Meet the company: iContact

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I’ve known John Hayes for many years and it was with some surprise I found out that he was joining iContact as their EMEA Business Development Executive. iContact is a US-based email marketing firm, and John’s role is to help them open their first international office in London. Email marketing is pretty well covered with a raft of companies offering on the face of it similar services so why go work for a new entrant to the UK market?

John agreed to answer my questions and tell us more about iContact and why he’d decided it was the right move for him:

Is there room for another Email Marketing Service Provider in the UK?

The email marketing space in the UK does appear to be extremely crowded. The current Email Marketing Buyers Guide from eConsultancy lists no fewer than 25 email marketing providers with, at first glance, very little to separate many of the offerings.

I had used iContact’s services in a previous role and so knew the platform well and fully understood its strengths and weakness. My opinion was (and still is) that iContact offers a robust, scalable and cost effective email marketing solution effectively aimed at small and medium-sized business (sales pitch over).

In a rapidly evolving digital world is email marketing still relevant?

Undoubtedly. Social media such as Facebook or Twitter might be stealing all the limelight but as I suggested in a recent article in Internet Retailing, social media provides the bait to email marketing’s hook. In other words social media enables you to retain your clients in conversation, whilst email marketing allows you to ask for the sale in a direct and targeted fashion. In my opinion, email marketing when combined with social media provides marketers with perhaps one of the most efficient and profitable customer retention strategies available.

In a mature market where does email look to for growth?

Email marketing has been around as long as email itself. Despite this maturity the medium is still growing by an astonishing 15% per year in the UK. The current economic climate undoubtedly helps. However, even in more prosperous times, in an ever competitive world where margins are squeezed and the costs associated with entering a market are reduced, marketers will be forced to adopt the lessons learned in a recessionary environment where email thrives. But I believe this growth is just the tip of the iceberg. Current growth in email marketing is still coming from the digital industries. Future growth will come from offline businesses. You don’t need a complex online presence to benefit from email marketing. Jay Chambers, a friend and email marketing consultant, once told me one of the biggest challenges he faced in running his business was who to target because he couldn’t think of a single industry that wouldn’t benefit from his services.

Aren’t all Email Marketing companies the same?

Yes and No. All good email marketing firms work towards providing optimum deliverability for their clients’ campaigns. There may be nuances in the software depending on the target market they consider their sweet spot (i.e. retail, travel, gaming, etc. etc.) but most will provide a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that allows users (either in-house, agency or managed) to manage their lists, campaigns and provide a tracking solution to monitor and optimise success. Above these basic services there will be various bells and whistles to enhance both campaigns and reporting – when identifying which email marketing service provider you want to work with you need to understand the value these enhancements will offer your company and work out if it is worth paying a premium for these services.

For the record I believe iContact’s differentiation is not actually in its software (robust, scalable, cost-effective, etc, etc.) but in quality of support offered by real people to all our customers (even those on our free package). All iContact clients have access to our account management and professional services teams who can provide everything from an initial helping hand all the way through to complete management of your email marketing and social media campaigns. For a relatively small investment clients can access the full resource of our bank of email marketing professionals ensuring maximum success from their campaigns without the high costs associated with recruiting an in-house expert.

What’s the company like to work for?

iContact invests heavily in creating a positive working environment for its staff, clients and the wider community – check out some pictures of our office – (note: does your email marketing company have a helter skelter between floors?). But it’s not all fun and games. As part of our investment into the wider community the company operates a corporate social responsibility program known as the “4-1s”. This program donates 1% of employee time, product, payroll and equity to charities and good causes.

Why should businesses try iContact?

Email marketing is a high-growth opportunity adopted by an ever wider range of companies and organisations and it is people who make great technology companies successful. Add a highly motivated workforce on top of a great product and you can do great things.

So is there room for another email marketing service provider in the UK? According to John the answer is an emphatic yes, but you can find out for yourself by trying iContact email marketing for free.

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