By Josh Ledgard
One of the most important aspects of running an online business is clear communication with customers/visitors. This includes email communication, event planning, promotional activity/contests, customer support, and feedback generation. It’s more important now than ever to stay in touch with your users, amidst an ever changing and increasingly competitive business environment.
Here are 6 tools to help you engage with your customers.
Drip helps online marketers set up drip campaigns (also known as lifecycle email campaigns). A drip campaign is basically a series of emails (autoresponders) that are automatically sent to the reader over a defined period of time. An example of a drip campaign is our Landing Pages 107 course, which if you sign up for, will send you excellent and free educational content on improving your landing pages.
Drip has a pretty simple process:
Step 1: Choose an opt-in form (widget) which you want to put on your page.
Step 2: Customize an email sequence to send to visitors
Step 3: Install the code on your page
Emails and autoresponders: As with any email service, you can send and schedule a one time email blast to your readers. You can also send out a series of pre-written emails, also known as autoresponders. The use of autoresponders for any online marketer is essential. It might take some time to prepare a series of emails, but once you set it up, it’ll run on it’s own, and you’ll be able to build trust and demonstrate expertise to the reader, warming them up for when they are ready to buy.
A/B Testing: Drip allows you to A/B test your Subject Line, To: field, and Delivery Time. You’ll be able to see how many days the campaign has been running, the number of times each email variation was sent, the open rate, and a measure of confidence for statistical significance.
Goal Tracking: Drip offers goal tracking. Goals are triggered when users visit specific URLs. This can be a quick and simple way for you to measure your goals if you have a straightforward onboarding process.
Traffic Sources: See where your traffic is coming from and the respective conversion rates. Are you getting customers through Google or a referred website? Drip makes it easy to see where.
Custom 5 day course: They offer to create a 5 day course for your readers based on your blog posts, ebooks, or whitepapers for free.
Support: Email support.
Pricing: 3 levels of pricing ranging from $49, $99, and $149 per month. Free 21 day trial.
Drip’s strong point is clearly on it’s autoresponder capabilities. Their platform is very friendly for beginners and their support is very responsive. The A/B testing features on their autoresponders is very useful if your product is built heavily around them. Most other providers only offer A/B testing on email broadcasts.
MailChimp is another email provider that helps you communicate with and manage your email list. As with any email provider, you can easily create and schedule broadcasts to your list of readers.
Emails and autoresponders: Again, you’ll be able to schedule email blasts and use autoresponders.
A/B Test: You can A/B test your Subject Line, To: field, and Delivery Time for broadcasts to your lists. However, unlike Drip, the A/B test capabilities doesn’t extend to autoresponders. So if you want to test the headlines for your drip campaign, you’ll have to do so manually.
Segmentation: MailChimp allows you to segment your list based on various criteria to focus on opportunities areas of improvement. For example, you can send a promotional email to your audience that hasn’t bought from you yet. Or if you’re planning a meet up, you can send an email based on their location. This is a very useful tool for qualifying your traffic and learning about your subscribers.
Multi user accounts: If you have a large team, you can create multiple users with different levels of access.
Built in photo editing: Basic editing of photos within their program. I found this useful as I didn’t have to switch in and out between different programs to make small changes to a picture.
Tracking/Analytics: See how many people opened your email, which links got the most clicks, performance charting, and social activity.
Support: Email support.
Pricing: There is a free option if you have less than 2,000 subscribers and send less than 12,000 emails/month (the free plan has no autoresponder capability though). Fees are based on number of subscribers and emails you send out each month.
All around, MailChimp is pretty solid for what they do. The email capabilities and autoresponders work pretty well once you get the hang of it. Their free option is great for those who have small lists, but keep in mind it doesn’t include autoresponder capabilities.
Aweber is another popular email service provider that provides a wide range of capabilities. They provide many options, boasting hundreds of email and signup form templates. Creating a newsletter is pretty straightforward, and you can send them instantaneously of schedule them for the future.
Emails and autoresponders: Yes.
