Email marketing remains one of the most effective strategies for startups looking to rapidly grow their customer base and revenues. When done right, email converts at a higher rate than most other channels while having some of the best ROI across digital marketing.
Whether you’re just getting started or looking to scale your existing efforts, this guide shares 15 powerful tips to 5x your business with email marketing.
Ranging from list building to automation and testing, these best practices will help strengthen engagement, increase conversions, and unlock exponential gains.
Benefits of Using Email Marketing for Startups
Email marketing delivers unparalleled returns for startups looking to rapidly acquire and retain customers.
Studies show that email converts at 3-4 times higher rates than other channels while costing significantly less per lead generated. Beyond lower CPLs and higher conversions, startups benefit from increased customer lifetime value through highly targeted, personalized messaging that strengthens engagement over time.
Additionally, email enables startups to reach customers at scale, facilitate repeat purchases, upsells, and cross-sells, and even regain lapsed buyers cost-effectively.
The high deliverability and inbox placement also means owning the primary communication channel to customers.
For early-stage ventures, dedicating effort towards email marketing can 2-5x revenues rapidly compared to other channels. The plethora of free and low-cost email marketing tools also makes this accessible and executable.
1. Build an Email List
The foundation of impactful email marketing is owning a targeted, high-quality list of subscribers genuinely interested in your offerings. Yet many startups struggle to build their lists fast enough or attract engaged users.
Focus on providing compelling reasons for visitors to subscribe, such as exclusive content, discounts, or early access to new products.
Constructing an email subscription funnel across your site also helps capture more leads over time. Strategically place sign-up forms on key pages such as the home page, product pages, blog, and resource libraries.
Offering a lead magnet like an ebook, coupon, or webinar in exchange for their email further incentivizes subscription at different stages. Here is an example of a lead magnet from HubSpot:
Lastly, don’t shy away from explicitly asking visitors to join your list through pop-ups and sticky bars. Combine with exit-intent triggers to capture leads just before they leave your site. The key is conveying value upfront while keeping barriers to entry low through concise, single-field forms.
2. Send Welcome Series
The welcome series presents the first impression of your brand for email subscribers. Yet many companies squander this opportunity with generic messaging that fails to engage. Instead, design a dedicated 3-5 email sequence that educates subscribers on key offerings, sets expectations, and builds rapport.
Structure your welcome series to guide clients along their buyer’s journey with your brand.
- Use the first email to introduce yourself, share their subscription perks, and highlight best-selling products.
- The second message can dive into commonly asked questions and provide helpful resources based on their interests.
- Final emails should nurture leads towards conversions or key actions like setting up their account.
Personalization also boosts open and clickthrough rates substantially throughout your sequence. Small details like including the subscriber’s name go a long way. Tailor content to their signup source, locations, role, or firm when possible. And always direct readers to specific pages based on relevance to accelerate conversions.
3. Share Relevant Content
With inbox attention spans declining, consistently sharing relevant content in your emails is key for startups. Yet simply copy-pasting your latest blog post or product update often backfires. The content you share should directly map to subscribers’ needs, interests, and buying stage.
Conduct user research through surveys and interviews to guide the types of information and offers shared. Profile subscribers to categorize users and adapt content accordingly. Buyers just entering the funnel receive educational materials while repeat purchasers get exclusive deals. Segmenting your lists this way boosts open and click rates dramatically.
It also pays to test content types rigorously through A/B testing emails. For example, compare how infographics, long-form articles, or short videos resonate across subscriber cohorts. Consistently iterate using open and clickthrough data to determine optimal formats to feature moving forward.
4. Promote Products
Email serves as the ideal channel for startups to directly inform customers of new products and promotions. Yet resist blasting sloppy sales pitches or overpromoting offers which damages trust. Instead, strike an educational tone highlighting genuine value to readers.
When featuring products in emails, include images/videos, detailed descriptions, customer reviews, and clear calls to action. Share the origin story and pain points addressed to further build desire. Offer limited-time discounts or bundles to accelerate conversions rather than permanent price cuts.
You can also nurture cold leads by first providing valuable content around their needs. Once engagement strengthens, cross-sell complementary or higher-tier products through personalized recommendations. This balanced approach grows revenues while keeping unsubscribes low.
