Let’s say it’s a crisp Monday morning. You’re a marketing professional, and like any marketer worth their salt, you’ve got caffeine jolting through your veins from your last five coffees, and you’re busier than ever working out new ways to use your marketing automation software to reach your customers. With so many customers you’d like to remarket to, you’re scratching your head and already reaching for that sixth cup of coffee (bad habit; you swore you’d cut down last week). But as the roasty, delicate notes of a fresh cup of South American Black Gold serenade your tastebuds, you’re still coming up empty on new ways to keep customers engaged. Enter your email marketing software.
What is that, you say? Nothing more than a marketing automation guru’s weapon of choice when trying to broaden their horizons (and pad their bottom line). With more than 25 years of history behind it, this class of apps has come a long way from when Hotmail launched in 1991 (and even longer than that when Gary Thuerk sent the first marketing email in 1978).
In order to parse through the literally hundreds of email marketing tools out there, we fed our analysts a steady diet of coffee, put our fingers to the keys, and came up with a list of the top five email software solutions out there — because better data means better marketing. Read on for a list of essential and advanced features, or click here to jump to our crowned top five.
Email marketing software, in a few short words, are applications that allow you to compose, send and monitor email marketing campaigns. Like the humble email itself, however, not all email tools are composed equally; features across solutions vary, though all solutions come armed with the essentials — the tools to get the job done without all the bells and whistles. These are your bread and butter when it comes to emails. Most, if not all products, are going to have the following features:
Don’t underestimate the composer — it’s where your email lives and dies. Every email marketing tool is going to have a window that lets you add in text, images, custom code and more so that your messages look filled out and plump. Think of this as a robust, marketing-forward text editor.
Sending isn’t as simple as pressing a button. With most tools, you’re getting more than that. You’re getting something that lets you schedule your emails to hit inboxes at optimal times for maximum performance.
The CAN-SPAM Act was revolutionary for both senders and receivers of emails. In short, all emails are required to have a no-nonsense “unsubscribe” button in their email footer. Because this is a legally required feature, you can expect all of your emailing software solutions to have a feature that lets users easily unsubscribe from your lists.
A list of engaged customers who you can contact on a regular basis is every marketer’s dream. Unfortunately, sometimes those dreams become caffeine-fueled nightmares, except instead of being chased by giant spiders that look like your mother, you’re burning entire email lists. That’s where list management comes into play. In order to keep your dreams happy and full of dollar signs, list management lets you segment customers into smaller and smaller lists; ideal for personalizing content and setting up tags, right?
Some solutions will automatically filter users into lists so you can target specific subgroups in your campaigns. Essential data points like age, location, purchase history and more are taken into account when being filtered, giving you nearly unlimited opportunities to personalize your messaging.
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Advanced features might vary far and wide, and are unique to each product, but here are a few general ones you might encounter:
Analytics and Reporting
There’re a billion different ways to slice this section (just like there are a billion different ways to slice data), but the real meat and potatoes of it is that analytics give you insight into your campaign’s performance. You get visibility into open rates, CTRs (click-through rates), jetpacking content and more. And with reporting, all this data is infinitely shareable in interactive charts, graphs and dashboards.
Ever wonder how emails seem to know your name? When you signed up for an email list or bought a product you probably exchanged some information that got filtered into tags. These tags are then sprinkled throughout the email in order to personalize its contents.
Integrations With Social Media
Social media integrations are considered a luxury because, well, how do you share an email? Actually, you don’t. With social media integration, your social media is the destination, and your email is the vehicle. You can invite subscribers to like pages, and integrate data from your social platforms into your email marketing automation software to expand your reach.
Pronounced “Was-e-wig” (what a fun sounding word), this stands for “What you see is what you get.” A WYSIWYG editor is essentially an email composition tool that lets you take advantage of things like a drag-and-drop editor. The drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to build emails by providing pre-made components like previews, headers, bodies and footers, so you can drop and stack your custom email into place. This is a far cry from the older, more archaic method of writing custom HTML and poring over lines and lines of confusing code (does anyone seriously miss nested tables?).
For the less adventurous among us (or those wanting to save time), most WYSIWYG editors also come with things like templates, responsive layouts and photo editing capabilities to streamline your marketing efforts. This also goes hand-in-hand with A/B split testing, because you can build out custom templates and then test their performance against each other.
Let’s say you’re testing out coffee. One tastes nuttier and more bitter than the other, which is a light, roasty flavor. Turns out they’re from the same roaster, just with different roasting techniques.
A/B testing is kind of like that — in email marketing software terms, it’s when you send out two variations of the same campaign to test out what works, what doesn’t and ultimately optimize conversion rates.
Email marketing software does this by letting you send and monitor email variations, often reporting back in real-time things like campaign performance, conversions, open rates, downloads, unsubscribes and bounces (when an email never gets to its intended target. Read here for why that might happen).
The visual composer is closely tied to the aforementioned WYSIWYG editor. Instead of coding out nested tables by hand, it lets you visually drop in sections of an email and build it to your specifications. Then you jump into the composer and drop in your copy, and baby, you’ve got an email going.
A sales person’s best friend (or worst nightmare), CRM software are valuable tools for centralizing customer data in a sales context. But that doesn’t mean marketing gurus aren’t able to use them. By piping in data from a shared customer data platform or CRM, you can target individuals who might need additional nurturing, or are already close to converting. Sales will give you a high five for helping to qualify leads, and you get a richer pool of data to target.