Thinking about email marketing but don’t know where to start?

Business going really well, contact base growing, beginning to feel there’s not enough hours in the day? It’s a common scenario along with the fact that once a business really starts to fly, existing systems for encouraging and retaining customer engagement can begin to groan under the strain, because they’re really no longer ‘fit for purpose’.

Many businesses rely on email marketing systems that in essence are not really that at all, relying on contact email lists stored on in-house databases. Whilst this type of arrangement is ‘fit for purpose’ for sending out of emails, it’s not so ‘fit for purpose’ for collection of valuable feedback on how people interact with the message sent.

What email marketing features do you really need?

red post boxWhen it comes to considering  available options for email marketing solutions there’s often just not the time to sift through what’s available, or consider what features you really need and what, in reality, are unlikely to be used.

To put this into context, think about buying a washing machine or a microwave (which might seem to have little to do with email marketing software, but bear with me here). Basically, such things as domestic appliances are often sold on the features, e.g. 15 different programmes to wash your clothes. All singing and dancing washing possibilities, but in reality you’ll probably only use 2 or 3 of the available options.

Email marketing software solutions should, in my opinion, be considered in the same way. If you’re not likely to have the time to use all the various “amazing” features that you’re being asked to pay for, consider other options out there that might demand less from the budget.

Email marketing options to consider

I’ll run through a few email marketing solutions  you might find useful to take a look at. However, just because they’re the ones I feature in this blog post doesn’t mean they’re my top recommendations for email marketing solutions. As I’ve said, I think more time should be spent considering

  1. What do you really need an email marketing software solution to deliver?
  2. Who’s going to actually do the work and what time will they need to learn how to work with the software?
  3. What are the options for filtering lists of email contacts, for segmentation purposes?
  4. What level of email related statistics,  – who did and didn’t read it etc, will you actually refer to in practice?
  5. Support – what’s offered, how is it offered and how easy is it to access.
  6. Reviews – what feedback is there online about the experiences of others who’ve used a particular email marketing solution?

Thinking about what you want email marketing to do for you

Given that we all get fed up of the standard broadcasting emails that clutter our inboxes, I can only hope that your intended email marketing campaign doesn’t fall into this category? OK, in some circumstances it could be argued that an approach of ‘send, send, send’ can work, but I think the response to a lot of emails sent in this way is ‘delete, delete, delete’.

If you’re wanting to send pretty picture emails, instead of just text, then you’ll probably want to consider email marketing solutions that provide templates you can just drop your content into.

MailChimp

screenshot of email marketing solutionThis is a very popular email marketing solution for businesses who don’t have massive email lists they want to work with.

MailChimp has a free account, with a 500 subscriber limit (i.e. those on your email list). Beyond that you pay, but you can scale up and down on their plans according to need.

MailChimp is a cloud service, i.e. you don’t install software directly onto your computer to be able to use it. Using it for an email marketing campaign basically requires 3 steps

  1. Create your email recipient list by importing an existing.csv file or copy-pasting information contained in an Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Create your campaign, either by using one of their HTML templates (which provides those ‘pretty-picture’ emails) or set up a text only email
  3. Review your campaign results, showing who read the email, who didn’t, with much more detailed insights available. MailChimp can even be ‘mashed-up’ with Google Analytics, using a feature called Analytics360

GetResponse

page shot from get response websiteNot such a well-known email marketing solution, but worth checking out as they have great email and newsletter templates on offer.

If you use WordPress then there’s a Plugin available for GetResponse. This will enable you to capture emails direct from your website via the contact form. If your business has a lot of contacts via the form on your site then this feature alone has got to make GetResponse an option to consider using.

Another great feature that ships with Get Response is the time travel feature that enables you to set a ‘universal time’ for arrival of your email, whatever the recipient’s time zone.  If you schedule an email to arrive at 9am, it will be delivered at 9 a.m. whether the designation inbox is in London, Lisbon, or Liberia.

GetResponse doesn’t have a free option, but prices start at just £10/month for up to 1000 subscribers and includes a 30 day free trial. GetResponse is an email marketing solution well worth checking out, in my opinion.

Zoho

crm software website screenshotThe last option I’m going to write about isn’t a email marketing solution , but it does offer the facility to send emails from what’s essentially a CRM (Customer relationship management) system. So, for many small businesses this could be the direction to go, harvesting more benefits for your buck!

I’ve read lots of good things about Zoho, with the  functionality provided being one of the biggest benefits for small to medium-sized businesses.

Zoho includes an array of features for organisations  to be able to link-up across sales, marketing, and customer service areas.

Zoho could be a good choice to explore for your business, if you’re looking to do email marketing but would also benefit from a well-featured CRM solution for a low price.

A further benefit, if you’re already using social media, is that Zoho provides the facility to engage with your contacts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from within your account. This feature can deliver real-time insight into updates of current and potential customers, together with facility for carrying out interactions.

With Zoho your business could benefit from a CRM system, email marketing facility and social media interactions all from one place, provided for a pretty competitive price starting at around $20/month. Surely, that’s got to be worth checking out?

What next?

You can check out a variety of other email marketing solutions by following the links below. However, I would suggest you spend some time actually thinking about what it is you want/need from an email marketing solution, before you start window shopping. Don’t be blinded by the glittering features the various email marketing options have to offer, losing your way in consideration of the benefits they’d actually deliver for your particular business.

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Links to email marketing solutions

Campaign Monitor

Aweber

Constant Contact

InfusionSoft

 

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