25 Tips For Creating An Email Marketing Machine For Your Startup

Regardless of what you think about email there is one thing certain, email is not dead.

For years people have been saying email is dead as a means to reach your clients and prospects.

1000s of (self promoting) Social Media marketing gurus have pronounced the future of marketing is Social Media and that email is loosing its effectiveness.

Don’t listen to them. They are dead wrong.

Email is still the best way to communicate and have a direct relationship with your user.

Other methods of communicating with your clients such as social media are either too noisy or the social network controls you and demands you pay to access the very customers who follow you.

It impossible to reliably, consistently deliver your story or message to users via a social network.

It’s estimated that most Facebook Pages have an average post reach of 5%. If you want to get it any higher than that you are going to have to pay Facebook to get access to the people who have already liked you page.

Im not saying don’t use social media, you should, it can be a great method of massively cheaply accelerating prospect acquisition.

But once a visitor comes to your site its your job to convince them to let you start a conversation and turn them into a client.

An Example

I started this blog 28 months ago. We now have had about 1700 people on the email list and gaining 100 a week.

However I really only started collecting email addresses about 15 months ago and started getting serious about it a few months ago.

When I first started my daily signup rate was around 1%, by experimenting I have increased that to a ~2% subscribe rate.

I have had approximately 170,000 visitors since I started writing, if I had been focused on collecting emails from day one I would have double the subscribers, probably more.

There is a multiplier effect that happens when you communicate meaningful actionable stories to your prospects regularly.

The more they engage and open your emails, the more they click through, the more people they refer and the more social media traffic they generate for you so the growth rate of the email list actually accelerates over time the more active your comm activities.

One of the largely unmentioned benefits of increasing email traffic is an increase in Search Engine Traffic.

It is generally accepted that Google uses traffic stats from their Chrome Browser and various plugins to measure a sites popularity and direct traffic.

When Google can see increased email or direct traffic they assume that the site has something worth reading and therefore they give your domain more authority which results in more natural search traffic.

Start With Email Not Social

Most Newbie entrepreneurs think that Social media accounts and marketing is the first thing they should spend their time on when launching a new startup, I know I used to.

Whack up a Facebook page and a Twitter account and tweet all day and you will have users flocking to use your product.

The truth is when you first start on social media you will be yelling into a vacuum chamber.

No one will be listening, no one will be following, so you can yell as loud as you like but unless you have a truly engaged social following (which most new entrepreneurs don’t) or some amazing content very little will come of your social media efforts. You will struggle to get above noise level.

I see 100’s of startup pitches a month, when I check their twitter accounts very few have any level of following.

Even more amusing we get pitches for Social Media Marketing Tools who have virtually no Twitter followers.

Few startups are really newsworthy, most don’t get picked up by major media sites. Most startups are not that interesting or fully developed.

You can build traffic to your site using social media but you should always try to turn that visitor into an email.

The email is the first step in getting permission to start an ongoing conversation with your prospect.

If you can afford to use paid advertising you must turn that visit into an email you just can’t afford to pay to attract the prospect to your site and not start a relationship.

Email really is the best way to consistently capture and nurture a relationship. You can’t do it with Twitter Followers or Facebook Fans.

Kickstart Your Email List

Here are 5 ideas to help you kickstart your product and user base

  • Put up a blog and start writing about your subject matter, this will give you something to share and establish you as a leader in the space
  • Make sure you have an email newsletter list from day one.
  • Use Welcome Mat or List Builder Plugins to drive signups. You may be uncomfortable with popups but get used to them, in my experience plugins has driven at least 10x signups compared to passive signup forms I previously used on the sidebar of my. I have looked at a lot of these plugins and Sumome is my preferred due to the connectivity with outside services such as Mailchimp and Zapier.
  • It takes commitment to write daily, I don’t recommend it initially. It takes a long time to get into a flow where you can produce quality content every day, so my suggestion is to start out with a weekly story or two.
  • Experiment with ways to to get your users to either provide you content or to suggest content topics (asking questions, discussing problems etc)
  • As you go about your daily life, jot down things you learn into a text file, this will serve as a place for you to collect new subjects.
  • Write all your posts in a text editor, this cuts down distraction, only load it to your blog when its ready to publish.
  • This is where you do use Social Media, promote your posts regularly.
  • Use Hashtags
  • Repost on Twitter and other social media regularly. I advise setting up a account and adding your posts to be repeated every few days at different times. Most social media is so noisy that you will get new people viewing this all the time, almost no one will notice you have reposted it.

