What is Email Marketing Software?
We’ve all seen them. Those “sign up for our newsletter” buttons on the web pages of our favorite companies, hanging out in the margins begging for our attention. But when you click and fill in your email address, do you consider what happens next? I can’t blame you if you don’t. I always used to assume it just went to some kind of address book in somebody’s Gmail account.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
In its simplest form, email marketing software allows you to create beautifully designed emails, build lists of subscribers, and engage with your clients/customers on regular basis. At its most complex, email marketing software can become a powerful tool, tracking when and where your customers visit your website and automatically prompting them toward products they are likely to purchase.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to email marketing services, and it can be easy to get pretty overwhelmed by your options. Let's take a look through what you can expect from this kind of software.
How Can Email Marketing Help Your Business?
At a foundational level, email marketing will inform potential customers of the capabilities of your business. That in and of itself is a good thing! However, there are a few other things that email marketing can do for you:
- Communicate news: Are you in a field where you regularly develop new products? The answer is almost certainly "yes"; nearly every industry that deals directly with the public does some kind of R&D, whether you are a baker, a barber, or a tech developer. Email marketing is a great way for you to inform your customer base about new products or services that are coming down the pipeline.
- Automate marketing processes: Most email marketing services available these days offer some form of automation. Basically, this means that you will write a few pre-determined emails (to greet new customers, etc) and let the software do the rest.
- Design beautiful emails: One of the biggest ways email marketing services are superior to just sending stuff from your own email inbox is that they add a graphic design component into the mix. While it often pays to know a bit about aesthetics with these email editors, they are still capable of delivering far more than your basic email message with only a little effort.
- Convert “maybes” to “yesses": While this is by no means a universal feature yet, many email marketing providers offer features that track the activity of visitors to your website and send prompting emails about relevant products to browsing customers.
Common Features to Look For
Do all email marketing services offer the same exact features? No. Are there still broad similarities between competitors? Absolutely. Here are a few of the must-have features you should look for when picking your email marketing provider:
- Templates: This is one feature I find pretty much essential in an email marketing service. Most providers have a library of templates for you to choose from, customize, and fill with information about your business. You can select one template to use every time, or pick a different one whenever you write a new email if you like to keep things fresh. Regardless, it is nice to have a foundation to build from when creating your emails. The fact that these templates are designed to be visually appealing doesn’t hurt either.
- Analytics: If you are going to pay for one of these services, you want to make sure it is actually helping your business. A great way to find what needs to be improved is the analytics feature offered by most email marketing providers. Analytics can do everything from telling you how many subscribers actually opened your email to letting you know how many purchases were made after clicks on links in your carefully crafted messages. This data can also tell you if people are unsubscribing and if anyone has complained about the amount or kind of emails you are sending.
- A/B Testing: This feature allows you to create variations within your emails (email A and email B) and then track which version performs better. Pair this feature with the analytics I mentioned above and you are primed to learn what your subscribers and customers want in (or expect from) your emails.
- Customer Tracking: This relatively advanced feature, while not available from every provider, is nonetheless worth the mention here due to its pretty astounding possibilities. If you choose to pay for this feature, your email marketing software will track your subscribers' activity and send them personalized content based on their preferences. Needless to say, this one takes a bit more work on your part, but if you can figure out how to budget time for the new content you will need to create, it could well be worth it.
How Much Will It Cost?
This is really the operative question, isn’t it? No matter how attractive the features, no matter the boon it may provide to your business, you have to first be able to pay for your email marketing software. Prices in this field can vary wildly, so let’s take a look at what can influence the final price tag:
- Number of Emails: Email marketing software providers price their products in a variety of ways, but one of the most common is based on how many emails you plan to send each month. Obviously, the more emails you want to send, the more expensive your monthly bill. Typically, email numbers start quite small, in the low hundreds. The price tag for those is also pretty small, usually less than $20/month. However, some providers offer the ability to send millions of emails per month, and those plans are usually priced in the thousands.
- Number of Subscribers: On the other side of the coin, most providers also offer a plan based on how many subscribers you have. The choice between the two plans is usually based on how you are planning to use your email marketing program. If you intend to send tons of emails, it is probably best to go for a subscriber plan; that way, your emails are not limited by price. On the other hand, if you plan on sending one or two messages a month, it is probably best to grab an email-based pricing plan.
- Features: Obviously, in order to get some of the fancier toys I mentioned earlier you will have to shell out more cash. In particular, high-level customer-tracking analytics comes at a hefty cost. On the other hand, email editors, analytics, and some forms of automation are pretty much standard, so getting access to those features is usually not locked behind a paywall.
- Staff Logins: Depending on the size of your business, you may need to employ more than one person to keep tabs on your email marketing. Most providers charge extra for multiple login profiles, so keep that in mind as well.