Picking An Email Marketing Platform

Email Marketing - Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and Aweber screenshotsThere are many email marketing platforms to choose from. So how do you decide which one is right for your business? In this post I will cover  our top 3 email marketing platforms and pros and cons of each.  I will grade them on their features and benefits using an A to F scale.

 

The first one I will cover is Aweber.

Aweber

Aweber is commonly used by internet marketers and has a great reputation in the industry. It is fairly simple to use. One of the best features of the platform is the scheduling of your  mailing campaigns.  Unlike other platforms which enforce a delay on your first autoresponder emails being sent – Aweber lets you send the email immediately.  For my issues with forcing a delay on the first autoresponder read my review of Mail Chimp below.  Overall I really like Aweber and have used it for years.

Ease of Use – A
Aweber is very easy to use. You can be up and running with a campaign in minutes.

Personalization of emails – B
Aweber allows you to implement many types of personalization. Most commonly used of those is the  ability to put the name field in the subject line or body of the email.  Email open rates increase when emails appear more personalized. An example of this would be  – Jeff did you hear about this? – as the subject line. Without adding the name your email open rate would be substantially less.

Tracking  – B
Aweber provides  a good assortment of tracking reports.

Templates – B
Overall I am not of fan of using templates for your email campaigns. They should either be cohesive with the rest of your marketing ( often hard to do with templates) or plain text which is more personal.  With that being said Aweber provides a good assortment of templates. The best of those would be the ones tailored to include coupons, pdf or audio downloads.

Web Forms – A+
Aweber probably has the easiest web forms to implement into a website. I do not recommend the templates they provide for there forms however. Use the blank form code and just add the fields you need. If you do want to have some style for your forms – Hire a Designer – preferably the one who created your website as they will do the best job at matching it to your website.

Email Campaign Setup and Scheduling – A
It is very  easy to set up a campaign in Aweber. The first email can also be sent immediately when someone signs up. That is important if you are offering something to them in exchange for their email address such as a coupon or free download etc.. You also have the ability to set the time and day of when your emails will be delivered. ( Super Tip: Sending on certain days and times will increase your open rate % – Will do a blog post in the near future with advanced email marketing tips).

Split Testing  – B
You can divide your list into percentages to test copy, subject lines, offers etc.. They also offer subscriber segmentation – see other features below.

Pricing  – B
You can test out Aweber for  a month for $1. The price then goes up to $19 an hour for 500 subscribers or less. As your list size increases so does the monthly fee. They do not charge for the # of emails sent. $19 is not a lot to pay and when your list grows so should your revenue so the increased fee should not be an issue.

Integration with other software – B
The Aweber API is integrated into many other platforms. There are plugins for WordPress and integration with other platforms like facebook and Unbounce.

Other Features – C
Aweber offers as an added feature subscriber segmentation.  It allows you to group your subscribers in order to deliver more targeted and relevant emails. We love this feature. The reason for the C is because it is the only notable extra feature they offer. They also offer facebook and twitter integration and the ability to broadcast your blog posts via email. Most of the email platforms do this so we give no extra brownie points for it.

 

Overall Grade: B
We use this platform and recommend it to many of our clients. It strongest points are ease of use and how easily it can be integrated into your websites.

Constant Contact

Ease of Use – A+
Constant Contact is possibly the most easy to use of all the email marketing platforms.

Personalization of emails – B
The Personalization of the email messages is extremely limited. They offer only  3 choices all related to the name field and can only be added to top of email and not throughout the body or in the subject line.

Tracking  – C
Nothing outstanding in this department only the essential data – opens, bounces, and clicks.

Templates – C
Once again – I am not a fan of templated emails unless it is your own custom template that is tailored to your brand. The “off the rack” templates for Constant Contact look really generic. If you use one you are actually in danger of your business looking less professional.

Web Forms – C
You can customize the forms with different fields.  The design choice customizations are next to non existent. What I really do not like is the default way it is set up is to have a link or “button” or your website that needs to be clicked and then taken to a form. This gives your website visitor one more step to take and effects the conversion %.

Email Campaign Setup and Scheduling – A
It is super easy to set up, schedule and manage campaigns in Constant Contact. Also there is not a delay in sending the first welcome message.

