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Most Important Tips to Choose Email Marketing Service

I’ve been asked several times in recent weeks to manage email newsletters for people, and I’ve turn most down. Why? Because for many, the needs are bare minimal and I’d feel bad about taking their money. Instead, I’d rather teach them to do it themselves.

TopTenReviews.com has a very helpful comparison chart of email delivery service features.

I’ve managed dozens of campaigns over the years and used many systems that cost from $25/mth – $10k/month. I honestly don’t prefer any one in particular — all have quirks. If I had to choose one, I’d probably recommend Blue Sky Factory, who cost a bit more than the average DIY services. But that’s for you to decide – there are many factors to consider ranging from quantity to feature set.

It’s All About Delivery

FrustrationDelivery is such a challenge because you can get flagged as spam by:

  • The Internet Service Providers (ISP)
  • The recipients email service
  • The corporate email system
  • The end-user’s own filters

So regardless of the service provider, the most important features I recommend you look at for your evaluation purposes have to do with helping you get delivered to the inbox. They include:

  • Relationship with the ISPs — Critical because it can help get your messages delivered and lower the risk of hitting the junk box.
  • Delivery Testing — the appearance of your HTML email can vary so dramatically in client applications (i.e. Outlook 2000 vs Outlook 2003, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc.) vs Web browser-based email clients (i.e. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.). Many services offer some sort of cross platform testing so you can work out the bugs before sending to your list. It also helps to send to a seed list of your own accounts as a safety check.
  • Delivery Scoring — some providers have functionality/algorithms to make you aware of concerns that could get you flagged as spam so you can fix before sending.
  • Reporting — Make sure all the basics are covered: delivery, undeliverables, open rates, click stats. Integration with Google Analytics is a plus.

Obviously I could add more, but to me, these are the most critical to get delivered to the inbox – and that’s just the first half of the challenge. The next is getting your email opened and your recipient to take action. But that’s a story for another time.

Please share your experience with us.

What’s your favorite Email Marketing Service and explain why. Thanks in advance!
-Roland

A Professional Email Account Adds Credibility

Notice to all “Professional” Service Providers, Executive Recruiters, etc. that contact me… I do not take you seriously if you contact me with your @aol.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @comcast.com, @verizon.net, etc. accounts.

I don’t care if you have the most amazing offer, you’ve place doubt in my mind about your credibility as a real business. So I delete your messages, unopened.

Why? Simply put, I don’t have the time. Nor do many others like me.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • If you managed to register a domain name and build a website, there’s no excuse for you not to have an email address with that same domain name.
  • Contact your registrar for help.
  • Search for do-it-yourself solutions like Google Apps and follow the instructions.
  • Hire a consultant who can have you up and running in a few hours.

Your professional email address is an extension of your personal and business brand. While it is one minor piece of your overall marketing effort, it’s part of your first contact with a prospect. Get it right and reduce one more barrier to a great conversation.

Thoughts?

Direct Email: With or Without Images?

Isn’t it better to do a little more work to reach the consumer how they want to be communicated to?

I was reading a thread online where the original poster questioned the effectiveness of HTML emails. “I’ve begun to minimize the graphical elements to try to minimize the big “X’s” that are displayed if a person does not download the graphics.”

A half-dozen responders affirmed/advised to steer clear of publishing HTML emails and including images.

FrustrationProfessionally, I disagree with that opinion and consider that a sloppy marketing approach. Why dumb down your message in the hopes of increasing reach?

In tests I’ve been involved with, HTML emails continue to have better click-thru performance than text. But admittedly in order to take into account consumers viewing email on mobile devices, we should continue to push both. A few more suggestions:

  • Publish both HTML and text format so the email client can decide which to accept. A reputable email service should provide send options for HTML, text and AOL.
  • Keep header images thin vertically. Nothing is more unattractive than a 600×800 pixel placeholder when image blocking is on.
  • Overall, keep your design simple, put emphasis on a compelling call-to-action and minimize distractions.
  • Use descriptive ALT tags and link titles.
  • Push one or more tests to accounts you have on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc. Then check how your messages look in webmail, Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Safari and Thunderbird.

That’s just a short list. I’ve talked about more in my Ten Email Marketing Best Practices video.

I hope you find this useful. What’s your experience?
-Roland

Worthwhile Reading – Week Ending 04/20/2008

Here are some topics of interest I’ve read in the past week. Definitely worth your time to read. Read more

Ten Email Marketing Best Practices

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In this screencast, learn ten tips for successful email marketing. Read more

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