Email Marketing Platforms for Your Small Business
The email addresses of current and prospective customers can be powerful information in the hands of a small business owner. Once you obtain those addresses, you have a direct link to your customer base. Email marketing platforms can automate the process of reaching everyone on your contact list and help you create lasting connections.
“It opens up a lot of opportunity for you to nurture relationships, generate leads and convert people into sales,” said Susan Gunelius, CEO and president of marketing communications company KeySplash Creative.
In the age of social media, it may be tempting to rely on platforms like Facebook and Google to spread your marketing campaigns, Gunelius said, but email should be high on your priority list.
“These days the saying is: ‘The power is in your list,’” Gunelius said. “Unlike social media advertising, you own your list of subscribers.”
What you should look for in an email marketing platform
Easy sign-up: Choose a platform that provides opt-in forms that make it easy for people to sign up for your emails. These forms should appear across your business website.
Contact segmentation: If you don’t want to email your entire contact list every time you send out a communication, get a platform that segments your list. You then can send targeted messages to specific groups of people, such as all the people who visited a certain page on your website.
Design templates: Unless you’re a web designer and/or programmer, you’ll need pre-designed email templates or a template builder to create your messages. You should be able to edit the image and information that appears, and emails should be optimized for viewing on all devices, including phones, desktops and tablets.
Deliverability: Choose a marketing platform that has a solid deliverability reputation. You should be able to send a range of automated campaigns, such as follow-up messages or emails that are triggered by certain actions, and the probability of those emails getting delivered should be high.
“If your messages aren’t getting to people’s inboxes,” Gunelius said, “you’re wasting your time and money.”
A/B testing: Also called split testing, this allows you to test certain aspects of your emails to optimize performance. For example, you could send two batches of emails with different subject lines to determine which version provides the best click or response rate.
Reports: Your email marketing platform should generate reports to show which strategies are working, and which ones aren’t. You should be able to track open rates, click-through rates and bounce rates, among other metrics.
Customer support: As a new customer, you should have access to the support you need. Check to see if the company offers phone or email customer support, as well as assistance setting up your account and uploading an existing contacting list.
Pricing models: Email marketing pricing models are based on the provided features, the number of contacts you have or the number of messages you send. Most platforms offer monthly or yearly subscription tiers and costs increase as you add more features, contacts or messages.
Some platforms offer a free subscription, which may seem appealing but could be more trouble than it’s worth, Gunelius said. If you run into limitations or find that you don’t like the platform, it could be difficult to migrate all of your data to a new service.
“You might end up using a tool that is not best for you in the long run,” Gunelius said. “Do your homework.”
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How to choose the best email marketing platform for you
When searching for an email marketing platform, decide what features you need now and what you’ll need in the future, Gunelius said. Find a provider that can scale with your business as it grows. “Think long-term, but don’t overbuy,” she said.
Although you’re not locking a platform in for life, it might be inconvenient to switch to a new platform down the road, Gunelius said. You may have to update each individual email campaign and manually make changes to your contact list. It’s best to choose wisely the first time around.
Once you begin sending email campaigns, make sure they are legally compliant. The Federal Trade Commission regulates how businesses communicate with consumers. Your emails must maintain these standards – such as no false or misleading information, clearly identified ads and the opportunity to opt out of future emails – or you risk facing a fine.
Here’s an introduction to five email marketing platforms that could help you better reach your subscribers.
MailChimp’s marketing automation platform sends messages, generates performance reports and creates ad campaigns on social media. You can connect your e-commerce store to the platform to help MailChimp target customers based on their preferences and previous purchases. MailChimp also sends you reporting insights for each of your campaigns.
MailChimp provides email templates, allowing users to create campaigns that match their brand. Its mobile app gives you access to campaigns from your phone, allowing you to edit and create campaigns and monitor performance on the go.
MailChimp’s free plan supports up to 12,000 automated emails per month and up to 2,000 contacts, as well as basic reports and Facebook, Instagram and Google Remarketing ads. Plans with added features, such as unlimited monthly emails and advanced market segmentation, start at $10 per month and could cost up to $199 per month.
MailChimp is suited for small and large e-commerce businesses on a budget with small subscriber lists and minimal marketing needs.
