Email Marketing Systems – Automated Communication with Your Customers
Email Marketing System Introduction
An email marketing system is, in general terms, an automated email application designed to generate leads or customers and communicate via email with customers and leads on a periodic basis for purposes of creating sales or providing information.
The purpose of an email marketing system is to allow companies and marketers to automate and optimize email marketing communications with their target audience.
As they say, “The money is in the list.”
An email marketing system is comprised of three parts.
- A way to capture a potential customer’s contact information (email address at a mininum)
- A database of customer or lead information
- Email software capable of sending email to the list (mailing list) of customers or leads listed in the database
There are a number of ways to capture potential customer information online. Some of the common methods include landing pages, surveys, product advertising (banner and text ads), product reviews, ecommerce websites and commercial email advertising services. Company or blogger websites frequently have opt-in boxes for visitors to subscribe to mailing lists.
Landing pages are specialized webpages designed to entice a viewer to submit their name and email address or even just their email address for more information or free give-away. Instapage.com and leadpage.com are examples of landing page platforms. They are designed to acquire customers on behalf of the users. Landing page platforms are useful because they allow for the rapid development and deployment of landing pages. They are easily modified enabling the users to test effectiveness of their advertising.
Here is an example of a landing page. By providing an email address, the website visitor will receive ad copy writers’ tips and tricks.
Once a customer provides their email address, the address will be placed into a mailing list (database) and, generally, receive an acknowledgment email along with a “freebie” or link to a useful product or service.
The mailing list database is structured to allow easy collection of customer demographics (email address, name, address and more) and retrieval of information for reporting or communicating with customers.
The email software enables the marketer to create email campaigns, integrate customer information from the database and automatically send email periodically to the customers using the collected email addresses. The email software is typically referred to as an autoresponder.
The remainder of this article will address autoresponders.
An autoresponder is part of the email marketing system software. It is used to confirm subscriptions, unsubscriptions and automatically respond to incoming email (sent to a specific email address). Autoresponders may be set to automatically send a series of emails to the mailing list at preset intervals. Autoresponders may also have the capability to manually send email “broadcasts” to all subscribers simultaneously.
For clarity sake, I am calling email marketing services as autoresponders. This is to prevent confusion between Email Marketing Systems and email marketing services.
The following infographic shows a generic autoresponder process. It starts with a potential customer arriving at a website landing page or lead capture page who in turn is enticed to providing contact information (email address).
There are several other purposes for autoresponders besides relationship building inherent in the above infographic. Building a relationship with a subscriber facilitates a product/service offer later (Step 6). Other purposes include:
- Sell a product or service – This purpose tends to be the most aggressive. The idea is to send offers (sales pitches) to the point of the subscriber either buying something or unsubscribing from the list.
- Create customer engagement – This purpose, while it may take a long time, creates subscriber loyalty. The idea is to provide valuable content to the subscriber and at some point in time, ask the subscriber to engage. Engagement can be in the form of an email back to the sender, comments on a website or engagement in social media. For bloggers, it could be requests to subscribers to guest blog or submit suggestions for blog topics.
Types of autoresponders
There are two types of autoresponder services. One is autoresponder email services provided by vendors. The second type is the self-hosted (Do it Yourself) autoresponder solution that a user installs on his website. It could be a WordPress plug-in or a software application or script.
- Autoresponder services provided by commercial vendors – They provide the technical skills to maintain the email marketing system database and email software while you take care of your marketing efforts. Autoresponder service companies also ensure high delivery rates and security through their own Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) email servers. As commercial enterprises, their success depends on their ability to maintain their online reputation.
- Self-hosted autoresponder solution (Server side applications) – It takes some technical skill to manage your own autoresponder email service. The biggest advantage is having total control over your mailing list database and email transmission to your list of subscribers. By managing your own autoresponder, you also have control over your costs, online reputation and security. One of the main disadvantages is that it is highly recommended that, if you are self-hosting, you use a third-party SMTP email server host. Otherwise, you may run into difficulties with your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Because of the technical requirements associated with a self-hosted autoresponder solutions, discussion of DIY autoresponders is beyond the scope of this article. The technical requirements evolve around server, installation and setup issues, configuring email, ISP and traffic issues and, ultimately, deliverability.
What to look for in an autoresponder email service
From my experience with self-hosted autoresponder solutions, using an autoresponder email service provider is the best solution for someone new to email marketing. Turn your email communications over to experts.
One general comment about autoresponder email service providers. They pretty much have the same features and prices. And most of them offer free trial periods.
Another comment is with regards to free autoresponder services. I am not sure you want to stake your business reputation by going with a free service. Most of the free service providers make up for it by including advertising in the emails they send on your behalf. You have no control over what ads are served to your subscribers and customers. Acceptable delivery rates may also be of concern.
Also, some companies prefer not to have affiliate marketers or home business owners as part of their clientele. They are mostly concerned with spam complaints and violations of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. But, if you are following good email business practices, you should not have problems with spam complaints.
