The world has turned upside down. (As a Broadway fan, I have the Hamilton version of that line running through my head on repeat these days.) Small businesses all over the nation find themselves in a rapidly changing climate and making decisions based on state requirements needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are faced with brutal choices and will need to employ creative solutions as the pandemic changes the landscape of our lives.
If you have a service that meets the needs of your community during the pandemic, getting information out to potential customers is a necessity. People right now want to help small businesses thrive, and they are looking for ways to spend their money conscientiously. What are some ways to navigate the balance of marketing a product during difficult times?
Before we look at marketing, it’s important to look at your business: Right now, more than ever, it’s crucial to understand what is an essential business and what is not. I just watched in real-time the complete viral annihilation of an owner’s decision to keep her consignment mall open because she deemed her store and all the vendors paying rent in her store (and all their employees) as “essential business.” (She, herself, was self-isolating in a different state. And three hours after her initial post, she changed her mind.) People are dying — if anyone susses out that you are here for profit/being greedy/to exploit a tragedy — I guarantee the karma (Facebook’s comment section) is swift.
Merchant Maverick’s COVID-19 hub has many resources to weather the storm, but if in doubt — sit it out.
And if your business has a role here as we move forward, then keep on reading, and we’ll explore the best practices together.
The Best Marketing Channels For Small Businesses
Parts of the nation are on full shelter-in-place orders, and others may soon follow. That means that millions of workers and their children are home, in their family rooms, most definitely on their computers or phones, with near-constant access to the internet. We are lucky to live in a digital world that can adapt to the needs of consumers during this pandemic — and the digital world is where you are going to access your potential customers.
Building a newsletter is an essential part of doing business. Why? Because when you have access to someone’s email, you have direct access to that person. They may not open your newsletter, but when they check their email, they will see your name and your subject hook: It’s the best resource you have. Building a newsletter should be seen as an essential part of doing business.
(How can you tell a writer has been a little too self-isolated? I just deleted an attempt to write this section to the tune of Over the Rainbow. I wish I were kidding.) Social media is where you will find your people. Maybe you already have a thriving community on your social media, or perhaps you are building one. Either way, it’s important to think of ways to use various platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat…maybe in that order, depending on your marketing audience.
Direct communication is the best! If you have access to phone numbers, maybe send a quick text update. A skincare business in Portland I have been to once texted to let me know its physical store was closed but is still selling products and gift certificates online. If you have a website, consider blogging about your own experiences. Now is the time, more than ever, to tell your narrative and build a community around your business’s story. Who are you, and how is this pandemic affecting you and yours?
The Ground Rules For Online Marketing
The entire world is really hoping that we can all flatten the curve of this virus and return to normalcy. However, until then, every person and every business needs to make socially responsible choices. That means your business needs to comply with social distancing and follow your governor’s mandates. As with any marketing campaign, be sincere and run your words by many different sets of eyes to ensure your tone is professional and sensitive to the mood of the nation.
If you are asking people to opt-in to your newsletter for freebies/deals, make sure you follow local privacy laws. Also, a good tip is to require only two fields (say: name and email) — any more will cause hesitation, and you might lose the lead.
Build An Email List
One small business owner mentioned that he sent out a newsletter, not to pitch anything, but simply to ask his subscribers how they were doing: How are you? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Small businesses are the bedrock of the community, so first, reach out to your community and see how people are feeling. With self-isolation in full swing across the nation, many people need your words of comfort and offers of help.
You can also use this time to build your list by offering discounts or freebies to people who sign up for your newsletter. (For a gym or yoga studio: If they sign up for your newsletter, maybe they can receive free daily quarantine exercises?)
Create A Social Media Following
There are opportunities to pay for ad campaigns within social media platforms, but it’s important to use your platforms to communicate with your customers and community directly in addition to running ads. People want to help small businesses in their community, but they need to know who is open and how social distancing needs are being met. Use your social media channels to inform and engage.
Keep Your Customers Updated On Changes
I have a local store I love, and I went to all of its social media pages for a COVID-19 update and didn’t find anything. Tell your story and make it easy for people to support you and to know how — put that information far and wide.
If you can still provide curbside or delivery during the pandemic, your business has pivoted and adapted with the changes, or if you are changing your hours or working with a reduced staff, let people know. Use all necessary means to communicate with your customers and encourage people in your community to share your message far and wide.
Use Hashtags & Branding
A hashtag is a way to group your message in with broader messages to attract new followers. As you can imagine, right now, pandemic hashtags are trending along with #stayhome, #stayhomesavelives, and #socialdistancing. Creative hashtags such as #savesmallbusinesses can gain momentum across platforms and will help categorize your information. You can create a hashtag specifically for your business to boost name recognition and your business’s story. Our local used bookstore (and Portland icon), Powell’s, had to shut its doors and lay off the majority of its staff, prompting a #savepowells hashtag to surge and ignite a successful online buying campaign to help keep it afloat.
If you are using your social media consistently to communicate, think about your company’s branding — can someone look at a post and identify your company? What is the overall tone of your company’s message? Keep your social media messages consistent and on-brand. Branding also means you understand your audience and their needs: If you are in a community that is struggling and feeling scared right now, you might want to avoid a tone that feels trite or dismissive of the current news.
5 Marketing Tactics You Can Use To Keep In Touch, Inspire, Motivate & Otherwise Encourage Customers
We are not living in the same world that we were a few months ago. Consumers and attitudes have shifted, thriving businesses have shuttered for the time being, and people have major anxieties. They are scared about the virus, worried about the health of loved ones, scared about their jobs, scared about the overall health of our economy, maybe food insecure or feeling alone, and/or possibly balancing remote work/home school for the first time. Right. So when consumers are dealing with a national emergency, priorities shift. Consider that as you move forward with a marketing campaign.
Marketing is two-fold. Yes, you want to sell the product/service you can offer, but you also want to market your story/your company’s ethos. Here are some marketing tactics that might work well as you look forward.
Promote A Good Cause
Larger corporations have made donations of coffee and sandwiches to health workers, and many smaller businesses are reaching out with offers to donate a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits helping assist communities most impacted by COVID-19. Can you provide free food for kids or the elderly? People want to spend money and know it’s helping small businesses and the people impacted by this emergency: What does your community need, and how can you help?
Run A Contest Or Challenge
Can you drum up some business by offering a contest or challenge to your customers? A game store in Kansas is offering up a $50 gift card to the store to anyone who shows their “19 painted miniatures in 19 days challenge.” A bakery in a suburb of Portland is offering “frost your own cookie kits,” selling them curbside and then highlighting the beautiful cookie art with a hashtag; daily winners via votes get a gift certificate to the store. Take an opportunity to engage your community with an activity or challenge (Bake with Me challenge or Tap with Me challenge; a toy shop near us that sells Legos is running a 30-Day Build-It challenge). All of these things build brand awareness and provide your potential customers with something to engage with.
Use Promo Codes For Online Orders
Are you moving your business online? Or have you already been equipped for online ordering but need to get the word out? Provide a financial incentive to order from you! I ordered some books from a bookstore owner directly over the phone, and she shipped the books free (and they arrived the next day!), and online delivery services are running promotions for free delivery. Entice new customers with a first-time buyer code or offer deep discounts for large orders.
Sponsor A Giveaway
At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too: the toilet paper giveaways. Order a pizza? Get some TP. Drive-thru to our coffee shop? TP while it lasts! If you don’t have 2020’s luxury item on hand to pass out with your product, that’s okay; there are many other things besides toilet paper you can give. This might be an opportunity to team up with a collaborator (another small business in your community) and give away gift certificates to a different business in the neighborhood. If you are a clothing boutique, can you have some fun with quarantine-outfits and sponsor a giveaway of clothes that are perfect to wear at home? This is about what you can offer and how you can help while building your brand and responding to the virus ethically.
Feature Your Customer/Community Stories
This is what speaks straight to my heart: stories. We are all a giant community of humans, and it is local families and local businesses that keep things afloat. Tell your own story but also reach out and see if you can feature other stories, too. Build a community from this isolation, and encourage people to reach out and connect with you and others. Also, feature people who may be asked to work as essential employees — put a name and story to the faces of the people in your business: Let the community know who they are supporting. They are not supporting a business; they are supporting the people behind the business.
The Bottom Line For Online Marketing During A Pandemic
How you face this pandemic can say a lot about your business and your brand. Don’t take the messages you send lightly, and run them through a filter of sensitivity and practicality. But if you have a service you can offer safely to others, yes, communicate that in any way you can to get the word out about how you can help people in your community. Email your list, send a newsletterÂ or a text; be sure to communicate honestly and often, and let people know how they can help you. Have you seen any brilliant or cringe-worthy marketing campaigns related to the pandemic? Share with us in the comments! And stay safe out there.
The post 5 Clever Marketing Tactics For Small Businesses During The Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
In the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak, hairstylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, and salons in general are all in a really, really tough spot. Many state and city governments have mandated closures of these types of businesses. Some states that have ordered the closure of salon businesses include Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, and Nevada—and the list is sure to grow. Salons in some states are still open for the time being, but business has slowed to a trickle.
In this article, I’ll offer you some useful advice on how your salon can adapt and survive during this incredibly trying time.Â
Why The Beauty Industry Is Going To Be Hit Hard By Coronavirus
Given the current state of things with social distancing guidelines and mandatory closures of nonessential businesses, hair salons, makeup artists, barbershops, spas, and other similar businesses are all suffering. Salons, their employees, and independent contractors who rent space will all be affected.
Even if your business is still legally allowed to remain open, you might have to make the difficult decision to close temporarily due to the pandemic. Salon workers have a job that requires close physical contact with people, putting both the customer and the worker at risk. Worse still, many salon workers are contractors, who have to build their own business from the ground up and keep a book of clients—and many of these workers don’t have health insurance.
4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Protect Your Business
Here are some actionable steps you can take to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect clients and workers if your business is still open:
Relax Cancellation Policies
Obviously, many customers are going to be canceling right now, and for good reason. Although there’s no rule or law that says you need to waive cancelation fees or refund down payments right now, there’s a good chance that if you don’t, the customer will not return to your salon once the current crisis is over.
Revisit Sanitation & Hygiene
Make sure your business in compliance with the CDC’s sanitation and hygiene guidelines re: COVID-19 (see CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers). If you operate a medical spa that employs doctors and/or nurses, you should also follow the CDC Guidelines For Healthcare Professionals.
Revisit Attendance Policies For Employees
Now is the time to encourage sick employees or workers who may have been exposed to the virus to call in sick—with or without a doctor’s note. This may require you to relax your current attendance policy. Specifically, here’s what the CDC is recommending right now:
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4Â° F [38.0Â° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
Communicate With Clients
Remind customers to not come in if theyâre sick or have been exposed to someone who might be carrying the virus. You should also communicate with your clients about whether or not your location is still open, if your hours of operation have changed, and information about your sanitation policy. You can use email and social media for these communications.
6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Business Going In Hard Times
Here is a list of things you can do today to help keep your business afloat during this time of extreme uncertainty.
Analyze Cash Flow
Take a look at your bank account, your bills, and your income. How much money do you have, and how long will it last you? Can you survive a closure or reduced business? How long can you reasonably afford to close for? Interest rates are at rock bottom right now, so it could make sense to invest in a small business loan that will help you bridge the gap during this temporary lack of cash flow.
Add Gift Cards
Selling gift cards allows clients to buy services now and redeem them later. Some POS systems, including Square, Shopify, and Clover, allow you to sell digital gift cards, which makes things even easier during this time of social distancing. Depending on your setup, you may be able to sell gift cards on your website or on social media. Once you’re all set up, send a text or email to customers with a link to buy a digital gift card from you, perhaps at a discounted rate.
In addition to gift cards, an eCommerce website allows you to sell merchandise, such as beauty products, “home spa” kits, or anything else that relates to business. And again, you can use text or email marketing to advertise whatever it is you’re selling. If you don’t have an eCommerce-enabled website, you can look into options offered by your salon POS system or use a web builder such as Wix or Squarespace to set one up.
Look Into Business Interruption Insurance
If you have business interruption insurance, find out whether your insurance policy includes disruptions from communicable diseases. If you don’t have an insurance policy that would cover a closure related to COVID-19, find out if you can get one before it hits your area. It may be too late to get a policy to help you with COVID-related business losses, but it doesn’t hurt to check, or to protect your business for the next crisis.
Talk With Creditors
Stay in communication with your landlord, creditors, and vendors to whom you owe money or have contractual obligations. They may be willing to work with you and will appreciate that you’re making an effort rather than just dropping off. Some relief may be available to help you meet your obligations or pause some of your bills—for example, governments in some states and cities are prohibiting evictions and utility shut-offs.
Look Into Unemployment Benefits
Even if employees are not fully laid off and are on reduced hours, they might be able to claim for time off during the outbreak. Put together some resources to provide unemployment information for your employees. As a business owner, you should be able to file for unemployment if you were paid a normal salary that had unemployment taxes taken out. Self-employed individuals and independent contractors are not generally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but it is possible that states may expand unemployment benefits to these types of workers as the epidemic progresses.
Coronavirus Resources For Small Business
Here are some additional resources for beauty/wellness professionals and small businesses in general:
What SBA Disaster Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
The Fed Has Cut Interest Rates To A 12-Year Low: Hereâs What It Could Mean For Your Business
Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition
How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business: What You Need To Know & How To Get Started
Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus
Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments
If you need funds for your salon right now, I would head straight to the SBA’s disaster loan assistance hub, as the SBA has made disaster relief funds immediately available for businesses suffering economic injury due to COVID-19.
Being Proactive Is The Best Safeguard For Your Business
Now is the time to act. Even if your business is still doing okay, you need to get on top of this now and start making plans before the epidemic hits your area. If all you do today is send out emails to customers, you’re still taking action to keep your business going, even if your salon’s doors are temporarily closed.
For more advice, be sure to check out our complete collection of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources where you can find more helpful advice about coronavirus and small businesses. We’re adding to this information hub every day, so keep checking for more small business advice and updates.
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Creating an email marketing strategy this year should be at the top of your list. It’s not just one of those things you should do as an afterthought, either. It will pay you back much more than you put into it, and just how much may astonish you. According to Hubspot Marketing, a whopping $38 is returned for every $1 spent. That’s an incredible return (3800% ROI) on an already relatively small cost. Email marketing remains one of the most cost-effective ways to boost sales and those enduring customer relationships.
Excited yet? Keep reading for the email marketing tips you need to create a winning strategy, and we’ll show you how to find software that makes it easier for you to create marketing campaigns in-house and save even more.
The Benefits Of A Strong Email Marketing Strategy
Understandably, small business owners often place much of their marketing focus chasing after new customers with things like pay-per-click and social paid advertising. If that sounds familiar, you may be missing some opportunities right under your nose. Despite the thrill of the chase, focusing on your current customers with an email campaign can be more advantageous, and I’ll show you why.
