We compare and review email marketing services. It's what we do.
Email marketing services
Email marketing services comparison chart for 2017
Email marketing services explained
Email marketing services can help you send out all kinds of messages, like company newsletters or details of time-limited offers. A good email marketing service should distribute your emails to recipients quickly, tell you when they have been delivered, and show you how many people open the email or click on links.
Although you can use your regular email service to send out marketing emails, it’s not usually a good idea. Email marketing services can deliver thousands of emails quickly - that’s important if you’re sending out details of a time-limited offer.
They also include a whole host of features to help ensure your messages are not classified as junk email. After all, you don’t want all your hard work to end up in someone’s spam folder.
See how people react to your emails
What’s more, email marketing services give you valuable information about how people react to your messages. Most will measure how many emails get opened (the ‘open rate’) and how many people click links in your email (the ‘click through rate’).
You might also be able to access a ‘heatmap’ indicating which areas of your messages get clicked on most. Relevant messages almost always get a better response, so it’s worth considering an email marketing service which allows you to send out targeted emails. For instance, you could split your list of recipients into several groups, then send each a unique email designed to appeal to them.
A cost-effective way to reach a big audience
Don’t neglect the importance of maintaining your email list: your email marketing service should include an ‘unsubscribe’ option so people who aren’t interested in your messages can opt out of receiving them. You might even be legally required to provide this facility.
Compared with other communication methods like mailing a letter, email marketing is a very cost-effective way to reach lots of people. And because most services charge a small fee for each individual email you send, you can usually try them out at a low cost.
To narrow your choice of email marketing services, consider these key items.
Mailing list management
It’s important your email marketing service allows you to upload lists of email addresses, so you don’t have to type them in. Ensure it’s easy for people to opt-out of receiving your messages too.
Targeting and segmentation options can help you boost response rates by grouping similar recipients. However, they take time to get to grips with, so don’t pay much extra for them at first.
Finally, look for a service which protects your data from hackers with encryption (sometimes called ‘SSL’).
If you don’t have experience of building emails from scratch, look for built-in templates which you can adapt to create your own emails. Alternatively, if you’re comfortable building emails, or work with a professional designer, pick a service that gives you access to the HTML code your email is made from.
Messages may display differently depending on what software they are viewed with, so choose an email marketing service which lets you preview your email before you send it. Also ensure you can include a plain text version of the message for people who prefer to receive emails without images, colors or fancy formatting.
Most importantly, your email marketing service must be able to send out emails fast. This is vital for time-sensitive messages like special offers – if possible, run a trial mailing to check the speed.
Also look for a ‘spam score’ function, so you can check how likely a message is to be trapped by junk email filters. Scheduled delivery can also be useful, allowing you to set up an email which will send automatically at a particular time. Finally, you may want to look for a testing function, so you can try two different versions of an email and see which performs best.
At the very least, get an email marketing service that can tell you how many of your emails get delivered, how many are opened by recipients, and which links get clicked on most. You can use this information to improve other messages you send.
A flexible contract
Most email marketing services allow you to send a certain number of emails each month. Choose a service you can try at a fairly low price, without getting tied to a long contract. Look for flexibility too, so you can start sending more emails without paying excessive extra charges.
Ease of use
To find an easy-to-use email marketing service, check the company’s website for video demos and screenshots and make sure they explain things in plain language. Also look for a getting started guide and step-by-step ‘wizard’ to walk you through sending your first email. Best of all, find a free trial so you can test the service.
Help and support
All email marketing services should provide comprehensive help information online and give you a way to send messages to the support team. However, it’s usually worth finding a provider offering telephone support – and if email marketing is crucial to your business, get a service level agreement (SLA). This guarantees you a certain response time in the event of problems.
Here are our answers to the most common questions about email marketing services.
Q. What is an email marketing service?
An email marketing service allows you to send out an email to a large group of people at once. It’s useful for sending email newsletters, information about special offers and any other messages that need to go to a group of people.
Q. Is email marketing effective?
Yes, as long as the emails contain relevant information and are sent to appropriate people at the right times. Typical response rates vary, but can be around 4% - meaning an email sent to 1,000 people could generate 40 enquiries for your business.
