Email Marketing   Marketing and Sales

Email Marketing for Startups: Promotion Best Practices

9 minutes

Email Marketing for Startups: Promotion Best Practices

Startups require a lot of investment, including a strong marketing strategy and effective tools to bring this strategy to life. Without a doubt, one of the top channels that can take your business to the next level is email.

According to the statistics, email is the most effective channel when it comes to

In this article, we’ll guide you through email marketing for startups. We’ll show you a bunch of email examples from real startups and explain how to go from receiving your first subscriber to sending out regular email campaigns.

Build a mailing list organically

The most valuable asset of a startup is people — prospects, existing customers, and investors — as these groups help a new business grow faster by purchasing its products and spreading information about it. That is why you should focus on attracting more people to your mailing list.

No matter how tempting it may look, don’t buy a mailing list as it may pose a big risk for your startup’s reputation, and here’s why:

  • GDPR and other email spam laws and regulations may be violated resulting in large penalties;
  • spam traps can appear in purchased mailing list, lowering your sender reputation and eventually getting you blacklisted as a sender.

The best decision is to play fair and collect a mailing list organically.

Use subscription forms

One of the most popular ways to get new subscribers is to locate subscription forms on a website or a landing page. There are four types: pop-up, floating, fixed, and embedded.

Let’s see some examples used by different startups.

Here’s a fixed subscription form from the clothing brand And Comfort. Fixed forms draw a user’s attention subtly. A user can either join the mailing list by typing in an email address and clicking the “Sign Up” button or simply close the form. Until then, it will stay at the bottom part of the screen.

fixed subscription form
A fixed subscription form on the And Comfort website

A pop-up form on the MYLK Food Store website has a bright image that represents its products, a friendly copy, and a large CTA button. Notice the difference between the fonts used in And Comfort and Mylk Team subscription forms. The former uses Serif, which gives out classy vibes suitable for fashion brands, while the latter has chosen Sans Serif, which looks more simple and homey.

popup subscription form
A pop-up subscription form on the MYLK Food Store website

Another pop-up from The Sill has a fun “Get the dirt” call to action. If you think that your audience will appreciate a creative bold copy, experiment and test different versions to see which opt-in form would bring more subscriptions.

popup subscription form
A pop-up subscription form on The Sill website

A floating form by Spero Foods appears on the right side of the screen and is very minimalistic. It contrasts with the bright colors of their website, attracting user attention.

floating subscription form
A floating subscription form on the Spero Foods website

Magnetize your audience

To get more people to sign up for your startup emails, offer something valuable in exchange for their names and email addresses. This solution is called a lead magnet as it literally drags a user’s attention like a magnet. You can offer a discount, free eBook, link to a webinar, or any other piece of valuable content.

For instance, Buttermilk attracts subscribers with an opportunity to win a Buttermilk Suite. Notice that the “Cancel” button has been changed to the “I’m not feeling lucky” to make this option less attractive.

lead magnet example
A lead magnet from Buttermilk

To collect email addresses from a highly engaged audience, you can also introduce a demo of your product or service. For example, Togg, a startup that invented passive sensors for seniors, offers potential subscribers to share their contact details in exchange for the demo version of the Togg product.

lead magnet example
An offer to request a demo version of the Togg products

Early insider access is another idea for your lead magnet. It sounds like an exxlusive offer, which can attract more people and boost their motivation to purchase your product. Inokyo used this opportunity to attract more people to their pop-up opening, so you can also apply this technique for promoting any of your products and services.

lead magnet example
An offer to request an early access to the Inokyo Pop-up Store

Intelistyle offers their subscribers a chance to join the waiting list for the Android version of their app. That’s a good way to collect the email addresses of those who are curious about the upcoming products. You can stimulate their interest with promotional emails or tell more about the app creation process so that users will feel like they are a part of your team.

lead magnet example
An offer to join the waiting list from Intelistyle

Play a game

To be remembered by users, why not to add some gamification and make the subscription process a little more fun? Look at the example from FREY: you spin a wheel and receive one of many prizes.

gamification in subscription form
Gamification in a subscription form from FREY

Try out referral programs

A good option for growing your mailing list is to offer existing subscribers a chance to participate in a referral program and tell their friends about your brand in exchange for a gift, discount or any other valuable freebie.

FREY explained the mechanics of their referral program in a visually clear way. They used icons to illustrate each step of the process and applied thier corporate bright red color to the CTA button and to the subtle touches of the email.

startup email example
A referral program email from FREY

Decide between a single or double opt-in

Single and double opt-in confirmations require different actions to be taken from users for the subscription to be complete.

Here’s the difference:

  • Single opt-in doesn’t require anything but providing an email address and clicking the sign-up button.
  • Double opt-in requires a user to confirm their subscription by clicking a link or CTA button in an email that is sent right after a person opts in.

Decide which option better suits your business targets. As you might guess, double opt in provides you with a higher quality leads, while single opt-in provides a higher quantity of leads.

Keep your sender reputation high

Sender reputation is a score between 0 and 100 assigned to every email sender by internet service providers.

