The internet has revolutionized marketing. As little as 10 years ago, publicizing your product or service would require hours of laboriously stuffing envelopes or making frankly intrusive cold calls to an often unwilling and unresponsive public.
Furthermore, apart from expensive and inaccurate surveys, there was no way to know exactly how your customers where responding to your efforts. More often than not, marketing campaigns would have little or no impact and the marketer would be none the wiser.
Why Email Marketing?
Email marketing has not only spectacularly reduced the cost of marketing, but has also increased accuracy of customer targeting, responsiveness to customer needs, and ease of impact analysis, to previously unimaginable levels. With an estimated return on investment of roughly $42 for every $1 spent, email marketing has today become an indispensable aspect of almost every business. The marketing world has changed for good and those not willing to adapt will surely be left behind.
Email marketing, however, is not in itself a simple operation. Here we must draw a distinction between simply sending out many emails, which can be done easily from any email platform such as GoogleMail or Outlook, and email marketing. The latter is simply a way in which to communicate with your associates, the former is the process of gathering relevant contacts, accessing their wants and tastes, sending out targeted emails accordingly, monitoring impacts, and continually tweaking your marketing strategy according to client responsiveness.
Such a process requires a sophisticated set of tools and, unsurprisingly, a plethora of companies have sprung up to meet the rocketing demand for such services; in fact, in this industry a company just 20 years old is considered an old timer! We’ve rounded up the best and put them to the test. With such a selection of services out there, we recommend you do your research in order to find the right match for you as this will save you a lot of time and money in the long run; so where better to start than right here. Read on as we outline what you should be looking out for in your perfect email marketing service.
Image: is it really everything?
As you get stuck into your research, the first things that will grab your attention are the various “looks” that different companies have gone for. These range from the almost boringly serious to the down right wacky. In our experience, although you may feel that one or the other is more suitable to your business, we found that a service’s image has little to do with the end product they provide.
For example, there are many products that take a fun, laid back approach to email marketing while providing top of the range tools, while some more professional looking services may actually be inadequate for dynamic business needs. In this category looks can be deceiving, making your pre-purchase research all the more important.
The price factor
The most important factor for many potential buyers is price. In this category you will be presented with a wide range of price plans. From pay as you go, to monthly contracts, to one off payments, finding a company that fits with how you wish to pay will not be difficult. This also goes for finding a price plan that suits your business needs. There are packages based on how many subscribers you have while allowing unlimited emails, or the inverse; limited emails to an unlimited number of subscribers.
We strongly encourage all readers to take a minute to consider what their sending needs will be as this will be one of the most important factors in your purchase decision. Luckily most products in this category offer a limited, no credit card required free trial which is an excellent way to assess your sending needs before any financial commitment.
Furthermore, many companies boast a customer sales team with whom you will be able to discuss your business needs and come up with a tailor made plan for you. Chatting to an informed sales rep is always obligation free and we would recommend all those new to email marketing to take advantage of this service.
Finally, if it turns out that your sending needs are very small, there are many services in this category that offer limited email marketing services free for life! We would also like to remind readers from the non-profit sector to look out for discounts of up to 30% which are becoming increasingly common in this industry.
Features and tools
Price is obviously important to all of us, yet it cannot be considered in the absence of what you will actually get for your money. In terms of the actual product, we can safely say that, while some may be easier to use than others, every one of the 23 services we have reviewed will enable you to put together an adequate email marketing campaign. Drag and drop email editors, advanced list management options, and sophisticated analytical reports now come as standard in the email marketing industry.
It is when it comes to the highly sophisticated tools that we begin to see a differentiation emerge. A/B split testing, database integration, and API are all features that experienced marketers involved in large scale campaigns will require. For small businesses and beginners however, they will not be of much use and their presence may simply confuse things.
A few tools that we’d like to highlight as separating the best from the rest are: sophisticated spam testers and inbox preview tools that allow you to test your campaigns thoroughly pre-sendout; click heatmaps that visualize what aspects of your marketing emails are drawing clients’ attention allowing you to constantly tweak content; and deliverability rates of 97% which is the industry best.
Companies not publicizing these kinds of sophisticated features and functionality are unlikely to be providing them. Of course, merchants regularly improve their features and functionality, to keep up in a highly competitive marketplace, so it is important to refer to a merchant's website for up-to-date details on features and functionality they now offer.
To be honest, our research suggests to us that features are not a huge factor on price; you won’t pay much more for a highly sophisticated product than you would for a basic one. We found that what most affects price is the level of service one receives. This can range from nothing with a free plan, to payment of thousands of dollars for a dedicated account manager.
Most common, however, is personal support via live chat, email, support forms, and the phone. This can vary in responsiveness and quality and we encourage readers to refer to our individual reviews in which we have attempted to personally test the service of each of the 23 products in this category. We encourage marketers with special support needs to look out for the handful of services that provide weekend, round the clock, international, and multilingual support, as it is these aspects that separate the wheat from the chaff.
Those who are cash rich but time poor or are very unconfident with computers should consider a managed account where the day to day technicalities of your email marketing will be held together while you maintain creative control of your campaign. On first appearances this option may appear prohibitively expensive, but when one considers that the alternative may be hiring a marketing professional as a member of your full time staff, a managed account starts to appear far more economical.
The Bottom Line
In the world of email marketing (perhaps more so than in any other), research before purchase is vital. This is not only due to the hassle of changing service (transferring lists, learning a new platform, uploading new templates) but also because when sending a mailout to thousands if not millions of subscribers, there are no second chances.
Furthermore, the flexibility and the dynamicity of this relatively new market means that a service has sprung up to fill almost every conceivable niche, allowing you to find, with a little research, the perfect email marketing service for you. Your next step will be to check out our comprehensive and impartial reviews in order to begin narrowing down the list of potentials. At No1Reviews.com we wish you all the luck you’ll need as you enter the exciting world of email marketing. Who knows where this first step may take you!