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Marketers are tasked with promoting the business, building relationships with customers, and tracking results. Most marketers find themselves overwhelmed by disparate, disconnected tools and apps, and, frankly, inundated with data - sometimes paralyzed by it. The problem with most email marketing platforms is that ‘powerful’ also means ‘complicated’. You’ll find a wide range of email tools available to help you with your email marketing. Free tools are out there, and popular. Free is a good price - until you bump up against their limitations. For example, some free tools only let you have a certain number of subscribers in your list before you have to upgrade to a paid version. Whether you are part of a large team or a marketer wearing a lot of other hats, you want a tool with powerful capabilities that aren’t hard to figure out and also give you insights into your customers to help you market effectively.

Here are our guidelines for selecting an email tool. We divide our criteria into two areas: tool capabilities and vendor capabilities.

Tool Capabilities

Does the email tool you’re considering do these things?

  • Lets you easily import contacts, whether from another tool, a spreadsheet, or some other source. You shouldn’t have to re-enter existing contacts manually. Likewise, lets you easily export contacts if you want to switch vendors.
  • Provides an easy way to build your list using an integrated, customizable sign-up form for your web site or social media.
  • Segments your contacts. Want to reach out to a specific neighborhood? Need to target only customers celebrating their birthday this month (provided you’ve asked them for their birthday month)? You’ll need a tool that lets you narrow your list.
  • Provides attractive, easy-to-use templates that look great on any device. More and more, people are opening email on their mobile devices. Be sure your email tool’s templates will work on mobile. Of course, you should test all emails you develop for mobile compatibility, and it’s extremely helpful if your email tool makes it easy to test across devices and email platforms such as Outlook, Gmail, etc.
  • Gives you an easy way to run test campaigns (‘A/B’ testing) and adjust for better impact.
  • Validates your marketing and advertising effectiveness. See evidence of marketing campaign ROI in your dashboard, including dollars generated by your campaigns.
  • Reports give you what you need to take action. Measure views, clicks, and bounces. View campaign results, understand them at a glance, and refine your marketing for greatest impact. Tracking bounces helps you keep your subscriber list clean. This is especially important and can save you money if your provider charges by the number of contacts you send to.
  • Automates the insertion of single-use coupons and special offers with a unique identifier tied to a specific customer. It also lets you measure redemption and therefore effectiveness.
 
Vendor Capabilities

In addition to the capabilities of the software, you should consider the reputation of the technology provider. Email marketing has been fraught with consolidation and buy-outs, and companies have purchased solutions only to see those solutions sunsetted. Consider providers that have been around awhile. These providers are more likely to be around long-term, as are providers that are owned by large, successful, profitable, and growing parent companies.

Ask what support the vendor provides with the plan you are considering, when and how they provide it (24/7? phone, chat, web?), where their support center is located, and typical hold/wait times. Also ask if the plan you are considering offers a guaranteed support ticket response time service level agreement.

Finally, check out online reviews and ask peers or colleagues for their perspective on a particular provider.

When you subscribe to an email tool, you are entering into a partnership with a vendor. And how they treat you can determine how successful you are and how easy it is to get help if you need it. Plus, you want a tool with powerful capabilities that aren’t hard to figure out and also give you insights into your customers to help you market effectively.

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