Email Marketing 101

Let’s chat about creating and executing a program of marketing emails for your small business. Since we have a LOT to talk about today, we’re going to dive right into things:

What is a marketing email?

A marketing email is an email sent on behalf of a business in order to get you to pay more attention to that business. That’s the simplest way of putting it. The reason why that definition is a little vague is that there are a number of reasons why a business might send a marketing email. A non-exhaustive list of those reasons include:

  • Driving sales 
  • Getting someone to re-engage with your brand
  • Announcing a sale
  • Announcing other brand changes (e.g.: new products, new employees)
  • Improve brand perception and sentiment

And so on.

Who reads marketing emails?

Surprisingly, lots of people. Here’s one way to think about it: huge companies (think: Amazon, Microsoft) are allergic to wasted money. They know where every penny is spent, and believe me – they do not intend to waste any of those pennies on underperforming or inefficient marketing efforts. 

And the fact that all of us – ALL of us – have stuffed-to-the-gills email inboxes suggests that SOMEONE is reading marketing emails. And it’s time to take advantage of what all the other companies already know.

Why should I send marketing emails?

There are a lot of reasons why you should consider an email marketing program. Some benefits include:

Dedicated Attention

This one might seem unimportant, but secretly, attention is the greatest currency in the world. Your relationship with things that get your attention grows stronger. Things that don’t, grow weaker. It’s as simple as that. That might seem like an overstatement, but two of the biggest companies in the world deal with capturing attention (Facebook) or accommodating attention (Google). 

Ok, so, why does this matter? Because if someone opens your marketing email, they are paying 100% attention to your brand. At that point, you’re not competing with banner ads from competitors, other content, pop ups from other companies, and more. If someone opens that email – you have their attention. That’s HUGE.

Increased Exposure

There’s this construct called “the marketing funnel” that we’re not going to get into now – that’s a whole other topic. But the basic idea is that getting someone to buy something involves a series of steps designed to make your average person like a given brand more. The idea is that with increased exposure and familiarity, it’s ever easier to make a sale.

Think of it as a mountain to climb, with the peak being “making a sale.” The first two steps of that mountain are Awareness (knowing a thing exists) and Familiarity (knowing one thing about it). It is nearly impossible to close any sale without these two steps being achieved

Email marketing creates the opportunity to consistently drive those two steps among your audience. It’s a reliable, familiar, attention-dedicated means of strengthening your relationships with your brand advocates.

Streamlined Purchasing

Finally, my favorite benefit of email marketing – it shortens the purchase process. Consider: let’s say you’re trying to sell more of a given SKU. Here’s the current journey:

  1. Users land on your website or social media page
  2. They need to search for a specific product
  3. The click on the appropriate product (after searching)
  4. Begin the purchase process

Here’s what it could look like with email marketing:

  1. Users click a product-specific link in your email
  2. They land on that product’s page
  3. Begin the purchase process

Now removing a single step might not seem like a huge deal. But these days a lot of user experience designers create websites around the “three-click rule”. This is an anecdotal rule that says that any given action on a website should be able to be accomplished in three clicks or less.

With an email marketing campaign, you can help make this process shorter, and therefore make it easier for users to purchase your products.

Who should I be emailing?

Aka: how do I collect email signatures?

Don’t worry, there are lots of easy ways to build your roster of interested recipients. A non-exhaustive list of strategies includes:

  • A sign-up box/link/pop-up on your website*
  • A sign-up sheet on your table at a craft fair or wedding expo
  • Customer surveys, which include email capture
    We strongly suggest clearly spelling out that by submitting their emails, they will be receiving marketing messages. People hate being sent email they didn’t opt-into

And remember – make it easy to unsubscribe from your emails. A complicated unsubscribe process ensures customers are NEVER coming back. Plus, if you don’t make unsubscribing easy, they’re just gonna hit the “Mark as Spam” button which lowers your ability to reach interested parties through mass emails.

*What if I don’t have a website?

In general, you want a website! They take some base knowledge to set up and can be frustrating but be on the lookout for a blog on this in the near future!

How do I send marketing emails?

