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Our Guide to Email Marketing Platforms and How to Choose the Best Fit for Your Business

Our Guide to Email Marketing Platforms and How to Choose the Best Fit for Your Business

We all know by now that email marketing is a non-negotiable when it comes to having a successful inbound marketing strategy.  But before you can roll out a drip or nurture campaign, the first thing on the digital marketer’s list must be the arduous task of figuring out which email client you will go with to create, house, and send your emails.  

Good news: we’ve done the hard work for you!  We’ve taken our favorite email clients and broken down their best features, and their pros and cons. This is the same list we give all of our clients as they are trying to decide on which platform they want to use for their campaigns.  

Before you start going through this list, we suggest you write down your goals on a sheet of paper or whiteboard, so that you can compare it with each list. Sticking to the main thing will help you attain your goals and take intentional, calculated steps in your email marketing campaign.

Choosing the Right Fit

Depending on what you are wanting to do in your email marketing strategy, different platforms will supply different needs.  The temptation is to choose the email platform that you’ve seen the most recent ad for, or the one your friend uses. In this strategy, while the risk is high, often the reward is low.  Not a good combination for the bottom line.  

So to avoid a tough conversation with your boss after the fact, it’s good to choose a client that will satisfy your immediate needs, but also allow your services to expand and grow.  From our experience, here is a good checklist when trying to walk the line of immediate needs and forward thinking:

  • Look ahead 6 months.  What goals do you have in the next 6 months to introduce email marketing to your company?  Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s important to have patience young hopper. Your 6 month goals should be focused around setting up your new initiative, assigning roles, and testing out a few strategies.
  • Look ahead 1 year.  One year from now, what do you want to be able to say about your email marketing campaign?  Do you want to have a certain number of subscribers? An established, monthly newsletter?  Write down a focus statement and use this as a filter for choosing your email platform.
  • Look ahead 5 years.  These are the pie in the sky ideas.  This is your dreamer moment: where do you see your email marketing expanding and growing an integral part of your marketing efforts in the next 5 years? While you can’t necessarily know where you will end up, or what features an email client will offer in the next 5 years, but you can look at their track record and see what they’ve introduced in the last 5 years.  A platform that has made strides and changes at about the same pace you vision for your company may be a good fit.  

We are very aware that our method of choosing an email client may feel more like speed dating, but as a digital agency, it’s in our DNA to think this much about what we are doing and why.  Without further adieu, here are our favorite email clients and all they have to offer:

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is an automated email marketing platform that is optimized for both B2b and B2C marketing.  With a focus on beautifully designed templates, social media integration and sales, Constant Contact allows many areas of your marketing department to be involved and integrated.  

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Features:

    • Email list:
      • Upload contacts from Facebook or your Website
      • Post emails to social platforms
    • PLUS features:
      • Sends welcome email for those that opt-in
      • Special birthday or anniversary emails sent automatically
      • Surveys and Polls
      • Collect Donations
      • Offer Coupons
      • Event Marketing
  • Pros
    • All-in-one platform for automation, CRM, and event marketing
    • Room for growth without a huge increase in price
    • Lots of storage space
    • Multiple users on PLUS plan
    • Easy to use, ready-made templates
    • Grow list with signup forms on website
    • Transform email  into social posts
    • Real-time reports
    • Coaching help when needed
  • Cons
    • Not a clear focus on lead generation

Summary: Constant Contact no doubt sets the standard for beautifully designed emails intended to bring about a positive response from those in your email list.  But, as this is the main focus, it is not an ideal platform to build your email list.  If you are planning on using your email client to also build your list and create leads, then this may not be the right platform for you.  

MailChimp

MailChimp is focused on lead generation through smart targeting and ad optimization for both B2B and B2C markets.  

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  • Features
  • Advanced Targeting
      • Ad retargeting for site visitors
      • Follow up on purchases
      • Recover abandoned carts
      • Enable order notifications
      • Facebook Ad campaigns
      • Instagram Ad campaigns
      • Automated email based on best open rates for specific time zones
  • Pros
      • Mobile app for integration on the go
      • User-friendly templates with customization options
      • Analytics include revenue reports (also available on mobile)
      • Integrates with EventBrite and SalesForce
      • A/B testing offered for analytics
      • Social Profiles
      • Social sharing
      • Focused on buying cycle and past purchase history
  • Cons
    • May require more work on the aesthetics of email design

Summary: MailChimp is by far one of the most recognizable names in the email marketing game.  What it lacks in aesthetics for design, it makes up for it in its robust targeting and advertisement options.  With powerful analytic options, MailChimp will allow you to track your buyer’s journey.  While it offers numerous templates, its designs are not as awe-inspiring as some other platforms.  Having a designer to help out would be beneficial.

SalesForce: Pardot

Focused more specifically on B2B customers, SalesForce: Pardot focuses on lead generation, marketing and sales.  

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  • Features
      • Mobile app
      • Ability to create highly intelligent marketing funnels based on user’s behavior
        • Assists in lead generation
      • Multi-faceted campaigns
      • Trigger campaign activity with CRM data
      • Visualize marketing workflows based on customer’s behaviors
      • Eventbrite Integration
        • No additional cost
      • Engage with Salesforce to send emails based on buying cycle
  • Pros
      • Great tool to integrate with SalesForce to generate leads and drive sales
      • In-depth analytics
      • More options for automation parameters
      • More options to integrate with other marketing efforts
  • Cons
    • Will need more time spent on design templates
    • Not ideal platform if sales is not the main goal

Summary: The primary focus of Pardot is to sync with Salesforce and move customers through a buying cycle by allowing the marketing and sales departments to easily communicate on the status of customers.  Pardot uses data from Salesforce to grow leads and convert customers.  If you have Salesforce already, the Pardot will be a seamless integration.  However, if sales is not the main goal of your email campaign, then many of these features will go to waste. Plus, you may need to spend extra time on the design of the templates to make your emails aesthetically pleasing.

SharpSpring

SharpSpring’s software is directed toward both B2B and B2C markets, with a focus on generating leads through email, blogging, landing pages, and social media.  

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  • Features
      • Sends emails to leads based on their place in the buying cycle
      • Customizable templates
      • Allows customizable, unique templates
      • Merge variables available to create focused emails
      • In-depth analytics of user behavior on website after they click on email CTA
        • Page visits
        • Form Fills
        • Webinar Sign ups
        • White paper downloads
      • Create behavioral email workflows to automate based on behavior
      • Trigger emails for specific CTA actions or social media engagement:
        • Confirmation messages
        • Event alerts
        • Personal notes
        • Etc.
      • Add attachments for easy download within email
      • Social Media Integration designed to follow up with those who interact on social platforms
      • Create social media posts from editable Content Calendar
      • Social listening to monitor social activity
  • Pros
      • User friendly
      • Analytics for behavior after click-throughs on email (unique to this platform)
  • Cons
    • Not as sophisticated a design as other templates, although it can be customized very easily and with lots of features

Summary: SharpSpring offers an all around features list that touches on all points of the marketing and sales cycle.  Trigger emails to follow up based on client behavior is not only a great way to generate leads and create conversions, but allows your email marketing plan room to grow for future endeavors.  In addition to email campaigns, SharpSpring offers the ability to create landing pages and blog posts within their platform, and integrate them with your ongoing email campaigns.

No matter what platform you end up going with, you will see the most ROI when your choice is made within the score of your entire digital strategy and goal-setting.  We hope this list has helped inform your choices.  We look forward to hearing what you pick!

Randy TaylorOur Guide to Email Marketing Platforms and How to Choose the Best Fit for Your Business