Developing a customer mailing list is an essential part of building a successful business. Your mailing list adds value to your business, and it helps you keep in touch with customers. And no matter the size of your list—big or small—you need a tool to manage it. An email marketing service helps ensure that your list complies with the law, includes features for managing your contact details, and it provides tools to help you create and send email newsletters—and then analyze the results of your email campaigns.
You'll find plenty of good email management tools, but be sure to shop around before committing to one—and don't let price be your primary consideration. Instead, draw up a list of features that you require and match the product to your list. While it's possible to move an email list from one service to another, the process can be difficult; it's better to find the right service the first time.
Email Marketing: List Management Features
If you already have a customer mailing list, make sure that any new email management service lets you easily import your existing list—and that you can use it immediately. If a service requires that your existing list members opt in again to the new list you may lose a large proportion of your list in the process.
Tracking and analyzing the progress of an email campaign is important for assessing what works and what does not. Look for a service that provides you with useful information such as bounce rates, opens, clicks, and comparisons with others in similar industries. If you use social networks, look for a service that creates automatic posts for new email newsletters.
Some services include extras such as image hosting, surveys and RSS integration, while others charge for these features. Think about what your company wants to accomplish. For example, do you want to segment your list or do A/B testing? Look for a service that offers those features. If you employ an assistant to help manage your list, look for a service that supports multiple users and that lets you allocate permissions for each user. Custom solutions will potentially require access to the Developer API and integration with third-party applications such as Salesforce.
When comparing services on cost, check how they calculate price. Some services charge for the numbers of emails you send and others charge by the number of contacts. Those that charge by the number of contacts may charge for all contacts in your database, or they may charge for only those contacts that have completed the double opt in process and who will actually receive emails. If you operate a nonprofit, then look for services that offer reduced fees for nonprofit organizations.
Lucky for you, most email management providers offer free-trial periods so you can test the service to see if it works for your business before making a commitment. To help you evaluate services we'll take a quick look at four of the more popular services and the features that they offer.
4 Email Marketing Services for Small Business
Constant Contact is a well-known email marketing service. It boasts a large range of customizable email templates, campaign detail reports, social integration, list-management tools, and multi-user accounts. Constant Contact offers local to you, free and for-fee training in using the site's features, as well as training on techniques for creating successful campaigns.
Pricing starts with a 60-day free trial, thereafter 0-500 contacts costs $15 per month; 501-2,500 contacts for $35 per month; 2,501-5,000 contacts for $55 per month. Contact the company for pricing beyond 5,000 contacts. The company offers discounts for prepayment and for nonprofits. Unlike many services, Constant Contact charges extra for features such surveys, image hosting and so on.
Constant Contact offers a range of reports for tracking and analyzing your email campaign success.
AWeber started life as an auto-responder, and it retains this as a key feature even as it developed into a full-featured email marketing service. It offers a great editor with more than 700 templates to choose from, 6,000 free stock images and unlimited image hosting. Advanced features include automatic RSS to email and subscriber segmentation based on email campaign history. Try the 30-day free trial, and thereafter the service charges the following rates: 0-500 subscribers for $19 per month, 501-2,500 at $29 per month, 2,501-5,000 for $49 per month, and pricing goes up from there. AWeber offers nonprofits an initial 3 months free and thereafter a 25 percent discount on regular pricing.
AWeber offers more than 700 templates, as well as free stock images, for your email newsletter.
MailChimp offers attractive entry level pricing: free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month making it perfect for companies with small customer contact lists. Beyond that they charge $10 per month for 0-500 subscribers and unlimited e-mails, $15 per month for 501-1,000 contacts, $20 per month for 1,000-1,500 contacts, and rates increase upwards from there. MailChimp is easy to set up and use, it supports segmented lists and A/B testing, and it's a great tool for high-volume users. MailChimp provides a good range of online tutorials and an extensive online knowledge base.
MailChimp is easy to use, and the site has plenty of good support for its customers.
Like MailChimp, VerticalResponse offers a free option for up to 1,000 contacts and 4,000 emails per month. Nonprofit organizations don't pay a thing for up to 10,000 emails per month, and beyond that nonprofits benefit from a discount on regular prices. Unlike other services, VerticalResponse offers a veritable smorgasbord of payment options to suit high and low volume use including subscription and pay-as-you-go pricing.
VerticalResponse offers Autoresponders that automatically welcome new list subscribers.
VerticalResponse also offers an auto-responder and connection to major social networks. It also offers plenty of newsletter templates that adhere to responsive design principles (so customers can easily read your newsletter on their mobile devices), and the site offers extensive campaign tracking.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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