In a previous post, “Effective Email Marketing for Lawyers, Part Two: The Basics,” Ritchenya Dodd discussed how to create email messages that effectively break through your contacts’ inbox clutter to deliver a targeted marketing message. Today she test-drives three different online email marketing services to evaluate their template-building capabilities and ease of use.
If you decide to tackle email marketing on your own (as opposed to outsourcing the task), there are many online services that promise to help you build beautiful templates quickly and easily while also managing and maintaining your mailing lists. Email marketing software has become significantly more user-friendly in the past few years, but it’s still wise to take any promises for a spin before committing. So step number one is to look for sites that allow free trial subscriptions.
Sampling a Few Providers with a Test-Drive
Before making a commitment to a particular provider, take some time to experiment with a few different sites. You’ll pick up valuable tips and tricks along the way, and you’re far more likely, having tried some, to choose a vendor that’s a good fit for you. Here are just three and what I got when I signed on for a trial.
- MailChimp is a great choice for first-time users. You immediately get access to a number of templates and your trial subscription allows you to send as many as 12,000 emails to as many as 2,000 subscribers. The site is attractive and easy to navigate, and one of the greatest things about MailChimp is the steady stream of helpful (and humorous) hints and tips that pop up as you move through the process of building a template and creating a list. I liked the template selection, which offered a number of attractive layouts. There are also settings that allow you to customize some graphics to fit the spaces provided, and I was able to overlay one graphic over another to create a combined banner and tagline. But when I previewed it, I wasn’t happy. The sizing was off: My banner was too small and a photo I selected was too large. I would need to invest more time to get this version ready for prime time. Online training is offered, though, so if you have time and an artistic bent (or someone to whom you can offload this project), MailChimp may be a good platform for you to create a nice-looking, customized email template.
- Vertical Response identifies customizable templates for you at the outset, and a template wizard guides you through the creative process. While attractive, there isn’t a wide variety of templates from which to choose. The one I selected imported my banner into a nice, crisp graphic, and the text blocks were nice-looking and well-organized. But I ran into snags that confirmed what I’d been told by others: Editing is tricky and takes some trial and error. There also didn’t appear to be an easy way to “undo” mistakes, and the site would not accept one of my graphics (which I had been able to download in MailChimp). Fortunately, technical support is available. Of the three templates I created, the one in Vertical Response was the nicest and most professional looking. Another plus: Vertical Response offers a convenient pay-as-you go model, charging per mailing rather than a monthly fee. Because the fee is nominal per email address, this model makes it economical to send targeted emails to smaller audiences. In addition, you can easily track your ROI per mailing.
- Constant Contact makes it easy to customize font styles and colors, and to resize photos. I was able to complete a basic template in one session. There were plenty of templates to choose from, but most were tailored to industry sectors, so within a given sector (such as legal) there wasn’t a large selection. The site was a bit jumpy in edit mode, too, and I was unable to download one of the graphics that MailChimp accepted. The finished template would have been my second choice of the three. Constant Contact, however, offers a big value-add. Within a day or two after I created my draft, a Constant Contact “coach” called to offer support and suggestions tailored to my draft, which she had viewed. This support is available seven days a week. Of the three sites I tried, Constant Contact is the most expensive, starting at $15 per month for 500 emails. But if you are not sending out a large quantity of email, the price may be worth the personal service.
In addition to the sites I tried, there are scores of other email marketing services. Among them, Campaigner claims it’s less expensive than some of its competitors, but it requires that you provide credit card information before beginning a free trial subscription. Also, Emma is a popular choice for some who like high-end, customized templates. But you can’t try any of their templates directly from the Emma website; instead, you have to provide your contact information and wait for them to contact you.
Look for a third post in coming days with more information about how email marketing software providers can ease the handling of your mailing lists.
Ritchenya A. Dodd is a vice president with Infinite Public Relations LLC. She has held in-house legal marketing positions and ran her own marketing communications firm. She is a lawyer and was a journalist, including with the Associated Press and The National Law Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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