At the end of the day, email-marketing vendors are running a business. Meaning, their incentives may not exactly align with the business goals of their clients. So you need to make sure you are getting the most out of the services you are paying for align well with your skills and business goals to get the best ROI.
How do you find the right one? It’s tough. Navigating the wide selection of Email Service Providers (ESPs) can be overwhelming. There are many providers on the market, a broad range of features, and pricing models that are all over the place. To be frank, it is extremely difficult to discover the nuances of the service until you are well into using it.
To make it easier on you, we’ll shed light on the ESPs we like and have used in the past. Don’t worry, we’ll provide the good, the bad, and the ugly of each.
The ESP’s We Like
Before we begin, from our experience we have found 3 important factors businesses should consider when selecting a vendor:
ease of use, database integration, and clarity of reporting.
This vendor has gained significant headway over the last few years. From our experience, this platform is probably one of the easiest for our clients to learn. While some providers expect a higher level of technical expertise for its users, MailChimp aims for the non-technical users. Not to mention, they also offer great help documentation and videos. So consider the technical ability of your staff if you are looking at this one.
Another plus of MailChimp’s platform is the straightforward workflow. They’ve done a great job of anticipating the configuration options their users will want to set for a certain process. So you won’t find yourself bouncing around the interface and settings trying to accomplish your task. Be careful not to get distracted though by the humorous Youtube video links on most of the pages.
What Drives Us Bananas:
Important features are locked in the “forever free” accounts, including A/B testing and auto responder. Any emarketer knows that these two features alone are very important, especially the latter.
Just a forewarning: If you don’t like chimpanzees, there is one sitting in the top right hand corner of the page at all times that spits out Youtube links and sayings.
What’s On Target:
Right off the bat, we liked ExactTarget’s seamless integration with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which many of our clients use.
Secondly, it is very frustrating when certain platforms treat all unsubscribes as global (you can’t unsubscribe from just one specific list). ExactTarget eliminates this issue.
Thirdly, they offer a great feature set. You can dynamically populate sections of your email template in accordance with subscriber details, pull website content into emails, set up automated drip campaigns, triggered emails, conversion tracking, and much more.
What’s Off Target:
ExactTarget has a much steeper learning curve than most ESPs. It’s a big jump from Mailchimp as we described above. So expect to set aside a great deal of time to learn how to use it, and don’t be surprised if you have to consider paying a consultant at some point for help.
Her Good Side:
Emma is known for style above all else. They manage all aspects of email marketing strategy for small businesses with an easy-to-use interface but offer a creative spin on things.
Their main value proposition is their design qualities far grander than other software. Although they have a small selection of only 40 templates, while others have up to 400, Emma offers design services for an additional fee.
So, if you weren’t blessed with the creative gene or feel your target market responds better to aesthetically pleasing advertisements, Emma might be a great fit.
Her Bad Side:
Mistakes happen, and sometimes they happen after you have scheduled the email to send. Emma’s platform does not allow you to edit the email once you have scheduled it. You have to cancel it completely in order to make changes. If you schedule it to send immediately, sometimes it’s too late.
We like A/B testing, but doing it manually can be a pain, not to mention time consuming. Emma does not offer an automatic A/B testing feature. You have to do this manually by segmenting your contact list.
Keeping with the subject of contact lists, you cannot import contacts by cut-and-paste.
The Plus Side:
If you’re data-driven, like us, and focused on turning insights into action, Bronto might be right up your ally. Their reporting features are top-notch. All data is available in graphic or statistical format and shows you email opens, click throughs, undeliverables, unsubscribes, and more. Unlike some vendors, you have the ability to incorporate Google Analytics with their service—meaning you can calculate conversions, sales, net profits, gross profits, and so on.
So, if complete reporting is your goal Bronto is a great option.
The template editing and creative side of things is more difficult here than with other platforms. So if you are a novice in terms of design, this might be a red flag.
Bronto’s pricing structure is a bit off-putting. They charge a yearly lump sum, whereas most competitors charge monthly. If you are new to ESPs, paying for a contract that is month-to-month is more comforting and less binding.
Daunted by integrating your email marketing software with your current business tools? Contactology has the industry’s best email API, allowing you to easily integrate it with help desks, CRMs and analytics packages.
Another nice thing about Contactology is that whatever the user is paying, they receive a complete version of the software with all features fully enabled. The price is structured around the number of subscribers, so no features are “locked” like in MailChimp.
Surveys are a great way to get customer feedback and gain insights about your customer service, pricing, product offerings and even competition. This being said, Contactology charges an additional $35.00 a month to send out surveys to customers. This steep price for something as simple as a survey is unappealing when other vendors offer it for free.
Some of their templates do not work on certain versions of Outlook. If you have ever worked in a large office environment, you know very well that despite the rise of Gmail, Outlook is still being used fairly regularly.
Hopefully we helped shed light on some of these ESPs for you. All in all, the real key to email marketing success starts with you. If your team is equipped with a sound knowledge of email design, email deliverability and crafts engaging content, selecting the right email-marketing vendor will help yield the best feasible ROI for your email marketing campaign.
If you are still unsure as to which software is best suited for your business, feel free to reach out to us for a more specific recommendation. Shoot us an email at email@example.com.