Which E-mail Marketing Service is Right for You?

One of the best ways to communicate with customers and clients is through e-mail. It’s relatively inexpensive and it allows you to have your customer’s undivided attention.
 If you’re not communicating with your customers this way, I strongly encourage you to do so.

In the past few days, I’ve communicated with a number of people on Twitter about which e-mail programs I use. There are hundreds of services out there and it can be overwhelming to determine which one is the best bang for your buck. As with anything in life, the cheapest option isn’t always best.

There are two e-mail services I have used and would highly recommend to businesses and non-profits – Emma and MailChimp. Here’s a run-down of each service based on my experience:

  • Design: Unlike other e-mail programs, Emma provides you with a customized e-mail template to use for your campaigns. This ensures your e-mail campaigns are styled to match your brand. When designing individual campaigns, Emma provides a number of pre-designed layouts. Because the layouts dictate where the text and photos are located, they can be somewhat inflexible and the editor can be a bit cumbersome to use.
  • Analytics: Emma has recently redesigned their product and this really shows in the response section. They offer nice graphs to show opens over time and even give you the ability to compare campaigns. Their dashboard also makes it easy to access more detailed data with just a few clicks.
  • Customer Support: Emma offers phone support from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CST. If that doesn’t cut the mustard, they have an online library of questions to help you solve the issue until you’re able to get in contact during business hours.
  • Cost: Start-up businesses and non-profits pay $99 to get started with the Emma, and established companies pay $249, which includes custom stationery design. Emma charges $30 a month for lists of up to 1,000 subscribers. Non-profits receive a 20 percent discount on all services. Emma has recently added survey integration and analytics for free. This is a great added benefit if you need to create event registrations, customer surveys or feedback forms.

  • Design: While MailChimp has some pre-designed templates, it hangs its hat on an easy-to-use HTML editor. To help you get started, MailChimp imports your Web site’s logo and colors to use as the e-mail header. If you don’t like that option, you can upload an image file and MailChimp will automatically create select colors to match. With MailChimp, you can create a number of e-mail templates to use for your various campaigns. MailChimp is also dead simple to use when building each campaign. Their campaign editor allows you to place images wherever you like.
  • Analytics: MailChimp has a beautifully designed reports dashboard with pie charts showing which e-mails were opened, bounced, etc. You can also see where your e-mails were opened on a world map. To get more detailed data, such as which recipients clicked on each link, you have to purchase a one-time add-on for $49.
  • Customer support: MailChimp has a detailed knowledge base that answers most of the basic questions users will have. They offer e-mail and live chat support from 9:00 to 5:00 EST. Unfortunately, they do not offer phone support, which can be difficult when troubleshooting more advanced problems.
  • Cost: There’s no sign-up cost to use MailChimp, and their freemium pricing model allows businesses to use the service for free for lists with less than 500 subscribers. For lists up to 1,000 recipients, users only pay $15. If you’re a non-profit, you get a 15 percent discount for using the service.

The Bottom Line

If you are a small business with a list of fewer than 500 recipients or simply on a tight budget, I recommend MailChimp. For a free service, MailChimp can’t be beat. The e-mails look polished and the service is easy to use. The main downside to MailChimp is its lack of phone support.

For businesses that want a custom-designed template and don’t have the ability to design one, Emma can’t be beat. The extra money up front saves a lot of businesses the time and trouble of setting up their own stationary. And, it will likely look better too. Emma’s account representatives and full phone support make this service a great choice for business that want more personalized service from their e-mail service provider.

Which e-mail marketing service do you use and why? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Image credit: Mzelle Biscotte

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Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

9 replies on “Which E-mail Marketing Service is Right for You?”

Hi, Laura- I’m glad you turned this into a post! I definitely see why you were recommending MailChimp. My site is currently undergoing a makeover, so it might be the perfect time to switch services and give MC a try. Thanks again!

Be careful with Mail Chip they are very very pick as to who they choose to be their clients. I have had clients turned down because they were not using the server for newsletters only and instead were going to be sending out marketing type sales emails to folks who had already opted in to the emails. The response that was provided by MC was that they felt that there was not a clear enough opt in process and the email content was to “spammy”.

I have had experience with Constant Contact, Exact Target, Email Direct and a few others. Constant Contact would be geared toward your start up small biz that needs a fast quick cheap solution where your Email Direct or Exact target are a little costly but worth the extra cash.

Glad you like MailChimp, Mark!

Adam – Thanks for the feedback and perspective. So far, I’ve not had that trouble with MailChimp. The only issue I ran into was with doing an internal e-letter and the server kept detecting MailChimp as spam. We had to white list the IP addresses to get the messages through. I have had a little experience with Constant Contact, but I don’t like their interface and feel their analytics aren’t as good. Their templates just don’t do it for me either, but that’s just my opinion. I know some people really like them.

Like all things you get what you pay for. If you are willing to pay a little extra for your efforts you will get more flexibility and more control over your templates. Some email companies will let you use your own templates as long as you know basic html and follow a brief rule set.

You’re absolutely right, Adam. I think that Emma is a fantastic service, which is why that would be my first choice. But, for companies or organizations that can’t stomach the upfront cost, MailChimp is a great cost-effective alternative.

I’ve heard great things about both of these services, but I use aWeber. I like the flexibility of design and the double opt-in option. They are also reasonably priced at 49 each quarter. The messages never go into spam, as far as I can tell, and their customer service is fabulous.

This is such a useful post — there are so many options, it can be hard for business owners to decide. Thanks so much Laura!!

Thanks for weighing in, Nona! I know that a number of bloggers use aWeber. I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about that service, but I’ve not used it myself. Have you ever used another service before choosing aWeber? What made you decide to use them? I’m curious about what sets it apart from the other services.

Right there with you. As much as I love supporting local businesses like Emma, MailChimp is the way to go for most small businesses – especially since their freemium model goes up to 2,000 now. Can’t beat that!

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