Key Components

The key components you need are as follow

Capture – Capture emails and Social Sharing. They have 4 different ways of capturing emails, popups, slideups, normal forms, full screen welcome mats. (Im testing the new Welcome Mat, which is working well).

Example of a Sumome Popup

Example of a Sumome Popup

They also have a great control panel where you can set up and test all of the components while on the front screen of your site.

You may feel uncomfortable with using some of these methods until you see a >10x improvement as I did compared to my original signup form in the sidebar (note you still need one, people often say no to the popup but subscribe later anyway).

You can use the Mailchimp popups but they are just not as good. integrates and pushes your new subscriptions into about 20 Newsletter and CRM services and it also integrates with Zapier which means you can transfer data to just about any online web service.


Mailchimp and Mandrill (both owned by the same company).


If you are doing weekly emails Mailchimp is a nice product. Great templates and designs.

If you are going for daily emails you can still manage it on Mailchimp but its a lot of work to cut and paste the images and blog post.


If you have multiple articles a day you might want to think about setting up templates using Mandrill for bulk email. (there are a lot of tricks to bulk email, get it wrong and you may be dumped in the spam folder forever more, Mandill has a bunch of tools to help keep you out of the spam folder, as well as rock solid delivery capability)

Frankly there is a missing component. If you are publishing multiple times a day but want to be able to customise your sending for example only send the articles you want to send or only send once a day with your own message the choices are pretty poor.

Running a large email list is a topic on its own which I will save for another post.


WordPress, self hosted. This is the standard. Using Themes and Plugins there are so many ways you can customise both the look and the functionality. Don’t waste time looking for anything else.

Bonus Points

Here are a few things you can do that will really turbo charge your acquisition strategy;

  • Use the Mailchimp Contacts Integration to capture additional details about your new prospects i.e. social media accounts, job details etc
  • Use the Zapier integration to send your contact details to a CRM such as AgileCRM, Streak, Highrise or Insightly
  • Use Intercom to engage your customers and sync the data with Zapier with your mail list or use Intercoms internal mail tool to run your customer communication (more suitable to those building an app or a platform that need to be able to communicate in near real time to their clients)
  • Use Zendesk to take all customer contacts and sync this to your email list

Basically any new contact your site generates should be generating a new email address.

but you absolutely need to do this from day one. If you are already operating, take the time to go back through your company inboxes and dig all the emails out and personally reconnect with them.

Words Of Warning

  • You need to make sure you are complying with appropriate Spam laws.
  • Legal issues aside your newsletter or hosting provider will just shut you down if you get too many spam complaints or place heavy restrictions on your sending
  • Make sure you setup all the Mandrill requirements for DKIM & SPF which are means to ensure your domain is verified.
  • Make sure you keep sending regularly, only hitting your email list every few months will mean people will forget you or the list they signed upto and mark you as spam.
  • You will get bounces, rejections and spam complaints. It goes with the territory when you send large amounts of email, in some cases the ISP will be doing this, sometimes its an individual. You need to remove these from your mail list, keep it as clean as possible. Mandrill has some tools to help with this, use them.
  • Double Opt in or Not. There are arguments on both sides, I prefer single signup, a lot of people forget to do the 2nd confirmation or don’t realise it has to be done and your successful signups will be cut significantly, on the plus side some newsletter companies use this as a quality indicator and will give you more privileges such as higher sending rates.
  • Make sure your Unsubscribe Link is Working. I had a lot of trouble with my Newsletter Provider/Hosting/Sending company not recording unsubscribes, drove me crazy for weeks and resulted in a bunch of pissed off people and spam complaints. Turns out one of the links wasn’t working, but on top of that it seems like the there was a conflict between the Newsletter plugin and the mail sender. Test your signup and your unsubscribe links at least once a week.

Conclusion & Actions

Hope this has been useful, if you are starting out you need to implement a way to capture emails, if you are already going, going back through your emails, personally reach out and start the dialogue again.

I started getting serious about sending daily emails about 2 months ago and during this time I have learnt a lot and made a bunch of mistakes, but now it is making a big different to engagement and traffic, if you have a particular question please feel free to drop me a line.