I have great news for you: the perfect email marketing service provider for your business is out there.
Now here’s the tough part: as every princess knows, you might have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.
Fortunately, like a quickly-smooched-and-set-aside frog, you don’t have to commit to an email marketing service provider until you know they’re “the one.” And there are plenty of strategies that can help you filter out the companies that aren’t the best fit for you. The first step is deciding what you want to get out of the relationship. If you’ve run a business, you already know your time is your most precious resource; you need to guard it carefully. Selecting a single email marketing service provider that can handle all of your needs under one “roof” will save you the hassle of working with more than one company for your email creative design, email list cleaning and validation, another for your email marketing strategies, and yet another for your email deployments.
Make a list of the services your ideal company would offer, and only look at those that fit the bill. Remember, it doesn’t matter if a particular email marketing service provider got a great recommendation from a colleague if they don’t do the sorts of work your business in particular needs.
If you’re new to marketing, ask yourself: does it look like Company X has the resources to guide you from start to finish? If you’re the sort who wants to stay involved at every turn, are they set up to let you make on-the-fly changes to the plan? And if you’re looking for a fire-and-forget managed email marketing experience, does the company seem to be qualified enough to let you be comfortably hands-off?
Next, get ready to dig in; it’s time to research the companies you’ve selected. Investigate their track record online, see what sorts of feedback and reviews they receive from their customers and whether their current customers are happy with their service. Third party review sites and discussion boards where the companies are talked about are great sources for information — as long as you remember such boards have a built-in “negative rant” quotient — and many companies will post testimonials on their own websites from satisfied customers. You might also find other frivolous, poor or negative reviews which are actually posted by competitors. Trying to decipher what’s real and what’s bogus isn’t always the easiest task. A simple way to cut through the nonsense would be to check and ensure they have a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Now comes the part where you make contact. With any luck you’ve made your list short enough to start sending emails and making phone calls; explain your business and what you hope to achieve with a new and comprehensive email marketing program. If you have specific needs, are working with a set budget, or have goals that might seem a little abstruse, lay it all out — then start asking questions you couldn’t find answers to from their website alone.
Do they have experience with the product or service you’re trying to market or promote? Are their practices adaptive, ready to change as quickly as technology and the market landscape can? Can they help you not only raise awareness of your company but also generate actionable leads or sales? And do they have methodologies to evaluate and improve their own data — can they ensure your message is well-targeted, is being put in front of the right people and is actually being delivered to the users inbox?
Finally, after you’ve talked to a few full service email marketing service providers, reflect upon the conversations. Did you get the impression that they valued your business? Were you, as a potential new customer, considered a priority? Was there adequate follow-up after you spoke, and did you get the sense they placed a lot of emphasis on delivering great customer service?
Making a thoughtful and educated decision about your email marketing, right from the beginning, can save you a lot of headaches later. More importantly, choosing the right email marketing service provider for your needs can produce more measurable results more quickly — giving your company the shot at greatness you know it deserves.
If you get it right, you’ll be wiping the smeared lipstick off your face with a big, ear to ear smile, as they back the Brinks truck up to your door for your weekly delivery.