Email marketing services: top five on the market

Making the most out of your emails to customers

Email BlackBerry

Email marketing gives companies a chance to communicate directly to their customers or stakeholders, but lots of companies don't do it well, or in some cases at all. Alongside social media, email provides an opportunity for organisations to market their products and services to an audience that has already expressed their interest by opting in to communications. As such, it should be one of the first marketing channels added into an organisation's marketing mix.

Sending emails in bulk, however, can't just be done from a work email address. In addition to limits on the number of recipients to which emails can be sent, there is no sender authentication and it's possible that any email will end up in a spam folder.

As well as avoiding these issues, email marketing services provide a number of additional benefits. Emails can be designed with HTML layouts, and they can be personalised and tracked for response analytics. Recipients are also provided with a means of unsubscribing, which is a legal necessity, and the recipient database can be kept clean.

There are a large number of email marketing services available from which to choose. Most offer much of the same functionality, but there are some differences in approach, and different services are better suited to different organisations. Factors such as usability, size of recipient database, price and security might all play a part in an organisation's choice of provider. This article looks at some of the most popular email marketing services, providing an overview of each.

iContact

Web: http://www.icontact.com

Price: From £10 (around US$16, AU$18) per month

iContact is widely regarded as the best in the business where email marketing services are concerned. Whether or not that's the case, it's certainly one of the best. The firm has been providing email marketing services since 2003 and is aimed primarily at small and medium-sized businesses.

iContact's email marketing platform provides a drag-and-drop email builder that allows users to build HTML emails without requiring any HTML coding knowledge. For those who are au fait with HTML, it's still possible to build emails by code or to import and edit existing templates. iContact also offers a variety of existing templates that users can select if they don't want to go through the process of creating their own design.

In order to ensure emails reach the intended recipients, iContact offers a spam checking service that tells a sender if they need to address any potential issues with their email before sending, and this minimises the chance of emails being caught in an ISP's spam filter. The company has a dedicated team monitoring and working on the delivery of emails from its servers, and the measures taken by the company help to keep it whitelisted amongst ISPs.

In addition to its strong feature set, iContact is reasonably priced, starting at £10 a month for small numbers of email send-outs. Tailored provisions can also be made for organisations with recipient databases of more than 15,000, or those that need advanced features. Discounted prices are offered for non-profit organisations.

Constant Contact

Web: http://www.constantcontact.com

Price: From £15 (around US$24, AU$27) per month

Constant Contact was founded in 1995 and today boasts over 600,000 small organisations amongst its clients. Like iContact, it provides users with a means of creating, sending and tracking the responses to bulk emails. Ready-made templates and a drag-and-drop editor make creating emails straightforward and it's also possible to create landing pages for email campaigns.

This year, though, Constant Contact rolled out what it calls its Toolkit, of which its email services are a part. The Toolkit is aimed at providing users with an integrated all-in-one marketing solution. Users are able to manage email campaigns, social media campaigns, plan events, run promotions, collect donations and carry out surveys all from one place. Single campaigns can be coordinated across multiple marketing channels.

The Constant Contact Toolkit starts at £15 a month with more fully loaded plans available. It's possible to have a personal marketing coach to provide guidance on using the Toolkit to greatest effect, and there are discounts for non-profit and pre-pay customers. Constant Contact also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee in case users aren't satisfied with the service.