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Most marketers tell you that you need to be using email marketing to grow your business.
- What is Email Marketing and How Does it Work?
- Templates: Common Emails Examples You Can Copy
- Templates: Industry-Specific Emails
But they rarely tell you the specifics of how to do it.
That changes today.
This guide was designed for small business owners and marketers looking to get started with email marketing.
I’ve broken down all the basics so you can go from scratch to sending your first emails.
Plus, I’ve included plenty of email templates that you can copy and paste. So you don’t need to be a copywriter to get started.
You’ll find both generic example emails that will work for almost any business, and templates specific to restaurants, non-profit and real estate.
What is Email Marketing and How Does it Work?
There’s nothing complicated about email marketing.
In a nutshell:
Email marketing is simply sending emails to subscribers with the purpose of building relationships and eventually resulting in sales.
Email is just the channel for your marketing message, just like social media or paid ads can be. It can be used at any point in your marketing funnel.
Why Email Marketing is Important
Why does every marketing blog say that email marketing is a necessity for almost every business?
For one, it’s highly scalable. You set up an automated sequence of emails once, and it can still make you money years later with no extra work. It’s nice that you can mostly focus on just getting new subscribers.
There are many positive aspects, but the reason email marketing is universally recommended is that it gets results.
It’s Effective and Delivers High ROI
Here are some email marketing stats that are relevant in 2018 and beyond:
- In the United States, email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) of $44 for every $1 spent. The ROI appears to be increasing each year.
- 59% of B2B marketers report that email is their most effective marketing channel.
- According to an Adestra study, 68% of teens and 73% of people in their 20’s prefer messages from businesses to come from email.
Email marketing has an incredible ROI compared to almost any other marketing channel.
It’s also not a channel that’s going to disappear or get significantly less effective in the future, so it’s still worth getting started today.
How Email Marketing Works: The Basics
There are 2 parts to email marketing.
First, you’ll need a way to build a list of subscribers.
Because spam sucks and it’s often illegal, you can’t just add random people to your list. Instead, you need to get permission to add them to your list, typically through a signup form on your website.
Second, you’ll need a way to send emails.
While at first, you could send them manually through your personal email, you’ll quickly get flagged as your list grows.
So you’ll want to sign-up for an email marketing tool, which typically includes opt-in forms that you can place on your website(s).
There are many email marketing tools. Here are links to reviews of some of the most popular ones:
Some tools offer free or low-cost plans for businesses getting started out with a small or non-existent list of subscribers.
How Do You Get Email Subscribers?
Think about the businesses that send you emails, when did you give them your email address?
Usually, it’s because you came across a helpful piece of content (blog post, video, picture, etc.) and gave them your email because you were interested in seeing new content like that.
Basically, they gave you enough value that you in return gave them something of value back (your email address).
There are many types of initial content that your ideal subscriber would find valuable, but here’s a list of the most common ones:
- A blog post
- An e-book
- A cheat sheet of tips or resources
- A white paper or case study
- A free webinar
- A free trial or sample
- A free quote or consultation
- A quiz or assessment
- A coupon.
Each type of business has a different target reader. In order to figure out which types of content will work best for your business, start by creating a reader persona.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Now let’s look at some specific tips and templates that apply to almost every type of business interested in email marketing.
Put an Opt-in Form On Almost Every Page
If there’s no opt-in form, a visitor to your site can’t sign up to get emails from you.
Opt-in forms are often found on blog pages or landing pages, but they may appear on other website pages as well.
The Importance of the About Page
The most common place that small businesses forget to put an opt-in form is on the “about” page. Look at the about page of any top website and you’ll see an opt-in form.
Some people come to your website because of a blog post. After reading the post, they may want to find out more about your business. They’ll go to the about page before exiting your site. Having an opt-in form there gives you a chance to capture their email and engage via email.
You likely have other non-content pages that visitors navigate to, so take full advantage of them.
Give Visitors Extra Motivation to Sign Up By Offering an Incentive
To get someone’s email address, you need to offer something of value in return.
A decade ago, every website had a similar opt-in form for a “newsletter,” which basically meant the site would send you links to their work once in a while.
Solve Their Problems
Some people are interested in newsletters, but most are more interested in solving their own problems. They don’t care so much about your business, but instead how your content (and possibly product) can help them.
So unless your blog posts are amazing, you’ll get a much better sign-up rate by offering something more valuable than emails that announce new blog posts.
Ideally, create a custom incentive for each piece of content you create.
This doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but just something of extra value to your reader that will give them an extra incentive to sign-up.
Here are some common ideas:
- A PDF version (best for guides).
- A checklist.
- Bonus content.
Send Emails as Often as You Originally Promised
Email marketing is all about the trust that your subscribers have in you.
