Planning to go out shopping for an email marketing software? While truly appreciating your decision of taking this gutsy step towards marketing and promoting your business/blog/website online, I, at the same time would love to give you free advice about the features you should be looking for when deciding between different software.
Just to make sure that the I don’t let the virtues of humility slip off my hands, I won’t boast expertise in the niche of the email marketing. However, having tested more than a couple of software myself definitely gives me an edge over you. Of course, if you haven’t tried any such software before.
So why not learn from my experience?
In this online world, the last thing you need is going through the prolonged trial-and-error phase and waste your time and money in something which does not even fulfill your basic needs.
So the need of the hour is to play smart. Learn from others experiences and mistakes and create your own sets of new mistakes. This is how the world moves ahead.
So let’s start.
12 Features to Look For When Shopping for an Email Marketing Software
#1. Offers Free Trial Period
This is quite obvious. Test it before you use it. That should be your motto. In fact, this feature will give you the ability to gauge other features as well that I will describe below. So make sure that before subscribing for an autoresponder, it offers you a trial period.
Since almost every email marketing responder now offers a free trial period, the ranking criteria that I’d suggest would be to check if:
- Do they ask for the credit card details even for the trial period? Some software do that. Although they won’t charge anything, however, according to them having the credit card details beforehand makes the odds in favor of closing the sale. While there’s no problem in it but just in case you’re not comfortable with the software and don’t want to carry on any further, removing credit card details can be a bit of an unnecessary trouble. So you can always rank those email marketing software lower on your list which ask for your card details.
- The average trial period offered by most of the prominent email marketing software is 30 days. So you can rank software in your list on the basis of who offers the longest period of the trial.
- What features are offered during the trial period? Make sure you ask this question from your potential software vendor as some offer the trial account with restricted features. Another important question to ask is that how many email subscribers you will be allowed to deal with during your trial period. For e.g. the autoresponder that I use, allows interacting with 250 email subscribers on my list during the trial period. Some may even allow you “forever free” account as well (up to a limited number of emails) but will restrict the most vital features and you’d need to pay for them. Thus making it impossible to test important features. So make sure that you keep all of this in your mind when you decide to avail the trial period.
#2. Intuitive User Interface
With all the different issues that you have to deal with being an entrepreneur, the last thing you’d need is to get lost in the convoluted labyrinth of the user interface. Trying to figure out how’d you perform a particular function.
Of course, this is a highly subjective matter. There’s no clear-cut objective guideline of what makes an interface intuitive. What I may find intuitive may not be the same case for you. And that’s why I recommend seeking a trial period for the email marketing software before you decide to dive in completely.
Check if the interface feels “natural”, smooth and fluid. Options are placed where you think should be. Rank your choices on the basis of these attributes.
#3. Automation for Basic and Advanced Functions
The email marketing software that you’re testing should allow you to automate not only the basic functions but also the advanced features as well. What this means is that while you can schedule your emails, decide when and what email to send when your subscriber signs up for your email list, you should also be able to implement and automate different case scenarios.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you send a weekly email to your email list.
Some of them open it, some of them may also click the link within that email and some may outright ignore and never open the email.
You must be able to assign different action-plans for the above different scenarios. What email to send to the different “segments” of your email lists. Quickly respond with an email when one of your subscribers abandons the cart. In fact, you don’t even need to bother about organizing different “segments” yourself. Just set the rules and the software will take care of it.
Imagine all of this tasks taking place with minimum human intervention. How easy your life and yet how effective your email marketing campaign would be?
So the crux of this point is that when shopping for an email marketing software just dig in a bit deeper and investigate the extent of automation your vendor provides.
#4. Responsive Support
Of course, you don’t plan to get along with the email marketing software all by yourself. Many features will not work the first time. Some features will outright break. In that case, what you need is a responsive support from the software makers.
Sometimes searching the internet for your issue takes a lot of time and therefore, not practical at all. So make sure that you get the support which is helpful as well as offers response rapidly.
For e.g. my email marketing software offers me 24/7 chat support and most of the time I’m the very first person in the queue. So I have my queries resolved with minimum time spared.
#5. Healthy Community
Having a vibrant and active community gets you a long way. When signing up for an autoresponder, see if there are social media pages of the software. Join it and see what is normally discussed over there. Is it just for the marketing or do they offer technical support as well.
See if there are forums on the software’s website. Open it up and assess the nature of issues discussed over there. See how many forum threads receive admin’s feedback frequently?
#6. Top Notch Documentations and Guides
Email marketing is not just about capturing email addresses and then shooting emails at them. Just like other forms of marketing, it’s an art with the modicum of science. One needs to master the ins and outs of it before he can reap the full advantage.
This journey from being a novice to becoming a pro can be shortened provided that you have access to impeccable guides and instructional documentation. See if the vendor provides you the opportunity of learning the tricks of the trade not just related to using their software but also the email marketing in general.
Remember, the email marketing software is just a tool and you cannot go any farther just by using it if you’re not equipped with the necessary knowledge and know-how of the field.
And the best way to get yourself abreast with the necessary knowledge is learning from the experts in the fields. Those who have committed their share of mistakes and are willing to share their experiences. Make sure that you check if your software vendor conducts regular webinars and/or operates a blog where they share tips on a regular basis.
#7. Tracks Performance Using Comprehensive Reports and A/B Split Tests
All your efforts in designing and executing your email marketing campaigns will be for naught if you don’t have the comprehensive reports indicating the performance of your key indicators.
In fact, you won’t even be able to gauge your performance when you won’t receive any feedback that’s comprehensive in nature as well as updates almost instantaneously.
