By Joe Dysart

Optical lab marketers, looking for a reliable, state-of-the-art email marketing solution, have a ready resource: Capeterra's (http://www.capterra.com) 2015 list of the top five solutions on the market.

Essentially, Capeterra has combed through the more than 200 email marketing solutions on the market to come up with the top five—and included research into why they're so good.

Heading the pack is MailChimp, one of the pioneers in the industry, followed by Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Campaign Monitor and Get Response.

"Email marketing has proven itself to be not only a great way to reach customers old and new, but also a cost-
effective marketing tactic, with an impressive average return of $40 for every $1 spent," says Katie Hollar, director of marketing, Capterra , a firm that specializes in advising businesses on the best software to buy.

Key features of the top five solutions include:

• The ability to preview and tweak how your marketing email will appear in popular email clients like Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook and the like

• The convenience of pre-designed email templates, which you can use to quickly drop in your text and images—and then email

• Advanced analytics, which enable you to track who's opening your emails, who's not, where they're clicking in your email, if they're forwarding that email to friends, and more

• Social media integration, which enables you—and the recipients you're sending to—to seed Facebook, Twitter and other social networks with your marketing promotions

• User community forums—both company sponsored and independently operated—where you can trade tips and tricks with other users of your email marketing solution

An inherently creative medium, one of the great advantages of email marketing for optical labs is its ability to be fine-tuned for specific outcomes.

Walman Optical, for example, has had great results using email marketing with an engaging e-newsletter, according to Kristin Miller, the lab's director of marketing. "We have found that offering our quarterly publication in both print as well as an interactive online version to be an effective way of getting big messages across a few times each year," Miller says.

"Our email campaigns get great open and click-through rates—much of which we attribute to maintaining a really solid list," Miller adds. "We use a mix of one-and-done emails, as well as drip campaigns, to engage our customers with customized messages that are relevant to them."

Adam Cherry, president, Cherry Optical, is another big believer in informative missives.  "Cherry Optical's "What's New Monthly" has been very well received, along with periodic "What's New Questionnaires," Cherry says.  "Our open rate for these pieces is usually above 25 percent.  Anything with a call to action increases open rates. 

"We do find that conventional marketing techniques such as statement stuffers, job stuffers, broadcast fax and direct mailing also work well. The bigger the net we cast, the greater the results."

Meanwhile, FEA Industries' Bill Heffner, marketing and IT director, says something free, or something discounted—emailed on a regular basis—also works wonders. "I try to put something in the email that they are only going to get there—oftentimes this means some kind of free item/service, a coupon code, or something similar. By doing this on a consistent basis, you can train people to actually want to read your email advertisements, since they get something out of it."

Imtiaz Hasan, marketing manager, iCoat Company, also relies on regular promotions—combined with a bit of personalization. "Targeted email blasts on new products and promotions have worked the best for us. You can reach a larger number of customers in a very short time compared to direct mail marketing," he says.

And, Emily Iovaldi, marketing coordinator, Midland Optical, agrees. "We have found that personalized mailings are what seem to work best for our labs," Iovaldi says. 

"It is a direct way to communicate and connect to our ECP’s," she adds. "Personalized emails are also a really good way for targeted marketing for us. We are able to segment our lists depending on content. For example: If we are running a special promotion on a particular product, we find it is best to send it to our stronger users of that particular product.”

Yet another tactic that works: immediacy. "We can email our customers all-at-once from our iPhones when something is ground-breaking that needs to go out ASAP," says Brian Conley, marketing/operations director, Optical Prescription Lab.

The success optical labs are finding with email marketing done right is borne out in the 2015 State of Marketing Report (https://www.salesforce.com/form/marketingcloud/2015-state-of-marketing.jsp), released by Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Specifically, Salesforce researchers found that 73 percent of marketers see email as a core component in their marketing toolbox. Plus, 20 percent cited email marketing as their number one source of revenue.

Salesforce also found that emails optimized for mobile—also known as responsive design—are becoming ever more important, given that 72 percent of U.S. adults now send or receive emails via their smartphone at least once-a-week.

