December 6, 2023

5 mins

Email Marketing

8 Reasons Startups Fail at Email Marketing

Thomas Lee

CEO & Co-Founder

Startups don’t always know what they’re doing when it comes to email marketing, but there are ways to solve these problems.

How do you want to hear about the latest sales, product releases, and updates from a brand?

Well, if you’re like most people—the answer is email. In fact, according to Statista, 61% of consumers want brands to contact them by email. And yet, far too often I have seen that email marketing is overlooked by startups.

Seriously, email marketing is one of your strongest marketing channels because of its low investment and high ROI. That’s even more crucial now in 2023 when funding is scarce and marketing budgets are being slashed.  

So, what can you do about it?  

In today’s blog, I’m sharing 8 reasons why startups may fail at email marketing.

8 Reasons Startups Fail at Email Marketing

#1 - Lack of a Clear Strategy

First and foremost—you need a roadmap for your email marketing campaigns to follow. Without a clear plan for how to use email marketing, it’s hard for startups to grow their email list and engage their audience.

This is usually because startup founders are typically engaged in every single aspect of the business. From product development and fundraising to accounting and sales, they simply don’t have the time and resources needed to create an effective email marketing strategy.

#2 - Poor Data Management

Another common issue I’ve seen is that startups don’t always have a good process for managing their email list. They’ll use the most affordable email marketing platform to collect, store, and segment their email list, but it’s not always scalable.  

Eventually, startups outgrow whatever system they’re using since the low-cost options tend to be more limited in capability.

#3 - Inadequate Segmentation

Next, let’s talk about segmentation. Before you even send your first email, you need to start thinking about how you’ll segment your audience. Failing to segment email lists can lead to irrelevant messaging, causing recipients to unsubscribe or worse—mark your emails as spam.

One reason this happens is because startups have not usually taken the time to analyze their customers. And that, by extension, makes it far more difficult to segment their list.

#4 - Lack of Automation

Another area that startups need to work on is in email automation which has a huge impact on your email marketing’s performance. By setting up automated email sequences or flows, you can not only save time but also increase conversions.

As startup founders, many of them understand the value of automation in other aspects of their business as they're in the tech space. However, some still underestimate the importance of automation in their email marketing.  

#5 - Poor Personalization

The best part of email marketing is how powerful it is when you combine it with personalization. And today, consumers have come to expect it. According to findings from Salesforce, 66% of consumers want brands to cater to their unique needs and expectations.

It’s a simple step, but if you take the time to personalize emails you can easily increase engagement and conversions in your startup’s email campaigns.

#6 - Insufficient Testing

Most startup founders know the basics of marketing, but they might not fully understand it at a granular level. With A/B testing, for example, you should only change one variable at a time. You’ll also want to run the same test multiple times to find the winner. Believe me, one test is not enough.

A second issue here is the ability to read the data correctly to make the right decisions. Oftentimes, I see startup founders wanting to change their strategy based on little information. Just because one test is performing 5% higher doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better if the sample size is small.  

Not sure what to test? Well, here are a few places I would start:

  • Email subject lines
  • Email layouts
  • Calls-to-action
  • Sending Time
  • Personalization
#7 - Lack of Mobile Optimization

Yet another reason startups fail at email marketing is when they forget to optimize their emails for mobile devices. And that’s a huge mistake since 70% of people read emails with the app on their phone. That, in turn, causes a poor user experience, low open rates, and low conversion rates.  

Thankfully, this is easily fixed as most email marketing software tools will let you test your emails for mobile.

#8 – No Specialized Employees

Finally, another key issue is that startups simply don’t have enough team members. In fact, a survey from 2019 found that the average startup has only 4 employees to begin with. That means oftentimes the person in charge of something like email marketing might not have experience with copywriting, email strategies, or email design.

As a startup founder, you just can’t do everything yourself—and nor should you. And really, this is why the first 7 problems happen on this list.

The fact of the matter is this.  

Success in email marketing requires a combination of strategy and implementation. The good news is that everything I’ve covered on this list can be implemented by the founders, and they should do it as quickly as they can. But in many cases, a founder's time is better spent on building a better product and talking directly with customers.  

Need expert help in growing your eCommerce business or tech startup?  

At HyperPop, we’ve curated a team of expert marketers, writers, and designers with years of experience. Reach out and let’s hype up your marketing.  

About The Author

Thomas Lee

CEO & Co-Founder

As a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of HyperPop, Thomas finds fulfillment in bringing his creative and professional ideas to life. Since 2010, he has founded and grown several businesses across multiple industries in Hong Kong and Vancouver. He has over a decade of experience in marketing, eCommerce, manufacturing, and logistics.