Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools for your small business. It can drive engagement, build relationships, and when used effectively, it can provide a return of as much as $36 for every $1 spent. But how do you know what email marketing platform is right for you and your business?
Choosing an email marketing platform from the dozens that exist in the market can be difficult. First, you have to understand the various features you need in your business.
To help, we’ve laid out what you need to consider when looking for an email marketing service and how to choose the right one for your business.
Let’s get started.
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Think Beyond Price
The first point we need to make is when evaluating email marketing services, you have to think beyond price.
We understand the temptation to look for the word ‘free’ and grab whatever is available at zero cost. But know that this is one of the biggest mistakes we see small business owners make.
Don’t get us wrong. There are times when a free plan (or an entirely free platform) works for a business. A lot can be done with some free accounts, so that may be a wise choice.
But there are also limitations to free plans, which means you have to evaluate your needs and choose an email marketing platform with the required features to do what you need it to do.
- DON’T choose a tool that will make you conform to how it works or what it offers.
- DO choose a tool that will let you run your business the way you want to run it.
With those tips in mind, let’s look at some of the standard features most email marketing software offers and some extra features you may want to consider.
Basic Email Marketing Features to Consider
Here are some of the features you should expect to see in most email marketing platforms you choose – even the free versions. They are ‘basic’ but essential to good email marketing!
The ‘bones’ of all email marketing platforms is your contact list.
Email marketing software allows you to store your contacts’ names and email addresses in one secure place. Many tools also allow you to collect additional information such as an address, birth date, or other custom contact information.
Most platforms should allow you to add contacts manually, import them from an existing file, or set up a form that you can embed on your website that collects information and automatically adds the contact information to your list.
Basic List Segmentation
Most email marketing platforms have basic systems for segmenting your contact list. For example, you may create specific lists for different groups or apply tags to contacts to label them.
Segmenting your list allows you to send targeted emails to specific segments of your list, increasing conversion.
Most email marketing platforms make it simple to send emails by offering pre-made templates. You can often find templates for simple emails, newsletters, and promotional emails.
By using a pre-built template and editing it to fit your own needs, you can save both time and frustration.
Drag-and-Drop Email Builder
Another common email marketing software feature is the drag-and-drop builder, or what some know as the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) builder. This type of builder allows you to custom-create your emails by choosing various elements and dragging them where you want them to appear in the email.
Most email marketing platforms offer a scheduling feature that allows you to set up your email in advance and schedule it to go out on a specific day and time.
These days, even free versions of email marketing software tend to offer basic automation features. Automation features allow you to set up emails activated by ‘triggers.’
For example, you may want to set up a welcome email to be sent out as soon as someone joins your email list. Automation allows you to set that up, and each time a new contact is added to your list, the email automation is ‘triggered’ and sent.
Basic Email Metrics
Most email marketing tools collect and report data regarding your email marketing performance.
For example, with most platforms, you should be able to view the open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribe rate of the emails you send,
Email Marketing Platforms: Advanced Features
If you’re just starting with email marketing, you may only need a tool with the basic features. But when investing in an email marketing platform, you don’t want to just think about what you need today. Instead, you need to think about what you might need three or five years from now as your business grows.
Here are some of the more advanced features that some email marketing platforms offer that your business may want to consider.
When it comes to email marketing, automation is your best friend. The ability to create campaigns that deliver the right emails to the right people at the right time can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
If automation is an important feature you want in your email marketing platform, you’ll want to look closely at the automation functionality offered. This includes things like triggers, conditions, logic options, and drip and timing options.
Many email marketing platforms with advanced automation features will also offer you pre-built templates for various workflows such as welcome series, abandoned cart series, etc. These can be a big time-saver for those who aren’t as experienced in setting up automation.
Another consideration often overlooked when choosing an email marketing platform, but one that has substantial value is personalization features.
While many email marketing platforms allow you to personalize an email by adding the contact’s first name to the subject line or within the email, personalization can, and should, go much further if you want results from your email marketing efforts.
Some additional personalization features to consider would be integrating your website to personalize website pages and landing pages with contact information or using dynamic content in emails that add in specific customer information such as birthdate, job title, where they live, products they’ve purchased, etc.
Study after study has shown that personalization increases sales, so make sure you consider this when choosing the right email marketing platform.
Many email marketing systems allow for integrations between the email tool and other software you use. For example, you can integrate Shopify to Mailchimp or WooCommerce to ActiveCampaign.
But maybe you want your eCommerce functionality to be a part of your email marketing platform. For example, some platforms, such as Keap, allow you to set up products and order forms and collect payments right inside your email system, keeping everything in one place.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having your eCommerce processing as part of your email marketing/CRM platform, so we suggest you do your research and see the best option for your business.
Having a chat feature on your website or social media page lets you interact with the customer while they are in ‘decision mode.’ The ability to answer their questions and provide the details to complete a purchase in real-time can improve your conversion rates.
