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How to Do Email Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

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Email marketing provides one of the highest returning investments across all digital marketing channels. The best part? You can get started with email marketing for very little cost if you select the right platforms and campaigns to connect with subscribers without breaking the bank.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore proven email marketing tactics and tools to help small businesses, solopreneurs and side hustlers implement effective email campaigns on a budget.

Why Email Marketing Delivers Results for Smaller Businesses

There are several clear-cut reasons why email marketing should be a component of your overall digital marketing strategy:

1. The unbeatable ROI stacks up tremendously well against other channels

For every $1 spent, email marketing yields around $42 in return. This ROIs is significantly higher than what you can achieve through paid search and social media ads. For budget-conscious businesses, its hard to beat email’s return on investment.

2. Email builds meaningful, lasting relationships with your audience

Because subscribers actively opt-in to receive your emails, you have their direct attention and permission to directly engage them. Sending valuable, relevant content through email gives you the opportunity to nurture relationships overtime.

3. It can increase customer lifetime value through repeat purchases

Through tactics like promotional messaging and re-engagement campaigns, email converts existing contacts into repeat, loyal buyers. Overtime, the customer lifetime value realized from email subscribers outpaces investment.

Clearly, the advantages of executing an optimized email marketing strategy are substantial, even if you’re just starting out with a limited budget. The key factors are choosing the right email platform for your needs and crafting campaigns that resonate with your subscribers.

Selecting the Best Free Email Marketing Service

If funds are tight, no need to worry. You have an array of capable email providers to select from that offer their core services at no cost.

email marketing

Here is an analysis of some of the top free email marketing tools recommended for small business owners, entrepreneurs and startups:

1. Mailchimp

  • Up to 2,000 contacts and 12,000 emails per month included free
  • User-friendly drag and drop email builder
  • Decent selection of basic, pre-designed email templates
  • Automations available but limited compared to paid plans

Best for: solopreneurs, bootstrapped startups, agencies managing small client accounts

Get started with Mailchimp here

2. Sendinblue (Brevo)

  • Unlimited contacts
  • 300 emails per day send limit
  • Responsive email templates for mobile optimization
  • Automations, workflows, basic CRM features

Ideal for: ecommerce shops, small retailers, anyone selling products

Create your free Sendinblue account

3. MailerLite

  • 1,000 subscribers supported
  • 12,000 email sends per month
  • Generous automation features like sequences & funnels
  • Integrates easily with landing pages

Suited for: bloggers, content creators, publishers

Start sending with MailLite free

4. Moosend

  • 1,000 active contacts
  • 5,000 emails per month
  • Powerful segmentation & marketing automation
  • Great performing templates

Ideal for: coaches, consultants, service providers

Get your free Moosend account

The right no-cost email marketing platform depends on your current subscriber count, expected message volume, and types of campaigns you want to execute.

Test out a few leading options that seem to fit your plan to determine the best free email provider for your specific business needs.

Develop Effective Email Campaigns: Core Strategy Ideas

Just because you’re doing more email marketing activities in-house doesn’t mean your campaigns have to look basic or boring. You likely won’t have access to dozens of professionally designed templates, but that can work to your advantage.

With a few simple guidelines, you can create emails that engage subscribers and drive conversions without expensive tools or plugins.

Here are proven, budget-friendly email campaign ideas to employ for free:

Welcome Series

Welcome and onboard new email subscribers with a pre-planned, automated sequence sent over the course of 5-7 days. Example ideas:

  1. Thank contacts for subscribing
  2. Share your brand’s founding story and core values
  3. Provide promo code for next purchase or access to exclusive content

Nurture / Education-Focused Series

Share your niche-related knowledge and expertise! Create a multi-part series focused on teaching subscribers new skills and capabilities. Campaign topic examples:

  • Cooking & meal tips
  • Beginner photography tutorials
  • Guide to launching a profitable blog

Promotional / Limited-Time Series

Offer time-limited discounts, flash sales, early access to new products, and special subscriber-only sneak peeks into upcoming product launches or brand announcements.

Avoid excessive discounts and overdoing the hard-selling – you don’t want folks to feel constantly marketed to. Find the right balance between perks and pitches.

Re-Engagement Campaigns

Create segmented lists of contacts who have been inactive for the past 3, 6, or 12+ months without engaging. Then craft targeted campaigns inviting these segments to re-engage.

