Email Marketing for Early-stage Startups

An email marketing service is a platform that enables you to stay connected with your customer base and promote your business. There are many email marketing tools out there offering a range of infrastructure, customizability and analytics services. Some are geared toward smaller, early-stage companies, while others specialize in the needs of enterprise-level businesses. Think about your target audience, email marketing strategy and budget. Which email marketing service is right for you?

How to select an email marketing tool

If most of your sales and leads are inbound, or if you just don’t feel the need for external marketing, you may not be ready for an email marketing platform. But for those of you who are just starting to do your research on email marketing providers, here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • Robust infrastructure: An email marketing tool should have multiple high-speed internet connections through more than once source to ensure reliability in the event of connection or hardware failure.
  • Design capabilities: Are you looking to design your own emails or use pre-made templates?
  • API integration: You’ll likely want your email marketing platform to communicate with your other programs so that you don’t have to manually input data from system to system. Look for tools that connect with content management systems, customer relationship management platforms or business analytics services.
  • Detailed analytics: Look for a variety of reports, including deliverability, opens and click-through rates.
  • Segmentation options: If you’re looking to send targeted emails to your customers, then you should be looking for an email marketing tool that has the ability to segment lists by demographics, geography and other criteria.
  • A/B testing: Some email marketing solutions give you the ability to test different versions of your content so that you can see what’s most effective.
  • Pricing: Some services charge a monthly fee based on the number of emails in your list, others charge based on the number of emails you send per month, while still others charge based on how many people in your company are using the platform. Price can be a big differentiator in this space, and be sure to choose the provider that has a plan that best suits your needs. Many email marketing tools offer free trials, and others allow you to use them on a month-by-month basis—keep this in mind as you shop around.
  • CAN-SPAM compliance: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a law that sets forth rules for commercial electronic messages and gives recipients the right to opt out of emails. Your email marketing solution should help you comply with these regulations.
  • Customer support: The service you choose should be responsive, both online and via phone.

What are the best email  marketing solutions for seed-stage startups?

We find that for smaller seed-stage and Series A companies, a lightweight, simple email marketing service with good API integration is the way to go. And there are some great options out there! If you’ve ever listened to any podcast, or if you’re drawn to creative headgear for cats, you’ve likely heard of MailChimp, which has been described as “ubiquitous” for basic email marketing and sending newsletters. It’s one of the simplest, most cost-effective options to start with, and offers free, “freemium” and enterprise-level payment plans for those who choose to continue with MailChimp as they scale. Countless users tell us they love MailChimp for its simple user experience, very easy onboarding process, integration with a number of systems, including WordPress and Mandrill, easy customization from pre-designed templates, and a decent level of analytics on marketing campaigns.

Other email marketing tools that would be solid choices for early-stage companies include Constant Contact, MailGun and Sailthru. According to Adam Schwartz, founder and COO of TeePublic, “Sailthru is more data-driven than every other email marketing service, in the sense that the out-of-the box analytics you get are more sophisticated than a MailChimp-type product. So if you're trying to make improvements on your email program by using data, Sailthru makes that significantly easier to do.”  

Used by companies of all sizes, is another popular option for its customizability, and is therefore described as “more of a developer-type email” that requires a more hands-on time than some of the tools mentioned above. Other companies even choose to build their own email marketing platform over a service like SendGrid, a cloud-based email delivery service that specializes in transactional emails.  

There are many email marketing tools to choose from depending on your current business needs and cost concerns. Stick to the guidelines listed above and you’ll have your first marketing campaign out to your customers in no time!