Many email marketing platforms offer chatbot features and integration, allowing you to create multi-step automated message flows that gather visitor information and build your contact list.
A/B Testing & Robust Statistics
A/B testing, or split testing, is a system for testing various elements within your emails so you can optimize performance. If you want to use this type of testing, you’ll want to choose an email marketing platform that includes it as a feature.
You also want to think about what metrics you want to track with your platform. For example, if you want deeper analytics into marketing campaigns, contact behavior, and sales reports, you’ll want to consider that in your choice.
SMS and Push Messaging Features
Statistics show that new communication methods, specifically SMS and Push Messaging, are becoming essential elements of all marketing strategies. A recent study revealed that 58% of people say texting is the ideal way for businesses to reach them.
Combining email, SMS, and web push messages in the same automated workflow allows eCommerce brands to provide a consistent, unified, and relevant customer journey. So, if you want to stay ahead of the marketing curve, you’ll want to consider these methods of communication and require these features as a part of your email marketing platform.
Choosing an Email Marketing Platform for Your Business
As we mentioned earlier, there are many email marketing platforms to choose from, and our team at VirTasktic has worked in dozens of them. Below, we outline our top choices based on functionality, support, and ease of use.
ActiveCampaign is the email marketing platform that our team at VirTasktic uses and is a great all-in-one platform that provides robust email marketing, automation, and CRM functionality. The platform is simple to use and comes with an affordable price tag that adjusts based on the functions you want and the number of contacts on your list.
Some advanced features available include integration with your website to allow for site tracking, advanced personalization options, and built-in chatbot functionality. It also fully integrates with many eCommerce platforms, including WooCommerce.
This top-rated email service is suitable for budget-conscious freelancers, small businesses, and startups.
It has simple to use email marketing and automation features that allow you to manage and segment your contacts easily. It also has some great help features, such as its subject line helper and content optimizer that offer suggestions to help you improve your content for better conversion and engagement.
Aweber is another reliable starter platform for freelancers and small businesses with a somewhat limited budget.
The platform has several features that make it easy to get started, including a prebuilt template library, an AI-powered design assistant, a drag-and-drop email and landing page designer, a campaign marketplace, and automated campaign features.
HubSpot is a better-known and more comprehensive software in the CRM and email marketing space. With a free-to-start version of their email marketing platform, users can easily set up email campaigns and automation at no charge.
The power of Hubspot comes from its integration with its other software solutions, including Hubspot CRM. With this integration, you can collect more information about your subscribers, increasing personalization.
Some of the powerful features included on the platform are send-time optimization, high email deliverability, A/B testing, detailed performance analytics, marketing automation, drip campaigns, and more.
Sendinblue is a good compromise between cost and a service that is simple to use and complete in the functions it offers. It boasts a well-developed CRM section and offers customizable automation, integration, and segmentation features.
It’s not the easiest platform to manage out of the box. Still, it does offer additional features such as SMS marketing, email marketing templates, and website behavior-based triggers for email automation.
GetResponse is another reliable platform perfect for those just getting started who want a broad base of essential features such as email marketing, basic automation, landing pages, and list management. What’s nice about this platform is that you can easily expand the features you want to use as your company grows and your marketing needs increase.
Our 6 Tips for Choosing an Email Marketing Platform
At VirTasktic, we work with small to medium-sized businesses that use a range of email marketing software. Of course, we have our favorite, but we also realize there isn’t one ‘best’ for everyone.
Our advice is to choose the email marketing platform that will let you run your business the way YOU want to run it.
Here are some tips:
- Evaluate Your Needs: What is the goal for your email marketing? What do you need the system to do?
- Focus on the Features: First, instead of looking at price, hone in on two or three key features that you NEED to reach your goals.
- Start a Trial: Once you identify a platform (or a few) that has the sort of features you need, start a free trial to test it out. Often the features of two platforms are similar, so it is only after getting in there and playing around will you find what works best and feels right for you.
- Talk to Others: Reach out to your network of business peers to find out what tool they are using for their email marketing if they would recommend it, and why.
- Ask for a Demo: The more advanced CRM systems often invite test users to speak with their consultants and get a demo of how the product works. If you’re satisfied with the free trial, request a demo/consultation so you can discuss your specific needs and learn how the platform may help you.
- Try Monthly: If you’ve narrowed it down, but you’re still not completely sold, try a monthly subscription to start. Set a reminder in your calendar to do a more thorough evaluation of your testing three months into using it. At that time, you can either look for other options or bump up to an annual plan (which almost always means you’ll save a little money).
Your email marketing platform will play a massive role in your marketing, sales, and customer experience. Take your time to choose the right one for your business. Think beyond price! Effective email marketing will give you a huge ROI, so it just might be the most important purchase you ever make in your business.