5. Spotlight Founders
Putting a human face behind your brand via founder spotlights generates immense goodwill with subscribers. Yet avoid vanilla team page introductions that fail to resonate. Instead, focus spotlights on showcasing authentic stories and experiences.
Dedicate an entire email to interviewing founders, early employees, or influencers who embodied your mission from the start. Ask them to share key milestones, early risks taken, and memorable interactions with customers. Readers deeply connect with bold failures, triumphs over adversity, and compassionate moments.
Founder spotlights also build authority and trust especially for younger startups. Select individuals intrinsically tied to why your solutions exist and the problem they solve for clients. Have them elaborate on their leadership approach, values, and vision for the company’s future. Readers want to engage with the humanity behind brands.
6. Event Promotions
Email enables startups to easily inform subscribers of upcoming events, webinars, and conferences. Yet avoid assuming one-size-fits-all messaging will sufficiently excite attendance. Instead, personalize event promotions around subscriber location, role, and past event participation.
First, segment your lists geographically when announcing in-person events to only message local subscribers. Next, highlight different agenda topics and speakers based on subscriber seniority and industries. For example, leadership-focused sessions for executives and technical talks for engineers.
You can also nurture event interest over time through a multi-touch awareness campaign. Send initial save-the-dates, speaker announcements, discounted ticket offers, and last-minute RSVP reminders. This sustained engagement dramatically boosts registrations and attendance.
7. Send Invites to Webinars
Webinars enable startups to rapidly build authority, generate leads, and educate subscribers at scale. Yet indifferently blasting webinar invites often damages engagement long term. Instead, target promotional emails around subscriber qualifications and appeal to their intrinsic motivations.
First, only message contacts with some existing interest or fit based on their firm, role, and past content consumption. Next, customize subject lines and copy to their specialization. For example, highlight advanced tactics for power users or intro topics for newcomers.
Also, optimize subject line length for optimal open rates and conversions.
You can also sweeten the invitation by bundling in special resources with registrations. Offer exclusive discount codes, sneak peeks at upcoming products, and early access to thought leadership materials. Position the webinar as a rare glimpse behind the curtains to accelerate sign-ups, conversions, and sales.
8. Create a Newsletter with Industry Insights
Publishing a regular newsletter builds lasting mindshare with subscribers as a trusted source of intelligence.
Yet compiling generic industry news often dilutes readership and perceived value over time. Instead, provide informed perspectives, analysis, and commentary customers can’t get elsewhere.
- Curate a balanced mix of contextualized news updates, long-form think pieces, data-led trend reports, and interviews with leaders or experts.
- Insert thoughtful interpretations explaining impacts to customers rather than just headline recaps.
- Feature contributed columns from staff subject matter experts to showcase thought leadership.
A weekly or monthly cadence allows sufficient time to source unique stories while avoiding overload for readers.
Package each edition around an intriguing central theme or narrative arc that connects the content within. Prominent commentary and visuals make dense research topics far more digestible.
9. Reward Loyal Customers
Loyalty programs that offer exclusive perks and promotions help startups strengthen engagement with committed users and advocates. Yet simply copying generic store point schemes often falls flat digitally. Instead, design tiered rewards around subscriber email behavior reflecting true brand affinity.
- For example, offer early access to new features for readers opening and clicking at high rates over 3 months.
- Or unlock premium content libraries and service upgrades after 1 year with above-average activity.
- Identify power users reading your newsletter religiously by examining individual-level metrics beyond opens.
Surprising and delighting VIP subscribers reinforces your gratitude for their support from the start. Tie rewards directly to previous engagements brought on by their email clicks, shares, referrals, and purchases. Feature super fans within testimonial emails and case studies when they consent. Community fuels growth.
10. Use Customer Surveys for Feedback
Email allows startups to instantly distribute surveys capturing subscriber feedback at scale. Yet keep questions targeted instead of overburdening inboxes with broad requests. Laser focus inquiries around key personas, offerings, and customer lifecycle stages.
For example, send short user experience surveys to customers right after purchases, onboarding, service issues, or major site updates.
Capture their nuanced impressions on new features that the analytics can’t reveal. This rapid user research shapes smarter product decisions and roadmaps.
You can also segment surveys by subscriber behavior, industry, or other attributes to tailor questions accordingly. Personalize subject lines and introductions using merge tags as well for higher open and completion rates.