Split Testing – F
Constant Contact does not currently offer split testing. Major Fail!

Pricing – C
Free for a 60 day trial after that it is $15 a month for 500 subscribers or less. The price then goes up incrementally based on the number of subscribers. I  graded this lower based on the the low grades in other categories. Although it is inexpensive it lacks a lot of features of similarly priced platforms.

Integration with other software – A
Constant Contact is integrated with over 150 other apps and services. So they deserve an A in this department.

Other Features – B+
Constant Contact offers added services such as Event Marketing, Services, Local deals, Surveys, and Social Campaigns . These services really can help a business have more than one avenue of online marketing. Similar services can be found ala cart via other companies however it is nice to have them “all under one roof “.

Overall Grade : C
The best feature of Constant Contact is it’s overall ease of use. It is inadequate in too many other areas. Especially lacking split testing which is essential to maximizing your campaigns especially as your list sizes grow. So sign up for it if ease of use is your main concern. If you are serious about tracking and maximizing your email campaigns however this is not the platform you want.

Mail Chimp

Ease of Use – B
When you first log in to Mail Chimp’s dashboard it can seem overwhelming. Luckily, the chimp is there to hold your hand to get you started. In a short time navigating the dashboard becomes easy. They also offer training courses to walk you through everything.

Personalization of emails – B
You can add various merge tags for personalization throughout your  email messages in Mail Chimp including the ever so important subject line.

Tracking – B
In addition to the standard reports opens, bounces, and clicks. Mail Chimp also offers an industry average comparison and campaign reach which incorporates social media to determine potential reach.

Templates – A
I still hold to my stance on templates mentioned earlier however , Mail Chimp has the best “not so cheesy” selection of pre designed templates. They also offer basic templates with only the layout determined and not the graphics. The basic templates let you have a layout without sacrificing brand integrity.

Web Forms – B
The form designer seemed a little cumbersome to me when I tried to move fields around and to delete a field you have to actually type the word DELETE into a box.  The design interface outside of the fore mentioned complaints is easy to use and offers many color themes and it will import the colors from your website which is pretty cool. As a web designer I also find it easy to customize the design of the forms after getting the initial embed code.

Email Campaign Setup and Scheduling –  B –
Mail Chimp’s campaign setup and scheduling process is easy. The one knock (and it’s a big one) is the one day delay  on the first email that goes out when someone signs up to your list. Which really makes it hard to offer sign up incentives such as downloads or coupons.

Split Testing – B – 
Mail Chimp does a good job with split testing you can test subject lines, from names, and date & time of delivery.  I wish they would give you complete control and let you test the body of the email as well. That would enable you to test different offers and calls to action.

Pricing  – A
Mail Chimp is free for the first 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. That is the best deal out of any of the email marketing platforms. It lets you basically start building your list for free. After 2000 subscribers the price goes up based on number of subscribers.

Integration with other software – A
Mail Chimp has a vast amount of integrations included  in those are most of the popular cms, ecommerce,  and crm platforms.

Other Features – A
Mail Chimp also offers many added features. One of my favorites is Social Pro. Social Pro which incorporates your mailing list with social data, so you can learn more about your subscribers. Find out who’s most connected, then send targeted campaigns to those subscribers with a single click. There is also Delivery Doctor, Geo-Location, and many others. Mail Chimp has the best “extra features” of any of the email marketing platforms.

Overall Grade :  B+
Mail Chimp gets a slight edge over Aweber due to the quality and amount of features, layout templates, and the unbeatable price. If it wasn’t for the limits on the split testing and one day hold on the first welcome message email I would have given them an A.

I give the edge to Mail Chimp when it comes to picking an email marketing platform. At SuperHero Marketing we use Aweber due to there not being a delay on the first email when someone signs up as we provide downloadable pdfs. We do not want our subscribers to have to wait to receive the information once they have subscribed. With that being said we also are using Mail Chimp to send our newsletter because we love all the features of Mail Chimp. If they would get rid of the delay on the initial email we would move everything to them. Aweber is an excellent platform and a great choice as an email marketing platform.  As for Constant Contact, we are not a fan despite the ease of use and  cool extra services they provide, they swing and miss on to many of the core features.

About Doug Greathouse (aka Captian Arcimedia)