Email. Everybody’s got it, and many of us think we’ve got too much of it. That might make some small business owners question the effectiveness of email marketing, but you’d be surprised. A targeted email message is a great way to create brand awareness and generate loyalty.
Hoover’s can provide you with a list of leads to sell to (check out our Email Marketing Best Practices here). But now you need a software vendor to help create a customized email marketing campaign.
Fortunately, Top Ten Reviews, a website published by TechMediaNetwork, sifted through some of the major service providers to find the top email marketing service providers (and they must have been good because there are 16 companies on the list). All of them offer free trials and comply with federal laws that allow recipients to unsubscribe.
These service providers also offer social media integration to encourage customers to visit your Facebook page or Twitter feed. They’ll also tell you how many people click on your links (called click-through tracking), and some offer analytics so you can find out how many recipients are reading your newsletters or promotional emails, and what part. As with any software, customer service and training are important. For some people, an online tutorial is enough to get them going. Others (like me) like to have someone show us around and answer questions, and a product that only offers online chat or email might not be enough to meet our needs.
Let’s take a look at the top five:
- iContact (which was bought by Vocus in 2012) took home top honors for its “broad list of features and reports.” Prices run from $14 to $47 a month depending on the number of subscribers up to 5,000.
- Benchmark Email came in second for its ease of use, and its plans cost about $10 a month for small business needs. The company also offers a 25% discount for nonprofits.
- Constant Contact is probably the largest provider of email marketing tools, offering hundreds of templates and services beyond email, from surveys and social media campaigns and event management. I thought Constant Contact would win the top spot, but Top Ten Reviews dinged it for not offering Google Analytics – customers have to integrate it on their own. Constant Contact starts at $15 a month.
- Pinpointe, which bills itself as “business class” email marketing, can accommodate enterprise-level senders of up to 1 million emails and an unlimited number of subscribers. It offers analytics to track open rates but is probably not the best option for small businesses.
- Poland-based Implix operates GetResponse, which starts at $15 a month. GetResponse offers plenty of features and analytics; Top Ten Reviews said its only drawback was that it doesn’t “send out automatic emails according to which links people click on,” but that seems like small potatoes to me.
Other providers that made the list include Mailigen, Vertical Response, Mad Mimi, GraphicMail, Campaigner (a j2 Global product), Go Daddy (which is more known for domain name registration and website hosting), MailChimp, StreamSend, EmailBrain, Boomerang, and JangoMail. And if that’s not enough to choose from, here are two more that didn’t make the cut but still get the job done: Emma and Neighborhood Email (doing business as Delivra).