Email marketing software turns email, a form of digital communication that pre-dates the internet, into a modern business strategy. This buyers guide will provide the information necessary to make an informed decision when selecting email marketing software.
Email marketing software is a technology solution that helps businesses use email to execute and monitor marketing campaigns and communicate with customers. This might include newsletters or personalized messaging as well as transactional messages such as account statements or promotional offers.
Email marketing software can be broken into two distinct categories: stand-alone platforms and email marketing hubs.
Stand-alone email marketing software is a dedicated solution that specializes in creating and maintaining mailing lists as well as launching and monitoring email marketing campaigns. The stand-alone category is dwindling as marketing tactics increasingly include new channels (e.g., SMS messaging or smartphone applications). In response, vendors offer solutions called hubs that provide integrated support for marketing initiatives beyond email.
Digital marketing hub software spans multiple marketing domains (mobile, social, and multichannel) and includes email marketing tools as part of a broader integrated suite. Depending on the specific needs of your business, marketing hub software may be more future proof than a stand-alone, email-only option. If you already run marketing campaigns other than email, consider a unified hub. This will simplify collaboration and create a shared data pool for analytics thanks to natively integrated applications and workflows.
If your marketing outreach is solely done over email and your software budget limited, consider standalone platforms to satisfy your email marketing needs. However, if your business already runs campaigns across social media or other mediums, consider more comprehensive hub software.
It is worth noting that while digital marketing hubs offer broader functionality, they also command a higher price tag and greater investment in a single vendor. If you settle on a hub solution, avoid making long term commitments before extensively testing the software and vendor support. This will help your business avoid becoming tethered to a single vendor that fails to meet your needs because no budget remains to migrate to a more suitable solution.
Software as a service (SaaS) is a distribution model where applications are hosted on a third-party server and made accessible via the internet. Gartner's Hype Cycle for Software as a Service (SaaS), 2018 states that the SaaS model has become essential for software vendors—having gained acceptance across organizations of all sizes and multiple industry segments. In 2018, for example, 85 percent of CRM software was purchased not built and over 70 percent deployed as SaaS.
While some vendors offer on-premise email marketing or digital marketing hub software, this is an increasingly less common sales model generally and is not recommended for the majority of businesses. While on-premise software would allow data to be self-hosted on company servers, and potentially be less expensive at massive scales, the costs and complexity associated with deploying and maintaining these solutions is prohibitive or unnecessary for most organizations.
Whether you purchase stand-alone email marketing software or acquire it as part of a larger digital marketing hub, the features to consider when making a purchasing decision are similar. The following list, though not exhaustive, covers common email marketing features:
Email campaign management features enable marketers to create, launch, and monitor email campaigns:
Drip campaigns are automated sets of emails that go out at timed intervals or in response to user actions. Content is created in advance then personalized and delivered using automation. For example, after someone subscribes to your mailing list, a drip campaign could immediately send a welcome email, followed by another email two days later with a curated list of product offerings.
Templates allow users to quickly create and customize email marketing campaigns.
Mailing list management allows marketers to import, edit and maintain a master list of subscribers, sales leads or contacts.
Subscriber management allows customers to subscribe (or unsubscribe) to email lists.
Customer segmentation enables marketers to group contacts or sales leads by shared characteristics (e.g., industry or purchase history). Email marketing campaigns can then target specific customer segments.
Reporting functionality tracks and aggregates data, often visually, to gauge campaign success and help marketing strategists make more informed decisions.
Key questions to ask a vendor before you buy: What does your company do to safeguard deliverability and ensure messages reach our subscribers' inboxes? How is campaign performance measured? Does your platform offer predictive analytics, and if so is it easy for marketers to take action from the insights they provide?
In order to leverage the full potential of email marketing software determine which integrations are necessary for your email program. If you purchase digital marketing hub software that includes email marketing functionality, any other tools (e.g., social media) should be integrated natively. The list below covers common integrations to consider when deploying email marketing software:
Customer relationship management (CRM) software in its most basic form is a digitized Rolodex—making it a natural fit for integration with email marketing software that helps businesses manage contact lists. Additionally, some CRM platforms include email marketing tools. If you're using CRM software, check to make sure you don't already have access to email marketing functionality. Some benefits from integrating email marketing software with CRM include:
Automatically sync leads and contacts from your CRM with your email marketing contact list (and vice versa).
Avoid wasted or duplicated marketing efforts by using CRM data to better understand where contacts are in their customer journey.
Set up triggers to initiate email outreach to nurture new prospects after capturing their information in your CRM.
If you purchase stand-alone email marketing software but leverage other marketing tools to run advertising campaigns, make sure the necessary integrations are in place so that your email program doesn't languish in isolation. Benefits from integrating email marketing software with other marketing tools include:
More robust customer segmentation thanks to additional user data gathered from other marketing efforts throughout your organization.
Including email in other marketing automations where appropriate, as well as using information from email outreach to build profiles across the entire customer journey.
Email marketing and eCommerce go hand in hand. If your business has an eCommerce component, ensure integration is place so that valuable data such as customer purchase history can help inform your marketing strategy. Integrating email marketing software with eCommerce software allows for:
Provide more relevant and engaging content by including information about customer preferences in email marketing outreach.
Develop a better understanding of the role email marketing plays in the customer journey by correlating outreach with purchase data.
Leverage transactional data to improve personalization and deepen customer relationships. Turn transactional outreach such as purchase receipts into an opportunity to provide customized recommendations.
The following sources were used for this document: