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If you follow BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor, you know that email consistently ranks high for SMB marketing. This spans across business verticals, size, and other firmographics.

But there’s still a gap: most SMBs’ email marketing tactics are fairly basic. They typically send the same promotions to everyone on their list. Or, if they segment the audience, it’s a very basic segmentation. This unrefined approach is sometimes called “batch and blast”, or “spray and pray.”

At a workshop at last week’s ad:tech San Francisco, several speakers discussed how email sophistication is evolving quickly. Although much of the discussion focused on brand advertisers, the lessons are just as useful to SMBs. This is especially true for SMBs using an agency or third party service provider.

Here are the top takeaways from the workshop:

— There’s a “unique customer journey” for each customer. Try to understand what that is: understand how each customer got to the website (or other online property). The journey will say a lot about that customer’s interests and motivations.

— The advertiser needs to speak to each customer individually, with a tailored message. This is especially true for the best customers, or power users.

— Typically, over 50 percent of the audience for a given marketing email is seeing it on a mobile device. This favors simple, bold visuals, short lead-ins, and buttons big enough for fingers (40 pixel diameter, minimum).

— Social media and email should be used together, in a complementary way. Advertisers should try to use one to leverage the other — which also means advertisers need to have the capability to associate a customer’s activity on social media with email they receive from the SMB.

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