Email marketing resource guide for all small businesses

Small businesses love email marketing because it’s cost-effective and delivers the best return-on-investment (ROI) on the planet. But, there’s a catch.

Email marketing only works when you stick to the fundamentals and avoid the endless cycle of going for quick sales. Your ultimate goal is to build and nurture subscribers so that they become long-term customers.

This small business guide is your email marketing resource center. You’ll find all the tips, tricks and know-how to help you grow and manage an email marketing operation with a return-on-investment that’ll put a smile on your face.

We all know that the term “small business” is a catch-all for hundreds of different types of businesses, so we packed the second half of this guide with industry-specific email marketing resources to give you more detailed insights for your business.

Go ahead and bookmark this guide and refer back to it as you fine-tune each aspect of your email marketing set-up. Good luck!


Email marketing for small businesses starts with collecting email subscribers and sending them content and offers that in the end, hopefully, turn them into customers. Small businesses tend to put email at the center of their digital marketing strategy because of its low start-up cost, but also because it’s one of the only "owned" channels. You own your email list forever and you control your content.

Why is that important? Small businesses that spend their limited budgets on things like Facebook will never have access to their followers. They also can’t control who sees their content. And, if you stop using Facebook or they delete your page (which happened to us), all those followers are gone forever. Yikes!

Email marketing puts small business owners in control of their marketing assets and gives you the tools to continually grow with minimal investment. And it starts with email marketing fundamentals. 


When you get the fundamentals right, your email marketing will run like a well-oiled machine and the sky's the limit. We’ve identified the most important building blocks and created guides for each step of the process.

1. Attract subscribers and build your list

Email marketing is a unique marketing channel because your audience has given you permission to talk to them. It’s a relationship that must be maintained just like your everyday friendships.

These relationships start by attracting people to your business and inviting them to sign up and opt-in to your email list. This is a never-ending process that is the lifeblood of email marketing. 

There are several techniques and strategies you can implement to build your email list and this chapter from our Ultimate guide will get you started. You have everything you need in MailerLite to build a healthy subscriber list by using landing pages, signup forms, pop-ups or a website builder where you can develop new content to attract new people.


2. Provide value with your email content

Your new subscribers trust you to send them things that matter to them. You made a promise when they signed up that you would deliver a certain type of content. Before you send out an email, ask yourself if you are providing value for them, not yourself. 

Remember, readers can unsubscribe at any time. Email marketing is a transaction. People give you their time and attention and in return, they want something for it like quality content, news or special offers to name a few.

The creative possibilities are endless, but the content must be relevant and add value. 

When thinking about your content, here’s the guide that will share the 4 fundamentals of effective email content marketing so you can set a solid strategy for your small business.


3. Write compelling subject lines

While the quality of your content will keep subscribers happy, it’s worthless if no one opens your email in the first place. That’s where compelling subject lines come in.

Imagine the hundreds of promotional emails that come through your subscriber’s inboxes every day. At some point, people simply scan their marketing emails to see what grabs their attention. 

You are mistaken if you think that you have to write a super creative line or try to clickbait to get opens. The truth is people want to know what is in the emails, so clarity is the #1 goal.

Read our guiding principles to writing effective subject lines where we provide email marketing tips that will help you improve your open rates.


4. Design your email

Most of us are not trained designers, but that doesn’t mean you need to hire a designer for your emails. MailerLite’s intuitive drag & drop editor, pre-built email templates and other design features make it easy for anyone to design beautiful newsletters and emails. 

When it comes to email design, there are a few best practices that you’ll need to keep in mind so that your message is clear and your aesthetic is appealing.

This guide takes you through design approaches for the layout and visual composition to help you design different types of emails that your subscribers will enjoy reading.


5. Include a call-to-action (CTA)

What do you want people to do after they read your email? You can have them click through to an offer or your content, you can have them fill out a survey in the email or a number of other actions. 

Whatever it is that you want from them, you can’t be shy about it. Overtly tell your subscribers what they need to do and make it easy for them to fulfill your goal. Your entire text and design should contribute to leading your reader to the end goal.  

We dedicated an entire guide to revealing the secrets behind CTAs that work—from the placement to button text and design. 


6. Make automation your best friend

The last time you subscribed to a email newsletter, did you receive an email a few minutes after to welcome you? That was not a human who sent the welcome email, it was email marketing automation. 

Email automation is not a technical thing that only professionals use. MailerLite helps you set up automated workflows with a clear step-by-step process.

You can do really cool things like send birthday emails, send emails to people who click on a certain link or send reminder emails to customers who abandoned their carts (if you’re an e-commerce business). 

Once auto responders are set up, it continues to work and reach all your subscribers while you worry about other things.

Let’s get started with automation basics.


7. Segment your list to improve engagement

Your customers live in different places, buy different products and have different habits. Email segmentation is a way of dividing your subscribers into smaller audiences based on a set of characteristics that you choose. 

You can segment your subscribers automatically or manually based on the characteristics that you think matter to your marketing strategy. For example, if you sell swimsuits you can send potential customers in California a different email than customers in New York during the winter. 

Your messaging can be tailored to certain groups of people, which results in higher engagement. Here’s what you need to know about email segmentation.


8. Personalize your emails

Small businesses offer their customers something that big companies can’t—a personal touch. Email is perfect for small businesses because it can deliver what seems like a one-to-one message, even though you’re sending out the same email to thousands of people. 

While standard personalization tactics like using the subscriber’s name in the email are recommended, there are other ways to go even deeper with personalization. It’s worth taking the extra time because the results are eye-opening.

You can learn how to take personalization to the next level in this comprehensive guide. It’s packed with ideas you can add to your email campaigns today.


