What Is Email Marketing Software: Analysis of Features, Benefits, Pricing and Types

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What is email marketing software? The short definition is, it’s a business solution used for conducting email marketing campaigns for a variety of reasons. These include promoting your product or deals, providing value content, processing a customer-initiated request and much more.

The purpose of email marketing software goes beyond sending emails. It builds customer loyalty, nurture leads and increases direct sales, not to mention brand awareness every time a recipient clicks on your email. Sending bulk emails involves time-consuming processes, which include preparing a list, segregating it to subgroups, sending the actual emails and creating feedback reports. Email marketing software does away with these and automates much of the manual workflows.

Moreover, it helps you split-test campaigns and measure ROI with clear metrics. You can even observe in real time how the campaign is performing with the solution streaming key metrics as they happen. This allows you to change the campaign at once for a better outcome.

The question is–do you need it? In this guide, we’ll explain the software category beyond just answering what is email marketing software? Here’s an outline of what you’re getting after reading this comprehensive article:

  1. Examples of email marketing software
  2. Benefits of email marketing software
  3. Types of email marketing software
  4. Features of email marketing software
  5. Buying factors to consider
  6. Pricing of email marketing software
  7. Potential issues
  8. Latest trends

Despite the presence and power of social media to engage customers, email marketing is still relevant and, arguably, maybe more effective when it comes to conversion. According to Hunt Marketing Group in a TechnologyAdvice interview, “Direct marketing is the most efficient way to reach a defined audience.”

In another study, Econsultancy revealed that email marketing tops the ROI rate versus other marketing channels like content marketing, paid search and SEO. In fact, email marketing and SEO, according to the researchers, have vied for the top spot in the last three years. Check this chart:

With the clear value of email marketing to your overall strategy, it’s time to go beyond the definition of email marketing software and identify its features, benefits, issues and more.

What Are Examples of Email Marketing Software?

What does email marketing software do? To help you understand its functions, here are examples of email marketing software.

  1. HubSpot Marketing. HubSpot Marketing is part of the HubSpot suite that helps you conduct inbound marketing. It works in unison with HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Sales. The app acts as a marketing funnel where you place contacts across stages and track their progress towards your goal, which can be conversion, opt-in or any call-to-action result. As an email marketing solution, HubSpot Marketing features static and dynamic HTML messages. You can customize the design to match the recipient’s persona profile. The app also provides scheduling, contact management and mobile marketing in one platform. Moreover, you can create and embed contact web forms to capture leads on your site or other online channels like newsletter and social media page. You also have a range of SEO and social media tools to promote your content with targeted recipients. They can be influencers, your site visitors or customers. Other important features include tools for blogging, landing pages and ads. It also has lead management and Salesforce integration.
  2. MailChimp. One of the most recognizable mailers, MailChimp handles volumes of emails and features post-campaign analytics. It also features a free app with limitation on number of emails sent per month. The paid plans though offer unlimited emails. MailChimp also features built-in templates for newsletter design, which can be white labeled to your brand. Likewise, it allows for segregating your mailing list for tranched sending. There is also the RSS-to-email option that automatically sends a newsletter every blog updates. The app features other key tools like merge tags, custom forms, spam filter diagnostics and social sharing.
  3. Front. Front is a customer support solution with an email marketing component. It is a clear example how customer service can leverage email marketing to monetize tickets. As a ticketing system, it consolidates customer queries from multiple channels like your web form, email, social media pages and website. The tickets you receive can be turned into leads if they meet your required metrics. Font’s interface, in fact, is designed like an email client, from which you can launch email marketing campaigns targeting satisfied customers.
  4. RedCappi. A popular email marketing software designed for small- and medium-sized businesses. The app also includes social media and CRM elements to help you achieve your inbound marketing goals. It features customizable email design templates, which can be embedded with images and coupons for added interaction. Likewise, the solution features automated email schedules triggered by a set of your predefined rules. RedCappi is also intuitive and easy to use featuring drag-and-drop functionality and real-time campaign reporting.
  5. iContact. It’s a marketing automation solution with a powerful email marketing tool. iContact features lead generation and lead scoring to help you nurture the most promising prospects. The app has a landing-page builder, with options for HTML or template-based layout.  As a mailer, the app includes standard email marketing software tools, such as segmentation, A/B testing and list management. Moreover, it comes with social media management and analytics that allow for generating funnel reports. Other notable features are CRM, engagement tracking and workflow automation.
  6. ActiveCampaign. It’s an all-around marketing software with features for email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation and  contact management. The solution even integrates with 150 apps to further extend its functionality to sales and service. ActiveCampaign has site tracking, conditional content, event tracking and API tools. You can also conduct email split testing and sales CRM with this system.
  7. Marketo. One of the popular marketing automation solutions, Marketo features a powerful email  marketing module but with drag-and-drop simplicity, making it an excellent inbound marketing platform. Likewise, it helps you promote social sharing and customer engagement with real-time personalization tools. Among its key features are loyalty marketing, event marketing and budget calendar.
  8. EmailGreen. An integrated web-based email marketing and CRM platform designed to help organizations and businesses manage their contacts, create and execute viable email campaigns, and optimize social media channels among others so they can drive bigger results faster.

