Email marketing is a critical component of a successful Inbound Marketing campaign. It is a tried-and-true method to connect with prospects, clients, vendors. There are as many email marketing software solutions as there are social media platforms and often they are just as confusing. The key is often to find the sweet spot between prices, focus, and support that works for you and your business.
What to Look For
Before you start your research and potentially jump into any number of “free” trials, it is critical that you know how many contacts you have now and what your goal is for contacts. Most companies base their pricing on the number of subscribers and some even go by how many messages you send per month.
What is Your Focus?
Not all software is created equal. You have to decide if visual design or contact management is more important for example. Different software will usually focus on one or the other. Also, keep in mind to look for other elements like offering auto-responders. For instance is it important to be able to set event-based auto-responders like anniversary or birthday messages? Some offer these options, some do not.
To Support or Not to Support?
It’s important to know which type of support you are most comfortable with. If you are looking for 24/7 phone support, you might be surprised how few of these companies offer that. Forums, chat, knowledge bases etc are more common. But when you are stuck and the deadline is looming, waiting for a help ticket to get answered can be frustrating.
So who offers the best email marketing software to help you succeed? Here are our top 5 contenders.
- MailChimp is well known for being easy to set up and to use, which makes it especially popular for the small business owner looking to get into email marketing for the first time. Their free plans further endear this software to the first timers testing the waters of email marketing. One down side for their free plans though is that they have no analytics tools or auto-responders. We have found it to be frustrating that not only are their reports not real-time, they refresh slowly. On the plus side though they are very creative and flexible with their pricing plans.
- Constant Contact is one of the most recognizable names in email marketing software.They do a great job of taking a lot of the mystery out of the process. Their templates are professional and they offer some great support. Constant Contact offers some of the most robust features including Google Analytics integration, great signup forms, easy import of contact from Gmail and Outlook, and an easy-to-use editor. Many find this software expensive, some feel it is worth it for the features offered so it really depends on what you value. Some review sites have reported that the dashboard is glitchy, but this has rarely been our experiences. Sadly the auto-responder is limited, but again, this may or may not be a problem depending on what you are looking for.
- AWeber offers no-frills functionality and great flexibility in managing your contacts and customizing your email templates. We believe AWeber deserves a look for it’s no-fuss interface and unlimited email offering. The plans are affordable and we love the extensive reporting features. What we didn’t like was the lack of third-party integration. There was no way to import Gmail or other third-party address books. And while we liked the provided reporting features we believe it’s a huge miss on their part to not integrate Google Analytics.
- Campaigner won PCMag’s Editor’s Choice late in 2014 for best advanced email marketing software. It is a well-designed and easy to use systems. Their templates are not only attractive and professional, they are mobile friendly. Unlike some, Campaigner offers 24/7 phone support. PCMag found it to have issues importing from Gmail and while the free trial was generous, overall it came in on the expensive side.
- GetResponse is a solid, easy-to-use service that offers good third-party integration and a host of advanced features. Their free trial is full-featured, which gives you ample time to do an honest test drive, which is good considering they offer no refunds, not even on annual plans. GetResponse does have great Google Analytics integration as well as tracking tools. Some uses have reported sign-up glitches and the inability to view individual subscriber profiles, which is troubling.
We recommend giving these various software options a try and seeing if there is one that works for you. Remember that before you launch your first email, that it is vital to have a plan, a strategy. For that, we recommend checking out our blog “Best Email Marketing Practices for 2016” for some tips and tricks to stay on track. Or give us a call at 907-563-6008 or drop us a line, we would love to chat about how email marketing can be a powerful part of your marketing mix.