Hello and welcome to the second post in my Dummy's Attempt At Email Marketing series, where I let you follow along as I try to figure out what in the heck I’m doing in the realm of email marketing. In this post, I’ll be taking a closer look at email service providers! What are they? How do they work? How to choose the right one? Which one did I choose and how am I using it? I’ll be answering all of these questions now!
As we go along, if you have any questions, comments, or thoughts, please drop me a comment below this post! I look forward to every comment I receive!
FYI from here on out I’ll be referring to “Email Service Provider” as “ESP” in most cases from now on. My fingers can only handle so much typing…
What Does An Email Service Provider Do?
Specifics vary from company to company, but, for the most part, each ESP will provide the following features in one way or another.
Imagine how tedious and time-consuming it would be if you had to capture every email address by hand, send emails to your entire list by hand, or even unsubscribe your subscribers by hand. Luckily for you and I, service providers do all of this and more for you. They can subscribe, single and double opt-in, subscribe to different lists, unsubscribe, etc., all without you having to do a thing beyond the initial setup.
A follow-up series is possibly the most important aspect of any ESP aside from collecting email addresses. Follow-up series are a set of pre-written emails that are sent out automatically at a predetermined time starting when a new person subscribes to your list. These series are extremely useful if you have a nice sales funnel selling a product. You can ease your subscribers into a sales pitch while you build trust and credibility over a series of emails.
I’ve already found out they are effective at weeding out your subscribers as well. You really only want subscribers who are interested in what you have to say anyway. If they aren’t interested in your first few emails, it’s probably better they unsubscribe from your list. This helps keep your subscribers relevant and your list clean.
Broadcast messages are emails you write and set to send out to your entire list at one specific point in time. When a broadcast goes out, everyone on your list gets it no matter how long they have been subscribers. Broadcasts are typically used to keep engaging and building trust with your subscribers once your follow-up series is finished. The only bad thing about broadcasts is once they’re written and sent, you can’t really use them again, so they require constant attention if you want to keep your subscribers engaged.
Blog broadcasts are completely automated emails summarizing the latest content on your blog. They can be set up to send on a regular basis, depending on how often you publish new content on your blog. Basically, they work by linking up with your RSS feed to detect when you have new content. They then insert this new content into a format you have created and saved previously.
Honestly, the effectiveness of blog broadcasts is debatable. Yes, they take most of the work out of sending regular emails to your list, but at the same time they are not very personable compared to broadcasts in which you have to compose with new, unique content each time.
List segmentation is just what it sounds like; it allows you to segment your lists into smaller, more focused lists. This ability makes it very easy to organize all of your new subscribers and ensure they are receiving the correct follow-up series.
Quality analytics is an essential aspect of any respectable ESP. Without good analytics, you will have no idea how to fine-tune your email marketing campaigns to be more effective and profitable. Many ESPs will allow you to perform A/B split testing to determine exactly what is or isn’t working.
To sum this section up, a good ESP essentially allows you to automate a majority of your email marketing campaigns. With lots of planning and some up-front work, pretty much all you will need to do is push go and let it do the work for you!
3 Aspects To Consider When Choosing And ESP?
There are tons of email service providers out there, all vying for your patronage. However, when considering your best options, there are three primary aspects you will want to consider.
The first thing you need to look at is your budget, especially if you’re just getting started with email marketing like I am. How much are you able to spend on this? If you don’t have many funds available, you’ll probably want to choose an ESP that costs next to nothing or is completely free. Obviously, something you can use for free probably isn’t going to have as many features or as good of customer support as a paid service, but that's ok. We all have to start somewhere!
After you determine your budget, there are a couple more things you should look at with all of the ESPs in your price range. The first is which functionalities and features they can offer compared to their competitors. Remember, most ESPs provide the same core features with minor tweaks from service to service, so it’s up to you to determine which is best for you.
Size Of Your List
The final point you will want to consider is the size of your list. Some ESPs will be better for smaller lists, some for medium size lists, and some for giant lists. Usually, the larger your list, the more you’ll be spending to use any particular ESP, which makes sense. However, since you’re reading this, you’re probably like me and have a pretty small list. Even for us, we want to make sure we’re using an ESP that isn’t designed specifically for customers with extremely large, complicated email lists.
Top Five Email Service Providers Available
Now that we’ve covered the three essential attribute to look for when choosing an ESP, I’m going to take a look at five of the most popular ESPs available. I don’t have any official statistics saying these are the most popular, they are just the five I’ve seen and heard the most about within my internet marketing circles. If you'd like more information, I found this awesome table comparing the features of ten of the most popular ESPs out there today. You can check it out here.
