The Top Five Online Email Marketing Services: A Buyer’s Market
|Online marketing email services offer robust packages for easily messaging your customers and analyzing what’s working and why.|
“Email continues to be one of the strongest marketing tools available today,” said Cynthia Price, vice president of marketing for Litmus (www.litmus.com), an online email marketing service provider.
Yes, we’ve all heard that email marketing is sometimes derided as a dinosaur technology, but the fact is that email delivers, year after year. In fact, 89% of email marketers surveyed said that the campaigns they designed were at least somewhat successful, according to a July 2019 survey by Campaign Monitor (www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/infographics/state-email-marketing).
And user engagement with email is actually improving. The average time people spend reading emails has gone up during the past couple of years from 11.1 seconds per email in 2016 to 13.4 seconds per email in 2018, according to a June 2019 study by Litmus (www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/litmus-report-email-read-time-increased-by-21-percent-300875977.html).
Even more good news: According to a July 2019 study by GetResponse (www.getresponse.com/resources/reports/email-marketing-benchmarks#location-industry), marketers can send fewer emails than they’ve been sending but see more email opens by their subscribers. Specifically, GetResponse researchers found that weekly newsletters enjoyed open rates of 33.4%, and triggered emails (such as welcome emails and confirmation emails from companies to their customers) experienced open rates of 88.7%.
Fortunately, if you’re looking to get in on the action or punch up what you’re already doing, you’ll find a bevy of email marketing solution providers with services offering eye-catching templates and effortless design and editing tools. You’ll also find substantial tracking and analysis tools on the top-tier solutions that you can use to slice and dice your results, discover what you’re doing right, and make changes to campaigns that are underperforming.
Before you jump in, though, you’ll need to make a choice. One: You have the option to buy a standalone email marketing solution, which you buy once and install on your PC or an office server. Or two: You can “rent” email marketing services by the month from any number of online providers.
Many marketers often go online for email marketing services, given that those services undergo constant, relentless, rigorous testing. Millions of customers are using online email marketing services every day, so if there’s a problem, the online service providers hear about it immediately. And they’re motivated to make tweaks just as quickly, since companies can simply “unsubscribe” from their services at any time and hop to another online competitor.
Most major online email marketing services also spend a great deal of time establishing reputations intolerant of companies looking to spam. The result is that those squeaky-clean reputations often ensure that more of your email marketing messages arrive to intended recipients rather than ending up in spam folders because the receiving company did not trust your sending address.
Still, there are some major tradeoffs when you opt for an online email marketing service. For example, most of the solution providers reserve the right to shut you down—and even boot you off their services—if even a handful of your subscribers characterize you as a spammer. It does not matter in those cases if you’re actually spamming the recipients or there has been a misunderstanding. In the hair-trigger anti-spam world in which we all dwell, simply the perception of possible spamming can get you shut down, booted and scrambling for another way to email your subscribers.
Another downside is that many online service providers also auto-remove email addresses from your mailing list that are “hard bounces.” Those are emails that are bounced back to your service provider along with messages stating that the intended recipient does not exist.
It’s a policy that can make it tough for you to update a lost contact. For example, if a key staff member of a company you regularly email to gets a new job, that staff member’s email address can be instantly invalidated and consequently auto-removed from your mailing list by your online email service provider.
That practice may make it very difficult to find out which email addresses are auto-removed from you mailing list as well as the companies or customers that are being auto-removed from your mailing list at the same time.
Finally, going with an online service provider can get very pricey. For example, Mailchimp—a longtime provider of online email services—offers a premium service that starts at $299 per month and can climb even higher. Compare that to Groupmail (www.group-mail.com). It’s a standalone solution that you buy and install on your PC and server. Groupmail’s premium service, which includes the basics for email message and newsletter sending, email tracking, spam score checking, reports and the like, goes for $699 per year.
Meanwhile, Atomic Email Sender (www.atompark.com/buy-products), another standalone solution that you buy once and install on your PC, costs $295—although it offers fewer features than many of the online services. Even so, it’s worth your time to evaluate what the online service providers are offering. And the fact remains that any number of companies worldwide use online email marketing services.
Below are the top five email service providers, based on thousands of evaluations by business users at G2 Crowd (www.g2.com/categories/email-marketing). G2 Crowd is a business-software review site that has a sterling reputation for presenting the straight dope on what works, what doesn’t—and why—when it comes to business software.