Some of the more familiar autoresponder email service features include:
- Customer support service – Ideally, support should be 24/7.
- Superlative reputation – You want a service provider to be creditable. The older, established companies have had the time to establish good working relations with Internet Service Providers.
- Competitive pricing (or at least great benefits to justify premium prices) –
- Guaranteed delivery rates – Delivery rates should be at least 99%.
- Opt-in box and email templates – They should have a variety of opt-in form and email templates so that you can tailor them to fit your needs.
- Easy to use interface or drag-and-drop editor – There is nothing more frustrating than trying to set up an email to look the way you want.
- Social media integration – You want your customers and subscribers to have the ability to share your words of wisdom.
- And more!
Not all autoresponders will have these features. But of all these features, I value reputation, delivery rates and easy-to-use interface the most important.
I do not want the autoresponder provider to disappear with the jewels to my business. Also, the credibility of the service provider reflects on you and your business.
Next of importance is delivery rates. It must be at least 99%. Your ability to communicate with your customers and subscribers is essential to your marketing efforts.
And finally, last but not least, the autoresponder must have an easy-to-use interface or drag-and-drop editor. It must be intuitive and easy to learn in order to save time and effort in setting up opt-in forms and email campaigns.
The following autoresponder services are popular, basic email services for beginning and intermediate home-based businesses. I say basic because they do what is expected of an email tool. They send email, track results and build opt-in or sign-up forms. Advanced services would include advanced features such as ability to create behavioral-based emails and implement if-then rules. (ConvertKit includes ability to create event rules.)
Advanced autoreponder email services include those provided by Infusionsoft which is designed for advanced users and established companies. Infusionsoft pricing is hundreds per month. Even ten times what basic autoresponder services cost.
MailerLite is a feature-rich, low-cost email solution. Because it has enough functionality to meet most needs without breaking the budget. MailerLite is my preferred solution. I switched from AWeber to MailerLite in 2016. I recommend it because it is free forever up to 1,000 subscribers. The MailerLite built-in photo editor is a big time saver. My favorite feature is the free easy-to-=use landing page editor. Also, MailerLite includes free templates.
AWeber is one of the top email marketing systems available. AWeber’s opt-in email marketing software has been supporting over 100,000 businesses raise profits and build customer relationships for over 10 years. AWeber provides lots of colorful opt-in box templates as well as email templates. With its drag-and-drop editor, it is easy to create automated email campaigns. AWeber has extensive training available including webinars and video training.
ConvertKit was recently created by Nathan Barry and is making a name for itself. It is already providing services to major affiliate marketers like Pat Flynn. ConvertKit has an amazing user interface design making it very easy to learn. ConvertKit has some great automation tools that enables users to create event rules (if this happens/do this). This is a great way to create tags and segmentation in the customer information.
MailChimp is one of the most popular autoresponder options after AWeber. One of the reasons for MailChimp popularity with beginners is their free account for a 2,000 subscriber list and the ability to send 12,000 emails monthly. To be clear, you should understand that if you have a list of 1,000 subscribers on their free plan, you will be able to send only 12 emails during the month. 24 emails if you email list is 500 subscribers. MailChimp has a great looking, easy-to-use dashboard and intuitive interface.
GetResponse claims to be the world’s easiest email marketing with 350,000 happy customers in 182 countries, engaging more than 1 billion subscribers every month. Their platform is easy to use, and importing your lists takes seconds. They have 500+ beautifully-designed email templates (all optimized for mobile), making it easy for beginners to create professional looking newsletters and autoresponders. Their customer support is superb (all of the issues I had were resolved quickly with no fuss. They even “walked” me through the drag-and-drop editor on several occasions). GetResponse pricing is affordable. For additional fees, GetResponse provides customers the ability to create Landing Pages.
ResponseMagic is a free email marketing platform (up to 100 subscribers). ResponseMagic includes a “Customer Magnet” with an easy-to-use wizard and it automatically creates multiple strategies for collecting opt-ins. Collect opt-ins on your blog or website with instantly generated opt-in forms. ResponseMagic pricing is very competitive.
TrafficWave was founded in 2000 by Brian Rooney and Stephen Hambright to provide autoresponder technology to small and medium sized businesses. TrafficWave provides a complete email marketing system at a flat monthly rate of $17.95 regardless of list size. TrafficWave provides a 30-day free trial. TrafficWave also has a strong affiliate program and is popular among the network marketing/home business crowd.
Email marketing systems are essential tools for communicating with customers and subscribers.
There are any number of email marketing solutions to fit your business needs and budgets. In addition to the autoresponder mail service providers listed above, there are many reputable providers available. I suggest doing your research, and find one that best fits your needs. The best advice I can give is do your homework.
After all, the money is in the list (your mailing list).
While I have tried many of the autoresponders listed above over the years, I recommend taking the free trials and try them all out and see which ones work best for you in creating your mailing lists.
I love feedback. Please fill in the form below if you have any questions or comments. Please share this page. And if you are using any autoresponders that are not on this list, I would love to hear about them.