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Email marketing has become a core bread-and-butter offering for agencies. It delivers great ROI for you and your clients, and can supplement or form the foundation for almost any marketing strategy imaginable. It’s flexible, scalable, and accessible to the largest enterprise or the smallest startup.
But great email marketing—the kind that really meets your clients’ needs and gets results—requires the right tools and an appropriate email service provider.
There’s no shortage of ESP options out there. At one end, you have complex platforms intended for large enterprise companies all the way down to platforms simple enough for your mom’s book club. This variety of choices makes it difficult to find the tool that’s flexible enough to meet the unique, varying needs of each and every one of your clients while simultaneously fulfilling your agency’s own business objectives.
If you’re looking for an ESP for your new agency, or re-evaluating your current email vendor, consider these factors while weighing your options and making a decision.
The first step toward offering an email marketing service to your clients is to decide exactly what you want to provide to your clients. The right answer will depend on how you want to shape your business model and client relationships as well as the needs and challenges your clients come to you to solve.
Many agency email marketing services involve managing the email marketing process from beginning to end. The agency creates the strategy, builds the emails, imports the lists, clicks “send,” and provides performance analytics. Clients provide some upfront input and goals but otherwise don’t deal with much of the day-to-day tactical work.
In this model, your client rarely (if ever) directly uses the email marketing tool itself. As an agency, you take complete ownership for your client’s email marketing strategy and can bill for this service any way you please: hourly, by campaign, or as a piece of a larger marketing strategy offering. For reference, about half of the thousands of agencies using Campaign Monitor operate on this ‘full-service’ model.
The second half of our agency customers take a more hands-off approach. They provide the email marketing tool to their clients, perform the initial setup – such as creating a few email templates – but for the most part, turn over responsibility to the client to manage their campaigns on a day-to-day basis. You have the flexibility to offer more hands-on support, guidance, and supplementary services like creative and analytics along the way as it makes sense for your business and relationships.
If your agency chooses this second approach, you may opt to customize the email marketing tool’s setting and brand it as your own, giving it a unique, proprietary experience available nowhere else.
To determine which model your agency fits into, consider these questions:
When investigating different email marketing tools for your agency, it can be easy to get caught up in the various features of different tools and end up with something that isn’t really the best fit for your agency’s and your clients’ individual goals.
So before you go looking at different tools and getting overwhelmed, it’s important to evaluate what elements are most important to you in an email marketing vendor.
The features that are important to your agency will vary based on your chosen model and your clients’ goals. For instance, an agency who wants to provide an email tool to clients may need private labeling and markup features, while an agency who just needs a tool to send on behalf of clients may not care as much about private labeling the email vendor’s app.
To help you get started with your feature list, here are a few features commonly needed by agencies like yours.
Private labeling (sometimes previously called “white-labelling”) allows agencies to brand the platform they invest in as their own software and tailor it to their needs.
In this context, it lets your agency give the email marketing platform a personal, custom look and experience. When your client logs in to use the tool, they’ll never see the email marketing vendor you actually purchased the product from—they’ll see your agency’s familiar logo and colors. This is an excellent feature for agencies who want their clients to be heavily involved in the process of sending their email marketing campaigns.
If your agency wants to earn a profit on each email marketing campaign your clients send, the ability to markup within the tool is essential. This option gives you the ability to set the price above what your agency is paying for the email marketing solution—and your agency pockets the difference.
To stay organized and efficient, it’s important that all of your clients can be managed from a single login and dashboard. While your relationship with each client will undoubtedly vary, it’s valuable to have a single view of each client’s latest activity.
Select a tool that will support unlimited teams and team sizes, each with flexible levels of permissions and full workflow control that makes it easy for clients of all shapes and sizes to collaborate on their email marketing. For example, one user may be able to build an email but not have the permissions to actually deploy the campaign.
Save time for both your team and your clients by investing in an email marketing vendor that provides a library of premade, mobile-optimized email templates. If you build the emails for your client, you’ll move faster. If your clients build it, they’ll move faster—everybody wins.
Clients accessing the email marketing tool you provide them have a lot on their plate. They need something they can be trained on quickly, and won’t confuse them or take extra time to figure out. Make sure you offer a tool with an intuitive drag-and-drop email builder, so they have confidence building emails in no time.
While the email marketing world is moving to DIY, some agencies still prefer to hand code their client’s emails, which makes for extremely customizable email layouts and designs. Some email vendors will also offer access to their templating language, so your agency can create custom templates for your clients, empowering them to fill in content on their own, quickly and flawlessly.
Email marketing deliverability—the ability for emails sent in a campaign to actually land in subscribers’ inboxes, is hugely important for agencies and clients alike. A low deliverability rate means lower marketing performance and reflects poorly on your agency brand reputation.
The email service provider you select can have a huge impact on overall deliverability rates. A reputable, established ESP who regulates who they work with and ensures a level of quality in the emails sent on their platform will usually be an ESP with a very high deliverability rate. As a point of comparison, Campaign Monitor has an overall deliverability rate of 99%.
Make sure your vendor has the features and qualities as a company that will prepare you and your clients for long term success.
Security and infrastructure: Ensure you the platform you choose is reliable, because your clients will perceive it as an extension—even a product—of your business. The technology you choose reflects back on your brand and your client relationships. If it’s unstable, it makes your business look unreliable. What exactly constitutes “reliable” when it comes to selecting an ESP? As a reference point, Campaign Monitor has a 99.9% uptime.
Support: Occasionally, even world-class email marketing solutions don’t work exactly as you might expect them to. So it’s important to assess the vendor’s support offering to make sure you have support when you need it. But what’s the standard of support you should be looking for? Campaign Monitor offers around-the-clock email support, with phone support options available on certain plans. It’s worth considering whether anything less than this could be a hinderance down the road.
Deliverability: Your agency may be full of design and content experts, but you likely don’t have a team dedicated to understanding deliverability laws. Find an email marketing vendor that will worry about that for you and ensure your clients’ emails always land in inbox.
Once you’ve found an email marketing solution (or more than one) that meets your feature needs and is a partner you can trust, it’s a great idea to try the solutions out yourself before you buy.
Most tools have some version of a trial that you can try for free. Sign up for the trial and send a test email marketing campaign. That way, you can see what the experience is like to create an email, import a list, and send. Don’t forget to check out the reporting functionality to ensure you’ll be able to track your clients’ key performance metrics.
Once you’ve tested it yourself, look at it from the perspective of your client as well. Just because you’re an email pro doesn’t mean they will be, too. If your expectation is for them to create and send their email marketing campaigns themselves, is the platform intuitive enough for them to create and send on their own, even if they’re not experienced?
Also, take each email marketing vendor’s support offering for a test drive. Come up with a question about the product and try contacting support. Can you reach a real person? How long does it take for each company to get back to you? Is your experience pleasant and efficient—or a nightmare? Do they have an easy-to-navigate library of resources and guidance for making the most of their tool?
While the hope is you’ll never have to contact support, the reality is you probably will have to once or twice, so it’s important to have a positive experience when you do.
Lastly, there are tons of objective, third-party software review sites that aggregate reviews from real users and allow you to compare platforms side by side. This gives you a bird’s eye view of all the features each vendor provides and helps you zero in on the tools that will provide you with what you need.
Once you’ve done your research and narrowed down the options to the tool of your choice, it’s time to go ahead and start using it with your clients. There are a few strategies to make sure this process goes smoothly.
If you want your clients to create and send their email marketing campaigns, set aside time to train them on how to do this. Depending on the vendor you’ve chosen, a rep from that company may be able to join you and lead the training.
Visit your tool’s website to see what kind of resources they have that you can leverage with your clients. Most of the top email service providers have robust libraries of guides that will educate your clients about important email marketing topics such as content best practices, compliance, reporting, and more. Video tutorials for getting started are also key.
Choosing the right vendor—no matter the technology you’re assessing—can be a game changer for your agency. There are dozens of email marketing vendors to choose from, and it’s no surprise that this choice is extremely involved.
Campaign Monitor was built for agencies from the ground up. Since 2004, our company has continually improved the app to become the go-to email marketing vendor for agencies.
You can learn more on our agencies page, or reach out to our sales team to learn more about our world-class agency tools. Or check out this series of comparisons and learn how the email vendors you’re comparing stack up against each other.
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