- What you can use email marketing for
- How to start email marketing on a budget
- Define your goals
- Analyze your audience
- Build an email list
- Segment the audience
- Use automation tools
- Design an email copy
- Build an email marketing campaign
- Interpret the statistics
- Tips to remember
- Cold calls
- Link building
- Influencer marketing
Email marketing is one of the best options for brand promotion and communication with leads and clients. But it can get pricey. If you run a small business or a startup, you may need some free or affordable options to get started.
This article covers all the cheap email marketing options and will give you a framework of how you can start outreaching on a budget. We’ll go through every step:
- Goals and how to define them
- Audience analysis and creating a buyer persona
- Tools to build your email list
- Importance of segmenting your audience
- Automation tools for email marketing
- Tools to compose and design emails
- Tips on how to build an email marketing campaign
- Interpreting your email marketing campaign
What you can use email marketing for
Before going into the details of cheap email marketing, let’s see what it can be used for. This will affect your choice of email marketing goals.
✔ Generate leads: More than 80% of B2B marketers use email marketing to generate new leads.
✔ Build bridges with leads: Define the best time to send emails, offer valuable insights and help, build genuine relationships with leads, and always stay top of mind.
✔ Nurture leads and clients: 78% of marketers claim that email marketing is the most effective channel for lead nurturing. Through emails, you can convert leads into prospects easier, improve CLV, and reduce the churn rate.
✔ Personalize your outreach: Personalization improves the open rate, CTR, and leads to better customer satisfaction. And combined with segmentation, your emails can help significantly improve your overall sales.
✔ Promote content: If your service is great and your blog can provide users with useful content, then why not share it?
✔ Skyrocket sales: Email marketing remains the most profitable means of sales with an ROI of 4400% ($44 per every $1 spent).
You can choose one or all of these goals – you’ll still find that investing a little time and effort in email marketing will improve your KPIs. So, where does one start?
How to start email marketing on a budget: a strategy
Crafting an email marketing strategy is the first important step for your business. But to start building it, you need to know what goals you are trying to achieve. Once you set them, it will be easier for you to choose the tools and methods.
Step 1. Define your goals
Of course, your final goal is to set up a campaign for a large list of interested leads that will receive a high open, click-through, and reply rates, successfully nurture and convert leads, and boost your sales. But when you start, you need to pick smaller goals. We recommend setting up goals tied to statistics you are not satisfied with:
Growing the email list
If the main aim of your email marketing strategy is to grow the list of recipients, then you need to concentrate on email finder tools or making your signup form as attractive as possible (depending on whether you are doing outbound or inbound email marketing). We’ll address this later in Step 3.
Improving open rate
You can’t keep people engaged if they don’t open your emails. So you may want to work on writing your subject lines. You’ll need to intrigue and persuade recipients to open an email from you.
Your CTR shows the level of the recipients’ engagement. If it is low, you might need to work on the email content. Read up on actionable email copywriting tips and how to use colors in email marketing to make your emails more impressive and your CTAs more attractive.
Decreasing the spam complaint and unsubscribe rate
To reduce the email unsubscribe rate, you need to improve your targeting to better fit the buyer persona you have. The spam rate depends on a few aspects – technical issues and the way recipients perceive your email. Check our guide on how to avoid spam filters as a legit email marketer.
Growing the response rate
The response rate can be improved through quality copywriting. The easiest tip you can try right now, however, is ending your email in a question, as they provoke the reader to respond.
At this stage, it will also be helpful if you:
Start writing your plan, or else something may slip away from you. When you have everything visualized with all the plans, thoughts, and tips written, you won’t have to rely on your memory.
Define whose help you may need. It can turn out that you can’t cope with all the issues on your own, and you may need the support of your designer or outreach manager. Speak to them beforehand and ask them to add your tasks to their plans.
Be specific. When you set goals, be exact with all the details and avoid vague objectives. That said, you can set approximate deadlines, as you won’t know for sure how much time it will take you to build an email campaign and generate leads even with email marketing software.
Step 2. Analyze your audience and create a buyer persona image
For any and every marketing campaign you organize, you first need to know your target audience. Who is your product perfect for? Who will use it? Who is ready to pay for it?
You need to create and visualize your buyer persona image based on this targeting. This way, you’ll understand the pain points of your leads and what solutions they are seeking for. Additionally, this will help you create more targeted campaigns. Not sure how to create your buyer persona? We’ve answered all your questions here (the basics) and here (buyer persona faq).
Step 3. Build an email list
Now, you can start searching for email addresses of your leads to get in touch with. To successfully pass this step, you may need two email marketing services: an email finder and an email verifier.
Email finder tools, both software and SaaS, help find email addresses on websites or social networks. There are dozens of them on the web, depending on the features you need. Some email hunters work on social networks, some have a bulk search option, some generate email addresses based on the domain name and the lead name, while others don’t. We’ve compiled a table of the most popular email finder tools to help you make the right choice for your business niche and budget.
