Email marketing is one of the dominant ways that a small business reaches out to customers and prospects. Email marketing is about relationships — and successful relationship marketing involves a lot more thought than simply firing off a newsletter via email.
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report (free PDF excerpt here), email marketing is one of two marketing budget items that saw an increase in 2009. The other is social media.
But where many have claimed that “email is dead,” MarketingSherpa has proven otherwise in its studies. In fact, they show that email is quite social. A recent survey asked users how they share information they find on the internet: 78% responded that email is how they do it. 22% use social media sites.
Here are 30 small business email marketing applications to grow customer relationships — and your business (in no particular order):
Emma is a Web-based service that combines do-it-yourself with free personal assistance when you need it (custom email design comes at an additional charge). They have strong tracking and analytics components that allow you to learn what works, or doesn’t, with your audience.
They offer a free 60-day trial. They have been around a long time and have a strong arsenal of email marketing tools from HTML newsletter templates to personal coaching on how to get your email campaigns done right. They have added event management so you can handle online registration, as well as online survey tools to gather info from customers and prospects.
AWeber grew very popular because it focused on auto-response emails. They made it very simple and elegant to create a form a prospect would fill out. The service then auto-responded to that information with whatever message you had set up. They offer a robust set of tools including email newsletters, emails to RSS, and, of course, autoresponders. First month is $1, and then pay-as-you-go based on subscriber count. You don’t pay per email with them.
MailChimp was one of the first email marketing providers to offer a “forever free” plan. Small business users I know love this plan as it gives you up to 500 subscribers and 3,000 emails for free each month. After that, it has pay-as-you-go pricing. On top of the email newsletter and database list management, they offer an integration with online event registrations and ticket sales via Eventbrite.
iContact offers all of the same features as the others, but they focus attention on their deliverability rates – often talked about as whitelist agreements. While it may not seem like a big deal at first glance, if your email provider isn’t doing things right, your email may not get through. iContact partners with a third party, Pivotal Veracity, to score emails to help improve how many get through to recipients. They offer a free trial, no credit card to get started, and a good educational resource section.
In addition to email, Vertical Response is probably one of the more integrated services out there, with integration to Intuit and Salesforce. They offer postal mail options, too, so you can send a postcard to a prospect or customer to add another touch beyond email. Great educational materials also.
I liked that they had a “no credit card” free trial signup. More importantly, I really appreciated that they offer an industry-focus approach with 20+ industry examples and case studies. You could dig in and see what someone else like you was doing — a good way to get a jumpstart on your email marketing.
eConnect Email’s claim to fame is their the first provider to offer a tagging system for email. Look at it as a meta-organizing system where you can see what your customers and prospects find interesting and are clicking on. You can tag items in a specific email, in a campaign, and across multiple campaigns. That information is then available on a subscriber level, so you can see the top five tags your customer is interested in.
FuseMail offers email hosting as well as campaign management. They have a 14-day free trial. The big area that stood out for me was they have an SMTP Direct service (which is an email gateway) where you can use your existing email newsletter program and gain the advantages of their email servers. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to get everyone on your existing mail list to “opt-in” to your newsletter again, which is almost always a requirement when signing on with a new service. FuseMail doesn’t have this requirement with their SMTP Direct service. Pretty unique.
SimplyCast, owned by Mailworkz (offers 300 emails a month “free forever” account, similar to MailChimp). Some of the key features that SimplyCast offers are worth considering: Image hosting (so you can easily have your image render properly), easy to include attachments, forward-to-a-friend options from within the email (great for viral stuff), and dozens of template categories.
Many providers tag your emails with “Powered by ABC Email…” and you probably don’t particularly want to see this sort of branding on your email messages to customers. JangoMail promises “your emails are your emails, not ours.” Even though they are a web-based email provider, they allow for you to manage your messaging through Outlook or Thunderbird, and other web-based apps like Gmail and Yahoo, too. Free trial allows for 50 test emails.
GetResponse appears to be very social media savvy. They offer video email and social media tools. Your email subscribers, for example, can easily receive your Twitter updates via the GetResponse service. They also have a split-testing feature so that you can test one email against another to see which one pulls better results.
Contact29 is an email marketing provider focused primarily on the real estate and mortgage industries. If you are in those industries, they are worth a look.
SendLabs has created a tool to help you see what your email will look like in the recipients inbox. With a single click, this feature within the SendLabs Summer ’09 release will send a copy of your email to all of the major email programs (Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo!, Gmail, etc.) and provide a screen shot report on how well your email will render for everybody.
Campaigner offers a nifty workflow tool that allows you to determine when and what actions trigger an email to be sent to your customer or prospect. It is similar to an autoresponder (which sends an email when a customer fills in a form on a website usually), but a bit more advanced. With their workflow tool, you can trigger a specific response based on what a customer does within the email. If they click a certain link, for example, they might receive an email 1 hour later. Free trial, of course.