Here’s the dashboard of HubSpot Marketing.

Why Use Email Marketing Software?

You now have a clear answer to the question of what is email marketing software. Let’s now move to the benefits of email marketing software or, why use email marketing software, indeed?

Email marketing software is a cost-effective way to get in touch with your customer base, either to provide value content, promote your product or announce new offers or deals. The whole process of managing email campaigns can be tedious, but email marketing software addresses this pain point. Here are the advantages of email marketing software.

  1. Automation. Imagine sending 1,000 emails in one sitting? You will waste a lot of time sorting the addresses, pasting the message and sending emails manually. Once you have the message fine tuned, email marketing software can automate the entire campaign process, from sorting recipients into groups to scheduling the emails and to generating feedback reports.
  2. Get accurate metrics. None perhaps can give more detailed post-campaign analytics than email marketing software. It can generate key metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, forwarded messages and engagement level. With a detailed feedback report, you can accurately calculate cost-benefit ratio and account for each campaign’s budget.
  3. Monetize your tickets. Customer complaints sent to your help desk can be mined as additional contacts to your mailing list. As long as the issue is resolved and the customer is satisfied, including her in an email campaign may generate additional sales. This process is common in a CRM, but if you lack that system, email marketing software is a good option.
  4. Wider reach but less costly. So long as you have built a robust mailing list, email marketing software allows for reaching to a targeted market at a significantly lower costs than traditional outlets like tv, print and radio. Moreover, the audience is more targeted granting you built the list using opt-ins or follow a permission marketing strategy. Some companies start with a purchased list to get initial subscribers, but it is still best to build the list around your customers. As you expand the list with incentives like white papers and deals, the cost per email drastically drops, further increasing the ROI of email marketing software.
  5. Promote loyalty. Because email marketing software makes it easy to launch campaign series you’re always in touch with your customer base. You can provide content that match the recipient’s interest, deals to spur repeat buys or simply update customers with the latest offerings or products. Email marketing software is your direct line to customers to nurture their loyalty, interest and possibly elicit more purchases. Likewise, they may forward your email to family and friends, thereby, extending your market reach.
  6. Measurable ROI. Email marketing software promotes accountability in your campaigns. You can track each campaign’s metrics down to the details like open rate, click-through rate and engagement level. While it creates brand awareness, it also generates immediate revenues unlike with tri-media channels.
  7. Promote your social media channels. Some email marketing solutions can connect to your social media pages, allowing for cross-channel promotions. For example, you can incentivize an email message with deals if the recipient likes your Facebook page or post your hashtag. If you have a robust mailing list, this is one way to migrate subscribers to your social channels.
  8. Low-cost A/B testing. Because campaigns are measurable down to the details, you can sort the best method among a set of email campaigns. Email marketing software features an A/B testing tool, which shows the key metrics among different campaigns.

You can see how many emails have been opened, clicked and were unopened on RedCappi’s dashboard.

What Are the Types of Email Marketing Software?

Email marketing software solutions are a heterogenous lot, meaning they look nearly identical with a few minor variations here and there. The best way to categorize them is by grouping them on how they are used. How does email marketing software work?

  1. Transactional emails. It involves an opt-in phase, where customers agree to be added to your mailing list. An incentive is necessary here to spur customers to contact you. A few examples are: order confirmation email; password reset request; and email receipts. Because customers opted in, open rate for transactional emails is significantly higher than with newsletter (51% vs. 36%). In this regard, email marketing software becomes an administrative tool. However, it is still a marketing tool because you have an opportunity to include subtle cross-sell or upsell messages.
  2. Direct sales. This is the most common used for email marketing software, sending emails to promote an offer. Usually, it includes a product catalog that is comparable to printed versions sent via snail mail. The emails can be sent to your mailing list or a purchased list.
  3. Newsletter. Email marketing software also acts as a communication tool. You send newsletters to provide value content like articles, guides, tips and announcements that are aligned with your product’s value and your customers’ interests. The newsletter can also entertain customers and sustain an open line between you and them in between sales.
  4. Autoresponders. It helps you send multi-tiered emails based on recipient’s feedback. Email marketing software provides tools that let you map your main email to different paths. One path can lead to lead nurturing, while another to your shopping cart; yet another to trash for lack of promise. You can set triggers to launch the autoresponder, for example, when someone clicks a download button, signs up for a free trial or purchases from your online store.
    Similarly, autoresponders can be used to send welcome and thank-you messages. Many customers like it when you take the time to appreciate their engagement. Essentially, email marketing software leverages autoresponder as a lead generation tool.

What Does Email Marketing Software Do?

Many email marketing software products share similar features. Where they differ usually is  in deployment (cloud vs. on-premise) and packaging (integrated within a CRM system or stand-alone app). Here are the common features of email marketing software.

  1. WYSIWYG editor. Email marketing software has a user-friendly email builder that lets you see how your email appears before launching. The builder comes with tools like drag-and-drop functionality, built-in templates, responsive format and photo editing. Likewise, a customized layout can be split-tested and the best-performing design reused and copied for future campaigns.
  2. CRM integration. Most email marketing systems integrate with popular CRM solutions. This helps align sales and marketing activities. Leads from CRM can be added to the mailing list and included in email marketing campaigns. Likewise, CRM can provide context to your mailing list, such as demographics, purchase history and previous engagement. On the other hand, recipients that responded positively to your email can be forwarded to the CRM’s contact management and sales pipeline for lead nurturing.
  3. Social media integration. You can also integrate your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages with email marketing software and expand your reach. You can invite your mailing list to like your pages and, conversely, ask your followers to opt in in your subscription list in exchange for an incentive like a deal or exclusive content.
  4. Merge tags. It’s a tool that lets you replace variables in your message with a personal element, usually the recipient’s name. This gives your email warmth, and customer in general respond to their names more positively than to generic salutations. Merge tags can also be used to send coupon codes specific to the recipient and avoid duplicates.
  5. Analytics & reports. As with most business solutions, analytics and reports in email marketing software lend to your campaigns insights on its effectiveness. You get to measure key metrics like open rates, CTRs, readers’ length of stay on your email, trending content and demographics. Many email marketing apps also feature real-time campaign tracker that streams metrics as they occur, which helps you quickly shift the campaign if the results prove dismal.
  6. Autoresponders. It sends targeted content to your mailing groups based on their engagement level or other key metrics you’ve set. Autoresponders are used for drip email campaigns to nurture leads, welcome or thank the customer or answer a query or request. Autoresponders are equipped with automation for sorting recipients, scheduling emails, sending multi-tiered emails based on triggers initiated by recipient and funneling promising contacts into the sales pipeline.
  7. CAN-SPAM rules. U.S. and EU laws prohibit spamming. This tool ensures your email is CAN-SPAM, an act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2003 to address spam email complaints. The tool analyzes the email for: probability of being blocked by spam filter; broken links; and HTML structure.
  8. Mailing list management. This module lets you segregate the mailing list into smaller, targeted groups based on your metrics. Customers or subscribers can belong to multiple groups that match their profile.You can conduct specific email marketing campaigns for each mailing list subgroup. Some email marketing solutions feature automatic segmentation based on geolocation, demographics, autoresponder feedback, purchase history and other metrics.
  9. A/B testing tool. You can send different email sets to a small group to measure, among others, feedback on the subject line, design and copy. This ability allows for fine tuning the campaign and send the best-performing email version to the rest of the mailing list.

A weekly analytics report on Front.

What Should You Consider When Buying an Email Marketing System?

Pricing isn’t the only factor that should influence your purchase decision. Essentially, what you want is to have all the features we mentioned above in an email marketing solution, plus a few other factors.

