E-mail marketing tools have become essential to the operation of small businesses; they allow business owners to get in touch with potential and previous customers to offer services or products in an affordable fashion. But how do you choose the best e-mail marketing software for your business; our recommendation is that if you’re in doubt – choose Benchmark which we think is the best email marketing software for small businesses in 2016.
Why Did We Choose Benchmark?
Benchmark’s customers include Mercedes Benz and UNICEF so they must be doing something right. In fact, the company serves nearly 100,000 customers worldwide which is another check mark for reputation. They’ve been around a reasonable amount of time for a software company; having formed in 2004 too. That’s a strong reputation which suggests longevity and that means you won’t find yourself switching to another provider without a very strong reason to do so.
Value for Money
Benchmark is great value for money. Its free plan is available to businesses looking to send a maximum of 14,000 emails a month and with up to 2,000 subscribers in total. The only drawbacks of the free plan with Benchmark are that their logo features in every e-mail you send and that you can’t send targeted emails based on sub-lists.
For those looking to do higher volumes of work; you can choose to pay on a per email basis or on a per subscriber basis which is a bit more flexible than other providers. You may also choose to use a dedicated IP address (at an additional cost) to reduce the chances of your e-mails ending up in the Spam folder by mistake.
Ease of Use and Functionality
We know, because small business owners have told us, that ease of use is one of the most critical requirements for software systems today. There simply isn’t time to spend days learning every system that a business uses and one of the reasons we’ve chosen Benchmark is its ease of use. It is also one of the most functional products on the market which can be a good thing if you have serious demands from your e-mail marketing software.
- Autoresponders. An autoresponder is basically an e-mail which is triggered by an action taken by your customer. These are very useful for communicating with customers on a timely basis without annoying a customer by spamming them with data they don’t need just yet.
- Create list member profiles. This wasn’t something that we found to be common in other packages but you can build a detailed profile for a list member in Benchmark that makes it easier to target your e-mails.
- Designing e-mails is easy. You have the freedom to build your own layout for an e-mail or to use a template (there are more than 400 of these to choose from). The ability to choose color palettes is a nice touch and something that most e-mail marketing software lacks. There’s also a feature that allows you to preview an e-mail’s design throughout the design process if you use their built in HTML editor – we thought that was very useful.
- Importing contacts is easy. You can import contacts either from XLS, CSV or TXT files which is a bit more encompassing than some other solutions; it’s also very easy to import contacts from major accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) software vendors too.
- In depth analytic features. There’s no point in running a marketing campaign of any kind if you can’t measure its efficiency. Benchmark includes a bunch of standard reporting tools that let you really dig deep into a campaign and see whether e-mails are opened, whether they bounce, etc.
- Mobile app support. In addition to mobile e-mail support – Benchmark also delivers some great mobile apps for both Android and iOS systems. That means you can monitor a campaign on the go without having to worry about missing out on the details.
- Mobile e-mail support. The templates provided by Benchmark are all designed to work as responsive themes in mobile e-mail environments and you can preview what they’ll look like on a smaller screen too.
- Split testing is easy. If you want to test one e-mail text against another; you can configure Benchmark’s A/B testing very quickly and see which your customers prefer before conducting a larger campaign.
Customer support is a big deal for business critical applications such as e-mail marketing. You don’t want to be left scratching your head when you can’t get the software to do what you want it to do. Benchmark offers all of its users a dedicated account manager – that’s very unusual in e-mail marketing software providers and it’s great value when it’s included in the price of the subscription fee as Benchmark does.
Unfortunately as with many other e-mail marketing software companies – telephone support is not 24/7 and is limited to Mon-Fri 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST). They do, however, offer a live chat service 24/7 which isn’t quite as good as being able to pick up the phone and call someone but it’s better than the nothing which many other software companies offer outside of hours too.
As you’d expect with a well-established business like Benchmark – there’s plenty of other online support including video tutorials, learning center, FAQs and the like. These are good value for business owners that like to get hands on with their software and we found them to be of a high standard.
Drawbacks to Using Benchmark
Benchmark is a very good solution for e-mail marketing and overall we think it’s the best email marketing software for small businesses in 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect solution for every business.
One area that is really lacking with Benchmark is the lack of landing page tools – this is surprising because it’s found in almost every other e-mail marketing software provider’s toolkit. That means for e-commerce professionals; you’re going to want to think about a different solution – it’s probably not such a big deal for businesses that use their website as their only retail platform.