How to Pick the Best Email Marketing Service for Your Small Business

best email marketing service for your small business

If you don’t have a good email marketing program, you don’t have a good marketing program — period. A 2013 report from Custora, a New York City-based marketing analytics firm, showed that 7.5 percent of all gained customers are coming from email marketing, which is better than either Facebook or Twitter, and represents a 4X growth since 2009. That growth is only going to continue.

However, in order to have a great email marketing program, you need to have the right email marketing service in your arsenal. This choice isn’t as easy to make as it may seem. There are dozens of options, and only by evaluating your business’ needs and direction will you know which one is best for your startup. Here’s how to do this:

Define Your Marketing Goals

I’m all about action, but action isn’t effective unless it’s directed. Start off by figuring out what your key marketing needs are and what you need your email marketing to accomplish for you.

Are you at a stage where you want to build engagement and visibility by encouraging signups and sending a newsletter? Or do you plan to increase sales and conversions by using your email campaign to convert customers and link directly to your sales catalog? Because all email marketing services have different features and prices, knowing your exact needs will save you both money and hassle.

One important goal is to make sure your email campaign is readable on mobile devices as well as desktops. More and more customers are on the go, and choosing a service that allows you to optimize for mobile is a key part of a successful marketing plan.

If you need more specific help with your campaign development and strategy, some email marketing services offer professional campaign consulting services. While these services can be expensive, they can also help you avoid misusing time and money if you have a small staff or need expert help.

Once you know your needs, review which services can help you meet them most effectively.

Best Email Marketing Service

To find the the email marketing service that best fits your needs, look through a number of options listed here.

Review Your Costs

As a startup, you already know that costs are an important factor in every business decision. As a result, the costs associated with your email marketing service must be reviewed carefully and balanced against their potential for return.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically go with the cheapest possible service. New entrepreneurs often make the mistake of over-investing or under-investing. The key to right-investing is to choose the product with the highest likelihood of delivering positive returns for your company.

Pricing structures for email marketing services usually use a monthly fee that’s based on the number of subscribers you have. Services typically have plan minimums and plan maximums, but most also offer custom-built large subscriber plans as well. Regardless, it’s a good idea to choose a service that you aren’t about to outgrow in the near future.

Free trials are another important way to evaluate your cost-to-benefit results with email marketing services. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to two or three, use the free trials and see if the service seems intuitive, easy to use, and effective for your needs. This will help you avoid spending money unnecessarily on a program that winds up being a poor fit.

Another important cost element is the customer service provided by the company. It’s worth it to pay more for a more accessible, highly rated customer service experience. Consider if you want 24/7 support, and whether email support, live chat, or tutorials are important to your startup.

Best Email Marketing Service

Get Great Analytics

Email marketing — like all marketing initiatives — requires extensive testing to see if the templates and copy you’re using are effective. Without great analytics, you won’t have the data you need to run these tests.

Most email marketing services provide free basic self-service analytics on metrics like open rates, which links are clicked, and unsubscribe rates. That said, those aren’t the only metrics you’ll want to track. Hubspot gives a great list of key email marketing metrics, including conversion rates, forwarding, list growth, leads generated, and overall ROI. If an email marketing service doesn’t give you the resources you need to track these results, it isn’t a great fit for your firm.

Consider whether you want to integrate with Google Analytics, or whether you need professional analytical consulting services included with your plan. Not all email marketing services include these functions, so it’s an important consideration before you make your final choice.

Choosing the best email marketing service for your small business is an important part of any startup’s marketing mix. By considering your marketing goals, costs, and analytical needs, you’ll find it easy to make the best choice for your company.

