The need and importance of email marketing has been proved beyond any doubt and it is still one of the very effective ways for lead generation and brand building till date in certain industries. For an email marketing campaign to work well though, it is critical that you have a proper software to run the campaign. The days of desktop software are however gone and it is easier and much cheaper to use any of the online email marketing services that are way cheaper yet offers pretty robust solution.
So, why do you need an email marketing service? You can always send emails from Outlook or any other email client There are a lot of email marketing services available online like StreamSend, Constant Contact etc and it is often a challenge to select the right one. Here are few points that you must be looking for while selecting an email marketing services :
Creation of Emails / Template : Most of these email marketing services offers a template library, but you should be looking at what are the options beyond using those templates. While in most cases the templates are customizable, full customization is often not possible which could be critical for proper branding. Ideally an email marketing service should give you the option to use your own HTML mailers, use any of their templates as well as have provision for sending a version for non-HTML supported mail clients.
List Management : Again a common feature in most email marketing services however, the ease of operating the same is critical. The system should allow you to not just do bulk uploads of email address but also group/ classify them into separate lists, offer download options, manage unsubscribes etc. managing unsubscribes is one of the most critical features, the system should be able to automatically able to take out all the unsubscribed emails from the lists and make sure that future emails are not delivered to those addresses.
Delivery : Delivering emails to inbox has always been a challenge for email marketers. A good email marketing service takes different steps to ensure maximum deliverability. Some of them includes setting up SPF records for the senders email address, throttling the email blast over a reasonable period of time, analysis of email content etc. Before you select an email marketing service try to check these options, they are critical to ensure the visibility of your emails.
Analytics : One of the key advantages of digital marketing channels over all others is the availability of precise analytics data. Email marketing is no different, almost all email marketing services provide analytics to some extent but I would strongly recommend that you go with one that gives you a really detailed level of analytics. I have been personally using StreamSend for last 3-4 years and they have been extremely satisfactory in this count. You should be able to track not just the inbox delivery and open rates but also click throughs, which are the links clicked, unique viewers, unique clickers, forwards, social shares, bounce rate and numbers along with the category( reason why it the mail bounced), domain level breakdown of delivery, bounce, delivery rate per time increment and tons of similar intricate details that can help fine tune your campaign. Also, as most of us use Google Analytics, what I love in StreamSend is its extremely easy integration with GA, so I can get all the data in my analytics dashboard.
While these are the primary features and functionalities that you should be looking for while selecting an email marketing service the fact is most of them does offer these features to some extent but what makes the difference is the robustness of the solution provided, the ease of use for the interface and any additional tools that they might offer. For example, in StreamSend they do offer an Analyses tool which I really love. It allows you to preview your email in different mail clients, runs it through 9 spam filters to check whether its triggering any signs of spam content also do some spot checking using thumbnails of your mail content. A tool like this could be highly effective in saving your emails from landing in junk and can increase your visibility substantially.
Having said all these, one crucial factor remains to be discussed. Pricing. Well most email marketing services offers various packages based on your needs and even have some free trial package with limited features/capacity. I started with the free trial that StreamSend offers but then eventually upgraded to higher packages as my requirement increased . I think that is a better model as it helps you to understand and get comfortable with the system before you start paying but with packages starting as low as $19.90, its definitely affordable if you are serious about email marketing.