When it comes to picking a favorite email service provider, I don’t have one. So many tools offer virtually the same offering at a very comparable price.
Sure, there are some best of breed services that can handle massive lists, tricky integrations and robust automation paths (e.g. Silverpop, ExactTarget, Lyris, Responsys, StrongView, etc.), but those are typically reserved for larger companies with hefty budgets.
Comparing options focused on the SMB audience (e.g. MailChimp, iContact, Campaigner, Campaign Monitor, MyEmma, etc.) is like trying to decide between a Toyota Tercel and a Hyundai Sonata. While some might argue with me on this point, their similarity makes it difficult to choose.
However, when it comes to tools outside of the email service provider (ESP) realm, there is a bounty of goodies that can definitely help you become a better email marketer. Here are 15 of my favorites.
Litmus – Email Client Previews
Problem it solves: Know what your email message will look like in every email client.
What it does: While your email might look pristine in Gmail and Apple Mail, it might look like absolute trash in Outlook. Litmus provides a single reference point for email marketers who want to see how their emails render on mobile, desktop and web clients. Several ESPs include Litmus as a feature, but you can also create your own account to preview multiple email messages. The service includes compatibility reports to troubleshoot coding issues. Litmus offers an outstanding product that is a must have for any email marketer.
How much it costs: $79/month
Similar tools: Email on Acid
SenderScore.org – Email Reputation
Problem it solves: Understand your reputation among email clients.
What it does: One of the most important determinants of delivery success is an email marketer’s send history. If the IP address from which you send emails is tarnished due to faulty practices in the past (from you or others on a shared box), the likelihood that your message will make it to the inbox is not great. SenderScore from Return Path helps calculate a score on a 0-100 scale. Higher scores in the upper 90s indicate outstanding reputations. Scores in the 80s or lower provide a signal to change your IP or switch email service providers.
How much it costs: Free (create account)
VideoEmail – Embedded Video in Email
Problem it solves: Improve experience for video email campaigns.
What it does: The VideoEmail product from Live Clicker improves the recipient experience for video campaigns. Video as an element within an email is growing in popularity. However, not every email client supports video embeds. The VideoEmail utility auto-detects your recipient’s email client and serves up the best option – video or animated gif or still image for older or less sophisticated email clients.
How much it costs: $250 per 10,000 video impressions
Similar tools: BombBomb, CoVideo
BriteVerify – List Verification
Problem it solves: Send to recipients with active email addresses.
What it does: Sending to an older list can potentially hinder your sender reputation. As a note of caution, each list should be verified before sending. This process removes dormant or bad email addresses and saves active accounts. BriteVerify is a list cleaning utility that can help email marketers add sparkle and luster to contact files. The tool also has a function that verifies email addresses in real time, to avoid gathering any bogus emails in your list.
How much it costs: 1¢ per email
Similar tools: LeadSpend, Green Apple
Buttons.CM – Email Button Generator
Problem it solves: Makes email-friendly buttons.
What it does: Creating call to action buttons for email is no easy task. If including an image, that image might not render automatically if images are disabled by your recipient. Using text doesn’t always stand out. The bulletproof button tool from Campaign Monitor helps email designers and developers create buttons with text and background colors, thus enabling them to show in any email client even if images are disabled upon message receipt.
How much it costs: Free
Campaign Weight – Email File Size Calculator
Problem it solves: Evaluate email file size and pinpoints specific code or images that may cause delivery issues.
What it does: Sometimes the elements within an email message are just too large and weighty for optimal standards – especially images. Campaign Weight helps determine how long it would take for a message to be downloaded completely and identifies specific elements that might be slowing things down. Email marketers can use this information to update email code and improve message download speed and ease of use.
How much it costs: Free
Similar tools: JPEGmini – use this one to compress gigantic images without compromising visual integrity.
Guest’d – In-Person Email Capture App
Problem it solves: Gather customer data at events or at your place of business.
What it does: Ever walk into a store, restaurant or cafe and had the opportunity to provide your email right there on an iPad? Chances are you used an app similar to Guest’d. This utility empowers small brick and mortar store operators and event hosts to capture email addresses from customers, attendees and passers-by. Data can be pulled directly into most email service provider lists.