Q. Do I need technical knowledge to use an email marketing service?
No, although it depends which service you choose. Some make it very easy to build and send emails: all you have to do is upload your list of addresses, pick a template for your email, add some text and click ‘send’. The best way to find out if a service is easy to use is to take a free trial, if possible.
Q. What’s wrong with using Microsoft Outlook (or another email program) to send marketing emails?
You can use programs like Microsoft Outlook to send out emails to small groups of recipients. However, you won’t be able to easily see which recipients opened the message or clicked links, and you’ll struggle to manage an opt-out process for your mailing list. Sending larger mailings this way is completely impractical. Standard email software isn’t designed for this, and you could clog up your email systems or block messages being sent to you. An email marketing service is the best option in virtually all circumstances.
Q. How do we stop our emails being caught by spam filters?
This is a big problem in email marketing – if a message is caught by spam filters, it may never reach its intended recipients. To combat this, your email marketing service should be able to test a message before you send it, flagging up anything which might cause it to be identified as spam.
Q. Where can we find a list of email addresses to send messages to?
If you’re a business or organization with an existing customer base, collect the email addresses of customers when they contact you or place an order. Make sure you get permission to send them marketing emails. You can also rent lists of email addresses from specialist companies called list brokers. These lists may contain addresses of people who work in certain types of companies, who have particular interests or who fit a certain profile. If you do decide to rent a list, make sure you use a reputable broker. Some unscrupulous dealers trade lists of addresses without seeking permission first.
Q. How important is the design of our marketing emails?
It’s very important. Your email needs to encourage recipients to take an action – whether it’s to click a link, pick up the phone or something else. Having a good design is vital to achieving that.
Q. Why don’t you review all email marketing services here?
There are hundreds of competing email marketing services, so we’ve picked what we think is a fair cross-section of what’s available. It simply wouldn’t be possible for us to include every service on this page, but you should still be able to find one that meets your needs.
If you’ve never used email marketing services before, you might not be familiar with all of the jargon used. Here’s our guide to the key terms.
If someone who has received one of your marketing emails replies to it, an auto responder will automatically send a message back to them. Auto responders are often used to let the sender of an email know that the address they’ve emailed is not checked regularly for new messages.
Emails which are returned to the sender without being delivered. Emails can bounce for a number of reasons – often because an address has been entered incorrectly or because the recipient’s email inbox is not functioning properly. Your email marketing service should be able to detect how many emails bounce for each mailing you send.
Click through rate
Indicates what percentage of people who opened an email have clicked a link within it. The click through rate is calculated by dividing the number of times the email was opened (see ‘open rate’, below), by the number of times links were clicked on. Click through rate is usually used as a rough indication of how well an email performed. For instance, if an email was opened 100 times and two links were clicked, the click through rate would be 2%. Most email marketing services can calculate the click through rate automatically.
Extra information stored with each email address in your mailing list. Demographic fields might include information about each recipient’s job, age, location or interests. You can use demographic fields to target your emails at specific groups of people. For example, you might only want to contact people in your local area.
Duplicate email address
An email address which appears in a mailing list more than once. Your email marketing service should check for duplicate email addresses before sending an email. This ensures nobody receives more than one copy of your message.
The computer code used to create emails which include different text sizes, fonts, images and colors. If your email marketing service cannot send HTML emails, you will be restricted to sending basic emails consisting only of text.
A list of email addresses stored by your email marketing service. When you send out an email, you send it to a mailing list. You might have one or more mailing lists, depending on who you want to send your marketing emails to.
Indicates what percentage of people who received an email opened it. Most email marketing services can measure open rate automatically.
An ‘opt-in’ emailing is one which people have specifically said they wish to receive. In many countries, marketing emails must be sent on an opt-in basis, to ensure that all recipients have actively indicated they are happy to receive marketing emails.
Junk email. Most people have a spam filter checking email they receive. This detects junk messages automatically. It’s important your marketing emails are not classified as spam.
A system used to accurately display the text in emails you send. Unicode is a ‘character set’ – a list of thousands of letters, punctuation marks and symbols used in different languages around the world. Email marketing services use Unicode to ensure emails can be correctly viewed by as many recipients as possible.
The email addresses of people who have indicated they no longer wish to receive emails from you. It’s important your email marketing service has a way to track unsubscribed contacts, so you can make sure you don’t send any more emails to them.