7-min read

Growing your Startup Audience through Email Marketing

Online marketing is a whole new world for traditional businesses and entrepreneurs looking for an eCommerce goldmine, and email marketing is at once the most powerful force in this world and also the most maligned one.

Think email marketing, and the word “spam” comes to mind. It’s not edible either. The stigma is real enough, but you don’t have to be a spammer to send an email. Besides, can you really afford to ignore a channel that provides an ROI of $40 for every dollar spent?

You may think that you can get hold of everyone on social media, so why bother with emails? Well, here’s news for you - Email traffic is still the second largest source of visitors for shopping sites, after search engines.

Secondly, there are more email accounts than social media accounts. Everyone with a social media account has an email, but not everyone with an email is one active on social media. Also, there’s a world of difference in how you market your company, brand, product and yourself through email and on social media. Email is a 1-on-1 communication system, and that’s always going to be more effective in sales and marketing.

On top of all this, startups are especially in a dire need to reach their audience and prospective customers. Sure you have a brilliant idea and maybe a functional product, but no one knows you exist. You can’t go the Mad Men because startups don’t have the money to advertise. What you need is a grassroots campaign to introduce your company and product to customers, one at a time if necessary. You’ll do social media, of course. But Email marketing is also an integral component, primarily because it’s the only affordable marketing channel for startups short of cash.

Then there’s the question of beta testing, for which again you need people to sign up. Getting a mailing list all set up right from Day 1 means you have the chance to ask every interested visitor on your website to sign up for the beta beforehand. You’re killing two or three birds - you get all the beta testers you need, they gin up prelaunch publicity for you by sharing it with their friends, and you now have a mailing list filled with subscribers who are all potential customers after you launch.

Assuming you’re convinced about the urgent imperative to get started with email marketing, here’s what you need to do (and not do). The key to success with email marketing, as with most things in life, lies is the way you execute it. Use the tools that are available to build a professional mailing list system, and follow the examples of some companies that are doing extremely well (see below).

Tip: Like for example, if you are build a new task management app, you can initially build your reader list through a simple blog. You write on impending problems and at the end ask them to sign up to read more similar stuff or to wait for the next one. After that slowly as you build your app, you continue to lure your audience with the problems, solutions, what you guys are doing backend and more until one fine day you launch your app. So all this time, your mailing list subscribers were growing through organic readership because of the compelling content and finally you give them something to munch on. You now know that you have a ready list of early adopters for your product. There have been many such startups who initially started off as a blog and have transitioned into an amazing product. What email marketing does in this case is building interaction points between the startup and the readers who might become a prospective buyer after a while.

Nathan C Brown, email marketing specialist at, says the best email marketing tactics for startups boils down to the following - Gamification; Viral Invites; Signups; Utilizing Active Social Groups; and Co-registration.

Tip: That’s what Quora does, and they do it every well too. They send one email a week, and it’s a killer email choc-a-bloc full of content from Quora threads that are precisely chosen to match each subscriber’s interests. Most other emails coming in from mailing lists get deleted without even a read, while Quora subscribers await their weekly dose eagerly.

Split-Testing and Scrubbing

Once you get through the teething problems and have the basics working properly, you should know that you can do a whole lot better. The aim here is to improve the ROI. If you’re getting $0.10 per email sent, then it can easily be pushed up to $0.14 or $0.15. If you’re getting $30 per dollar spent, you can push it up to $40.

Split-testing, again one of the features all the tools offer, allows you to test what works best by pitting multiple choices against each other and showing you the results. You can fiddle around with everything from the core message to the location of the opt-in form, the fonts and the colors used.

Scrubbing removes unwanted subscribers. These may be duplicates, invalid emails and others who are no longer active, in the sense that anything you send is deleted goes straight to their trash. Some may even have marked your emails as spam. Removing these people reduces the overall cost of sending newsletters and improves your ROI. Make it a point to scrub your list every now and then using tools such as Scrubbly.

At the end of every blog post or on your product landing page, you could write something like “Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to tour mailing list to get amazing stuff In your inbox.” This request asking you to subscribe is a call to action (CTA), without which your newsletter and everything else described above is pretty much a wasted effort.

Now you must be already thinking about writing or composing the next newsletter? It is a nice blend of some rules and a lot of humane elements cooked in your emails.

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