How much it costs: $10
Similar tools: iCapture, Zuant, Chimpadeedoo
ChimpFeedr – RSS Aggregator
Problem it solves: Bring multiple RSS feed items together.
What it does: If you have ever sent an RSS-driven campaign, things can get a little dicey when pulling in content from multiple feeds. The RSS aggregator from MailChimp creates a combined feed that can include content from multiple sources.
How much it costs: Free
MailRox – Build HTML Email
Problem it solves: Ensure your email design will work for email inboxes.
What it does: Email development is tricky in that it is almost too basic. Many of the shortcuts you can take in web development cannot be done in email due to some of the archaic email clients to which you must send messaging. MailRox, currently in beta, is a tool that allows users to upload a design in JPEG, GIF or PNG format. Then you can cut that image up and put it back together in email-friendly HTML with the Mailrox editor. Each email you develop with the editor can be exported for use in your favorite ESP.
How much it costs: Currently free in beta
Similar tools: Mail Designer, HTML Mails, Coffee Cup
Mail Designer Pro – Responsive Email Design
Problem it solves: Create responsive emails from scratch.
What it does: Just a step up from one of the alternatives listed above, Mail Designer Pro is a WYSIWYG editor for responsive emails. In other words, it enables non-technical people lacking serious development chops to create emails that look great on any device.
How much it costs: $100
Similar tools: Ink from Zurb
CSS Inliner – Simplify Email Code
Problem it solves: Brings all CSS styles inline.
What it does: One potential hiccup with many email clients is that they do not always recognize CSS styles that are not coded inline, or directly preceding, an object like text or an image. Many developers prefer to assign CSS classes to text, images and links that reference styles defined elsewhere in the code. This just doesn’t jive with some email clients as they just strip the code and make your email look like hell. The proper way to code for email is to include all CSS attributes inline. The CSS Inliner can do all that with a click. Just paste your code and the inliner applies styles correctly for your email.
How much it costs: Free
Similar tools: Premailer, MailChimp’s Inliner
Pippity – PopUp Forms
Problem it solves: Make your website’s email sign-up offer more noticeable.
What it does: Pippity is a popular WordPress plugin that serves a popup to site visitors encouraging them to sign up for email communication for your brand. You can attach relevant “hooks” to this message to incentivize visitors to sign-up and receive some digital asset (i.e. case studies, graphics, webinar invites, ebooks, schwag) in exchange for their email address. Pippity is easy to install and configure if you familiar with WordPress.
How much it costs: $49
Similar tools: OptinMonster, hellobar
Content CTRL – Social Content Syndication
Problem it solves: Encourage email subscribers to also follow your brand on selected social media channels
What it does: Content CTRL allows email marketers to show off their best social media content. As opposed to telling subscribers to follow, like or share your social media content, you can actually show them popular posts. By synching your social media accounts with the Content CTRL interface, you can select which posts you’d like to feature in your next email campaign. Through a handy integration or a simple HTML cut/paste, you can then be sure to include your best Facebook posts, Tweets, Pins, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, etc.
How much it costs: $375/month
Google URL Builder – Custom Campaign Parameters
Problem it solves: Add Google Analytics tracking code to email links.
What it does: While most email service providers offer a Google Analytics integration that automatically tags links from your email to your website with the appropriate Source/Medium/Campaign tracking codes, some do not. Using the Google URL Builder will help you to append all links with code necessary to see what impact your email had for specific content, links, offers and audiences. Yes, you can gather data about opens, clicks and bounces from your ESP’s reporting interface, but tagging links with Google enables you to track the important post-click activity (i.e. “did my email recipient by my product/service?”).
How much it costs: Free
Wufoo – Online Form Builder
Problem it solves: Collect survey data from subscribers.
What it does: There are many survey utilities on the market, but Wufoo is my favorite. It is very easy to create and distribute polished surveys that can feed a subscriber list with most ESPs. Their form logic options are very slick. Plus, they integrate with everybody.
How much it costs: $15/month (free option)
Similar tools: Formstack, SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, FormMule