Written by Alexandre Benyekkou
Marketing tools have come a long, long way since email was first invented.
The benefits of email marketing have been talked about, blogged about, and discussed by pretty much every organization looking to connect with their community and turn them into potential customers. It is, after all, the only marketing outreach that promises to deliver the highest return on investment, at $42 for every dollar spent!
Your email list, or subscribers, are people that have deliberately opted-in to receive your marketing emails. But email marketing isn’t just the mouth of a sales funnel — it’s an opportunity to maximize the relationship with your customers and be dynamic, engaging, and enticing with laser-focused precision.
So, if email marketing is all that, why isn’t everyone doing a great job of it? The answer is because it’s a painstaking process! Companies often have hundreds, thousands, even millions of subscribers and it can quickly become a mess to organise, let alone capitalize on — unless you’re using email marketing software.
What is Email Marketing Software?
Email marketing software, or EMS, offers an easy, organized, and efficient way to send emails to your list(s) of subscribers. The right EMS tools used in the right way can help you:
- Increase your audience
- Get valuable insights from them
- Segment your lists
- And build a loyal subscriber base to grow your business
At the most basic level, an EMS has two core functions: storing email addresses, and sending emails. However, most EMS tools are far more sophisticated.
There are over 450 EMS tools on the market, each with their own specificities, depending on the size of your business, the number of subscribers you have, and the actions you’d like them to take.
Here are some of our go-to email marketing software options
- Mailchimp is by far one of the most well-known and oldest email marketing tools. It’s mostly used in smaller and mid-sized companies and allows them to manage their mailing lists, create custom email templates, and automate their entire marketing campaigns. It’s also famous for its “Forever Free” plan that offers the most basic tools you need to start with an EMS.
- Substack makes it super straightforward for a writer to launch an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. It’s extremely popular among bloggers and thought leaders who use it to publish content to the platform which then gets delivered straight into the inbox of the reader. Substack is free (with paid options) AND reliable — a truly winning combination.
- Campaign Monitor is more design-focused, with a handy drag-and-drop email builder for creating personalized and branded emails. It allows for optimization of campaigns with detailed analytics, helps you stay organized with segmented lists, and lets you track your campaign’s effectiveness in real-time.
- Constant Contact has been in the industry since 1995 and has amassed over 650,000 customers. It’s easy to use, and has a good mix of starter features, third-party integrations, and (this is a big plus!) a gracious 60-day free trial. It’s definitely set up for small businesses, however, and doesn’t offer the most advanced automations.
- ConvertKit is a newer player in the game, but has quickly become popular for good reason. It’s an EMS and a landing page builder all wrapped up into one powerful tool. ConvertKit helps content creators earn a living by connecting with their fans. It’s easy to use, which means you can get top notch sequences and segmentation up and running quickly.
- Klaviyo is specifically for e-commerce businesses, helping them personalize, target, optimize, and oversee their email and social media marketing campaigns. Klaviyo has extremely powerful analytics that help you predict your customer’s interactions and behaviors. In fact, you can even use it to predict a customer's next purchase date, determine the total amount of future spending, assess the probability of customer churn, and calculate customer lifetime value. Quite the wizard of email marketing!
There are also big other names like Active Campaign, Hubspot and SendinBlue that offer very reliable and easy-to-use alternatives.
How can EMS help you?
As your subscriber list grows, you will want to create more meaningful interactions with them.
Your goal is to stay as far away from spam as possible, and the only way to do that is to send personalized, well-crafted communication that goes beyond being a sales pitch.
You will also need powerful analytics to understand and segment your audience appropriately, otherwise you may unknowingly run campaigns that miss the mark and end up hurting your brand more than helping.
But we aren’t trying to scare you off! If you’re wondering how an EMS will help you, and potentially where you can get started, here’s a handy list.
