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Help Compile a List of Best Email Services

Effective email marketing is an essential ingredient in any marketing plan. It has, for many businesses, become the most important conversion tactic for selling goods and services.

Email Service Providers (ESPs) offer tools that allow you to some pretty sophisticated campaigns, capture, follow-up and segmentation when fully employed.

I am using a fairly new curation tool called List.ly to compile, with your help, a list of the best email service providers. The current list is comprised of services that I have personally used as one time or another over the years and I would for you to add your favorites, vote the ones listed up or down, comment on and share this.

It would great if you added features and reasons why you like one or another in the comments feature to the right of each entry.

Email Service Providers

Email Service Providers

Compiling a list of Email Service Providers (ESP) that offer great value and service for small business.

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  1. 1
    16 Voting...
    VerticalResponse

    VerticalResponse

    Social Media and Email Marketing by VerticalResponse is the best way to revolutionize the way you connect with your audience.

  2. 2
    11 Voting...
    Mail Chimp - Email Marketing and Email List Manager | MailChimp

    Mail Chimp - Email Marketing and Email List Manager | MailChimp

    MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It's like your own personal publishing platform.

  3. 3
    5 Voting...
    AWeber - Email Marketing Software & Email Marketing Services

    AWeber - Email Marketing Software & Email Marketing Services

    Opt-In Email Marketing Grows Business AWeber creates lasting customer relationships for you and over 115,000+ other businesses with email newsletters, autoresponders, RSS to email and more of the best email marketing tools. Send Updates to Twitter & Facebook Expand the reach of your email newsletters.

  4. 4
    7 Voting...
    Constant Contact - Small Business Marketing

    Constant Contact - Small Business Marketing

    Email, Event, and Social Media marketing tools and solutions from Constant Contact make it easy to reach, engage, acquire, and retain customers or members. Get started today - free!

  5. 5
    7 Voting...
    Enterprise Class Email Marketing Software by Pinpointe

    Enterprise Class Email Marketing Software by Pinpointe

    Email & Social Marketing Automation for mid sized enterprises. Award-winning, feature-rich email marketing and social tracking. 800-557-6584.

  6. 6
    1 Voting...
    iContact- Email Marketing Services

    iContact- Email Marketing Services

    Email Marketing through iContact allows your company to create, send, and track your messages with ease and efficiency.

  7. 7
    1 Voting...
    Systematic Revenue. Lead Management and Marketing Automation

    Systematic Revenue. Lead Management and Marketing Automation

    Reach new customers, nurture your prospects, and drive more revenue than ever before.

  8. 8
    3 Voting...
    Transactional Email from MailChimp - Mandrill

    Transactional Email from MailChimp - Mandrill

    Mandrill is a new way for apps to send transactional email. It runs on the delivery infrastructure that powers MailChimp.

  9. 9
    2 Voting...
    That's Biz Email Marketing for Restaurants

    That's Biz Email Marketing for Restaurants

    Serving thousands of Busy Restaurant Owners. Email messages are created for you. Includes redeemable coupons. Redeem coupons in two seconds using QR codes (no POS integration required). Restrict coupons to a single use and eliminate abuse. That's Biz - an iContact Business Partner.

  10. 10
    3 Voting...
    ActiveCampaign - Email Marketing & Automation

    ActiveCampaign - Email Marketing & Automation

    Create email marketing and HTML newsletter campaigns in minutes. Powerful email marketing software features with free premium templates.

  11. 11
    1 Voting...
    Campaigner - Email Marketing Service | Email Marketing Made Easy

    Campaigner - Email Marketing Service | Email Marketing Made Easy

    Campaigner Email Marketing Service. Easily create and send effective email marketing campaigns. Get started today with our Free 30 Day Trial.

  12. 12
    1 Voting...
    emfluence - Digital Marketing Platform and Services

    emfluence - Digital Marketing Platform and Services

    emfluence is your partner for conversions online. We convert strangers into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into evangelists. We do this by ensuring that every digital marketing effort we make with you is based on three principals: track, measure, and improve. Or TMI.

