How to choose the right email marketing provider for your business

Email marketing? Seriously? Isn’t marketing all about social media and micro-video these days? Yes, we’re serious, and here’s why. If you don’t have time to read that now, just trust us that email marketing is important as ever. Email marketing can deliver ROI percentages in the thousands, and that should be motivation enough for most marketers. When it comes to a successful email marketing campaign, a lot hinges on the content and the way it’s presented. But another important element which is often overlooked is the email marketing software you use. Before selecting a provider you should consider what your business needs to do with its email. Next look for a service that ticks all your boxes, here are some things to keep in mind:

Customisation and features

It goes without saying that you need to be able to personalise your emails to fit with your company’s branding and make them interesting to readers. Fortunately, most email services these days come with many customisation options as standard. Here are some absolute must-haves:

Hyperlinks and images

The whole point of email marketing is to direct people to your website, social media pages or affiliate links. To make it easy for your readers to click through, you need to be able to insert hyperlinks in your body of content. Also make sure you can insert images wherever you want to, as visuals make your email more attractive and interesting to readers.


Look for software that comes with pre-made templates and, ideally, lets you upload your own customised HTML template. This will ensure consistency in formatting and branding from one email to the next, and across all your marketing channels. Without templates you’ll end up wasting a lot of time just formatting your emails, and they may end up looking unprofessional despite your best efforts.

User experience

Make sure you choose an email marketing provider that performs a double opt-in for new subscribers (meaning it sends them an email asking them to verify that they want to subscribe). Also make it easy for people to unsubscribe with a clearly marked button in every email. Aside from the fact that this is a legal requirement, it also avoids any damage to your reputation, which might arise if readers had a difficult time unsubscribing.

Mobile responsiveness

With more and more people reading their emails on the go via a mobile device, it’s never been more important to ensure that your content displays properly over a wide range of smartphones and tablets. Opt for an email service that automatically fits your content to each user’s screen so it looks good no matter how people view it.

And these…

Although not essential, these are all things that might come in handy or make your life easier, depending on the kind of campaign you want to run:
  • HTML message creation
  • Email footer
  • Web forms
  • Auto scheduling for emails
  • Auto responders
  • Group email contacts
  • RSS integration

User interface and customer support

The last thing you need to be worrying about when you’re implementing your email marketing campaign is actually using the software itself. Choosing a program that’s intuitive and user-friendly will save you a ton of time and stress. A good way to assess ease of use is to request access to a provider’s demo version – most reputable vendors have one that you can use for a week or two with no obligations. Play around with it, compose a few emails, and take note of the number of times you have to consult the ‘help’ section to find out how to do something. Your sense of frustration or achievement at this stage should be a good guide as to how the rest of your team will find it. Also check out the company’s training materials and find out what their customer support is like. Live chat or phone access to a customer service representative will make a life a lot easier if you do run into problems. Finally, find out how many individual users can access your account and how much control you have over what they do (if, say, you want someone to be able to review and edit an email but not send it).

Integration with Existing Systems

Email marketing software does not stand alone; it needs to be able to integrate with any other channels and systems you already have in place. For example, if you want to have a sign-up form on your website (and it will be difficult to build your mailing list if you don’t), your email marketing software must integrate with that. If you’re selling a product or service through your emails, you must be able to link to your shopping cart of choice. And then there’s the matter of social media. In order for your readers to like your page, follow you or share your content, they need the buttons to do it. That means more integration. It might sound like a lot to think about, but if your software isn’t fully compatible it will hamper your marketing efforts.


With any luck, all this hard work will pay off and you’ll find your subscriber list growing. Your email marketing software should be able to adapt to and accommodate your growing readership as time goes on. You may have to upgrade to more data storage, although if you choose a cloud-based platform you should have almost unlimited capacity. Avoid committing to long contracts as you may find yourself stuck with a provider that no longer meets your needs or hasn’t kept up with new technologies. Many vendors, thankfully, offer monthly contracts with tiered payment options according to the volume you need to send.

Robust analytics

Don’t think that your work is done as soon as you’ve clicked ‘send’. If you don’t have access to metrics (or choose not to look at them), how will you know whether your campaign is working? At the very least, you should receive the following statistics from your provider:
  • Open rate
  • Forward rate
  • Click-through tracking
  • Unsubscribes
These will let you see how appealing your subject line is, which links people are clicking on, and how many people found it so annoying or irrelevant they decided they didn’t want to hear from you again. If you’re not tracking these numbers, you could be losing subscribers every week without realising it. Equally, you might overlook how well a particular piece performed. The best software will also allow you to perform A/B tests on things like headlines and subscriber segments. This will allow you to learn more about what works best with your audience. So, with all of that in mind, here are a few popular email marketing providers for you to consider:


MailChimp has earned a reputation as a comprehensive and user-friendly email marketing provider. Their drag-and-drop editor with numerous template choices makes customisation easy, and they offer A/B testing and in-depth reporting so you can optimise your campaigns. They also have a basic sign-up form which you can use to record information about your subscribers. On the back end, you’ll find multi-user access – helpful when you have several people working on one project – and the software itself is mobile compatible so team members can access it from anywhere.


Another provider that’s proven consistently popular is iContact. The tool is built around professional business needs, and includes all the basics such as hundreds of templates, an email designer and a message coder. Its social media integration system lets users publish direct to various networks, while its sophisticated contact management system provides tracking and reporting on users’ past interactions. All this is backed up by good customer support.


There is a lot to consider when it comes to choosing an email marketing provider, and with so many choices available it can be a little overwhelming. Research your options thoroughly and make sure the software you choose will allow you to customise, integrate and track your campaign through an interface that’s easy to use and supported by helpful customer service. It should also be able to continue meeting your needs as your mailing list grows and your email campaigns become more complex. We know that managing an email marketing campaign (or any marketing campaign, for that matter) can be pretty stressful when you feel like everything rests on you. If you’re in need of a helping hand, get in touch with us to see how we can lighten your load.