Offer incentives like credits or gift cards to further boost participation from target groups. Prioritize quality over quantity with your surveying.
11. Segment Contacts
Segmenting your lists enables startups to send hyper-targeted emails tuned to the needs of each subgroup. Yet basic groups like customers vs non-customers only scratch the surface of effective personalization. Dig deeper using multiple characteristics and behaviors simultaneously.
For example, group users across categories like industry, seniority, company size, job function, content downloads, order history, review ratings are given, and more. Then define segments like “directors in retail opening >80% of promo emails” or “dissatisfied health sector customers”.
Once created, tailor your email content, offers, subject lines, and sender details to accurately reflect each group. Test new segments continuously and track engagement rates to identify best-performing groups for future campaigns. Both automated and manual list segmentation should become engrained in your workflows.
12. Personalize Messages
Personalized email copy, content, and offers to convert higher for startups by making connections more intimate. Yet scattershot merging first names into generic templates backfires through lack of context. Match the precision and nuance each subscriber expects.
When done well, personalization should demonstrate an understanding of recipients’ unique needs and history with your brand. Use behavioral data like past email clicks, downloads, and purchases to infer interests and tailor content accordingly. Location, company, and role details also guide relevant product recommendations and local offers.
Testing personalization across subject lines, copy, content types, and promotions is key. For example, compare how first-name merging impacts open rates between longtime purchasers and new subscribers differently. Build enough variants to pinpoint what moves each audience. Optimization is ongoing.
13. Automate Campaigns
Automating repetitive email campaigns frees startups to focus on high-level strategy while maintaining engagement. Yet simply scheduling bulk blasts without personalization damages hard-won subscriber trust over time. Surgical precision guided by data intelligence is required.
First, identify key lifecycle milestones, user behaviors, and dates ideal for specific communications. Then set up a series of triggered campaigns addressing each scenario.
For example, automatically welcome new subscribers, re-engage lapsed email openers, surface best-selling items for frequent shoppers, and notify around service renewals. You can also send abandoned cart emails. Studies show that sending three abandoned cart emails leads to 69% more orders.
Once configured, monitor automated campaign performance through open/click rates. Split-test new variants against the controls to optimize further. Provide subscribers with easy unsubscribe paths if certain messages become irrelevant over time due to shifting preferences. Automation success depends wholly on dynamic, granular personalization.
14. Test and Analyze
Rigorously testing email campaigns and analyzing performance data accelerates learning for startups.
Yet many overly rely on generic open and clickthrough rates without deeper context. Focus on customer-centric engagement and revenue metrics for insight.
For example, track email-influenced visits, purchases divided by recipient segment, and attributed sales by campaign. Calculate customer lifetime value growth empowered by your messages. Audit unsubscribes and spam complaints to identify poorly performing content areas or sender reputations needing overhaul.
Tools like A/B testing subject lines, content formats, and calls to action also optimize your emails. The key is continually testing new hypotheses while eliminating low performers informed purely by subscriber signals. Optimization never ceases as groups expand and preferences evolve. Commit to constant measurement.
15. Respect Recipients’ Inboxes
Gaining subscriber trust requires startups to respect recipients’ inboxes when messaging. Yet many unwittingly overwhelm contacts through email deluges full of promotional noise. Prioritize value, nuance, and restraint instead.
Carefully evaluate campaign necessity, target groups, message frequency/volume, and subscription management to not overburden readers. Offer easy global and email-level unsubscribe tools prominently while keeping them to a minimum. Seek explicit consent when possible before deploying aggressive sequences so readers opt in knowingly beforehand.
It also pays to survey subscribers’ willingness to receive certain message types like promotions or newsletter frequencies to guide prudent communications. Proactively surfacing subscription management links within emails enables recipients to control preferences, and re-engage dormant contacts before scrubbing. Building goodwill fosters growth.
Implementing even a handful of the above email marketing best practices positions startups for exponential subscriber growth and revenue gains. Dedicate effort towards list building, personalization, automation, and optimization guided purely by audience signals.
Respect recipient inboxes by providing value and control. With a strategic roadmap and consistent testing, unlocking transformative business success through email is within reach. Start small but think big by laying the foundations today.