Once you have the leads, you need to make sure they’re high quality. An email verifier is an instrument that checks your list of email addresses for validity, i.e., makes sure the emails are existent, real, and active. Keeping your lists clean helps maintain high email deliverability and sender reputation. You can read more about email verification here.
Step 4. Segment the audience
The main purpose of every email marketing campaign is to reach the people who are most likely to convert at the right time, present the offer in the way recipients want it to be presented, and persuade them to make the purchase.
To hit all these bases, you need to start with segmentation: divide all the leads into groups depending on their specific features. The more groups you have, the more personalized and profitable your email campaigns will be. Check out our guide on segmentation and personalization for techniques.
Step 5. Use automation tools for email marketing
No one should be doing email marketing manually when there are so many ways to automate. Professionals prefer automation tools because they are time-saving and, essentially, profitable. For example, email drip campaigns can help you put your whole outreach process on autopilot – just set it up for cold leads in your list and receive hot leads that are most ready to convert.
Drip campaigns perform all the complex logic without oversight – set up schedules, triggers, and automated follow-ups based on behavior and analyze opens and clicks, all with high personalization and preserving the human touch of your email copy.
Email drip campaign tools have many benefits, as they are:
- Multi-purpose. You can use them for any kind of campaign: cold outreach, onboarding, lead nurturing, inbound holiday campaigns, etc.
- Affordable. There are lots of cheap and even free email drip campaign tools that any SMB can afford.
- Personalized. When you build an email sequence, you can add any kind of personalization you want, from basic (name, job position) to complex (specific interests, social posts, etc.).
- Not spam. Some may think that if you put email sending on autopilot, it’s a straight road to turning into a spammer. That’s not true. Such services simply automate the process – high personalization, targeted offers, legitimacy, and the effort set it apart from your usual email spamming.
Step 6. Write and design an email copy
Creating an email masterpiece is hard. You need to pay attention to every single detail, from the subject line to the signature. Considering you’re working on a budget, you may want to do this part on your own. Just follow these tips to write a good email that converts:
- Craft a recognizable sender name.
- Keep the subject line short.
- Use the preheader text to intrigue boost open rate.
- Always greet and address your recipients by their name.
- Be polite: thank them if necessary.
- Keep the email body short (aim for under 250 words).
- Use professional language but stay genuine – after all, you’re not a machine.
- Show readers the benefits, not the features.
- Share only relevant information.
- Include a call to action (CTA) that will lead to your website.
- Add a polite sign-off and a signature with all your professional details and contacts: first and last names, company, position, and contact information.
- Choose if you want to do plain-text or designed HTML emails.
Here are the pros and cons of each to help you:
Check out more email copywriting tips to tune up your email copy for your specific niche and purpose.
Email designing tools you can use
Designed HTML emails need time, effort, and specific tools. If you choose to go with a designed email, there’s a number of affordable services that can help you turn your vision into reality, no matter what budget.
This beautiful tool offers amazing free functionality. It’s a multi-purpose designing platform that’s perfect for creating email templates. Don’t have the time to come up with your design? Use thousands of ready-made templates! You can change pics, fonts, upload your photos and logos, and design your copy. Even with a free plan, the opportunities are infinite.
Price: Free. Paid plans start at $9.95 per month.
Really Good Emails
This is a curated email gallery where you can find thousands of beautiful email examples, as well as access to the email code. There are lots of categories and over 4,000 email examples, so you’ll definitely find some inspiration.
A great email designing platform with a free plan! Choose from about 70 free templates and change them according to your needs. Once ready, you can download the copy and send it to leads or clients. If you decide to upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll unlock new templates and an option to save your designs to your account.
Price: Free. Paid plans start at $15 per month.
Choose any template, make necessary changes, and simply download your beautiful responsive email. All for free! Paid plans unlock the option to save created emails to your account for future use and editing.
Price: Free. Premium plans start at $7 per month (free Premium trial available).
With this tool, you can create fantastic responsive emails in minutes and never worry about rendering. The platform can be integrated with Gmail, Outlook, SendGrid, etc. Users can tune any email template to their preferences: add or delete text blocks, enlarge spaces, or edit the pictures.
Price: Free. Premium plans start at $10.42 per month.
If you want to invest a part of your budget into the design, here are a few more paid email template tools and services for you to consider:
- ThemeForest – around $18 per template
- Mojo Themes – around $10 per template
- Mail Bakery – $98-236 per template (1-5 business days)
- 99 Designs – $299
Step 7. Build an email marketing campaign
Now for the most exciting part – building your email campaign. For this, we recommend you use Snov.io Email Drip Campaigns because 1) it’s free for up to 100 recipients, 2) unlimited in emails, 3) unlimited in sender accounts, 4) lets you automate personalization and follow-ups, 5) offers scheduling, 6) has detailed real-time tracking, 7) we’re already reached reason #7, and I can still keep talking about all the amazing features you can get for free!