Turn Your Blog Posts Into Emails: If you’re responsible for doing most of the marketing at your company, you know that sending an email and posting to your blog is more than just copy and pasting. Formatting and testing can take a lot of time for no good reason! Aweber is integrated with all major blogs so you can send posts as emails.
Signup forms: While the other email providers all offer signup forms, Aweber seems to offer the most robust forms, giving you the ability to customize and even split test them.
Segmentation: Just like MailChimp, you can segment your lists by defining criteria such as who opened a specific message, who clicked a certain link within an email, products they bought (paying customers) or custom information collected such as age or gender.
Tracking/Analytics: You’ll be able to track opens, downloads, links clicked, revenue per email, and subscriber growth/trends. You’ll even be able to see a history of the past newsletter subjects to help you keep track of the topics you’ve written about.
A/B test: This is available for email broadcasts and signup forms.
Support: Aweber offers the strongest support in the space, with live support available over the phone, live chat, and of course, email. They also have video tutorials and free webinars you can view.
Pricing: Each month has a base fee + additional fee depending on the number of subscribers on your list. The base fee starts off at $19/month and includes up to 500 subscribers.
Aweber is the biggest player in this space. They offer a lot of bells and whistles for those who want to get fancy. The ability to automatically turn your blog posts to email seems pretty useful. I haven’t tested this yet, but will probably try it out.
Constant Contact is another email marketing service provider. They have a step by step walkthrough to help users navigate their platform and have an easy drag and drop option for editing. They also have a QuickView application which is useful for marketers sending messages on the go from their iPhone or iPad.
Plus Campaigns: Constant Contact offers “normal” campaigns, and something called a “Plus Campaign”. While a normal campaign is been something simple like a newsletter or announcement, a Plus Campaign includes a higher level of integration between your landing pages and more reporting features.
A/B testing: They don’t offer A/B testing (unless you do it manually), which may turn off a lot of marketers. But if you’re just starting off this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Image Hosting and Stock Images: If your service revolves a lot of photos and images, they offer image hosting and stock photos for your use (availability depends on pricing).
Personal Marketing Coach: If you sign up for their Ultimate package, it comes with a marketing coach to help you with your tools and marketing related needs. I signed up for a trial and their customer service seems to be very good.
Multiple users: Their essential package allows up to 3 users on one plan, while their Ultimate package allows up to 10.
Pricing: There are three tiers of starting at $15, $45, and $195 per month for up to 500 subscribers. The price at each tier goes up depending on number of subscribers as well. The lowest tier doesn’t offer autoresponder capabilities or “Plus Campaigns”.
If you’ve ever gotten bogged down with customer support, you know how time consuming and expensive that can be. UserVoice helps business provide and manage customer support, keeping customers happy and your reputation strong.
Helpdesk: The UserVoice helpdesk fields support tickets intuitively and easily. The end user gets a plain email reply. Before a user submits a ticket, they’ll also have articles and previously answered questions auto-suggested for them.
Leaderboard: For larger support teams, there’s a leaderboard to show who’s answering the most tickets and getting compliments from customers. Keep track of response times, average number of responses and whether the customer is happy or not.
Inspector: This is a neat tool to automatically pull data on the customer from social media and the internet without having to open another browser so you’ll have a better idea of who the customer is.
Feedback Forums: These are dedicated forums for user feedback, so you can see what customers want and what they’re unhappy with – before they leave. And of course, you’ll also be able to run surveys and questionnaires.
Measureable ROI: An ROI (return on investment) feature helps you track and measure the results of your support and how it affects usage, customer support and revenues.
Customer development: Their software makes it easy to identify certain segments of users and talk to them to understand why they do what they do.
Email and Lifecycle marketing: Intercom also offers autoresponders to help you stay in touch with customers to build the relationship. You’ll also be able to send out announcements and newsletters.
Customer support: Their helpdesk function makes it easy for customers to reach a real person, and for you or your team to reply quickly.
Let me know what tools you use to engage with your audience!