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TECHNOLOGY

Start an Email Marketing Campaign in Minutes

A round-up of some of the best online newsletter services out there. Plus: Three etiquette rules you must follow.

Every company, regardless of industry or size, should be in the publishing business, because creating content is a great way to stay in contact with your customers. Publishing articles, videos, podcasts, and research via online channels helps establish your subject matter expertise and keeps you on your customers' radar--and near the top of their email stack.

There are a number of cost-effective online solutions for crafting newsletters and email marketing campaigns. The following are some of the most user-friendly:

ConstantContact 

ConstantContact offers free and paid options for email marketing, including templates that you can set-up in minutes--no graphic design experience required. The company offers products that help with everything from event marketing to online survey platforms (from $15/month). You also get full back-end analytics to help you keep track of conversion rates and social media sharing.

MailChimp 

MailChimp offers robust custom newsletters at an affordable price (starting at $10/month). You can use a companion smartphone app that lets you track click-through rates, subscriptions, and revenue. Support for numerous platforms (including Facebook) and software tools (databases and CMS systems) make the service easy to integrate. The simplicity of the newsletter tool is the service's best feature, though.

MadMimi 

Quirky aesthetics aside, MadMimi offers a lightweight approach to designing branded email promotions without compromising performance. The service allows you to juggle multiple subscription lists, customize your email sends, and publish content to the Web. It's more affordable (just $8/month for some packages) but has fewer features than the other options in this list. 

iContact 

iContact's offers drag-and-drop controls and preexisting templates as an alternative to building newsletters from scratch. You have the option to custom-style and add images to your sends. iContact's tracking services also let you monitor how often newsletters are opened, what readers clicked on, and how many recipients register for (or opt out of) mailings. Most useful, though, may be the support for website and social media sign-up forms. This way, you can attract readers using your site or Facebook page. Pricing for iContact starts at $14/month. 

These didn't make my top four, but here are other solid event and email marketing services to try:

Lastly, when sending email newsletters, observe these three simple rules of etiquette:

  1. Don't add customers to email lists (especially en masse) without receiving their advance permission. Doing so may mean your newsletters are marked as spam and blacklisted by certain services or Internet providers.
  2. Always include a one-click unsubscribe option. Added steps such as requesting that users retype their email address or explain why they've opted out of communications are annoying and obtrusive.
  3. Clearly identify promotional and newsletter mailings as such and make it obvious where outside links will send the reader.
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Last updated: May 31, 2012

SCOTT STEINBERG | Columnist | CEO, TechSavvy Global

Scott Steinberg is the CEO of strategic consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global and the author of ?The Business Expert?s Guidebook.? A sought-after keynote speaker and expert witness, he?s among the world?s most-quoted high-tech analysts.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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