February 15, 2021

Stop Getting Trashed! 3 Easy Email Marketing Hacks. Get Better Results Today

As we will show you, email marketing for small businesses can be a very useful tactic, if you follow these 3 email marketing hacks.

Extra! Extra! - Headline is Everything

You may think that is hyperbole, but it is true. If your headline is weak, dull, or SPAMy, it is likely headed for the trash bin or flagged by the SPAM filter.

According to research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 51 percent of all U.S. online readers identified a compelling headline as the reason why they clicked on a given story. (7 Headline Elements You Need for Content Marketing Success)

Elements of a Good Headline

In the article quoted above, its author, Larry Alton argues that there are seven elements to a good headline. These include:

  • Conciseness. 
  • Specificity. 
  • Numbers. 
  • Strong Adjectives.
  • Utility. 
  • Urgency.
  • Reader Relatability.
email marketing for small business subject line is everything

This is quite a lot of information to squeeze in a 55-60 character subject line. It is not surprising that it is very difficult too. Headlines are very hard to write well.  

I am generally happy if I can manage 5 or more in one headline. There are always trade-offs that need to be made.

If we use our draft title as an example, we had: Just Got Trashed? Easy Email Marketing Hacks to Avoid It, Now. It is about a specific topic, email. It uses easy as a strong adjective. 

What it does not have is numbers and it is not incredibly concise. This is a good example of the trade-offs you face. For example, we could have added a number, like, “3 Easy…”, for instance, but that just detracts from conciseness. 

We went through several rounds to come up with our final, which we believe does a decent job with all 7, although one could argue we did deliver on conciseness.

Stop Getting Trashed! 3 Easy Email Marketing Hacks. Get Better Results TODAY

Easy & Better are strong adjectives. Bold indicates specificity. We added the number three to create a visual break and add specificity. Italics highlights utility. All caps show urgency.

 Reader relatability is based on judgment. You can use social media tools to see what is trending. This helps inform your judgement, but your reader makes the final call.

Get to the Point!

email marketing for small business brevity is key

We have all received one of those text heavy, page long e-mails. Even if I thought they had great information, they look exhausting to read. We devoted all that energy in creating a headline to boost open rates, only to lose them with poor design. 

Email Design

It is helpful that the same principles we discussed in web design can be reapplied now, as both focus on making it intuitive for the user to find the information he or she desires. We will speak about how design can enhance our message, but we will discuss the message first.

Communication is Messy 

Communication is an interactive and dynamic ongoing interaction where the meaning, symbols, and environment all play a role in what we absorb.

email marketing for small business communication is messy

Stick to Just One Main Point

Your reader is busy so he or she has little time to spend on an email. Therefore, they need a single-minded communications goal. We want the monthly email to do X. Notice there are no “and”s in this sentence.

Keep it clear, simple, and viewable on a page, which is a great segue into our final area, design.

Email Design Choices Impact Communication 

For an to be intuitive, there are some basic practices in graphic design that can aid in supporting communication.

Basic Elements of Good Graphic Design

Layout: Coloring Between the Lines

The simplest way to think of a layout is using a grid. 

There are several basic elements to a grid design. There are columns and flowlines, which make up the basic grid pattern. Flowlines are horizontal and aid reading. Columns are vertical to aid with organization.

Within that grid pattern, there are modules. These are the grid blocks. There are spatial zones, which comprise several blocks. There are markers, headers, and footers that create boundaries.

Common Grid Patterns for Ease of Use and Understanding

For an intuitive email design, a hierarchical design is very effective. This is where we deviate a bit from web design. Web design is dominated by column layouts. 

We choose to communicate multiple things on a web page. Therefore, hierarchy can get complicated, which creates problems with responsiveness.

With an e-mail, we chose to communicate one thing, and one thing well. In this case, a hierarchical design can be very impactful. 

The hierarchical pattern that is the most pleasing to the eye follows the golden ratio. The golden ratio is like π where it is a fixed number 1.618. It means every spatial zone is 1.618 times larger than the previous one.

email marketing for small business golden ratio for design

For whatever reason, our eyes are drawn to it, and intuitively imply a hierarchy going from large spatial zone to smallest in rank order. Therefore, it is clear why this is useful when communicating a simple, focused message.