Campaigner’s email marketing service helps business owners design and send newsletters and email marketing campaigns, as well as keep track of customer behavior. Campaigner sends automated campaigns to your contacts based on specific triggers such as times and dates, form submissions and actions on previous emails.
Using Campaigner, you could tailor emails, promotions, coupons and incentive programs for certain segments of customers. Campaigner offers more than 900 email templates, but you could also create your own engaging design. Customer support is available 24/7 via phone and email.
Campaigner plans are based on the number of contacts you have, from 1,000 to 10 million. Campaigner’s lowest-priced plan is $19.95 per month for up to 1,000 contacts. The most popular plan is $299.95 per month for up to 50,000 contacts. Campaigner offers a free trial on each of its plans.
Campaigner is a good fit for internet retailers, publishing companies and digital ad agencies in need of advanced marketing services.
3. Constant Contact
Constant Contact offers customizable email templates and automatically sends targeted campaigns to your contacts, including personalized emails commemorating birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. Constant Contact manages your contact list, updating unsubscribes, inactive emails and bounces.
Real-time tracking tools show you who has opened, clicked and shared emails and social posts to help strategize your marketing efforts. In addition to email marketing services, Constant Contact provides outsourced website design, social media management, lead generation and graphic design.
Constant Contact subscriptions are based on the size of your contact list and start at $20 per month for up to 500 contacts. Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial, which includes access to email templates and an image library, contact management, analytics reports and live customer support, but you’re limited to 100 contacts. If you close your account within 30 days of signing up, you’ll receive a full refund.
Constant Contact provides comprehensive marketing tools and analytics for businesses in a range of industries, including accounting and financial services, arts and entertainment, consulting and retail.
GetResponse offers more than 500 pre-designed templates, as well as the ability to design your own emails. You could add custom greetings to address your contacts by name and set up auto-responders to reach out to contacts the moment they sign up for emails. GetResponse offers advanced segmentation features to separate contacts into distinct groups, allowing you to send targeted, detailed messages. For instance, you can group contacts based on location, subscription date or engagement.
GetResponse promises 99% deliverability on all emails. The software also tracks opens, clicks, shares and unsubscribes and provides a real-time activity tracker so you see how your contacts interact with messages. You can optimize your material with A/B testing and send out the best performing versions of every campaign.
GetResponse’s email marketing service starts at $15 per month for up to 1,000 contacts. Subscription plans increase as you add more contacts, up to 100,000. One- and two-year subscriptions are also available at a reduced cost. GetResponse offers a one-month free trial, which includes full functionality of the software for one user.
GetResponse offers minimal to advanced marketing services for businesses with a range of needs, from beginners with small subscriber lists to high-performing businesses needing advanced solutions.
ActiveCampaign sends personalized email campaigns based on customer actions, including automated follow-ups. ActiveCampaign helps you organize your customer data and add calls to action on your site to better accommodate customer behavior. You could also segment your contacts by demographics and behavior and track their actions on your website. You can work out of your Gmail account, allowing you to manage your contacts from anywhere.
Using ActiveCampaign, you could send a full campaign but incorporate different content for various contacts, helping you personalize each message. ActiveCampaign’s split-screen testing lets you test variables in a side-by-side format to see which elements perform best.
ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan for 500 contacts starts at $15 per month, or $9 per month if you sign up for a yearly subscription. The plan includes unlimited sends, newsletter options, marketing automation and chat and email support for up to three users.
ActiveCampaign is suited for e-commerce businesses looking to connect with shoppers, as well as bloggers trying to reach a wider audience. ActiveCampaign also works with agencies, SaaS companies and higher education institutions.
Here’s how all five marketing platforms compare in price for the least expensive monthly subscription for up to 1,000 contacts.
*Up to 2,000 contacts
**Up to 500 contacts
Email marketing can be an effective strategy to connect with your current customers and reach new people. A number of email marketing platforms offer products that meet a range of business needs at various price points. If you take your time and search carefully, Gunelius said, you should be able to find a platform within your budget that provides the specific services you need to boost your marketing efforts.
“Any size business, from the smallest freelancer, hobbyist or solopreneur, can benefit,” Gunelius said.