  13. 13
    0 Voting...
    SMTP Relay Server: App and Transactional Email Delivery

    SMTP Relay Server: App and Transactional Email Delivery

    Learn why more developers choose SendGrid's SMTP relay services to deliver transactional emails triggered by web apps. Sign up for a free account today.

  14. 14
    0 Voting...
    Mass Email Marketing Company, Advertising Services, Bulk Email Servers

    Mass Email Marketing Company, Advertising Services, Bulk Email Servers

    We are a Mass Email marketing company, provides mass email services and bulk email servers which take email advertising to the next level. Connect with us to enrich and create featured email marketing campaigns.

  15. 15
    0 Voting...
    Send beautiful email newsletters with Campaign Monitor

    Send beautiful email newsletters with Campaign Monitor

    Campaign Monitor makes it easy to attract new subscribers, send them beautiful email newsletters and see stunning reports on the results.

  16. 16
    0 Voting...
    Movable Ink

    Movable Ink

    Rather than being frozen in time when the marketer hits "send", emails become containers for live content that adapt to when, where, and how recipients open and interact with messages. Building relevant communications becomes easier for the marketer, and results in deeper engagement with the consumer.

  17. 17
    0 Voting...
    Mailrelay, email marketing

    Mailrelay, email marketing

    Mailrelay offers a free account that lets you send up to 25000 monthly emails, with a subscriber limit of 5000, for free, forever. It also includes the possibility to create autoresponders also for free.

View more lists from John Jantsch

With Email Marketing Sometimes You Need to Question the Rules

Marketing podcast with DJ Waldow and Jason Falls (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

There are a handful of generally accepted “best practices” when it comes to email. Some have withstood the test of time and experiment, but others stay in place as hard and fast rules simply because enough people keep saying so.

Rebel's Guide to Email MarketingThe only hard and fast rule you should adhere to in marketing is what works for you. Now, what this means first and foremost is that you must be testing, measuring and analyzing what works for you or you’ll have no choice but to follow industry norms.

Sometimes norms present great opportunities to stand out. If everyone is doing something one way, there’s a pretty good bet that you can get some attention breaking the rules.

Today’s guests on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are DJ Waldow and Jason Falls, co-authors of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win

In the Rebel’s Guide they take on some of the common best practices and illustrate some great examples of people finding success in email marketing by bending and breaking the rules.

Below are some examples of the types of common practices you need to test and push in your email marketing efforts.

Subject lines

I call the subject line of an email the ad for opening and reading. If you don’t hook someone with it, you stand little chance of getting your email read and no chance of getting someone to click through to an offer.

Common wisdom is 30-40 characters with call to action or benefit right up front. What if you experimented with very short, intriguing subject lines that played to curiosity?

From line

Common wisdom here is that you want the recipient to see that the email is from someone they know. Makes sense, but what if you tested sending email with clever attributes that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else, but also added a little fun and flair – example might be: From: Your Favorite Plumber

Preheader text

This is the second ad and most people waste it. It’s the very first bit of content that shows up after the subject line in a lot of email clients. Most people start with something like “having trouble reading this, blah, blah”

What if you used this to text to urge them to open – “You know you need to open this” “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, open this”

Alt images

The default setting for Gmail is to leave images turned off. This means the recipient must click something to actually make your images show. If you are using HTML email that relies on images to make greater impact you want those images turned on.

Common practice suggests that you use the Alt images attribute to describe your images as the alt text will show in place of images. What if you used this to convince people that they are missing cool stuff by leaving images off. “If you had images on you would see something really awesome here”

HTML and text

Another common spam filter fighting practice is to send your email in multiple formats. Your nice, pretty HTML email should have a text-based only version. It helps assure the ISPs that you are sending useful information.

One of the things that I think you need to experiment with is the use of text only emails or at least mixing the format up from time to time. When people get used to seeing your standard HTML template they get complacent. Send very short, personal emails using text only to make even greater impact.

Personalization

Another common practice is to add personalization from data fields. You know, Hey John, did you know that John could get a free blah, blah.

I agree there is a place for this, although it gets abused in absurd ways as well. This is something your want to play with. One of the most widely commented emails I ever sent intentionally played on the fill in the blank fields with fake data fields like [put new best friend’s name here] and [say something here that sounds authentic]

Opt-out

This one is not only common practice, it’s the law. You must add a way for people to opt-out of your email and you should make it obvious.

