My first post on this topic generated a few comments and quite a few emails. Again, price is only one of several factors to consider when selecting a hosted marketing email platform. Here are three other key criteria.
1) Deliverability: A couple of people pointed out that some of the lower-priced platforms use shared IP addresses; if anything remotely spammy makes it way through, system administrators simply block these in total. Make sure that the platform you choose provides private IP addresses at your chosen message volume.
2) Service Level: Service tends to increase roughly proportionately with price. The lowest-priced platforms are designed for near-total self-service, with technical support provided primarily through email. Platforms priced in the midrange often offer additional levels of assistance. At the high end, a service like Bronto will do much of the work (strategy, creative design, monitoring) for you.
3) Target market: Despite the large number of hosted email platforms in the marketplace, there is less direct competition between the providers than one might suspect. It's competitive, certainly, but primarily between providers targeting the same segment of the market. For you as the buyer, this means selecting a hosted email platform that is focused on serving organizations like yours.
For example, services like Benchmark Email and Express Email Marketing—low-cost and self-service oriented—are targeted primarily at individual consultants and very small businesses who, generally, will be writing and designing their own newsletters and email marketing messages. For slightly larger organizations that may be working with an outside marketing agency to craft their messages, services such as StreamSend and Lyris offer a more sophisticated toolset. Non-profit groups can send up to 10,000 emails per month for free (and get a discounted rate beyond that level) through VerticalResponse. Larger companies may want to consider a full-service platform like Bronto or one with sophisticated features such as the Enterprise Edition from ExactTarget.
Finally, consider your need for special features, such as the ability to conduct email surveys, offered by platforms such as VerticalResponse and Constant Contact.
Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom