Tips for selecting an e-mail marketing service

As nonprofit alchemists, direct mail marketing continues to be a staple in many nonprofit marketers’ marketing efforts—it can be cost-effective and impactful when compared to other marketing efforts favored by the for-profit sectors.According to the Direct Marketing Association, the return on investment for e-mail marketing is often upwards of $60 for every dollar spent, compared to other online marketing efforts that see closer to a $20 return for each dollar spent.Additionally, there is no shortage of options when it comes to available e-mail marketing services and a major factor in the success of an e-mail marketing campaign happens to be the selection of a service that best fits your organization’s needs, knowledge and purposes most effectively. Perhaps your organization is new to the world of e-mail marketing or maybe your nonprofit already uses a service to promote programs or distribute e-newsletters to board members, donors or those being served by your organization’s mission. Either way, now is as good a time as any to take stock of what to look for in a service and how to get the most from your efforts. Consider the following factors as you research:

  1. Free or fee
    Perhaps most likely to be the determining factor when selecting a service, cost is an important consideration. Luckily, there is a service fit for practically every budget. Additionally, the expensive services aren’t necessarily any better than the free sites—it often depends on features and scalability. For example, many sites allow for users to commit on a month-to-month basis as needed, with a monthly fee based on how many people an e-mail is being sent to or how many e-mails are being sent each month. These particular services allow great flexibility for the ebbs and flows of nonprofit marketing budgets.
  2. Hosting
    Most e-mail marketing services are based either on your desktop or in the cloud—meaning either you are downloading actual software to use on your computer versus logging into a website. With a desktop service, your lists are kept private and secure on your own computer or your nonprofit’s server. That’s not to say your information is not private and secure with online services, though. Primarily, the appeal of this difference is found within reconciling data—each time an e-mail list is updated online, offline lists need updating, too, unless there is only one master list as such would be the case when using a desktop service. The downside? Desktop services tend to come with a higher price tag.
  3. Features
    Once beyond price points, the thing that truly sets e-mail marketing services apart is the features offered. The ability to monitor click-throughs, open rates and links along with the abilities to personalize and schedule e-mails are three features that should be non-negotiable for most nonprofit e-mail marketers. Other features worth checking in to:

    1. Looking for something professional-looking? Choose an e-mail service that allows for you to enter your own custom HTML—these are poised to most accurately represent your nonprofit’s brand and visual identity and, unlike some templates, often are better viewed in all e-mail accounts and by mobile phones. Of course, it also will require the design of an initial template to be coded into HTML by a designer or Web professional.
    2. Hoping to entice engagement? Consider an e-mail service that offers online couponing—coupons that can be placed in an e-mail and printed out for redemption or digital coupons for use in e-commerce settings. Both couponing options should also come with added tracking features. Another way to encourage engagement is through surveys. Many e-mail services offer survey integration into e-mails to gauge audience interest. Many nonprofits find success in offering added incentive, to redeem coupons or participate in surveys: Giveaways like a branded t-shirt or a Value Grocery Tote.
    3. Want to use a lot of images or logos in your e-mails? Look for a service that does not cap or charge extra for uploading photos or logos to the service. If you find a service that you like and it allows for unlimited photo uploads but charges extra for image storage, be sure to nab a USB drive to devote to your e-mail images.
    4. Is your organization big on social media? Seek a service that lets recipients “like” an e-mail on Facebook®, link on Twitter™ or share via e-mail. Know, too, that not all e-mail marketing services allow for icon links to your organization’s social media sites.
    5. Short on time? Sign up for an e-mail marketing service that automatically manages e-mail lists for you. Subscribers sign up via a link sent to them through e-mail, posted on your organization’s social media accounts or placed on your organization’s website. When they choose to unsubscribe, they click a link to do so and are automatically removed from your lists. Some services even operate so that once someone has removed themselves from the list, you can’t accidentally add them again. These services will also de-dupe lists and alert you to any incorrect or outdated e-mail addresses, making list management a breeze.
    6. Have no idea what you’re doing? Select a service that has a plethora of ready-made templates or an easy-peasy wizard creator that will allow for e-mail creation and design from even the un-savviest of designers. Furthermore, be sure to find a service that has a reputation for responsive customer service, extensive help pages, user forums or instant messaging with reps.

Once settled on an e-mail marketing service, the next factor that determines success of campaigns is cross-promotion of your e-mails—especially e-newsletters. Be sure to include a note encouraging website visitors to join your mailing list with a link to do so. Be sure to also promote the e-mail list in-person, too—hand out these e-themed branded pens or paper clips with a note to “subscribe to our e-newsletter online today!”.

E-mail marketing is a great way to reach audiences in a technical world. Make sure the e-mail marketing software your nonprofit uses is the best fit for you and your message in order to ensure optimum success.

 

“Metrics 2.0: Email Marketing Stats, Facts and Metrics – Metrics 2.0 Quick Pack.” Metrics 2.0 : Data-Driven Business & Market Intelligence. Web. 02 Sept. 2010.

 

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