There’s a lot of things to consider when choosing the right email marketing platform. All the different services offer different features and functionality. No two platforms are the same, even if they all share similarities. Here’s some things to consider when choosing an email marketing platform.
Features and Functionality
In my opinion, the functionality is the most important thing to consider when choosing an email marketing solution. You want an email platform that can perform. Some platforms only do the basics, such as designing and sending. Other platforms allow you to create incredibly robust and automated campaigns. Here’s some features to look for when evaluating email marketing platforms.
Automations: Autoresponders and Drip Campaigns
When built right, automated email campaigns will perform better, while saving time. Automated campaigns can increase relevancy. That is because the campaign triggered a specific email to be sent to a specific recipient as a result of a specific action. Everything is tailored to that one recipient, rather than a bath spray-and-pray approach. The two main type of campaign automatons are autoresponders or drip campaigns:
Auto Responders – Autoresponders are date-based triggered email campaigns. That date could be an anniversary, birthday, x-amount of days after a purchase or a wide range of other events. Autoresponders are very effective, especially when paired with personalization.
Drip Campaigns – Drip campaigns are automated email series. Drip campaigns can be as simple as sending out a series of timed emails after an event occurs. They can also be as robust as send out the series of emails based on a series of actions. These actions work with if/then statements and a wide range of triggers can be used. Email click-through is one of the more common automation triggers.
Personalization: Data Merges and Conditional Content
Personalization is another very valuable tool, and something that everyone should consider when selecting an email marketing solution. Pretty much every platform will support data merges. That’s great for eye-catching personalized email headlines. The solutions with the best personalization will allow for completely custom sections of an email body, based on database fields or interactions with past campaigns. Here’s the details:
Data Merges – Data merges pull data from a field in the mailing list. The most commonly used data merge is pulling the first name. This is great for adding a personal feel to the campaign. Anything that’s contained in the database can be used in a data merge. The solutions with the best data merge capabilities will also have logics to display something specific if the field is empty.
Conditional / Variable Content – Conditional content can be used to display different versions of the email based on set criteria. The dynamic sections of the email can be built along side static sections. Custom content works with if/then statements. It could either be based on data in a mailing list field, or a number of other conditions, such as interactions with passed campaigns.
Email Designers and Campaign Builder
The email campaign designer is another very important feature. What’s important in an email designer might vary from business to business. It will also vary based on how complex the campaigns are going to be. A small Ma & Pa shop might be going for something more basic and intuitive, while an enterprise level company might look for more customability. Here’s some things to consider when evaluating email designers:
WYSIWYG / Module Designer – WYSIWYG is the acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”. This describes visual editors, opposed to having to completely code your email campaigns. All email marketing platforms have WYSIWYG, but some are better than others. Many email marketing platforms have also adopted module designers. With a module designer, you’re able to drag and drop different sections. This makes it easy to manage columns, and some modules make it easy to add media such as YouTube videos, ect.
HTML / Code Designer – Many email marketing platforms also offer an HTML designer. This is perfect for those that want greater control over the design of the email newsletters. If you don’t know HTML and have no desire to learn it, this probably isn’t an important feature.
Template Library – The template library might be an important feature for some people, and not so much for others. This all depends whether the company is planning to use a single design style or wide range of them. It might also depend on the design ability of the company, and whether or not they’d prefer to design everything from the ground-up or not.
Intuition / Ease Of Use – The intuitiveness of the campaign builder and designer is very important. This is especially true if you’re planning on doing a lot of sending and spending a lot of time within the platform. Hard to find sections and unnecessary clicking not only wastes time, it can be frustrating.
Image Import / Hosting – How easy it is to manage images is something a lot of small businesses don’t think of when selecting an email marketing platform. It’s convenient when you can upload images to the email platform. Otherwise, you’ll have to host them on your site or another site. If you’re going to be using a huge library of photos, and don’t want to host them yourself, make sure the platform will supply enough disk space to support your needs.