The Gartner Group came out with a study that has changed the way marketers and small business owners think about their customers. They found that 80% of future profits come from 20% of existing customers (Source: Forbes). Let that sink in. The bulk of your future profits come from existing customers! So not only should you focus on growing that loyal base by bringing new customers in, if you are to endure, you’ll want to always put care and focus on people who have already bought from you.Â
So how can you do that? One of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways is email marketing. Let’s take a look at how to get your mind in the game when it comes to smart email marketing strategies so you can win even more loyal customers.
7 Best Email Marketing Strategies & Ideas
Keep these seven email marketing concepts in mind when you are creating your email campaign, and you’ll not only keep your customers more engaged with your brand, you’ll learn more about them while you’re at it.
1. Providing Value In An Email = Building Trust
Your emails should always give your customers something they want or need. It’s how you build a good relationship, and how your emails will get opened again in the future. Whether you bring value through a newsletter that offers great, usable information or an interesting and thought-provoking video you’ve linked, at least some of your emails need to provide value outside of the buying “ask”. We call this approach content marketing, and it’s an art form. Sending value-rich content to the people on your email list garners trust while shaping how your customers view you and your niche.
Below is an example of a Merchant Maverick newsletter. The top story links to the latest video sharing specific tips that help merchants avoid some common price-gauging in the payments industry. Everything in the newsletter links to completely free resources our marketing team has curated for our readers who have subscribed.
Worried about giving up too much information if you share some of your expertise freely? Don’t be. Even if you give your customers a play-by-play, they’ll still come to you when it’s time to purchase if they perceive that you provide expertise, help them save time, or add enjoyment to their life in some way.
2. Send Self-Promoting Emails Wisely
When you’re crafting your email copy, always remember that while you’re sharing about yourself or your company, you need to frame it in a way that’s less about you and more about the reader. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get there:
What are some of the challenges your customers may face?
What is it they want or need from you?
How do you serve them better than the competition?
What may be their objection to the sale or what may stop them from purchasing?Â
The point is that even if you’re sending a completely self-promoting email, you’re going to want to focus on how it benefits your customer. And to do that, you’ll need to consider their perspective, their “pain points”, and how you can solve them. Newer contacts can be incentivized with a sample or trial, whereas a more personalized or up-selling focus is best for someone familiar with you already.
3. Time Your Emails For Biggest Impact
Timing is important when it comes to emails. Email automation can help you tremendously when it comes to sending an email after a “trigger” such as a new sale or newsletter sign up. In the case of sales and sign-ups, I suggest erring on the side of over-nurturing these folks with not only an immediate “thank-you” confirmation email, but a follow-up email to touch base again and keep lines of communication open. When customers feel they are being taken care of, it makes your business stand out. And the investment of time on your part is worthwhile; the more your customers trust you, the more likely they are, not only to re-purchase something, but to use your business for related products or services as well. Remember, though: keep messaging focused on the value you can offer, not on yourself.
4. Personalize Emails To Boost Impact
Everyone likes personalized customer service, but for it to work it has to be genuine. Last week I got a message from one of the largest retailers in the world telling me they were “thinking about me when they saw XYZ product.” Not only were they way off, but I also found it disingenuous. Your small business already has an advantage over these big-box retailers because your value is that you have expertise right in their community. You are really good at what you do, and you know your customers better than anyone else.
So how can you personalize without appearing glib or over-familiar? Assuming you don’t have time to do it person by person, the right email software can help you tag and segment so you can target messaging to specific groups. But you can always go a little deeper into your planning. When you keep in mind the 80/20 rule I mentioned in the beginning, you can think about your most loyal customers and target messaging to develop that relationship even further. You could create a special promotion, more one-on-one communications, or cross-promotions (more on that later). You can “get away” with a little more communication with this group because they already like and trust you, and that’s important to recognize when planning your email campaign.
5. Craft Inviting Subject Lines
The subject line is your chance to get seen in a sea of inbox messages (no pressure at all). While it can be challenging to get the attention of the object of your interest, there are a few tricks of the trade. Think of your subject line like you would a headline of an article. Focus on the “why” or benefit of the email to make it as alluring as possible. The email software company, MailChimp, has found that giving a direct hook is more effective than trying to be cute and creative, so at least a little pressure is off right there. Focusing on the benefits in the subject line is usually the key to getting attention and getting your email opened up.
What about emojis in your subject line? Don’t be shy with an emoji; give it a shot (within reason). MailChimp also found that limiting an emoji to just one gets the best results; using to supplement your message rather than outright replacing a word also works best. Below is an example of a short, to-the-point email subject line with a judicious emoji for effect.
6. Map Your Plans With A Content Calendar
Creating a plan for your emails helps you in a few different ways. A detailed content calendar for your email campaigns can keep you organized but it does even more than that. When you sit down and make a content calendar, you force yourself to also form goals, balance out messaging, and focus on different types of customers (e.g., those that are familiar with you and those who aren’t).
Think about and plot in when would be a great time to start promoting any seasonal products or services. For example, if you’re a nonprofit, plan a sequence that focuses on an end-of-year contribution push for your donors while highlighting everything you’ve accomplished for the year. You’ll also want to consider how you can start cross-promoting products and services to existing customers. Don’t assume they know what you do and don’t assume trust is automatically granted. Your emails can be the perfect place to educate them on what else you do. Your content planner can help you map out all of these goals and create a cohesive plan.
7. Test Your Email Campaign
Testing does not have to be as complicated as it sounds. Many email software programs make it easy to set up A/B testing, but make sure that you are only testing one variable at a time or you’ll skew results. Some common things to A/B test are:
Time of day you send emails
Subject line length or tone
Different offers or promotions
Email length in relation to conversion rate
Visual differences in-email in relation to conversion rates
Benchmark and Active Campaign offer A/B testing for no extra charge within their email marketing plan, but costs and features vary by company and may depend on the particular package you purchase.
How To Choose The Perfect Email Marketing Strategy For Your Business
Finding the right email strategy is always a process that grows and evolves with your business. Your strategy is based on your goals for the month, quarter, season, and/or year, so putting goals down for each can help you focus your messaging. After sending an email campaign, you’ll learn something — even if it was a flop. There’s not much risk (financial or otherwise) in email marketing, so it’s an excellent place to try out new ideas. Great email marketing software empowers you to make better decisions through tracking and reporting, so use it to your advantage. Through testing and trial and error, you’ll find what your customer likes and will build trust and authority in the process, not to mention all that potential to boost sales in the process.
Getting Started With Email Marketing Software
When you’re narrowing down your email marketing software options, look for key features that meet your needs for cost, template options, usability, and customer support. If things get complicated for you or you have a hiccup in service, support is essential. Our reviews rate each major category to look for in email marketing so you can understand the overall score each company has earned and why. We have a library of resources here to help you find the right email marketing software for your business.
Take a look at our email marketing software reviews for more information.
The post How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy For 2020 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
At the outset, email marketing can seem like an overwhelming prospect. There are so many things to do — building your subscriberÂ base, designing attractive messages, tracking click-through rates, following anti-spam laws, and more than anything else,Â writing actual emails for your readers. The good news is that these jobs don’t have to be your responsibility alone. Nearly all email marketing software options available today come with some form of automation, allowing users to create pre-made email campaigns and messages and automaticallyÂ sendÂ themÂ when certain conditions are met.
If your time is being consumed with email work, you aren’t getting the most from your software. There are several email marketing best practices you can employ to make your life easier.
Let’s dive in and explore some ways you can make your email marketing app do the work for you!
Level 1 Automation: Welcome Messages
If you are thinking of email marketing purely as a newsletter service that will send out updates to subscribers, I want to encourage you to expand your thinking a bit. Yes, you can use your email service provider (ESP) to write and send newsletters, but most email marketing software can be and do so much more! To move out of the newsletter comfort zone, let’s take a look at one of the most basic forms of automation that comes standard in nearly every app out there: welcome messages.
The idea here is simple. As soon as an interested person creates an account or joins your mailing list, they get an automatic message from you welcoming them to the group. It’s a great chance to introduce yourself, tell them more about your work, and win them over with general charm. Is this email marketing tactic a bit basic? Sure. But it is also a great opportunity to win the loyalty of customers from the outset. (You can alsoÂ get pretty creative with your welcome messages if you want to spice things up.)
Automated welcome messages come standard with such industry leaders as MailChimp (read ourÂ review) and Emma (read ourÂ review), but you can also find it in simpler ESP’s like Mad Mimi (read our review). Basically, in a world dominated by AI and machine learning, it would be a surprise if an email marketing developer did not include this capability in their app. But where do we go from here? Further up and further in!
Level 2 Automation: Abandoned Cart Notifications
The next level of automation in email marketing is conceptually quite similar to the welcome message but involves a bit more set up. This email marketing strategy is only useful if you have an online store. If youÂ do run an online store, you are almost certainly familiar with the frustration of abandoned shopping carts. Most of the time, those customers never return to buy their goods and pay you some hard-earned cash. But this is an area where your ESP can help you out. Automated abandoned cart reminder messages!
The gist of this feature is that your ESP keeps track of all the customer activity in your eCommerce store. When someone on your email list adds an item to their cart and then leaves, it will send a message out reminding them about your product. Some email marketing software providers allow you to set up a whole yes/no chain of possible emails, tracking click-through rates and offering discounts, special offers, and more as an enticement to return. But all operate on the basic principle of keeping a digital eye on your customer and sending tactical pre-determined prompts to (hopefully) bring them back into the fold. As a committed internet shopper myself, I can attest to the effectiveness of this strategy!
Though many ESPs offer this level of automation, I have been most impressed by Emma, which I mentioned earlier, and GetResponse (read our review). Both offer advanced chain-of-event automations designed to bring customers back to your store over the course of several interactions, all of which are handled automatically.
This is pretty advanced stuff, but it’s time to take this thing to the top.
Level 3 Automation: Dynamic Content Creation
The highest level of automation available in email marketing is what several ESPs term “dynamic content.” The idea behind this is that you sit down and create a wide spectrum of content, attach a definition to each type, then allow your ESP to sort out the best way to deliver the content (in the form of emails) to individual subscribers. Obviously, you will need to spend some significant time creating compelling content (and strategic subject lines) for advanced email campaigns in the first place, but the upshot is that your customers and subscribers will get customized, personalized messages tailored just for them. Your open rates will be so much better if the folks on your email list are receiving high-quality, custom content.
The ability to create dynamic content is considerably less common in email marketing software than either of the prior two forms of automation. Notable exceptions include the ever-present Emma, as well as Active Campaign (read our review). Keep in mind, though, that dynamic content is often locked behind a paywall: you need to subscribe to top-tier payment plans in order to get access to it.
When using email marketing software, the goal is toÂ save time, not waste it. Fortunately, most ESPs offer some level of automation. Knowing what your software can do is key to saving as much time as possible. Whether you are starting with simple welcome message emails or working all the way up to dynamic content, a little effort spent on email marketing best practices at the outset will pay off in the end, saving you time while your email software does the work for you.
Want even more advanced email marketing tips? This article explores 40 ways you can write better emails. ESP blogs can also be excellent resources for detailed email marketing tactics. MailChimp has written a comprehensive email marketing field guide, and Constant Contact has written a complete guide to becoming a better email marketer.
Looking for a good ESP for your business? Our independent email marketing software reviews explore the pricing, customer service, features, and integrations of all the top ESPs. For a quick overview of the industry, check out Merchant Maverick’s email marketing software comparison table.
The post Simple Email Marketing Best Practices Every Merchant Should Know In 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
There is a myth making the rounds on the wide world of the internet that email marketing has outlived its usefulness, but that is simply untrue. The data is in, and email marketing campaigns can have a wide variety of positive effects on your business:
Having said that, some of the software providers in the email marketing world charge a crippling price for smaller businesses. Before you hang your heads in defeat, though, take heart. There are a number of free email marketing software apps that might suit your needs without ever costing you a cent. With a free email marketing tool, you’re not going to have access to unlimited emails and templates, and you’ll be restricted to a certain number of email addresses. Marketing automation tools may also be limited or non-existent with a free plan. But if you need to send out a simple email newsletter to your contacts and want basic access to click-through rates and other simple analytics, free email marketing services can be a godsend.
Compiled here for your reading pleasure is Merchant Maverick’s favorites in the free email marketing software world. A quick word about criteria: Each of these apps were evaluated based on their feature set, ease of use, and pros vs cons. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Serving upwards of 73,000 users around the globe, Benchmark (read our review) has not moved on from its original mission of serving small businesses. With a reputation for great customer service and ease-of-use, this is one of the most widely recommended emailÂ marketing apps out there. And, as you might expect since it is on this list, there is a free version!
It should come as no surprise that the free version of Benchmark is less powerful than the versions you actually pay for. With a subscriber cap of 2,000 members and a limitation of 14,000 emails per month, the free version of Benchmark will be best suited to the email campaigns of very small businesses and nonprofits. It is the other features, or, rather, lack of them, that might make the final decision for you. Non-paying users of Benchmark will find that they have access to an email builder and little more. You’ll get the “insanely simple drag-and-drop editor,”Â a wide library of templates, and an automated signup form, as well as Google analytics, several campaign styles (drip and RSS), and a few other handy items. What you don’t get, however, are unlimited emails, basic features like A/B testing and more advanced tools like cart abandonment automation and other automated behavioral trackingÂ features.
As I mentioned above, Benchmark is generally considered to be extremely easy to use. Most comments in user reviews agree that navigating the app, building emails, and implementing new campaigns are all done with aÂ minimal learning curve. Based on these userÂ reviews, as well as my own test of the product, I have to agree with Benchmark’s marketing claim: “No design experience required.”
Generally speaking, Benchmark has far more pros than cons. Beyond the ease of use I mentioned above, this company also maintain some of the best customer service in the industry, with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. As for cons, the major downside for free users will be the limitations placed on free accounts regarding Benchmark’s more advanced features. Some users have also complained that their experience with the app was plagued by bugs, though I should note that those affected seem few and far between.
SendinBlue (read our review) is best known for theÂ accessibility of its software. With a focus on simplicity in both features and pricing, this is an app that aims to get new users in particular up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, SendinBlue is a good choice for anyone looking to get great bang for their buck, especially if you are willing to work with a simplified interface. Indeed, as an ESP (email service provider), SendinBlue is clearly not intended for experienced marketers, but rather for single proprietors and small LLC owners. Appropriately, then, the free version of SendinBlue offers an interesting alternative to the other apps we will discuss here.
Unlike Benchmark, SendinBlue does not limit how many subscribers or contacts their free users can have. Likewise, there is no limit in place for monthly emails. Rather, there is aÂ dailyÂ limit of 300 emails. From one perspective, this limitation may seem an opportunity to reach significantly more subscribers than would be possible with Benchmark’s plan. From another perspective, it means someone at your (presumably) small company will be spending at leastÂ some time every day working on emails; isn’t that why you wanted an email marketing app anyway? Fortunately, SendinBlueÂ does make it easy to design attractive emails with a nice email editor and template library. Free users also get real-time reporting, phone and email support, and customizable sign-up forms. As with Benchmark, you lose access to many features by choosing to use SendinBlue for free, though since SendinBlue is a simpler app in the first place, the limitations seem less important.
The biggest pro for using SendinBlue is the all-around simplicity of this app, as well as the template library, which is varied and diverse. Like Benchmark, SendinBlue tends to impress customers with their support options as well. In terms of cons, there are only a few integrations available, and some users complain of an outdated interface as well. On the whole, SendinBlue is widely liked by those who use it, though it does not inspire the same superlative-laden user reviews of some of its competitors.
MailChimpÂ (read our review) is pretty much synonymous with email marketing. Maybe it is the quirky name, maybe it is the goofy grin on the face of their mascot, but this app just sticks in the mind, making it one of the first examples I think of when discussing email marketing. Fortunately, if your budget does not have space for an ESP among so many other important expenses, you are in luck. There is a free version of MailChimp, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
To start things off, if you want to use MailChimp for free, you are looking at a subscriber cap of 2,000 users and an email limit of 12,000 per month. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Benchmark allows more emails per month, but where this email marketing platform sets itself apart is in the features free users gain access to. The standard emailÂ editor and template library are in place, as expected, but MailChimp also provides an automated email campaignsÂ features that most of their competitors keep locked behind paywalls. These automations allow you to pre-write messages and determine triggers that will prompt the app to automatically send follow-up emails based on the behavior of individual subscribers. Whether it is a welcome message for new contacts, a notification of an abandoned shopping cart, or even a gentle reminder that your business still exists to customers that have been away awhile, if you are trying to build an ecommerce business, these tools can be invaluable to you.
The pros of using MailChimp should be readily apparent. With powerful features, a user-friendly interface, and a minimal learning curve — for the low monthly cost of $0, it may seem that there is no reason to not set up a MailChimp account this very second. However, unlike the other two apps discussed above, MailChimp does not have a spotless customer service record, with some users finding communication slow and unresponsive. Fortunately, there are more satisfied customers than disgruntled ones, but it remains a concern.
Basically, what we have here are three email marketing apps that would leave nearly any subscriber satisfied. Having said that, I think there is a definite winner here: MailChimp. Especially if you are working in e-commerce, the automation tools included in this free email marketing software may prove indispensable to growing your business.
Having said that, I can think of a few reasons for using the other software programs I described above. If your needs exceed the 12,000 emails offered by MailChimp, Benchmark might be the better choice for you. If you need an extra-simplified feature set, SendinBlue’s free plan may be more attractive. On top of that, both these alternatives have higher reputations for customer service, certainly more so than Mailchimp.
In the end, the best way to figure out which free email marketing software app is best for you is to give one or all of them a try. Considering they are free, there is really not much to lose. Your email newsletter is just begging to be sent, and this month is as good a time as any! Start generating contacts, write that opt-in email, create some sign-up forms, and get out there!
If you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, you might consider doing a free trial of another email marketing platform like AWeber, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign, or simply using the paid version of any one of the programs above. With a premium service, you’re going to get more templates, unlimited emails and contacts, advanced marketing automations, social media integration, and better all-around email marketing tools. Read our full selection of email marketing software reviews for more information, or check out our ESP comparison chart.
The post The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
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I’ve never understood why, at the time as we meditate on being grateful and quite happy with what we should have, we hurry towards the store and proceed throngs of people to purchase the following best factor. So far, that’s.
With regards to your online business, you need to make the most of every deal open to you. Fortunately, this season there are many to select from. We spent hrs digging to find the best Black Friday, Cyber Monday, along with other holiday deals so you do not have to. Whether you’re looking for a brand new POS system, a good deal on a credit card merchant account, or some seriously discounted accounting software, there’s something for everybody this holidays.
Note: We’ll be updating this publish regularly to create the most up-to-date offers and discounts. Be on the lookout for additional bargains in the future!
Table of Contents
If you are searching to simply accept card payments out of your customers, you’ll need a credit card merchant account. Most merchant services charge a particular rate per transaction, but there’s a couple subscription-based mixers are providing discounts on their own monthly rates along with a couple of which are offering deals on hardware.
Promotion not far off.
Fattmerchant hasn’t released their Cyber Monday deal yet, but it’s not far off. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
Fattmerchant is really a subscription-based credit card merchant account that works with most major shopping carts. The organization offer 24/7 free support and receive 5/5 stars on our website. To understand more about this credit card merchant account, visit our comprehensive Fattmerchant review.
PaySimple is providing 50% from the first 3 several weeks and services information.
This promotion is perfect for new clients you have to complete the enrollment form by 11:59 pm EST on November 30th to obtain this discount (discount doesn’t affect individual transaction charges). Use coupon code CYBER.Offers are not valid with every other promotions. Contact PaySimple for more information.
PaySimple is yet another subscription-based credit card merchant account that meets its name. The credit card merchant account is straightforward, simple to use, and it has great customer support. To understand more about this credit card merchant account, read our comprehensive PaySimple review.
Cayan is providing $150 in free software and hardware.
Cayan is providing a vacation Bundle to new users who join a Cayan account. The bundle includes $100 in instant credit, a totally free EMV-enable card swiper, and free eCommerce setup (often a $150 value as a whole). Contact Cayan directly for more information or join the vacation bundle here.
Cayan has developed in the credit card merchant account game since 1998 and it has an excellent status. The program is fairly priced while offering wonderful features. To understand more about this credit card merchant account option, read our full Cayan review.
If you were to Nederlander Bros, you realize about Mobile Reason for Purchase (mPOS) apps. Accepting payments on the go with simply a tablet and/or smartphone is essential for many companies. Which screaming holiday deals might help your organization just do that.
Square is providing $10 off a Contactless + Nick readers.
When you join a Square account, you will see a promo for $10 a Contactless + Nick Readers (ordinarily a $49 value). The discount is restricted to 1 per account. Contact Square to learn more.
Square is a huge name in mobile payments processing–and for a good reason. With ample features along with a flat swipe rate, it’s easy to understand why. On this 4.5/five star software within our comprehensive Square review.
Promotion not far off.
Intuit hasn’t released their Black Friday promo yet, but it’s not far off. The deals will likely be announced on Monday. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
While Intuit is much more noted for its QuickBooks accounting software, Intuit also provides a mPOS known as Intuit Go Payment (formerly referred to as Intuit Payment Solutions). Intuit GoPayment offers competitive rates along with a seamless Quickbooks integration. To understand more about this method, read our comprehensive Intuit GoPayment review.
Reason for Purchase (POS) solutions really are a huge element of retail and restaurant companies. If you are looking for a great POS system, there’s seriously no better time for you to purchase. Miracle traffic bot category has got the most holiday promotions undoubtedly, so you have several options.
Toast POS is providing up $6,000 in hardware to new clients.
If you’re a new Toast POS customer transitioning from Aloha or Micros, you are able to qualify for approximately $6,000 in hardware.
This deal is essentially a hardware swap. For instance, for those who have an Aloha or Micro terminal, you are able to swap it for any free Toast POS terminal (as much as $6,000). Toast is just matching existing hardware, so any other purchases is going to be priced normally. This deal applies its November. Find out more about this deal and Contact Toast POS directly to find out if you qualify.
Toast POS is a perfect restaurant POS that provides ample features, a loyalty rewards program, and gift certificate abilities. Discover what else Toast POS provides within our comprehensive 5/five star Toast POS review.
Promotion not far off.
Revel Systems hasn’t released their promotion yet, but be on the lookout for that company’s announcement. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
Revel Systems is among the top iPad POS systems, boasting 25,000 terminals being used and powerful features. To understand more about Revel Systems, read our comprehensive Revel Systems review.
Promotion not far off.
Lightspeed hasn’t released their promotion yet, but be on the lookout for that company’s announcement. We all do realize that both software and hardware is going to be discounted. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
Lightspeed offers multiple POS systems for particular industries. (Before the promo is released, we won’t know which version is going to be discounted.) Read our complete Lightspeed Retail, Lightspeed eCom, and Lightspeed Restaurant reviews to find out more.
NCR Silver is providing 1-2 free several weeks and services information for annual subscriptions.
Although this isn’t always a Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchase, we would have liked to show you from the promotion NCR Silver is presently running.
If you buy single-year subscription, you’ll get a month of free service if you buy a couple-year subscription, you’ll receive two several weeks of free service. The offer pertains to brand new merchant, no matter location or quantity of terminals. Purchase ends on December 31. Contact NCR Silver for more information.
NCR Silver is really a cloud-based POS well suited for medium-sized companies. It provides 24/7 support and integrates with leading accounting software. Read our complete NCR Silver review to find out more.
Linga POS is providing 3 several weeks of free service.
New users who begin a Linga account will get 3 several weeks of the free Linga POS license. Deal ends on December 15th. Contact Linga POS directly to benefit from this offer.
Linga POS offers impressive features together with a strong inventory management system. The program is competitive in cost and is a superb option for food services. Read our complete LingaPOS review to find out more.
Hike is providing a 30% discount to customers.
Hike is providing a 30% discount to customers. We are adding a lot of this promotion soon, until then, contact Hike directly for details.
Although Hike is really a relatively recent POS solution, it provides an attractive interface and lots of features. Hike is simple to use and versatile too. Read our comprehensive Hike review to understand more about this 4.5/five star software.
Epos Now’s offering $500 in savings.
Epos Now’s offering their POS System including a 15″ touchscreen terminal, an invoice printer, along with a cash drawer for $1,299 (ordinarily a $1,799 value). Contact Epos Let’s focus on details or visit here to join up with this promotion.
Epos Now’s a quick-growing POS system located in the United kingdom. The machine is simple to use, filled with features, and reliable enough for Disney Pictures and Universal for doing things (that’s enough to achieve my election if it is adequate for Disney it should be the most joyful POS system on the planet right?). Read our full Epos Now review to find out if you accept me and to understand more about the program on your own.
Promotion not far off.
Springboard Retail hasn’t released their November promotion yet, but be on the lookout for that company’s announcement. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
Springboard Retail is really a POS system with limitless users and ample features. The POS system offers scalable prices plans and it is incredibly simple to use. To understand more about POS option, read our complete Springboard Retail review.
GiftLogic POS is providing a hardware looking for $.99 with acquisition of any initial software bundle.
If you buy any GiftLogic POS software bundle, you’re qualified to purchase a hardware looking for a reduced cost of $.99. We is going to be adding a lot of this promotion soon, until then, contact GiftLogic POS directly for details.
GiftLogic POS is really a Home windows-based retail POS that is fantastic for clothes shops and gift shops. The program offers extensive features including reporting and inventory. To understand more about this POS contender, read our complete GiftLogicPOS review.
The section you’ve all been awaiting! Okay, in order the mind accounting author at Merchant Maverick I’m just a little biased toward accounting software, but hey–that means I understand a great deal after i see one. I’m excited to talk about these steals along with you.
Aplos is providing 50% off select annual subscriptions.
Aplos is providing 50% from the newbie of the annual subscription for their Starter or Standard Accounting packages. Any new user can use with this promo and you will find no cancellation charges (should you aren’t satisfied, Aplos will refund you the rest of your unused subscription). Use coupon code SuperSale2017 to obtain this deal although it still lasts. Contact Aplos to learn more.
Aplos is really a non-profit accounting solution with ample features and extremely positive testimonials. We even named the program among the Top 4 Accounting Programs for Nonprofits, so long should be good. Browse the publish on your own to find out if this nonprofit solution is a great fit for you personally.
Promotion not far off.
Intuit QuickBooks hasn’t released their Black Friday promo yet, but it’s not far off. The deals will likely be announced on Monday. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
QuickBooks may be the big named in comprising grounds. With multiple desktop and cloud-based products, this accounting giant offers solutions for pretty much any sized business. Read our comprehensive reviews of Quickbooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop Pro, QuickBooks Desktop Mac, QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise, and QuickBooks Self-Employed, or read this handy comparison chart to determine what version fits your needs.
Note: If you are offered on Quickbooks Desktop, look into the Black Friday deals at the local Best To Buy, Staples, along with other office supplies online stores. I will allow you to inside a little secret: The final time I visited Staples, QuickBooks Desktop Pro was $30 less expensive than the discounted form of the program on Intuit’s site.
Shopping Cart Software Software
This season, most eCommerce sellers are most likely considering how you can market their very own stores to bring in the vacation sales. But remember to take a few here we are at yourself and think about whether these shopping cart software discounts are suitable for your company.
Zoey Commerce is providing a 5% – 10% discount on annual subscriptions.
Zoey Commerce is providing a price reduction on annual subscriptions. New clients registering for the Strategic business plan will get a 5% discount using the coupon code THANKS5. New clients registering for the company Plus or Premier pan will get a tenPercent discount while using coupon code THANKS10.
These discounts are additionally towards the existing 10% discount that Zoey offers for annual subscriptions. Monthly plans don’t apply. These codes is going to be active from Wednesday, November 22 to Thursday, November 30. When you produce a trial, you will see a place for any coupon code. If you want help getting this deal or want more details contact Zoey Commerce directly.
Zoey Commerce is really a well-loved, fully-featured eCommerce platform. If you wish to determine what makes miracle traffic bot so excellent, read our complete 5/five star Zoey review.
Shopify is providing $30 predetermined fee shipping with DHL Express.
Shopify can also be offering holiday shipping with UPS.
Although this isn’t always a Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchase, we would have liked to show you from the promotion Shopify is presently running.
This holidays, Shopify is partnering with DHL Express to bring Shopify customers a $30 flat-rate shipping option (before Holiday sales in my opinion). Packages should be between 1-3 pounds. Certain countries might not qualify and fuel surcharges may apply. Purchase ends December 31st. On this deal or contact Shopify for details.
Shopify can also be offering holiday shipping rates with UPS. This integration brings Shopify customers guaranteed date shipping, discounted rates for heavier packages, and all sorts of peak surcharges on UPS Ground is going to be included in Shopify. Find out more about this deal or contact Shopify for deals.
Shopify is among the big names in eCommerce and even for good reason. It provides good prices, strong features, and 24/7 customer care. To understand more about this 5/five star software, read our complete Shopify review.
Promotion not far off.
3dcart hasn’t released their November promotion yet, but it’s not far off. The promotion should really launch on Wednesday. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
While 3dcart might be keeping us at nighttime on their own promotion for which appears like forever, it’s no mystery this company provides a great eCommerce platform. With ample features, affordable plans, and lots of design styles, 3dcart has something for virtually any merchant. Read our complete 3dcart review to learn more.
Promotion not far off.
Woocommerce hasn’t released their promotion yet, but be on the lookout for that company’s announcement. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
Woocommerce is definitely an free shopping cart software wordpress plugin that directly integrates with WordPress websites. The first software download is free of charge and also the eCommerce platform provides a apparently unbeatable quantity of integrations. On this shopping cart software option within our complete Woocommerce review.
Searching to construct a brand new small company website? It’s not necessary to become coding expert overnight. Rather, make use of a website builder.
Promotion not far off.
uKit hasn’t released their Cyber Monday promotion yet, but be on the lookout for that company’s announcement (it’ll be in this article). We’ve heard the offer will probably be pretty great. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
uKit is really a feature-wealthy, simple to use website builder that screams classy and professional. Read our full uKit review to understand more about what this rising website builder can provide.
If monitoring your holiday inventory gets difficult, it might be time for you to consider a listing software. And just what better time for you to purchase than when you will find Cyber Monday promotions within the works?
Promotion not far off.
TradeGecko hasn’t released their Cyber Monday promotion yet, but it’s not far off. We’ll update this publish when we all know more, so make sure to return in.
TradeGecko is really a cloud-based inventory software with strong worldwide business abilities. The program can also be noted for its robust set of features and simple to use interface. To understand more about this inventory option, read our complete TradeGecko review.
inFlow Cloud is providing per month of free service along with a free USB scanner.
inFlow is providing per month of free service along with a free USB scanner to new clients who join inFlow Cloud. This Black Friday deal is going to be sent being an email promotion you must sign up for any free trial offer between November 24 and November 27. To be able to receive this deal, it’s important to spend the money for first month and services information next, the 2nd month is free of charge and you will find no cancellation charges. The bar code scanner is restricted to all of us addresses. Contact inFlow to learn more.
InFlow offers both in your area-installed and cloud-based solutions. The program offers ample features and it is only suitable for Home windows computers. We presently have only overview of inFlow On-Premise, however, you can look it over to a minimum of learn bout inFlow like a company.
You probably know this: Creating invoices in Stand out just doesn’t work during christmas (or during any season, really). If you feel it’s time for you to manage profits having a full-fledged invoicing software, take a look at these deals.
Harvest is providing $10 off and away to new users.
Harvest is providing $10 from the first month and services information for brand new users who join Harvest during christmas. Use coupon code JUSTSAYINGTHANKS to reap the harvest of the deal before it’s far too late. Contact Harvest for more information.
Harvest is a superb invoicing application with amazing time tracking abilities and much more amazing customer support. The program can use more invoice templates for me, however if you simply need time tracking and project management software, this really is certainly a high contender. Read our complete Harvest review to find out if miracle traffic bot fits your needs.
Invoice Ninja is providing 75% off.
On Cyber Monday, Invoice Ninja is providing a 75% discount on invoicing plans. We is going to be adding a lot of this promotion soon, until then, contact InvoiceNinja directly for details.
Invoice Ninja is a straightforward-to-use invoice solution with great invoice templates along with a client portal. Invoice Ninja also provides over 35 payment gateways. to understand more about this invoicing option, read our complete Invoice Ninja review.
Get the own Black Friday and holiday emails sent fast with the aid of e-mail marketing software. If you’ve never considered e-mail marketing before, this is the time.
GetResponse is providing 15% business Enterprise plan.
GetResponse is providing a 15% discount for GetResponse Enterprise. We are adding a lot of this promotion soon, until then, contact GetResponse directly for details.
GetResponse is really a seasoned e-mail marketing veteran with experience along with a set of features to demonstrate it. The program is simple to use and cost-effective. Read our full GetResponse review to find out if this e-mail marketing tool suits your company.
Project Management Software
Project management software solutions offer from task management to workflow management to scheduling to budgeting and much more. But every one has one common denominator: they assist you keep an eye on work.
ProofHub is providing a 41% discount on their own software.
Although this isn’t always a Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchase, we would have liked to show you from the promotion ProofHub is presently running.
ProofHub is providing a 41% discount on their own Ultimate Control plan (ordinarily a $150/mo value for $89/mo rather). Contact ProofHub directly for particular information regarding this promotion.
ProofHub is really a superbly designed software with wonderful features like task and subtask management, reports, and file proofing. To understand more about this project management software option, read our complete ProofHub review.
Time For You To Get Shopping!
Before getting to transported away within the Black Friday mania, there exists a final suggestion: Seek information in advance.
While these deals could be a good way for your online business to save cash, we implore you to definitely save time before you act. Don’t purchase it just since you can. Purchase it because it’s the best solution for your online business.
Each one of the promotions above originates from items that we’ve researched extensively at Merchant Maverick. However, we don’t would like you to simply take our word these are wonderful products. Seek information. Make the most of our comprehensive reviews, investigate the organization you’re thinking about purchasing from, and look for the other users are saying before choosing.
If you want help buying a solution, our Merchant Maverick blog provides extensive great sources and we’re always here for those who have questions.
Friendly PSA over! Now you can shop ’til you drop and make the most of these bargains before they’re gone.
Shall we be missing anything? If you’re a vendor having a Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or holiday purchase that people haven’t pointed out, please tell us within the comments below.
Chelsea Krause is really a author, enthusiastic readers, and investigator. Additionally to loving writing, she grew to become thinking about accounting software due to her constant need to learn something totally new and know how things work. When she’s no longer working or daydreaming about her newest story, she are available consuming obscene levels of coffee, studying anything compiled by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files together with her husband.
Constant Contact was among the first companies to get involved with the e-mail marketing business. The organization was founded 1995, and started operating in 1998. Up to now, it’s still probably the most broadly recognized ESPs — particularly among individuals who know hardly any about e-mail marketing. Which, to be honest, is most likely most of Constant Contact’s users list.
MailChimp, however, took its begin in 2001. It’s very easy to inform the people behind MailChimp possess a great spontaneity — they’re known as The Brain Surgery Group. And despite rocket science’s status to be complicated, MailChimp really isn’t. It’s set itself apart like a cool, funny brand while still offering the type of features that attract serious Online marketers.
Constant Contact has a respectable 550,000 customers in a wide array of industries. But MailChimp claims greater than six million customers, including some huge names, including TED. We’ve reviewed both services formerly (take a look at our individual reviews for MailChimp and Constant Contact), but let’s check out where both of these e-mail marketing platforms stand out, what sets them aside from one another, and which is the greatest solution for you personally.
Table of Contents
Web-Based or In your area Installed:
Constant Contact and MailChimp are generally cloud-based e-mail marketing suites. You may also download mobile phone applications for services on Android and iOS, though it normally won’t possess the full suite of features. Consider them a lot more like supplements as opposed to a substitute. You’re have to a laptop to make use of these types of services for their full extent.
Software and hardware Needs:
I will refer to this as a draw because support is fairly universal. We stated within our Constant Contact review the software has “known issues” in Explorer (around the support site it particularly mentions issues on Home windows XP) — but you aren’t really using Explorer, right? …Right? (Go download Chrome, Firefox, or Safari at this time.)
Specific Size Business:
E-mail marketing isn’t just something do since your competition is doing the work, too. The thing is to retain customers and also be your company. For this reason MailChimp wins this round.
Constant Contact is a perfect suite for small companies which are just beginning by helping cover their Online marketing. However, it isn’t very scalable. The client support Constant Contact provides causes it to be well suited for newbies, but when you’ve become used to e-mail marketing and wish to increase your time and efforts, you might find you’ve outgrown it.
MailChimp is much better suitable for companies of any size — from single-man (or single-lady) startups to large institutions. The prices structure is a lot more flexible and scalable too. Should you enter into this having a plan and carry it out well, you’ll find MailChimp provides you with the infrastructure to develop without getting to handle the need for importing your database from another service (unless of course you’re already searching to change, obviously).
When it comes to pure functionality, MailChimp dominates Constant Contact. Whichever plan you select, you have more value for your money, as they say. Let’s check out you skill beyond just delivering emails.
Analytics and Reports
Social Networking Support
Multiple User Accounts
Yes – compensated plans only
Yes – greater tier plans only
Sign-Up Forms (including QR codes)
A/B Split Testing
Send Time Optimizer
Mobile Phone Applications (iOS, Android)
A couple of notes here:
* When you can authorize multiple users using the greater-tiered plans in Constant Contact, you cannot set multiple permissions. MailChimp, however, enables you to designate multiple roles and restricts use of features according to individuals permissions, that makes it a lot more helpful for collaboration.
** Constant Contact does not have built-in tools to evaluate this data, however that doesn’t mean you cannot get it done by hand. You may create two separate drafts of the email and segment your list to transmit one version to every segment, then evaluate your open and click on-through rates by hand. Likewise, you can try your open-rate data to get the best time for you to distribute data according to that. Still, it’s far easier to possess built-in tools that handle it for you personally.
Analytics and Reporting
Another subject we discussed within our previous reviews may be the depth from the reporting obtainable in both services. Constant Contact’s metrics are fairly fundamental: open rates, CTRs, bounces, opt-outs, etc. You do not get tools to evaluate any A/B testing, Return on investment, or conversions — all available in MailChimp, additionally towards the standard fare. You need to do get Google Analytics integration with, that is useful, but MailChimp may be the obvious champion here.
Constant Contact’s Plus Campaigns
Both ESPs have pretty thorough social integration. However in its Plus Campaigns feature, Constant Contact also gives you some additional features that MailChimp does not have:
Facebook: Run sweepstakes, offer digital coupons, and share other downloadable content which you can use to develop your client base.
Event Promotion and Registration: Share, register visitors, accept payment and set of metrics in one place.
Donations: Run charitable organization campaigns via social networking or email.
Trackable Coupons: Digital coupons that the visitors can share and you can track.
Surveys and Polls: Get much more data out of your subscribers.
There’s a couple of additional features incorporated in Plus Campaigns, too. You’re likely to pay more of these features in Constant Contact. However, MailChimp can also add these functions through its integrations along with other services.
The prices structures for Constant Contact and MailChimp really are a bit different, and they’re complicated enough that It is best to go take a look at our original reviews of every for that specifics. Meanwhile, here’s the rundown from the major variations:
Constant Contact is entirely list-based. You have to pay in line with the quantity of total subscribers you’ve (important to note: a subscriber on two lists continues to be only counted as you subscriber), and select 1 of 3 tiered plans for that features and additional services you would like. You can include features from greater-tiered plans for the next fee.
MailChimp, however, has three kinds of plans. The Entrepreneur plan’s free of charge (available for approximately 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly).It’s not necessary to go in a charge card, however your emails have a little MailChimp badge incorporated at the end.
Beyond that, you’ve got a send-based option (essentially pay-as-you-go) along with a monthly subscription in line with the number of individuals inside your lists. Unlike Constant Contact, their email on two separate lists counts as two subscribers. The monthly subscription includes a couple of features another two plans don’t, but you can include them for a small fee.
Within our Constant Contact review, we noticed that its services have to do with 120 percent to 150 percent of the items competitors charge for comparable services. You receive more quality with MailChimp (including more reporting options and integrations) at a lower price — but we’ll enter into that later. And also the free choice is very appealing, considering that MailChimp’s most fundamental plan’s $35 per month for approximately 2,5000 subscribers.
Simplicity of use:
Certainly one of Constant Contact’s selling points is it’s very easy-to-use templates (65 of these, actually). They’re great and also the WYSIWYG editor is fairly intuitive. However, you’re going to need to jump through hoops (or at best screens) if you wish to code your email in HTML yourself.
Finding what you would like within the template menu can be challenging, and mobile options indicate pretty clearly that it is an area Constant Contact hasn’t really stored on. There isn’t any method to even preview your mobile emails. Much more frustratingly, the overall email preview feature is hard to rely on and sporadic, too. And you may easily miss a “save” button and lose a number of your projects.
Quite a few users appear to become at odds with regards to MailChimp’s simplicity of use. Some repeat the email creator is simple to use, while some appear to consider the personalization choices are hard to use unless of course you’ve got a solid knowledge of coding. You receive 12 fundamental templates and hundreds more styles according to individuals templates.
Here’s why MailChimp arrives ahead: You can get a typical email preview along with a mobile preview. You may also observe how the e-mail will appear in various clients. MailChimp auto-saves every 20 seconds, so you aren’t likely to lose your projects.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
MailChimp’s site claims it’s greater than 700 integrations with assorted third-party services. Constant Contact’s list of apps and integrations appears just below 250 during the time of writing.
Are both going to provide the fundamentals. There’s Google Analytics, obviously, WordPress, and Salesforce (in addition to Zoho). MailChimp has more CRM integrations, including Capsule and Contactually. Have e-commerce integrations with BigCommerce and Shopify, too.
By sheer figures, MailChimp may be the pretty apparent choice if you would like lots of integration with all of your data.
Customer Support and Tech Support Team:
Champion: Constant Contact
This is when the option of best ESP really boils lower to your demands. From the bat, Constant Contact has won three Stevie awards because of its customer support. It features a phone support option that MailChimp doesn’t, and also the hrs are pretty, too: Phone support can be obtained 7 days per week. Hrs are:
Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. EST
Friday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST
Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to eight p.m. EST
And also the phone support is excellent, too. If you want someone to secure your hands and take you step-by-step through everything, Constant Contact is what you want.
Service isn’t perfect, however. Our reviewer had some negative encounters with Constant Contact’s support personnel, too, mostly concerning slow responding time.
That stated, Constant Contact also provides an intensive understanding base that you could consult as needed. There’s decent social networking support, even though you will from time to time you need to be told to email customer support. Constant Contact’s blog is filled with useful tips and there is a online community, too.
Want in addition to that? You have it: Webinars (including free and compensated options) can be found regularly. If you go searching for the greatest-tiered plan, there is also use of a 1-on-one personal coach. Constant Contact even hosts in-person classes that will highlight the fundamentals (for $199, obviously).
MailChimp does not have telephone service. However, their support is usually prompt and professional and also the individuals are knowledgeable. You are able to achieve representatives via email 24 hrs each day. Live Chat can be obtained Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to six p.m. EST (for those who have a compensated account, that’s). Social networking support can also be quite responsive.
Beyond that, MailChimp comes with an extensive understanding base, like Constant Contact, and a range of video training or even a reference of important terms. And there’s your blog, that also offers plenty of tips and information.
In case you really require the extra hands-holding, Constant Contact is the foremost option. In case your search-fu is powerful or else you have a handle on which you’re doing, you’ll get on all right with MailChimp.
With programs such as these, security is vital. In the end, it isn’t just your computer data on the line — it’s your customers’, too. These two services are EU Safe Harbor compliant. Both of them use SSL file encryption to safeguard charge card data.
However it shouldn’t surprise you by using roughly 12 occasions the amount of users as Constant Contact, MailChimp is really a bit more transparent about its safety measures.
If you are seriously interested in security or else you anticipate a really large list inside your future, opt for MailChimp. It even includes a documented continuity plan “in situation of nuclear attack on the data center” — something it mentions outright on its security page. Large lists are stored by themselves individual servers to lessen the risk of data corruption. (For smaller sized lists, including free plans, MailChimp uses shared servers.)
