Email marketing isn't dead. Far from it – it's very much alive. It just looks different than it used to and the tools you need to be successful are different than they used to be. Here's what you need to know about email marketing software in 2020.
If you're already using email marketing software, this article will help you confirm that it's a good one or alert you that you might need to change.
If you're not using email marketing software yet, this article will help guide you to making a great choice that will scale with your business well into the future.
Here are 7 features your email marketing software must have in 2020 and beyond...
#1: Your email marketing software should be feature-rich, but easy to use.
Trust me when I say that things can get very complicated inside of various email marketing software platforms.
There's an expensive email marketing service you may have heard of called "Infusionsoft." This particular software offers an impressive feature set, but it has hilariously garnered the name "Confusionsoft" among its userbase.
This is more common than you might think. As more and more features and flexibility are added, the degree of complication tends to go up.
If your email marketing software overcomplicates things or doesn't provide a simple user experience, you'll burn up endless amounts of time tinkering and problem-solving.
Or, in the case of Infusionsoft, you may have to hire a certified, full-time email marketing person to run your email system for you.
This is like walking into the middle of the street with bricks of cash and lighting it on fire. It's totally unnecessary.
You need an expanded feature set and greater flexibility, for sure, but that shouldn't come at the cost of ease-of-use.
The email marketing software I prefer, Convertkit, proves that you can pack features and flexibility into a system while maintaining simplicity.
#2: Your email marketing software should have a fast visual workflow for building funnels and sequences.
How long does it take you to build an email sequence when you already have the emails written?
How long does it take you to setup rather complex automation funnels?
How long does it take you to log in and send a broadcast email to specific parts of your list?
Just because email marketing software is easy to use doesn't mean it's fast to use.
Time is money. You need email marketing software that doesn't slow you down.
One of the best ways to increase speed, especially for complex funnels and sequences, is to make your workflow visual.
This is another area where Convertkit shines. It gives you the ability to create rather complex funnels in a very short amount of time with a visual builder.
Here's a video I published a little while back talking about the importance of email marketing funnels. It includes a live demo of a funnel buildout I did with Convertkit's visual builder...
#3: Your email marketing software needs to be tag-based, not list-based.
While you always hear the phrase, "build your list," what you really want to do is build your database.
And in doing that, you want to have the ability to tag subscribers based on specific actions they take, whether it be inside your emails or on your website.
There are a lot of email marketing services that don't offer this functionality. They confine your subscribers to lists and make it very difficult for you to truly manage who you're sending emails to and when.
These email marketing services also can't automate the process of tagging or migrating people from sequence to sequence (or they don't make it easy).
Don't sign up for an email marketing software unless it allows for tagging, segmenting, and automation.
#4: Your email marketing software needs to integrate with lots of third-party apps, or Zapier.
This is a big one. Your email marketing software can't work indepenently in 2020 and beyond.
In the age of content management systems (like WordPress), chatbots, live chat, social media, exit-intent pop-ups, content upgrades, cart systems, webinar software, online calendars, etc. there are going to be tons of entry points onto your email list.
That is, of course, unless you choose email marketing software that doesn't connect to any of these third-party apps and services.
If you're hoping for rapid, expansive growth of your email list, you need to choose email marketing software with built-in integration to a wide variety of third-party tools.
If the software you choose has Zapier integration, even better. Zapier is a third party API service that connects with thousands of other applications. This allows developers to integrate with one service (Zapier) instead of building out dozens of independent integrations.
In other words, a Zapier integration gives you nearly unlimited flexibility when it comes to connecting third-party apps.
Convertkit has dozens of native integrations as well as a Zapier integration.
#5: Your email marketing software needs to be dependable.
I can tell you a lot of horror stories I've personally experienced with various email marketing software over the years.
I was a member of ActiveCampaign when they were hit by a DDOoS attack, rendering their system completely inaccessible and killing my ability to make money for almost 2 weeks.
I was a member of Ontraport when they switched to their 3.0 system and my list got spammed with 70 of the same copy of an email because of a bug, hurting my reputation.
I've seen it all and understand the importance of a service that's dependable and has a fantastic team behind it.
Dependability also means keeping up with trends and delivering you the increasing functionality and flexibility you need to maintain your marketing edge.
One of the reasons I steered people away from MailChimp for so long is because were wayyyy late to hop on the email marketing automation train.
I still don't think they do automation very well, which is sort of a knock on dependability. You can't depend on them to give you the tools you need.
Your email marketing software needs a forward-thinking, responsive team behind it or you'll eventually be forced into migrating to a different platform (a huge headache, as you might image).
#6: Your email marketing software needs to have high deliverability.
Believe it or not, it's quite difficult to land emails in inboxes from email marketing software.
Spam filters are getting more and more nitpicky each year. And if the email marketing software you use allows spammy type people to send email from their servers (the same servers you share), your deliverability is going to suffer and it won't even be your fault!
The best email marketing software companies spend as much money and time on infrastructure and maintaining "clean" sending servers as they do on the software itself.
After all, it doesn't matter how good the software is if your emails never reach the inbox.
One of my knocks on Aweber, for example, is that a lot of spammy people use them. Many of their servers seem to have lower deliverability than other providers.
This isn't uncommon, so choose your software wisely.
#7: Your email marketing software needs to be able to "talk" to your website.
This goes beyond the integrations I talked about earlier.
One reason I like Convertkit is that the software integrates with your WordPress website seamlessly through a free plugin.
This means I can add specific forms to specific pages or posts on my site with one click. The plugin also allows you to tag visitors who visit certain pages on your site.
For example, you could choose to tag a visitor (who is already a subscriber on your list) who visits your sales page, which would then allow you to trigger that Subscriber into an automation or email sequence designed to nurture them and sell them on the product they just looked at.
And what if they purchased that product while they were on the sales page? Your cart system can add a tag to their profile when they purchase, which can then make sure they don't receive any emails from that sales sequence.
This is intelligent email marketing for 2020 and beyond. And this is what's possible when you choose the right email marketing software.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is choosing email marketing software based on name recognition alone.
They default to the Awebers and Mailchimps of the world. But most of those juggernauts are actually behind when it comes to features, speed, and functionality.
The other mistake people make is defaulting to the lowest priced solution.
None of these software packages are going to break the bank in terms of cost relative to the return on investment they're going to provide.
I pay around $150/mo for my Convertkit account because of my subscriber numbers. It's a drop in the bucket compared to the revenue I generate from my list.
If you make these mistakes, you force yourself to have to migrate later on which is a huge headache and can potentially result in lost sales.
Choose the right email marketing software from the beginning – something that has all 7 features I just talked about as well as solid scalability – and you'll be sitting pretty for a long time to come.