Email marketing platforms in review

Email marketing isn’t dead. Let’s just put that out there first. It is VERY much alive and well. Email marketing is also one of the most cost-effective marketing tools out there. It is easy to manage, gives you full control and allows you to establish direct contact with your customers. So, as part of your overall content marketing plan you need to be considering how and when you harness email marketing.

Email marketing is a proven strategy with which to promote your business. It helps you attract new customers and maintain close relationships with existing loyal customers.  You can manage your contacts by simply keeping a list of names and email addresses, or you can create a complex database full of subscribers segmented by demographic slices and engagement levels. The challenge is knowing what will work for you and what choices you need to make.  Which method you choose, and what tools you buy,  really just depends on how big your budget is and how sophisticated your business is at this point.

The first step is to know WHY you want to do email marketing

Do you want to use it purely as a platform to sell from? Do you want to promote affiliate programs and partner products? Do you want to send out teaching lessons? Do you simply wish your database to get to know you better?  And what is the best outcome for your audience? How do they typically respond to email marketing? Do you know anything about their habits in this regard?  How will you tie it in with your other online marketing channels? Understanding why you’re doing this is critical to the success of this marketing channel.

The second step is to know what kind of email marketing you wish to do.

Is it a full-blown monthly newsletter? Or is it simply a promotional piece when you have events or specials happening? Or is it a weekly send out of your blog?  Decide what works best for your audience then trial it.  The great things is, it’s your business and your communication strategy, so if it doesn’t work you can change it!

The third consideration in email marketing is consistency.

Consistency of brand and design, consistency of voice and messaging and consistency of timing.  Again, no-one is holding you accountable except you, HOWEVER, your readers will get confused if you are not consistent. (And a confused mind always says NO).  Create a plan for your send outs that is achievable and stick with it for a while to test and measure whether it’s working.  For instance, if creating a fortnightly newsletter just realistically isn’t going to happen, then don’t tell your database that they’ll get a fortnightly newsletter. Figure out what you CAN do and stick with that and ensure that the look and feel and tone is similar to your website and other marketing pieces.  If you’re unsure what you can commit to in the beginning, be strategically vague: let your subscribers know that they’ll only hear form you when you have something valuable to offer them.

And finally, choose your email marketing platform

Email marketing platforms are designed to directly promote your message to a group of people using email. But unlike a typical email program (such as Outlook or MacMail), an email marketing software program has the ability to segment your customer list so you can specifically target subsets of your larger database. Email marketing platforms that integrate with your Customer Relationship Management tool and/or your analytics products can further enhance the segmentation capabilities of the platform.

Email marketing is sometimes purchased as part of a broader marketing automation suite, so yo’ll need to be clear on what you really want and need and where you can integrate tools tougher.

There are too many variations and products on the market to review them all, but I’d like to give you my overview on a few of the biggies.  These reviews are based on how easy it is to create emails, build subscriber lists, set auto-responders, and pull in other communication-based tools, such as social media management and web analytics software.

MailChimp

MailChimp is easy to set up and easy to use. If you are a small business looking to get started with email marketing with the least amount of fuss, MailChimp should be part of your toolbox.

Pros: Free plan for very small businesses (up to 2000 contacts). No contracts. Lots of third-party integration. Great help materials. Low-cost plans in multiple variations once your database and needs grow. Built-in templates and editor to customise campaigns.

Cons: Free plans don’t have much by way of analytics tools or an auto-responder. Can’t immediately set up a paid plan. Reports aren’t real-time. Slow to refresh. You need to pay for email and chat support.

Infusionsoft

Infusionsoft is a capable, easy-to-use CRM and email marketing platform geared toward small businesses with up to 25 employees. It’s not the cheapest however, no is it the most in-depth, but the goal-oriented platform succeeds at helping targeted businesses hit measurable sales and marketing goals.

Pros: Task-oriented “My Day” dashboard. Simple, intuitive contact and lead management. Lead Scores are useful marketing metrics. Easy drag-and-drop email builder. Customisable widget-based dashboards. Custom auto-responders.

Cons: Quite expensive for small businesses compared to other similar tools. $99/month is cheapest plan (up to 500 contacts). Annual contract. Not a lot of email campaign templates. Basic reporting.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor offers advanced features such as auto-responder messages and user segmentation, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of live support or third-party integration.

Pros: Date-based auto-responder messages. Multiple sign-up forms. Easy to create user segmentation. RSS-to-email for blog broadcasts. Google Analytics integration. Cheap at only $9/month, but limited to sending 2500 emails to 500 contacts.

Cons: No image library. Cannot import from Gmail or third-party address books. Not real-time analytics. No phone or chat support.

Ontraport

With no setup fees and a monthly cost that is less than 1/10th of what some of their competitors are charging for the same level of service, there’s no question that Ontraport is designed with small businesses in mind.

Pros: Excellent support and community. Reasonable pricing packages. A unified system that seamlessly integrates your emails, landing pages, ecommerce and more with your CRM so you can hyper-target your leads and convert them into customers. It also means only one place to call for support and look at your business data.

Cons: The reporting dashboard is not visually appealing and graphs and charts are nonexistent. The automation campaign builder uses text rules rather than visual ‘flowcharts’ which make it a little less intuitive than some of its competitors.

GetResponse

GetResponse is an easy-to-use email marketing service with good third-party contact integration, solid support, and a variety of advanced features that you can try for free.

Pros:Free, full-featured 30-day trial. Google Analytics integration. Third-party contact import integration. Easy-to-use tracking tool. Option to freeze accounts. No message limits.

Cons: No refunds, even on annual plans. Sign-up glitches. Can’t view individual subscriber profiles.

 

Please be aware that these programs change their pricing plans, terms and conditions and service offerings ALL THE TIME! So take my views as a starting point to explore further, the best option for you.

I currently use Sendpepper which is owned by Ontraport. I use it in combination with Leadpages for my landing pages.  It is a little clunky and is not being fully supported now that Ontraport have bought it and are trying to migrate everyone up to more advanced packages. I will most likely use a full email automation package of Ontraports once my contract is up!

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