"For small businesses, it can be a challenge to look uber-polished and sophisticated with every communication and customer-relationship tactic," says Heather Rast in a post at the Insights & Ingenuity blog. "The reality is that small-business budgets are, well, smaller than that of their mid- or large-sized counterparts."

And that means small businesses may set unique criteria when selecting a provider for their email-marketing programs, Rast says. She recounts making these five must-haves her top priorities when she recently searched for an email service provider:

  • Low monthly cost
  • Flexible design and layout formats
  • Low-level coding requirements
  • Tracking and reports for ongoing insights
  • Flexible list management

Her evaluation of possible providers led to two finalists, both of which satisfied her basic requirements and also offered some appealing extras. After choosing the winner—Mad Mimi—Rast tried out her very first campaign, and was impressed with what she learned from it.

To help other entrepreneurs, Rast provides a handy cheat-sheet with links to the ESPs she considered, and advice on the development of email marketing programs. It's worth a look for SMB emailers.

The Po!nt: Stride on out. If you're new to the world of email marketing, consider tips like these; they may help your first e-steps be sure ones.

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