When entering the email world, timing is everything. We hear tons of “SendGrid sounds great! When it’s time for us to send email, we’ll certainly check you out!” Spoiler alert: the time to start sending is much sooner than most small companies think.

If you read our first post in the Email for Startups series, you’ll know that choosing the right email service provider (ESP) is the key to strong deliverability. Once you have your ESP locked and loaded, it’s time to start sending. Read on to find out how to take the next step with transactional email.

Determine what you’ll be sending

Your email program will have specific sending needs and, depending on the service or product your company provides, you’ll be sending transactional emails, marketing emails, or both. Transactional emails include:

  • Login, setup, and other account details
  • Receipts, order status, and confirmation emails
  • Password resets and security information

More likely than not, you’ll start off by sending transactional email so customers are able to join and use your product seamlessly. Marketing emails tend to be more creative and flexible, and can include:

  • Promotions, coupons, and sales alerts
  • Newsletters and re-engagement emails
  • Product, service, or event announcements

We’ll dive deeper into marketing email in our next post, but if you need some more information on the differences between the two, download our Marketing and Transactional Email Guide.

Startups should start now

Plenty of startups and small companies hit a roadblock once launch day arrives and they realize they haven’t sent a single email. Once your email program is in place, you should hit the ground running (in this case, sending).

When you’re first starting out, it can be as simple as sending “thank you for downloading” emails to customers who download your app.

“The biggest mistake startups can make is waiting to develop an email program until after they’ve launched their service or product,” says Tony Blank, Sr. Developer Evangelist at SendGrid.

Take Tony’s advice and start sending as soon as possible. Not only will it get your company name out there, but you’ll begin building a strong reputation as a sender.

BIY: Build It Yourself

Congratulations, startup! You’ve built your business from the ground up. Now apply the same mindset and principles to your email contact lists. Starting a list from scratch may seem daunting, but senders run into trouble when sending to addresses that they either purchased, used in previous businesses, crawled from social media, or have acquired from a partner, affiliate, or associate. As you build your lists, keep these key tips in mind:

  • Bigger lists don’t necessarily equal better lists – Shoot for quality over quantity and be patient. As your company and email program grows, so will your contact lists.
  • Authentic lists = longevityHomegrown lists are your best bet for strong deliverability, high engagement, and a healthy email campaign.
  • Keep it real – Growing your own lists doesn’t stop, so don’t start to slack after building your first list. Resist the temptation to buy lists throughout your sending career. And don’t worry, the first list is the hardest.

For more on growing and maintaining your contact lists the right way, tune into our Unread Mail video series and check out our How to Grow Your Email Marketing List.


Transactional email is the foundation of your company’s email program, and having a strong base will only become more beneficial as you start to make a name for yourself. By the time your startup is featured in TechCrunch or getting other coverage, you’ll have a system in place that can handle a higher volume.

Once transactional messages are taken care of, it’s time to begin sending marketing email. Stay tuned for our next post outlining marketing emails for beginners.

Are you a startup looking for email help? Check out SendGrid Accelerate, our program specially designed to help startups get their email infrastructure up-and-running.

Lauren Alworth
As a summer intern on the Content Marketing team at SendGrid, Lauren is slowly but surely getting her feet wet in the email marketing world. She studies Public Relations and English at Boston University. In her free time she can be found hiking, horseback riding, reading historical biographies, and using the Oxford comma.