing

As a small business, you may not be able to match the access to staff, time and resources that big brands enjoy, however, that doesn't mean you can't match the results. Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes.

4 min read

Marketing Strategy


Geoffrey Alexander

Be small and smart. As a small business, you may not be able to match the access to staff, time and resources that big brands enjoy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t match the results. Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes, and it can be especially useful for small brands looking to keep up with big players in their industries.

The right email marketing strategies can help you overcome budget and staff restraints, allowing you to better connect with consumers despite functioning on a smaller scale. With the tips below, you can level the playing field by maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns:

Get Personal.

Big brands often have access to large email lists, giving them a leg up when it comes to reaching potential customers. Your list may be smaller, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as impactful. Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails, making them a must for small businesses looking to compete with the sending power of the big guys.

To be most effective, personalization should go beyond simply inserting a customer’s name at the top of the email. Instead, use data you’ve collected from your consumer interactions, whether that’s from their purchase habits, email click history or one-on-one communications, to send a campaign that speaks with the consumer about something they care about. Do not send the same thing to everyone. Try changing images and content as needed to tailor your message.

Take Hofstra Law School, for example. When talking to prospective students at law fairs, the school uses iPads and digitally collects data like name, campus, year in school, etc., then uses that information to segment their audience and personalize follow up emails. Sophomores receive messages letting them know when Hofstra will return to their campus, while seniors receive application information. The more targeted and relevant your emails are to your consumers, the more effective they’ll be at sparking engagement.

Automate it. 

Personalization is key, but without a large marketing team, it may seem daunting for one person. That’s where automation comes in. Email marketing automation monitors how your audience interacts with your emails, segments them based upon preset parameters (i.e. did they open the email? did they click the “shop now” button?) and tailors future emails to each segment. Instead of manually monitoring click-thru rates and sending customized responses, the workflow does it for you. These automation workflows should feel like a logical conversation you’ve sketched on a whiteboard beforehand — giving you confidence when sending out personalized campaigns.

Keep in mind that email marketing automation doesn’t mean, “Set it and forget it.” You may not have to monitor it on a daily basis, but it’s important to continually check the progress of your campaigns to ensure your workflows are effective. Use workflows as a powerful foundation that you continually tweak so your audience gets relevant content and your business gets results.  

Measure It. 

Analyzing campaign success and determining ROI is incredibly important in email marketing. In small and big companies alike, the analysis of previous campaigns will help shape future strategies and tactics. However, the struggle for small businesses lies in finding the time to compare reports from a variety of tools to truly see the effectiveness of a campaign. To save time, find an email service provider that integrates with a variety of easy-to-use measurement tools.

My company, iContact, integrates your email campaign with Google Analytics, giving you a comprehensive view of the customer’s path from email to conversion. Instead of comparing opens and link clicks to the total number of site visits and drawing indirect conclusions, integrations show the conversions that are a direct result of your email campaign. You don’t need a full staff to analyze ROI if you let smarter tools tell the story for you. 

Look the part.

You can compete with anyone online. The digital revolution has allowed disruptor startups to compete with mainstream brands. Take Badass Beard Care, the organic beard and hair-care line that operates with just a 10-person staff but is currently stealing market share from well-known boutique brands. The truth is that businesses and nonprofit organizations of any size can send polished email messages to reel in the “big fish.” You can do this, too, and your secret weapons will always be professional-looking landing pages, responsive email templates and dynamic sign-up forms incorporated into your website.

Email marketing lets you learn from the big companies and move with the determined agility that defines small business.

Geoffrey Alexander, president of iContact, has 20 years of experience in management, marketing, and product strategy with a concentration in SaaS and online applications.