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Updated Feb 02, 2024

10 Reasons Email Marketing Is a Must for Small Businesses

Here's why you can't afford to ignore email as a promotional tool.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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The first-ever email marketing message was blasted out to 400 people in 1978. It was a wildly successful experiment, generating $13 million in sales. From that first message to now, email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. In our increasingly online world, it’s a convenient way for businesses to communicate with their ideal audiences.

To be effective, however, email marketing campaigns must be targeted and intentional. With the right email marketing strategy, you can drive brand awareness and increase sales. According to Litmus, email marketing has an average return on investment (ROI) of $36 for every dollar spent. That 3,600 percent ROI is higher than that of any other marketing channel. Here’s what you need to know.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is a form of digital marketing that involves communicating business news, sales, promotions, confirmations, coupons, updates and other relevant information to your target audience via email. There are several types of email marketing campaigns, including the following:

  • Sales and promotional emails
  • Newsletters
  • Reengagement emails
  • Transactional emails
  • Lead-nurturing emails

When building an email marketing campaign, you’ll want to consider factors like campaign type, target audience and market segmentation. Regardless, all sends should be optimized for viewing on both desktop and mobile devices.

FYIDid you know
If you're new to this world, read our step-by-step guide to email marketing to get started.

What are the reasons why businesses should use email marketing?

Email marketing is one of the most popular and effective ways companies can reach customers, whether you have a brick-and-mortar enterprise or want to market an e-commerce business. However, if you’re still hemming and hawing on whether to use email marketing as part of your digital marketing strategy, here are 10 ways it can benefit your small business.

1. It generates sales effectively.

Email marketing is incredibly effective at acquiring new customers and encouraging previous customers to make another purchase. You can use marketing emails to drive more traffic to your website, which gets consumers in your sales funnel.

2. It’s affordable.

Email marketing is one of the cheapest forms of outreach available to a small business today. It also has one of the best ROIs available for brands of any size. 

The advantage of email marketing is that you can include the same elements of direct mail, including its interruptive effect with send-time optimization, without the printing and postage costs. Sending an email blast to an entire list often costs less than the price of lunch.

Did You Know?Did you know
Many small businesses avoid email marketing because they fear it will be too expensive. However, there are monthly plans for various budgets, typically ranging from $300 to $2,000. Some providers also offer per-email or pay-as-you-go pricing.

3. It’s personal.

When you address recipients personally in the subject line, they’re more likely to open your email. A good email subject line is the first step in making an email feel like a personal message instead of spam. 

These are some other ways your small business can encourage a click-through via personalization:

  • Send a specific email to subscribers on their birthday or anniversary date.
  • Offer a product or discount related to their previous purchases with your business.
  • Include content on topics that cover items of interest.

With a well-constructed email strategy, you can automate personalization aspects without a significant time investment.

4. You can use segmentation.

One great thing about email marketing tools is that you can use them to create segmented mailing lists to send emails to specific people easily. These email marketing lists can be created based on factors like geography or engagement. They’re useful for ensuring you’re sending relevant emails to specific recipients.

According to HubSpot, only 42 percent of marketers have basic data on their target audience, such as their name, gender and location. You need such information to adequately segment your contact lists. Segmented emails not only make messages feel more personal and relevant to your consumers but they also increase your click-through rate.

5. It creates a call to action (CTA).

People are more likely to purchase something when they feel they’ve invested in a product or service. By encouraging a click-to-open email, you begin that investment process. Using a CTA to encourage another click after the recipient reads the email is the next step toward conversion.

Even if a click doesn’t always happen, continued emails to interested subscribers create a drip campaign that can lead to success. That is why you’ll see some results immediately and others over time.

6. It provides value to your audience.

While email marketing provides value to your business by driving leads, it should also give value to your audience. 

You can create multiple email campaigns that offer valuable content to your readers. Embrace your creative side and provide a strong value proposition. For example, consider mixing entertaining or informational emails alongside your promotional emails to keep your content fun and engaging. This shows subscribers your emails are valuable in more ways than one.

7. It increases brand recognition.

Brand recognition is a crucial driver of success in today’s marketplace. You need to create a brand that your target audience recognizes and resonates with. Regular email campaigns can make your company stick in people’s minds.

The Data & Marketing Association’s Consumer Email Tracker 2021 found that 96 percent of consumers check their email daily, so take advantage of that. Appearing in your customers’ inboxes with relevant content will increase your visibility and brand recognition over time.

8. It gives your company access to mobile users.

The use of mobile devices has exploded in recent years, and email marketing gives you a way to reach users where they are. According to research from Litmus, mobile users account for 41.6 percent of all email opens. This is why mobile-friendly email marketing is such an essential component of a small business growth plan. It puts your message right where your prospects happen to be — on their phones and other mobile devices.

