Startup Marketing Plan: How and When to Invest in Email Marketing

April 5, 2017

Marketing is an ever-evolving field that is becoming more technologically complex each year. From advancements in social media ads to predictive analytics, digital marketing initiatives are expanding in new and exciting ways. But one channel has survived the test of time and still ranks as one of the most effective marketing tactics: email marketing.

We find that many startups and early stage companies don’t realize the power of investing in email marketing, and instead focus their efforts on other channels, like social media. Little do they know that email marketing can generate up to 38× return on investment, and allows marketers to target specific messages to buyer personas. Also, 68% of people prefer to receive brand communications via email and according to ExactTarget, “Email is not only alive– it’s the number one direct channel regarding daily use and consumer preference for both personal and marketing communications.” Choosing not to invest in an email marketing plan is missing out on a massive opportunity.

Benefits of email marketing

Startup marketers are always striving to do more with less budget, while building better connections with their audiences. Email is an excellent tool to accomplish this. 

Expedite the path to purchase

When done correctly, email marketing can shorten your sales cycles. According to a McKinsey report, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. By creating targeted email nurture campaigns, you can position your company as a helpful resource while building trust throughout the buyer’s journey. When it comes time to buy, prospects are more likely to choose the company that was the most helpful and provided the best resources.

Target buyer personas

Investing in email marketing segmentation makes it easy to send targeted and personalized content to prospects based on their specific needs and concerns. MailChimp found that segment-specific email marketing campaigns had 100.95% higher click-through rates than non-segmented campaigns. Startup marketers should segment email marketing lists depending on business goals. For example, do you have specific offerings for different industries? If so, you can create an email list for each target industry and send content specific to their interests and pain points.

Reach a guaranteed audience

We know that email is the preferred method of communication for the majority of buyers, but it’s also extremely effective. According to Forrester, 90% of emails get delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox. Compare that to the mere 2% of your Facebook fans who see your posts, and it’s clear that email is the best way to get your message in front of your audience.

Deepen customer relationships

Email marketing will not only keep your brand top-of-mind, but it can also help build long-term relationships. Not only for prospects, email should also be used to keep existing customers engaged. Sharing industry news, company and product updates, and educational content will build a deeper (and stickier) relationship with existing customers.

Connect your marketing ecosystem

Email marketing is often thought of as a siloed marketing channel, but in reality, it connects your entire marketing ecosystem. You can drive people to your website with digital ads and SEO, but email marketing is a strategy you can use to maintain that level of engagement throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey. Use email marketing to direct prospects and customers to new pieces of content, job postings, product updates, web pages, social posts, and industry news. With engaging content and a consistent cadence, email marketing can guide your prospects along the entire buyer’s journey, improve your industry credibility, and shorten your sales cycle.

When should I invest in email marketing at my startup?

It is never too early to invest in email marketing! Email can (and should) be used at any and every stage of growth. Use email to let people know your company is growing, report on product improvements, share a customer success story, and even ask for feedback. A monthly newsletter or quarterly company update is an easy and effective way to stay top of mind. If you’re concerned about limited bandwidth, remember that it doesn’t matter how many emails you send, but rather that you maintain a consistent cadence and create authentic content true to your company’s vision and brand.

How should I invest in email marketing at my startup?

Once you identify your overarching marketing goals, create an email marketing plan to support those goals and help you achieve marketing ROI. To ensure you’re set up for success, there are a few things you will need to get started.

Invest time in building a content marketing plan

Use content in your emails to convert and engage prospects. Invest time in building a content marketing strategy that not only “lures and hooks” a prospect, but that can be repurposed in email marketing campaigns to further engage. An editorial calendar is a great way to structure a content plan. In your editorial calendar, list content ideas that focus on main themes and target personas.

Create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, educational content like blogs and eBooks are great for early stage prospects, while ROI calculators and case studies are excellent tools for later stage prospects. With email marketing, you don’t need to reinvent the content wheel. Instead, use email as a tool to distribute existing content to people who will find it relevant.

Invest in a database to collect email addresses

Invest marketing dollars in a database tool to collect contact information from prospects. This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive; there are many lightweight, low-cost email database tools you can use to accomplish this. You can start simple with a tool like MailChimp, the leading email marketing platform used by 15 million customers ranging from small eCommerce shops to big online retailers. If you’re developing an advanced email marketing program, look into tools like dotmailer and ExactTarget.

Marketers seeking email and other marketing automation tools should look to robust marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot. All of these tools provide data and analytics reporting on your email campaigns. You’ll be able to see which prospects opened and clicked through your emails. Use this information to improve your campaigns moving forward.

Invest time in collecting contacts

After you have established your marketing contact database, you’ll need to fill it with qualified prospects that match your buyer persona criteria. Be sure to include an area on your website for prospects to “subscribe” for additional information. The best way to do this is to “lure and hook” prospects by offering them awesome, relevant content (newsletters, whitepapers, eBooks, and infographics) in exchange for their contact information.

Invest in strategies to provide offers that engage

Once your contact lists are established, ensure that in every email you:

  1. Provide a relevant piece of content for your buyer personas
  2. Provide a “call-to-action”(Contact Sales, Request a Demo, or Schedule a Meeting) to lead that prospect further down their journey in the sales funnel.

Tease your prospects with a snippet of valuable content, and then provide them the link to read more on your website. Sharing relevant industry news articles in your email campaigns is an easy way to engage your audience, and position yourself as a helpful thought leader in the space. Always provide a link in your emails for the prospect to contact sales, so that when they’re ready to buy, it is easy to do so.

When done correctly, email marketing will expedite the time it takes to convert a lead to an opportunity, present your startup as an industry thought leader, and build credibility with your prospects.

Invest time in building an ongoing database hygiene plan

As your database grows, it’s bound to get a little messy. A clean contact database is crucial to ensure you are only sending emails to people who want them from you. Sending emails to a bad database can result in your domain getting “blacklisted” for being perceived as spam. This can seriously tarnish your brand, and negatively impact your ability to get into people’s inboxes. To prevent this, learn from prospect behavior and build a plan to cull the bad contacts from your database. Here is a basic maintenance plan with good rules to practice:

  • Remove any contact that has “hard bounced” more than twice (A hard bounce is an e-mail message that has been returned to the sender because the recipient’s address is invalid)
  • Remove any contact that has “soft bounced” five times in a row (A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient)
  • Remove any contact that was sent five emails but didn’t open any

Start simple

Startup marketers are pulled in multiple directions and typically wear many hats. Fortunately, email marketing doesn’t have to be hard. Start by creating one generic email drip campaign, containing a few pieces of strategic marketing content (whitepapers or case studies would be great). As you create more content and advance your marketing programs, you can start segmenting your lists to build new persona specific drip campaigns. As mentioned, you can use a simple tool like MailChimp to automate your email sends. Here are a few tips to help you kick off your email marketing program.

If you’re looking for help investing in an email marketing program for your startup, let BSTRO guide the way. Our team of in-house experts has partnered with organizations of all sizes on email development, design and marketing campaigns. We can help create an email marketing plan that’s just right for your startup.

Let’s talk about your email marketing goals today

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