Define Your Goals- Determine your marketing needs and goals. - Decide if you want to build engagement, visibility, increase sales, or achieve other objectives with email marketing. - Ensure mobile compatibility. - Consider professional consulting services if needed.
Review Your Costs- Carefully assess the costs associated with email marketing. - Don't automatically choose the cheapest service; focus on value and potential returns. - Be aware of pricing structures, plan limits, and scalability. - Utilize free trials for evaluation. - Consider the quality of customer service and support.
Get Great Analytics- Analytics are crucial for testing and optimizing email marketing strategies. - Look for services that provide comprehensive analytics including open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and more. - Consider integration with Google Analytics and the availability of professional analytical consulting services. - Ensure the service offers the necessary data for tracking your results.

Best Email Marketing Service

Selecting the Right Email Marketing Service

Choosing the right email marketing service is a critical step for any startup looking to establish an effective marketing strategy. With numerous options available, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision:

  • Define Your Marketing Goals: Start by identifying your marketing objectives and what you expect from your email marketing efforts. Determine if your focus is on building engagement, increasing sales, or both. Consider the importance of mobile optimization as more customers access emails on mobile devices.
  • Review Your Costs: While cost is a significant factor, avoid automatically opting for the cheapest service. Balance costs against potential returns. Pricing structures typically revolve around the number of subscribers, so choose a service that aligns with your current needs and potential growth. Utilize free trials to assess the service’s suitability and ease of use.
  • Evaluate Customer Service: Excellent customer support is invaluable. Assess the level of customer service provided, including factors like 24/7 support, email support, live chat, or tutorials. Paying a bit more for accessible, highly-rated customer service can be worthwhile.
  • Get Great Analytics: Robust analytics are crucial for testing and refining your email marketing campaigns. Ensure the service offers comprehensive analytics beyond basic metrics like open rates and click-through rates. Consider whether integration with Google Analytics is essential for your business.
  • Consider Integrations: Determine if the email marketing service integrates with other tools and platforms you use, such as CRM systems or e-commerce platforms. Integration can streamline your marketing efforts and data management.
  • Scalability: Choose a service that accommodates your growth plans. While you may start with a small subscriber list, opt for a service that won’t limit your expansion in the near future.
  • Compliance and Data Security: Ensure the service complies with data protection regulations and prioritizes data security. Your customers’ privacy and data should be protected.
  • Template Customization: Assess the level of template customization offered by the service. The ability to create personalized and visually appealing emails is essential for effective marketing.
  • Automation and Workflow: Consider the automation capabilities, including drip campaigns, autoresponders, and workflow automation. Automation can streamline your marketing efforts and save time.
  • Delivery and Deliverability: Investigate the service’s email delivery capabilities and deliverability rates. High deliverability ensures that your emails reach the intended recipients’ inboxes.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Evaluate the user interface for ease of use. A user-friendly platform simplifies email creation and campaign management.
  • Community and Resources: Check if the service offers a community forum or valuable resources like blogs, webinars, or guides. These resources can assist you in maximizing the service’s potential.
Define Your Marketing Goals- Identify your marketing objectives: engagement, sales, or both. - Prioritize mobile optimization for wider reach.
Review Your Costs- Balance cost against potential returns. - Consider pricing based on subscribers. - Utilize free trials for assessment.
Evaluate Customer Service- Assess customer support quality: 24/7, email, chat, tutorials. - Invest in accessible, highly-rated support.
Get Great Analytics- Ensure robust analytics for testing and refinement. - Beyond basic metrics, assess comprehensive analytics. - Consider integration with Google Analytics.
Consider Integrations- Check for integration with your existing tools and platforms. - Streamline marketing and data management.
Scalability- Choose a service that supports your future growth. - Avoid limitations as your subscriber list expands.
Compliance and Data Security- Ensure compliance with data protection regulations. - Prioritize data security for customer privacy.
Template Customization- Assess template customization options for personalized and appealing emails.
Automation and Workflow- Consider automation features: drip campaigns, autoresponders, workflow automation. - Save time and streamline marketing efforts.
Delivery and Deliverability- Investigate email delivery capabilities and deliverability rates. - Ensure high deliverability to reach recipients' inboxes.
User-Friendly Interface- Evaluate the platform's user interface for ease of use. - Simplify email creation and campaign management.
Community and Resources- Check for community forums, blogs, webinars, guides, and other valuable resources. - Maximize the service's potential with available support.

