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Email Marketing for Small Businesses: How we took home the best in show award for our email newsletter

Karim at 2017 press conference with crowd

During his time as Executive Director at Business For Good, Karim Bouris underestimated the time demand of a monthly eNewsletter or that of a content strategy driven by readers.

“Small business owners are so busy, it’s nearly impossible to keep them updated on our work,” Karim told us.

This is the challenge Business for Good brought to Mixte – to create a thorough and informative but approachable and fun email newsletter to ensure busy business owners would read it and get information about community issues.

Mixte loves creating a monthly email newsletter from the voice of small business owners. And, to top our bliss, last year the Bernays Mark of Excellence Awards awarded our work with Business for Good with a Best in Show Bronze accolade. We know our email marketing is working, and we want to share the secret sauce behind that success so others can be successful too.


Using research to guide the creation of Business for Good’s eNewsletter

Before creating Business for Good’s eNewsletter, we needed to do a deep dive on the organization and its audience. Our research began with an informal interview with Karim about how he communicated with Business for Good’s more than 200 members. We learned he used text or phone calls, and he mass-emailed using BCC. We inferred the business owners felt a personal connection and therefore communicated with Karim on-the-go through phones.

Our secondary research involved observing members at meetings, reviewing membership data and analyzing historical MailChimp analytics.

Our findings revealed three key needs:

  • Communications must be optimized for mobile
  • We need to A/B test
  • It should always feel personal


Developing an Email Messaging Guide

From our collective body of research, we crafted Business for Good’s Email Messaging Guide.

First, we defined the target audience:

Small business owners in San Diego who care about community issues. They don’t belong to formal chambers, and they seek like-minded business owners. They are immigrants, women, people of color or identify as LGBTQ+

Then, we formalized email marketing goals:

  • Create a values-based narrative by positioning members as leaders who drive policies that improve communities
  • Develop an agency-to-client info sharing and approval process to streamline the newsletter production
  • Draft content from the perspectives of members to make the email relatable and increase readership
  • Position the email from the director to maintain his personal style that the members already respond well to
The column “Things I Wish I Knew” piqued subscriber interest and engagement. Photo courtesy of Business for Good

We encountered challenges, of course, and keeping track of them helped us amend and go on. As an extension-of-staff client, Business for Good was able to leverage Mixte’s on-the-ground teamwork. For example, we overestimated how easy it would be for business owners to write their own stories. After deadline struggles, we brainstormed with Karim and he recruited a copywriting member business to volunteer to write the member profiles. Because the process was all-volunteer, we were challenged to meet deadlines. We relaxed expectations and agreed that sending it “early in the month” still met goals. This alleviated our stress and worked within the style of our client.


Key Takeaways

  • Keep email content short and relatable
  • Feature your target audience in the email with stories and photos
  • Incorporate a fun recurring column like “Things I Wish I Knew” to pique subscriber interest and engagement

Together with Karim, we kept San Diego’s socially conscious businesses in the loop — moving email newsletter open rates from low 30 percent to almost 50 percent open. Other signs of success include a) a local newspaper owner who called after the July newsletter to write a story, became a member and ran our “Things I Wish I Knew” series as a column 2) a major donor loved the June newsletter, attended a meeting and became a member.

Feeling inspired? We’d love to hear from you and explore how we can support you with media strategy, digital communications or strategic communications.

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