9. You can survey your consumers.

Many businesses benefit from using emails to survey consumers. You can create an email campaign that sends out surveys to collect customer feedback. Surveys are an easy way to gain customer insight into what works in your business and what doesn’t. The results can help you tailor your products, services and future marketing campaigns to consumer needs.

10. It provides measurable results.

Unlike other marketing forms, you gather measurable results with email marketing. Thanks to analytics, you can see which campaigns are effective and which aren’t. You can even test different email outreach efforts to determine which will make the most significant impact.

What are the dos and don’ts of email marketing?

While becoming successful in email marketing doesn’t happen overnight, the tips below can help you improve open rates, subscriber counts and ROI.

Do: Craft original subject lines.

The subject line elicits the recipient’s first impression. If your subject line doesn’t stand out from the crowd, your email isn’t going to get opened, and an unopened email is a waste of time and money. Different subject lines are worth A/B testing to understand your audience’s preferences. 

The second thing an email recipient notices is where the email comes from, so always use your company name in the “From” field. This will make recipients more comfortable opening your email. [Find out why entrepreneurs need branded email addresses.]

TipBottom line
Customers want you to respect their time, so be sure to follow proper email etiquette when creating and sending messages.

Do: Send an email immediately after they subscribe.

If a consumer takes the time to sign up for your email list, they might want to hear from you ASAP. While some companies may offer an incentive for signing up, even delivering a quick thank you email or a welcome note will keep your brand top of mind

Remember, there are multiple places to provide an opt-in to your email list. While most businesses have a sign-up box visible on their website, you can add them to social media and lead pages and include a quick response code on direct mail.

Do: Personalize your email.

People like to feel special and appreciate a brand that treats them more like a community member than a number. Speaking directly to your email subscribers can help them connect with your brand and increase the chance of your email being opened. Personalize the email with their name, reference a previously purchased product or suggest an exclusive discount.

You should also mix up your images, colors and copy. Depending on a person’s gender, buying preferences or location, the composition and design should be tweaked to serve their buyer persona better.

Do: Use marketing automation tools.

Sending an email occasionally doesn’t provide the subscriber with much of a story. You can facilitate an ongoing customer journey using automation tools that automatically send multiple emails at the right time. The best email marketing software, which we highlight below, typically features these capabilities.

Don’t: Buy email lists.

It may be tempting to buy email address lists to increase your subscriber count, but it’s unethical and only works in the short run. Email lists should always be built organically using a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)-friendly double opt-in method. [Related article: What You Need to Know About GDPR and Email Marketing]

Don’t sell your mailing list, either. It can ruin your brand reputation and cause you to lose the trust of customers whose patronage helped build your business.

Don’t: Design the same email for everyone on your list.

Not everyone joins your email list at the same time or has the same buyer persona, so you mustn’t send the same email to everyone on your list.

Segment email recipients into groups based on where they are in the customer journey, their interests, engagement rate or time zone, to name a few possibilities. Segmenting can be unique to your company or industry, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find sweet spots within your subscriber base.

Don’t: Hit send prematurely.

Always have at least a few people on your team proofread emails before you hit send. You’ll want to ensure every message is free of typos, all links work and your email is sized appropriately for different devices.  

High-quality email marketing software allows you to test the email before you officially send it out. If you do make a mistake in something delivered to subscribers, send out a corrected email ASAP.

Don’t: Ignore your analytics.

Email marketing analytics can be critical to your sales success. You should be tracking the following:

  • Email open rates
  • Most popular open times
  • New subscribers and where they are coming from
  • Click-through rates
  • Unsubscribe rates

What are the top email marketing services?

If you’ve decided that email marketing is right for you, check out our picks for the top email marketing services so you have the right tools at your disposal.

  • Constant Contact: This affordable platform has robust campaign features and offers a 60-day free trial. The software can help you automate your email marketing process. Read our Constant Contact review to learn more.
  • Benchmark: This software comes with an easy-to-use interface and helpful automation. It is ideal for users looking for a low-cost marketing option. See our review of Benchmark for pricing.
  • This project management software has features to help you streamline your email marketing workflow. It’s customizable to fit any sales cycle. Read our review to find out how it combines project management and email marketing functions.
  • Freshworks’ Freshmarketer: This solution can integrate CRM and marketing features into one seamless platform. The vendor offers flexible add-on packages to customize the solution to meet your needs. 

Before starting a new email marketing campaign, do a little research to find out which email message marketing service is best for your business. Each excels at something, so search for the one that fits your company’s needs.

Julie Thompson and Drake Duenwald contributed to this article.

author image
Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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