How to Choose the Right Email Marketing Software for Your Business

Picking the right email marketing software for your business seems simple enough. There are many different options out there. But once you start looking, you’ll quickly realize that this variety makes the process more overwhelming than easy if you don’t know what to look for.

It’s easy to wind up with a solution that doesn’t justify its price. Or worse, isn’t the right fit for your business and marketing goals.

This guide will walk you through how to choose an email marketing platform that: (a) your team will love, and (b) will help you crush your marketing goals.

Follow these steps to learn what to look for and find that sweet spot between cost, relevance, and value:

  1. Define what you need it for.
  2. Define what features your business needs.
  3. Create a shortlist of email marketing software.
  4. Test shortlisted apps before commitment.

1. Define what you need it for

Deciding what you want to use your email marketing app for sets the stage for everything else. Not all platforms can perform the same tasks equally: some are better fits for specific tasks or email types than others.

What type of emails do you want to send?

Your business may use two or all three of the following email types, but you probably rely on some more than others. Decide which email types are most critical to your enterprise and ensure the app you choose is built to handle them well.

Newsletters: Newsletters typically contain educational or interesting content relevant to your audience, product updates, or news about your business. Many businesses use them to engage and build trust with their audience.

Drip campaigns: Drip campaigns are email sequences sent automatically based on a subscriber’s actions and whether or not they meet some predefined criteria. You may know them as behavioral or lifecycle emails.

Welcome or onboarding email series are examples of drip campaigns. So are recommendations based on your audience’s activity on your website and lead nurturing or sales campaigns.

Transactional emails: Transactional emails are triggered in response to specific actions your recipients take on a website. These are common when making purchases and other financial transactions on a website. However, password resets and subscription confirmations also fall under this category.

How complex are the tasks you want it to perform?

Decide how elaborate the tasks you want your email marketing software to handle are. For example, ask yourself if you want to create simple workflows or intricate workflows only advanced marketing automation tools can handle.

Also, consider dependencies and how email marketing integrates with other parts of your business. This can help you decide if you want an email-specific marketing automation tool like SendX or an all-purpose solution like ActiveCampaign.

2. Define what features your business needs

Once you’ve defined what you need the app for, it’s time to list all the features essential to helping you meet those needs and crush your marketing goals. Don’t mix up essential features with those you simply find desirable. 

For example, advanced automation might be necessary if you need to activate drip sequences or adjust audience segments based on hyper-specific triggers. But you might not need it if you mostly send newsletters or drip campaigns to fairly broad audiences.

While desirable features can be beneficial in helping you reach your marketing goals, they often distract you from what matters. Put them in a separate list and only consider them as your budget and other needs allow.

The features you prioritize will depend on your business type and the complexity of your marketing activities. But here are some basic things to look out for while evaluating your options:

Mobile-responsive templates and customization: Your email design is just as vital as the content. With mobile devices now accounting for 41% of email views, you want an email marketing platform with a robust library of mobile-responsive templates. It should also allow you to customize these templates to fit your brand or build yours from scratch.

Automation: Automation is a marketing essential today, even though businesses use it to varying degrees. Email marketing apps have different automation capabilities, so ensure the one you choose meets your needs.

A/B testing: A/B testing lets you send out multiple versions of the same email with one tweaked variable and compare their performance.

Audience segmentation: Segmentation allows you to separate your audience into multiple target groups using the data you have about them. How much segmentation you need depends on your goals and the complexity of the data you have about your audience.

Analytics and reporting: Analytics gives you insight into audience engagement and the effectiveness of your campaigns. At a minimum, you should be able to view open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribes.

Depending on your business, other features you might find important include:

Lead scoring: This feature assigns points to leads based on their actions. It’s useful for qualifying leads and separating ready-to-buy prospects from those still unsure.

Dynamic content: Choose what parts of an email’s content your recipients see based on their actions, preferences, or assigned segment.

3. Create a shortlist of email marketing software

Once you’ve determined what you want out of your app, it’s time to create a shortlist. Ask colleagues and team members for recommendations. Feel free to consult online lists from sources or industry experts you trust.

You’ll likely find several options that check your boxes, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead, focus on learning the key differences between each platform. List each software’s best features, strengths, and added benefits on a spreadsheet for your team to review.

Define what further criteria email automation tools on your shortlist must meet and read reviews from real people who have used the apps to whittle down your list. Keep your list as short as possible but as long as necessary.

Things to consider

Feature fit: You might find the features you need scattered between platforms. Or that not all email automation platforms with the features you need have developed them to the same level. Consider how aligned an app’s strongest features are with your needs.

Pricing and budget: Look past the upfront costs. Will the solution still be affordable down the line as your list grows and you employ more features? Also, consider the costs of third-party tools the app might need to function well.

Scalability: You probably don’t plan to operate at the same level forever. Ensure the app you choose can scale up to accommodate your business growth and changing marketing needs.

Ease of migration: You’re allowed to change your mind about your email marketing app down the road. Choose clients that make moving your data over easy.

Deliverability: Your emails should reach your audience’s inboxes, not their spam or other obscure folders. Select marketing tools with excellent deliverability rates with all major email service providers. Aim for 95% or better.

Reliability: The best email marketing platforms provide a way to back up your data or do it themselves. They also have a robust security architecture and comply with data and privacy laws.

4. Test shortlisted apps before commitment

Most email marketing platforms offer free trials or let you request demos. Assemble a team to test those on your shortlist before committing to one.

Your test team should include reps from all departments that’ll be involved in using or maintaining the software.

Create accounts with each app and import the emails of your test team members. Send multiple emails to your team and experiment with each platform’s features. Make sure to document this process so you can articulate the differences between each platform when deciding which software to go with.

While you should prioritize features you plan on using, feel free to test even features you don’t understand much. You might discover additional benefits you didn’t know about.

While testing each app, pay attention to:

Ease of use: You don’t just want something that works. You want an email marketing software your team will enjoy using with minimal difficulty.

Email rendering: Do your emails appear how you want them on different devices and screen types? 

Integration: How well does it integrate with existing software like your CRM, CMS, and other third-party apps? You want to be sure your email automation platform can easily communicate with them without sacrificing data or functionality.

Analytics: How easy it is to make sense of the app’s reports and convert them into actionable insights? How does the quality of analytics compare to what your business needs?

Support: Knowing how much help you’ll get from the support team if you have difficulties is vital. Test how fast and how well the support team responds to queries. See if there’s a knowledge base you can consult. If there is, note how useful the resources it provides are.

Final thoughts

Once you’ve decided on an email marketing software, start small, then scale up as your business grows. This could mean starting with a free plan or the smallest paid option that meets your needs.

The best email marketing app for you isn’t always the best option for everyone. So don’t be afraid to go with an app that perfectly fits your needs and budget just because it doesn’t rank first on most online lists.

Feel free to bookmark this page and refer to it while evaluating your options.

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