Budget: $19/month to start
Functionality/Features: unlimited emails, email templates, tracking/analytics, chat support, sign-up forms, list segmentation, and A/B testing
List Size: all sizes
AWeber seems to be the most common ESP recommended for new email marketers. It allows you to send out an unlimited number of emails and comes with all of the features I talked about at the beginning of this post. However, AWeber does have one of the highest costs to get started, no matter the size of your list, and doesn’t offer a free trial. AWeber does have lots of room for list expansion, but once you get to the crazy big lists, you may find its features a bit limited.
Budget: Free to start
Functionality/Features: Image library, unlimited emails, custom autoresponders, email templates, tracking/analytics, sign-up forms, list segmentation, and A/B split testing
List Size: all sizes
Mail Chimp is running a close second to AWeber for the most popular ESP for beginner email marketers. I think the biggest draw to mail chimp is the fact they offer their services for free if your list has less than 2,000 subscribers and you send less than 12,000 emails a month. With more than 2,000 subscribers the prices increase accordingly. Mail Chimp also has a much more modern interface and sleeker features than AWeber.
Budget: $15/month after 60 day free trial
Functionality/Features: image library, unlimited emails, email templates, tracking/analytics, chat support, sign-up forms, list segmentation, and surveys
List Size: small to medium
Constant Contact is another ESP that seems to be growing in popularity, especially among beginners. Perhaps the 60 day free trial and 30 day money back guarantee have something to do with this. Overall, Constant Contact offers a solid array of features to its users, however, it can get a bit buggy at times. From what I can tell, Constant Contact is mostly used for users with small to medium sized lists. If you have a giant list, you’ll probably want to go with a more established ESP.
Functionality/Features: image library, unlimited emails, email templates, landing pages, tracking/analytics, sign-up forms, list segmentation, and surveys
List Size: small to medium
Get Response (Aff) is an up and coming ESP offering a 30 day free trial with full access to all of its features. The starting cost for new email marketers is right in the middle of the field at $13.50 per month. They offer many of the same features as the more established ESPs, but they may not be quite as developed.
Functionality/Features: email templates, landing pages, tracking/analytics, sign-up forms, list segmentation, content management, marketing automation, sales automation, e-commers,
List Size: medium to large
Infusion soft is probably one of the most advanced ESPs available as a result of their ability to automatically segment your list based on certain actions each subscriber takes. This takes email customization to a whole new level. However, this sort of customization requires a deep understanding of your subscribers and how your emails and landing pages are converting, definitely not something for most beginners to jump into. The price of Infusionsoft may also eliminate it from the running for most beginners, however their in-depth customer support may make it worth it if you can afford it.
Which Service Did I Choose And Why?
Honestly, I created an account with AWeber long before I actually had any idea what I was doing. Even in doing this, I am happy with my decision to choose AWeber. It is highly recommended by multiple trustworthy sources, so I have no qualms about recommending it to my readers as well.
AWeber is really easy to use and you can start getting subscribers quickly…if you know what you’re doing at least! Even though it doesn’t have the super advanced features like some other ESPs, this is better for beginners like myself. It has everything you need to build a successful email marketing campaign; follow-up series, broadcasts, blog broadcasts, analytics, etc.
Also, AWeber is one of the more expensive ESPs to choose for beginners, but, in this case, price equals quality, so it’s alright with me.
How Am I Going To Use AWeber?
When I first started using AWeber a year ago, I really only used the blog blast feature, mostly because I was being lazy and didn’t want to put in the work to create an in-depth marketing campaign. If you remember from above, blog blasts really aren’t a good way to build trust and retain subscribers; therefore, I was relatively unsuccessful in using my email list to increase my revenue.
From here on out, I will be primarily using two aspects of AWeber for a majority of my email marketing: follow-up series and weekly broadcasts.
I am in the process of developing a follow-up series that currently is planned to contain about 5-7 emails sent over a two week period. In this series I will be focused on getting my subscribers into the right mindset for finding success online. I will have some free material for them to download as a lead magnet. I will also spend time telling my personal story and the story of my business in an effort to build trust amongst my subscribers.
Obviously, as time goes on, I will continue to add to and adapt my follow-up series based on analytics, feedback, and the overall effectiveness at driving my new subscribers to my desired locations.
Secondly, once a new subscriber has completed the follow-up series, they will be moved to my primary list where I will be sending out a weekly broadcast. Unlike a blog broadcast, I will actually be writing these emails personally. I will continue to build trust with my subscribers as I offer them new content, reviews, and hopefully my own products at some point down the road.
Until Next Time
That’s about it for this edition of A Dummy’s Guide To Email Marketing. I’m not exactly sure what Part 3 will be about, but I have a feeling it will have something to do with setting up my first follow-up series since that’s my next big task.
If you have any questions or comments or ideas regarding what you’ve just read, please leave me a comment below. If you would like to experience my experimentation first hand, go ahead and sign up for my email list here: