Do you have an excellent email marketing strategy? I didn’t have one a few months ago which bothered me, so I underwent some serious strategic planning to create the Ali-esque one-two punch I currently have in play.
Where I Was
I don’t operate a complicated online business, so my email marketing strategy is relatively straightforward. I wanted to transition from using free tools and all their disadvantages to using premium tools to increase subscriber conversions. Furthermore, I wanted to automate messages to new subscribers (an autoresponse sequence).
My email marketing requirements:
- Ability to access and customize various types of opt-in forms
- Ability to access many ascetically pleasing email templates
- API integration and connectivity between opt-in form and email marketing providers
- Access to a reliable, intuitive, and trustworthy email marketing service
- Ability to generate reports for decision-making
Given my requirements, and you should be aware of yours, I chose Thrive Themes for opt-in forms and AWeber for email marketing. (Note: I’ve switched from AWeber to MailerLite. Read Why.) Before I explain my choices, let’s discuss all-in-one and bundled services.
Two Distinct Steps
I firmly believe that no one company on the market today is successfully delivering both first-class opt-in forms and email marketing services. Conversely, we have six to ten popular choices in each product/service category.
Opt-in forms and email marketing services are two distinct steps in the list-building and email marketing equation. The former seeks to capture emails while the latter aims to communicate with subscribers. These activities aren’t one in the same, and you need serious manpower committed to the development of each which most companies can ill afford. As a result, you have some email marketing companies that offer excellent email marketing services but below average opt-in forms compared to their standalone competitors, for instance, ConvertKit. Also, top rated opt-in form and landing page companies typically don’t offer email marketing services. They usually just offer forms and templates, but may provide a suite of website solutions, for example, WordPress plugins.
Opt-In Form/Lead Generation Providers for List Building
Contrary to popular belief, opt-in forms are so much more than pop-ups. A pop-up is just one type of opt-in form. I realized this when I saw other online marketers deploying various types of email capture mechanisms above and beyond the traditional pop-up.
Types of opt-in forms:
- Pop-up: a form that pops up over content
- Screen filler: similar to a pop-up, but it expands to fill an entire browser window
- Top bar: a ribbon or bar positioned at the top of a web page
- In-line: a form that is nestled within content
- Below content: a form located in the footer section
- Two-step: a two-step form for capturing emails
- Multiple choice: a form with multiple options to entice prospects to their desired outcome
- Slide-in: a form that slides into a browser window
- Widget/sidebar: a sidebar/panel form
- Scroll mat: a type of screen filler that appears from the top of a page and pushes content down temporarily
- Content lock: a form that requires a user to subscribe before gaining access to content
For visuals, you can visit Thrive Themes (Thrive Leads) and Elegant Themes (Bloom).
Suffice it to say, there are many types of forms to choose from, but they all carry the same objective; to capture email addresses. With that in mind, I considered the following opt-in form providers followed by my main sticking point:
- Elegant Themes – Bloom looks like an excellent product, and they would have been my next choice after Thrive Leads
- MailMunch – overpriced for what you get, limited forms, and not great value for money
- OptinMonster – the potential of their templates and dated designs didn’t excite me
- OptinSkin – out-of-date designs that are not worth considering
- PopUp Domination – only one type of opt-in form, pop-up, and very few templates
- SumoMe – overpriced for what you get, limited forms, and not great value for money
- Thrive Themes – the provider of choice
For a more detailed comparison of Bloom, MailMunch, SumoMe, and Thrive Leads, see this post.
Ultimately, I decided to go with Thrive Themes because they met all my requirements and then some. I tend to be very price sensitive and value oriented so I became a Thrive member ($19/month) as opposed to just purchasing their opt-in plugin ($67 for one site or $97 for unlimited).
As a Thrive member, I gain access to opt-in forms, landing pages, themes, new plugins, and content builders. With over 150 landing pages, this is a nice bonus which means I can skip the overpriced services of LeadPages and ClickFunnels. As a marketer, I also like the marketing savvy and high engagement of Shane Melaugh, Thrive Themes co-founder. Thrive has released ten feature updates within the past two months alone. Also, nontechnical folks like me need not worry. I’ve called upon their customer support a few times, and their response times and assistance has been excellent. Lastly, Thrive provides a detailed competitor comparison table near the bottom of this page.
Email Marketing Providers
Admittedly, I don’t value email marketing services as much as opt-in forms because the latter does most of the legwork in the email marketing equation. Secondly, there hasn’t been much innovation in the area of email marketing compared to opt-in forms. As far as I’m concerned, most email marketing providers will get the job done for you except for MailChimp, which frowns on internet and affiliate marketing activities. MailChimp is useful for sending emails for the sake of sending emails, but not much else. If your requirements are similar to mine, then these popular providers are worth evaluating:
- Campaign Monitor
- Constant Contact
I considered each of these and selected AWeber for their experience, pricing, reputation, ease of use, and dependability. Their user interface is easy to navigate, and I was able to setup my autoresponse sequence within a day. Also, they have a marketing automation feature that automatically sends your latest blog post to subscribers (awesome!).
Note: for e-commerce activities, I recommend that you also consider securing transactional email services such as those from SendGrid or MailJet. Transactional emails are sent to a person as a result of an action triggered by the user. They are automated notifications such as shipping notices, order confirmations, password reminders, purchase receipts, etc.
I’ve been very pleased with the seamless integration of Thrive Themes and AWeber into my online business activities. My opt-in conversion results have ranged in between 3% to 4% which satisfies me, and over a period of several days, I was able to maintain an opt-in rate 20% to 25% after I sent an email to all my students on a third-party e-learning platform. Concerning email marketing, I’ve set up an autoresponse sequence consisting of four emails, and I’ll detail the results in a future post as more data is collected (See the video above to learn how I achieve 17% and 28% conversion rates).