Email marketing isn't going away: 9 services to help

For all the hype over social media and customer analytics investments, there's still plenty of money being spent on email marketing campaigns.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Although you hear far less these days about email marketing than social media strategy or the need for customer analytics technology, it still accounts for about 9.6 percent of the typical company's digital marketing spend — about the same percentage as those other two areas, according to figures from Gartner.

Separate data forecasts from Forrester size the annual spend for email marketing campaigns at approximately $2.46 billion for 2016, up from $1.5 billion last year. And another recent report, from an analytics vendor called Custora, suggests that email is a far more effective way to drive more sales to ecommerce sites than banner ads, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media alternatives.

In that context, is it time for your small business to reconsider its email marketing strategy? Another telling development comes from SumAll, which offers an analytics service that helps small businesses gauge which of their social media marketing efforts are most effective. The last update to the suite adds support for email metrics, specifically those for Constant Contact, MailChimp, and SendGrid.

Speaking of which, if your company is just getting started, here are 9 services that cater to the needs of small businesses, and that focus mainly on email marketing. (Some other options, such as Infusionsoft or HubSpot also, technically, provide broad marketing tools that include email services, but I'm focusing on those that make email the primary focus.) My description for each focus on the areas in which the service is supposedly differentiated from competitive offerings.

  • AWeber: If your small businesses has invested in blogging with WordPress, this service includes close integration with that platform. It offers templates, customization, and basic analytics capabilities. Pricing starts at $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers.

  • Campaigner: J2 Global, the company behind the eFax service, is also in the email marketing game. Some of its key benefits include specialized spam filters and application programming interfaces (APIs) that connect it with other cloud-based services for small businesses. Basic pricing starts at $10 per month for 0 to 1,000 contacts.

  • Constant Contact: Certainly a leader in terms of name recognition, it was one of the first to really focus on social media integration. The company also offers training and coaching, and the service comes with an anti-spam checker. Constant Contact has invested in partnerships through its MarketPlace program that extend its content creation and campaign capabilities. One recent example is an alliance with GrubHub. Pricing starts at $15 per month for 0 to 500 contacts.

  • GetResponse: The service includes everything from auto-responders to landing page creators to "list boosters" through integrations with other applications. Aside from its small business focus, it offers enterprise pricing plans, so the platform is robust enough to scale as your company grows. Pricing starts at $15 per month for up to 1,000 subscribers.

  • iContact: Owned by social marketing services company Vocus, the service has been around since 2003. It boosts all sorts of pre-integrations with cloud apps, including Salesforce.com, Big Commerce, and Magento, as well as blogging platforms, including WordPress. It starts at $14 per month for up to 500 subscribers.

  • JangoMail: This service may not be as well known as some of the others on the list, but it focuses on customization and personalization. The lists used for sending campaigns can be pulled from many different sources on your company's local area network or from web-based resources; there are special features that help your emails get around spam rules, and you can use advanced personalization, including foreign languages. Pricing starts at $25 per month for up to 2,500 emails.

  • MailChimp: One declared differentiator is that the service lets you send emails from a mobile app. You can also split campaigns to test the effectiveness of slightly different messages. Pricing is based on the number of emails sent per month. It is free for up to 12,000 emails sent to between 0 and 2,000 subscribers; it starts at $10 per month for unlimited emails to 0 to 500 subscribers.

  • SendGrid: The service got its start as the management infrastructure for helping companies keep their subscriber lists up to date. The new email marketing service was actually launched in June. Like the other options, it includes templates, scheduling, and campaign analytics. One of its advantages is the company's experience in ensuring that emails are delivered to people who actually want them. Another differentiator is the pricing, which is volume based. It starts at $9.95 per month, which gives your company 40,000 email credits.

  • Vertical Response: Like Constant Contact, the company is busy forging partnerships and integrations that enable companies to connect email marketing with social media platforms — as well as customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Its pricing twist: It lets you pay as you go, starting at 1.5 cents per email for up to 1,000 emails.

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