First, it’s important to have a baseline definition of growth hacking, which depending on who you ask is either a buzzword for common sense marketing on a limited budget (AKA marketing…), or it’s a magical skill that internet gurus have to turn the money in your couch cushions into millions of dollars in revenue. We’ll go with something like doing what you can to grow on a limited budget – and email is of course one channel to grow your business.
Email marketing can be a great channel to drive growth because it is relatively low cost to actually deliver emails at scale, and is one of the best channels to increase existing customer LTV.
Here are a few ways email marketing can be used:
- Lead Nurturing – This one is pretty obvious, but it goes without saying. Email is a great channel to continue to explain your value proposition to users and customers after they’ve digested the content on your website/social channels. Part of ‘growth hacking’ is optimizing your conversion rates, and email is one piece of the puzzle to do that. In some cases, we’ve seen conversion rates of free trials to paid subscriptions jump 20+% simply by creating an effective lead nurturing email workflow.
- Customer Re-Targeting/Cross-Selling – Another no-brainer. We’ve all heard that keeping your user base or customers engaged is much cheaper than acquiring new customers, and the cost effectiveness of email plays a large part in that. Email is often used to cross sell complementary products, or a communication method to share new or unused features to existing users, and almost always is a good return on the investment.
- Referrals – While email doesn’t quite have the same potential for virality that good content on social media does (unless your customer base is made up of email-chain forwarding grandmothers 🙂 , it is an effective way to use your existing customers and users as affiliates or business development reps for your organization without having to capture lightning in a bottle like a good viral video or meme. Most referral and affiliate platforms connect with email service providers and referral codes and links are often shared effectively and at low cost through email.
- Cold Email – We’re always hesitant to recommend email as a lead generation channel, and if it’s not done correctly and matched with the proper business model, it can do more harm than good. But it can work. The biggest challenge that comes with cold email is acquiring legitimate prospects, and having the gusto to stop emailing them after a reasonable pitch.
- Cross Promotion – If done effectively partnering with another brand whos customers interests align with yours can be a great way to expand your reach, but it must be done carefully. DO NOT simply trade email addresses with a different brand and drop them into your standard email campaigns. Things like giveaways and joint product sales are a better way to more organically introduce a different brands audience to yours.
- Ad Retargeting – While not quite directly email marketing, you can use email addresses to build custom and lookalike audiences for platforms like facebook and adwords. By leveraging your most engaged email contacts and customers, you can ensure that your ad targeting is sound and be cost effective with that ad spend.
In every case above, email marketing engagement is critical to any of that working. Email Marketing is not a machine that you put scraped email addresses in and money comes out on the other end. It requires the same level of effort, segmentation, and sharing of relevant, interesting content that all of the digital channels do.
This question was originally answered on Quora.