Lose that trust, and they unsubscribe, or stop opening emails, or mark you as spam. All bad things.
One of the most important keys to avoiding these outcomes is frequency.
Set expectations in your sign-up form, and then deliver accordingly.
For example, if I sign-up for a daily Dilbert cartoon, I expect to get an email daily with a new comic:
But if I sign-up for a newsletter that says they’ll send me a new blog post every week, and then they start sending me emails every day, I’m not going to be happy.
Try to keep in mind your subscriber’s expectations when they sign up. You’ll likely hear from some angry ones if you don’t.
Maintain a Generous Ratio of Content to Commercial Emails
Continuing on from the last point, the more value you give upfront and continuously, the more likely that subscribers are going to open your emails and look forward to them.
At some point in a campaign, you do need to ask for a sale.
The challenge is to find the right balance between value and selling in your emails.
To start with, most marketers recommend an 80:20 or 90:10 ratio.
In other words, send 8 “value” emails for every 2 “selling” emails (or 9 and 1 in the second case).
Write to Just One Person
Just like you want to create a reader persona to figure out what type of content to create, you’ll want to create one for your subscribers as well (it may be identical).
The easiest way to write effective emails is to make it feel like you’re writing to one person – a friend.
For example, here’s a good marketing email I received:
You’ll notice that they use words like “you”, “my”, “I”, and “their.” These are personal terms that sound normal in everyday conversation.
The simplest form of personalization entails inserting terms specific to the recipient. The most basic type of personalization is to use the recipient’s first name.
Note: to be able to use a person’s first name, you’re going to have to either:
(a) capture it at the point of sign-up, or,
(b) use marketing software that can match an email address to a first name.
The latter depends on whether that individual has a public account — such as a LinkedIn profile — that is attached to the same email address they gave you.
You can also personalize content to a specific recipient by setting up, in advance, an email communications series centered around a topic they’ve expressed interest in. For example, if they downloaded a free e-book on a particular subject, it’s a good guess that they’re interested in that subject and would welcome additional information on it.
Send Your Emails at the Right Times
It’s a well-known fact that your email send time will affect your open rates and engagement.
Some tools offer an advanced feature to automatically send your emails to subscribers at the right time, but most will leave it up to you.
CoSchedule looked at 14 studies on this topic to find the best time for most businesses to send at: they found that the best time was on Tuesday (followed by Wednesday and Thursday), and at 10 AM (although there are multiple other times closely following).
This is a good starting point, but feel free to test it in the future when your list is big enough.
Templates: Common Emails Examples You Can Copy
Now that you have a good idea of how to manage your email marketing, let’s look at some specific templates.
The 3 that we’ll look at first here, are very general and can be used by most businesses.
Copy and paste these if you’d like, and edit in any appropriate details.
Note that none of these are set in stone, but they’ll give you a good idea of the length, tone, and content that each type of email should have.
The “Welcome” Email
When someone first signs up for your email list, it’s nice to automatically send a welcome email that sets expectations and gets subscribers used to opening your emails. (Note: many businesses use a series of 3 timed welcome emails — called a “welcome series” and these typically garner some of the highest open and click rates.)
Here’s a template you can use:
Subject: You’re In! Here’s What to Expect
I wanted to extend a personal thank you for signing up to our email list. I recognize that your email is valuable, and I’ll never send you spam.
You can expect to get an email whenever we release new content (typically about once a week), plus an occasional email about what we’re up to.
Here are 3 of our most popular blog posts that you may not have seen yet:
If you ever have feedback or questions, just hit reply to this email or any in the future and let me know.
The “Feedback” Email
After someone buys something from you, it’s always good to get feedback.
If there are any problems, you fix them. If the feedback is glowing, you can ask for a review or testimonial.
So here’s what a feedback email could look like.
Subject: How has your experience with [recent product ordered] been so far?
You should have received [product name] by now and hopefully had a chance to give it a try.
I just wanted to check in and see how things were going.
Are you having any issues that need to be fixed? Is it living up to your expectations?
We really want you to be happy with your purchase, so any feedback on your experience so far is welcome.
The “New Content” Email
Finally, almost all businesses using email marketing will occasionally produce content that their subscribers might like.
Here’s how an email for a new post might go:
Subject: Ever been confused with [topic]? We put together a guide you might like…
I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up that we published a new post on [topic].
Here are some neat things you’ll find in it:
[Benefit, stat, or fact #1]
[Benefit, stat, or fact #2]
[Benefit, stat, or fact #3]
If you’d like to check out the full post, here it is:
[link to post]
And if you have any questions about anything in it, just leave a comment or reply to this email.
Templates: Industry-Specific Emails
On top of those general types of emails we looked at, most industries will also need to create emails for their own situations.
