Case Study: How We Built An Email Marketing Campaign For Our Small Business Client

Email Marketing for small business with finger on tablet and email icons floating into a yellow background

We were excited to get a successful email marketing campaign up and running for our client, small business owner John DiCarlo of Sunflower Natural Foods. And now we want to tell you how we did it.

In this blog post we'll show you how we built an email marketing campaign specifically designed for Sunflower Natural Foods. We'll cover everything we did from researching the business to deciding on the best email marketing strategy to crafting the perfect email subject line.

So whether you're just starting out or you're looking for ways to improve your current email marketing strategy, you're in the right place. Read on to learn how we built an email marketing campaign for our client!

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Research & Discovery

Sunflower Natural Foods Icon on top of a photo of sunflowers

We started by giving John a questionnaire to fill out. We wanted to learn as much about the business and the people who shopped there, as well as his goals for the email marketing campaign. 

We asked John to describe the business. What do they do? Who are their biggest competitors? What makes them unique in their market? What problem does the business solve? What questions do they get asked the most? 

To get to know the target audience, we had him answer questions about his existing customers. What are they like? What are their needs and interests? What are their stressors? What do they do? What makes them keep coming back?

To help us decide on a direction for this campaign, we had more questions. What does John want people to know about Sunflower Natural Foods? What are his goals for the email marketing campaign? Is there an area of the business that he'd like to highlight? Is there anything he’d like to stay away from? Is he looking to increase website visitors?

John wanted to use his email marketing campaign to nurture customer relationships, create brand awareness, increase sales and grow the business.

Developing an Effective Email Marketing Strategy

glowing icon of envelope and @ sign in the palm of a hand

Once the questionnaire had been completed, we met with John to develop the perfect content strategy for his email marketing campaign. 

We originally decided on a monthly newsletter. We’d send it on the first Wednesday of every month initially, and then use the metrics provided by our email marketing software to adjust this date if need be.

John wanted to use the newsletter to create a Sunflower community, and we designed the marketing strategy with this in mind. We decided we'd use it to inform customers about new products and sales. We would also include articles or videos related to personal well being and that of the community and planet. 

Sunflower’s website has an entire section dedicated to recipes, and we knew we could use the newsletter to highlight this fun and unique feature. We agreed a “Recipe of the Month” section of the newsletter would be a natural way to accomplish this.

To keep the whimsical feeling of the store present in the newsletter, John suggested we include quotes, jokes, or fun facts about sunflowers. (Did you know that sunflowers are native to the Americas?)

These were all great ideas, and we quickly realized that we had a lot that we wanted to share with our audience. Maybe more than would fit in one monthly newsletter. Constant Contact recommends using 200 words or less to generate the highest click-through rates for a newsletter, and we knew we had more than that. 

We decided to offer the “Recipe of the Month” in a separate email sent on the second Saturday of every month. This made sense for a couple of reasons: it would keep both the newsletter and the Recipe of the Month email short enough to be easily skimmed, and by sending two emails per month, we would be keeping the client even more at the top of his customers’ minds.

Any email marketing campaign will only be as successful as the content included. We knew we had a solid plan to get our target audience interested and engaged.

Building The Email Marketing List

hand drawing an envelope and @ symbol in red marker

In order to send out email marketing campaigns, you need to build an email list. 

There are a few different ways that you can do this, but one of the most effective methods is to use a signup form on your website. Sunflower’s site has a page where website visitors can sign up to become email subscribers. 

We announced the newsletter to Sunflower’s social media followers and added a link in their Instagram bio where new subscribers can sign up for the newsletter without ever leaving the app. Email marketing and social media work really well together, and social media is an effective tool to drive sign ups and get more subscribers.

One of the very cool things about John is how personally involved he is with the store and how much he cares about his customers. A great deal of Sunflower’s email subscribers were loyal customers of the store. Over the course of a few months, he asked visitors to the store if they wanted to sign up for the newsletter. 

Between the website, the social media platforms, and the in-store sign up efforts, our subscriber list was in great shape. When the time came to begin the campaign, we were starting with a good-sized subscriber base.

Creating An Email Template

example of a drag and drop editor for making marketing emails

Now it was time to start designing the email campaigns. Email service providers typically allow you to create an email template as a base for your campaigns. This allows you to keep a brand consistency in future emails over the course of your campaign. 

We started with a blank template, and used MailChimp’s drag and drop editor to create a template for our monthly newsletter, and a separate one for our Recipe of the Month email campaign. 

Both templates included Sunflower’s logo, contact information, and social media links. We used the colors and font from their website to further reinforce brand recognition. Both templates had links to relevant landing pages to drive website traffic. 

We chose a single-column format to optimize display on mobile devices. Most email service providers understand the need for the email to display properly for mobile users, but mobile optimization can only do so much when there are two or even three columns in an email. Single columns are also a good choice because they are easier for the recipient to skim through, regardless of whether they are on a mobile device.

Crafting The Emails

an example of an email with recipe of the month

Now that we had our email templates ready, it was time to make effective campaigns with relevant information specifically geared towards Sunflower’s email clients.

Sunflower has been in business for almost 20 years, so we had a solid buyer persona in mind. Understanding the buyer persona is absolutely essential when creating effective email marketing campaigns. 

Email subject lines are the first thing a recipient will notice about an email, and a good subject line is a crucial part of a successful campaign. There is plenty of information available about creating engaging email subject lines, but generally speaking, you want something brief that grabs the attention of your target audience. Mobile devices in particular have a very small amount of space to display the subject lines of emails - keep yours under nine words for best results.

For the subject lines of both the newsletter and the Recipe of the Month, we went with a question. “What’s Good This Month At Sunflower” we asked as the subject line of their first newsletter. “What’s Cooking This Month - Basil Pesto” was the subject of the Recipe of the Month.

In each email, we included links to landing pages on the Sunflower website. In addition to October's recipe (Basil Pesto), the Recipe of the Month email had a link to the landing page that contains all the recipes.

The newsletter featured supplements that were on sale, and included a link to the page of products offered in the store. We also included a TED talk from Paul Stamets about the health benefits of mushrooms. Stamets is a renowned mycologist and the founder of Host Defense Mushrooms, a brand of supplements carried by Sunflower.

Scheduling The Perfect Delivery Time

gray background with finger pressing a floating, glowing envelope icon

We knew which days we wanted to send out each of the email campaigns, and we wanted to be sure we were sending them at the best time of day to ensure a high open rate.

Our email service provider (MailChimp) offers optimized send times based on customer data. We chose this option for both email campaigns. Our newsletter was sent on a Wednesday at 10 AM, and the recipe was sent at 7 AM on a Saturday.

You may be wondering how MailChimp calculates an optimized time for a brand new email campaign. We were too, so we looked it up, and the answer makes perfect sense. This was Sunflower's first email campaign, but the subscribers get many other emails through MailChimp. The optimized scheduling is based on the times these subscribers have historically opened those emails.

Measuring The Impact Of Our Email Marketing Efforts

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After the emails had been delivered, it was time to see how they had performed. Most email marketing tools offer in depth analytics so you can measure success of your campaigns.

We were really proud of our open rate with both email campaigns.

The average open rate for an email is about 22%. For our newsletter, we had a 54% open rate, and for the Recipe of the Month our open rate was almost 52%.

The average click through rate for email marketing campaigns is 2.62%. In email marketing campaigns, the click through rate is the measurement of how many recipients clicked on at least one link in the email. For our newsletter, we were above that with 2.9%, and our click through rate for the recipe email was 3.3%.

Once we've sent a few more email campaigns, we'll be able to get a report of inactive subscribers - those who haven't opened an email from us in a certain time period. For those customers, we could try different ideas with the subject line to try to get them to engage, or we could take them off our list. Over time, inactive subscribers can hurt your email deliverability, so it's to our benefit to keep an eye on this part of the report.

Put Email Marketing To Work For You

Email marketing is a powerful part of a digital marketing strategy for any business. If you'd like to work with Eternity to develop an email marketing campaign of your own, or if you'd just like to say hello, get in touch today!