Julia Liapidova, Faye, Pollack & Associates, Inc.
June 3, 2009
Today’s businesses have an almost overwhelming number of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications and email marketing tools to choose from. While a CRM application allows a company to efficiently manage all client and prospect data, it also serves to connect departments and provide a dashboard view of sales and marketing activity. By directly integrating a CRM with an email marketing service or by selecting a service that works with targeted contact lists exported from a CRM, companies can maintain contact with, as well as make sales to, existing clients and interested prospects at minimal cost.
What Can Email Marketing Help My Business Do?
Email marketing services allow organizations to distribute targeted, personalized email campaigns to select clients and prospects interested in the organization's products or services. Email marketing can be used to present recipients with special offers, maintain an accurate client database, advertise upcoming events, survey existing clients, track conversion rates of various marketing activities, and build and reinforce brand image through continuous contact, but most importantly, it can be used to generate sales.
For businesses in the beginning stages of exploration and evaluation of email marketing options, several affordable, frequently used services have been outlined below.
Reviews of iContact, Constant Contact, Bronto & Swiftpage
The selected services below share several core similarities important for the success of any email marketing program. These industry standard similarities are:
- Free trial offering (15-60 days)
- API (allows developers to integrate email marketing tools and services with software packages and applications already utilized by users) or direct integration with popular CRM packages
- Availability of free templates & access to design services (additional fees may apply)
- Ability to send text or HTML emails with rich formatting, images and links
- Click-through tracking
- Availability of information on bounces, opens, forwards, unsubscriptions
- "Send" lists from each campaign and SPAM compliance information
- Email aliases (allow each contact on the list to receive correspondence from the correct company representative regardless of who actually coordinates the mass distribution)
- Automatic removal of duplicate addresses and unsubscribers by email address
- SPAM testing and an “unsubscribe” link in the footer (to meet anti-SPAM regulations)
- Support that includes live chat, phone assistance, a web-based FAQ section, articles & resources
Priced competitively for small and medium sized businesses, iContact is offered at $19* per month for a list of 1,000 contacts. In addition to the aforementioned offerings, this package also allows users to set up auto responses, distribute surveys, and provides blogging and RSS feed features.
iContact also offers 500KB of image hosting, considerably more than similarly priced packages. Unlike some competitors, iContact also offers demographic-specific targeting, the ability to sort contacts into groups, and uses double opt-in to ensure that users on the mailing list have opted-in to receive the emails.
Visit the iContact website for the most up-to-date pricing information or to sign up for a 15-day free trial.
Constant Contact is competitively priced at $30* per month for 1,000 contacts and in addition to the services mentioned above, also offers demographic-specific targeting, the ability to sort contacts into groups, and double opt-in.
Constant Contact does not have a cap on how many emails can be sent each month, and for an additional fee, currently listed as $5* per service, also offers email archiving and access to an image library. Constant Contact does not offer the auto response or blogging and RSS functions made available by some competitors, but offers hundreds of templates and provides 200KB of image hosting.
Visit the Constant Contact website for the most up-to-date pricing information or to sign up for a 60-day free trial.
At roughly $83* per month for 1,000 contacts, Bronto is priced higher than some competing packages, but features several unique offerings. Specifically, Bronto offers conversion tracking as well as Google Analytics integration; by integrating with your organization’s website, Bronto provides sophisticated reports and analytics allowing for in-depth analyses of client and prospect behaviors that lead to sales. This allows marketing departments to establish which types of emails lead to which types of online sales and segment targeted clients and prospects with different interests and needs.
Additional features include demographic-specific targeting, group sorting functions, and use of double opt-in to ensure mailing list users have signed up to receive emails.
Visit the Bronto website for the most up-to-date pricing information or to sign up for a 30-day free trial.
While Swiftpage lacks demographic-specific targeting tools, group sorting options, and double opt-in for recipients, offered by some competitors in the same price range, the service differentiates itself by offering a variety of CRM-integrated packages and Drip Marketing. Swiftpage has produced versions for ACT!, SalesLogix (package pricing), SageCRM (package pricing), Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Excel, and is priced at roughly $29.95* (at a basic level) for 1,000 contacts.
CRM integration means that all marketing targeted at a specific contact is stored in his or her record, providing management, marketing and sales teams an accurate, comprehensive overview of all contact and outreach activity in one place.
Visit the Swiftpage website for the most up-to-date pricing information or to sign up for a 30-day free trial.
User reviews as well as industry rank reports provide a lot of additional information that can assist with making the best choice of email marketing service for your business. Additionally, the search function on Twitter can be used to track company buzz and quickly see what different users may be saying about a product or service.
Finally, if cost is a factor or list size is below 1,000, some email marketing service providers offer a free version, (i.e. MailChimp), or a very low cost alternative for smaller lists (i.e. Campaigner or Vertical Response).
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