Email Marketing

A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Your Startup

Leilani Bruce
Published on May 7, 2019

A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Your Startup

Early stage startups have one thing on their mind – don’t run out of money! As a founder, you’re constantly thinking about how to attract new investors and keep your startup lean and efficient. Email marketing can tackle both of those priorities all at once.

No other marketing strategy comes close to email’s return on investment of $32 for every dollar spent. And to get started, there’s little to no cost. You can generate quick sales to boost revenue, keep your funding partners in the loop, and encourage them to share the investment opportunity.

But this is just the beginning. When you build an effective email marketing campaign early on, you’ll create a strong foundation of supporters who can carry your startup into an established, successful business.


When you build an effective email marketing campaign early on, you’ll create a strong foundation of supporters who can carry your startup into an established, successful business. Click To Tweet

Ready to go? Today’s blog will cover the first three steps of email marketing for startups:

Table of Contents
Choosing the Right Email Service Provider
Creating an Email Marketing Strategy
Building an Email List

Choosing the Right Email Service Provider

Let’s start with the basics - your email service provider (ESP). You’ve probably heard of companies like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber. They’re the big players in the ESP space. Even though they probably have what you need to get started, it’s important to think long term. Here are a few things you should consider before choosing an ESP.

  • Free Plan - A free plan can save you money at the beginning when your list is small. It also gives you a chance to test out their platform without any risk. If they don't have a free plan, look for a free trial.
  • Number of Subscribers - If your startup is geared toward a small niche, you might not anticipate a large list. On the other hand, if you’re an app developer looking to get thousands of subscribers quickly, keep that in mind when you choose a plan.
  • Number of Emails - Like the number of subscribers, ESPs often base their plans on the number of emails sent. Will you be sending a monthly newsletter? Or a series of lead nurturing emails? Your strategy will help you decide on which plan is best.
  • Templates - Many ESPs often basic templates, but make sure you can apply your own brand and logo.
  • Automation - In other words, can you pre-schedule emails based on prompts, like new signups or purchases? Naturally, this is a must for efficient operations. Especially as your list grows.
  • Segmentation - You want to be able to divide your list into groups, so you can send personalized emails. Even if you don’t plan to do this right away, you should have an ESP with this capability.
  • Reporting - Can you find and understand their reports? Look for dashboards with stats like delivery, open, and click rates. See if they have any advanced reporting if you need it.
  • Integrations - If you’re using other tools like scheduling or payment apps, make sure your ESP will integrate easily. You don’t want to invest a lot of time and then find out you need to do custom coding.
  • Customer Service - There are plenty of ways to check out the reviews and ratings. Check out Capterra or PCMag.

email marketing for startups

Capterra is a third-party website that evaluates software. Rather than automatically choosing the most well-known email service provider, check out other options to see if they’re better suited for your needs.

Creating an Email Marketing Strategy

While email is an ideal marketing strategy for startups, it’s most successful when it’s well planned. Now that you have an email service provider, here are several questions to help you think through your approach before you dive into writing emails.

What kind of emails are you sending?

You may not be ready to tackle all these types of emails at once, and probably shouldn’t, but it’s important to understand the purpose of each one. You can then decide where to focus your attention for your first email campaign.

  • Transactional Emails
    Transactional emails are related to standard business processes. For example, confirmations or receipts.
  • Customer Experience Emails
    These emails are designed to help a new customer get the most out of their purchase. For example, an email series that answers FAQs one by one.
  • Lead Nurturing Emails
    When you want to move your prospect toward a sale, lead nurturing emails provide helpful information. For example, an email series that addresses their possible objections to a purchase one at a time.
  • Stand Alone Emails
    Sometimes you need to send a single email with one purpose. For example, an announcement, request, or special offer.
  • Email Newsletters
    Newsletters keep your audience informed and keep you top of mind. For example, they might include recent blogs, news, or curated content.

Who are you sending emails to? And what do you want them to do?

Email marketing for startups usually focuses on four audiences (prospects, customers, investors, and potential investors). Think about the mindset and motivations of each, so your emails are useful and encourage action.