1. Build your subscriber list
If a potential email subscriber has visited your website, verified their identity by clicking on a link, AND shared their email address with you, odds are they are extremely interested in what you have to offer. This is why they are more likely to convert into paying customers. When used wisely, it can have a massive positive impact on your marketing campaigns, as well as your traffic and sales.
EMS tools typically offer the option of a lead magnet, which are pop-ups or windows that will appear on the screen, asking for an email to receive some valuable content in return, like a free ebook, a 10-step proven guide, or even a webinar. EMS tools basically help you have non intrusive and smartly displayed pop-ups.
Some EMS even let you create landing pages. Instead of a pop-up, you can redirect your users to an internet page that only takes minutes to build!
2. Segment your subscriber lists
Segmenting your subscriber list means making sure that you will deliver the right email to the right person, at the right time. For example, you might send a coupon code to someone who opens and clicks on all your marketing emails and who you know is primed to purchase your product. You'll probably also want to communicate differently with past customers than you do with potential ones.
EMS will help you segment your list based on specific criteria or behaviors: age, locations, website activity, open rate, click rate, average order value, and much more. This feature will help you deliver relevant and personalised experience, making sure people stick to your list, don’t unsubscribe, and will remain loyal.
What’s even more beautiful is that everything can be automated. You just have to create your segmentation rules, and your EMS will take care of the rest.
3. Design eye-catching emails
Now that you have a qualified list, you need to communicate with them.
While many of us don’t jump to open every promotional email we receive, we may just stick around for a beautifully-designed email that has personalized content just for us. You can do the same, with no designer and no code. You can use pre-built templates, or build your own, all styled up to match your brand.
Most people read their emails on mobile devices, so it is also important to make sure that your email is mobile-friendly. That is what we call a responsive design: a design that loads, displays, fits and adapts perfectly to any desktop, laptop or mobile screen. Otherwise, you could lose business and people might just end up unsubscribing because of the poor experience.
4. Be compliant
There are local and international guidelines to take into account in order to be compliant with email marketing. This is particularly true in Europe with the GDPR rules, for instance.
EMS tools are designed to follow those guidelines, removing the tricky compliance guesswork for you. Like including an easily accessible “unsubscribe” link, along with your company’s address — an EMS will ensure your email campaigns meet the requirements, so that you can operate according to current laws and regulations.
5. Increase deliverability
Along with compliance, one of the biggest barriers to email marketing is spam.
Even though someone might subscribe to your list with permission based marketing, it does not mean that they will necessarily receive your email. Way too many emails end up in spam or the promotional filters and it is something email marketing tools are taking very seriously.
EMS will ensure that your emails are sent from high-quality IP addresses which helps avoid getting flagged by spam filters.
That is why using an EMS can help you increase your open rate and deliverability so you can reliably reach more subscribers. This is key as the more times spam filters give the green light for your emails to pass through, the better your deliverability will become over time.
Ending up in your subscribers' email inboxes is a long-term game, and using an EMS will give you the best chance of winning.
6. Send in bulk
One of the main reasons marketers use EMS is to deliver emails to huge lists. With platforms like Gmail or Outlook, bulk sending is complicated and can also be flagged by servers, which will put your emails in spam. And as we’ve seen before, this is no good.
Using email marketing software helps you remove those limits and keep your domain and brand safe. As long as your contacts have opted-in, you can send bulk emails to hundreds, thousands, even millions of subscribers, in just one click.
7. Automate sequences of triggered emails
At Makerpad, we are all about automation — clever automation.
Yes, emails can be great for welcoming your subscribers or sending a confirmation email, but to really improve your sales and marketing results, you need to get smart with automation. Creating a sequence of emails that are automated and based on triggered events will ensure you're sending the right messages at the right time, without you needing to manually check or remember to do it.
Did your customer not complete checkout? Design a reminder email that will be sent automatically.
Have some of your subscribers gone cold and stopped engaging with your emails? You could set up a sequence that emails them 3 or 4 times over the course of 2 weeks giving them the option to opt in, and tags them if they don't so you can delete them from your database.
