How to use ADKAR to Drive Email Marketing

As a small business owner, being resourceful is our greatest asset.  We’ve all gathered up skill sets over the years, and using them in a different context is not only valuable but necessary. I’m Lauren, co-author, and business coach, and have found that pivoting skill sets into new areas has helped me bridge the gap from the corporate world to small biz owners.   This blog, I describe how I implemented the Prosci Change Management Methodology, a skill learned and practiced in the corporate world and re-fashioned it to meet the needs of our SBSUG team.


What is Change Management (CM)?

CM is the people-centric part of any change and its communication methods.  CM happens every day in everything we do and interact with; for insistence, your favorite shoe brand is launching a new style, and you begin receiving information about the new launch.  That information trickle is a form of CM. CM is a huge business and some companies have whole teams that only run CM projects alongside a project team. For our purposes, we only used a small portion of CM called the ADKAR methodology.

What is ADKAR?

The common acronym for CM is ADKAR; I’ll break it down very simply for you in terms of product sales.

A - Awareness - Tell your audience about the thing you’re doing or the thing they need to know about.

D - Desire - Does your audience want or need whatever you’re telling them about? Tell them why they should.

K - Knowledge - Does your audience know enough of the details? Give them all the (What’s in it for me “WIIFM”) information.

A - Ability - Have you given your audience all the tools they need to obtain whatever you’re offering. Provide them with all the tools necessary to interact with your item.

R - Reinforcement - Did they purchase your item? Did they like it? Do they have feedback for you to respond too?

How did SBSUG use ADKAR for Small Business Saturday?

Braden, Michelle and I were searching for the best way to define our message for the Flash Sale on Small Business Saturday Sale.  It dawned on me, that I build communication strategies for my corporate client and use this methodology every day. So, I built a CM matrix. ADKAR is a widely used methodology in the corporate world, and I knew it would work for small businesses too.

Step 1:

We broke out our audience list from Mailchimp by Hot, Warm, and Cold and gave each list a description:

  • Hot List were the people who have been opening our emails from the very beginning.

  • Warm List were the people who have downloaded any of our free guides.

  • Cold List was people who receive our weekly newsletters but haven’t interacted with us.

Step 2:

For each list, we assigned every letter of the acronym and wrote out the corresponding message.


  • Hot list - Awareness - Announce the Small Business Saturday Sale.  

  • Warm list - Desire - You’ve downloaded all our free resource guides, do you want to see what’s inside the guide?

  • Cold list - Ability - On this date, use this code, click this button, and purchase the guide.

We planned out the content for each message, planned the dates for delivery, and most importantly the email subject lines to correspond with the particular message.

We use this same process for our Instagram and Facebook post.  The images we selected and the captions were written to align with the ADKAR letter for each message.

Step 3:


ADKAR Image Examples


Why are we sharing all the inside dirt?

Because this method works, and we doubled our click and open rates for the emails we sent.  We met our goal of selling the guides, Small Business Saturday was a success and the strategy worked.

Will we continue using ADKAR?

Yes, we’re already planning out the 2019 communication strategy using this method.  Do we talk about ADKAR in the guide? Unfortunately not, but Michelle does a great job of talking about building your Marketing Strategy pages 56-63 (Phase 3).


What are you waiting for?

Get your copy of the Small Biz Start Up Guide NOW!