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TechnologyAdvice Buyer's Guide to Email Marketing SoftwareUpdated: Mar. 22nd, 2019
Email marketing is an affordable, scalable way to increase brand exposure and audience engagement. Thousands of businesses, large and small, use email marketing to send targeted and non-targeted content to lists of prospects, leads, and customers. Email marketing software is typically a straightforward investment with quick return, but the market can still be difficult to navigate for a first-time buyer. Vendors offer a wide variety of solutions that differ in pricing, intended use, and functionality.
This guide will help buyers make a more informed decision by defining core features for comparison, software trends, and examining a case study of a leading email marketing software solution.
Not long after its rise to popularity, email ousted print and display as the most effective medium for promotional content. The simple explanation for this is reach: by 2017, there will be almost 5 billion email accounts in the world, the large majority of which are consumer accounts, according to the Radicati Group.1 Since nearly everyone has an email account, email marketing is guaranteed strategy for putting offers, promotions, and content in front of your whole audience. Last year, the average company attributed almost a quarter of its total sales to email marketing.2
The other reason email marketing is so effective is intimacy; a well-timed, well-targeted email is more personally engaging than a generic print or display ad. Also, email marketing is less expensive than traditional mediums. Many vendors allow unlimited emails for a fixed subscription price based on list size and/or desired software features.
Before we look at specific features, it’s important to note the distinction between email marketing systems and marketing automation software. Simply put, email marketing is one, isolated component of marketing automation. It’s designed to help businesses create and send conditional content to segmented lists of contacts. Marketing automation, on the other hand, is an end-to-end platform for managing all of a brand’s digital marketing programs, from landing pages to web analytics, lead nurturing, email, and social marketing. Because of its versatility and ease-of-use, email marketing software is an appealing option for B2C companies or small businesses that lack the resources for a full-scale marketing automation system.
Here are some common features you can expect to see when you compare email software solutions:
- Autoresponders (automatically send content based on time-based or action-based triggers)
- Contact lists, list segmentation
- Dynamic content (personalization)
- A/B testing
- Email creation templates
- Built-in social sharing
- SPF, DKIM, Dedicated IP address (Sender Policy Framework; DomainKeys Identified Mail; these protocols increase deliverability by authenticating sender ID3)
- Analytics and reporting (open rates, click-through rates, conversion)
- SMS marketing (text messages)
- Third-party software integrations (CRM, eCommerce, etc.)
- Native mobile app or mobile web interface
Some email software vendors may also include a few basic lead generation tools, such as landing pages, web forms, or pop-ups. While these tools are certainly beneficial, they aren’t advanced enough on their own to classify a product as “marketing automation.”
Email Marketing Software Trends
Sixty-five percent of all emails are now accessed from mobile devices, according to a 2014 report by Movable Ink.4 This puts marketers in a tricky position, since visually rich content is more compelling than plain text, but doesn’t always render correctly on a smaller device screen. Many email marketing solutions offer mobile-optimized html templates that let users design attractive content (ads, newsletters, updates) and test readability without requiring extensive technical knowledge. Some businesses may even choose to use plain or rich text format where visual appeal is unnecessary (i.e. for basic transactional emails).
Commercial email traffic has accelerated at a dizzying rate in the past few decades. As a result, many consumers have grown numb to promotional content, especially when it’s generic or irrelevant. While email marketing is admittedly a shotgun approach, many businesses are using automation tools that address each contact by name and present relevant, targeted information — for example, an email suggesting additional companion products based on a recent purchase. This can be accomplished through use of dynamic content, trigger rules, and list segmentation, which are standard features in most email marketing solutions. On average, personalized emails have 25 percent higher unique open rates and 51 percent higher unique click rates than generic emails.5
Recent estimates suggest that more than 80 percent of all email traffic is spam.6 It’s no surprise that email providers have developed more sophisticated filters, and consumers have grown accustomed to clicking the “mark as spam” button when they feel annoyed or inconvenienced by a message. Unfortunately, that means your valid, promotional emails are sometimes at risk for being flagged. It’s important to choose email marketing software that helps you avoid the spam folder with a clear, even double opt-in process, a dedicated IP address, and multiple authentication protocols.
Creating Executive Buy-In
If you’re leading the initiative on software procurement, you’ll need to build a compelling business case that “sells” email marketing software to its future stakeholders. In the case of a small business, that could be as simple as having a conversation with the business owner and any potential users. In a larger company, it might involve a series of committee meetings with executive leaders. In either case, your decision-makers need to agree with the need for new solution and the value it will add after implementation.