Indeed, only 24 percent of marketers surveyed by Salesforce said they rarely or never use responsive design.  Most, in fact, are already using email designs that automatically configure for optimal viewing, depending on the screen size of the smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC.

Interestingly, researchers also found that the top uses of email marketing are e-newsletters (66%), followed by general promotions (54%) and then welcome emails (42%).  

The most effective emails, according to the survey, were mobile emails seeking an opt-in of some sort—such as an offer to subscribe to an e-newsletter (76%), followed by birthday emails (75%) and transactional emails (74%).

Meanwhile, a similar study by BlueHornet (http://resources.bluehornet.com/bh/2015-consumer-views-report)—2015 Consumer Views of Email—also uncovered a number of encouraging insights.

"We found that consumers are very digitally connected, checking their emails throughout the day and across devices—yet surprisingly a bit unwilling to purchase via mobile devices.," says Mike Biwer, vice president and general manager, BlueHornet.

Seventy one percent of consumers in the BlueHornet survey, for example, say they do not maintain a separate email address for marketing emails—indicating
marketers are reaching the inboxes that really matter to most recipients. 

One caveat: 44 percent of younger survey respondents, 34 and under, do keep a separate email address for marketing messages.

Consumers have also become 'hyper-connected' to their email and digital devices, with 34 percent of those surveyed saying they check their email continuously throughout the day, and saying they use their mobile devices for some sort of interaction 150 times-per-day.

Interestingly, despite the non-stop growth of mobile, 93 percent of those surveyed owned a laptop or desktop, and used those same devices to check email—although many of those same people also use mobile devices to check their email as well, according to BlueHornet.

Equally surprising was device use among 18-24 year olds.  Often portrayed as growing up with a mobile device fused to their palms, 64 percent in this group nevertheless said they use a laptop or desktop most often to check their email, followed by smartphones (29%) and then tablets (7%).

While Capterra's Top 5 list of email marketing solutions will probably be more than adequate for optical labs trying to reach consumers and or other businesses, firms with specialized needs can check out user reviews of more than 200 email marketing programs from at Capterra's home page.

Essentially, if there's a highly specific email marketing solution you need, chances are you'll find it in Capterra's tracking system.

Here's a closer look at the Capterra's Top 5 Most Popular Email Marketing Solutions:

1. MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com), free trial, $10 - $2,650/month, depending on the number of emails you send): Salient Feature: If you send 12,000 emails-or-less/month to fewer than 2,000 recipients, you're in luck: You can use MailChimp for free.  Forever. Downside: For small businesses, MailChimp can get expensive very quickly.  You can send emails to 2,000 subscribers for free, but after that, the price jumps to $30/month—a bit pricier than other services.

2. Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com), free trial, $35 - $8,235/month, depending on the
number of emails sent. Salient feature: Robust, excellent all around solution. Downside: Constant Contact lacks the ability to do A/B testing, which enables you to send out two versions of the same marketing email to see which works better.

3. Vertical Response (http://www.verticalresponse.com), free trial, $22/month and up, depending on the number of emails sent: Salient Features: Successfully designed to integrate seamlessly with Salesforce. Plus, offers powerful surveying. Downside: Some users complain that access to Vertical Response's social media tools are not included in the entry level plan—you need to subscribe to a premium plan for these.

4. Campaign Monitor (https://www.campaignmonitor.com), free trial, $9/month and up, depending on the number of emails sent: Salient Feature: Strongly optimizes emails for viewing on mobile devices. Downside:  Campaign's $9 basic package only enables you to send 2,500 emails/month—a bit on the low side compared to many other solutions.

5. GetResponse (http://www.getresponse.com), free trial, $15 - $4,450/month, depending on the number of emails sent: Salient Feature: Extremely user-friendly dashboard, including large fonts and eyestrain-reducing design. Downside: GetResponse comes up a little short on tools specifically designed for organizing, promoting and managing live events.

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Voice: (646) 233-4089. Email: [email protected] Web: www.joedysart.com






Labtalk June 2020