How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider

Building a following for our social media efforts is obviously an integral part of our challenge in this project, and a great starting point has been email marketing.

So, my first task has been to evaluate the email marketing service providers and select one that would serve the needs of all three companies – Words By Wendy, Greentree Landscapes and Larchwood Nurseries.

The first thing I did was look for reviews and I found a very comprehensive comparison at Top Ten Reviews. There are several reviews out there, but I found this one helpful because it rated them all on five different criteria, gave pricing details and a full review.

Based on the reviews I tested three services that offer a free trial: Vertical Response, Campaigner and Benchmark.

Here’s what I found out…

Benchmark is reasonably priced, but when I uploaded the list it had to be approved before it could be used. I suppose that’s quite admirable, but they only approve Monday to Friday, which is not terribly convenient if you sign up over the weekend and want to get a campaign out. In fairness, though, I signed up on a Friday afternoon and had approval by Saturday morning.

Unfortunately I wasn’t really excited about any of Benchmark’s templates (which is, of course, purely subjective), and it took about 30 seconds for me to learn to hate their editing tool. Now, I am a self-confessed technophobe, and they were given full marks in the review for their ease of use and campaign creation tool. Nonetheless, I didn’t get on with it.

Campaigner really has been quite impressive. I started to sign up and clicked off because I didn’t want to give a credit card for a free trial. The next day I got an email asking me if there was a problem and offering me a free trial without a credit card.

Again I didn’t find a template I really liked, but I created a campaign just to see how easy it was. It was really simple, even for me! Then, because I didn’t send out the campaign, I got a phone call and an email the next day from my own personal email marketing coach, offering a one-on-one walk-through. Now that is good service!

I chose Vertical Response partly because I found templates that I liked for Words By Wendy and Larchwood, and also because they offer a pay-as-you-go option which is great if you have a small list that you’re emailing infrequently. Because I plan to use the blog as my ‘newsletter’, that is a great option for Words By Wendy.

I used the service to email my business contacts with an invitation to check out the blog and join me on Facebook and LinkedIn. Whenever I had problems creating it I was able to access an online chat support which was very helpful – and convenient because it was immediate.

The only problem I had with Vertical Response was that the text version they automatically created for me looked like a dog’s dinner! I was able to go through and tidy it up a little, but it still looked pretty bad. I’m not sure how many people these days aren’t receiving HTML emails, but I just had to hope it wasn’t many.

Next I will use either Campaigner or Vertical Response to simplify Larchwood’s email marketing, which has been less frequent than it should be because the software we were using made it very complicated and time-consuming.

Finally, I should mention that I didn’t test Constant Contact, but I have used them in the past and would totally recommend them for ease of use and service.

So, if you’re looking for an email marketing service, I hope that’s helpful.

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