When it comes to email service providers, each one handles contact management differently. Some use a system of lists and tags and others are strictly list based.
I have found that the combination of lists and tags in email marketing is a much more powerful marketing tool than just a list based system.
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To that end, I have chosen to use ConvertKit as my email service provider (ESP) because
- they use both lists and tags,
- the service was built with bloggers in mind
- and, it is not overly complicated to figure out.
There are many ESP's to choose from so make sure you understand how lists and tags work in email marketing – so you can make an informed decision.
UPDATE: Although I think that ConvertKit is a top notch email service provider, I have now switched over to MailerLite. This article explains why I think it is the best email service for new bloggers.
Lists and Tags Explained
When people first start blogging they usually start out with a service that offers a free plan – like MailChimp or MadMimi.
These services and other ones like it use a concept of “lists” as a way for you to track your subscribers.
This is a good way to start but it has it's limitations.
Double Charging for The Same Subscriber
First of all, most of these types of services charge you by the total number of subscribers that you have on your lists. So if one person is on 2 lists – he or she counts as 2 people against your subscriber limit.
However, services like MailChimp make it possible for you to segment your list or create groups within your list as a way of dividing your contacts without the double charge.
This is where the second limitation comes in. When you use lists it is possible for people to receive duplicate emails.
If you send a newsletter to list A and you also want to send it to list B then someone on both lists will get the same email twice.
So, for example, if I am on your newsletter list and I am your current client, then you might create a list called “current client” and add me to that.
If you send a newsletter to your newsletter list and your current client list and I am on both, I will get the email twice in some list based ESP's.
Services like ConvertKit will not send the same email twice to the same email address.
More advanced email service providers like ConvertKit use the concept of “tags” to divide your list.
Basically, you have one database of contacts. Each contact gets tagged with tags of your choosing.
These tags can be assigned manually or automatically based on a users behavior.
So, if you own a pet store for example – you might want to tag dog owners and cat owners respectively. Now you can send cat food promotions only to the cat owners etc.
Using Both Lists And Tags
With ESP's that use both lists and tags you get the best of both worlds.
You can use tags to organize your contacts and lists to organize your tags.
So, let's say you blog about lifestyle topics and blogging like I do. Over time, I tag my readers based on interest – email marketing, blogging, WordPress etc. I also tag them as interested in recipes, organizing, etc.
All the people that are tagged with blogging related topics are collected into a “Blogging” list and all the people that are interested in lifestyle topics are collected into a “Lifestyle” list. (All of this is done automatically, just sayin' ) And some people are even on both.
Now I can send emails to either list or both – or I can just send to people that are interested in email marketing. Basically I can drill down however deep I want to go.
Why Is Tagging Powerful?
By using tags to try and understand my readers better – I can send them relevant emails. Not only that, I can avoid sending blogging emails to my recipe folks.
Do Your Research
The bottom line is that you need to do your research before selecting your email service provider. They are all very different.
Consider the following in making your choice:
- features offered vs. features that you will actually use
- does the workflow work the way that you “think” and conceptualize.
What Email Services Have You Tried?
Which ESP's have you tried? Do they use both lists and tags? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.