Ever since email has become the most common means of communicating between users, email marketing is becoming one of the most popular means to reach, engage, and market to potential customers.
Email marketing is steadily gaining more market share as compared to other direct marketing techniques such as cold calling and snail mails. Some estimates show that more than 75 Trillion email marketing messages are sent per year now.
Pros and Cons of Email Marketing
The main advantages of email marketing are:
Cost: It’s getting cheaper by the day to send emails -- its now as low as few cents for 100s of messages.
Rich media support -- One can embed richer media such as polls, contests, coupons, videos in an email which is much harder to do in other forms of direct marketing.
The disadvantages of email marketing tend to be
Oversupply -- too many emails mean too little recall and also the user fatigue.
Spam -- email is plagued by spam and spam filters that reduce the efficiency of email marketing
Regulations -- regulators are looking closely at the menace of privacy breach in email marketing and the newer breed of laws such as Europe’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and California’s CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) are bringing restrictions to once a green field.
What is Email Marketing Software?
Email marketing software started as a simple tool to create a list of email-ids and then have the ability to send out messages to folks on your list. These tools evolved to have the ability to have multiple contact lists, the ability to create high-quality HTML messages, and then have the ability to track the user interaction on your messages.
In recent years, there has been a lot more focus on the customer journey and many of these email tools have evolved to deliver personalized messages at scale based on the state the user is in his journey. This made the tools built lots more features to automate, personalize and customize the delivery of messages.
This has resulted in many of the email marketing software a hybrid between Marketing Automation, Sales Engagement, and CRMs to deliver on their vision to keep engaged with your customers through their journey.
In short, for most businesses that deal with many customers, the need for having software for managing their email communication across the customer journey is no longer a debate, the real questions are:
How do you choose a software that is best suited for you?
Do you choose an email marketing software, a marketing automation software or a sales engagement one?
Also, what are the features that matter to you -- how does a feature make a difference to your business need?
You can read the rest of this guide to figure out how to go about finding the right software for you or try out our AI-based advisor who will recommend the right fit based on your requirements.
Benefits of Email Marketing Software
Email marketing software is used along the customer journey predominantly to achieve the following business goals
Acquire more customers
Businesses obtain a list of potential customers from third party data set providers and then use emails to reach out to them to sign them up as their own customers. Typically there is a call for action in the email such as the link to a website or a phone number asking the potential lead to sign up.
Making online sales, it is essential to have a list of potential buyers who may be interested in our product; With this software, I can make sure that all subscribers of our company are duly registered, verify that they are interested in our proposals, and send them the best offers for their demands.
Increase Revenue from Existing Customers
A related use case of email marketing is when it is used to upsell and cross-sell to existing customers. This is can be quite effective as we tend to know a lot more about our existing customers and email marketing is an effective tool not only to stay in touch but also to send personalized emails to upsell or cross-sell to them.
Enhance Customer Relationship
Periodic emails, newsletters, relevant updates, new launches, best practices, etc., helps keep in touch with customers in a non-intrusive way. Email marketing tools have features to send an elegantly crafted newsletter to keep customers engaged and happy.
Key Features of Email Marketing Software
Good email marketing software will have some or all of the features mentioned below
A good template library with lots of formats makes one’s job of creating an email marketing campaign easy. One can pick a template, customize it, and be ready in a matter of minutes.
The amount of templates that it offers saves you a lot of time in the design of the emails, boosting your efficiency by reducing a big headache and thus you will have more time to dedicate yourself to something else.
Tracking and monitoring open rates
I like how easy it is to make a professional-looking email, with ability to track campaign results, resend to those who didn't open etc. and track link clicks, see conversion rates, audience drops and locations.
This is why it’s vital to run A/B tests when trying out new techniques or formats for your email campaigns. Improving conversion rates here can make a bigger difference in your bottom line than many other marketing efforts, especially those of similar cost.
Auto-scheduler and Cadence
First, automated emails are not the same as transactional emails. Transactional emails are sent as per a user’s action such as buying something on the site and the email is a receipt of his action. Automated emails are emails that are to be periodically sent based on your goals and the state of your customers, say existing customers, potential customers, high-value customers, etc.
These automated emails with carefully planned cadence help the top of the mind recall of your brand and it’s offerings with the customers.
Autoresponder and auto-scheduler go hand in hand for seamless automation of your email campaigns. Autoresponders are based on a user’s action whereas the auto-scheduler is used to send periodic stay in touch messages based on the state of the user. Autoresponders are used to send a welcome note for a person who fills a contact form, to someone who just added something to a shopping cart and forgets to check it out, etc.
With autoresponders, you have the opportunity to start building relationships with your leads from the moment that they join your list.
A big weakness of mass-mailing email campaigns is that they lose the human touch and soon can feel robotic. The newer breed of software has built-in cool personalization features that can send 1:1 messages at scale.
An email message feels personalized if the system knows something about the user, his last transaction, his last complaint, etc and the message is tailor-made to address the specific user in mind. For example, it could be as simple as knowing the name of the user to more complex things like knowing his hobby, movie interests, etc.
Being able to target those emails to specific regions gave our marketing a personal touch and resulted in increased web traffic and sales.
Role of AI
AI is literally gaining into everything we do, including email marketing. In recent years, AI has played an active role in creating personalized content to deciding when best to send an email to understand the interest of the users.
AI also has played an active role is AB testing and choosing the campaigns that have best worked for you in the past and optimize your results based on past campaign results.
AI-powered systems make it possible to set up automated or drip campaigns that are driven by customer data and are based on what stage someone is at in the customer journey. The technology uses past purchases, interests and browsing behaviors to set up automated campaigns that are designed to nurture your leads.
Buyers Guide - 6 Factors to Choose Right Email Marketing software
You can either follow this beginner’s guide or use our AI advisor to find the right recommendation for you.
Where do your contacts lie?
If your contact details lie in a CRM or a CDP, then you need to get a software that integrates with your backend system.
In case you are buying your contact data to acquire new customers, then it’s a green field, and most of the software allows you to upload the manage your contact list.
In case you want to tie back the response of your customer to your CRM, in order to have all your customer information in a single place, then also you should consider tools that have both way integrations with your CRM.
Horizontal vs Specialized Solutions
Most of the new breed horizontal solutions such as CRMs and sales tools have built-in ability to send out emails, just check once their capabilities before you go ahead and invest in a new tool. In general, most email marketing tools are best suited to acquire new customers and you should see if existing customers can be managed through your legacy horizontal solutions. The one drawback of this approach is that you would need to set up and manage two systems. But, specialized email marketing tools give you lots of flexibility to set up new templates and try our various messages using AB testing, which makes it really appealing to acquire new customers.
Decide whether you are interested in acquiring new customers or engaging with existing customers. In the former case, you would need software with prebuilt templates, the ability to AB test and track/monitor clicks and open rates. In the latter case, you would need software that you can auto-schedule with auto-responder and ability to personalize the response for each user.
Ability to deal with spam filters
One of the biggest risks of email marketing tool that you will buy is its ability to navigate the spam filter of most email tools. Ensure that the tool doesn’t deliver to the spam folder and has the ability to change and personalize content so that it doesn’t look like bulk messages.
Ability to handle rich content natively
With multimedia and video becoming a major part of our marketing collateral, ensure the tool can embed rich media and track users’ actions on these rich media seamlessly.
Analytics and Reports
An email marketing tool with poor analytics and reporting ability is useless. A major part of your effort in marketing should be spent on AB testing your open rates and user interactions, which are impossible to tune without fine-grained custom reporting.
Top 10 Free-forever Email Marketing Software
Whether you are starting your journey on digital marketing transformation with email marketing or a small business owner, it is always desirable to try out a free email marketing tool. Many of the email marketing software vendors have a free plan that comes with robust features. However, most of the free plans are limited by the number of subscribers or contacts or the number of emails that you can send per month. If your business needs are met within those limitations, often there is very little need to upgrade to a paid plan. Here are some of the popular free email marketing software that you may find useful.