Despite any trends toward replacing email with things like instant messaging or video conferencing, mass emailing remains a staple when it comes to marketing tactics.
 
Choosing the right platform for these email marketing campaigns, however, can start to get…complicated. With all of the options out there, how are you to go about evaluating which is the best fit for your business?
 
After serving the technology needs of hundreds of DC-area businesses over the past two decades, it’s no surprise that we’ve fielded quite a few questions about what marketing platform we would recommend. It’s an important question to ask, and one we’re always happy to address when the need arises.
 
Unfortunately, the “one size fits all” concept doesn’t have much play in technology; while there are a few standard platforms that will fulfill most basic requirements, more complex needs will open the door to a full-blown evaluation.
 
To help get you get started down the right track, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important factors to consider when making your selection (and the factors we consider when helping our clients find the platform that best meets their needs).
 

What to look for in an email marketing platform

When it comes to evaluating the platforms and vendors out there, pay special attention to:

  • Personalization. Will your recipient receive the email as one of hundreds of blind-copied addresses? Will it send to them personally? Can you configure the platform to send through your own domain?
  • Volume. How many contacts are you able to store within the platform? How many different contact lists? Does deleting contacts remove them from your total count? Can you do this on your own, or will you need to contact your support team?
  • Tracking Mechanism. To what extent can you track contact interaction with your emails? Is reporting confined to each email send, or can you evaluate individual contacts over time? Can you add custom fields to your contact listings in order to enhance your tracking capabilities? Can you sort based on these fields?
  • Integration. To what extent will the platform integrate with other elements of your overall marketing strategy, such as your website analytics? Your CRM?
  • Opt-In/Opt-Out. How does the system manage opt-ins and opt-outs? Are the contacts automatically added or removed? Will you have to add or remove manually? Can you send to “opt-in” contacts only, or can you add others? Are you required to have a prior relationship with these contacts? How so?
  • Support. If you run into a hiccup, what are your support options? Is there a live support team, or only an email resource? What hours are they available? Is support unlimited?
  • Cost. Is your pricing based on number of contacts, or number of email sends? Can you choose? What happens if you exceed the limits of your tier? Is the charge monthly?

Clearly, there are a lot of variables in play when it comes to these platforms. One of the easiest ways to wrap your arms around this evaluation process is to create a chart (or “matrix”) that lists each of the above factors, details your ideal scenario, and compares how all of your potential vendors stack up to that ideal.
 
If at all possible, secure a demonstration of your platform of choice. Play with the design elements. Take a question to the support team. See how it feels to use the platform in practice rather than just in theory.
 
If it all seems too much for you to work through in-house, don’t worry: there are plenty of resources out there to help guide you through the selection process. All you have to do is ask.
 

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