Skip to content

Zero Cost Marketing – Can You Promote Your Business For Free? Part 5: Email Marketing

Zero Cost Marketing Part 5 - Email Marketing

This post will discuss how you can use email marketing campaigns to promote your business at no direct cost.

This is Part 5 of our series “Zero Cost Marketing”, where we suggest ways you can promote your business with little to no budget. If you want to start at the beginning read Zero Cost Marketing Part 1 – Discounts & Samples.

Since every business has different attributes and needs, the suggestions are presented in no order of preference. Some will be more relevant to your business than others. We’ll leave it to you to decide.

Let’s continue, then, with our fifth suggestion for low-cost business promotion:

5. Excel With Email Marketing

Here’s a test of memory (or perhaps age?!). Anyone remember BT’s advertising campaign “It’s Good To Talk”? Honestly, without a bit of help from YouTube I didn’t remember the finer details myself. I just recalled the catchy slogan, and that the ads used the talents of the sadly late Bob Hoskins. But the tagline came to mind as I prepared to write this post, because although BT used it to refer to telephone conversations, it’s also a good principle for business promotion. And email is a great way of talking directly to your customers.

Email has been around a long time now, and it may feel rather old-fashioned, but before you say “Email… Yawn!” think about this; a 2021 survey of UK marketers found that ROI from email campaigns was approximately £36 for every £1 spent, or 3600%. That’s an impressive figure, and one worth waking up for.

Why so high? Well, by 2020 the percentage of the UK population using email was 85%, compared to just 57% as recently as 2007, so email’s penetration is enormous. And the average open-rate for marketing emails is around 20%, also a relatively high figure. In addition, average click-through rate is approximately 3%, which is much higher than the click-through rate achieved by social media or display advertising. So even as newer technologies have emerged, email has remained a surprisingly successful method of business promotion.

The best part? There are plenty of free email marketing services around. HubSpot, Mailchimp and MailerLite are just three of the providers allowing you to run email campaigns and access email templates for free.

It follows that email campaigns is a worthy number 5 on our list of great ways to promote your business for at minimal or no cost.

If you want to achieve good performance with email marketing, of course, you have to get it right. Your messages must pass both the email provider’s spam filter and the human recipient’s own one. Then they must prompt the recipient to take the action you desire.

Below are some guidelines on what to do and not to do in your marketing emails.

Do’s And Don’ts For A Successful Email Marketing Campaign


  1. Segment your email list and target each subset of customers with the right message. This is probably the most important single piece of guidance in this article. Your message should always be something that is relevant to its recipient group, addressing their particular needs and interests. Sometimes, a broader situation such as weather conditions, market situation etc. can also be useful if it relates to the target group. Well-targeted emails are more likely to be opened and read, and to achieve your desired action. By contrast, poorly designed emails might inspire the recipient to reach for the Delete key, or worse, the Spam designation, consigning all your future communications to the bin. A CRM database is a valuable tool to help you divide your email list into subgroups for marketing communications.
  2. Make your subject line match the content of your email and avoid misleading implications. It’s important to set expectations correctly. For example, a recipient who receives an email titled “Nike discount today!” might reasonably expect to read about a special one-day price reduction on Nike goods versus the seller’s normal prices. If, however, they simply see a statement that “All our branded sports goods are discounted against RRP.”, they may feel duped and disappointed. While the subject line is technically true it suggests something which the email content does not match. Likewise, rather than offer a “Free Gift” which in reality is money off a paid purchase you would be better to use the word “discount” in the first place.
Cans of spam meat - unsolicited and irritating marketing emails could be regarded as "spam"

Why Do We Refer To Unsolicited Emails As Spam?

The term links back to Monty Python’s 1970 sketch “Spam”. In the skit, a cafe’s menu contains an excessive amount of Spam luncheon meat and a group of Viking patrons chant Spam! Spam! Spam! repetitively in praise of the food, drowning out other conversation. If you want to, you can watch it here:

In reference to this, some users of 1980s Bulletin Board Systems and Multi-User Dungeons would repeat “Spam” multiple times to drive others’ text off the bottom of the screen. Later the term was adopted by Usenet to mean repeated widespread posting of the same message across many newsgroups.

