How to use email marketing for startups

Email marketing helps your business stay in the forefront of your customers’ minds until they’re ready to buy. Read our guide to discover how keeping up the email conversation can help grow your sales.

Why use email marketing?

An email marketing campaign – sending out content to your mailing list – is a low cost way of communicating with potential or existing customers.

The power of email marketing is that you own the address list and can choose exactly how and when you communicate with your audience.

How do I build an email list?

Building your email marketing list takes time. How you grow your subscriber audience will depend entirely on the business you operate and the type of customers you want to attract.

For example, if you run a shop or cafe, you could ask customers to sign up at the till for updates when they pay for their goods. It’s good practice to embed actions which help grow your email list into your sales process.

If you run an online business, you can add a pop-up on your site asking people to sign up for updates. To collect subscribers’ names and addresses, use a service such as MailChimp or ask your web designer to install one as an add-on to your website. As an incentive, you could add a giveaway, such as a discount, ebook, or competition entry.

There are hundreds of ways to grow your list, but here are some commonly used sign-up incentives:

  • Offer exclusive discounts or priority offers to newsletter subscribers.
  • Notify email subscribers of flash sales or special offers before reductions appear in bricks and mortar shops.
  • If you run a professional service consultancy, consider giving away a free e-guide or course demonstrating your expertise.

What should I write?

Email marketing helps build lasting relationships with your customers. There’s no room for hard sell here. Think like a publisher and write regular emails which provide real value and interest to your reader. Email marketing should serve as a gentle reminder of your presence, putting you at the forefront of customers’ minds when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Your messages or newsletters will be vying for attention with hundreds of other emails in your subscribers’ inboxes. It’s important to spend time getting your content right – think interesting angles, tips, advice and information. For example, if you run an online craft store you could include useful tips on how to upcycle various pieces of furniture using the products you stock.

Strengthen your brand

Email marketing can also create a voice for your brand. To connect with your audience, use words and phrases that they’d naturally use. If you mostly sell to teenagers, consider using informal language, images and emojis. For tech savvy customers, use more technical terms.

Make sure your emails reflect your brand by using the same kind of language you use

on your website, flyers or other marketing literature. It’s worth jotting down a few points about the language and phrases you use to ensure your messaging is consistent. This is especially important if your content is written by more than one person.

Treat email subject lines like newspaper headlines. They need to catch the eye of your readers. Include just enough information to draw your reader into opening your message. You could also include something intriguing or a call to action. If you run a garden centre, you could write an autumn email with this prompt to take action in the subject line: ‘Plant these bulbs now for guaranteed spring colour.’

How do I distribute email marketing messages?

Use an automated email system to distribute your emails. MailChimp offers a free version which doesn’t require any design or coding experience. It allows you to create campaigns, sign-up forms and templates, and includes reporting features.

Is there a best time to send communications to my email marketing list?

The best time to send out your email depends on your target market. As a starting point, consider time zones and any typical behaviours. If your target market includes rail commuters, you may want to send out your messages early in the morning. If you mostly sell to students, you may prefer to email later in the day.