I would have said deliverability is the most important thing, but honestly, all the different platforms do a lot to maintain a high level of deliverability. So even though it’s very important, unless you’re partnering with an insanely shady company, everything should be fairly comparable. It’s also equally important to know what you’re responsible for as an email marketer, such as text, design, bounce management and minimizing spam complaints. Here’s some of the features you should look for in an email marketing platform.
Spam Score Checker – A spam checker is an important feature to have. These tools will scan your email campaigns before you send them out. They’ll look for design elements that might trigger the spam filters. Spam checkers will also give you information on how to improve your deliverability. Checker will look for spammy keywords, text to image ratio and more.
Bounce / Spam Management – You’ll want an email marketing platform that will automatically remove hard bounces and spam complaints. Keep sending emails that bounce and to recipients who have marked you as spam is one of the worst things you could do.
Engagement Analytics – You’ll want to monitor your mailing list for engagement and purge users that never interact with your emails. They either have absolutely no interest or no longer use that email handle. Good email suites will let you segment recipients who haven’t engaged in a long time and remove them.
The Data: Recipient / List Management
Your data is extremely important. It’s how you segment campaigns, personalize messages and make your emails relevant. In order to have the most effective email marketing, you need a platform that allows you to get the most out of your data. That is why list management is insanely important. Here’s what to look for when evaluating an email marketing platform for list management.
Segmenting your list allows you to only send relevant offers to the right people. The last thing you want to do is bombard your recipients with emails they’re not interested in. That’s what causes people to unsubscribe or even worst, hit the spam button. Segmenting your list ensures your sending the right emails to the right people.
Most platforms support list segmentation. Some are more robust than others, however. For example; some only let you segment by database fields, while others you can segment based on interactions with passed campaigns. Using Opened as a trigger on a similar campaign is a great way to ensure you’re only sending to those truly interested in that type of message.
Ability To Create Groups
The ability to group contacts is very important. Whether there’s a grouping feature, tag feature or something similar. Sometimes a group might consist of a whole bunch of people with demographics and psychographics. There’s no way you could possibly get that exact group through segmentation. These groups might be part of a specific club, level of membership, all were part of the same 8th grade math class, the list goes on. Being able to group contacts allows you to build and maintain your own custom segmentations.
Custom Fields For Segmenting / Variable Data
All the best email marketing platforms will allow for custom fields. Some platforms only allow for a limited amount of custom fields. If you’ve got a lot of database fields, this might be an issue. This is especially true if that data was going to be used for segmentation or personalization. Partnering with a company that
Analytics and Reporting
The analytics and reporting is another very important thing to consider when choosing an email marketing platform. All email solutions will do campaign reporting. Some are more robust as others though. Here’s some things to look for when choosing your email marketing platform.
You’ll want an email marketing platform that gives you all the campaign metrics you’d expect; opens, clicks, bounces, forwards, replies, ect. Pretty much every email platform will provide that. It’s also nice to be able to see what geographics the emails are being opened in, what time of day, mobile vs desktop and the list goes on. The more campaign reports and benchmarking, the better.
Good email marketing platforms will also provide detailed information on the individual recipients. Some sites will even go as far as to append details to the recipient to enable more effective marketing. This might be from a location obtained via reverse-ip lookup or through new information obtained from a campaign, website or application. Certain platforms will give you a glance at all the passed interactions that have been had with the recipient. Some will also sync with CRM systems
Data Exporting / Sharing
It’s important to be able to export and share the data with the rest of the company. Not everyone will want to have to login to the email marketing account in order to check stats. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be informed of the effectiveness of the marketing efforts. A good email marketing platform will allow you to export reports, whether it’s a PDF, .csv file, shareable URL or something else.
This is getting into the marketing automation side of things, and something that is much more valuable for B2B than it is for B2C. The more advanced email marketing platforms will allow you to score leads based on interactions. Some might even provide some web-based solutions to allow you to add web analytics into the lead-scoring process. If prospecting is important to your company, this might be a feature to look for.
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