So many email marketing services out there. How do you even choose? If you’re reading this, you probably already know that email marketing is a must for your business growth. However, it can be a bit overwhelming with all of the choice and information out there.
Fortunately, just like with every other topic, we’re here to help and make it really easy. With this guide you will learn what to look for when assessing an email marketing service.
If you’re looking to take email marketing seriously, you’re going to need a good plan, with a good provider, and this guide will help you do just that. All it takes is this set of questions you can ask yourself about each prospect.
Do they have a generous free tier?
I think this is a good question to ask for any type of online service out there, not just an email marketing service. I’m instantly suspicious when I see a service that doesn’t have a free tier, or if the free-tier is super-limited and next to useless.
The fact is this: if you provide a service that helps a small business make more money, they will naturally grow into a paid plan. There is absolutely no need to “nudge” people into a paid plan if you’ve built a service that actually helps people make money. But more on that in some of the later points.
For now, I just want to make one thing clear. If a service is focused on helping you make more money, there’s absolutely no reason for you not to upgrade, as your business will grow, and consequently you will need more of their services. Over time, you will need a higher number of contacts or segments. Limitations on a free-tier should only be volume-based, otherwise I get suspicious. But more on that in the next point.
Whenever you see a service that is stingy about the free-tier, it’s time to ask a question. Can you actually use their free-tier to grow your business? Or is it like “here’s how to get a little taste, but to do anything meaningful, you have to pay up”.
If that is the case, it means their focus is not on actually helping you make money. Because if it were, they wouldn’t worry about you upgrading, they would know, for a fact that you would upgrade.
Are they using features to blackmail you into upgrading?
It is quite unfortunate, and actually related to the previous point. If a service doesn’t have a “help the customer make money” philosophy, they often use other things as leverage. One of those is “make the experience incomplete, so the customer has to upgrade in order to close the gap that they feel each time they use the service”.
This is the exact opposite with Emercury, and we actually include almost all features in the free plan. The limits are only in terms of volume, and things that involve a larger expense. For example, there are a few features that are very computationally expensive, so they’re limited to paid plans.
But there’s only a few features like that. If we can include a feature in the free plan we do. We never use features as a way to force an upgrade. Same with some very hands-on things like one-on-one personal training, consultations and getting a personal deliverability manager.
Back to the blackmailing situation though. Is this just about the fact they don’t include every feature in lower and free tier plans? No, the part that makes it feel like blackmail is that they tie features together in random and arbitrary ways that create gaps.
For example you’re on a tier that meets all of your needs, except there’s just one tiny feature you need to complete a marketing process. That feature is only available on the next plan up. But that plan has 15 other features you don’t need, and costs 5 times as much.
That’s no accident. They do this on purpose. How do we know this? Because many of those features are (relatively speaking) not as expensive to provide, yet are artificially grouped together with the features that are genuinely much more expensive. A genuine service provider that cares will only limit a feature to higher-tiers if it is genuinely more expensive to provide.
Do they leverage your data to keep you hostage?
Pay attention, this one might “save your business”. It is kind of tricky, because most people learn this one the hard way. And if you’re reading this guide, you’re in luck.
The reason this trick is insidious is that services use your inexperience against you. If you’ve never used their features before, you don’t know in advance that they’re built to create a hostage situation.
What do I mean by this? Well, a lot of services will build their feature set in a way where it stores data in a very proprietary way. And then, they will design the entire workflow to get you to use these features for everything. These are features that ensure all of your processes and customer data are stored in a proprietary way unique to their service.
This means that you build all of your processes around gathering data from subscribers in these proprietary formats. And then when they raise the price on you, or you have to go to the next tier, you’re stuck.
These are the same companies that have large leaps in pricing when you pass a certain contact threshold. And you’re forced to go to a higher tier even if you need just an increase in volume, and not features. When you realize this you might think “well, let me just move” and then realize a lot of the data is structured in such a way that it’s mostly useful only if you stay with that platform. That’s when most people start feeling like a hostage.
So it is a good idea to explore what they focus on upfront. If they’re constantly trying to advertise super-specific “cutting-edge” features that only they have, or do a certain way, that’s not a good sign. Aside from the other reasons why it’s a bad sign, it also means you don’t own your own processes if you build your business around those features.
Whereas if a platform prioritizes and pushes the classic, time-proven and industry-standard features, you know you’re safe. Your marketing processes will be built in such a way that service providers become interchangeable and you could move out at any time.
Can you easily integrate with anything you want in any way?
And I don’t mean that they advertise a bunch of integrations, because there’s a catch with that. I am again talking about full access to your own data, and not being held hostage.
While “native integrations” are a nice and convenient way to integrate your other services with your email marketing service, there is a downside. When the provider builds an integration, the developers have to choose what use cases to support, and how. And they do so in a proprietary way.
Now, this isn’t due to malintent, it’s just impossible to support every single use-case possible. At least not with a ready made integration. So how can you integrate with anything you want, in any way that you want?
Well, the email marketing service would need to provide you a fully flexible way of moving and changing data between platforms, in any way that you want. And while a lot of services offer “outgoing webhooks”, I think Emercury is an exception with providing an incoming webhook.
But what are these you might ask? Well, an outgoing webhook is where if something changes in your Emercury account, it gets instantly communicated to another one of your services. For example a CRM, or an intermediary like a Make.com or Zapier flow.
An incoming webhook is where your Emercury account can receive information sent from another service, and then do something based off of this data. This is basically what ready-made integrations do.