Maybe you want to qualify your leads through lead-scoring, so that by the time they're scored as a prospect you know they're ready to buy. Try automating a self-paced email course to do this for you.
Your audience has different moments in the purchasing cycle: awareness, education, comparison, purchase intentions, etc. Automating sequences of emails ensures your subscribers get the most relevant emails at the best possible moment.
8. Monitor analytics
So you've put in the hard work, and you're successfully sending emails — some personalized, and some automated. Congratulations!
The next step is where the sophistication of email marketing tools can really shine.
You need to understand what is working and what is not with your emails, otherwise you might just end up wasting your time, resources, energy and money. EMS tools offer various analytical tracking features, like open rate and click-through rates, subscriber demographics, links clicked (and when and by whom), and much more.
Take advatange of email marketing analytics offered by your software. The data will help you understand your subscriber preferences and reevaluate your email campaign strategy, segmentation, and schedules.
9. A/B test frequently
Along with monitoring, you should constantly be A/B testing. Marketing is both an art and a science — there is never a fixed behavior pattern with consumers. Each subscriber is different and you might spot new trends over time. A/B testing will help you gauge the best strategy to adopt, making sure that you get bang for your buck!
Many EMS tools come with A/B testing features that will help you craft two or more different emails to send to a small batch, and assess the recipe that performs best.
For best results, it is recommended to make only one change at a time. For example, change just a title, instead of a title and picture — this way, you will know where the difference really lies if results change.
You can then send the winning email to a larger portion of your audience and enjoy better results at a larger scale.
10. Integrate with other platforms
Last, but not least, many EMS platform integrate very easily with other platforms, like Google Analytics, YouTube, Shopify, and WordPress, to name a few. Synchronizing your EMS with your ecosystem will help you streamline your operations with real time data across multi channels.
This will help automate more work and optimize your email marketing strategy for increasingly better results.
11. Retarget and maximize your subscribers potential
If you're just starting out with email marketing and social media, retargeting will open up a whole new world of possibility and value!
The key to retargeting is in its name: it's a method of targeting your audience on one channel, then getting in front of them again on another. You can integrate your social media accounts with an EMS tool to achieve this.
For example, when you send an email campaign, some subscribers will click on your link(s) but not take the action you hoped for (like purchasing your product). Retargeting automatically through your EMS enables you to display ads on social media (mainly Facebook and Instagram) to the subscribers that clicked those links. This is a great way of ensuring your brand and products stay front of mind for people, which will increase your chances of making sales.
Choosing the right email marketing tool for your business
As we mentioned above, not every EMS offers the same services. Beyond the main players, there are now many niche tools that cater to very specific requirements and outcomes. That’s why it’s important to take your goals into consideration. Some will work, while others may not be a great fit. The best way to find the right tool is to ask for a free demo (if it's not already offered); many tools also provide free trials.
In the end, email marketing is about sending the right message to the right user at the right time. Remember that if your needs evolve, you can always change email platforms. Also, no EMS tool can own your email list — you’re free to export it and move it to a new tool at any time.
Now that you have all the information you need, here’s a little checklist with things to keep in mind that will help you choose the right EMS tool in the ocean of options.
- How many subscribers do you have, or aim to have?
- How much time and money do you want to invest in an EMS tool?
- Do you have the capability to design your own templates from scratch?
- How often will you be sending emails?
- Will you be sending emails for myself, or do you also plan on sending emails on behalf of a client or customer?
- Are there any apps or programs that you may need your platform to integrate with?
By answering these questions, you should be able to get a better idea of which platform is best for your specific needs.
Remember: being in their inbox is a privilege!
Lastly, in his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin said of email marketing that it is “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
When you have been granted the opportunity to stay connected with your subscriber list, it means they have made room for your mails in their inbox — you must treat this as a privilege. So, don’t misuse this opportunity and always remember that while your emails may be automated, there is in fact a person on the other end. It’s not just an email address.