You have a few options here. You can:

  • Use a third-party email marketing company
    This includes companies like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Klaviyo, etc. These companies will manage email lists, provide data, and more. Yes, they will cost money – at a certain point. But smaller email lists typically fall into their free trial bucket, so you can get used to the product before paying for it. As for who to use? That’s up to you and your business needs! A little research should help you find the right match.
  • DIY
    We’re crafters, so of course we are going to consider DIY-ing it! There’s no fancy strategy here – just use your current email provider and a manually-updated spreadsheet. It should be noted that your emails could get flagged if you’re sending to lists that are too large, too often. You’ll need to check out your particular email host’s limits and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. 

What kinds of emails should I send?

Not every marketing email is encouraging sales. Marketing emails, in fact, should be a reflection of a customer’s current relationship with your brand. As a result, consider the following potential email types. As always, this list is non-exhaustive:

Welcome Emails
To be sent the moment someone submits their address (or as early thereafter as possible). This creates a warm beginning to an email relationship, confirms receipt on the part of the user, and gives you the opportunity to walk users through suggested next steps (e.g.: what products to prioritize, next steps with your brand, etc.)

Ideal for: brand new customers

Onboarding Emails
Over the first two weeks or so, consider sending follow-up emails to help walk users through your process. This could include valuable how-to content or blog posts, details on unique products or services only you offer, and more.

Ideal for: new customers

Abandoned Cart Emails
If you’re using a third-party marketing email provider, they should have solutions here. Basically, the idea is that a user has gotten one step away from checkout, then stopped the purchase process. This is often due to something innocuous (e.g.: a bathroom break, a text, etc. and the user just got distracted).

When this happens, it’s not uncommon to nudge a user to complete the purchase. Some brands use a promo code at this point to help close the deal, but that’s up to you. Please note: you can only send abandoned cart emails to folks who are signed-in to your site.

Ideal for: customers in the middle of the purchase process

Winback/Sunset/Last Chance Emails
These are literally designed to “win back” lapsed users who haven’t purchased from you in a certain window of time (it’s up to you on when to send an email like this). These often include deals, winback-specific promo codes, and other means of luring back customers.

Ideal for: lapsed customers

Farewell Emails
Emails in this category are for those who have unsubscribed. These should be short confirmations that a user has taken their name off of your list. Make sure to include a link to re-sign up if users so desire but also remove them completely from any active email list(s)! 

Ideal for: inactive customers 

What does success look like?

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: people will unsubscribe and mark you as spam.

Do not take this personally. Every email campaign in the history of the world – very literally – has been labeled spam and has suffered the dreaded “unsubscribe” click. This is not a metric of failure – this is the nature of the email marketing beast. 

You should also be aware of general email marketing metrics. For instance, the amount of people who click through from your email to your website is likely going to be 1% or less. But, don’t underestimate the power of that 1%. You can build a very successful business on that 1%. 

Open rate goal has been traditionally 10%-20%. Currently, this goal is fluctuating because of the iPhone IOS update which has the ability to open all marketing emails. All that to say, pay attention to your open rate trends. If they start to decline, try experimenting with different subject lines and try creating a segment/list of engaged folks (ie - people who ARE opening your emails).

Some of these numbers will be hard at first. We grew up going to school! We’re used to “success” being 80%-100%! We’re used to seeing no wrong answers!

Unfortunately, marketing email figures are just a different ballgame.

BUT, if you can measure it, you can manage it. Even if you’re not a numbers person, we consider keeping a close eye on your performance. Always try to nudge your numbers up when possible, and watch out for any unexpected peaks or valleys. 


Email marketing can be a beast. In fact, in larger companies, it’s an entire career path unto itself. But as you know – as a small business owner, you are both CEO and custodian. This just means adding “Content Marketing Specialist” to your list of tasks.

It’s a lot – but think first and foremost about what appeals to you when looking at marketing emails. Keeping that in mind will ensure your emails are reflecting you, your brand and ultimately, connecting with the type of customer that you can best serve! And if you’re ever in a bind with how best to go about creating and launching campaigns – don’t hesitate to reach out to

Happy crafting. And happy emailing, while we’re at it!

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