Behind the scenes they use incoming and outgoing webhooks and do stuff based on that. It’s just that the integration creator decides what and how. It’s not very flexible and can cause lock-in. Which is probably the reason why other services haven’t implemented incoming webhooks yet. Many of them rely on this lock-in to keep you around.
Is the customer support a bunch of canned responses?
I honestly can’t recall us at Emercury ever using canned responses. We treat every interaction as unique, and I think people can tell. It’s one of the main reasons why we always get all these 5-star ratings on different comparison platforms.
It comes back to that philosophy we talked about in the start of this guide. If your philosophy is that you treat every user as a “business partner” and you want to help them make more money using your service, how would you act? You’d pay attention to them and focus on helping them get the best help possible.
Whereas services that have a more “factory” mindset just try to streamline everything into a very robotic process. You’re just a lead that needs to be squeezed through an engineered upgrade funnel, and whether your emails get delivered or you make more money isn’t that important.
And the best part about this question is that it is easy to answer it. You can test the support as a free user. You don’t need to pay money to see what their support is like. And if you have to pay money before you get to talk to actual humans, well that is probably a red flag as well.
Do they focus on what matters, or overwhelm you?
There is an example scenario that I often give to make things very blunt and clear about email marketing. Take a master at email marketing and restrict them to only using email marketing features that existed 10 years ago. And then take someone intermediate and give them all the latest features, bells and whistles. Who do you think will make more money with email marketing?
The person we’ve restricted to decade-old technology, no doubt, and it would be a huge margin of difference. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to say that newer features are bad. In fact, the masters of email marketing use the newer features as well.
It’s about focus and your return on investment. Most of your results in email marketing will come from applying the basics well. However, the basics aren’t “fancy”, so a service with the wrong philosophy will focus on all the features and featurettes they can advertise and push in your direction.
A good rule of thumb is this: do you feel overwhelmed when you try their service? Do you open the dashboard and feel like there are 12893 things you have to learn before you can make money? That’s on purpose. Because their strategy isn’t getting you to make money from email marketing as fast as possible. It is capturing you and keeping you distracted.
At Emercury we do the opposite. The entire user experience is focused on the basics, you know, the 10% that gives you 90% of the results. Now, we do have all the extra features, but they’re not central to the experience. They are there for you when you need them.
Our educational guides follow this philosophy as well. We want you to make money from email marketing as soon as possible. That’s why we’re always focusing on what gets you the quickest results. We make it very clear what’s a must-have and what’s a “nice-to-have” and what is something you can add to your arsenal over time.
On that note, we send guides like this one to your inbox for free. You can either sign up for our newsletter, or even better yet, grab yourself a free account. This way you get to lock-in the most generous free-tier out there, and also get these guides the moment they publish.
Are the analytics easy and simple to use?
A lot of marketers say they moved to Emercury because of our simple and straightforward reporting functionality. And I think this is in line with our philosophy in general. We want to reduce the overwhelm, and make it easy to focus on the stuff that matters.
And having a straightforward reporting feature is central to that. This is because all of your progress in email marketing will come from the “iterative process”. This is where you try something, look at the reports, see what works, and then iterate and try something else.
Use this iterative process enough times, and you can increase your profits many times over. But again, straightforward focused reports are a crucial, central part of this process.
Is deliverability front and center in their positioning?
You might be starting to pick up a trend with these questions and points. They all tie back to the first point in this guide. The right service provider is driven by what helps you make more money from email. They are focused on what you need to grow your business.
One of those things is email deliverability. If you’re not familiar with the term, the following might come to you as a shock. Sending an email doesn’t actually mean the recipient gets the email. Deliverability is about making sure it ends in their inbox. Because this is how you make most of your profits.
Sure, some people will fish your emails out of the spam folder or promotions tab, but very few. In essence, that basically means that as your deliverability drops, so do your profits. There is almost a perfect correlation between the two.
But most service providers don’t even mention it. And it comes back to the fact they’ve learned they can make more money by advertising every little micro-feature and bell and whistle they implement. Deliverability is only this really huge foundational piece of leverage that can double profits. No big deal right? Well, it’s not exotic or exciting.
So ask yourself, does the service provider mention or put deliverability center-stage in all of their branding, or is it difficult to even find them acknowledging such a thing even exists. This will tell you a lot about their philosophy and whether they want you to succeed in making money with email marketing.
Does it seem like they highlight a ton of micro-featurettes?
Constantly improving, tweaking and refining a software product is a great thing. However, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about making a big deal about every little thing and tweak, as if they could make a noticeable difference in your business.
You will notice that quality services focus on the big things, the stuff that matters. They might be tweaking and refining just as many things each week, but they don’t publish blog posts to talk about all of them.
At some point adding and highlighting more features just means more cognitive overload, more overwhelm, and more distractions. When a service provider cares about your success, they will try to keep you focused on what matters.
Are they generous with their time even if you’re not a customer?
I think this is a pretty good tell-tale sign. You can recognize a good service provider by how willing they are to interact with you, even before you’ve paid a cent. This might be in the shape of a friendly customer support team which is open to answer your questions before you sign up. Or even better yet, if they have a free demo where you can discuss your needs.
And if you take up a demo with them, are they patient and do they care to understand what your business needs? Do they actually show you how their product can help you achieve your business goals? This is a great way to assess a service provider.
And on that note, if you haven’t done this yet, consider that I currently have some slots open for free demos. Be sure to book one before my calendar is full again.