Argyle is a social media marketing start-up and we're obviously big believers in the power of social as a marketing channel. But we're also old school in the sense that we invest very heavily in email marketing.
I was employee #1 at an email marketing start-up earlier in my career. I spent four years with the company and learned a thing or two about email marketing along the way.
Here are a few email marketing tips to keep in mind for your early-stage company:
Email Early, Email Often. At Argyle, our email list was most important marketing asset for the first year. (Our Twitter following is quickly catching up today.) We collected addresses at every customer touchpoint and sent very frequent emails - usually weekly. We fired out a message every time we had something remotely interesting to say - new product features, new blog post, whatever. Momentum is important early on, so any glimmer of hope is worth celebrating and sharing.
Be Entertaining. Our product was pretty weak for the first year, so we had to manufacture reasons for people to like us. So I resorted to entertainment. Our early emails had subject lines like "Hold On To Your Butts" and pictures from awkwardfamilyphotos.com to illustrate new features. It was all about getting attention, sharing our personality, and making friends.
Invest In Automation. We used MailChimp for a long time because it is by far the best bang for the buck - great features and a strong API for peanuts. And we hacked together some very basic hooks into Salesforce and a few auto-responders. As soon as we had a full-time marketer and a few sales guys, we dumped MailChimp and moved our email marketing (and landing pages) to Pardot - a very specialized B2B marketing automation platform that integrates deeply with Salesforce.com. (We also gave very strong consideration to Marketo - it is more powerful, but also more expensive.) Today our email marketing programs are incredibly complex.
Email Like An Executive. It is obvious that you should use email to keep in touch with your customers. It is less obvious that you should use email to keep in touch with prospective investors, prospective partners, and strategic prospects. I have a couple email lists that I email ~monthly with company updates and strategic content. I do it all through Pardot and track the responses very carefully - just like we track our customer marketing emails.