Check our earlier reviews, or visit the MailChimp and Constant Contact security pages for yourself, if you would like.
Let’s also talk as it were about junk e-mail. Nobody wants it, and both Constant Contact and MailChimp take quite strong stances against it. You have to make certain that you’re following your ESP’s tos (including incorporating remove yourself from list links inside your emails) as well as in compliance with U.S. laws and regulations and individuals associated with a country where you’re delivering email. Go browse the anti-junk e-mail policies for Constant Contact and MailChimp.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Watch will have its detractors. MailChimp will get flak from users for that difficulty in building custom templates using HTML and CSS. Some also complain about getting to inquire about users to re-opt-in to receiving emails when transferring lists.
But it is not bad thinking about that among the greatest complaints about Constant Contact is manipulative salespeople. It’s extensively recorded (take a look at our earlier review), and may be described as a switch off.
Complaints of unfair charges when a free account is frozen for spammy tactics really are a common one. You cannot make use of your account even though it is under review, but you’ll be billed for this. You are able to cancel your bank account if you are on the month-to-month plan, but there is not much to complete for those who have a pre-compensated plan. Beyond that, you have complaints of poor usability, bugs and glitches, and merely too little features.
Positive Testimonials and reviews:
It’s worth mentioning again that Constant Contact’s customer support has won Stevie awards, and also the fundamental email designer is simple to use. Typically people think MailChimp’s software programs are simple to use, too. Furthermore, MailChimp’s reporting services tend to be more robust also it comes with a totally free option.
It is also important to note that MailChimp beats Constant Contact in G2 Crowd reviews (4. across 103 reviews in contrast to 3.6 from 67 reviews), which its mobile phone applications for Android and iOS tend to be better reviewed.
Constant Contact earned a decent 3.5 stars within our earlier review, but MailChimp earned 4.5 stars, and it’s easy to determine why. With better prices, better quality features, as well as an impressive quantity of integrations, MailChimp is the foremost choice for anybody who would like to boost their e-mail marketing business. If, however, you’re brand-new towards the game and most likely will not be delivering even more than an periodic e-newsletter, Constant Contact provides the type of give you support might take advantage of. But you’re prone to outgrow it in case your efforts remove. Plus, MailChimp’s entry-level package is free of charge, that makes it the safer option to test out e-mail marketing if you are just beginning out.
We like to know what you think. Got questions? Would like to learn more? Take a look at our other e-mail marketing reviews or be at liberty to contact us!
Melissa Manley is definitely an independent author and editor who loves e-commerce, internet marketing, technology, and social networking. Not so long ago, she earned a journalism degree, but she continued to uncover that they could work at home, researching, editing, and covering the items she found most fascinating. When she’s not associated with her laptop, Melissa usually can be based in the kitchen, studying a magazine, or doing something from the nerdy persuasion.
If you’ve a minimum of dabbled in small company email strategies, you most likely learn about Constant Contact. Heck, even though you haven’t done any e-mail marketing inside your existence, you’ve most likely heard about Constant Contact – the organization is actually into self-promotion, sometimes to begin posting fake reviews of their service (though executives claimed the workers who did this were “acting outdoors corporate policy”).
Unscrupulous blog-commenting practices aside, the 20-year-old email company provides a solid, time-tested service and boasts over fifty percent millions of customers. Aimed toward small companies who operate mainly offline, CC is simple to use to create and execute email promotions, access data to determine who opens your emails (in addition to bounces, unsubscribes, etc.), and much more.
Even though many people discover that Constant Contact meets email addresses marketing needs all right, other ESPs available provide more features for any lower cost. Whether you’re a continuing Contact diehard or you’ve had an unsatisfactory knowledge about the service, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to test some competing services. I’ve come up with a summary of the key Constant Contact alternatives, so take a look and you can incorperate your two cents within the comments.
Table of Contents
Belgium-based GetResponse (see our review) has been available since 1999, but remains an extremely small player in American e-mail marketing, possibly since their professional services are geared more toward career marketers than companies. Nonetheless, GetResponse supplies a great group of e-mail marketing features for an affordable cost, and it is perfectly appropriate for big and small companies alike. GetResponse presently has 350,000 active users from 182 countries.
Listed here are a couple of of the items I believe are GetResponse’s best features:
Email Creator, including many templates for individuals without HTML experience and coding choices for advanced users
Website Landing Page Creator, which is what it may sound like
RSS-to-Email feature that enables bloggers to email subscribers every time they publish
Time-based and action-based autoresponders
Inbox preview to determine the way your email will appear across different email clients and devices
Why choose GetResponse over Constant Contact
As it pertains lower into it, GetResponse simply provides more features and much more subscribers/contacts for any lower cost. Constant Contact’s least expensive package is $20/month for -500 subscribers (and something user) GetResponse’s least expensive package enables as much as 1,000 subscribers for $15/month (or $12.30/month should you prepay yearly). GetResponse also provides all the service’s extensive features across all plans, while CC customers need to pay greater prices (a minimum of $45/month for just 500 subscribers) to obtain added features like autoresponders and social networking integration.
As pointed out in Katherine Miller’s AWeber review, this ESP combines simplicity of use having a robust set of features. (Also, this really is neither here nor there, however the company’s corporate offices, situated in a renovated DaimlerChrysler building outdoors of Philly, turn to me such as the funnest workplace ever.)
AWeber (see our review), established in 1998, is ideal for companies having a smaller sized address book (under 25,000) that are looking to transmit multiple follow-up emails rather of a single-time email blasts (though it can be done too). A number of my personal favorite AWeber features include:
Email editor with more than 600 templates
Capability to create follow-up autoresponders
Signup form functionality
Advanced list segmentation
Number of subscriber preferences/options
Why Choose AWeber over Constant Contact
AWeber is among the pricier Constant Contact alternatives on my small list, however it still measures a rather lower cost point than CC, especially considering that to get all CC’s features (aside from the “personal marketing coach,” that is really only a sales repetition in disguise who nobody appears to love anyway), you need to sign up for a minimum of the medium-tier Constant Contact plan. Though AWeber rocks ! because of its follow-up autoresponders, if you are searching for that least expensive option to Constant Contact, this ain’t it.
3. Benchmark Email
Some awesome reasons for Los Alamitos, CA-based Benchmark Email (see our review) include it’s very easy-to-use interface and industry-themed email templates (for retail, education, entertainment, etc.), and particularly the opportunity to send video emails. Benchmark, established in 2004, also provides a passionate server and email delivery management program to improve deliverability rates.
Benchmark Email provides two free plans, in addition to three fundamental compensated plan types (subscriber-based, email-based, and-volume plans), and special choices for charitable organizations. The various plan types permit you to pick the perfect plan based on your email habits and quantity of contacts, which may be as much as 100,000.
Why Choose Benchmark Email over Constant Contact
Benchmark offers a lot of advantages over Constant Contact which i will need to list them in bullet-form, which is exciting for me personally. Listed here are the primary things Benchmark Email has over Constant Contact:
Free fundamental plan
Free 100,000-subscriber arrange for all verified PTAs/PTOs/PTSAs and nonprofit groups helping children
Cheaper rates overall
All features across all plans – such as the free ones
Capability to send video emails
Obviously, you’ll need to compare all Constant Contact’s and Benchmark Email’s features side-by-side to find out if either ESP is the best for your unique organization. For instance, Benchmark does not have an Android application, so if this sounds like vital that you you, then you need to choose another ESP. However if you simply operate a nonprofit or wish to send video emails, this ESP can’t be beat.
There’s a great deal to like about MailChimp (see our review). The organization doesn’t take themselves too seriously (would you tell through the name?) however they give a seriously awesome service and among the best ESPs available. MailChimp has over six million users and procedures greater than 5 billion outgoing emails monthly. The organization doesn’t take themselves too seriously (would you tell through the name?) however they give a seriously awesome service and among the best ESPs available. MailChimp has over six million users and procedures greater than 5 billion outgoing emails monthly. Its popular services are appropriate for everybody from startups to multibillion corporations for example customers The Economist and TED.
Like Benchmark Email, MailChimp also provides a fundamental free service in addition to a number of other plans varying from subscriber-based prices to volume-based prices. You may also simply pay per email you signal. Whilst not all features can be found around the free “Entrepreneur” plan, which enables 2,000 contacts and 12,000 emails monthly, this is perhaps the very best free ESP package around.
Why Choose MailChimp over Constant Contact
Like all the ESPs I’ve incorporated within this list, MailChimp has cheaper plans than Constant Contact. You might also need more versatility with plan prices, as there’s a pay-as-you-go option. Furthermore, MailChimp offers multi-user accounts (Constant Contact charges extra for further users). MailChimp offers ever better integrations than CC and helpful features like “Delivery by Time Zone” to make sure emails are sent whenever your recipients are awake. And hey, you cannot beat a choice of a totally free plan. From my research, most small companies who’ve used both MailChimp and Constant Contact prefer MailChimp. You are able to sign up for any free trial offer here, if you are like doing so.
Among the more youthful ESPs to emerge available on the market, SendInBlue (see our review) continues to be making an effect when you are, pound-for-pound, probably the most cost-effective services within their industry. Their founder, Armand Thiberge, searched for to construct a service provider that may provide a strong, core suite of ESP services to companies without overwhelming all of them with unnecessary features.
It’s worth mentioning that the organization is extremely attentive to critique and moves rapidly to fix shortcomings within their product. Having a generous free plan that allows you to send as much as 300 emails each day, up to and including more 9,000 monthly plus some of the very most competitive prices readily available for high-volume campaigns.
Why Choose SendInBlue Over Constant Contact
It might seem just like a damaged record at this time, but you may have intuited that Constant Contact is sort of around the pricier side. This is also true of SendInBlue, which undercuts the majority of its competitors on cost. Although it doesn’t provide the innovative features for highly precise campaigns, the characteristics it will provide are high-quality, including certainly one of my personal favorite campaign creators. Individuals features, except for a few a la carte products, can also be found at each tier, therefore the only factor you’ll need to bother about regarding price is the level of your campaigns. Primary advantages include:
Free fundamental plan
Very competitive prices
All features across all plans
Excellent responsive design drag-and-drop builder
Frequent iterations and enhancements
Constant Contact is really a well-known name in the realm of e-mail marketing, though this name is frequently connected with a few uncomfortable things, like manipulative/dishonest marketing tactics. Still, Constant Contact provides a helpful service for small companies that are looking to rapidly and simply deploy email strategies. But is its service sufficiently strong to warrant its high cost? Many users refuse. If you are searching for a less expensive ESP a treadmill that provides advanced features Constant Contact doesn’t provide, I would suggest carrying out a test run of all or any from the companies discussed within my list. Join a no-risk-free trial (which many of these companies offer – well, OK, AWeber’s 30-day trial costs $1, but you really can afford that) and let’s read your comments!
Chris Motola is definitely an independent author, journalist, programmer, and game designer that has mastered the skill of using his laptop in no less than 541 positions, many of them unergonomic. When he isn’t pushing keys or swiping screens, he’s most likely out exploring urban or natural environs, experimenting in the kitchen area, or delighting/annoying his buddies together with his ideas and theories.
In writing, apes seem like an enjoyable experience. They create adorable faces. They delight using their human-like intelligence and mischievousness. Who wouldn’t desire a monkey? Regrettably, lots of people aren’t eliminate for any pet smart and devious enough to wreck your home and blame it around the dog. While popular e-mail marketing service Benchmark seems to become targeting a really similar niche to MailChimp. Supplying a similar degree of complexity and powerful free plans, it’s the competitor that feels probab MailChimp inside the first hour useful.
Began with a trio of medical workers in offices in 2004 and coded in India, Benchmark has stuck to the vision of the simple, versatile e-mail marketing platform. Basically we loved Benchmark, this program isn’t without weaknesses, most of which we’ll be tackling below.
It might seem a lot more like a 17th century philosopher than an e-mail program, but AWeber is probably the more venerable ESPs that in the industry. Founded in 1998 by Tom Kulzer, this premium-only service provides a effective group of reporting tools which should please data-focused marketers.
Campaign Monitor does what its name implies and offers a completely featured, effective tool for managing (and monitoring) your email strategies. Although it’s a little missing within the integration department, it provides all onpar gps at each cost point, which means you’ll know precisely that which you’re getting.
Among the newer contenders to emerge to the e-mail marketing scene is SendInBlue. Since 2012, SendInBlue has strongly gone to live in create a distinct segment within the crowded ESP market by providing a effective, core suite of features in a competitive cost.
A cost is definitely an expense, which means you’ll wish to make certain you’re obtaining a the best value for the dollar. Fortunately, our prime competitors within the ESP market means that you’ve got options.
Certainly one of MailChimp’s finest strengths comes by means of its generous Forever Free plan, which enables frugal marketers with modest must send 12,000 emails per month to as much as 2,000 subscribers. Or no other e-mail marketing service has attempted to steal the chimp’s lunch when it comes to free plans, it’s Benchmark.
Registering for Benchmark will filter you in to the Free List Plan 2,000, a periodOrquantity trial plan that ends after thirty days, 14,000 emails, or delivering emails to 250 clients, whichever comes first. If you are planning to stay around more than that, you may still make use of the Free for Existence plan, that provides 10,000 emails monthly and also the full suite of features. The main one catch is you’ll need to use Benchmark-branded sign-up forms to include clients for your list, that is inconvenient should you’d choose to import your contacts. Like MailChimp, this program may also incorporate a branded emblem in your free emails.
Assuming you’re prepared to spend some money, you’ll locate an ESP having a cost point pretty much using the average. You may choose to pay for by email beginning at $9.95/mo for 600/mo as much as $375/mo for 100,000/mo, or by how big your address book beginning at $11.95/mo for 600 contacts. At 25,000 contacts, you’re searching at $112/mo. Plans greater than 100,000 are negotiated with an individual basis. Their email list plans permit you to send as many as seven emails monthly to every subscriber.
On the other hand from the equation, we’ve AWeber, which isn’t serving low-volume marketers. If you wish to do this ESP out, you’ll have to enroll in a real compensated plan, even though you won’t be billed for that first month. Just make certain you cancel your plan should you don’t intend to stick to AWeber.
Ultimately, there’s no free lunch reely plan at AWeber, which ranks one of the more costly ESPs. The least expensive compensated plan begins in a hefty $19 for 500 contacts (all AWebers plans are list-based) and topping out at $149/mo for twenty five,000 subscribers bigger lists will need contacting AWeber. Our prime costs are all-inclusive, however. You won’t have to pay extra to gain access to more complex features. Note, too, that of AWeber’s plans permit limitless emails.
Campaign Monitor might have probably the most unorthodox prices plan from the three, however it’s and not the least expensive. Registering for the services are free and can grant you use of all of the features Campaign Monitor provides. However that, if you wish to send any emails past the number of free test messages you are able to send, you’ll need to upgrade to some compensated plan.
