Small Business Guide to Email Marketing Services - Page 2

By Vangie Beal
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Email Marketing Essentials for Long-Term Campaigns

Email marketing basics may be enough when starting out, but as you become more familiar with this marketing strategy, there are a number of advanced features you will certainly want later. Even if you won't use them immediately, you need to know about them now before you buy.

Email Marketing List Management

A small business may have difficulty managing hundreds to thousands of email subscribers. List management is one of the biggest reasons a business would use an email marketing service. You want options to automate subscribe and unsubscribe requests; and you want the ability to create sub-lists for separate emails -- so, for example, you can send promotional offers based on the subscriber's age, gender or location.

Look for Email Marketing Control Options

When first starting out, it's nice to use a system where everything is set up and all you need to do is customize the content of each email and click send. Over time, however, you'll realize that you need to do more. An email marketing service should offer a user-friendly admin control dashboard that lets you customize all control options for all campaigns. This includes format, sub lists, date and time, automatic responders, thank-you emails and more.

Advanced Email Marketing Reporting

Email marketing services typically offer analytics and reporting features (e.g. built-in analytics), but it is important to use a service that is compatible with your own website analytics program. If you currently use Google Analytics, you might want to choose an email marketing service provider that integrates with it.

Another important feature is the capability to do A/B split testing. This lets you experiment to see which headings and content work best to produce the highest conversion rate. For example, a portion of your subscriber list could receive an email offering a 10 percent discount, while another group receives an offer for buy-one-get-one-free. When the emails have been sent, you can check detailed reporting to see which version had the best response. A/B testing can help you decide which campaign you want to run to a larger portion of your subscriber list.

Integration with Your Ecommerce Software

If you have an ecommerce business, make sure the email marketing service supports your shopping cart and other ecommerce software. When possible you want to use one email service for both marketing and ecommerce tasks (such as ecommerce remarketing). This will create a better profile of your customer as you can follow them from the email marketing message to the site and through the checkout process, or you can initiate the cart abandonment recovery process using fewer systems.

Advanced Email Marketing Checklist: Look for list-management options, a user dashboard that allows you to control specifics of your email marketing messages, advanced analytics and compatibility with your website analytics program or ecommerce software.

Buy an Email Marketing Service that Will Grow with Your Business

It is important to consider your future business growth when buying email marketing services, so look beyond just the options you need today. The last thing you want is to switch email marketing services because you outgrow your current one. A good vendor can handle your business if your list grows -- even a hundredfold -- over the next year.

Know the Support Options

While some services can be had for free or quite cheap, technical supportmay not be included with these accounts. Being able to contact your email marketing service provider is just as important as having access to automation and other functionality when using the system.

Before buying in to a service find out what you can expect from the provider when you need help. See what support channels the provider uses (e.g. phone, email or live chat), what hours support they offer and if support is free with your paid subscription or if they charge an additional fee for support.

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This article was originally published on June 22, 2011

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