I liked the very simple 3-step plan that EasyContact presents to first time visitors. You get a clear sense that they have thought about how to make it as easy as possible. They also offer a free forever plan and low-cost pay-as-you-go options.
The other services may have similar offers, but Big Response has a couple of things worth mentioning: First, they highlight that you can collect an unlimited number of subscribers – meaning you don’t pay to store contacts and only pay for emails sent. Second, that you get unlimited phone and email support from their experts. I didn’t see that one mentioned elsewhere, so that made me think about doing a trial.
Their competitor comparison chart reveals a lot about what they offer that others don’t. You can tie into your Google Analytics account. You can view all of your subscriber opens within a map within the reporting feature. You can segment out all of your email lists easily – which is handy as you get to know your customers better.
The big differentiator for StreamSend is they offer every customer a private IP address, which helps you keep your reputation intact. You are not judged by the email provider you use, but by your email quality.
myNewsletterBuilder stands out in the crowd of email marketers by providing pre-written content that you can use in your newsletters and emails, by industry segment. They also partnered with eVoiceSpot, which is a multimedia rich presentation service that you can embed into your email or newsletter.
YesMail has one major awards and recognition for its platform and service. They have a specific small business offering called YesMail Direct. This link goes direct to that page. They are connected to InfoUSA, so if you need to build a mailing list you can do it all under one roof.
Mad Mimi is a simple email marketing system. One of the nice features is it comes with free design assistance. It also has a limited edition that is completely free and includes good sharing functions like Forward to a Friend, among many other standard features.
PoMMo is a free open-source program that bills itself as “mass mailing” software. It is a no-frills program. It’s is 100% free. However, like many open source apps, remember there’s always a cost — it costs you time. You are pretty much on your own when it comes to installing it and troubleshooting issues. There is no customer support to call.
Many companies don’t like their email efforts separated from their customer data. Keeping it all together is a lot of work. Customer relationship management software companies have listened, but these five web-based offerings are aimed at the small business owner. If you want to enable customized emails to your customers, with full tracking and opportunities to create new campaigns from your customer data, then you should look closely at these companies:
Infusionsoft is a popular CRM solution with automated email marketing as a central concept. As you make contact with customers via email, or via interactions on your website or online shopping cart, Infusionsoft tracks those contact points. You can then use those interactions to send targeted and relevant communications. Your salespeople can access this info and understand what communications the customer has seen, or where they’ve gone on your site, and have a more intelligent conversation. (Note: Infusionsoft is a sponsor of this site’s Internet radio show.)
Zoho is an online application suite like OpenOffice or Google Documents, but with a lot more applications and options for managing your business. Their ZohoCRM tool recently introduced the email within CRM option. The email add-on is $5 a month additional.
Highrise HQ is a web-based CRM from 37 Signals (owner of Basecamp, a popular project management tool). Like most CRM solutions, they allow you to track who you talk to and so forth, but the ability to see all of your email efforts and dialogue with a customer on one page is fairly useful.
Integrating your email into your CRM efforts always looks daunting, but Leopard CRM simply says — call our support team and we’ll walk you through it.
SalesBoom is an online CRM application that offers an email campaign management tool. With it, a user can capture leads via a simple web form and then send individual emails, or manage entire drip marketing campaigns where you email customers or prospects a series of emails over a period of time.
SalesJunction offers one of the lowest monthly costs for a web-based CRM that I’ve found. The basic edition has a 15 day trial.
Lyris HQ used to be known as Email Labs. It integrates with Salesforce.com, which is the industry-leading online CRM solution, so that’s a plus for the many business owners using Salesforce. I could not find pricing on their website, which is a downside in my opinion. Small business owners are too busy to talk to sales reps or sit through web demos just to discover pricing.
There’s loads of proof that social networks have changed how we communicate. They increase transparency, build trust, and give people (customers and prospects) the choice to opt-in to our messages.
With social media you can communicate directly to your customers without the traditional email hurdles and miss the inbox altogether. For example, your company can send messages to people in a Facebook or LinkedIn Group today. Twitter does not offer a group feature where you can message a group of people privately, but a third party app called Tweetworks does. You could accomplish something similar by addressing a group with a hashtag — although it wouldn’t remain private. The goal with a private message is to avoid bothering others that would not be interested in the offer or message.
Return on Subscriber offers a solid post on how to achieve more social email: Making your email marketing social
Finally, remember that programs and offer details change. But, to the best of my knowledge all information herein is accurate as of the time of publication.
We hope these 30 applications and ideas help you. What email marketing software do you use now? Leave a comment below with your favorite.