This is when things start getting just a little weird. Campaign Monitor’s Fundamental Plan’s a hybrid list/email plan in which the most of emails you are able to send monthly may be the maximum size your list, multiplied by five. In the event that’s an excessive amount of to keep an eye on, you are able to upgrade towards the substantially more costly limitless plan, which functions like a classical list-based plan. This two-tiered approach enables for many pretty affordable prices around the Fundamental Plan, beginning at $9/mo for 500 subscribers and a pair of,500 emails/mo. Regrettably, Campaign Monitor diminishes competitive on cost while you ascend the tiers, costing $199/mo for twenty five,000 subscribers. The Limitless Plan’s much more pricey, beginning at $29/mo and climbing to some steep $399/mo at 25,000.
Oh, there’s even the choice to pay per campaign and email, though this method will get very costly, very rapidly.
SendInBlue went to pretty great pains to undercut its competition within the cost department. Like Benchmark, SendInBlue provides a totally free plan with a few modest limitations, in addition to a very economical “Micro” arrange for users with slightly greater marketing needs. Particularly, SendInBlue is unconcerned with the amount of subscribers you’ve, only the amount of emails you’re delivering. This really is great news for marketers who strategically segment their lists.
Greater in the prices chain is how SendInBlue really shines. $334 buys you 750,000 emails per month.
Probably the most MailChimp-esque of those companies regarding prices are Benchmark and SendInBlue, each of which provide a nice opening curve for small companies still feeling out their demands. Benchmark provides more emails monthly, while SendInBlue offers some simpler managing contacts at lower tiers. AWeber appears like a worse deal before you take into account that all of the plans permit you to send as numerous emails as you would like, excessive-volume marketers take serious notice. Campaign Monitor’s prices will most likely simply be ideal in certain very specific instances (low volume marketing with no burden from the ESP’s emblem, for instance).
MailChimp users will discover campaign creation for those three competitors to become familiar. The 3 offer drag editors for email design, along with the choice to import designs produced with HTML or produce a simple, plain text email. Still, there are several minute variations between your three.
Additionally towards the standard ESP email creation options, Benchmark will also support a mature iteration of their email creator. Like a new user, you are able to securely ignore this method, but if you’re a former user considering rejoining the service, it’s best to know that you could get in which you ended.
Benchmark offers users a properly-rounded variety of email features: video emails, surveys, and the opportunity to established to eight autoresponders. Web site selection clocks in in excess of 400, there’s an excellent chance you’ll find something which meets your needs. When you can preview your the perception of desktop recipients, you won’t have the ability to perform the same for mobile, a substantial oversight.
Where Benchmark pops up shortest, however, is by using social networking integration. You won’t have the ability to do too even more than publish to Facebook through Benchmark.
AWeber’s email design system is a touch different for the reason that, instead of giving the consumer an array of templates, it encourages these to develop a design by dragging elements in to the editor. A great feature for marketers who would like more precise control of the feel of their emails without getting to explore HTML and CSS. You’ll need to bring all of your images along with you, however, because there’s no stock image library to attract from.
A large advantage provided by AWeber is the opportunity to perform split-tests, which let you swap out aspects of your email (subject, name, or body) to determine what your audience finds more engaging.
Missing from AWeber are a few conveniences like surveys and fully integrated social internet marketing.
Campaign Monitor’s email design product is streamlined for efficiency, having a template library like Benchmark, but jettisoning the look library ala AWeber. It’s a no frills system, however it’s fast and simple.
If the thought of delivering out a partial or problematic email keeps you up during the night, Campaign Monitor suits the perfectionist by providing split-testing and allowing users to transmit test emails to as much as five recipients before investing in the campaign.
SendInBlue had designed a puzzling decision in this region by supplying two different campaign creation encounters: one for premium users, and something free of charge and Micro plan users, but because of December 2015 that is not the situation. The premium responsive design creators favors a depth over breadth method of campaign creation. You won’t see as many template options since it’s competitors, however, you’ll have the ability to tweak the particular parameters of the elements and pictures to some much greater degree.
Campaign Creation Summary
The 3 ESPs provide perfectly functional campaign creation tools, however the “best” is the one which meets your campaign needs. Do you’d rather use stock images and/or uploading your personal in to the cloud? Opt for Benchmark. Desire a hyper-customizable drag experience? AWeber or SendInBlue are the programs. Wish to meticulously make sure tweak your emails? Give Campaign Monitor a glance.
List Management and Reporting
Delivering attractive emails to subscribers is fine and dandy, but if you wish to possess a truly effective advertising campaign, you’ll have to crunch some figures and move certain names around. Observe that the 3 services offer something MailChimp doesn’t: list segmentation, the opportunity to break your subscriber lists right into a smaller sized “segment” for additional precise campaign targeting.
Unless of course you’re dealing with the disposable plan (see Prices), adding subscribers in Benchmark is dependent on copying and pasting a listing or adding subscribers individually. You won’t have the ability to directly import a listing from, say, Gmail, which means you’ll need to export it into a middleman program that enables you to definitely copy.
Benchmark’s data tools are fundamental, but fast, becoming available quickly following the campaign is distributed. Benchmark provides users with several key bits of data about each campaign. The (perhaps) most significant statistic, open rate, seems both in cake chart and statistical form. Additionally, Benchmark provides users with stats for clicks, forwards, bounces, unsubscribes, and abuse. Each stat further breaks lower towards the exact emails connected having a given action. Users can export this data for more analysis using a .csv or .xls file. There’s additionally a social networking area which reports shares via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, in addition to a map which breaks lower, based on country, who opens your emails. Should you’re searching for additional, you’ll most likely need to depend with an integration like Google Analytics.
AWeber offers two means of contact creation: an application that enables you to definitely add 10 subscribers at any given time as well as an import tool that accepts pasted lists, spreadsheets, or text files. Like Benchmark, you’ll have to take medium difficulty key to import lists using their company web services.
With regards to reporting tools, AWeber doesn’t fool around. It is definitely the standard raw figures and percentages (clicks, opens, unsubscribes, and so on). Additionally, it includes more complex data for example opens, clicks, and revenue with time subscriber growth and stats by location, area code, or designated market. Additionally, you are able to compare results across your past 20 emails. You are able to track subscribers according to their sign-up method, and also the list segmentation options provide lots of methods to optimize your e-mail marketing. Reports are very well organized and clear to see a lot of the information is presented both in chart and table format. There’s no choice for integrating Google Analytics, however it’s less critical with AWeber than a number of other ESPs.
While Campaign Monitor also lacks third-party integration for importing contacts, it will permit copy/pasting and direct uploads of spreadsheet files. Among the neat choices for Campaign Monitor is the opportunity to add custom fields to subscribers while you upload them. These details is useful when benefiting from Campaign Monitor’s extensive autoresponder system to transmit specialized messages according to data fields like birthday.
Campaign Monitor’s reporting tools are easy-to-use, with many information color-coded, charted or graphed. They’re not as extensive as AWeber’s reports, which means you’ll most likely wish to supplement with exterior analytics should you’re managing a more complex campaign.
Like Campaign Monitor, you’ll have to copy your contacts in or import them via a spreadsheet (SendinBlue supplies a downloadable spreadsheet template if you want one). SendInBlue also enables you to definitely define custom fields, even though the function isn’t as immediately apparent. You may also easily “blacklist” contacts you don’t wish to waste emails on.
SendInBlues reporting tools cover the majority of the bases and supply nearly real-time feedback about that has opened up your emails and which links they’ve visited.
If you must have an e-mail to obtain through, and obtain through safely, SendInBlue offers transactional emails upon request, which feature extra tools to prevent bounces along with other undesirable marketing fates.
List Management and Reporting Summary
Campaign Monitor offers probably the most versatile list segmentation and autoresponders in the industry, enabling you to target subscribers with expert precision. Around the reporting side, AWeber may be the obvious champion, presenting an extensive variety of data without resorting to integrations or exterior programs.
MailChimp continues to be the–wait for this–gorilla within the room with regards to ESPs, but it might be useful for the company to test out some MailChimpÂ alternatives. It’s fairly simple that you simply’ll look for a service that fits your unique needs much better than the monkey could ever.
The publish Top 4 Options to MailChimp made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.
For most small business owners, it’s a jungle out there. Danger lurks around every corner, predators seem to be silently stalking your every movement, and – in the immortal words of Jethro Tull – the rivers are full of crocodile nasties. Let’s face it, when it comes to start-ups and small businesses the statistics are grim. According to one recent study, the failure rate of retail establishments after four years is over 50%, and businesses in the service industry usually meet the same fate. Sadly, restaurants tend to do even worse, and the majority are forced to close their doors before a decade has passed.
There are many reasons why businesses eventually fail – bad locations, limited staff, a poor economic climate, etc. But experts are beginning to agree that most failed businesses (no matter what industry they belong to) have one, very important factor in common: inexperience on the part of the owners/managers. It’s all very well to follow your dreams, but man does not live on dreams alone. For most of us, a little thing called money is required if we want to eat, access our electricity, wash our clothes, keep our children shod, etc. That’s right, money. It’s what you get when you run a business that brings in more revenue than it puts out. That sounds so simple: spend less than you make. But the reality is that pulling in a profit takes knowledge, skill, and access to the proper tools. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve opened up a cat-grooming boutique or finally launched that grilled-cheese food truck you’ve always wanted – if you don’t know what you’re doing when you set out, and/or don’t bother to learn as you go, you might as well throw your seed money down the storm drain.
Fortunately, at Merchant Maverick (MM), we understand how hard it can be to start a business – let alone to keep one going for more than a year or two. You shouldn’t have to do everything by yourself – keeping up with inventory, payment processing, invoicing, shipping, point of sale, website design and the like is nearly impossible without the right equipment (good ol’ pen and paper just doesn’t cut it anymore). The good news? Advances in software and cloud technology have resulted in some pretty impressive small business tools. Even better news? The writers and reviewers at MM have invested thousands of hours researching, testing, and rating small business services/software. In other words, we know our stuff. Running a business is a tremendous burden, but the heavy lifting has already been done – we’ve done if for you – and all you need do is benefit from our years of experience.
Each company below has undergone a rigorous evaluation by an experienced MM reviewer. We scoured websites, read help articles, and browsed through user forums. We talked to customer service and saw for ourselves how responsive they were. And most importantly, we tested the actual software or service ourselves. The following are our reviewers’ top small business software picks for merchant services/payment processing as well as for mobile payments, shopping carts, point of sale, accounting, inventory management, invoicing, booking, email marketing, CRM, project management, loyalty rewards, and website building.
So, without further ado, let the awards ceremony for the best small business software begin!
Merchant Account Providers
Winner: Dharma Merchant Services
Dharma Merchant Services is one of our all-time favorite companies, period, here at Merchant Maverick. Defined by exceptional customer support, low-cost hardware, excellent industry connection, and reasonable negotiation-free rates and fees, Dharma is an ideal option for small businesses with in-person sales. It distinguishes itself from the competition by using only interchange-plus pricing and charging no early termination fees or monthly minimums. There are no annual fees, no application fees, and no pesky PCI compliance fees to deal with either. In addition, this company dedicates 50% of its net profits to charity. Dharma is basically a paragon of integrity, honesty, and respect, and it’s worth its weight in gold in this sometimes unscrupulous industry,
There is one small catch: businesses must process at least $10K per month to use Dharma Merchant Services. Businesses with smaller revenue streams are directed instead to Flint Mobile (see review below).
Dharma offers amazing in-house customer support during business hours (8:00am â 5:00pm Pacific Time). If you need support outside this time frame, you will be directed elsewhere, depending on the severity of your issue and what processor you’re using.
To read more about Dharma Merchant Services, see our full review here.
Boasting a great reputation and a low monthly base fee (which includes access to Quantum gateway), CDG Commerce is a budget friendly alternative to Dharma Merchant Services, especially for low-volume merchants or web-based businesses.Â CDG was established in 1998, and has had plenty of time to cultivate a reputation for honesty and excellence. In fact, customer complaints are nearly non-existent, which is a miracle in itself after nearly 20 years in business. Like Dharma, CDG offers interchange-plus pricing, does not charge an early termination fee, and has no gateway setup fees or PCI compliance fees.
CDG Commerce charges only $10 per month in base fees; beyond that, you can pick and choose which additional services you want to pay for. This is a great system, as it ensures that you won’t be stuck buying things you neither want, nor need.
CDG offers live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. In our experience, support staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and scrupulously honest.
Click here to read our full review of CDGcommerce.
Winner: Flint Mobile
Flint Mobile is our overall top pick for mobile, based primarily on its speed, ease of use, reliability, and price point. To start off, it doesn’t offer a swiper – not a free one, not a paid one, just no reader whatsoever. You can either key in card numbers or simply use your phone’s camera to scan numbers instead. That in and of itself significantly reduces the cost for setting up your account. Flint therefore has the ability to offer lower rates, which is exactly what they do. And with a ridiculously low rate for processing debit alongside a very fair credit rate, they’re nearly impossible to beat.
Flint has only two rates:
Debit transactions: 1.95%
Credit transactions: 2.95%
Yep, thatâs it. It doesn’t get more complicated than that at any point: there are no per transaction fees, no non-qualified fees, and no surcharges of any kind. Flint Mobile runs transactions at a much faster speed than other similar apps, and while it might take a couple tries to get your scanning settings set up the way you like, Flint makes customization an easy and intuitive process. Our one complaint is that they do not provide any means for printing a paper receipt.
One very important thing to mention about Flint Mobile is that, even with the EMV liability shift (effective October 1st, 2015), users have no need to upgrade hardware. The camera scan will continue to work as it always has, with no change to liability. Currently it’s the only mobile processor we’re aware of that will securely process chip cards with no hardware upgrade.
This app can’t replace a full-feature tablet POS, but it comes with a number of amazing features (integrated QR coupons, invoicing, customizable receipts, etc.) and executes service flawlessly. If you’re looking for a sensible, surefire way to accept payments and grow your clientele, you can’t go wrong with Flint Mobile.
If you’d like more information about Flint Mobile, check out our full review.
Runner-Up: Payline Data
Payline Data is mostly a standard merchant account provider, but it has a good mobile solution and low-volume fee structure. Extra services are offered as-needed, so you only have to pay for what you need. There are two pricing models (to accommodate both low and high volume merchants):
Simple (Under $5,000 per month)
$5 monthly fee
Interchange + 0.50%
$0.10 per transaction
Pro (Over $5,000 per month)
$20 monthly fee
Interchange + 0.20%
$0.10 per transaction
We really appreciate the number of customer service and support outlets Payline provides, and it has an extensive knowledge base and FAQ for self-service support, which is quite nice.
Payline Data delivers on any businesses essential needs, and has managed to maintain positive reviews and a spotless reputation since 2009 â which is no small task in the credit card processing industry. In general, it’s a great pick for mobile processing for small businesses everywhere.
Find out more about Payline Data by reading our full review here.
Shopify is unique in that it can be used as a physical POS or an online shopping cart or both at once. This inherent flexibility gives it a clear edge over other shopping carts, and its low price point make it well within the reach for small businesses, even those with strained budgets. Shopify is the industry standard for shopping cart software, and for good reason. There are never any limits to the number of products you can sell, which is nice, though there aren’t many limits to the software in general.
All Shopify plans come with a full 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees. Plans range from $14/month to $179/month with rates ranging from 2.9% + 30Â¢ to 2.4% + 30Â¢. You can pay on a month-to-month basis, but you’ll receive a 10% discount if you choose to pay for one year up front (a 20% discount is offered for those who sign a two-year contract). We’re not terribly fond of Shopifyâs transaction fees, unfortunately, although they do get waived if you use Shopify as your credit card processor.
Shopify is eminently user friendly, and the cart is easy to set up and easy to manage. In our experience, the software works flawlessly from the point of view of both the customer and the merchant, and it is one of the most feature-rich carts available. It is accessible for online mavens, but it is also well within the reach of newcomers and amateurs. Shopify offers a number of apps, some of which are free and some of which may cost a small fee. You can check out Shopifyâs App Store to browse offerings.
Customer support is available via phone, email, and live chat, but there are other great self-help resources as well, including a support center, Knowledge Base, a discussion forum, and a Shopify âExpertsâ page where you can find experienced professionals in design, marketing, development, and photography.
For more information, click here to read our full review of Shopify.
Ecwid, the “go anywhere, sell anything, no manual required” shopping cart, is designed for small eCommerce businesses, as well as for individual sellers and start-ups. We’re big fans of Ecwid, and there are two main reasons why. Firstly, it is extremely ubiquitous, and capable of integrating with nearly every existing website, from social media platforms to blogs. Secondly, it is so reasonably priced, compared to its competitors, that you would be foolish not to take it out for spin. Unlike most shopping carts, there is no typical âfree trial periodâ for Ecwid. Instead, you can simply try out the Free Plan (the obvious advantage to doing this is that your services won’t be cancelled after your trial period ends).
Ecwid offers unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and no transaction fees on every subscription level, even the free plan. Paid plans range from $15/month to $99/month. Personal support by email and online chat are only available at higher subscription levels.
Like Shopify, Ecwid gives you the option to use the software as a physical POS. However, this function is really best suited for online-only business owners who want the option of having a mobile or âpop up shopâ operation, but aren’t trying to maintain a physical storefront at all times.
In general, Ecwid is a solid product with great, user-friendly elements. It’s not the best solution for high-volume sales, but most companies out there (especially startups and very small businesses) will be fully satisfied with its features and ease of use.
Read our full review of Ecwid to learn more.
ShopKeep is one of the best software solutions we’ve ever encountered at Merchant Maverick. This simple, elegant, and visually-appealing cloud-based POS has carved out a solid niche catering to small-business food and beverage sellers. For a very low monthly cost, ShopKeep can help you manage your inventory, customers, employees, as well as record transactions and offer a variety of reporting options (for analyzing all this data).
ShopKeep does not require you to sign a contract. It is a pay-as-you-go, monthly subscription service. There are no extra maintenance fees, and what’s more impressive, tech support is 100% included in the monthly charge. The actual pricing system is beautifully simple as well: $49/month/register.
Other than it’s extremely reasonable price point, ShopKeep’s biggest selling point is its ease-of-use. There is very little learning curve involved, and even the most technologically deficient should have no problem learning the ins and outs of this software in a matter of days (or hours, more likely).
Customer support is fantastic, and unlimited email, live chat, or phone is included in the monthly price. The support page on the company website is also fantastic, and offers comprehensive articles and video tutorials on every aspect of the software.
Read our full review of ShopKeep if you’d like more details.
SalesVu is a perfect POS for the average small business, offering a robust feature set at a competitive price. eCommerce options are built right into the software, so you can design your own site from the back office without ever having to pay for (and integrate) Shopify or hire an expensive third party designer. Integrated eCommerce also ensures that communications between the web store and the brick and mortar store are smooth and seamless.
Prices range from $25/month to $150/month, depending on how many features you need (things like time tracking, accounting, etc. are a bit extra). Basically, SalesVu can be as affordable as you need it to be. Additionally, when you open an account with SalesVu you get a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit (for some small business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need).
Customer service is good, but the primary strengths of this software are found in its intuitive interface and broad flexibility. It is so much more than just a mobile cash register. With SalesVu, you can monitor inventory, create detailed reports, design custom discounts and promotions, maintain an active customer database, and manage employees – and you can do all these things anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. Opening an account with SalesVu gets you a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit. For some business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need.
SalesVu integrates with SalesVu Easy Accounting, Quickbooks, Facebook, and Zapper.
You can check out our full review of SalesVu for more information.
It’s not hard to see why Xero takes the prize for best small business accounting software. It is mobile, cloud-based, easy-to-use, and extremely comprehensible for the small business owner who is handling finances on his/her own (click here for a full list of features). While it can be more expensive long-term than something like QuickBooks Pro, small business owners – especially those who aren’t accountants by nature or profession – are more likely to enjoy using a simple, intuitive program like Xero.
There are multiple pricing plans available, ranging from $9/month to $70/month (these prices include updates as they are released, usually every 3-6 weeks). Small companies with limited invoicing needs would have to look far and wide for a similarly robust accounting/payroll package that trumps Xero’s $9/month price tag. And happily, you don’t have to sign a contract with Xero; plans are paid by the month and you can basically cancel the service at any time. Xero offers a 25% discount for non-profits and a 15% discount on your total bill if you subscribe for multiple businesses. If you do feel comfortable making a commitment and signing up for a 6 month subscription, youâll get a 30% discount.
There are only a few minor problems with Xero, one of which is slow customer support response times. Customer service is offered 24/7, year-round, but some customers have complained of long response times, cut-and-paste answers to questions, and reps who don’t seem to actually know how to use the software. This would be a much bigger deal if Xero was complex or had a steep learning, curve, but it’s not as alarming considering the software’s general simplicity and ease of use. Furthermore, many customers praise Xero’s level of customer service, and the wait times are comparable to those of other accounting software programs.
One real perk of using Xero is that it integrates with over 400 other applications which can facilitate nearly every aspect of business operation, including inventory management, CRM, and POS (some of these are only available to certain countries; in the U.S., there are about 350 Xero integrations available).Â
Read our full review of Xero here.
Runner-Up: QuickBooks Pro
Intuit’s QuickBooks Pro is a robust, feature-rich accounting solution, perfect in many ways for small business (to see a full list of features, click here). It is locally installed software, which results in lower per-year costs and more features than your typical cloud-based software, so if you’re willing to deal with a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning (especially difficult for people who have no previous accounting background), then QB Pro can be an excellent way to save money in your accounting budget. Though it lacks the convenience of a cloud based solution – you don’t get automatic, routine updates or instant access to new features – it is a very viable accounting solution for companies with complex bookkeeping needs.
QuickBooks Proâs list price is $299.95. This might seem a bit high compared to something like Xero, but keep in mind that QB Pro requires a one-time purchase and does not use a subscription model â and it is nearly always available at a discount. While thereâs no free trial available, Intuit does back QB Pro with a 60-day guarantee; if you return the program for any reason within 60 days, you can get a full refund. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the purchase price does not include updates, nor do you get full tech support or bank feeds. It’s also worth noting that customer service tends to be slow.
One comment we’ve noticed often on user reviews is that, while people aren’t particularly enthusiastic about QB Pro, it works and does what itâs supposed to do; many claim that it’s the best accounting program available. While thatâs far from a resounding recommendation, itâs also true that despite its drawbacks, for many businesses, QB Pro is more than adequate. And whether you love it or hate it, QuickBooks Pro is often the best option for the money.
Read our full review of QB Pro here.
Inventory Management Software
Winner: Stitch Labs
Stitch, the flagship product of Stitch Labs, is a cloud-based inventory management solution with tons of functionality, myriad useful integrations, and fantastic customer service. Designed to combine inventory, billing, accounting, shipping, and eCommerce features with your choice of 3rd party integrations, Stitch is the do-it-all, full service inventory solution. As the name would suggest, it is intended to be the thread that holds the backend of your company firmly together. Really, its only flaw is that is designed exclusively for American companies. International businesses will have to look elsewhere.Â
Price plans range from $29/month to $449/month, not bad considering how many features this software brings to the table. What’s more, Stitch is easy to use, even for the uninitiated. The UI is clean, understated, and intuitive. Within a few minutes of signing up, you should feel like a pro, able to create products and customer contacts and generate sales orders with ease. It’s easy to pick up on your own just by experimentation, but if you’re queasy about finding your own way around, you can reference one of the many tutorials on each page that take you step-by-step through all the basic tasks.
In general, the customer service department is responsive and helpful. Our questions were promptly answered (never longer than 24 hours, even on the weekend), and ticket creation happened immediately, so we always had a case number toÂ reference and never felt lost in the shuffle. Not surprisingly, the Stitch Labs support team is highly praised all over the web.
Stitch integrates with a large number of other programs and applications, including Amazon, eBay, BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and Square, to name just a few. And when you combine an excellent selection of integrations with powerful suite of tools,youâve got inventory management software that is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.
You can read more about Stitch Labs in our full review.
TradeGecko, a cloud-based inventory application for small to medium sized businesses, is comparable to Stitch Labs in functionality and number of integrations, but is more geared toward international companies (it still works well for American companies, if you don’t mind a time difference with the support staff).
The design of this software emphasizes collaboration, group workflows, and activity feeds. This means that you can reference sales information, purchase orders, and stock levels at once, and they will all update in real time. TradeGecko is intuitive and easy to use, and has a clean – if spartan – UI which is perfect for a bookkeeping system.
TradeGecko offers a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Plans range from $49/month to $399/month, though you can get a monthly discountÂ if you commit to paying for a year up-front. The company provides a detailed knowledge base, with step-by-step instructions for performing many tasks, and it also offers 24 hour customer support. On the whole, our support experience was positive, though a few of our tickets took longer than we would have liked to resolve.
Integrations include Shopify, Salesforce, Xero, Magento, Quickbooks Online, Amazon, and WooCommerce (to name a few). All in all, TradeGecko isnât the cheapest product on the market (which is why it’s the runner up for this category) but it is so intuitive and feature rich that small to medium-sized businesses with a budget to kick around should give it a look.
For more information about TradeGecko, read our full review here.
Officially, Freshbooks is a web-based accounting solution, though it is fair to say that it’s best utilized for its incredible invoicing features. This software is tailor made for independent contractors and small, service-based businesses; it is easy to use, has lots of interesting features (including time tracking, reporting, and expenses), and integrates with a huge variety of 3rd party applications.
Pricing, unfortunately, is a bit steep for the target market (small businesses), though there is a free plan which allows you to manage a single client. Paid plan range from $19.95/month to $39.95/month. Customer support is available Monday â Friday, 9am â 6pm EST. In our experience, representatives are remarkably quick to respond to emails (usually within 20 minutes during business hours) and are courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable.
As mentioned above, FreshBooks offers more than 60 integrations and add-ons includingÂ PayPal, Shopify, Basecamp, and Stripe. It is as comprehensive an invoicing solution as you could hope for, especially since it does offer other perks, like reporting.
You can read our full review of FreshBooks here.
Invoiceable is simple, easy to use software that allows you to create professional looking invoices. It’s actually free to all, with no feature limits, though you can opt to pay a one-time fee to remove the company’s branding from your invoices: this is a perk that no other free invoicing program offers. Additionally, unlike many of the other major free invoicing programs, Invoiceable isnât just a wimpy, scaled-back version of a paid service. You can have as many clients and send as many invoices as you like.
Of course, with a completely free service you’re going to miss certain features that come with a paid subscription. Support, for example, is unreliable and sporadic. Response times can vary between 1-12 days, and sometimes you may not get any response at all. There is also limited sales tax functionality, which means that the software really only works for businesses that charge a single, across the board tax rate, or don’t charge tax at all.
That said, if you are a freelancer or own a very small business with relatively low sales volume, this may be all you need for now. Itâs leaps and bounds better than simply typing out your invoices into MS Word or Excel, and it is one of the best free options out there that both allow you to have unlimited clients and actually works in the United States! The interface is basic and intuitive, and while customer service is slow, you probably wonât need it most of the time. If this sounds like a good match for you, we suggest you try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose â after all, itâs free.
Read our full review of Invoiceable here.
Winner: Zoho CRM
User-friendly, reasonably-priced, and full of useful features, Zoho CRM is our favorite customer relations management software, hands down. It’s not hard to see why we’re such big fans. The âbuilding blocksâ which make up the Zoho CRM logo are not there for design purposes alone; these blocks allude to the fact that the Zoho team has developed many other business applications, all capable of working together seamlessly (much like Google Apps). In addition, Zoho has an well-deserved reputation for integrating nicely with a number of 3rd party add-ons, including MailChimp, Unbounce, Google Apps, MS Office, and Quickbooks (see a full list of add-ons and integrations here). In short, Zoho CRM software can adjust to any size business, be whatever you need it to be, and grow with you as your business expands.
You can try Zoho CRM for free with a 15-day trial of their Professional package. After that, pricing breaks down as follows:
Entrepreneur: Free, up to 3 users
24-hour Mon-Fri telephone support is available to paying customers, though those using their free edition are limited to email support. However, your email questions can be flagged according to urgency, so that important queries do not fall to the wayside.
You would be hard pressed to find a CRM that provides more functionality at a lower cost. Zoho CRM is, without a doubt, the most bang for your buck.
Read our full review of Zoho CRM here.
Clevertim is a cloud-based CRM system with a firm mission: to cater specifically to small businesses. With a surprisingly reasonable price point, a clean, user-friendly UI, and the ability to integrate with 3rd party developers (via an open API), Clevertim may just be as clever as its name suggests. The only chink in Clevertim’s armor is the lack of a mobile app. As it is now, the app functions smoothly on a desktop, but is only so-so on a tablet and virtually nonexistent on a phone.
Clevertim offers a 30 day free trial. After that, plans range from absolutely free to $99/month. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel your subscription at any time. Unlike most other CRM systems, Clevertim does not charge on a per-user basis. Instead, each plan has a user limit. There is alsoÂ customized pricing available, which allows you to upgrade the number of users allowed in your plan.
Clevertim is relatively new and does not yet have its own dedicated Technical Support team. However, queries can be sent to the company either via web tickets or through the sales email address.
Read our review of Clevertim here.
BookingBug can do just about anything you would expect from scheduling software, but still manages to be accessible and intuitive. Many companies claim to be versatile, but this software actually is designed for a wide variety of industries, making it one of the only options out there for B&Bs or bike rental shops, and a better option than most for medium-sized spas and salons. It is a perfect tool for businesses that want to offer combination services while managing limited resources and limited staff (see a full list of features here). It is distinct from other appointment booking software other ways as well: first, itâs designed for serious scalability – which again validates its claim to be âthe only real-time distributed booking and reservation system that works for all business typesâ –Â and second, it integrates with a vast number of 3rd-party apps all over the world. This is a company that prides itself on innovation and flexibility.
Plans run from $19.95/month to $69.95/month, or you can scale up to an Enterprise plan, which are priced on an individual basis. Customer service comes free with your account. Like most companies, BookingBug relies heavily on email support, but phone support is available for some of the more expensive plans. We received helpful responses to our email inquiries within hours – always a great sign.
One terrific thing about BookingBug is that it offers your customers the option to make online payments (full or partial, including pre-payment and bulk payments); you can also issue full or partial refunds directly through the site via one of the software’s numerous payment integrations. BookingBug integrates with programs like MailChimp, WordPress, Facebook, and Dropbox as well.
There isn’t much negative feedback about the company online or in user reviews. Granted, some people have complained about issues with their mobile apps, but BookingBugâs receptivity and responsiveness to these issues speaks well about the companyâs commitment to customer service.
To read our full review of BookingBug, click here.
Runner Up: Bookeo
Bookeo is cloud-based booking software with a lot to offer. Not only does it include important booking features, but it provides a surprising variety of marketing solutions, integrates with many payment platforms and third party applications, and boasts excellent security features. This is innovative software as it is, and Bookeo continues to improve with age; significant new feature releases occur every few months, and updates are frequent. The only consistent complaint disappointed reviewers have is with its lack of phone support. (Bookeo relies on email and a store of 300 tutorials for its customer support.)
Bookeoâs pricing differs by product (in other words, by whether you want to book appointments, classes, or tours), but each version offers a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee on the first paid month of subscription. Bookeo accounts do not require set-up or processing fees and you don’t have to sign a contract – always a good sign.
One of the best things about Bookeo is that it is user-friendly. Action items and information are intuitive and clearly distinguishable, and the software in general is organized neatly, in a very manageable way. There isnât much setup support, unfortunately, but the self-help tutorials available are precise, and sufficient enough to help you circumvent most major problems.
Customer service centers on the Bookeo Help Portal, which consists of 300 tutorials and an email support form. There is no phone support, however, and this is the only consistent complaint from disappointed reviewers. You can receive some support via a live chat option on Bookeoâs promotional website.
Read more about Bookeo here, in our full review.
Email Marketing Software
At Merchant Maverick, we’re all in agreement that MailChimp is the boss when it comes to email marketing. It’s a mature, time-tested software with reasonable pricing plans, a great selection of features, and tons of integration, and it scales well to just about any size campaign. Better yet, for users with modest needs, MailChimp offers a robust, flat-out generous free plan which lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. There’s only one real catch: if you do your email marketing with the free plan, there will be a small MailChimp badge at the bottom of every email you send out.Â
Paid plans come in two basic varieties: send-based (pay as you go) and list-based (monthly). These plans are fairly specific and complex, so if you’d like more details about pricing you should navigate here.
MailChimp is generally very easy to use, and signing up for a MailChimp account is simple; enter a name and email address and youâre on your way. The customer support system is pretty extensive as well, though it lacks telephone support, which is slightly disappointing. However, our experience with them has been good; representatives were courteous and well-informed, and inquiries were answered in anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on urgency. MailChimp’s biggest selling point, however, is that it offers over 500 integrations and add-ons. (These include Google Analytics, Zendesk, SHopify, Magento, and Salesforce).
Check out our full review of MailChimp here.
AWeber appeals to a smaller niche than MailChimp, but it’s still incredibly easy to use and quite affordable. It comes with some very nice features, especially for businesses which want to send all new subscribers the same series of messages: the autoresponder setup in particular is easy, intuitive, and well explained within the program, and users have a lot of options.Â
AWeber offers a free 30-day trial for lists of up to 500 subscribers. After that first month, there is a single list-based pricing plan available. It’s reasonably priced for the most part, but so robust that very small companies may find they are paying for lots of extra features they may not even require. If you don’t need much from your email marketing tool, you might be better off with MailChimp’s generous free plan.
In general, AWeber finds a healthy balance between ease of use and high functionality. Navigation is remarkably intuitive, considering the number of features available. The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor has some quite impressive characteristics, and recent updates to the software have have managed to significantly improve the email design experience. Additionally, the analytics and reporting capabilities are well above par for an email marketing tool of this type, as are AWeberâs investment in numerous 3rd-party integrations.
Our experiences with customer support have been positive overall. As a rule, we’ve found AWeber’s representatives to be friendly, helpful, and prompt in responding to queries. Response times to our inquiries varied in time between 20 minutes and 6 business hours.
Read our full review of AWeber here.
Project Management Software
Trello is a visually-oriented, Kanban-based project management tool that works by allowing users to see and manage their tasks and projects via detailed âcardsâ which are then pinned onto âboards.â At its most basic level, Trello is an ingenious way to create and organize a set of virtual 3Ã5 cards without the risk of misplacing them, but it also can also work as a simple task management tool, offering features like file storage and automatic email notifications.
The standard, free version of Trello allows for unlimited boards, users, and attachments (with a 10 MB max per file upload). However, for a fee, Trello also offers two upgraded versions of the software: $3.75/user or $5/user
Trelloâs simple, visually-appealing UI makes it incredibly easy to use; there is almost no learning curve involved. A mere five minutes after I signed up I was able to navigate the software quickly, creating cards and boards like a pro. It may be integrated with several 3rd party apps, including Zapier, Google Drive, Box. Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Trello provides email support (via [email protected]) to all users during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST).
Not only is this software reasonably priced, but it is characterized by elegance, simplicity, and user-friendliness. It would be difficult to find a basic project management solution with a more intuitive, visually-appealing design. And in terms of sheer adoptability â of getting your employees to actually use a software-based task management tool â Trello scores extremely high.
You can check out our full review of Trello if you’d like more information.
Runner Up: Basecamp
With over 9,000,000 current users, Basecamp is considered the most popular cloud-based project management software system of all time. It is, without doubt, one of the most user-friendly project management programs out there. When it comes down to brass tacks, simplicity is an enormously valuable characteristic, and Basecamp is just that â simple. This is project management software at its most basic and effortless level.
This software is celebrated for its no-frills, no-fuss pricing system. There are no hidden fees and no per-user costs. Plans range from $20/month to $150/month. Features include task tracking, a calendar, email notifications and a daily recap of activities, text documents (basically giant legal pads), and very simple reporting.
Basecamp is known for fast, reliable service. While they donât provide the level of immediate personal support that you can get from other software companies (read: no phone or live chat support), the folks at Basecamp respond quickly to email requests and offer a large variety of ready-made aids and live training tools.
Basecamp itself is a pretty basic program, but there are a huge number of optional 3rd party applications available if you want or need to increase softwareâs functionality. You can see a complete list of Basecamp integrations on the official product website
If you have plain, bread-and-butter management requirements, we think youâll find that Basecamp is a suitable, extremely affordable way to go. One of the best things about Basecamp is the fact that it is designed, updated, and supported by an established parent company. It is a sure bet, in other words.
Read more about Basecamp in our full review.
ShipStation is a reasonably-priced, web-based shipping solution for eCommerce retailers. Designed to streamline the fulfillment process as much as possible, this software has invested in a huge number of integrations that make it possible for you to sync up your business with the most popular sales channels, shopping carts, payment gateways, and mail carriers.
Pricing plans range from $25/month to $145/month. Thereâs a free 30-day trial that includes access to all features, with no credit card required. If youâre not satisfied with the product within 90 days, ShipStation offersÂ a full refund, no questions asked.
The user interface can be a bit overwhelming at first, as there multiple options, menus, and sub-menus displayed on most pages. A bit of patience is definitely required when you start out, though you can take advantage of a number of video tutorials, a large knowledge base, and a pretty robust community forum if you run into trouble. Actually, you can have your own personal account manager if you want, and this person will help guide you through the setup phase of your account. Some of the higher paid plans can receive chat support as well. In general, customer support is slightly disappointing, and the responses we received to queries were somewhat boilerplate and indifferent.
One of ShipStationâs biggest selling pointsÂ is that it integrates with an enormous number of carriers, marketplaces and shopping carts, especially when compared to the competition, including FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as Shopify, Etsy, Magento, Square, eBay, etc. The list goes on.
Check out our full review of ShipStation for more information.
ShipWorks is probably the best shipping software available, though unfortunately it’s a PC-only app (which removes about half of the world’s users) and the learning curve is extremely high. The good news is that this software, which is designed to streamline the order fulfillment process for small to large businesses, has many amazing features you can’t find in other shipping applications. With a few clicks, ShipWorks can download shipping informationÂ from an online sales channel, calculate and print postage, generate labels, packing slips, and more. Combine this functionality with integrations for over 40 different mail carriers and eCommerce platforms, and you’ve got a shipping solution that really packs a wallop. Additionally, ShipWorks scales well, in a way that its SaaS competitors don’t.
Cost per monthÂ is determined by two different factors: shipment volume and number of licenses. Shipment volume is divided into three tiers:
$14.95/month for 0-99 shipments/month
$29.95/month for 100-999 shipments/month
$49.95/month for 1,000+ shipments/month
The price forÂ shipment volume is then added to your licensing fee to determine theÂ monthly bill. How much you pay forÂ licensingÂ is based on the number of online sales channels you useÂ with ShipWorks.
Our own experiences with ShipWorks support have been positive. Turnaround times on support tickets were 24 hours or less, and we never had trouble reaching anybody on the phone. The Knowledge Base is extensive, and covers everything from setup and configuration to online marketplaces and shipping providers. What’s more, the articles are clearly written and provide plenty ofÂ screenshots.
As I mentioned above, ShipWorks integrates with a huge variety of shipping carriers and online marketplaces (including USPS, FedEx, UPS, Magento, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion), but if you happen to use a store that isnât directly supported by ShipWorks, you can always work with a developer and use the ShipWorks Generic API to create your own integrations.
Click here to read our full review of ShipWorks.
Loyalty Rewards Software
Winner: Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth is a prolific loyalty rewards software that currently works with over 3500 merchants worldwide, including Delta, Universal, and Olympus. Sweet Tooth is dedicated to increasing customer engagement, and case studies from many of the clients mentioned above have demonstrated nearly 20% increases in customer lifetime values, sales and repeat purchases. It is complex software with a high learning curve, but in general, the benefits of using a robust loyalty rewards software outweigh the inconvenience of having to learn how to use it! Sweet Tooth is an ideal solution for both eCommerce merchants and merchants who use combined methods of commerce.
Sweet Tooth works best – and is most full featured – when it’s used through Magento, though you can use a lighter, simpler version of Sweet Tooth on BigCommerce or Shopify (this is free for up to 500 customers). Sweet Tooth subscription plans are offered monthly and automatically renew unless cancelled. Plans begin at $49/month, and are broken down by loyalty point transactions and annual revenue generated on Magento. If your activity exceeds the limitations of your plan you will be required to upgrade to the next available plan. You can view the full pricing details for Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento on the Sweet Tooth website.
Customer service is available Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST. Overall, our experience with Sweet Tooth has been positive. Everyone we’ve spoken to at the company has been knowledgeable and friendly, and most reviewers on Magento cite the technical support as an essential part of their loyalty program.
Read our full review of Sweet Tooth if you’re interested in learning more.
Belly provides a more hassle-free loyalty rewards program than Sweet Tooth, and is ideal for smaller businesses with brick and mortar store fronts (such as bakeries, cafes, grocers, bars, spas, fitness clubs and boutiques). What’s really unique about Belly, though, are its customizeable rewards offerings and “all in one box” setup, which includes an iPad (with stand and combination lock), data reports, a personal support representative, social media integrations, and email marketing tools. Even more significantly, Belly customers get a mobile page for their business on the Belly app, where potential customers can look to find Belly-compatible businesses.
Monthly subscription costs range from $99 â $199,Â and all contracts run for 12 months. The cost of the iPad, iPad stand, application software, and unlimited rewards cards are included in the subscription costs forÂ the highest plan, but an additional $150 installation fee is charged for lower plans.
Right now there are only a few drawbacks to Belly, most important of which is its steep price. Customer service can be a bit spotty as well, and unfortunately, not enough other businesses currently use it, which doesn’t provide much incentive to customers to get in the Belly network. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an easy, no-worries loyalty program, you can’t go far wrong with Belly.
Read our full review of Belly for more details and information.
Website Building Software
Wix is our number one choice for web building software, and it’s not difficult to understand why. With its sleek editing interface and multiple selection of apps and integrations, it is an extremely effective do-it-yourself website designer. In addition to being easy to use, Wix provides a great selection of unique and visually appealing templates (there are hundreds to choose from).
The free version of Wix is provided to anyone who signs up, though any website you create under the free plan will be branded with the Wix logo. Paid plans range from $4.08/month to $24.90/month. Wixâs store offers payment processing through a handful of vendors, including PayPal, WebMoney, Skrill, and PayU.
All in all, Wix is intuitive and user-friendly. Within a few hours, you should be able to take a template, mess around for a bit with the editing tools, and build yourself an incredibly fine looking website.
Because Wix allows developers to create and share their own add-ons, other users are given the opportunity to expand and diversify their websites as well. Some of the most popular integrations available include online shop expansions (like the Etsy app), the Wix Hotels premium booking system, live Instagram feeds, website profile systems, and a variety of other site boosting applications
There is one downside to the software: unlike most other website-building services, Wix does not offer 24/7 live-chat or provide an email response system. There is a toll-free number you can call for help with technical issues, but be aware that you could possibly be put on hold for an unspecified amount of time.
Click here to read our full review of Wix.
With its reasonable price points and clever, yet simplistic editor, Jimdo has made a mark on the website building industry. Managing to be both straightforward and comprehensive, Jimdo allows users to make custom, professional looking websites. Templates are provided, of course, but you’re not bound to the confines of the template you choose; you have total freedom to edit and can essentially be as hands-on about the design process as you want.
Jimdo plans range from free to $20/month, and all plans come with an HTML5 WYSIWYG web editor, usage of professional-grade templates, social media tools, a mobile device editing view, blogging tools, photo galleries, Google Maps, contact forms, direct video embedding, widget integration, optimized mobile websites, and unlimited bandwidth.
While the only online payment processor currently supported by Jimdo is PayPal, a selection of various real-world payment methods can be activated in a websiteâs store, including invoicing, payment-in-advance, collection-upon-delivery, local pickup, and local delivery.
This is an easy-to-use service that somehow still manages to astound with the depth of its overall functionality. Some things may be a bit too simple, and Jimdo isn’t sophisticated enough to work as a tool for a professional web designer, but it is perfectly suited – price-wise and in ease-of-use – for small businesses who would otherwise have to hire out their web design services.
Read our full review of Jimdo here.
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