9. Split testing gives you an edge

It’s hard to know if a subject line or a CTA will work. Instead of guessing, why not try your favorite two versions to see what works? 

When you set up an A/B testing campaign, you can test subject lines, content or the sender’s name. MailerLite will send the two emails to a small sample in your subscriber list. You can then send the winning email to the entire list knowing that you are sending the better option.

Sound good? Here’s how to set it up and choose which variables are worth testing.


10. Combine email and social media

In addition to email marketing, most small businesses promote themselves through social media. Social is a great way to engage your audience on a daily basis, build communities and provide customer support. Why not combine your email marketing with social media to get more out of each channel?

The best way to use email marketing with social media is to figure out how to get your social media followers to join your subscriber list. Remember, your social media channel can disappear at any time and you’ll be left with nothing.

Start by bringing those followers into an email list that you own forever. On the flip side, you can use email to promote your social media posts using special social media blocks within your email newsletters. Want to learn more?

This guide will explain how you can use email and social together for good!


11. Advertise your landing pages

If you are not getting enough traffic to your website or landing pages using SEO and inbound marketing tactics, you’ll have to consider promoting them with ads.

There are many ways to approach online ads and it can be overwhelming and expensive if you do it wrong. This guide will help you figure out the best online advertising strategy for your small business. 


Now that you’ve got the fundamentals of email marketing under your belt, it’s time to get more specific. Email approaches differ between industries, so we compiled this list of industry guides so you can see examples and strategies that speak directly to your small business category. 

Email marketing for bloggers

If you are building your business as a blogger I would just like to say, congratulations! That is a dream of many and I know how hard it is to pull off. 

For those just getting started, experienced bloggers will tell you how crucial email marketing is to keep in touch with your readers and build your community. Here’s the guide that tells you how to go about it!

Email marketing for e-commerce businesses

Whether you are promoting products, sharing special offers or retargeting customers who haven’t purchased in a while, email marketing offers several clever ways to stay top-of-mind with your customers.

There are so many cool things you can do for your e-commerce business. Our favorites are in this email marketing guide.

Email for event marketing

Event organizers are the ultimate multi-taskers. In addition to planning the myriad of logistics it takes to pull off a successful event, they must promote the event and manage RSVPs. That’s where email marketing software can help.

Email marketing tools can automate RSVPs, manage calendars and send reminder emails so you can worry about the event. Learn all about event marketing with email.

Email for travel marketing

While most of your time and energy are focused on booking new holidays and business trips for your customers, savvy travel agencies set aside time to grow their subscriber list and build relationships. 

Try sharing valuable tips about traveling in the post-pandemic environment or to suggest short getaways for staycations and road trips. See how travel industry players use email marketing to sell experiences.

Email marketing for nonprofits

Nonprofits must stay in close contact with their supporters. Email offers an intimate way of communicating by using personalization and one-to-one targeting. 

It’s challenging to keep growing your email list while raising funds with your current subscribers. The goal of this Email marketing playbook is to give you the knowledge, tips and new tools to improve your email marketing campaigns!

If you are not a MailerLite customer, you can get 30% off your plan as a nonprofit organization.

Email marketing for higher education

Universities are going through a transition as online learning becomes the new normal. Whether your organization is online or off, you need to keep both new and prospective students in the loop. 

Schools are using email marketing to promote to prospective students, build stronger communities with faculty and students, and stay connected to alumni. Check out examples and strategies to help you.

Email marketing for restaurants

Restaurant marketing is always on. You have to drive people to your business every day. While social media is a great channel to keep patrons updated on the latest deals and menus, email marketing can play an important role in customer loyalty and retention. In this guide, we’ll share some email strategies to help you keep your tables full.

Email marketing for gyms

Gyms and personal trainers have valuable skills and knowledge outside the gym that they can share with people. They can use email to send their clients all kinds of health content, fitness routines and personalized programs.

It’s the perfect business to use content to establish yourself as the go-to expert on health and fitness. Or to follow-up with clients who might have paused in hitting their fitness goals.

Our email marketing guide for gyms will take you through specific strategies and show you real-life examples from gyms and trainers that are growing their business with email.

Email marketing for artists and art galleries

What is art? Well, for one thing, it is subjective, so when you find people that like your art you should get their email address! By collecting email addresses, you can connect with fans directly and hopefully turn them into new customers. 

We’ll show you 5 unique ways other artists and art galleries have used email marketing to promote their work and exhibits.

Email marketing for real estate

Real estate professionals know that they are their business. Their reputation and growing contact list are what helps them match the best properties with the right buyers.

When using email marketing the right way, real estate agents can reach more people and close more deals. We’ll show you how to capture leads, establish relationships, and keep in touch with new homeowners and happy sellers.

Email marketing for health care

Whether you are a family doctor, dentist or healthcare facility, email allows you to communicate with your patients both on a one-to-one basis for things like appointment reminders and in mass for things like special announcements. 

Email for healthcare providers is proven to be effective. The average email open rate is 23.46% with a super-high 3.62% click-through rate. Healthcare email has one of the highest open rates among all industries!

Let’s dive into the guide for healthcare email marketing.

Email marketing for hotels

Competition in the hotel industry is fierce. For small, independent hotels, it’s even more so. While online bookings dominate the hotel process, small hotels can still use email marketing to build a loyal following of guests.

We want you to increase your hotel revenue and growth using email marketing. This guide will take you through 7 steps to setting up your hotel email marketing strategy.


Small business email marketing allows you to build your own customer base, one person at a time. With a long-term approach, your list will grow and your customer relationships will strengthen. At some point, your small business won’t be that small, but each customer will still feel like they know you personally. That’s a great place to be for any sized business!

Which of these email marketing fundamentals are you using for your small business?


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