Share new products they may have missed out on or limited-time savings if they return and make additional purchases. This is a great way to cost-effectively reactivate disengaged subscribers.

Get creative with your core campaign concepts and don’t be afraid to test out new ideas. Pay close attention to key engagement metrics like open, clickthrough, and conversion rates to determine what message formats and offers resonate best with your audience.

Optimizing Deliverability: Tactics to Improve Engagement

One potential drawback of free and entry-level email services is increased chances of messages incorrectly ending up blocked or in spam folders before making it to subscriber inboxes. This hurts overall deliverability.

However, with some optimization best practices, you can help maximize the number of emails hitting inboxes and minimize mislabeled messages:

Maintain pristine lists

Actively scrub your subscriber lists to remove hard bounces, long-term inactive contacts, and spam traps/fake addresses. Keep your list as clean and updated as possible. Healthy lists earn trust with email providers.

Beef up account details

Add your business’s physical address details to your email account, website domain, and actual email messages when applicable. Increased sender transparency builds delivers trust signals.

Enable sender authentication

Where available, switch on features like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to verify your domain and outbound messages. This confirms you as a legitimate sender vs potential spammer in important verification checks.

Use confirmation opt-ins

Particularly when dealing with sales or cold contacts, use double opt-in confirmation emails rather than single opt-ins if possible. Higher engagement with confirmation messages lends added sender credibility.

Send consistently valuable content

Avoid vague, clickbait-y subject lines and keep email content educational, helpful, or entertaining so recipients actually look forward to receiving your messages. Valuable inbox arrivals are less likely to be ignored or labeled as promotions.

Put in the effort to scale your deliverability and stay inbox-friendly over time. Optimized routing means more of your emails will reach subscribers and in turn drive higher open rates, click engagement, and conversion performance.

Ideal Free Email Provider Per Business Type

While the leading free email platforms highlighted earlier serve most business types well, explore below for more tailored recommendations:

Best Free Email Service for Bloggers

  • MailerLite – 1,000 contacts & 12,000 emails per month
  • Seamless website & landing page integration
  • Multi-post newsletter campaigns

Top Email App for eCommerce Stores

  • Sendinblue – Unlimited contacts & 300 daily emails
  • Abandoned cart automation
  • Discount promos & sales announcements

Best for Consultants & Coaches

  • Moosend – 1,000 contacts & 5,000 monthly emails
  • Lead nurturing & client onboarding flows
  • Scheduling appointment confirmations

Leading Email Platform for Publishers & Online Creators

  • Revue – 1,000 subscribers & 30,000 monthly emails
  • Created by Twitter
  • Easy integration with Revue newsletters

The right no-cost email platform aligns closely with your specific subscriber engagement goals. Do your research to choose the one tailored most closely to your business vertical.

Additional Tips for Leveling-Up Your Free Email Marketing Game

Looking go beyond the basics? Here are a few more pointers:

Learn by example – Study email campaigns from brands you admire in your industry. What email design elements and calls to action (CTAs) are they using?

Double down on personalization – The more you customize and tailor messaging to specific subscriber segments, names, and interests – the better engagement and clicks you’ll drive.

Promote your signup forms – Getting visitors to opt-in is step one. Place email signup forms prominently on your website,landing pages, and social bios. Make them easy to spot!

Add informational pop-ups – If someone is browsing a specific product page for a while, present a related pop-up offering to join your mailing list to receive discounts.

Incentivize referrals – People love sharing deals and exclusive offers from brands they enjoy. Reward existing subscribers who refer new ones with discounts, early access to sales, or free products!

Even if funds are extremely limited, that doesn’t mean your email marketing capabilities have to be. With the right combination of an intelligently-selected email provider, optimized campaigns, delivery best practices, and promotional efforts – you can execute an extremely savvy email strategy on a small budget.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

The prospect of mapping out and launching email campaigns may feel daunting at first. Keep it simple to start. Begin by:

  • Comparing leading free email service options
  • Importing any current subscriber/customer contact lists
  • Drafting your first automated welcome series

Don’t let budget restrictions paralyze progress. Thanks to the platforms and techniques outlined in this guide, you have everything needed execute effective email programs that engage your audience and move revenue needles.

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