Most people hide this at the end of an email and use the default government language.

What if you put it first and had some fun with it. “I really, really don’t want to see you leave, but if you must break my heart, do it here.”

Every element of your marketing is only as good as your testing tells you it is, so study common best practices in everything you do and then figure out how to interrupt the best practices with testing.

5 Ways to Generate More Email Sign Ups

Getting more email subscribers is job #1. Email is and has long been the number one producer of return on marketing investment for businesses large and small.

Acquiring the contact information of someone who has expressed at least a mild interest in what you do and has given you permission to tell them a great deal more about what you do is the first, and perhaps most important, task.

There are few businesses today that can get by on traffic and eyeballs alone. Today’s marketer must get access, permission and time on the screen. Today’s marketer must have multiple opportunities to build enough relationship capital to convert trust into a sale.

Email marketing, combined of course with advertising, referrals, public relations and a total online presence is the complete package.

List building is an essential element of email marketing today and takes a strategic approach in line with its importance.

It’s no longer enough to slap an email sign-up form on every page of your website and call it done. You must focus attention to detail and expand your thinking on list building to get your “value exchange” or “reason I would give up my email address” in front of more of the right people at just the right time.

Below are five tactics for list building today:

1) Feature with content

There is an assumption in this post that you are producing high quality, educational content – the kind that draws links and readers. Now you’ll want to explore ways to promote your list sign up as people engage with this content.

Many WordPress theme frameworks today (Genesis and Thesis) allow for what are being called “feature boxes.” These feature boxes make it easy to place a sign up box at, say, the end of each blog post or top of your blog home page. Placing your email offer where people are reading and enjoy your content improves uptake.

2) Content partner share

One of the most important ways to entice email subscribers today is by offering long format content in the shape of an eBook. Generally, this is content that deeply tackles one subject in a way that’s appealing to your target client.

Once you’ve gone to the effort to produce this content reach out to other businesses, the ones that know they should be offering content to their customers, and allow them to promote your eBook by way of a special co-branded sign-up landing page.

3) Thank you suggest

Once someone signs up to receive your offer it’s good form to redirect them to a “thank you” page that gives them assurance that all is well, what to expect next or other details.

Consider partnering with three or four other “high quality” content producers that you would recommend to your readers and suggest subscriptions to these partners on your thank you page.

If each of the partners involved performs this action you’ll see more subscribers by way of referral.

4) Advertise

If your content, such as an eBook, is attractive enough you may find that advertising is an effective way to create list sign-ups. Of course this assumes that your conversion and measurement activities are such that you at least have some idea of what an email subscriber is worth long-term to your business.

You can effectively promote an eBook through Facebook Promoted Posts or by purchasing solo ads in newsletters related to your market.

5) Endorsement swaps

One of the most powerful ways to quickly add subscribers is for another list owner, one that has built trust with their subscribers, to send a mailing endorsing your eBook or newsletter content.

Now, while this is obviously a great tactic, it’s one that requires many things. No list owner will risk their reputation endorsing low quality content and neither should you. This is a tactic that takes time as it’s best done with partners that you have established a very trusting relationship with either by way of reputation in your industry or by directly working on other projects.

Build these relationships, create some killer content and approach your partners with the idea of sending an email offering their great content to your list while they do the same.

Why Your Email Marketing Needs an Editorial Calendar

Lots of marketers have given in to the need to produce lots of content. This need has become so prevalent that many have actually begun to adopt a publishing mindset.

Email editorial calendar

photo credit: sogrady via photo pin cc

With this mindset comes the need to schedule, plan and strategize about relevant content needs, formats and purposes. Otherwise you end up with content chaos and, inevitably, so do your customers and prospects.

We use a Google Calendar system in our office and have a brief editorial meeting each week with the entire staff to make sure we are both meeting our editorial obligations and producing the right kind of content.

Recently, we added email to the editorial calendar and this seemingly simple integration has made a significant impact in our content focus.

We now have a better picture of what we are putting out in all channels and have a better view of who is receiving what, why and when.

