Choosing an email marketing service

I’m a lurker, for lack of a better descriptor, in lots of different online groups targeted to to entrepreneurs and small biz owners. Many people join groups as a place to market themselves, but I like to “listen” to others, to see what questions and problems people have that I might be able to answer. This post was inspired by one of those questions.

The poster was question which email marketing service they *should* be using for their business. They have one email marketing service set up, but the person who set it up is no longer working with them. The poster now has to manage their newsletter and is nervous about tech, in general. They are eager to implement what they are learning from a list building course but want to make sure they’re doing it *right*.

Does that sound familiar? Are you sitting there, reading this, thinking, “Gosh, that sounds like me!”

The poster asked a group of thousands of entrepreneurs (with different types of businesses and different needs and different preferences and different experience levels and different budgets) and so, of course, they are going to get all kinds of different answers. And most of those are very unhelpful comments like “I use X” with no context about whether it’s good or bad or if they love it or hate it, and what they’re doing with their business.

Here’s what I said to the poster:

“The best email marketing system is the one you’ll actually use. I’ve had clients that love MailChimp and some that hate it, and the same could be said for all the other platforms. The key is to figure out what YOU need, and what works for YOU, not just what’s recommended by the gurus.

Before you take your list to another provider, you should maybe try a reengagement campaign with your list and see who should stay on and who you should clean off. If they haven’t heard from you since they signed up, they may have forgotten they signed up and are more likely to mark you as spam or unsubscribe – both of which could hurt your rating with MailChimp (or any other email service provider, especially if it’s shortly after you moved to their platform.)

Don’t make any big moves today. Figure out what you want from your email marketing, and who should stay on your list and who should go, and then decide what’s the best option for you and your goals.”

Lets look at all of that in a little more detail.

What are you email marketing goals?

The first step, really, is to determine what you want your email marketing to do for you. Are you using it just to share your information with your audience? Are you wanting to deepen the relationship with your customers? Are you hoping to use the list to sell products and services to? Do you have the impression that you can email your list out of the blue with an offer and the money is just going to start streaming in?

First of all, let set some realistic expectations. Especially if you’re brand new to using an email marketing list, you’re not really likely to have money just streaming in with every offer. You have to work up to that.

Any of the other things are realistic goals, but it will take some time to get there, and it does take some effort to accomplish.

Roles & Responsibility (& Reality)

I know that I had (and still do have, occasionally) some lofty thoughts about how easily I can write a newsletter, so that’s another point that you need to be realistic about. If writing content is hard for you (for whatever reason) then you need to have a good plan for handling that, whether that means batching the content, which is writing it all in one block of time for schedule publication, or maybe that means hiring someone to write it for you.

There are several different options when it comes to content for your newsletter.

  • Send your blog posts out to your list, either as a RSS Campaign, or copy & paste into your email marketing service. If you’re going to be publishing content to your site on a regular basis, this may be the easiest option for you to start with. This will ensure that your list does hear from you on a somewhat regular basis, and without a whole lot of extra effort on your part.
  • Use part of your blog post as a teaser on your newsletter and invite them to go to your site to read the rest. This is a good tactic to get more traffic to your website, but really depends on your knowing your audience, as they may not be willing/interested in taking that extra step to read the content.
  • Use related but completely different content for your newsletter and link to your blog content. As an example (clearly not what I’m doing) if your blog content is a recipe, perhaps the newsletter content is the story of how you came up with the recipe or why your family likes it – you know, they story that precedes the recipe on most sites but is completely frustrating to visitors.

Also, when you’re just getting started with this whole process, start out with a lower frequency. So many you aim for once a month or once every two weeks to begin with, with the intention of increasing to weekly or multiple times a week. If you find the whole process stressful and time consuming, you are way less likely to do it as often in the beginning, so give your self some grace and breathing room while you are adjusting to the new workflow.

List Health

If you have an existing list that you haven’t emailed often (or ever), you might want to check your email list health before you start to use them more frequently. Since email marketing services rely on the deliverability of emails from their platform, they are mindful of issues such as bounced emails or getting marked as spam. If too many of the addresses on your list have deliverability problems, your account could get suspended or closed.

Emailable is a service I’ve used to verify that the addresses on the list are still valid. They will let you know if the email addresses are likely to be undeliverable or risky.

screenshot of report from Emailable showing pie chart with 78.9% Deliverable highlighted

When you’re reasonably sure that you have a healthy list, you can start with a resurrection or reengagement campaign. Once you get through that, you can follow it up with a Welcome Series, since they’re getting to know you again.

Tip: If you’re not sure what to write in a List Resurrection Series or a Welcome Series, check out the Email Marketing Fairy templates from Kate Doster. These templates are great for when you’re paralyzed with writer’s block trying to come up with your emails to your list.

Your Comfort Level

There are so many different email marketing services out there, and they all have different features and benefits, and learning curves. Sometimes, the bells and whistle also dramatically increase the learning curve. Before you commit to a platform or service, you need to make sure it’s one that you can comfortable use so that the tech frustration isn’t the thing that keeps you from doing the work.

Most email marketing services offer a short trial period, which you could use to see how easy or complicated it is to create a template, set up a newsletter campaign, set up an autoresponder campaign, etc.

It might be that you need to start with one of the easier to use platforms now, while you get used to the process and workflow of sending out content on a regular basis, and then you can change to a different service later that offers more features or better meets your changing needs and abilities.

Do you need help getting started?

If you need help getting your email marketing account set up, or would like some 1:1 training to get you through the hurdles, reach out and let’s talk.

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