Painting in broad strokes, some of email marketing’s biggest selling points are:
- It can replace more expensive campaigns in traditional media
- It keeps prospects, leads, and customers engaged and informed about your brand and products
- It brings in additional revenue through digital conversions
Your CFO will want to know the details of the new software investment, including upfront costs and operational expenses (subscription fees, IT support, upgrades), as well as projected return on investment (ROI). Email marketing solutions are usually a minor portion of the overall marketing budget, but some systems can be more costly than others. The good news is, email marketing returns an average of $44.25 per dollar spent, according to Experian.1
Your CEO and CMO will be interested in how a new solution impacts market presence and the core business model. Email marketing software keeps your brand at the top of your customers’ minds, and can turn one-time transactions into long-time relationships. Furthermore, it scales with growth; you can offer the same level of engagement whether you have 500 contacts or 50,000. Done well, this broadening and strengthening of the customer base can elevate your business to the position of industry or market leader.
Your CIO or CTO will want to weigh in on the specific product decision, since they’re most familiar with your existing infrastructure and the ins and outs of software deployment. Be sure to get their input on which solution offers the most value and reliability, will integrate with existing systems, and cost less to maintain. If you have your eye set on any specific vendors or features, be prepared to explain why.
Email Marketing Case Study
Headquartered in Londonberry, New Hampshire, Stonyfield is the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and the number three yogurt brand in the U.S. They rely on a small marketing team to manage digital campaigns that build brand engagement and awareness.
Initially, Stonyfield was only sending out a few newsletters each month to all of their contacts, with no list segmentation or personalization. But their new digital marketing objectives called for a more intentional strategy, and a solution to back it up. Under the leadership of Gina Kilby, senior marketing manager, they implemented Silverpop’s email marketing solution.
Silverpop brought personalization to their messages and newsletters, and allowed the growing company to implement two new campaigns: the “Inner Circle Club” (customers who regularly provide feedback receive surveys, development updates, and ideas) and #WakeUpWithStonyfield (engaged brand advocates, asked them to share photos of healthy, organic lifestyle on social media).
“We do so much with Silverpop that it’s core to our business,” Kilby said. “Email isn’t always a priority, but it’s the most powerful channel, and Silverpop is the easiest and best email marketing software provider to use an an enterprise level.”
Here are some of the key benefits Stonyfield reported after implementing the new platform:
WakeUpWithStonyfield campaign reached over 20,000 people, and achieved an average open rate of 33 percent
Inner Circle Club achieved an open rate of 28 percent and brought scores of valuable feedback about product development
Ability to segment contacts by custom criteria, such as “has purchased Greek yogurt,” or “has children of particular age range.”
Increased site traffic and visit duration
Other Market-Leading Email Marketing Software
While Silverpop worked well for Stonyfield, it’s not necessarily the right solution for every business. There are countless solutions available for companies of varying size, with unique email marketing needs, whether that be basic newsletter-building or complex autoresponders and segmentation. Here are a few of the more popular solutions on the market:
How to Choose the Best Email Marketing Software
That’s where we come in. At TechnologyAdvice, our goal is to connect businesses with the technology that best meets their needs. We’ve compiled product information, reviews, case studies, features lists, video walkthroughs, and research articles on hundreds of leading IT solutions, all to make the buying process more straightforward for decision makers like you.
If you’re curious about any of the email marketing software listed in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our experts for a free consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool on our site to compare dozens of email marketing software vendors and get a personalized recommendation based on your industry and desired features.
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- Noll, Laura. “Top 5 Advantages of Email Marketing.” Adstation. Last modified November 13, 2014. http://www.adstation.com/advertising/top-5-advantages-of-email-marketing/
- Charlton, Graham. “Email remains the best digital channel for ROI.” Econsultancy. Last modified March 31, 2014. https://econsultancy.com/blog/64614-email-remains-the-best-digital-channel-for-roi/
- “Email Authentication.” Wikipedia. Last modified April 27, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_authentication#Authentication_methods
- O’Dell, J. “65% of all email gets opened first on a mobile device — and that’s great news for marketers.” VentureBeat. Last modified January 22, 2014. http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/22/65-of-all-email-gets-opened-first-on-a-mobile-device-and-thats-great-news-for-marketers/
- “2013 Email Marketing Study.” Experian. Last modified December 2013. http://www.experian.com/assets/marketing-services/white-papers/ccm-email-study-2013.pdf
- “Email Statistics Report, 2009-2013.” Radicati Group. Accessed July 2, 2015. http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/email-stats-report-exec-summary.pdf
- “Stonyfield: Building One-to-one relationships with every customer.” Silverpop. Accessed July 2, 2015. http://www.silverpop.com/Clients/Silverpop-Case-Studies/stonyfield/