  1. CAN Spam compliance. No matter how robust the system is, if your email is violating laws your campaigns can come crashing down. A good email marketing solution alerts you of potential legal breach so you can address the issue before launching. This is a critical feature and make sure your vendor has it.
  2. A/B testing. You should leverage the detailed and measurable metrics email marketing is capable of. With an A/B testing tool you optimize each campaign and generate the best possible ROI.
  3. Feature set. Aside from the two factors above, take a close look at the feature set. There must be an email builder, analytics, autoresponder, mailing list management and merge tags; any missing tool greatly diminishes the overall potential of the solution.
  4. Number of emails per month. Many free mailers have a limit on the number of emails you can send in a month. This can be frustrating if you have a large mailing list. Make sure to use an app that allows unlimited emails to maximize your customer base.
  5. Integration. At the least the email marketing app should integrate with popular CRM and help desk solutions. This allows for sharing customer data for sales, marketing and customer service. Furthermore, the email marketing solution should allow for importing/exporting CSV, txt and other common file formats.
  6. Ease of use. Not the least email marketing software should be intuitive and easy to use. Most cloud mailers today are user-friendly so this should not be a problem.
  7. Responsive display. Many customers access their emails via a smartphone or tablet. The email marketing system should be able to display your emails on mobile apps. It’s simply difficult to read desktop emails on a mobile screen.

What’s the Cost of Email Marketing Software?

Here are the typical cost of email marketing software solutions, packaged in different ways by top vendors.

  1. HubSpot Marketing. Many email marketing software apps offer a free version like HubSpot in the hope to lure you to paid plans. HubSpot Marketing starts at $200 per month with the enterprise plan charged as high as $2,400 per month.
  2. ActiveCampaign. Many apps also do not provide a free version; instead, they have affordable and scalable price tiers. This app starts at $9 per month, with the premium plan at $149 per month.
  3. Marketo. A typical by-quote application. You need to contact the vendor for a customized package that meets your needs.
  4. MailChimp. Some mailers base their pricing on the size of your mailing list. MailChimp, for example, starts at $10 per month for up to 500 subscribers, with its highest plan at $25 per month for up to 2,000 subscribers.
  5. iContact. Email marketing software can also be packaged by feature set like iContact. Its basic plan is from $11.90 per 500 subscribers and only features the baseline functions, while the premiere plan includes API support, premier support and advanced email analytics.

What Are Potential Issues With Email Marketing Software?

Email marketing software is not a silver bullet that suddenly generates leads, create sales or build a mailing list for you. If you’re not careful or fail to make a plan, you risk being compounded by the following issues.

  1. Violation of spam laws. The U.S. and E.U. passed specific laws against spamming and to protect privacy. You could be violating them if you’re not careful or the email marketing solution isn’t equipped with compliance control. For example, CAN-SPAM prohibits misleading recipients. Your subject line should match the email’s content. Likewise, the law requires you to provide recipients a means to opt out or unsubscribe from your list. To avoid lawsuits make sure the software is CAN-SPAM-compliant.
  2. Spam filters. Email clients have spam filters in place. If you’re not careful your campaign may end up unable to reach its intended audience. Gmail is especially a difficult case; even opt-in subscription can end up in its promotions tab, away from the main inbox. Good email marketing software alerts you for potential spam triggers like: generic subject line; common exaggerated sales promises; complex layout and design; and too much URL links.
  3. No mailing list. There is no point getting email marketing software if you lack a mailing list. The first step is to create a plan on building the list. This means promoting incentives like value content, deals or exclusive offers and, perhaps, tapping paid channels to put your opt-in landing page out there. Buying a purchased list is seldom cost-effective and your unsolicited emails can easily trigger spam filters.
  4. Annoy customers. If you send emails without a plan, you’ll end up annoying customers with messages that don’t interest them or are irrelevant. You risk recipients unsubscribing, greatly diminishing your mailing list. Have a strategy in place and use segmentation and autoresponder to ensure your emails ring a bell to their recipients.
  5. No A/B testing. Email marketing is a science with measurable metrics that define the best outcomes. If you lack appreciation of this discipline, you’re undermining the potential of email marketing software.
  1. Built-in tool for CRM and help desk. Email marketing software may follow the same fate of collaboration tools: the category is gradually integrated as a communication tool with other more encompassing business systems like CRM, ERP and help desk. That means you won’t go shopping for a mailer, instead, you’ll pick it as an add-on or stack to your existing systems.
  2. HTML5 video. HTML5 provides a platform to embed videos in emails. Unlike traditional HTML, HTML5 videos are lightweight and run more efficiently on low bandwidth. iOS 10 in particular supports HTML5 video, which bodes well to email marketers.
  3. AI. Artificial intelligence can take over campaigns with intuitive triggers, adaptive modeling and automated processing. AI is also being applied to iterative content development, feeding your campaigns with targeted articles, perhaps
  4. Interactive emails. The use of carousels, slideshows, hamburger menus, image galleries and animated elements will be more prevalent as email marketing software gets more sophisticated.
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