Is it time for a smarter Email Service Provider?

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I’ve been involved with email marketing for six years now. In that time, I learned email on the fly on the client side, and learned a ton while working agency side as well.

I’ve worked with and demo’ed numerous ESP solutions.

There are two things I’ve learned over this time:

  1. The question every email service provider needs to answer is “How do I make my clients better email marketers?”
  2. Most marketing folks don’t have the time or desire to learn fancy software packages; they just want something that will make their lives and jobs as easy as possible. Simply put, these folks need to learn the basic necessities of the tool and move on.

Having been on both sides of the email marketing equation, this idea dawned on me:

A “Teach As You Go” ESP Technology Solution

You want your clients to be better email marketers? Don’t make them go through tutorials that are separate from the active portions of the tool. Don’t force them to sign up for webinars when they likely don’t have the time. Incorporate education into the functionality of your software solution.

Here’s what I mean:
Say your tool builds your messages in stages—Your 1st stage is the “envelope” where you build the From and Subject Line; 2nd is the creative; 3rd is segmentation and targeting; 4th is deployment.

In each stage, you would design the UI to kick up a pop-up window with suggestions on best practices or legal requirements. A couple of examples:

  • If the unsubscribe was not present in the email, the UI would pop-up and say, “An unsubscribe option is required by law. Would you like help in setting that up?”
  • If the user is building an email in the creative stage, a pop-up could jump on and say, “Have you considered using pre-header text? Here’s why that’s a good idea…”

You can give your users the option to learn, make changes, or simply “I’m testing” to “break” best practices (As best practices don’t necessarily fit every situation.)

No time for tutorials

You can educate your clients and make them not just better email marketers, but more savvy technology users as well. Plus, general best practices can change frequently, so you can update your education options as you release new versions of your software.

As a client-side marketer, I don’t have time to spend in tutorials. I need to know how to send an email as easily and quickly as possible.

If the education is in front of me as I’m using the part of the tool I need, I’m more likely to partake in quick tips that help my performance without slowing me down too much.

Experience with ESPs: two types of email software

In my experience, there are generally two types of software solutions for email: those designed for IT folks, and those designed for marketing folks. The solutions designed for IT personnel tend to be less intuitive, have more sophisticated backend features, yet be very difficult for visually-oriented marketers like myself to use. On the other hand, marketing-focused software solutions tend to focus on the ease of getting messages out.

Technical or strategy/creative?
I’ve found that email marketers fall into the same spectrum. There are those who excel on the technical side, and those who excel on the strategy/creative side. Finding email marketers who are excellent with both are hard to find.

An ESP solution that excels at both is equally hard to find. And those that can handle both functions tend to come with a steep learning curve for the common marketers who simply want to get an effective email message out.

This is not an indictment of ESPs. It’s the truth of my experience in the marketplace, from both a client-side and an agency-side perspective. Only one ESP I’ve used has been simple to use from start to finish in terms of creating a message and sending it out to a list. Every platform has its own language. I speak some languages better than others.

Even then, no ESP I’ve worked with includes education as part of their in-application email-building user interface. So, for the common marketer who has been tasked with taking over email for their company, they’re left with FAQs on how to use the tools in front of them, but nothing that’s easy to find on how to be better at email marketing.

So, I ask again. Do you want your clients to be better email marketers? I would, if I were you.

Is this marketable? I’m not sure. But I have to think that designing a software solution that educates the common marketer could be beneficial for all email marketers.

A “Teach As You Go” solution could be an excellent place to start.

Image via flickr user vandycft

About scottcohen


Scott Cohen is an award-winning copywriter, email marketer, and thinker (so he likes to think). By day, he manages a creative team and content for a nationally renowned online university. By night, he’s a father, husband, reader, sports fanatic, and budding strength-training nut. You can generally find him on Twitter at @scottcohen13 or on Scott’s blog, Scott Writes Everything.

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  • Monijoi2001

    So, what is the best FREE email marketing software? MailChimp or other?