Selecting your email marketing service provider
The world of email marketing is a highly competitive space. There are literally hundreds of email marketing service providers fighting for your business. When selecting a solution you should take your time to ensure the service provides all the tools you need to successfully manage your campaigns.
Many email marketing service providers targeting the small and medium-sized business market offer free limited trials of their software. It is worth trialling a number of solutions (even if you limit these tests to sending within your organisation) to find the one you are most comfortable with. Remember, switching providers once you have uploaded and segmented all your lists, installed your email marketing templates and perhaps set up a series of auto-responders may prove to be a time-consuming job.
For the small business marketer, the website TopTenREVIEWS provides an excellent selection of email marketing service providers.
At first glance, it might appear that many email marketing service providers are very similar. Most offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. This means you can access their services online via any device with an internet browser (including desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices) and you do not need to install any software locally.
The average service provider will provide tools you need to: upload and manage your subscriber lists; create attractive HTML email marketing messages; schedule and send your campaigns; guarantee a high level of deliverability (ensuring your email messages arrive safely in the desired inboxes and not in the spam folders); and monitor success (opens, clicks, bounces, etc.).
Beyond this, you will need to decide which provider offers the best possible solution for your business. Things to consider are:
- Cost: Email marketing offers exceptional value for money. In some cases it can even be free. Several email marketing service providers offer a limited service which allows you to manage small lists of subscribers completely free of charge. Freemium services such as these often restrict access to support, limit the number of sends and offer fewer bells and whistles (like templates, technology integrations, etc.) compared to paid-for subscriptions from the same providers. If you serve a niche community and your list size or number of sends are not likely to exceed the free offer, these free services can provide an excellent start in the world of email marketing.
- Potential list size and number of sends: When selecting which service provider you want to go with you should investigate which offers the best possible solution for your potential list size and number of sends, as fees are generally based upon these criteria. If you already have a large list, have ambitions to rapidly grow a sizable new list or send a significant number of emails on a monthly basis, a freemium package might not provide a suitable starting point. Companies offering a low priced or free starting package often become more expensive as your list size or number of sends increases.
- Support and professional services: Some email marketing service providers offer just a self-service product with very little in the way of customer support or added value services. Others offer various levels of customer support (ranging from email and online chat through to full telephone support) and a number of professional services such as account management, list management and design services. The level of support you opt for will depend on your budget, how comfortable you are using the technology and the availability of resources to manage email campaigns in-house. If support and professional services are important to you, you should select a service provider that can work with you in your local time zone (if you operate in Europe you don’t want to delay your campaings while waiting for US-based support to come online).
- Software integrations and partnerships: Creating seamless integrations with other technology in your organisation such as content/blogging platforms, CRM systems, eCommerce software, etc., will enhance your email marketing experience and drive efficiencies.
- Level of commitment: email-marketing-service-review.toptenreviews.com Always be wary of signing any long-term contract tying you to a specific service provider. I have met many marketers who have been sold highly sophisticated solutions (often exceeding the marketer’s actual needs) and suffered buyer’s remorse when they discovered more cost-effective and suitable solutions were available. Most service providers targeting smaller businesses tend to offer their services on a month-by-month basis. As someone who has worked in the Software as a Service industry for many years, I would prefer customers continued to use any service I was providing because they found it useful and not because they were contractually obliged to do so.
- User accounts: Your organisation may want to manage several accounts to serve multiple business departments or locations, or to act as an agency for various clients. An agency set-up will allow you to manage separate lists, campaigns, billing, etc., for each individual client/department and control access to individual accounts with multiple log-ins. Some email marketing service providers offer white label solutions, allowing agencies to brand the software as their own (or on behalf of their clients).
In my experience, the best buying decisions regarding software are not just based on the technology on offer. Email marketing may offer an extremely cost-effective marketing opportunity (particularly when starting out), but this should not come at the expense of support and guidance.
I believe the best technology companies put people at the forefront of their businesses. If you are struggling to separate the various email marketing service providers from each other, pick up the phone and judge them by their people.
The above abridged text is taken from John W. Hayes’ new book A Crash Course in Email Marketing for Small and Medium-sized Business available now from Amazon, the iBookstore and all good book stores.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by John W. Hayes .