Color Theory - Color Conveys Meaning Just as Clearly as Words

Using color remains more of an art than a science, even though it has been studied since Isaac Newton and earlier.

The challenge with color is that it is context related. Some colors, such as blue/green, are seen as pleasing when in an environmental setting, but as disgusting when on bread as mold.

Therefore, the key with color is to ensure that it enhances and does not detract or compete with your message. The most eye catching email design in the world is useless if the message is lost because the creative design overwhelms it.

It is a balance between uniqueness and consistency that must be struck. You want to stand out, but you do not want the color to distract from the message.

Tools like the color wheel can help. The color wheel is based on the harmonics of different wavelengths of light. Just like music, some notes sound better together, while others sound like noise.

email marketing for small business font must be legible

Make it Legible

There have been numerous studies on font type on readability. The data conflict, and it is questionable if serif vs. sans-serif really matters. However, what they do agree upon is that the font size must be bigger than 12 point size.

Also, it is important to consider the age of your readership. If most of your marketing target is over 45, you should likely consider a font closer to 14 points.

Creativity Wins Points.

According to Best Designs, original graphics are the most successful. 

“Original graphics make up 40% of all successful visual content that accomplishes marketing goals, but 43% of marketers struggle with the consistent production of captivating visuals.”

Since we are communicating one message, the artwork that supports it must work very hard to support the message.

Making your own artwork adds a bit of personality and style into the email. A little personal touch is valued in permission based communication. 

email marketing for small business call to action

Call to Action

Every email, no matter how trivial, should have a call to action. This is where all the hard work above pays off. If we omit one, we just wasted resources that could have been spent more cost effectively.

Creating & Building an Email List

In the not so distant past, it was relatively easy to convince someone to give you their email in exchange for content, access to a tool, etc. Today, it is much harder. Our potential customers are hit with way too many emails.

Never Use SPAMy Tactics

It is the spammers who use bots to scrape emails from profiles or buy lists that ruin it for everyone else. However, this is the environment into which we need to compete and convince potential users of our value.

Build a Legitimate List

It is in your long-term best interest to build a legitimate opt-in list, even if B2B. In their article, 16 Email List-Building Tactics that Work in 2021, sendinblue shares all 16. For brevity, I capped the list at 5.

  1. Create an Amazing Incentive for your readers.
  2. Have an Email Signup Form in Your Sidebar where people can easily see it.
  3. Have an Exit PopUp, but make sure it is done tastefully
  4. Add a Signup to Your Email Signature where it is easy to see.
  5. Create a Landing Page on Your Website.

In my opinion, the incentive is the only tactic that appears to be the most reliable. Options 2 and 3 can be annoying to users and detract from the user experience. You may get a trickle from some of the others, but I wouldn’t recommend making any of them your lead choice.

Cultivating and Caring for Your List

email marketing for small business cultivating your email list

As we mentioned, one of the beauties of email is its low cost compared to other digital marketing strategies or tactics. However, this is one area I would recommend not to skimp. 

Having your list of email addresses on a secure site, where all personal data is stored at a third party protects you from cyber threats. If there is a breach, it is the suppliers issue to resolve. There are numerous providers who offer these services.

Choosing an email marketing tool depends on how much of the steps above you plan to do in house. Many of these providers offer additional features that can help reduce your workload, but they will eat into your ROI.

As a small business owner, it is hard to dedicate the time to do all that is suggested. However, there are marketing automation tools that can help manage your email marketing campaigns and grow your business. They tend to rely on email templates and automated emails.

Agencies like ourselves can offer a more hands-on approach in developing email marketing strategies for your email campaigns. We would manage the email marketing software to ensure that the emails you send are high quality and comply with our 3 hacks.


I hope that we have demonstrated why following these 3 email marketing hacks email marketing will help you get the most out of your email marketing small business campaigns.

  1. Headline is Everything:  If you can manage 5 or more out of the 7 elements  in one headline, you are doing well. There are always trade-offs that need to be made.
  2. Get to the Point: Your reader is busy so he or she has little time to spend on an email. Therefore, they need a single-minded communications goal.
  3. Never Use SPAMy Tactics: Take the time to build a legitimate e-mail list. It’s slow and tedious, but it is the best approach in the long-run.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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