What Tool to Choose?

In the first two parts of this series, I discussed some of the things to think about when setting up an opt-in email list. I said that there are many different reasons why organizations will establish an opt-in email list, as there are about a million types of tools for achieving these varied goals. For this article, I am going to break down the menagerie of options into three categories: free to nearly free, low to midprice, and high end. Whenever you break down a market by price, you expect to receive more benefits on the high end and less on the low end, but for anyone who has ever bought software, this is not necessarily true.

I Have No Budget but I Want an Opt-in Email Solution

I love the Internet! It has given everyone an entrepreneurial spirit and has allowed everyone with a venue to strut his or her capitalist stuff. One of the most frequent questions that I’m asked is: How can I buy the tool I need without any budget? In the case of opt-in email management packages, there are a few that meet this criterion. Both of the following solutions are of the ASP variety and are utilized over the web, that is, there is no software to download or install:

With both of these solutions, the tradeoff for the reduced cost or for no cost is that an ad is attached to each email you send to your list. You need to determine if this is a problem for you and what you are trying to accomplish with your opt-in email list.

The Midtier

Whenever you tell someone that a particular solution is midpriced, you automatically have failed. Expense is always relative. Someone with a $5,000,000 budget per year for marketing activities is going to think $1,000 per month is a small expenditure, while someone with a $1,000-per-month budget will think anything that costs more than $100 is going to hurt. To come up with a list of midtier solutions, I focused on solutions that cost less than $250 per month to send 50,000 emails per month. I also focused only on solutions that had some minimum capabilities, such as click-through tracking, ability to purge emails, automated opt-out abilities for list members, and a manageable web-based interface for managing your list and publishing new emails. Within these parameters, here is what I found:

Within this midtier, most of the solutions are of the ASP variety. Most of them also allow you to pay and subscribe on a monthly basis, but almost all of them provide a discount if you sign up for a longer contract.

The Big Boys

With any software, the sky’s the limit on the capabilities and the corresponding price you will pay for those capabilities. There are multitudes of companies playing at the high end of the outbound email management game. These software solutions can cost tens of thousands of dollars (or even more), but they can do pretty amazing things. They all have the standard features (list cleaning, click-through tracking, email publishing), but almost all of them on the high end do even more. Some of the fancier features include specialized list management, after-click-through activity tracking, detailed management reporting, ROI management, and detailed profile targeting.

Some of the companies I found in the high-end category include:

Some of these are of the ASP variety, and some are software purchases, but many of them will allow you to do either of these approaches. Some also have other features, such as inbound email management or customer service functions. My suggestion for any company that is going to embark on a high-end solution would be to take some time and analyze all of the solutions. There are many options out there, and each of them has negotiable costs and various functions.

In this three-part series, I have tried to offer a primer for establishing opt-in email as a viable marketing solution. I have not mentioned every aspect of this process, but I have tried to provide you with enough fodder to get you started. I certainly did not include every company that offers a solution for this marketing challenge. I tried to choose those companies that I perceive to be the market leaders, solutions that I have used and been pleased with, or products that were highly recommended by people I respect. Now take this information and start using opt-in email as the powerful tool it is.

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