A permission based list of email subscribers is the most valuable asset you should build with your online marketing efforts. So what are the right tools to get started with. Technically you have three choices:
(1) Sending your email promotions yourself with desktop software.
(2) Sending your emails with server based software from your servers.
(3) Outsourcing to a trusted email marketing tools service provider.
When using (1) or (2) you will find yourself quickly involved with technical issues and you will run into all sorts of restrictions and limitations due to various anti-spam measures. Getting your emails delivered is not only a technical issue anymore. It has become a matter of trust between email service and Internet service providers. (Thanks to all those reckless email spammers.) Sending your email campaigns using a reputable service provider increases the chances that your emails are delivered and protects you from having your own email server or domain blocked as a result of false spam complaints.
It might look more inexpensive to make a one-time purchase for software that handles all your future email campaign needs compared to choosing a service that charges $30 a month. But in reality you will pay a very heavy price for trying to be cheap.
Any good email marketing service provider will take care of the issues that ensure your messages get delivered into the inbox of your subscribers. They also will make sure that their service is up-to-date technically and follows legal requirements like the CAN-SPAM act.
Therefore, the only choice I recommend is outsourcing the technical part of your email campaigns. Really, maintaining a database of prospects and sending a large number of emails lies in the realm of server infrastructure. That rules out desktop applications for serious business owners anyway. And unless you are a software developer, a network engineer or it is your core business to deal with Internet servers, then you don’t want to deal with the server and maintenance issues of your email marketing either. Be honest, do you host your website in your office? Most likely not.
Using a service provider for your email marketing.
By choosing an email marketing tools service provider you can concentrate on your marketing, on the content of your email promotions, on building your list of email subscribers, … simply on the tasks that will translate to more distribution and more sales.
Let me give you a short list of features you should be looking for in an excellent email marketing service provider. I will focus on what beginners and medium experienced online marketers need to have. Basically you want a provider which allows you to grow with your campaigns.
Here is a short list of core features and a brief explanation.
* Unlimited email lists and number of messages sent.
Nothing is more prohibitive than restrictions on the maximum number of emails you can send to your email lists. You also want to make sure that you can create as many separate lists as needed. For example: a prospect list for dog lovers, another one for cat lovers, and one for bird lovers. Once they buy from you they get moved to a customer list for cats, dogs, or birds.
And you might want to build a list of super hot prospects. Don’t worry there are simple techniques on how to do this, but its important that your service provider lets you do those kind of things without extra charges.
Usually you pay a flat fee for the total number of email addresses you store in the providers database. This is as fair as it gets, because the more email addresses you have collected the more revenue you can generate.
Make sure your service provider lets you backup those email addresses on a regular basis. They are your valuable asset.
* Autoresponders and follow up messages.
Allows you to send messages automatically to people who have just signed up for your email list. This is a key feature which allows you to provide the content your subscribers ask for in a timely fashion. Many businesses for example offer mini-series of email courses or tips that way.
* List segmentation
This simply allows you to define a subset of your entire email list for even more targeted messages. For example you might want to send a message only to the subscribers, who have joined your list this month.
* Complete 24/7 self-administration of your account over the web.
Kind of self-explanatory. You don’t want to call someone at business hours in order to change anything with your campaigns.
* Tool for creating opt-in web forms.
You simply create your email opt-in form, copy the HTML code and paste it into your web page.
* Personalization of messages.
Will allow you to use the name of your subscriber or other variables to make your messages more personal.
* HTML and plain text messages capabilities including an online editor.
Some people prefer to receive plain text email others like it colorful and flashy. Send both at the same time and the users’ email client preferences will take care of what the subscriber gets to see.
* Excellent email deliverability
One of the most important variables about different service providers. Your messages are lost when they get filtered as spam and never reach the inbox of your subscribers. Email deliverability is a complicated issue and one of the major reasons why outsourcing the technical part is so strongly recommended. Of course you must choose a provider that can prove a high deliverability rate. Compare them.
* Automatic handling of unsubscribe requests, spam complaints, and inactive email addresses.
This takes care of legal issues and frees you from having to deal with this subject altogether.
* Good documentation and training material
Your provider should not only make it easy for you to use and learn their service, they also should provide educational material on the subject of email marketing.
* Great free customer service
You don’t want to waste any time or money with creation of email messages. A good provider allows you to choose from many templates and gives you a WYSIWYG editor for quickly writing your messages.
Those are the basic feature that you should be looking for. The following functions seem to be advanced, but after getting started with email marketing you soon will ask for the following as well. Make sure its available right from the start.
* Split testing capability
Allows you to test the response for two versions of your message. For example with a different subject line. Then you can send the “winner” to your entire list.
* Sophisticated tracking of open- and click-through rates and easy to understand reports
Those metrics will help you to figure out what type of offers and messages your email subscribers especially like or dislike. A must have tool for being able to improve the success of your campaigns.
* Include attachments such as ebooks or PDF’s with your messages.
* Easy PayPal and 3rd party shopping cart integration.
As I said, those latter features are more advanced, but you certainly will need them at some point later. Since service details change over time I cannot directly recommend any specific service provider here in this article. But let me tell you that I have chosen the right one 2 years ago and I am still happy with it, because it supports all those great features and more mentioned here in this article.