Moreover, the opportunity to perform A/B split tests is of paramount nature.
With A/B Testing coupled with the extensive, thorough and real-time reporting, you’d be able to fine-tune your performance and see what actually works. This prevents the chances of you leaving some easy money on the table which you’d have been able to earn with just some minor tweaks.
So, when deciding between the potential candidates of email marketing software, just make sure that you confirm that the vendor provides with rich reporting and A/B split testing features.
I’d like to stress that this can be regarded as one of the most important features so you should be prioritizing it.
The best way to check these features is of course when you’re using the trial version. Other than that, you can always ask for the sample (dummy) reports from the vendor in case the trial version does not offer a full-blown version of the reports and A/B split testing.
#8. Ability to Outsmart Spam Filters
This point does not mean that your email marketing software bypasses the spam filters of almost all the email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) no matter what content it has.
What having this feature means is that your software should tell you how likely your created email will land in the inbox of your subscriber instead of the junk folder or vice versa.
The difference between these two is that the later forces you to craft high-quality emails and prevents them to look spammy.
Imagine all your time and effort going in vain when your subscriber never gets to see your email (because of landing in the junk). Or even if it somehow gets past the spam filter, the overall look and feel of your email make your subscriber cringe. Thus affecting your conversion.
A good email marketing software keeps track of the numbers of link in the email vs the overall content, image size vs the total content email and dozens of other parameters to help you barge directly in the inbox of your subscribers and at the same time making it highly likely not to be discerned as a spam by your readers.
#9. Built-in Email Templates
Well, this is not as much necessary as other features but still, if you’re spending your hard-earned money on something, you better get the full value of it.
The advantage of built-in email templates is that you can pick a ready-made, eye-catching template, add your content to it and shoot the email to your list.
There’s no need to hire designers expensive to create soothing emails thus saving your money and time.
At the same time, these well-designed email templates have the potential of grabbing the attention of your readers and provide some sense of credibility. Thus increasing the “Click” rates and ultimately the conversion rates.
#10. Rich Email Design and Composition Tools
Well just having these ready-made templates is not enough. After all, you need to create the content of your own as when we talk about the content, we mostly mean the core text or message of your email.
Since the emails are normally opened through the internet browsers and therefore, require the help of HTML (sorry for being a bit technical) at its back-end to render, the email marketing software should provide the options to tweak the HTML to apply the minor changes on the go.
Having said that, this is also a fact that majority of the marketers are not acquainted with the technical knowledge. Therefore, what they need is a slick UI to apply changes in the same manner that a web developer would be able to do under the hood.
The email automation software should provide rich-text editing tool such as WYSIWYG so that one can take care of the features like the font-size to the indentation, overall styling, placement of images and other relevant stuff without possessing any in-depth technical knowledge.
Once an email is crafted, you should be able to see how it’d look like on different email clients, devices and screen sizes. One tardy way of doing this is by emailing yourself and then opening the email on different devices and email clients. But I’m sure that I don’t need to describe the limitations of this practice as you can discern them yourself.
A good email marketing software will show you how your email would look like on different mobile devices, tablets, desktops etc.
So make sure that the email marketing software that you subscribe for, has this feature. I’m sure you do not want to end up looking clumsy in front of your subscribers.
#11. Social Media Integrations
Today is the era of social media.
It’s not a secret that how much people are crazy about it. It’s projected that in 2019, there will be 2.77 billion people using the social media.
If your email automation software does not provide ample solutions to integrate with the prominent social media platforms then it shows that they do not keep themselves updated with the modern. Which, in turn, also means that they’re not up to date. So I’d recommend skipping the software and look for another one.
Some of the ways that the email marketing software allows integration with social media is by allowing you to create opt-in forms for the social media, updating social media posts whenever you create and send a newsletter.
It’s easy to check these features. Just google it or ask the support about the extent of the social media integrations.
#12. Economical Rates
As the famous saying goes that the person who stops advertising to save money is just like a person who does not buy a watch to save time.
Effective marketing is the lifeblood of a thriving business and not investing in this domain raises questions marks on the survival of the business (at least) in the long run.
However, at the same time, this also does not mean that you start lavishly spending on every marketing tool that you can get your hands on and expect your business to grow.
The key is to maintain a balance between the cost and the benefits.
So when going out for a shopping of an email marketing software, make sure you neither underspend nor overspend.
You should have a clear understanding of your business’s requirements. There’s a reason why the big companies perform a feasibility study before undertaking a project.
Granted, being a small business you wouldn’t have the same resources as the big guns to hire a team of experts to do the cost-benefit analysis for you. But this does not mean that you should not carry out this activity on your behalf.
Once you have the business requirements laid out in front of you which also includes the projection of your growth (which means that how many subscribers you’d want to deal with in ‘x’ numbers of years) you can start evaluating different email marketing software and their prices.
Just for an idea, the software that I’m using right now charges $15/month for 1,000 subscribers to $1,200/month for an enterprise level organization (more than 100,000+ subscribers).
In the same fashion, you can list down the prices and the associated benefits (including those explained above in this article) of the top autoresponders available out there in the market and then rank them from there.
The best way to use this article in search of your next email marketing software is by creating a checklist of these features and then assigning scores to each one of them. Whichever software scores the most, becomes the pick from the pot.
I hope that you will find this article helpful. However, if you feel that you don’t have the time of being that diligent and checking all the features explained above and therefore, prefer someone recommending you and email automation software straight away then I’d recommend using the one which I’m currently using.
It possesses all the features I’ve mentioned above. Additionally, they’re also currently providing a useful guide of increasing your conversion rates. In case you’re interested you can download as well as sign up for the software just by clicking the banner below.