This better picture of content is a great tool whether you are the only one producing content or need to collaborate with a team and outside producers.

By using an editorial calendar approach to email we:

  • Keep much better track of who is getting what
  • Segment our lists with more precision
  • Plug gaps in important core topics
  • Uncover new ways to use existing content
  • Better monitor how much email we are sending
  • Create more opportunities to use content to build our list

Getting a handle on your total content platform is an essential aspect of your total online presence and employing simple tools such as a Google content calendar shared to the staff or more fully featured tools such as DivvyHQ or Gather Content and including every content opportunity, including your email outreach, will give your content plan the focus it needs to generate the greatest return on time invested.

7 Essential Stages of Building a Total Online Presence

There are many moving parts involved in marketing and the online elements increase in importance with each passing day.

But, marketing is a system, and to effectively operate this system you must assemble and integrate each of the important parts into something that looks like the whole.

Your online presence is your key to success no matter what your business sells – no matter if all of your transactions are done face to face – no matter if you don’t yet see a way to get a return from your Facebook page – no matter if you’ve never bought an online ad.

The key, however, is to build a Total Online PresenceTM, much like you would a tall, sturdy building, by constructing floor by floor in specific order or in stages. Your stages may differ just a bit based on where you are today and you’ll surely come back and revisit, add on and revamp each stage as you grow, but I believe the following model is the surest way to view your online marketing as a system.

Below are the seven stages of building a Total Online Presence.

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

Content Platform

So much of what happens online revolves around content. It’s how you get found, why people pay attention and how you start to exchange value. Without a content platform to build from a great deal of effort in other stages will be wasted.

To me the content platform starts with building a listening station with tools like Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Trackur, Social Mention, Sprout Social or Radian6. From this point you can you can gain insight into your market, your competitors and important groups, such as key journalists, while starting the work of better understanding your most important keyword phrases.

Keywords are like chapters in your total body of content plan. Doing research, using tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, on the most important ways to show up when people search for a business like yours and creating blog posts around these chapters, using an editorial calendar approach, is how you fortify your content platform.

Once you start consistently creating content, you can produce valuable eBooks that will be the pivotal element of your email lead capture stage.

There’s really very little reason to play this game if your don’t put the effort in at this stage.

Organic SEO

Having someone type a search phrase that is key to your business and finding a blog post or page from your site on page one of the results is the ultimate payoff and, long-term, may be the difference between success and failure.

Search Engine Optimization can be complex and time consuming, but most businesses can generate significant results without making it so, if you simply focus on the following three elements.

Produce keyword rich, educational content – we covered this above, but search engines live on blog posts and other educational content. Use a tool like Scribe from Copyblogger to help you write more search engine friendly content.

Make it easy on the search engines – Make the on page elements such as your blog titles, URLs, ALT image attributes, subtitles and internal links work for you and use XML sitemaps that make it easy for search engines to grab your latest. Check out Search Engine News for great primer.

Draw lots of links naturally from other sites – Simply writing great content will start this process, but so will writing guest posts, uploading content to places like YouTube and Slideshare, making thoughtful comments on other blogs, submitting online press releases and amplifying your content in social networks. (Covered below)

Email Marketing

An engaged email list, eager to hear from you, is the most valuable asset your can build. 1000 responsive email followers trumps 25,000 Twitter followers every day when it comes to actually promoting the things that make your money.

Focus on building a list of email subscribers that want to hear from you and social media will become a tool set to help you do more of that.

Choose an email service provider (ESP) such as Constant Contact, GetResponse, AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft and go to work on building email capture forms with the offer of your free eBook or weekly newsletter before you move on to social media.

Social Media Marketing

This is certainly an area where you should consider strategy before tactics.

The first step is to understand how your current customers are using social media and how you can use social media to somehow serve them better. If you do that, you’ll get immediate value.

Create Twitter lists of customers and add their social profiles to your CRM tool. Add a tool like Rapportive to your email.

Then claim and build your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare and Pinterest.

Your plan to work and engage prospects in all of these networks may not be clear yet, but the first step is to claim the free real estate so you can start exploring.

Once you start to share content, build connections, reshare other people’s content and discover best practices in each individual network, you can begin to amplify your content and start finding ways to drive prospects to your eBook and newsletter in an attempt to start a relationship headed towards conversion.

