In the age of Facebook, Twitter and blogs, one might think that social
media is a far more important to startup success than, say, email. But
a new generation of startups, many of which are lean and achieve
profitability early on, are proving that email can be a powerful
contributor to success.

In a blog post entitled “Email Newsletters Are Still A Serious
Business
“, startup entrepreneur Jason L. Baptiste details how email is
an important ingredient for an impressive group of upstarts, including
Groupon, the group buying site that investors have valued at more than
$1bn, Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which was recently purchased for a rumored
eight-figure sum and Thrillist, which is reportedly on pace to do more than $10m
in revenue this year.

For each of these young companies, email is one of the primary means, if not the primary means, of communication with customers and users. And given the traction many of these companies have seen and are seeing in the marketplace, it’s clear that it can be a highly-effective one.

Of course, email in and of itself isn’t a miracle worker. Building up a high-quality, responsive email list requires a compelling value proposition. For a company like Groupon, the attraction is deals that won’t last. For HARO, it’s time-sensitive requests from journalists. And for Thrillist, it’s quality niche content.

Without email, these companies would still be able to reach customers and consumers and to be sure, most of them aren’t using email exclusively. Many have functional websites, a social media presence, etc. But when it comes to keeping customers and users engaged, email has proven to be the perfect tool for the job, even though it may not be as sexy as other engagement options like social media.

The lesson here, of course, is that old tools shouldn’t be thrown out just because they’re old. The hammer has been around for a long time, but if you have a nail, there’s a good chance you could do with a hammer. That’s exactly what a growing number of startups are doing with email, and expect more of them to exploit email going forward.

For startups looking to succeed with email, following these best practices will be helpful:

  • Keep it opt-in. The successful startups using email are acquiring emails via legitimate means. Spam can be profitable, but it isn’t sustainable.
  • Be clear about volume. If you’re sending a daily email, make sure that’s part of your pitch to prospective subscribers.
  • Remember that copy counts. Even if you’re not in the content business, don’t skimp on your copy. Nobody wants to, for instance, read a description of the daily deal that’s littered with typos and poor grammar, or that’s just generally uninspiring.
  • Give subscribers a reason to look forward to your emails. Whether you’re offering a delicious daily deal or juicy content, make sure that your subscribers have reason to be intrigued (or excited) when they see a new email from you in their inbox.

Photo credit: Fletcher Prince via Flickr.