Ezines in 10 Minutes a Day- Part 2 – Picking your Software

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 04, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

Ongoing communication with prospects and customers can help you develop a following and increase your business. By creating an autoresponder (like a newsletter or an ezine) you can automate that ongoing communication and add value to your customers’ lives. In a previous Tips in Ten, I talked about different types of autoresponders and gave you some ideas to get you thinking about what kind of regular communication you want to create for your audience.

In this Tips in Ten, I’d like to give you a quick review of the top autoresponder programs out there to help you decide which one is best for you.

There are five big autoresponder systems out there, although you might find other ones that suit your needs but aren’t listed here. I’m going to give you a neutral review of all five and then later I’ll tell you which ones I use and why.

I’ve highlighted some of the features of each service, as well as the prices, but be aware that this information is relevant at the time of this writing. If you archive this email and read it later, the features or prices might have changed! Also, I’ve done my best to make the comparisons as “apples-to-apples” as possible to help you decide which one is right for you. Oh, and I should mention that my pricing metric is based on 5,000 to 10,000 emails as much as possible, but there are some exceptions as noted. (Note: I encourage you to visit each systems website, as these details are not exhaustive, each has many more features than listed here)

Constant Contact:

  • What do they do: Constant Contact lets you create autoresponders to stay in touch with your audience, as well as online surveys to generate information and interaction from your website’s users
  • Experience: They have worked with 275,000 small businesses and organizations.
  • Pricing (http://www.constantcontact.com/pricing/pricing-plans.jsp): Send 5,000 – 10,000 emails per month for $75/month
  • What makes them different: These are seasoned pros and have been leading the industry for a few years.

Aweber:

  • What do they do: Aweber lets you create email newsletters and autoresponders for your audience, and they also let you turn your RSS feeds into emails that can be sent out to subscribers.
  • Experience: They’ve been in business since 1998 and are one of the originals.
  • Pricing (http://www.aweber.com/pricing.htm): 5,000 – 10,000 emails per month for $69/month.
  • What makes them different: This company is the granddaddy of autoresponder systems.

Icontact:

  • What do they do: Icontact allows you to generate surveys, autoresponder messages, and convert your RSS feeds to regular emails.
  • Experience: They have over 51,000 customers.
  • Pricing (http://www.icontact.com/pricing): 5,000 – 10,000 emails per month for $47/month:
  • What makes them different: This company has enterprise partnerships available for people who have over 100,000 email addresses to send to.

1Shoppingcart:

  • What do they do: 1shoppingcart offers email marketing services like autoresponders, but it also offers powerful ecommerce solutions like a shopping cart and credit card transactions, too.
  • Experience: In terms of ecommerce shopping carts, this is THE company that defines the industry.
  • Pricing (http://www.1shoppingcart.com/shopping-cart-features.asp): Their autoresponder-only package (which allows for a database of 10,000 people) is $29/month but you can get a much more robust system for $99/month which includes an ecommerce suite, too.
  • What makes them different: This company combines a powerful ecommerce system with their autoresponder system.

Vertical response:

  • What do they do: Vertical response is a mix of online and offline services, allowing users to send email newsletters, offer online surveys, and send direct mail postcards.
  • Experience: I’m not clear on how long they’ve been in business or exactly how many customers they’ve helped but they say “tens of thousands” of customers.
  • Pricing (http://www.verticalresponse.com/pricing/): 4,000 to 8,000 emails per month is $72/month and 8,000 to 16,000 emails per month is $120/month.
  • What makes them different: This company mixes online and offline marketing together and they claim that they were founded to provide better customer service than their competitors.

There are other systems, too, so I could write all day about them; companies like StreamSend and Infusionsoft are 2 others that are popular. I just listed the ones that are among the most popular and useful but if you have the time and want to continue hunting, you will find many more. However, in my opinion, stick with one of the ones I’ve mentioned above and you’ll be working with a company that has the critical mass of customers and revenue to be able to help you.

It’s also worth mentioning what is common across all five of these providers: When your marketing newsletter is successful, they will be successful (and earn more money) so they provide you with a lot of really useful information on how to get your emails delivered, what to do about spam, how to avoid being mistaken for spam, how to write emails that get read and saved, and so on. They also all provide some form of email tracking so you can see who has opened their emails and who hasn’t, who has forwarded emails, and how often links inside of emails have been clicked.

Ultimately, you want to consider this: Why are you going to use an autoresponder? When you know that, you’ll figure out which service to use. Here are some thoughts on choosing:

  • Don’t automatically jump into one based solely on price. I’ve listed the prices above to compare but there are many other factors that might influence the price. Perhaps a level of service between one and another will impact the price, for example. If you just want to send out autoresponders and have no plans for anything else, then you might compare by price; but first consider all the services available.
  • If an online and offline mix of marketing (including direct mail postcards) is something you’d like to do, then Vertical Response might be the service for you. (However, don’t rule out using another service for direct mail marketing – like my favorite SendOutCards. (Note: You need a sponsor to enroll in send out cards, my sponsorship code is: r90776.)
  • If you want to integrate your autoresponder and an ecommerce solution, 1shoppingcart might be the right service for you.
  • Figure out how many people are in your database, and how many more you’ll realistically add over the next few years, and use that as the apples-to-apples metric to determine the price-to-service ratio you’re looking for.
  • Each one of these systems also let’s you send out Broadcasts (non-autoresponder Emails)

And now the million dollar question: What system do I use?

Before I tell you that, let me say that I have used all 5 in some way, shape, or form. (That doesn’t mean that I’ve sent autoresponders from all of them but I have used them in some way; perhaps through the work I do with clients or for some of their other services).

I currently like and use 2 programs: Aweber and 1Shoppingcart.

I use Aweber for a few of my sites in which a newsletter is the only email marketing item in the sales process. On these sites, I’m not capturing emails to do other kinds of marketing or to ultimately promote a product or service. When I’m ONLY planning on delivering newsletters, I use Aweber. Aweber is easy to use, priced fairly, and exactly what I need for newsletters.

I use 1Shoppingcart for occasions when I want to do some email marketing but I also plan on possibly (either now or in the future) marketing services to that list of people. When I was deciding between systems, I looked ahead into the future and realized that there was value for me in selecting one system that did both the autoresponders I needed at the time as well as an ecommerce system that I would use (and subsequently, I have been using) to sell products on my sites. That way, I didn’t have to get one system then and later get another system. It was a “two-for-one” deal in my opinion. I saved time on implementation. I like the long list of services that 1shoppingcart offers, which have always been more than adequate for my needs: http://www.1shoppingcart.com/internet-marketing-tools.asp.

However, just because I chose those two, doesn’t mean that they are right for you. So, take 10 minutes right now and think about what you want in an autoresponder system… both now AND in the future. Then, tomorrow, take ten minutes and revisit each site to see if it has the solutions you want at the price you want to pay. In fact, it might be worth taking ten minutes each day until the next issue of Tips In Ten to decide what you want and click around in each site.

In the upcoming Tips in Ten I’m going to show you how to create an autoresponder, and in a couple of weeks I’ll show you how you can make money from it!

Heather Recommends:

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