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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.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 July, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Completely agree. Having worked on a few startups email offers far more for the business than Twitter, Facebook etc in the short term. It is very easy to obtain numbers in Twitter for example but interaction is difficult early on. However whilst email numbers are slower to grow than say, Twitter, email offers far more interactivity and 1-2-1 marketing opportunities, allowing you to build up your brand proposition and product trust. Trust is such a key issue as a startup and you build this up through quality and consistency, for which email is a great platform.

about 6 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Totally agree with you Patricio. It is so easy to be seduced by the latest, shiniest toys and to forget what the real purpose is. As you brilliantly point out the hammer has been around a long time.

about 6 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

I fully agree. Not just for start-ups either. I still look forward to 'relevant' 1-2-1 emails from Amazon.

Can't see how you could replicate the 1-2-1 marketing opportunities using either Twitter ot Facebook right now.

May be an opportunity here for those clever API developers though? :-)

about 6 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

actually the Amazon '1-2'1 emails annoy me - ok so I've just bought a watch; what makes them think I want to buy another watch in 2 weeks time? That's the problem with automated 'personalisation' rules...

about 6 years ago

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suzan

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Suzan and Williams.

over 5 years ago

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