Online Advertising

Many people waste advertising and then conclude it doesn’t work. Pay per click advertising can be very effective when done right. One of my favorite things about it is that a platform like Google AdWords allows you to test your thinking a dollar at a time.

Here’s my take on how to make ads pay – Use your ads to drive content awareness instead of simply to sell. Drive Facebook users to sign up for your eBook first and then you can sell them over and over again.

The basics of PPC are this: Use lots of punchy, dramatic ad copy, but test, revise and test. Create tightly focused ad groups with highly relevant ad copy, work negative keywords out of your list. Test some more.

Mobile and Location

Mobile is more of a behavior than a tool. The first step is to analyze what behaviors your customers are exhibiting before you dive into or dismiss Foursquare or text messaging.

I can assure you this however, your customers are reading content, searching for things to buy and using reviews to make decisions on mobile devices. Claim your location based profiles in places such as Foursquare and Yelp.

Create mobile and tablet friendly viewing options with tools such as WPTouch, Tekora or GoMobi. Start creating mobile specific ads, landing pages, coupons and offers that take advantage the growing use of mobile devices as a major part of the purchasing process.

Analytics and Conversion

Like many stage-based processes there is a cyclical aspect as well. For some, creating benchmarks and key performance indicators is really the first step. So, if you’re one of those folks you can start here, because no matter where you are in the process this stage will always evolve.

Many people can’t start the process of measuring success until they are measuring in real time or can’t start the process of tweaking and testing until all of the elements are in place.

As you build make certain you install tracking code from a tools such as Google Analytics, Spring Metrics or KissMetrics so you can begin to build the data to test and refine from.

Then you can start building conversion goals, funnels and events, tracking your ads and split testing your landing pages, opt-in pages and sales pages to discover ways to increase conversion.

Even something as overwhelming and complex as the changing face of marketing online get just a bit more manageable I think when you start to view it as a system.

5 Practices That Will Make Your Email List Your Most Valuable and Responsive Asset

No matter how important social media use has become in the marketing mix, email is still the most cost effective and responsive form of direct marketing – particularly if you build and manage your list with care.

Using a tool to qualify subscribers

For some, email list building is simply a numbers game. Get as many people as possible to subscribe and market to them all like numbers. The problems with this approach are many.

First off, people that take this approach and brag about their list of 100,000 records are lucky to get 5% of that number to even open their emails, let alone act. While people that intentionally build and maintain their lists with care may have much smaller lists, but they can achieve 50% open and act rates.

Having bigger numbers, with no connection, actually makes it harder for your chosen email service provider (ESP) to get any of your email delivered because mail services such as Gmail and Yahoo look down upon mail that never gets opened by the recipient.

Below are five practices that will make your email lists one of your most valuable and responsive assets.

Funnel for personalization

People show up at your website and content landing pages for different reasons. When you offer one kind of lead capture you may lose people and you certainly must treat all who subscribe as equals – even though you may have many different target segments.

By employing a routine that allows people to pick the kind of information they are looking for you personalize the information and make it more relevant. In addition, you learn a little about the subscriber based on their choices.

You can use tools that many email service providers offer or purchase a tool like Survey Funnel that plugs into WordPress and walks prospective subscribers down the path to choose a certain type of action.

Make the first 30 count

The first 30 days of subscription is your test period. This is where you wow people or turn them off. Make sure you create a specific campaign during this period that allows you to balance great information sharing with education.

Go easy on the offers during this period. In fact, you may want to use your ESPs tools to suppress anyone in the 30-day window from receiving any solo mailings or additional offers.

Refine your frequency

How often you mail is a tricky one. I believe you earn the right to mail more frequently by proving you are a great source of valuable information or entertainment.

You definitely want to establish a routine of expectation – say a weekly newsletter or roundup, but you want to be careful not to abuse your list with every good offer you can pound away at.

Watch your unsubscribes religiously as any uptick is probably a sign you are over mailing.

One of the questions you might pose early on to subscribers is to ask how often they want to hear from you. This is also a tricky one because they don’t really know how great your info is and they will generally lean towards less email.

