From Mailchimp to Constant Contact, here’s how to choose the best fit.
By Jordan Thomas
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for large and small organizations to communicate directly with customers and prospects, and choosing the right email platform is crucial to its success. At its best, email software helps you create and send emails, track their performance within your list of subscribers and launch automated workflows that deploy based on user behavior. Here’s what to consider when selecting an email marketing platform for your organization.
The umbrella term “email marketing” typically refers to two types of business email communications:
- Bulk marketing email campaigns, which include things like announcements, newsletters and event invites, are where the same email is sent to a large list of people. To comply with general data protection regulations (GDPR), customers must have opted-in to receive your emails, and they must all contain an unsubscribe link.
- Transactional emails are used to support customer transactions, such as event registrations, donations, shipping notifications and individual account activity (e.g., password reset requests). If you accept online sales, then you likely will need to send transactional emails.
Most organizations send more than one type of marketing email, so it’s crucial to examine each email platform’s capabilities. Apps like Mailchimp, Brevo, HubSpot and Constant Contact all cover multiple email types.
Connecting your email marketing service to third-party platforms and apps helps streamline your workflow and save valuable time. Mailchimp is popular for its extensive integrations: From customer service and analytic tools to social media platforms, it offers more than 300 ways to seamlessly connect your workflows. For organizations that use Salesforce as their CRM, Marketing Cloud is often seen as the default choice, but Pardot is another integrated option worth considering.
Good data can help garner buy-in (and budget) from leadership and key stakeholders within your organization.
Data and Reporting
Most email platforms allow you to view your reports through straightforward dashboards with visualizations, making it easy to analyze and share key information. These analytics provide valuable insight into what worked and what didn’t, allowing you to update and optimize future campaigns. Good data can also help garner buy-in (and budget) from leadership and key stakeholders within your organization. For marketers who need a detailed overview of their email performance, Campaign Monitor offers access to a wealth of data, such as social sharing metrics and recipient and link activity. It also allows you to compare key performance metrics on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.
Branding and Design
Most modern email marketing platforms provide an easy way to create beautifully branded emails with a variety of pre-built, mobile-ready templates, but Constant Contact’s email editor is especially novice-friendly. Even if you have never designed an email, the editor automatically scrubs your website to find your logo, colors and social media profiles so you can easily customize templates to align with your brand. If you use design packages like Canva, look for platforms that offer easy integration.
A correctly delivered email is defined as an email that arrives in the recipient’s inbox, which includes the promotions folders of some email providers. Undelivered emails are those that land in spam or do not arrive at all (e.g., bounced messages). The average deliverability rate of all providers falls between 83 and 89 percent, while platforms like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Active Campaign, Emma and MailerLite all boast rates over 90 percent.
Things like list segmentation, automation, email previews and A/B testing are essential components of successful email marketing efforts and come standard with most platforms. Anything beyond that, though, could be overkill, depending on your organization’s technical needs.
Before choosing a provider, review included benefits to ensure your bases are covered and you don’t wind up paying for features you don’t need. Typical must-haves include the ability to:
- Segment customers by their location, interests, previous purchases or stage in the purchase cycle.
- Include user-specific data — such as first names or most recent purchase — in the email body using personalization tokens.
- Run A/B tests and automatically send the best-performing email.
- Use sample journeys to get started with automation.
Service and Support
Even the most intuitive applications can run into snags from time to time, so be sure to understand what sort of customer support each email platform offers. When choosing a provider, look for things like onboarding resources, an online knowledge hub, live customer service staff and dedicated account managers.