Your Ultimate Blog for Mastering Digital Marketing Tools & Strategies

Email performs better than social media. We said it. Sixty percent of people prefer receiving promotional emails, while only 20% want to see ads on social media. In addition, emails are more effective at selling—6.05% of email recipients end up buying compared to social media’s 1.9%.

The problem with email marketing is that it can be challenging for small business owners because it involves so many moving parts. Growing a list, creating multiple email sequences, and figuring out the right language to use in your emails all take time, effort, and money.

Fortunately, this guide will show you how to use email marketing tools to save time and money while also making your marketing more efficient. We will also show you how to use both social media and emails to hit your audience with a one-two punch that’ll help you build relationships and get you more sales.

Step 1: Choose an email marketing tool built for small businesses

One of the reasons that email marketing takes up a lot of time is that people try to do it manually—and as a small business owner, you definitely don’t have that kind of time.

You’re also limited by your email service provider’s (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook) features. You can probably schedule your emails, but you’ll have to figure out how to use the BCC line to send emails in bulk. You also can’t personalize your emails and thoroughly track metrics.

So the first thing you need to do to start your email marketing journey is find the right email marketing software for your business needs. Here’s a list of important features other small businesses are looking out for:

Some of the best email marketing platforms for small business owners are MailchimpConstant Contact, and MailerLite. All three tools have quick lessons to get you started, all the features mentioned above, and affordable prices.

Step 2: Build a signup form to collect emails

Another challenge with email marketing is that there are clear laws around who you can and can’t send emails to. According to different data laws around the world, like the CAN-SPAM Act in the US and the GDPR in the EU, you can only send business or promotional emails to people who have consented to receive communications from you.

Your email tool should have a form builder that allows you to create and design a signup form and embed it onto your website as an on-page form or a popup. If your tool doesn’t have a form builder, we recommend checking out Typeform and

When you build your signup form, make sure that it:

This is Buffer’s signup form for our blog—our headline resonates with our target audience and our CTA (i.e., “Subscribe”) tells readers what will happen when they enter their email address.

The opt-in from your audience is so important that some companies even decide to go for a double opt-in structure, where people who sign up for your list need to confirm their email addresses.

Here is an example from Pinterest:

This is Pinterest’s double opt-in confirmation email.

It’s not fancy, but that extra layer of authorization protects your domain from being marked as spam.

Step 3: Get new subscribers and build your mailing list with social media

Now that you’re done building your signup form, it’s time to get signups. Email marketing doesn’t exist without an email list, so you need to make your signup form is as visible as possible through different marketing channels.

Add your signup form to your website and all your social media accounts. For example, you can add your signup form to your “link in bio” on Instagram using Shop Grid by Buffer and use your email tool to add a signup form popup to your website.

Your content on both platforms is the big inflatable wiggly dude pulling people in off the street, so you need to create relevant eye-catching posts. If you’re an eco-friendly clothing brand, for example, and want to attract readers to your mailing list, create an article on how eco-friendly clothing is made. Make sure that the blog page has a signup form popup and then promote that blog page on social media using colorful photos that invoke curiosity.

People follow you on social media because they’re already interested in your content. Solidify that customer relationship by gaining direct access to your followers’ inboxes.

Step 4: Choose what kind of emails (and series of emails) you want to send

You can send your email list different types of emails. For example, you can send them one-off emails with discount coupons or special offers or a series of emails that tell the story of your brand.

But you need to plan before you start creating emails so that you don’t try to do too many things at once. Start with figuring out which emails are the most essential, and then add more as you move along.

Here are two emails and one email sequence that most brands use:

(Note: All of the emails below can be automated with an email marketing service or tool.)

1. The welcome email

The welcome email, as the name suggests, is the first email your potential customer receives from you after they sign up for your mailing list. If you have an email tool set up, as soon as someone signs up on your signup form, they should receive a welcome email.

Some brands decide to welcome their audience to their list with a short video; others decide to give their new signups coupons and discounts. Whatever you decide, your welcome email should be relatable and make your readers want to know more about your brand (and eventually make a purchase).

2. Transactional emails

Transactional emails aim to improve your sales. Some examples of transactional emails in the direct-to-consumer, small business, and ecommerce world are:

3. The re-engagement sequence

When your customers haven’t bought from you in a while, you can hit them with a series of emails the tell them to come back. This series of emails is usually sent over a period of time.

It starts with a simple email that reintroduces your brand to your dormant customer base. If your customers still don’t return, it follows up with an irresistible offer—a coupon code, a free gift, or another incentive that aligns with their beliefs (e.g., “If you buy from us, we’ll plant a tree for you”).

You can also create email newsletters, event invitation series, and other types of emails—but we recommend starting with the three above before you create more elaborate campaigns.

Step 5: Make your emails look pretty—or not

There are two kinds of emails: plain text like the ones you send your friends that are literally just text and maybe an email signature and branded HTML like most newsletters you’ll see.

Both types of emails have their pros and cons. Most recipients associate branded HTML emails with marketing automation and ads, so they don’t usually reply to super-pretty, polished content. But they do look for new items and discounts in your HTML emails, so these emails draw in sales.

On the other hand, plain text emails work because they’re more genuine and approachable. People think, “Oh, this is from a real person,” and end up responding. Plain text emails are better conversation-starters and relationship-builders.

Here are some quick design tips:

Your email tool should allow you to save both plain text and HTML templates so that you don’t need to build all of your emails from scratch.

Step 6: Track your results

Your email tool tracks the performance of all of your emails. Email analytics is important because the data tells you whether or not your emails are doing well and how engaged your list is.

If your results aren’t great, don’t panic. Breathe and go back to the drawing board. Tracking your data gives you insights into how you can improve performance. For example, if your open rates are low, try new subject lines or sender names. On the other hand, if your CTR is low, try moving your link higher in the email to increase visibility.

Let data guide your email marketing journey so that you get the most out of your investment. Here are some important metrics to track for small business email marketing:

Social media + email = perfect match

If you make the most out of your large reach on social media and your high conversion rates with email, you get the perfect marketing combination. On social media, your followers are interested in your content but probably don’t click through (especially on Instagram, with their link restrictions) or convert into loyal customers.

If you use social media to grow your list and use email marketing to convert your interested subscribers into new customers, you get a dream team of marketing platforms.