Many small businesses undervalue the benefits of an effective email marketing campaign. Many businesses, including some of the largest companies in the world, are migrating from traditional email marketing towards social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In the rush to follow the current trend, many smaller businesses make the mistake of dismissing email marketing entirely.

Several studies have shown that despite the current trend of advertisers focusing on social media, a vast majority of consumers still prefer contact through traditional email. Additionally, customer responses to traditional email marketing are significantly higher when compared to social media advertising. While every business will want a presence on the social media sites, traditional email marketing still offers the best return on investment for targeted marketing.

Managing an Email Marketing Campaign

For the smallest of “mom-and-pop” businesses a manual hands-on approach to managing a small email client list is still viable, but for most businesses a more robust method is necessary. As a business grows, many companies turn to email service providers (ESPs) to manage their email client lists and contacts more effectively.

There are numerous benefits to using an email service provider. Some of the most common benefits include:

  • Time saving features to generate contact emails quickly and easily
  • Well researched templates for various forms of email marketing
  • Customized details about the clients, potentially including name and previous purchases
  • The ability to personalize emails based on custom data
  • Automatically managing the client list to remove those who unsubscribe
  • Statistical information on client responses and campaign effectiveness
  • Programs and review methods for ensuring compliance with anti-spam policies

Additionally, most email service providers use a cloud-based system which allows a business to connect to the service and perform tasks from any active internet connection.

Selecting an Email Service Provider

With all the options available, the task of selecting an email service provider can seem overwhelming. Most services will provide similar features and benefits, which makes determining the best fit for a business difficult.

Fortunately, most email service providers offer a free trial period. Taking advantage of this feature is one of the most important methods for evaluation. A business will be able to review the user interface for ease of use, determine if the features provided will be of added value, and ensure that the service can effectively meet the goals of the email marketing campaign.

While determining whether an email service provider will effectively meet the needs of the marketing campaign is the single most important factor in selecting a service provider, there are a few other criteria that need to be examined as well.

Contract terms should be available on a month-to-month basis.  Extended plans can certainly save money in the long-term, but shorter plan durations should be available so that the service can be discontinued in a reasonable time frame if the business decides to move to another provider or reallocate advertising funds.

Another important aspect to examine is how the email service provider allocates IP addresses. Emails have to come from somewhere and the IP address is how the source of an email is determined. Businesses will want to utilize a service that allocates an individual IP address to each user. Some email service providers use shared IP addresses that are assigned to multiple users. By sharing an IP address, a business will effectively be sharing not only the address, but also the liability for any actions performed by other users. If emails sent from another account are flagged as spam or blocked by a major internet service, it will have a major impact on any users that were also assigned the same IP address.

A Little Research – Big Results

An effective message is extremely important, but how that message is delivered can have just as much impact on customer response. A little effort placed into selecting the best email service provider for a business can pay huge dividends. Having an email service provider that meets the needs of the business and enhances the advertising campaign can be one of the most significant factors in determining the success of an email marketing strategy.

This article was written by featured contributor Michael Clapperton, CIO of George Little Management, a leading trade show organizer. He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, ITIL V3 Certified Expert and has 20 years of IT experience.