The five email marketing solutions below were rated best by G2 Crowd reviewers, which represents the overall sentiment of business users that have used the email marketing services, weighted against the overall number of reviews each solutions has garnered:
Mailchimp (www.mailchimp.com): A 4.3 out of 5 rating based on more than 12,670 reviews. Pricing starts at free for Mailchimp’s barebones service for up to 2,000 subscribers. Paid service starts at $9.99 per month.
An industry stalwart and longtime email marketing service provider, Mailchimp is a great firm to use as a benchmark when deciding which service you’ll use. It offers a full spectrum of features, and one of its strongest advantages is its ability to integrate with other popular business programs. All told, it currently integrates with more than 800 other programs.
Mailchimp’s Newsletter Creation Editor is very easy to use, and it offers a number of email newsletter templates that enable you to simply paste in a headline, text and images and then send.
Classic newsletters, auto-responders and A/B testing are all standard with Mailchimp, as is segmenting email sends to subsets of your mailing list. The service also offers robust automation, enabling you to auto-send follow-up emails based on actions your subscribers take, such as email opens, clicks inside your emails and similar activity.
Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com): A 3.9 out of 5 rating based on more than 3,880 reviews. The service offers a free trial, with pricing starting at $20 per month.
Another comprehensive email marketing service provider, Constant Contact distinguishes itself by offering hard-to-get features such as an event management tool that enables you to combine email marketing with event invitations, registrations and ticketing. You’ll also be able to do email surveying within Constant Contact, which will save you the trouble of learning how a separate web survey works, and you’re able to integrate Constant Contact with your marketing campaigns on social media.
The Design Editor is easy to use, and there are approximately 100 templates you can choose from for messaging. You’ll also find automated email follow-ups based on email opens, clicks inside your emails and the like. And there are a number of reports that you can easily generate to track email opens and clicks, spam problems, email bounces and unsubscribing.
Zoho Campaigns (www.zoho.com/campaigns): A 4.3 out of 5 rating based on more than 392 reviews. Pricing starts at free for newsletter/messaging sending to up to 2,000 subscribers at 12,000 emails maximum per month. Paid subscriptions start at $32 per year.
Like all the solutions in the top tier of providers, Zoho Campaigns offers a wide range of email marketing features, including the ability to quickly create and send everyday marketing emails, email newsletters and do A/B testing. You can also do subscriber surveying with Zoho, and you can integrate your email marketing with your social-media campaigns on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Google Analytics (https://analytics.google.com), a free and extremely powerful analytics program, integrates seamlessly with Zoho, and you can do the usual tracking of email opens, clicks inside emails and the like.
Campaign Monitor (www.campaignmonitor.com): A 4.1 out of 5 rating based on more than 527 reviews. Campaign Monitor offers a free trial, and its basic plan starts at $9 per month.
Another comprehensive solution, Campaign Monitor gets high marks for helping with email creation and tracking email opens, clicks on links, unsubscribes and reports on who is sharing your newsletter or marketing message on social media.
Besides the standard templates, Campaign Monitor also offers templates to send automated messages to your subscribers when you do a blog update, when a subscriber has a birthday, or to simply to say thank you for a purchase or completed call to action.
As with most of the rest of the top-tier solutions, you’ll also be able to send targeted emails to a subset of your mailing list.
iContact (www.icontact.com): A 4.1 out of 5 rating based on more than 805 reviews. iContact offers a free trial, with pricing starting at $14 per month.
Stuffed with loads of tools, iContact distinguishes itself from many solutions by offering a preview function that enables you to see how your email messages and newsletters will look in all browsers. You can easily double-check that your messaging will be devoid of spam characteristics before you send, and you’ll also find the standard tools for analyzing how subscribers are interacting with you emails, segmenting your emails to subsets of your mailing list and A/B testing.
Google Analytics also integrates seamlessly with iContact, and all emails sent are in responsive form, which ensures that all of your marketing and email newsletter messaging auto-adjusts to screen size, be it smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop.
Businesses looking to up their games in email marketing are in the catbird seat: There are so many online email marketing service providers vying for your dollar that you’ll find scores of quality choices available—along with scores of reasonable prices.
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.