In short, sender reputation is affected by four main factors:

Sender reputation is directly proportional to delivery rates: the higher your rate, more subscribers will receive your emails, in their inbox, avoiding the spam folder. We recommend that you track your sender score regularly, and if there’s any problems, solve them as quickly as possible.

Use the full power of every email

Every email that you send is an opportunity to promote your startup, make a sale, learn more about your audience, and raise their loyalty. There are so many options to choose from depending on your goals.

Here are some of the types of emails a startup can use:

  • welcome — set up the first connection with subscribers;
  • milestone and holiday — highlight significant moments and engage with the audience;
  • content — offer useful or engaging information;
  • transactional — validate the status of a purchase or an order;
  • abandoned cart — check on users who haven’t completed their purchase;
  • re-engagement — awaken inactive subscribers.

Let’s see a few email examples from different startups.

Welcome email for startups

Take a chance while users are most interested and start a conversation. Take a look at the example from FREY. A subscriber received an automated welcome email which feels like a personal message thanks to its simple real-life text and lack of images which would probably give this email more of a promotional look. It ends up with a question stimulating a subscriber to send a response and continue the dialogue.

startup email example
A welcome email from FREY

Another option is to greet new subscribers with a present, like Buttermilk did, offering 10% off their first order. The copy looks very friendly, namely due to the “welcome to the family” line, which brings the brand closer to their audience.

startup email example
A welcome email from Buttermilk

Welcome emails don’t have to be short. It’s your moment to shine, so use it wisely and showcase your best products or things you are proud of.

The Sill, for example, send a welcome email packed with valuable content. They start with a short text explaining their philosophy while also talking about the guarantees and benefits they offer to customers. Then gives information about the collection of best sellers, description of the company’s benefits and promo of their master classes. Even though the brand’s benefits have been mentioned a lot throughout this email, it doesn’t sound too promotional — rather very informative for new subscribers.

startup email example
A welcome email from The Sill

Milestone and holiday emails for startups

Create a calendar of holiday and personal milestones you can somehow link with your products and don’t miss a chance to surprise your audience with something new. For instance, The Sill decided to use National Cat Day to promote their pet-friendly plants — a clever solution, isn’t it?

startup email example
A holiday email offer from The Sill

Content email for startups

If your startup has a blog, you should promote it through email to get more readers and raise brand awareness. Send out fresh and most popular articles or compile digests packed with interesting content.

Here’s an example from And Comfort. From time to time, they promote particular articles from the am:pm blog with a detailed intro, supporting photo, and a distinct title for each entry.

startup email example
A digest email from And Comfort

A contest is another great idea for your content email. It can help you improve engagement or even wake up some sleeping subscribers. Focus on the value of the prize, use a bright attention-grabbing design, and explain how and what users can win.

For example, FREY held a contest with a huge prize — a trip to Los Angeles. They provided a detailed explanation of what the package includes so that people won’t have incorrect expectations and know exactly what they were going to participate in it.

startup email example
A content email with contest by FREY

Learning from a real-world example of email marketing for startups

“Content is King,” as Bill Gates said, and we can’t agree more. The more informative, unique and useful your content is, the more loyal customers and startup advocates you get.

Let’s study one particular case, emails from And Comfort, to see what content the startup puts out there. We’ll introduce the email examples in the same order we’ve received them.

The welcome email we got from And Comfort doesn’t promote any products, but tells us an inspiring story about their brand’s philosophy. The overall vibe was peaceful, clean and candid. They also dedicated one part of the email to showcase their am:pm blog.

startup email example
A welcome email from And Comfort

Next, we received a promotional email that introduced an And Comfort bestseller — a tee. They choose to start slow and gradually demonstrate more products with upcoming messages. Pictures showed how the tee looks like in real life and what colors it goes in.

startup email example
A promotional email from And Comfort

Then there came a promotional email with user-generated content (UGC). The brand introduced four women who shared their photos in And Comfort clothing and commented on its quality and their personal experience with the products.

startup email example
A promotional email with UGC from And Comfort

The last email was a behind-the-scenes one. It’s always interesting to learn how your favorite T-shirt was made, so the brand decided to use emails to tell the story. The email started with the brand’s values and ended up with an explanation of the “We Do Things Differently” title. Especially charming about And Comfort, is that they always use strong titles and engaging copies.

startup email example
A behind-the-scenes email from And Comfort

Let’s sum it up

Follow your email marketing strategy to promote a startup and maximize the efforts you invest in each of the following steps:

  1. Collect email addresses by fair means using a subscription form and launching referral programs. Use lead magnets and gamification to attract more subscribers.
  2. Maintain your sender reputation — send relevant content, validate and clean your mailing list, and regularly check email performance — as it directly affects deliverability rate and overall success of email campaigns.
  3. Make use of every email to engage your subscribers and win their loyalty — set up a welcome series, mix promotional and informational content.

Good luck on your way to promoting your startup! And we, for our part, will be excited to meet you in SendPulse Startup Accelerator and give you free guidance on email marketing for startup as well as a $5,000 grant for our services!

Date of publication:

4 Jan. 2019

Daria Stratovich

Being always on the road, I consider myself a thrill-seeking traveler. I draw inspiration from fresh experiences and meeting new...

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