  • Your Prospects
    They're seeking helpful information related to your startup. You need to convince them your product/service is the right solution. Your goal is to encourage signup, purchase, or sharing.
  • Your Customers
    They want to get the most out of their recent purchase, so they need help understanding how to use your product or service. Your objective is to ensure a seamless customer experience so they’ll remain a customer and share your startup with others.
  • Your Investors
    They want to get the most out of their investment. They need reassurance that their funds are being used wisely and that projections are on target. Your goal is to keep them informed so they continue as an investor and share the opportunity with others.
  • Your Potential Investors
    They're seeking background information about your startup to decide if it’s a smart investment. You want to present a professional image that inspires confidence so they’ll choose to invest or share with others.
Email marketing for startups usually focuses on four audiences (prospects, customers, investors, and potential investors). Think about the mindset and motivations of each, so your emails are useful and encourage action. Click To Tweet

How often are you sending emails? And when?

This will depend on the type of email. If you’re sending a newsletter, you’ll have to decide how often to send and the best day/time. There’s plenty of advice on the web about the best times to send email, but ultimately, you’ll need to look at your own data to see what works. Just make sure you stick to a schedule, so your readers begin to expect the newsletter.

However, you can set up certain emails to go out as soon as your customer takes an action. For example, as soon as a new customer signs up, you can send a welcome email. After that, they’ll receive a series of customer experience emails. Once you’ve done the initial set-up, you just have to monitor the reports to see if they’re effective.

How will you track success?

Once you have everything set up, you'll want to know what email marketing metrics to track in order to evaluate the success of your email campaign. One of the key performance indicators to track for your email marketing efforts is the conversion rate. In other words, how many people took the desired action compared to the number of people who received the email. To measure, divide the number of people who completed the desired task (clicking on a link in the email) by the number of emails sent and multiply that by 100 for a percentage. Your email service provider should include this statistic in their reports.

Email marketing for startups

Emails are most effective when you focus on the recipient’s goals and motivations. Visible (a company helping startups communicate better with investors) offers several free templates you can use to send investor updates. Source

Building Your Email List

First things first. Don’t buy a list. In addition to the possible legal problems, your likelihood of converting them to customers is exceptionally low. After all, they don’t know you. You haven’t built the necessary trust by exchanging something of value for their email address.

Let’s talk about a few tried and true ways to build your email list organically.

Optimize Your Website and Social Media
One of the easiest things you can do to build your email list is to make sure it’s ridiculously simple for people to subscribe. Have a subscribe option on your homepage, at the bottom of every blog post, and on every social media platform. Link to your subscribe page or a specific landing page when you post on social media. You could also add to your byline if you guest blog.

Create a Valuable Offer or Giveaway
I’m sure you’re familiar with creating a free download or other helpful resources in exchange for the customer’s email address, but adding a giveaway can boost the appeal. To avoid having people sign up just for the giveaway (who aren’t ideal customers), make the prize relevant and useful to your target audience.

Encourage Referrals with Rewards
You should always remind subscribers to share with a friend, but an incentive can help nudge them. As with the giveaway, keep it relevant, so your list remains high quality.

email marketing for startups

Everybody loves some swag! Incorporate fun giveaways or rewards to encourage new email subscribers. Source

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Email marketing for startups is a win-win. You can generate new business, build loyal followers, and keep your funders happy - all with minimal investment. That being said, it takes time up front. For busy startups, that can often present a major challenge. If time is holding you back, Pacific54 can help.

7 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Your Startup”

  • Maite says:

    Email marketing is an excellent strategy for any startup, is low cost and allows to generate conversions or monetize the investment, more directly. For me, the most important thing is to be clear about the goal that you want to achieve and depending on it, design a value content and called to action.

  • Charlotte Little says:

    I was lost on this one. Thank you so much for breaking it down easy.

  • Ryan Anthony says:

    I never think about email marketing but I hear it can be successful when it’s done right. I had no idea about the generalities or the specifics until I read this article. Thanks for giving me some background on an overlooked marketing tool. BTW, I think incentivizing your email marketing is a key tactic as you want people to refer friends and come back for rewards. That’s a common sense approach I could have figured out but you made it crystal clear.

  • Evalyn says:

    This is such a helpful to-do list. I didn’t know MailChimp was such a great option. And the fact that it is free for people with a low following starting out just makes it that much more appealing.

    • Leilani Bruce says:

      Definitely! It’s always good to be able to try things out for free, especially when you’re just starting out.

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