Email marketing isn’t the cool new kid on the block – it’s been around since 1978. But it’s an incredibly effective form of marketing with several unique benefits. It’s not something your business can afford to ignore. But once you’ve grown your business from a small startup with a handful of customers to a larger enterprise, you just can’t grow your business by sending emails yourself. That’s where email marketing services come in – helping you scale your email marketing to grow your business.
What is an Email Marketing Service?
An email marketing service is a provider that helps your business create, target, and deliver emails to your audience. They’re critical for growing businesses because your individual email account lacks any way to measure results, segment lists, and create sophisticated emails. There are a huge variety of email marketing platforms on the market and they all offer something a little different. But they usually have the following offerings:
A way to build emails and landing pages
If you’re not a web developer, you don’t want to be dealing with creating emails from scratch in HTML. Email service providers (ESPs) offer email builders that help you create functional and eye-catching emails for your audience without deep technical knowledge. Many will allow you to do the same for landing pages where your readers will arrive after clicking through your email too.
A way to organize and segment email lists
As your email list grows, you’ll want to begin organizing your users into groups, by interest, demographic data, or other qualities. That way, you can easily send them emails that are targeted to what they want or need to know. If you own an athletic supply company, for example, you could segment your lists to target yoga enthusiasts, running fans, and avid hikers. Then you could send yoga mat offers to one group while offering running shoe promos to another.
A way to automate your email sends
You want to be able to schedule email sends ahead of time – no hovering over the keyboard at an exact hour needed. Emails are most effective when sent at certain hours. A good email marketing service will make scheduling those emails ahead of time simple and fool-proof so you can work on your own schedule.
Good standing with Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Your emails are only effective if they get to your audience smoothly. Your email service provider should help you comply easily with anti-spam regulations and avoid getting shunted automatically to spam folders.
Access to analytics and data
Once you’ve started sending out email campaigns, it’s important to be able to measure what’s working well and what could be improved. A good email marketing service should allow you access to analytics on each of your emails, campaigns, and users. You will want to see how many people are opening your email (your open rate) and clicking onto your content (your click-through rate). Many email marketing platforms also offer you the ability to conduct A/B testing, trying two similar but slightly tweaked versions of an email to see which performs better.
How to Select an Email Marketing Service
Every business is unique – there’s no solution that will fit every company. That’s true in almost every aspect of digital marketing including the selection of an email marketing platform. But don’t worry – there’s an option that will fit your needs. Since email marketing is so effective, it’s widely used.
That means there are dozens of email service providers who all offer a slightly different service. Just think through your needs and budget first and then you can start making a decision.
What Does Your Business Need?
A small local t-shirt company sells the same product as a big national retailer. But they have different email marketing needs.
The first thing to think about is how many emails you would like to send per month. If you don’t already know this number, do some calculations. How many email subscribers do you have on your email list now? And how frequently would you ideally email them? Multiply those numbers and you have a ballpark figure.
Now, think about what kinds of content you typically send out. Are you an ecommerce business that sends a lot of shopping-related emails? You will need an email service provider that allows an elegant use of images and possibly ecommerce integration too. Are you a blogger or professional who mostly sends informative newsletters or subscriber-only content? You will benefit from an ESP that makes those integrations simple.
How technical do you want to get in building emails? If you’re comfortable with a bit of HTML, then the user interface for creating emails isn’t as important for you. But if you’re just starting out in email creation and don’t want to mess around with the complicated technical details, you’ll want an email marketing platform that offers an easy drag-and-drop format.
What Can Your Business Afford?
Now that you have your basic requirements, it’s time to figure out what you can afford or want to spend on email marketing. Email service providers range from free options to the very pricey, but those price increases usually come with benefits. If you’re a small business just starting out in email marketing, you might not have any budget at all to spare. You’ll want to stick to looking at free options in that case.
But if you’re looking to significantly grow your email marketing capabilities or send tens of thousands of emails per month, you’ll be looking at paid options only. That extra cost does come with extra support, in many cases. Since there are so many different paid options though, be very clear on what you really need to avoid wasting money on features you don’t use.
Our Top Three Email Marketing Services
As we noted above, there are dozens of email marketing tools on the market. This is not a comprehensive list, just a few of the most popular tools that we prefer. If none of them seem to fit your needs or budget then it’s time to do some more research to find what works for you. But most businesses we work with choose one of the following providers.
This is the most popular email marketing service for one very compelling reason – they offer a forever free plan. That means if your business is small and your email list is too, you can use MailChimp forever and never pay a dime. They allow you to send up to 12,000 emails to up to 2,000 providers for free, and paid plans start with an additional 500 subscribers.
But this free service comes at a cost – they don’t offer many advanced features like marketing automation at all. Their analytics are limited and their customer support for free users is limited as well. And their user interface is good, but not the easiest to use if you don’t have any technical knowledge.
Next to MailChimp, Constant Contact is the second most popular email marketing service. They offer a very beginner-friendly product (no HTML knowledge needed and plenty of email templates included) along with excellent customer support and a large library of training resources and live webinars to get you started.
The ecommerce integration, good analytics and tracking, and segmentation abilities don’t come for free though. But Constant Contact is one of the less expensive options for the services they offer – starting at $20 per month after a free trial.
This is a more powerful option for anyone looking for a full-service email marketing platforms that works well for content creators, bloggers, authors, and marketers. It allows you to easily create content upgrades and offer incentives to people who sign up for your email list on your website.
ConvertKit also makes it simple to create drip campaigns from their automated emails. If your marketing campaign needs to get more leads into your sales funnel or nurture those leads to a sale with a drip email series, this is a good option.
Making the Most of Your Email Marketing Service
Engaging an email marketing service is a big investment of time and money if you’re doing it for the first time. That’s why it’s important to make the most of your email service provider – getting the full value it offers to fuel your business growth. Maximizing your email marketing service means creating a thoughtful and strategic email marketing strategy and adhering to industry best practices.
Find the Right Audiences
When you begin your email marketing strategy, your audience might be small – too small to divide into segments yet. But as you focus on growing your leads and your email list, you will want to have a plan for targeting your different audiences. These might align with your Buyer Personas – aligned by interests or common features. Be sure you’re sending your email campaigns to them in a way that speaks to their interests and needs, not just what you want to tell them.
Write the Right Content
You can hire the fanciest email marketing service with all the bells and whistles and waste every penny you’ve spent with them. How could that happen? If your content strategy isn’t as top-notch as your email service. You need to have engaging subject lines, well-written and professional content in your newsletters, and offer writing your audiences want to read. Make sure you’re not just sending them promotional emails all the time either – email marketing is also about building relationships.
Follow the Right Practices
An unglamorous but very critical part of an email marketing strategy is making sure your emails are deliverable and go to your audience’s inbox. A good email marketing provider will offer a lot of help in this area, making sure it’s easy to set up the legally required opt-outs and disclaimers in every email.
You will also want to brush up on anti-spam laws that apply to you and be sure to adhere to the marketing rules of your platform too. Always send emails from a professional email address that reflects your business well to avoid being sent to spam folders. And check spelling and grammar before hitting send – don’t tarnish your credibility with a poorly-edited email.
Enhance Your Email Marketing Campaign
Finding the email marketing service that works for your business is just the first step. Your whole email marketing strategy requires using some or all of the email marketing strategies that make sense for your company.
The first step to a successful email marketing campaign is deciding what kind of campaign you want to run. There are many types of marketing campaigns, and they all have different goals. From an email promoting a seasonal sale to a custom birthday offer to a monthly newsletter, you should find the email campaigns that work best for your business. Get all the details on creating a successful email campaign.
Once you know what kind of email campaigns you want to run, you can begin setting your email automation. Automated emails can be set up through some email marketing platforms or through an additional service like Zapier.
When a prospect joins your email list, you can automatically send out a welcome email. Or when a website user fills up their online shopping cart but doesn’t make a purchase, you can automatically send them a reminder email about the items they’re missing out on.
Email automation offers a way to send customized, targeted, timely emails to your prospects and customers. It can help increase your conversion rate and build customer relationships with a one-time set up of an action that triggers an email.
An email newsletter is a great way for most businesses to connect with their customers and prospects. They should be informative, not sales-focused – you’re providing valuable and interesting content instead of pushing for a sale. This works great for non-ecommerce businesses that send fewer marketing emails and so don’t have that opportunity to connect and build their brand.
But it can also be useful for building relationships with customers when you sell a product or service online. It can break up a series of marketing emails nicely – you’re providing a service to your audience in place of asking them for something.
Email newsletters can also help power your content marketing strategy. You can get additional views and shares on those blog posts, articles, and case studies you’ve worked hard to produce. Your email audience is already engaged, so they’re more likely to read and share your content too. And all those extra shares can bring in extra viewers and readers, generating additional leads. To learn more, read about email newsletters here.
A referral program can reward your loyal customers for recommending your brand to their friends and family. It’s low-cost and highly rewarding. And with email marketing, it’s easy too. Just set up an email campaign to introduce your program and set the terms and you’re off. Learn all about referral program [link to referral program] details and how to get started.
When your customers are delighted with your company, you want them to share the news. Send them automated emails after they make a purchase asking about their experience and how satisfied they are. Ask them to post reviews on your site or for a testimonial to include on your home page. Get all the details about testimonials
Parter with Email Marketing Professionals
As a business owner with a lot on your plate, you probably don’t have time to set up, write, send, and analyze multiple email campaigns. But you don’t want to miss out on the benefits of email marketing for your business either. That’s why you need a partner like ContentFirst.Marketing on your team. We’ll provide a detailed digital marketing strategy, develop a data-driven and well-written email marketing plan, and analyze your results for you. Schedule your free business review today to find out how we can work together to get you measurable results.