I’ve seen some people effectively test an unsubscribe option that allows people to sign up to get your once a month digest kind of info if they feel you’re mailing too much.

Choose wisely

By using proper segmentation you should be able to target certain offers to certain individuals. You may also have even more segmentation based on actions such as purchases.

When doing follow up emails lean towards mailing fewer and fewer people based on a series of criteria. For example, if you mail a special offer to your list, mail the follow-up reminder only to those that opened the first email and your response will soar without pestering those that saw the subject line of your first email and didn’t bother to read it.

Simple decisions like this will allow you to talk to your most responsive subscribers without wearing your entire list down.

Perform routine hygiene

No matter how great your information is, your list needs routine work. If a subscriber has been on your list for more than a year, chances are you need to look into whether or not their address should remain on your list.

Don’t get me wrong, I have people on my list that are loyal, active and responsive and have been on my list for eight years, but I also find people that subscribe and never open an email from me. You want those people off your list.

Marketers get caught up in numbers, but unresponsive subscribers will cost you in the long run.

At least twice a year you should perform list hygiene and clean things up. You can use a selection like “anyone that is not a buyer and has not opened an email in the last 6 months” as a select for who to opt-out of your list.

The first time I did this I was a bit nervous. I had been building my list for years and never done any cleaning up. My response rates were dropping and spam complaints were rising.

I ran a select that effectively cut my list in half. While it was hard to push the button on that one I found that after I did my open rate as a percentage soared of course, but more importantly, the number of opens and clickthroughs to content actually went up. More of my email was getting delivered and spam complaints disappeared. (Note: I’ve never mailed anyone that didn’t subscribe but some ISPs make it easier for people to complain than unsubscribe.)

So, there you have it. Practice good list building and care and watch your email list engagement soar.

The Only Reason to Participate in Social Media

Plain and simple, the real reason to participate in any marketing activity, including Facebook and others, is to generate a customer.

That point of view gets overlooked in favor of the “see how many fans you can get” social media game. One of the things that has become painfully clear of late is that having lots of followers does not equate into having lots of business. I know plenty of well-known, heavy hitter social media types, the ones that show up on lots of tops of Twitter lists, that are broke.

I’m not suggesting that having no followers is the way to go either, but turning followers into leads and converting those leads into profitable business is the real reason to spend time and money in any tactic.

Again, I’m not suggesting that this means you find a way to buy a few fans and then spam them into submission, but you must have a workable plan in place to move people from followers to prospects.

For most businesses this means email. If you are not consistently putting out great content and offering that content for your followers to grab in exchange for their email address you are severely limiting your ability to make social media pay.

You can do this in the form of an email newsletter, downloadable free ebook or even free online seminar or other event. The point is that if you can gain trust in your social media engagement, the kind that makes people confidently give you permission to email them, you’ll make social media pay. If you don’t, you won’t, it’s that simple.

Once you’ve earned this kind of trust, you can begin to nurture this lead, educate and make offers in ways that simply don’t have impact in most social media settings.

Obviously, you can take this offline as well – drive folks to play a game of check-in, invite them to your in person event, or get them to enter to win a grand prize at your location – but the point still remains.

Look at what your doing right now with your social media efforts and ask yourself this question – What could I do that would entice some percentage of my followers to willingly and joyfully give me their email address? – answer that and you’ll turn your social media efforts into a powerful lead generation machine.

Email marketing research keynote

Email marketing summitI am attending the Marketing Sherpa Email Summit in Miami today and will be making frequent mobile posts from the sessions.

Stephan Tornquist from Marketing Sherpa opened the conference with some research findings.

  1. Email marketing’s picture in general is fading because getting through to swamped email boxes has gotten much harder, open rates at 25%
  2. Users of full service email marketing services are generally more successful – list segmentation is the key
  3. Shorten subject lines – 2 and 3 words increase open rates – see Seth Godin’s blog post titles
  4. Vary your templates – move ads and content blocks around to help with ad fatigue.
  5. You can double your media buy or start testing – effective landing pages are the key to driving conversion. Conversion rate is the key metric
  6. Content is more important than frequency

Any open rate tips you’ve found that are working for you right now?