You’ll often hear in Internet Marketing circles that, “The money is in the list.” For that reason, building up a list of email subscribers forms a part of most online businesses’ Internet Marketing management strategy.
Having worked with several email marketing platforms over the years, I thought I’d share my thoughts on various criteria for making a smart choice for a service provider.
First of all, know that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have the interests of their customers in mind. To them, spam is anything the subscriber doesn’t want in his or her inbox.
Therefore, deliverability of your emails will partly be based on your own reputation, as the ISPs perceive it. Do you build a relationship with your subscribers, creating expectations and meeting them with relevant, value-added content?
However, it’s also based on the reputation of your email marketing service provider. Do they take an active role in meeting CAN-SPAM guidelines and building win-win relationships with ISPs?
It’s worth finding this out, because all the great content in the world has limited value if much of it goes undelivered.
In my experience, AWeber remains a leader in this regard.
Capability and Flexibility
The various email marketing platforms all have their own strengths and limitations.
Do you have a single email list, and want to create a short (five messages or less) autoresponder series for new subscribers? A service such as Constant Contact may work well for you.
Do you want the ability to create multiple, unique lists within a single account? Is it important to you to be able to segment these lists, so that you can adjust your marketing messages to subscribers’ behavior? Do you want a platform that can integrate with other service providers, such as 1shoppingcart.com? AWeber may be the best service provider for you.
Do you sell multiple products and want a particularly robust system that ties together a shopping cart, email marketing platform, POP email accounts, calendar, task management, and more, in a single, cloud-based solution? InfusionSoft may be the answer for you.
Naturally, the best solution is going to depend on your individual needs. The important thing is to think through what your needs are…and what you anticipate them to be in a couple of years. Because it’s a fairly major undertaking to migrate your subscriber list from one service provider to another, you want to find a solution that’s sufficiently robust, without swinging too far in the opposite direction and overbuying.
Ease of Use and Quality of Training
This is highly subjective, of course, but here are a couple of things to consider when you’re choosing the service provider for the email marketing branch of your Internet Marketing management plan.
- How do you learn best? For example, do you like to learn by reading instructions or by watching videos?
- If you prefer live training (for instance, by webinar), is this offered?
- What support does the provider offer to help you hit the ground running with their service? Is this included in the monthly subscription fee, or does training incur an additional fee?
Another place to look is on the service provider’s blog, if they have one. The quality of the content there can give you hints about what you can expect later.
Quality of Technical Support
Finally, you want to be assured that when you’re stuck, effective help is available.
A great way to check on what other people are saying about a service provider is to do a keyword search in one of the major social media channels. It isn’t necessarily a red flag if a problem is noted. In fact, it’s particularly enlightening to see how the provider handles it when a problem does arise.
Other things to think about may include whether technical support is included in your subscription fee, what the support hours are, and where the support is based.
For instance, if you’re on Pacific Time and your email marketing platform’s live technical support is available 9am to 5pm Eastern Time, that’s something you want to be aware of. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s good to know ahead of time. As another example, if you’re going to incur an additional cost for live technical support, does it involve a separate monthly fee, or can you pay by the incident?
Making the Choice
If your Internet Marketing management strategy includes email marketing, you want the solution that provides the best combination of features, ease-of-use, cost, and support. With some good planning and research, you can uncover the best solution for your unique needs.