We’ve actually created a guide to email drip campaigns for this tool, which will answer any of your questions regarding the set-up.
But to build a campaign, you need to decide the best timing, how many emails you will send, in what order, and with what intervals. Let’s look into this closer:
✔ What is the best timing?
We recommend you send your campaign around 11 AM recipient time, shortly after they come to work – this time has shown the best open and reply rates. Consider the time zone. Avoid messaging customers on the weekend – respect their private time!
✔ What interval is the best?
Generally, it’s a mistake to send frequent emails (two emails a day, for example), just as it is wrong to send follow-ups every single day. 33.3% of professionals prefer sending emails on a weekly basis, while 26.67% recommend a frequency of multiple times per month.
✔ How many follow-ups do I need?
Follow-ups sometimes get a better response rate than the initial email. And with follow-ups, it’s often the more the better. An email drip sequence with 4-7 messages is likely to deliver 3 times more responses (27%) than a sequence with only 1-3 (9%) emails.
✔ What elements do I need in my campaign?
The elements will differ depending on your goals, but some email types can be used in most campaigns. You can send them in whatever order suits your email sequence and your recipients’ stage in the funnel:
- Initial cold email. Your first email should radiate friendliness and helpfulness.
- Cold follow-up email. Aims to provoke the recipient to answer, for example, with a question at the end.
- Content email. Special, relevant content is a great way to make your lead more interested.
- Special deal/offer email. Such emails can be used to convert warm subscribers.
- Invitation email. You can invite people to both online and offline events.
Here’s an example of a sequence with some of these elements:
Step 8. Interpret the campaign statistics
As a rule, email marketing software also offers detailed campaign statistics. Some platforms give access to the statistics feature in paid plans only. However, there are affordable email marketing services (like Snov.io!) that allow you to follow the stats even in free plans.
Usually, the tool provides information on the campaign statistics that include the number of sent emails, opens, CTR, replies, unsubscribes, and bounces:
- Email opens show that the subject line was appealing enough for recipients to open the email. If the open rate is low, you need to test the subject lines out.
- CTR allows you to see how many people were happy with the email content enough to click the link in the email.
- Reply rate is usually the most important campaign statistic. It lets you track the hottest leads that are interested enough to convert immediately. It’s important to contact them as soon as possible.
- The higher the unsubscribe rate, the smaller your list is getting. On the one hand, if you add an unsubscribe link to your email, people can unsubscribe instead of reporting spam. On the other hand, you may want to look into ways to reduce your email unsubscribe rate.
- Bounces are emails that don’t reach recipients and return to the sender. To avoid a high bounce rate (that can easily get your account blocked by the ESP), we recommend verifying all your emails right before launching the campaign.
Tips to remember
Though cheap email marketing is highly profitable, it can’t cope with all the tasks of brand promotion on its own. Moreover, neither paid nor free email marketing can do that. It can help if you combine your email marketing efforts with other types of marketing. They are no less profitable, but they may not be as cheap as email marketing.
Social media marketing (SMM)
Social media is one of the most popular means of marketing. It includes all the networks where people spend most of their free time, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. To set up a successful SMM strategy, you’ll need to invest in the service of an SMM specialist.
Approximate cost: $399-5,000 per month.
To do cold calling, you’ll need to set up a team. One person can perform about 100 calls in 8 hours. With other methods, months may pass until you gain your first hundred clients. With cold calling, the more people are in your team, the higher the chances to boost that number quicker.
Approximate cost: $1.72 per call.
Link building is an exchange of backlinks with other websites. It can help improve your backlink profile, which will make your website better in the eyes of search engine algorithms (though make sure to pay attention to other SEO strategies). Here are a few examples of what you can do for free:
Guest posts exchange. Find a relevant and reputable blog you’d like to write for. Reach out to the blog editor and ask for posts exchange or offer to write a guest article. If you are a little lucky and persistent enough, you will find quality blogs where you can publish for free.
Crowd marketing. The main point here is to be active. Find groups on social networks, surf forums and chats, leave comments, and promote your service. One of the great platforms for this is Quora. Check out our guide to Quora marketing and get your first 500,000 views.
Influencer marketing is becoming more and more widespread among companies, both B2C and B2B. Take advantage of bloggers on social networks, blogs, and messengers to reach out to your target audience through trusted professionals. These people are the trendsetters in the digital world, so consider collaborating with them.
Approximate cost: depends on the platform and the number of followers. Instagram: $75-1,000 per post; YouTube: $20-2,000.
Good luck with your first email marketing campaign
Cheap email marketing is no different from that in companies that put a large chunk of their budget into it. The only difference is the scale – the quality and results are the same.
You can perform all the steps we’ve described above for free, and even if you want to scale your email marketing, it’ll only set you back as little as $39/month. Happy sending!