Email marketing continues to be one of the most widely used methods for small-business owners to connect with existing customers, and with prospects. Research from the Radicati Group pegs revenue for this market at approximately $12 billion, and it's expected to surpass $16 billion by 2016.
One of the best-known companies among these service providers, Constant Contact, this week made two significant changes to its platform.
The first big update centers on contact management: essentially, Constant Contact is embedding a much richer set of reporting features into its native contact manager so that small businesses can more closely track relevant interaction information in context.
For example, you can see click-throughs, newsletter opens or event attendance figures within the contact. There's even a new "did not open" reporting capabilities. (Yes, the service is starting to look and sound sort of like a customer relationship management application.)
The other big change is focused on the MyLibrary component of Constant Contact, which is the place where subscribers store images and documents.
This feature now supports Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel document uploads (in addition to PDFs and images). What's more, you can drag and drop images directly from a computer desktop or from within Facebook or Instagram profiles.
There's also a new version of the Quickview mobile app for interacting with MyLibrary; it runs on both Android and Apple iOS. Despite its name, this isn't just a viewer": you can upload documents, edit files names, copy file URLS and so on.
The entry-level version of Constant Contact's email service starts at $15 per month for up to 500 contacts. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has been around since 1998. It counts more than 500,000 small-business customers.
Constant Contact isn't the only game in town, of course. As I was reading up on these updates, I was pinged by Montreal-based CakeMail, which also offers a service for managing email marketing campaigns. Its offering, called CakeMail 4 is a far slimmer service, with a focus on simplicity and ease of use: it allows contact management and personalized campaigns that can be generated using templates. The service starts at $8 per month, although you can use a sponsored version (you'll have to put up with ads) for free if you have fewer than 2,000 contacts.
CakeMail's private label version is used by more than 350 brands in 40 countries. The Montreal-based company was launched in 2007.