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Not all email marketing programs are created equal.
Contrary to what you may think, email marketing remains an effective and COST effective method of staying in touch with people who want to hear from you. Remember, we're not talking about blasting out millions of emails to people who do not know you from Adam. That's considered SPAMMING. Effective email marketing is at the crux of RELATIONSHIP and PERMISSION marketing and is still effective when you email to people who volunteer to learn about what your business has to offer.
According to alternative marketing guru and Squidoo founder, Seth Godin, "By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message," he writes. "It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange."
This means that email marketing will INCREASE in effectiveness as a way to counter the growing ineffectiveness of more traditional methods of "intrusion" marketing.
But selecting the RIGHT email marketing tools is critical to both your success and your sanity. These are the email marketing companies and tools we recommend and those we do not and why.
Why You Need To Use A Professional Email Marketing Tool
Well, it's important to understand that if you're going to engage in email marketing in any kind of a serious way, you need to sign-up with an email marketing company that will help you sign-up, grow and manage your list. While my company, Samson Media, develops the strategy and concepts for email marketing, even we use a third party company called iContact, to automate all the tedious but necessary tasks of managing a list of hundreds or even thousands of email addresses.
Professional email list hosting companies like iContact or the popular Constant Contact handle All of the important tasks of growing and maintaining your list such as:
- Duplicate management
- Deletes Undeliverables
- SPAM compliant
- Full reporting (deliverables, click-throughs, etc.)
- User-friendly email newsletter publishing tools and templates
A Short List Of Email Marketing Companies – Similar Yet Different
Most email marketing companies now charge by the size of your list and not how many times you use it (within reason). For instance, you can have 1,000 names on a list and pay less than someone who has 10,000 names on a list. And each one can send out once, twice or even 100 times in the same month and their costs are the same, fixed amount.
These email companies used to charge more the more you send but most have moved to an all-you-can-eat pricing structure based on list size. And when I said "within reason", I think they actually do have a limit but it's like one million. So if you have a list of a thousand or even ten thousand names and you're anywhere close to sending them out a million times in a month – well, you're probably over doing it anyway and your days as an email marketer are numbered .
To that end, here are some of the main email marketing companies we know of and have some degree of first hand familiarity:
- iContact (the service we now use)
- Constant Contact (very popular)
- Topica (we still use them but we hate it)
- Vertical Response (an industry stalwart)
- Emma (stylish and pricey)
- Elite Email (does it Old School – prefers to charge per email sent)
Why We Use iContact
Granted, wherever you choose Constant Contact, iContact, Topica, Vertical Response or the others, they all do the tasks listed above and are simply priced (relatively speaking), but here's what separates the men from the boys in my opinion:
The Winner Is …
The winner in terms of features, price and service is iContact hands down.
iContact has several features that the popular and more well-known Contact Contact does not offer, such as:
Every newsletter you send out automatically gets posted on an iContact hosted page that's unique to you and your business. As you begin sending out newsletters you'll see how powerful this is. Because as you begin to build a history of newsletters, all you have to do is add a link to your web page that says something like "CLICK HERE To Read Our Back Issues" and all of your past newsletters will be listed and viewable. Constant Contact offers this for an additional $ 5 a month, the others do not offer it at all, and at iContact it's free. You also get search engine traffic back to your own site from these archived newsletters – a double bonus!
Constant Contact, amazingly does NOT offer autoresponders at all. Even if you do not know what they are, trust me – you'll want to have the ability to use them, especially if it's included in the price. Autoresponders are a highly powerful email marketing tool that allows you to preset and pre-create an advanced email marketing strategy that allows you to offer multi-part reports and series. Topica also offers this feature but it's not nearly as user-friendly.
All things considered, especially compared to Topica which I've used for over 10 years and still use today for older lists, iContact actually answers the phone. With a human being! Really!
So comparing, price, features and support, iContact is the email newsletter and hosting service champ! But more importantly, which ever company you choose, definitely choose one. Sending out hundreds of emails from your Outlook or desktop email client is not only ineffective and will get you labeled a spammer, but it's a huge waste of your valuable time.