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Introduction to Email Marketing

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Introduction to Email Marketing

Email marketing (done properly, of course) is perhaps the ultimate tool for customer acquisition and retention. By providing your prospects and customers with information that they have requested, you are marketing to them with their permission. The two keys are to use opt-in lists (with easy opt-out, both to be legally compliant and to avoid being perceived as a spammer) and to provide information that is actually useful.

There are three different types of email marketing providers listed on this site: email marketing software that you install on your computer, email marketing services who do pretty much all of the work for you, and hosted email marketing providers.

The advantages of email software are cost over the long term (you pay more up front than you would with a hosted service, but you pay only once) and flexibility in terms of message design. The disadvantages are that you have to handle all of the administration, and that you may have deliverability issues, particularly with the larger ISPs.

Outsourcing your email marketing activities to an email service (or to a marketing agency that can do this) minimizes the effort on your part, and (generally) assures that you are sending out high-quality, professional messages -- but is also the most expensive option.

Between these two choices are hosted email providers. You'll pay a monthly fee, but they take care of the administration, and you'll generally get high deliverability, professional design (through the use of pre-built templates), built-in legal compliance, easy-to-use tools and, depending on the vendor, other advanced features.

Hosted Email Pricing

Pricing is a challenging subject to address for several reasons. First, because while it is by no means unimportant, it is also certainly not the only, or even the most important criterion in making an email marketing host selection; in my recent study, pricing for sending 10,000 emails per month varied from $20 to $190. Obviously, features (support, deliverability, link tracking, number of templates provided, etc.) matter, and vary, a great deal as well. A low price is no bargain if the provider lacks capabilities that are critical to your particular marketing program or campaign. Third, pricing is subject to change (which is why I don't list pricing for specific providers here). And finally, because pricing structures vary considerably as well; for example, most email hosting providers don't charge a set-up fee, but a few do. Free trial periods range from zero to 60 days. Some hosts charge by the size of you database (number of recipients), while others charge by the number of messages sent. And some use more complex pricing structures combining these factors; Topica, for example, will charge you less to send four messages to 2,500 subscribers than to send one message to 10,000 recipients.

So, bottom line, consider both the features you need and the structure of your email marketing program (e.g. lots of messages to few recipients or fewer messages to a larger group) before evaluating price. That said, here are direct links to the pricing pages for 11 popular email hosts (others will provide pricing by request):

Benchmark MailGenie
Constant Contact MailerMailer
Topica ResultsMail
Express Email Marketing StreamSend
Superresponder Email Systems


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