When you think of the best email marketing service, you might be thinking of an email service provider like WhatCounts, Constant Contact, or MailChimp, but the system you use is irrelevant without a team or agency behind it that knows how to use it. At Mequoda, we, and most of our publishing partners, use WhatCounts for email management, an experienced and highly rated email service provider, so let’s start with the mechanics of the technology you’ll need to implement the second part of this article, which is about email marketing.
Technology to Look for in the Best Email Marketing Service
To help our publishing partners manage their email database, and send the right amount of messages, Mequoda has developed the Haven Mail email management system as part of our Haven CMS. The module is specifically designed for publishers to facilitate sending email, and to get the right data back to optimize your email program, and, eventually, increase sales.
We built an API to work with WhatCounts, and the API provides real-time updates of new email subscribers and unsubscribers and email preference changes.
The API also communicates nightly with Haven to track email campaign performance. Using this data allows reporting on revenue per thousand emails sent by matching the WhatCounts data with customers in Haven. Additional data, such as the number of emails sent, opens, and clicks is fed into an email performance report. The integration includes the creation of email templates, list set-up, and list hygiene best practices.
Editorially speaking, our Haven Email Builder allows the operator to build email newsletters for daily and weekly templates based on components that exist inside Haven, such as content posts and ads.
Once email components have been selected/defined and the HTML is generated, the WhatCounts email management system will grab the HTML and mail out the campaign. All the emails are responsive across desktop, mobile devices, and tablets. The Haven Email Automator allows for the automatic predefined deployment of newsletters based on new content being added to the website. The operator also can customize ad deployment for each newsletter.
Promotionally speaking, we’ve built features like Haven Engage, our proprietary marketing automation system. Within it, the Haven Mail segmentation manager updates the Email Management System when a user performs transactions on your website, actions such as downloads, registrations, and subscriptions. It also integrates with the Haven Message Manager to send targeted email messages based on these transactions.
To summarize the technical side of what we think the best email marketing service should do for you: Your website and your email system need to talk to one another. If you want to know which emails perform best and why, you won’t get that from an email service provider alone.
Strategy to Look for in the Best Email Marketing Service
So, you have the technology in place (or at least know what you want), and now you’re looking at email marketing agencies. If you’re a publisher, you can skip right over 99% of the email marketing service agencies out there because most know how to create campaigns that offer 50% off sales, and Cyber Monday specials, but they don’t know how to sell magazine subscriptions. Even if they do, they don’t know about the dynamics of offer testing, which is necessary for a publisher.
If you really want to find the best email marketing service agency, they’ll need to be experienced in subscription offer testing and content testing. Does a magazine all-access pass sell better at $10 for the first year, or does it sell better when you offer 30 days free? Does a short sales letter with an image work better, or does long sales letter with multiple images get more clicks? We know the answers to these questions, and it’s because, as an email marketing services company, we are testing every day for our publishing partners.
The method we use for email marketing is Six Sigma. Six Sigma methods are used in direct marketing to test a control against several variables. You test each variable against the control in order to declare a winner. This continues until all the variables have been tested. The process can take place over the course of a month, or over the course of a year, depending on how many variables you have to test.
For the magazine publishing businesses we work with, we adapt this structure to test both offers and creative continuously. Thanks to digital delivery and the power of continuous service, we’re able to get creative with offer testing.
Does Your Email Marketing Service Do Offer Testing?
Let’s say your goal is to increase memberships to your all-access magazine product. You can run one offer for four weeks, such as 30 Days Free, and run a different offer for the next four weeks, such as $10 for the First Year. The reason we suggest sequential testing is because of the multi-device nature in which consumers engage with our content.
In sequential testing, there is a control for each odd-numbered month of the year and a separate control for each even month of the year where we follow the protocols described.
Split-testing is another route, where the offers tested are run out to two segments of equal size for promotional Spotlight emails. This email-only offer is usually a sale or a survey that is not available to web visitors. It is often offered for a limited time so that urgency can be part of the multi-effort campaign.
While either approach is a significant amount of work, requiring active coordination between editorial and marketing, on-the-spot analytics, great copywriting, and interaction with fulfillment to manage the offers, we strongly recommend all publishers seek these methods for offer testing if you’re looking for the best email marketing service.
Does Your Email Marketing Service Practice Content Testing?
Unlike companies trying to sell beauty products, toys, and other items, publishers often perform better with more content instead of a single flashy image in email. That’s why testing the creative is another crucial step you’re looking for when you’re seeking the best email marketing service.
What we do for our publishing partners is develop, schedule, deploy, and analyze these campaigns. For example, let’s say you’re sending ten promotional email Spotlights in a two-week cycle. After completion of this period, you’ll identify the five best performing spotlights and the five worst-performing spotlights. Keep the five winners and include them in the next 2-week email cycle, and replace the five losers with brand new creative. Then, rerun the cycle to see who the winners and losers are, and repeat.
Through this process, you will create a series of email templates that are guaranteed winners each time you send them. You might think people will tire of them, but our data shows the opposite — the top-performing emails will keep generating revenue for years.
You might be thinking — this is very aggressive, how do your publishing partners create five new email spotlights every two weeks? Keep in mind, they have us on their side as their email marketing services partner. Our team of seasoned copywriters are at the helm developing the creative, while others on our team are managing the schedule, offers, deployment, and analysis.
If you’re still wondering who the best email marketing services company is – I invite you to get in touch with me and see how we can work together.