With the marketing world going content crazy, email marketing remains an important channel to share this work, as well as develop and nurture relationships with your customers. A study in 2013 of Customer Life Values found that in the four previous years, email marketing activity acquired the third highest value customers (behind organic and PPC more of which can be read about here and here). Similar positive results were also identified in this econsultancy report, noting that “8% of businesses achieve more than half their sales through this channel.” With this research in mind then, the question should not be “Should we use email?” but “How do we best use email?” and “Am I using the right platform?”. Email marketing technology has developed tremendously over the last five years, but there isn’t a universal tool suitable for every business and market. There are a number of options available all with positives and negatives. Working across several industries we have had the pleasure (well sort of) of working with all of the leading email marketing tools. Below we rank, analyse and review our favourites.
OVERVIEWEstablished over 16 years ago, Constant Contact’s niche is organisations and businesses that already have a considerable contact list at their disposal.
USABILITYConstant Contact is one of the market leading tools in regards to collating disparate and varied email databases. Contacts can be added manually, through excel uploads, directly from Gmail or Outlook or from CRMs such as Salesforce. These options make sure no contacts are lost. A draw back to this system, however, can be found when navigating through the various steps when creating a campaign. Although only 5 steps, it can sometimes be unclear for the inexperienced user exactly what to do. Another drawback is that it doesn’t provide options for triggered campaigns as well as RSS to email functions, which others such as Mailchimp offer. However, perhaps the biggest disadvantage to this system is the lack of A/B testing functionality. In the data driven world of email marketing, it’s vital for any organisation who plan on investing in email marketing to use this in order to drive constant improvements to their marketing activities.
TEMPLATES AND DESIGNOffering over 450 out-of-the-box templates with drag and drop template design, Constant Contact offers a reasonable level of design and build functionality. However, in comparison to other tools, it’s fairly clunky. Frustratingly, Constant Contact do not have readymade responsive templates, another major snag, especially when up to 70% of emails are now opened on mobiles.
PRICINGPerhaps this tool’s greatest benefit is its competitive pricing offering. Whilst the basic rate of $15 per month is slightly more expensive than others, $30 for 2,500 contacts and $50 for 5,000 are rather appealing.
OVERALL - 3/5So not the prettiest, nor the easiest, but it’s certainly one of the cheapest, and would work well for any businesses new to email marketing with an existing list.
GET RESPONSEWith 13 years’ experience, Get Response has developed into one of the leading email marketing providers. With a slick and modern design this tool is particularly useful for organisations who have a degree of email marketing experience and some HTML capabilities in house.
USABILITYGet Response is one slick operator. Requiring users to only complete a few simple steps. Analysing reports on previous campaigns, as well as accessing a plethora of tools and resources, is made easy by the simple layout. Unlike many other tools available, Get Response allows users to create surveys, landing pages and web forms all within its ecosystem, as opposed to pushing users towards 3rd party tools. The Learning Centre resource is also one which offers a great deal of value to this email marketing option. If we were being pedantic then perhaps the one area overlooked by the Get Response development team is the lack of event management functionality. Presently there exists no easy way to create registration forms which for some companies could well be a drawback.
TEMPLATE AND DESIGNWhilst not possessing as many pre-designed templates as other resources, the ones which Get Response does possess are of a high quality and offer a great deal of flexibility. The design and ease of use of the drag and drop templates should also be commended.
PRICINGComing in slightly higher than competitors, Get Response has a base level plan of $15 a month for 1,000 contacts. However, the tools available within this platform (landing pages, surveys etc.) make this a worthwhile investment.
OVERALL - 4/5Although pricey, it’s certainly classy with a number of slick, quick and easy to use functions.
OVERVIEWWith over 100,000+ paying customers, Campaign Monitor, established 9 years ago, is certainly a major player within this space. Focusing on organisations that require greater creative control over their designs and campaigns, this tool is focused more at seasoned veterans, than new email marketing players.
USABILITYA smooth and slick design ensures that building a campaign is never an arduous task. Creating the actual template becomes a breeze especially with the mobile-ready templates and drag-and-drop functionality as standard. A differentiator for this tool is its flexibility in creating your own email from scratch. Flexible dynamic content, inline CSS changes and absolutely no design restrictions mean that if your brand is important to you, then this is the tool to use. However, this comes with the drawback that designing templates can be more difficult than other platforms available, especially if you are new to email marketing. Campaign Monitor are clearly targeting organisations with coding skills and in-house experience with their offering. If you are more used to hearing about headers and footers on Match of the Day then beware. A further drawback to Campaign Monitor is the lack of easy methods to import contacts. Whilst CSV, XLS and similar file formats can be added to the system, there isn’t the functionality for directly pulling contacts from CRMs and email systems such as Outlook or Gmail.
TEMPLATES AND DESIGNThe templates are far more engaging than the likes of those produced by Constant Contact or Get Response, but the process of creating these is more tricky.
PRICINGOffering a competitive basic package of $9 a month for 500 contacts, Campaign Monitor becomes more expensive than competitors when looking to send to larger databases. For example, 5000 contacts costs $29, above the industry average.
OVERALL - 2/5Great for the techies, but for all else, beware.
OVERVIEWUK-based Dotmailer, founded in 1999, is a popular tool within the corporate and professional services sphere. Designed and built for organisations with limited coding skills, Dotmailer has managed to build a strong brand within the industry.
USABILITYWhilst not the prettiest of interfaces, Dotmailer is designed predominantly for the inexperienced, and is therefore straightforward to use. The reporting functionality, as well as integrations allowing users to add contacts, are all straightforward. Dotmailer’s greatest differentiator is their automation functionality allowing the user to set up a detailed email nurturing processes with a number of different campaigns integrated. This tool really is unique, and if used correctly can be incredibly powerfully. Dotmailer is also particularly good at integration with various CRMs.
TEMPLATE AND DESIGNDotmailer has come on leaps and bounds over the last 18 months. From a fairly clunky platform, it is now a slick and easy to use tool offering a variety of templates and designs. The pre-populated templates still lag behind other tools, but the drag-and-drop functionality makes up for this.
PRICINGDotmailer pricing is built around a contract as opposed to other pay as you go and flexible pricing plans offered by other providers. That being said, from our experience, Dotmailer offered a fairly cost-effective package.
OVERALL - 4/5Dynamic and innovative tools helps to make this one of the market’s best performers.
OVERVIEWMailchimp is generally regarded as the market-leading email tool. Since 2001 it has gradually expanded upon its design flexibility and ease of integration to make it the default tool used across many industries.
USABILITYMailchimp prides itself on its simple interface, ensuring that it takes literally minutes to prepare a campaign. It also consists of a vast array of tools allowing for contacts to be quickly and easily imported. Mailchimp also offers a diverse range of in-depth reporting enabling analysis on a macro and micro level to be performed quickly. We particularly like the Analytics integration option available through this tool, which ensures that users can be tracked easily from email through to website interaction. iPhone and Android apps also ensure that campaigns can be amended and sent out on the go.
TEMPLATE AND DESIGNMailchimp lead the field in template design and creation. Offering a variety of pre-populated templates, basic templates and “code your own” ensures that highly technical users through to first timers can feel at total ease. Unlike some of the other tools, Mailchimp also offer a number of pre-designed responsive templates, ensuring that your emails will look good no matter what device they are displayed on. They are easy to use and the previewing tool also ensures that you understand precisely how your email will display. To help you even further, Mailchimp offers a comprehensive library of resources coupled with live support – handy if you are getting to grips with the platform.
PRICINGPerhaps Mailchimp’s one and only drawback can be found here. The “forever free plan” allows for up to 2,000 contacts for absolutely free, once you exceed that amount, it can become a pricier. For instance 5,000 subscribers costs as much as $50 per month. Unless you are sending regular emails (which many organisations do not) Mailchimp can quickly become quite costly.
OVERALL - 5/5Although it may be slightly more expensive, the benefits and flexibilities of this system ensure that in our eyes it is the best in breed.
USING THE RIGHT EMAIL CAMPAIGN PLATFORMThere is clearly a wide variety of emails tools at your disposal, all offering different benefits to your digital marketing strategy. Mailchimp is in most cases our tool of choice, closely followed by Get Response and Dotmailer. Before picking a system, ask yourself:
- What are the objectives of my campaign?
- What email marketing features will be relevant to my customers and industry?
- What is my budget?