In a previous post, I discussed how SimplyCircle differs from regular email. Today, I will talk about how SimplyCircle is different from email marketing services such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber or Vertical Response.

I may be biased (I’m the founder of SimplyCircle, after all), but I have personally used both SimplyCircle and a variety of paid email marketing services, so I’m speaking from experience. In fact, I currently use both MailChimp and AWeber for my business, and am happy with both of these services.

I don’t claim that SimplyCircle is better on all counts, in all circumstances. There are some situations in which you would be better off using a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, and others where SimplyCircle is a better choice.

Here’s a comparison between SimplyCircle and an email marketing service:

  1. At its core, SimplyCircle was designed as a parent portal, a convenient and secure system for parents to stay connected to their kids’ schools and other parent communities. In contrast, services like MailChimp or Constant Contact were designed for businesses to market their products and services to their customers. Because these services have different purposes, they also have different features and benefits. If you want to send beautifully formatted email newsletters or email campaigns to your customers and to track how many of your customers are clicking on which offer, by all means go with an email marketing service. If you want to engage parents at your school, I recommend giving SimplyCircle a try.
  2. SimplyCircle keeps the information you send private and secure. Attachments, photos and private messages can only be viewed by members of your circle. Non-members can only see a small thumbnail of a photo, or an icon of a document. As a circle manager, you have full control over who is in your circle. In contrast, email marketing services typically embed photos in an email itself – and thus the photos are fully visible if the email is forwarded. If the photos in question are those of your product, you want as many people to see them as possible – in fact, you want your email to be forwarded. But if the photos are those of the kids from a recent school field trip, that’s not the kind of information you want falling into the wrong hands. As for attachments, most email marketing services don’t allow you to send attachments at all. Instead, your emails and newsletters might include links that send people to publicly viewable webpages. On SimplyCircle, attachments are only viewable by your circle members.
  3. When you use SimplyCircle to organize events, tasks, or volunteer signups, all the reminding is done automatically for you. The content you create is automatically included in a Weekly Planner email, which summarizes all the events and tasks due that week, and in a Morning Reminder email, which includes all the events and tasks happening that day. With a service like MailChimp, you can create and schedule a reminder email “campaign” to your subscribers, but it’s not automatic. Plus, with SimplyCircle, your circle members can add events and tasks to their personal calendars with just one click.
  4. With SimplyCircle, you don’t risk losing group members who just want to receive fewer emails. For example, if one of your circle members doesn’t want to get Morning Reminders because she imports all the SimplyCircle event to her Google calendar, she can easily adjust their email preferences and turn off Morning Reminders. She stays in your circle, and continues to receive your communication. In contrast, email lists maintained by services like MailChimp or Constant Contact are binary. People are either on your list, or they ask to get removed from your list, and then you can’t reach them at all.
  5. SimplyCircle makes it much easier for your circle members to act on your information. So, as a group leader, you get better results. More people show up to your events, more parents sign up to volunteer (and then show up!), more people respond to your content and engage with other members of your group. Events, tasks and volunteer signups can be exported to personal calendars with one click of a button, and signing up to volunteer is also a one-click experience. The ROI (return on investment) on your time is much higher – both because the R is higher, and because the I is lower – than with regular email. Not only that, but your group members will appreciate you more, because you’re making their lives easier too!
  6. With SimplyCircle, you don’t have to worry about your group members changing their email addresses. Does this sound familiar? You start the year off strong, with “fresh” emails for everyone in your group. As the school year progresses, emails start to bounce – i.e., they return as undeliverable. That’s usually due to people changing their email address, e.g., because they switched jobs. With regular email, you have to track down these people in person to get them to update their email address. With SimplyCircle, people can update their email address themselves. In fact, almost half of the SimplyCircle users choose to sign up for our service with their Facebook or Google credentials – which typically stay the same, year after year. That means that your emails are reaching more members of your group, with no extra work from you!
  7. In fact, with SimplyCircle you don’t even have to know everyone’s email addresses! One of the best features of SimplyCircle is that every circle you create comes with its own unique circle code. You can provide that code to your group members however you want – text them, tell them in person, post it on your group’s Facebook page, send it home in the kids’ backpacks, send it by carrier pigeons 🙂  Members of your group can then join your circle by entering that code. Of course, you still have complete visibility into who’s joining your circle, and you can remove them from your circle if needed.
  8. In short, SimplyCircle is much more than “just” email. It’s a true parent portal that parents can log into any time, on any device – all they need is an Internet connection. They can even access your content through SimplyCircle’s free mobile apps for iOS and Android. Basically, SimplyCircle is an email distribution system, an online calendar (complete with automated reminders), a messaging app, a volunteer signup system, and a private and searchable archive of photos and documents – all in one!

For me, the bottom line is this:

When I want to market my product or service, I use an email marketing system. In fact, for business purposes, I use both MailChimp and AWeber, and am happy with both of these services. They provide beautiful templates, formatting, and analytics on things like email open rates and click-through rates.

But when I want to engage parents – get them to volunteer, to show up at school events, or just remember to send in a booster seat for the field trip – I use SimplyCircle. It’s private, secure and easy to use.

SimplyCircle is always free for one-way (broadcast-style) communication for groups of up to 50 people, and even the free version includes most of the benefits listed in this post. If you want more active parent engagement, or if you manage a larger group, paid versions of SimplyCircle are available as well, and all of them come with a FREE 30-day trial.

So what you waiting for? Give SimplyCircle a try today – for free.