So you’ve been using the MailChimps and Constant Contacts of the world, and you’re just not getting the same value for your money as you were when you were sending two email campaigns per month to a modest customer list. Your customer base is growing, you’ve got lots of ideas in the marketing pipeline, and a growing list of recipients that you absolutely must communicate with three times over the next month. You want to send one campaign to unresponsive users on the West Coast, a “thank you” email to attendees of your most recent trade show, and what about those new customers who just used your product for the first time? Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from your email marketing platform, and it’s time to upgrade.
Considerations for choosing an email marketing platform
If you’re wondering if you’ve outgrown your email marketing software, one of the first things many startups consider is cost. As their customer list grows, they’re no longer eligible for the free packages that are available to smaller companies with less complex distribution lists and simpler marketing strategies. Even MailChimp and Constant Contact—tools that are considered to be the most cost-effective for new startups—become expensive as you begin sending more campaigns and grow your lists.
Next, you’ll want to consider the complexity of your email marketing strategy: How frequently are you sending emails? What level of segmentation are you looking for in order to deliver targeted messages to specific audiences? How critical is A/B testing to your content development? Many of the lighter-weight email marketing platforms do offer some segmentation capabilities, but they’re less flexible in terms of segmentation options. Once companies get more sophisticated and numbers-driven, especially those driven by customer activities and ecommerce, entry-level tools often can’t handle the data integration, targeting, segmenting, triggering and analysis that growing companies demand.
Another consideration is the size of your marketing department in relation to your company’s marketing strategy. Marketing groups tend to be understaffed in the early stages of a startup. One way to generate big results from a small group is to invest in a powerful email marketing service that can automate most, if not all, of the manual distribution, triggering, targeting and segmentation that might be necessary with a more rudimentary email marketing tool.
Who should you be looking at to conquer your more advanced email marketing tasks?
Check out HubSpot. In addition to large email campaigns, this tool will allow you to manage inbound leads (whitepaper downloads, blog, contact forms, etc.). Consider it your all-in-one inbound marketing platform. “This is a no-brainer,” says an anonymous founder. “HubSpot is much easier to use than any other product out there. All other marketing tools are made by engineers, but HubSpot is actually made by marketers. You've got your email, analytics, lifecycle tracking and lead management all in one place.”
Other email marketing tools that fall into this category include Marketo, Pardot, Optify, Act-On and Infusionsoft. Almost all of these platforms integrate with Salesforce, which is a must as you begin managing a large customer database. And for event-based emails Customer.io is a good choice, and is effective for companies of all sizes.
Buyer beware: These tools are expensive, and there’s a big price jump between them and MailChimp, Sailthru or any of their equivalents. But many consider a powerful email marketing system integral to an effective marketing strategy, and it’s a cost they’re willing to fork up because they see the value in running complex campaigns with deep analytics behind them to drive success.