Crucial email marketing skills SMEs need to develop

John Cradden outlines how SMEs can utilise the power of email marketing to generate sales leads as well as win new and repeat customers.

Amid the pulling power of social media and online advertising for building your business brand awareness, when it comes to digital marketing it’s easy to forget about the older kid on the block: email.

According to Athlone Chamber of Commerce, many businesses overlook the power of email marketing as a tried and tested means for small businesses to generate sales leads and new and repeat customers, as well as maintain customer loyalty and advocacy.

“Most small to medium size companies in Ireland find that the return on investment for email marketing is unrivalled by any other form of inline marketing, such as pay-per-click ads or social media ads.”

Email marketing also has the advantage of being:

  • Relatively cheap to create and send
  • Highly measurable
  • Good for generating trust and building relationships
  • Easy to set up and manage – services such as Mailchimp make it very easy to start

So, what are the crucial email marketing skills you should work on?

1 Building strong databases

The first and probably most crucial skill is curating from scratch a high-quality database of customers who will likely appreciate and respond to your email content.

This may take some time, but building such a database is well worth it. It’s not about spamming customers or sending unsolicited emails. It’s always better to build your email list with people who want to hear from you, rather than buying email lists or procuring email addresses from other sources.

Your database should be built by capturing customer data on your website. The best tool for doing this is to create a good email newsletter and encourage people to sign up for it. This can be done with incentives like special discounts and adding an email registration form onto your site. 

To comply with the all-important GDPR, always ensure that all your sign-up forms all conform to ‘marketing opt-in’ processes, and only contact those individuals who have expressly given their consent. 

By doing all these things, you can increase the chances that any email you’re sending is something the recipient wants.

2 Sign-up incentives

If the purpose of your email is to get prospective customers to follow the link back to your website, consider including a benefit such as a sale or a discount code to attract more clicks on that link.

If you are trying to get users to buy a product, think about the user experience: make sure you put in the link for a specific landing page and not the homepage as people are more likely to abandon any effort to buy if they have to click through and actively try and find the product.

3 Subject line writing

Most email marketing experts will tell you that the subject line is the most important aspect of crafting your email, as it can mean the difference between your customers opening it and ignoring it.

Since everyone gets many emails per day, you’ll have a much better chance of getting them to open your email if you use incentivising and personalised phrases such as “Don’t miss out on this great offer” or “Save €€€ on your favourite brands”. With an good in-house email list, you can quickly promote offers that have a limited time.

4 Calls to action

Email has often been described as a ‘direct response’ medium that encourages immediate action like buying a product from your website. People who sign up to your emails usually have one goal in mind – to receive discounts, for product notifications, get coupons, receive deals – and any other offers that they can purchase, download, acquire, etc.

This means that all your email communications should have a ‘call to action’, and this includes links to your website where they can place an order or a telephone number in the email to contact your business and place an order. How this call to action should be worded will depend entirely on your business sector and industry, but it could be a button with simple phrase like ‘Visit our website’ or ‘Get your discount here’.

5 Click-through links

If you are using your email marketing to create a landing page or microsite that recipients click-through to, make sure it is well designed and it relates to the content in your email – such as the offers and promotions. This will reduce the amount of people who will leave your website as they don’t get the content they expect to see.

Many websites also use landing pages which mirror the layout, colour and image of the website as this increases trust with recipients and increases brand awareness. At the very least, make the design of your email consistent with your physical presence such as your shopfront, current physical marketing, social media and branding etc.

6 Timing

The timing of your emails should be in line with periods when your customers are most likely to open and respond. This could include specific hours of the day when your recipients are available and also days of the weeks that have a higher response rate in your industry.

After a few weeks of email marketing, you will be able to check your user data for information what those optimum times are and use this to guide when you send your emails in future.

If you’re emailing to customers abroad, you’ll need to take into account time-zone differences, too.

7 Watching for churn and disengagement

It’s natural for even your most loyal customers to lapse from buying stuff from your business, so it’s important that you keep in touch with them and encourage repeat purchases through incentives.

You can segment these customers and send automated messages reminding them of the benefits of shopping with your business and include a voucher or discount code to encourage a purchase.

John Cradden
John Cradden is an experienced business and personal finance journalist and financial wellbeing content designer.



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