Best Email Marketing Service

Measuring Email Marketing Success

Email marketing is a powerful tool for your startup, but how do you know if it’s truly effective? Measuring success is essential to refine your strategies and achieve your marketing goals. Here are key metrics to track:

  • Open Rate: This metric tells you how many recipients opened your email. A high open rate indicates compelling subject lines and relevant content.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): CTR measures the percentage of recipients who clicked on links within your email. It indicates engagement and interest in your content.
  • Conversion Rate: Track how many recipients completed the desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a webinar. Conversion rate reveals the effectiveness of your email in driving actions.
  • Bounce Rate: Bounces occur when emails cannot be delivered. High bounce rates can harm your sender reputation. Monitor both hard bounces (permanent delivery failures) and soft bounces (temporary issues).
  • Unsubscribe Rate: This metric shows the percentage of recipients who opted out of your emails. It’s important to manage unsubscribe rates to maintain a healthy subscriber list.
  • List Growth Rate: Measure how fast your email list is growing. A positive growth rate indicates successful lead generation strategies.
  • Revenue Attribution: Track the revenue generated from email marketing campaigns. Link specific sales or conversions to email efforts.
  • Email Client Analysis: Understand which email clients your subscribers use to view emails. Optimize your designs for popular email clients.
  • Device Analysis: Determine whether recipients open emails on mobile devices or desktops. Ensure mobile optimization for a seamless experience.
  • A/B Testing Results: Analyze the outcomes of A/B tests on subject lines, content, and designs. Use data to refine future campaigns.
  • Spam Complaints: Keep spam complaints to a minimum. High spam reports can harm your sender reputation and deliverability.
  • Forward and Share Rates: Monitor how often recipients forward or share your emails. It indicates valuable content worth sharing.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Assess the long-term value of customers acquired through email marketing. High CLV signifies successful customer retention.
  • ROI (Return on Investment): Calculate the return on investment for your email marketing campaigns. It measures the profitability of your efforts.
  • Engagement Over Time: Track engagement patterns over time. Identify trends and adjust your email frequency and content accordingly.
  • Segmentation Performance: Measure how different email segments perform. Tailor content to resonate with each segment for better results.
  • Feedback and Surveys: Gather feedback from recipients through surveys or direct inquiries. Use insights to enhance your email strategy.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

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Sujan Patel Sujan Patel has championed Internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas, and strategies have helped hundreds of companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work — an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

11 Reactions
  1. I think e-mail is not as effective as it used to be. More and more people are developing ad blindness. It can work only if they trust the person who sent the e-mail.

  2. @Aira I think email marketing does not lost its charm. Its still a best way to get into your target audience inbox as almost every one today becomes internet savvy and check their mails on daily basis. But yes as mentioned in post cost definitely matters as it decides and help to improve your ROI. One can MailGet its super affordable for email marketing. It uses Amazon SES to send emails and 100x cheaper then other mailing services.

  3. More importantly than a great tool though is the commitment and dedication to follow your plan. I know too many SMBs with email lists, but no regular email marketing effort. Small, consistent steps are the key.

  4. You should also pay attention to how much the services lets you automate the whole process so you can spend your time doing other things. MailChimp and FreshMail are best at this in my experience.

  5. Email marketing still works sometimes. And os course it is important to create a plan of your future marketing, considering all of the pros and cons and follow it.

  6. Thanks for sharing this blog, as far as I know Email marketing is still in the picture.Small business always puts Email marketing on their choice list.Our marketing team used a service called Easysendy Pro which has proved useful and cost saving to us.I recommend it to everyone to go for that service.

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