I’ve put together templates for different types of businesses in this section.
For now, there are templates for:
- Real estate businesses
Email Templates for Real Estate Businesses
Email marketing is a great way to stay in the minds of your customers when there can be a long sales cycle, like in real estate.
Here are templates for common situations you may run into.
Asking for Referrals With a Congratulatory Email
Subject: Happy 1 Year House Anniversary!
It occurred to me that it’s already been 1 year since you bought your home. I’m sure you’ve settled in and made it your own. If you run into any issues, just let me know, I’m happy to try and help.
Also, if you ever know anyone who is looking for a realtor, I’d really appreciate it if you could pass on my contact information.
Hope all else is well!
Following Up With a Passive Buyer
Subject: Still thinking about buying a home in [city]?
I really enjoyed meeting you [date when you met].
I understand if you’re still mulling over the idea of buying a home, but I wanted to reach out and see if you had any questions. Feel free to ask them whenever you have them, now or in the future.
If you’d like, I can send you some listings that I think you’d be interested in.
My contact info is all at the bottom of this email.
Following Up After Sending Listings
Subject: Checking In: Thoughts on the Listings?
I just wanted to check in and first make sure you got all the listing information I sent. If not, I can resend or we can try a different delivery method.
If you did get the listings, do you have any thoughts on those homes? Were they close to what you had in mind?
If you’d like to see any of those homes or any other listings, I’m happy to accommodate you.
Feel free to call or email me with any thoughts.
Email Templates for Nonprofits
Nonprofits, particularly charities, can get a lot out of email marketing.
If you’re really comfortable with it, you can tell stories to encourage donations and action, like WWF does:
But not all emails need to be like that.
Here are some email templates for nonprofits in common situations.
Project Progress Update
Subject: [Company] Progress Update: One step at a time
Work has begun on [name of current big objective]!
We appreciate your support more than you could know, so I put together this email to give you an update of how we’re progressing on our ambitious goals.
Here’s what we’ve done recently:
With those complete, we’re now looking to the future. Here are some of our exciting plans for the upcoming months:
Is there anything else you’d like to know about [company]? We’re always looking for ways to involve our supporters, so please let us know if there’s anything you’d like more detail on.
Your friends at [company]
Emailing About an Upcoming Event
Subject: Our [type of event] is coming up soon!
This is a quick heads-up about our upcoming [type of event] on [date].
All attendees will receive [benefit #1] and [benefit #2].
Here are the most important details about the event:
Cost – [cost of event]
Location – [URL or address]
Dress code – [dress code]
Time – [date again and time]
You must register by [date] if you’d like to come.
Hope to see you then!
Thank You Email for Donors and Supporters
It’s something that can never be said enough but thank you.
When we started [x] years ago, we set out to [your mission statement].
Since then, with your support, and the support of others like you, we’ve been able to [biggest accomplishment].
We hope that you’ll stick with us as we continue our journey.
Your friends at [company]
Email Templates for Restaurants
Email is a great way to communicate with customers. Any happy customer is usually willing to sign up for your email list to hear about specials or menu changes.
Here are a few specific templates you can use if you own a restaurant. Unlike other industries, you’ll almost always want to include a few high-quality pictures of your food in each email.
New Menu Change
Subject: We’ve got something exciting cooking…
Just thought you might be interested in our latest creation that has been added to the [restaurant name] menu.
It’s [recipe name], perfect for when you want a [recipe descriptor (e.g. “crispy”)] [snack or meal].
[Tantalizing image of your new menu item]
Ready to try it?
Book your reservation now by [reservation instructions].
Discount Offer for Slow Days of the Week
Subject: Huge menu discounts on [day or week]!
Let’s face it, [day or week of discount] isn’t the time you usually think of when planning to eat out.
But why not? Just because nothing special usually happens, doesn’t mean you can’t change things up and have a good time.
We’re trying to do our part by offering a discount on [day or week]. It applies to [menu items it applies to].
No reservation is needed, just come on in when you’re ready for a good time on [day or week again].
Seasonal Holiday Events
Subject: We’ve got the perfect [holiday] menu for you
Cooking for [holiday] is a ton of work. So here’s an idea…let us do it for you!
We have a special menu for [holiday], so you’ll get the same warm feelings as usual, but without all the headaches and stress.
Here are some of our special menu items for this holiday:
[Picture and name of item 1]
[Picture and name of item 2]
[Picture and name of item 3]
You can see our full menu on our website here [link to website].
When you’re ready, you can make a reservation by [reservation instructions]. Hurry, because seating is limited!
I know that’s a lot to take in, but you should have a good idea of how email marketing works, and some templates to get you started.
If you have any other template ideas or need help with one, just leave a comment below.
Otherwise, you’ll probably find some of our other email marketing content useful: