As an email marketing pro that has handled lists of hundreds of thousands of subscribers, I’ve tried just about every ESP (email service provider) known to man. I’ve used everything from FREE tools to solutions that cost over $100,000 a year. In my experience, there are some I LOVE and some I absolutely hate.
We always hear about the MailChimp’s, Constant Contacts, and Getresponses of the world, but there are many other (and better) solutions that are less spoken of that make these services look like Benjamin Franklin as Post Master General in 1775.
In this post, I will talk about some FREE, cheap and enterprise solutions, as well as those built for organizations expecting to grow.
So if you’re trying to get your business going in the right direction, here’s my review of the 5 Best and Worst Email Marketing Services.
One of the most popular email marketing service providers is Silverpop aka IBM’s Watson Campaign Automation.
This service is on the higher end and may start at $3k-$4k a month. Larger companies will pay over $30,000 a quarter depending on the size of your email list and send volume.
Why I love it
Watson Campaign Automation can do so many things. When it comes to personalized emails, Watson can easily send contextual and dynamic content, simply by dragging and dropping a topic into your email builder. For example, if it’s a rainy day in California, you can drop a line of code in your email copy that says “I hope your keeping dry” that will only send to people in California experiencing heavy rain. But if the user is snowed-in at her townhome in Chicago, that same message can read “Something warm for the Windy City”. And you only have to create one email… Watson will deliver the right message to the right person depending on the criteria you give it to send (e.g. weather, shopping behavior, recent Facebook comments etc).
This is bigger than just using the first name in the subject line, this is smart automation that can do anything you can dream up.
Why you should hate it
If you’re just getting started with email marketing, this isn’t for you. But I’ll show you what is.
If you’re just getting started, MailChimp is the perfect solution. Starting out, MailChimp is free. But after reaching 2,000 subscribers, they will start charging you a monthly fee which is still very reasonable.
MailChimp is the largest email service provider on the market, but it can be limited in many ways.
MailChimp does have some basic automation and segmentation features that are great for people with a list under 10,000 subscribers. However, creating segments and automating campaigns can be a little tedious. But if you don’t have the budget for a more robust solution, sticking with MailChimp is your best bet.
Why it’s the worst
If you have more than 10,000 subscribers, it may be time to move to something a little more robust. A service like MailChimp can hinder your growth and can also get a little expensive with their pricing model that doesn’t really compensate for large lists.
I absolutely love Zaius. I like to call it “Watson Jr.” It’s the closest thing you’re going to get to IBM’s WCA on a budget, but this service is well worth it. I would say this is the next step up from MailChimp when you really want to start getting serious about email marketing.
Why you should hate it
There’s no reason to hate it… It’s really awesome, from price to functionality, Zaius is one of the best ESPs on the market.
Emma is neck and neck with MailChimp. The service is about the same price and they’ve been around just as long.
What I like most about Emma
I Love Emma’s interface and its ease of use. I also like the fact that it checks for spam before you send off an email to ensure the best deliverability. I also like Emma’s heat map insights that allow you to see what is working in your email copy. For one client I was able to help them reconstruct their email design to get more click-throughs and website conversions. The heat map revealed where users eyes were focused and where they got lost.
Why everyone should hate Emma
Deliverability issues! It takes FOREVER for Emma to send to your entire list… this is horrible. Even when I segmented the list to send to only 500 subscribers, email sends were speradic and some subscribers didn’t get an email until hours after sending it. Imagine this kind of deliverability on a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday??? For this reason, I would avoid Emma altogether.
They do offer a free demo, so you can test out the service for yourself.
Salesforce Exact Target is very similar to IBM’s Watson Campaign Automation. Comparable to Watson, they named their Artificial Intelligence “Einstein” which in fact runs on Watson. Exact Target also offers dynamic content that can personalize just about any content for any user with a few clicks. They also have what is called contextual content, that can be sent to fit the context of the receiver. With the complete “marketing cloud” solution you can pull data from social media activity, website clicks, and even SMS to personalize every customer touchpoint to drive more sells and engagement.
I also love that you can use any data collected to display dynamic content on your website (as seen below).
Most features are identical to IBM’s WCA. If you have the money to spend, it’s up to you to decide what you prefer.
Why it’s the worst
To be honest, Exact Target and the complete Salesforce Marketing Cloud is by far one of my favorite tools. But what actually sucks about it is the huge price tag to get started (between $10k-$20k), the hidden costs, and the less than stellar support. However, you can remedy the support by opting into their premium support (which may be costly but will give you better access if you are to run into a problem).
Again, if you’re just starting out or you don’t have much experience with campaign automation, this problem isn’t for you. It will be a waste of money.
And that’s it. These are my 5 Best and Worst Email Marketing Services for online marketers. There are others out there like Listrak, Marketo, and ReScience that I wasn’t able to cover, but we’ll get into those in a future post.
If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to comment below.