Return Path Takes Guesswork Out of Email Marketing

By Julie Knudson | Posted August 29, 2016

Customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges for any small business owner, and many entrepreneurs rely on email marketing campaigns as a means to that end. But with your competition hard at working trying to win those same customers, you need to get the most out of every email message you send. And that involves a lot more than hitting "send" and hoping everything is good to go.

[Rather do it yourself?: 115 DIY Email Marketing Tips]

Return Path, an email data solutions provider, not only helps small businesses to launch effective email campaigns, it also helps them to review how their current email campaigns perform and to tweak their email marketing program for better results.

Designed to Make Every Email Count

Does your small businesses use email as a primary marketing strategy? "Return Path helps make sure that your emails get delivered, seen, and acted upon," says Wendy Bloechle, senior director of product marketing and demand generation at Return Path. The platform focuses on deliverability, in part because small business owners are sometimes surprised to learn that their email service provider doesn't handle as much of the process as they assumed.

Return Path: email marketing

Return Path's spam filter check ensures that your emails reach your subscribers instead of their spam filters.

"Inbox placement is a unique part of email marketing," Bloechle explains. If marketers don't focus on that aspect of their campaigns, there's a chance that their carefully-crafted emails won't reach subscribers. "Our niche is deliverability," Bloechle says.

Along with inbox placement, Return Path also optimizes the emails that its customers send. While email marketers frequently focus on the email campaign's offer and content, Bloechle says that it's equally important to pay attention to a campaign's more basic elements. The company does this by tapping into data gleaned from its consumer network that currently numbers in excess of two million people.

"We have a subject-line optimization tool that actually looks at subject lines across our consumer network and finds the ones that drive the most engagement," she says. Return Path offers a range of recommendations when it comes to selecting effective subject lines, and you can filter results by industry and other factors.

Mobile Optimized Email Marketing

Once you've done your homework on inbox placement, and you're ready to capture subscribers' eyeballs with engaging subject lines, it's time to optimize the email marketing design so that your customers can read them no matter what device they use. For example, the creative elements you worked so hard to develop will fall flat if they don't render properly on smartphones or tablets.

"We have tools that help you know which devices your subscribers use," says Bloechle. That's an important factor, because different demographics lean toward different types of devices. "We also have an inbox preview that shows what your email will look like across the different devices." That feature saves you and your team from wasting time on an ineffective design.

As you develop a design that resonates with your customers, Return Path can offer even more other assistance. You can conduct a competitive analysis using Return Path's consumer network to determine strategies that will drive better engagement.

"The consumer network consists of actual email newsletter subscribers," Bloechle explains. "You can look at how many of your subscribers also subscribe to your competitors, and you can conduct a performance analysis."

Do subscribers open your competitors' emails more than yours? How do their offers and creative elements compare to yours? Return Path leverages its consumer network feature and gives you the answers.

Return Path: email preview function

The email preview shows how your emails will appear on your subscribers' various devices.

Email Marketing Designed and Priced for Small Business

Lack of time for marketing is a primary concern that Bloechle hears from entrepreneurs. "A lot of small businesses have a small head count," she says. You rarely find an email-marketing specialist on staff in small firms that typically rely on a jack-of-all-trades approach.

"With our tools, people don’t have to be a specialist," says Bloechle. You don’t need to invest time to understand the nuances of deliverability and test the performance of dozens of subject lines—Return Path provides the tools for that. "It saves business owners time, and it helps them be more successful," Bloechle says.

All you need to access Return Path is an Internet connection and a Web browser. The platform doesn't actually send out your campaign emails, you need to have your own email service provider. However, as Bloechle notes, "we can work alongside any email service provider."

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Entry-level pricing for nonprofits starts at less than $1,000 per year, and for-profit businesses pricing starts at roughly $1,300 per year. You can pay quarterly or annually. "We determine pricing based the size of the email program," Bloechle says. "If you send more emails, then the price would increase."

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from food service to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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