Email marketing has been around for over ten years now, so I wouldn’t consider it a relatively “new medium” for marketing. However, with all the technology available in today’s Web 2.0 online world, there are many new techniques and strategies you can apply to email in order to achieve an even higher ROI and conversion rate than was attainable in the past. In my opinion, one of the most important things you can do for your email marketing campaign is to invest in an ESP, or email marketing service provider, also known as an email marketing campaign management tool. At the basic level:
Email Marketing Service Providers (ESPs): are services providing users with tools and facilities for distributing high volumes of email and managing a list of email addresses. Examples include Constant Contact, SubscriberMail, Listrak, and emailbrain.
All email marketers should be using an ESP to handle their campaigns, even if their list is small, initially. This way, when the list grows to a few hundred or more recipients, you have the technology already in place to automatically handle subscribes, unsubscribes, bounces, and deliverability issues.
Bounces: Email returned to the server that originally sent the email.
Deliverability: the degree to which emails successfully reach the recipients’ inboxes, or the number of valid email addresses that accepted the complete message.
I could come up with one hundred reasons why you should use an ESP instead of your Outlook or Eudora email client. Instead, I’ll highlight and explain what I feel are eight important reasons to use an ESP.
1. High Deliverability: because your email client is not built for email marketing, the messages you send out may end up labeled as spam by ISPs, not even arriving into your recipients’ spam folders, much less their inboxes. Most ESPs are whitelisted, or approved by ISPs as a legitimate, CAN SPAM compliant, permission based email delivery service. ESPs also offer easy methods to authenticate your email, which will prove to ISPs that you are who you say you are, a legitimate non spammer sending emails to those who want to receive the information.
2. Comprehensive Tracking and Analytics: Most ESPs provide clients with comprehensive tracking of all their emails. The number of people who opened, read, and clicked through your email, the links that were clicked, along with the actions of each individual who received your email will all be provided to you by your ESP.
3. List management: ESPs will automatically handle your subscribes and unsubscribes for you. This way, you will not have to manually insert those who request to be a recipient of your list. Instead, subscribes will be automatically entered. This will be especially useful if and when your list is growing quickly.
ESPs will also automatically unsubscribe those who request to no longer receive communications from you. This step is extremely important, as the CAN SPAM law requires you to honor unsubscribe requests within 10 days.
Bounce management is also included with most ESPs, automatically removing hard bounces (after a specified number of unsuccessful sends), and automatically resending soft bounces. The point to remember here is that all of this is done automatically, saving you valuable time and resources.
4. Easily create and send HTML messages: With WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editors, creating a colorful and dynamic HTML message is as easy as composing an email message with clients such as Gmail or Hotmail. There’s no need for HTML knowledge, as the coding is automatically created for you after customizing your message in the WYSIWYG editor. Most ESPs include several well designed HTML templates for you to customize and use for your own email campaigns. You can also save your own template to use over and over again with each promotional message or e-newsletter you send out.
5. Create Segmented Lists and Implement Personalization: ESPs allow you to create segmented list so you can target the individuals who would find your message most relevant to them. This will increase your click through and conversion rates, therefore increasing your ROI. Creating customized emails is made easy with ESPs so that you can insert your recipients’ name, company name, past purchase history and other information directly into the message or subject line.
6. Automatic CAN SPAM Compliance: ESPs make CAN SPAM compliance easy by automatically inserting your physical address and unsubscribe information in the footer of the email, as well as automatically removing unsubscribes immediately so that you are in compliance with the 10 day rule.
8. Extra Features: ESPs provide clients with extra features that will make your email marketing campaign more successful for them, and convenient for clients. For example, many ESPs have an option to include a viral aspect to the campaign by adding a “Send this to a friend” link. This link will be unique to each recipient so that it is trackable by your ESP. Many ESPs also now have an RSS feature, enabling subscribers to receive the communications via an RSS feed.
These are just a few reasons why your email campaign needs an email marketing service provider. For some more on the basics of email marketing, check out E-mail Marketing for Dummies. Rated 5 /5 stars on Amazon.com, this book is perfect for the individual just starting to get his or her feet wet into the email marketing world. Learn how to build your first list, keep your message free of spammer techniques, and how to implement your email marketing campaign to complement your overall online campaign. Published in November of 2007, E-mail Marketing for Dummies is an up to date resource for beginner level email marketing. To learn more, check out this excellent resource now!