When you’re running your own business or merely freelancing, there are times when you require services such as Web hosts, email marketing providers, etc. You know that email campaigns are important because you’ve been told as much –and that’s true. You’ve been told that to own your list of names is gold –that’s also true.
So, how do you know if one particular service provider is better than another? I’m going to show you how to search for the right service partner for your current needs and this goes for all types, not just email marketing.
Steps to Find the Right Service
There are so many options and you’re getting a headache from all of the technical jargon. Use these steps as guidance to evaluate if this fits your budget and business philosophy.
- Word of Mouth (WOM) Normally, we don’t jump on the wagon unless a friend recommends it, right? WOM is always the number one option when it comes to feeling secure about buying a service or product. Ask yourself: where is that wagon going? Is that the right one for me? Finding a provider that works with your kind of business can make or break your bank account, not to mention your spirit.
- Do they have multiple price levels? Breaking down options in a table format will immediately demonstrate their transparency, highlighting their structure with features and benefits side-by-side. I want to know within 5 minutes if my current list (ie. number of members) will fit in the price structure the service partner has illustrated for me.
- Can they accommodate the growth of your customer list? Your business needs change so you’ll want to remember to keep an eye open for scaling to accommodate the growth of your business. Look for any huge gaps in offers and disparate benefits. Personally, I don’t believe price jump should be at the bottom when you’re just starting out, it should be at the top end.
- Are they in Beta? In the land of startups, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to read that the online presence includes the word ‘Beta’ in their header. This level of transparency is reassuring, it really is. As a matter of fact, I’d prefer knowing that they’re working like Beta dogs to make me happy as their new customer. However, Beta doesn’t mean better.
- Read the forums Reading the forums will give you an overview at how the service treats it’s customers. You should have access to the forums as a guest (without the ability to post) to read the challenges the customers face as well as published product improvements. You’re going to be one of them –do you like what you read?
- Are the moderators friendly or condescending?
- Are questions getting answered in a timely basis? Are they getting answered at all?
- Do you read friendly banter or personal attacks?
- Do they have an FAQ? Look for topic “How to cancel your account.” This is paramount to understanding their level of transparency. If customers are consistently asking how to cancel their account and no one responds, it’s time to re-evaluate whether you want to do business with them. Are you getting the warm and fuzzies or a painful alarm sounding off in your head? Try sending a private note to a customer asking them if they received a response and perhaps this will give you a clearer idea of choice. Price doesn’t always equate with value.
- Do they have a blog? Some service providers do an incredible job of providing best practices and how-tos in their newsletters. Running your email campaigns should be a joy, not a daunting experience. Your service provider should be the expert in helping you along the way no matter what level of your expertise.
- How accessible are they? Do they have phone or text chat? Are their hours posted?
What kind of email providers?
The search doesn’t have to be daunting. Some ideas on research:
- Go to newsletter sign up pages on other like-minded artists sites and see who they use. They usually outline it somewhere on their subscription page.
- Subscribe to galleries or other interests that you have to see who they use. You can find their provider at the bottom of the page. Larger companies may use their proprietary sender.
- Ask your artist friends and other entrepreneurs (read: not just 2) to find out how they like their email marketing provider. How often do they send out campaigns? Are they engaged with a provider that claims that resending emails after a customer deletes them is ethically responsible? (Hint, never antagonize your customers!)
Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with my own list, Constant Contact, RatePoint, and most recently, aWeber. I’m really enjoying aWeber’s flexibility in client signup, broadcasts, and auto-responders. The system can be a bit complex, but they have a comprehensive search and FAQ to help you along the way.
I left Constant Contact because they weren’t keeping up with the times and lacked engagement; Rate Point lacked engagement and had extremely poor customer service tactics. There are other email providers out there that I can’t vouch for: Emma, iContact, mailchimp, vertical response and many more but I’m sure they work great for other entrepreneurs.
Have I helped?
Has this outline helped you conquer your email marketing provider woes? Do you still have anxiety about your search? If so, please ask below. I’ll respond, I promise! I’m here to help.
Here’s to Cultivating Your Creative Independence