Does Email Marketing actually work for small businesses?

Email marketing suffered a bad reputation for years, it was historically seen as an ineffective and intrusive marketing tool. This is not surprising as at that time email marketing was used almost exclusively to push general adverts and promotions, ending in spam folders and actually damaging the brand’s reputation.

Things have changed though, and email marketing is proving to be a highly cost-effective tool to share valuable content, reach out to prospects at the right time with the right message, and actually build brand reputation.

There are numerous articles and studies to prove this, including:

Email Still The King Of ROI, Says DMA

The New Rules of Email Marketing

Why you shouldn’t underestimate email marketing: statistics

This is what email marketing’s ROI looks like compared to other forms of marketing:

Source: VentureBeat

However, email marketing for a big organisation is not the same as email marketing for small businesses, start-ups and microbusinesses.

Big corporations have a dedicated marketing team with multiple people working on the various aspects of email marketing, from content production, to design, to mailing list management, to marketing automation, etc…

However, when your marketing team comprises of one or two people, or even trickier, when you, as a founder/CEO of the company are also the whole ‘marketing team’, things can get a bit more complicated.

I speak from experience as a business owner as I manage all marketing activities, including email marketing (which is why you are reading this article if it landed in your inbox!).

So, as I approach the 1-year mark of my email marketing experience for KnowThyBrand, I thought to look back on how this tool has performed for my own business and report back to you.

How it all began

I created KnowThyBrand in 2014 and at the beginning I was fortunate enough to get clients by word of mouth, without requiring any advertising or marketing. When I relocated the business to London though I needed to get my brand out there, for people to discover it and choose my services.

With this in mind I set out to start my content marketing strategy. I won’t discuss content marketing in this piece, but you can find out more about it here:  9 weapons to win the Content Marketing battle.

As part of any successful content marketing campaign it is critical to define how to share your content, email marketing was certainly one of my channels of preference.


The first thing I did was to decide what my goals were going to be. Did I want people to sign-up for a consultation, to contact us to get our services? Well, yes of course. However, my marketing experience taught me that people need to know and trust you before they decide to invest in your company, this is true whether you sell products or services. With this in mind, the goals that I set for my email marketing strategy were:

  1. Brand awareness

Being new to the UK market I needed prospects, potential clients and also potential partners to discover KnowThyBrand, what we do and what makes us different from our competitors.

  1. Thought leadership

As with my content marketing strategy, I needed to showcase KnowThybrand’s expertise through useful and insightful emails in order for people to trust KnowThyBrand with their marketing and branding requirements.

  1. Brand recollection

When recipients receive emails from KnowThyBrand they might not be ready to invest in a marketing or branding project, but if they are exposed to consistent messages, when the time comes they are more likely to remember KnowThyBrand and choose us over a competitor that they don’t know directly.


When it comes to email marketing, a consistent calendar is key. Sending four emails in one week and nothing for the following three doesn’t create leadership or recollection. Instead, it risks alienating recipients when the emails are too frequent and losing them when they stop for a long period of time.

Ideally, I would have liked to create a weekly digest, but realistically I realised that I could only commit to 1 email per month with two or three articles in it.


This is what the overall KnowThyBrandnewsletter report looks like over the past 12 months:

The blue curve on the top is the KnowThyBrand opening rate, while the red line on bottom is the industry average opening rate.

The result is: 50.3% average for KnowThyBrand versus the 12.2% industry average.

Also in terms of click rate, KnowThyBrand’s performance was stronger that the industry average: 8.4% average click rate for KnowThyBrand versus the 1.3% industry average.

Obviously, we couldn’t be happier with such results but what do they mean in terms of the goals that I initially set?

Luckily for KnowThyBrand, our company is starting to get recognised, business opportunities have developed through people reading our newsletter, and our strategy has proved very effective in terms of client retention and/or upselling to existing clients.


So, has this been a success? Yes, absolutely. A resounding success? I wouldn’t go that far.

As I mentioned at the beginning, being a one-man marketing team means that it’s not that easy to find the time to research and write content, to set-up the mailing list, to set up the newsletter etc… Many long nights have been dedicated to email marketing, which is obviously not ideal.

It also means that I haven’t managed to find the time to work on a detailed mailing list segmentation yet, which is critical to a highly effective business development strategy.

Moving forward, as the goals are shifting from awareness to sales, I do believe that KnowThyBrand will need to segment our audience and start to implement more email automation in order to acquire new clients.


Does email marketing work for small businesses? Speaking from KnowThyBrand’s perspective, the answer is yes. However, it does require a lot of dedication and investment. Not so much from a financial perspective, but as an investment in terms of time and resources.

Importantly, it does need to be done properly.

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