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.
- 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