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3 Simple Ways to Use Email to Grow Your Business

Jul 26, 2021

I know that in-person events, social media, Facebook ads, and other newer technologies sound more exciting than… email. But the average professional person checks their email 60 times a day. Email is the most affordable, most direct, most personal, and adaptable way to engage your community. It’s the way to engage the people who already want to hear from you.

Plus, using email with your community helps you depend less on the algorithms and ups and downs of social media and other platforms. When you gather email addresses, the permission granted by those people is really an asset you own.

I think of using email to grow as hospitality. It is engaging your community in the way they want. And in doing that, consistently and thoughtfully, we increase sales. Smart use of email is the way we are able to extend hospitality when we’re not able to interact face-to-face with every individual over time. 

Because of the power and potential of using email to grow, I’m so thrilled about our new One Mill School course: Use Email to Grow. It’s already creating results for our members who chose that course this quarter and I’m excited to see how it impacts their business long-term. In the course, we look at simple strategies for building and tending to your email list, key ways to increase repeat purchases from customers and build community, and smart automations so that your email is working for you while you're doing... more interesting things.

Today though, I want to give you a few key nuggets from that course. I want to share the three basic things you could -- and should! -- be doing with email to grow your business… but probably aren’t. In the course, we go into a lot of depth and specifics of exactly how to do these three things but today I just want to share what they are (and a few tips for each.) 


3 Simple Ways to Use Email to Grow Your Business

1. Make it easy to sign up for your email list.

Most people have an email list. But very few are consistent and compelling when it comes to asking folks to sign up for that list, especially if you have an in-person component to your business.

Here are some things to keep in mind for adding folks to your list: 

  • In-person email collection. If you sell in person, it’s important to have a prominent, easy, professional-looking pen-and-paper place for people to sign up for your email list. You can also ask people for their email when they make a purchase. Just be sure to have a routine for transferring those email addresses into your email marketing software. 
  • Forms on your website. The most common way of adding folks to your email list is one you should have working well too -- forms on your website. Make sure that there are clear, compelling, easy-to-access places to sign up for your list throughout your website.
  • Use social media. If you have a social media presence, you should constantly be mentioning the content that is going to your email list and encouraging folks to sign up with you there. 
  • Consider an incentive. You don’t have to offer an “incentive” to sign up for your email list but it can make it a bit easier to get folks to sign up. For instance, offering a discount, downloadable guide, or other perk can be effective.


2. Develop a consistent newsletter cadence

When it comes to growing your community with email, the most fundamental thing you can do is to start a simple newsletter cadence that you can stick with. This can look a variety of different ways: It can be a short personal note from you, more of a newsletter with different sections, articles you write, and it can involve more or less product promotion. This can seem intimidating but it doesn’t need to be demanding or time-consuming. 

In fact, my biggest recommendation when it comes to your newsletter emails is: do what is easy. Some formats and content styles are naturally easy for us. Video and audio feel effortless to some while writing is a slog (and vice versa.) So choose a format and content type that feels simple to you. Similarly, commit to a frequency for your newsletter that feels very manageable -- it’s always better to start a bit less frequently but stay consistent with it than to overcommit and not follow through. 

For more inspiration on using newsletter emails to communicate with your community authentically, check out our Making Do Podcast episode hereWe check in with the authors of three really good email newsletters to hear about their approaches, what they get out of it, and how they think about email and social media in their business and life. We hear from ceramicist Amelia Wrede Davis, Leela of the paper line The Rainbow Vision, and Dacy from The Mindful Closet

3. Use “automations” to engage people based on their behavior.

Email automations are “rules” in your email marketing software that send certain people emails based on different behaviors. It’s a way of making sure you send the right thing, to the right person, at the right time -- without needing to manage it all day-to-day. 

This goes back to the hospitality framework. If you owned a retail store and had some employees who worked there during the day, you would be wise to train those employees to greet customers with the same warmth, wording, and timing as you use -- and perhaps even to let them know about particular types of customers you treat differently.

Automations let you invest time to set up those email interactions once -- and then continue engaging in those ways without additional effort from you. Of course, there is a lot to dig into with how to set these pieces up, which we cover in the course. But for now, explore what options exist in your email marketing software for building automations. And if nothing else, consider creating a sequence of emails for your new customers and for your new subscribers. These two small-seeming additions can have a huge impact on a small business and are often overlooked. 


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: engaging your existing community - especially via email - is one of the most powerful ways you can grow as a small business. Over and over, I advise small business owners to start with email to your community, especially if they have limited time and budget. It’s not fancy, but it is effective.


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