By 1990, the term was so well established that it was added to the New Oxford Dictionary of English.

  1. Make sure your emails reflect your company personality and chosen tone of voice. Word your email as much as possible as if you were talking to your customer face to face. Think about the language and themes which will resonate with them and address the problem they are are trying to solve. But make sure your message backs up your branding by staying in line with your broader communications guidelines.
  2. Keep your subject line and content clear and concise. The purpose of the email should be immediately obvious to the reader, also what you are offering and what they should do. If you are simply sharing useful information it’s a good idea to say so upfront. However if you are offering a discount code or promoting a sale, make sure the customer knows that at the outset. Avoid excessive wordiness or information which does not help steer the customer towards your desired action. And keep the most important part of your subject line to around 7 words as the rest could be cut off and serve no purpose.
  3. Be personal. Nobody enjoys receiving an email headed “Dear Valued Customer” about an irrelevant promotion. If possible, address the customer by name, and show why your offer applies to them. For instance, a customer who has purchased cat food from you is likely to find your offer of discounted cat products – particularly their favourite brand of food – welcome. “Dear Mrs White, Since you have purchased PussyPaws previously, we thought you might be interested in our current discount on WhiskerTreats…” might prompt a purchase whereas a generic email about dog products could be valueless or even offputting. By showing that you are aware of a customer’s past searches or purchases and are offering something of benefit, you can make them feel valued. Once again, a CRM database could be a great aid, here.

Related: Zero Cost Marketing Part 4 – Social Media

  1. Use the pre-header text to back up the subject line and entice the reader to open the email. Often (but not always) the first text in the email, pre-header text is likely to be shown alongside the subject in the preview pane, so consider carefully what opening words or pre-header text you use.
  2. Consider 2 or more connected emails per campaign. People are busy and they may intend to follow up on your offer but then forget as they are occupied by other matters. An email reminder that your offer ends in X days could prompt them refocus on their original intention to buy.


  1. Don’t use spammy subject lines. Some types of phrasing instantly give that tabloid feel and scream “SPAM!”. “You won’t believe..”, “People are amazed by…” and anything using the words “shock(ing)” or “suprise(ing)” are good examples. People quickly learn to spot these and reach straight for the delete key. That’s if the email makes it past the spam filter in the first place. Block capitals and exclamation marks are also generally to be avoided. We feel that even phrases like “Don’t Miss Out”, “Last Few” and “Limited Time” should be used cautiously as they could smack of the high pressure sales tactic. “Don’t Miss Out! Limited Time 20% Discount – Hurry!” might be better replaced with “20% Discount This Weekend Only” for instance.
  1. Don’t use overly-technical language unless you know that your recipients will understand it and be interested in it. For some products, technical specs are relevant and important, but for many, a focus on the benefits they produce will be more useful to the customer.
  2. Don’t use slang or current trendy terms unless they fit with your company “voice” and the demographic you are targeting. Even then, use with caution if you are not part of that demographic, and be sure to use them correctly, or you will stand to look rather out-of-touch and silly (think Dad dancing at the school disco).

It’s always a good idea to create several versions of your email campaign and perform A/B testing to see which version performs best. This will help you to get the best return on your current campaign and can guide your future email marketing.

Related: Zero Cost Marketing Part 2 – Web Content

In Conclusion

Email marketing remains a very successful promotional tool and with a number of free email services to choose from, you could potentially get great returns for zero cost.

Well constructed and targeted emails containing genuine information or promotions will be welcomed by recipients. After all, the reason you have their email address in the first place is because they have shown an interest in your product. Make the right offer in the right way to the right people and you could see the orders rolling in.

We hope you enjoyed this post. If there’s anything you’d like to discuss with us don’t hesitate to get in touch. An initial chat is free and without obligation.

If you found this post useful, please feel free to share it or leave a comment. Or take a look at our other posts.

Sources include:

Email Messaging Penetration in Great Britain

Is Email Marketing Still Relevant in 2023?

Email Marketing Share of UK Budgets


The History of Email: Major Milestones From 50 Years

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *