You’re not a professional spammer. You run a legitimate, upstanding business and you’ve chosen to reach people online through e-mail newsletters. Smart move: E-mail marketing is inexpensive and effective, if done right.
However, if you’re using a free e-mail service to distribute your newsletters, you’re probably not reaching all of your intended recipients, and some of your company’s credibility could be called into question.
If the e-mail address you’re using doesn’t include your company name, but instead uses Yahoo!, Hotmail or some other free service, your recipients may be deleting your newsletters or promotional mails before even reading them — especially if the mails end up in their “junk mail” folder.
“It certainly won’t boost your image,” says Derek Scruggs, an online marketing consultant and owner of Escalan.com. “But I imagine that is how a lot of people get started.”
Spam filters steal from you
What’s worse, many customers may really want to receive your newsletter, but the mails get sucked into a spam filter, never to be seen again. You may get a bounce-back message about it, or you may not.
“Spam filters are going to be taking out a lot of those [free e-mail service] addresses [in mass mailings],” notes Kimberly McCall, a Freeport, Maine-based consultant and owner of McCall Marketing and Media.
The point is, you’re a legitimate business and you may be coming off as a spammer — or at least a novice. Why? Because the e-mail address you’ve chosen doesn’t reflect and underscore your business credentials.
Yes, I’d understand if it’s a community land care group leader trying to get out the next project schedule. Or maybe a netball mum trying to get word out about the next team barbeque. But you are running a business.
And if you are serious about being a professional, you should invest the relatively modest fee to get a professional e-mail marketing service, using online tools such as Microsoft’s List Builder.
Here are six reasons why:
1. Free services won’t allow your users to “opt-in” or “opt-out” automatically. There are zillions of newsletters out there, and subscribers deserve a say in which ones they want to get and which ones they want to keep getting. With most professional e-mail marketing services, recipients can opt-in or opt-out of a subscription easily, without having to send you a heated e-mail reply or change their e-mail address. Unsubscribe links are included with every message.
2. With free services, you can’t provide professional-looking HTML newsletters or promotional mails. With a professional service, you can design e-mail announcements and newsletters that are clean and attractive and reflect the professionalism your business pledges in the products or services it provides to customers. List Builder provides basic HTML templates, enabling you to create effective mailings in minutes (the mails will be formatted in text for customers who can’t receive HTML mails). You also can design your newsletter easily in Microsoft Publisher, allowing for more flexibility in the visual presentation of your mailings. Also, you can preview and test mailings before they go out.
3. With free services, you can’t personalise your e-mail newsletters, unless you send them one at a time. You don’t have the time to do that, do you? Didn’t think so. So it appears you aren’t personalising your mails. With List Builder’s personalisation features, you can address your subscribers by name in each mail and can customise your messages based on their profile and demographics.
4. With free services, you can’t really track the effectiveness of your e-mail campaigns. Wouldn’t it be smarter to know, by the numbers, what is working and what isn’t? With a professional service, you’ll be able to track the number of mails that are opened and the links that your subscribers follow. You’ll know better the rate of bounce backs and people who unsubscribe. You can quickly respond to customer inquiries with auto-response e-mail messages. You can create targeted campaigns based on demographics or survey responses. You’re better off because you’ll know what not to do.
5. With some free services, you’ll encounter strict limits on how many e-mails you can send out in a given period. Hotmail, for example, allows you only to send to 50 recipients at a time. On top of that, it has imposed a 100-mail-per-day limit, in an effort to discourage spammers from using the free service. If you’re not a spammer, you shouldn’t be restricted like this. List Builder enables you to mail newsletters to up to 150,000 subscribers at once (for larger e-mail campaigns, a service called Campaigner from Gotmarketing.com is recommended).
With free services, you’re managing your e-mail lists the hard way. Adding e-mail addresses manually to one or a few lists is not a good use of your time, and it also poses a high risk for getting addresses wrong. Professional mailing services let you track subscribers in a database and import customer information easily from other programs. You also can use customisable surveys to automate sign-ups and to collect customer demographics and other data. Your cancellations and non-valid e-mail addresses will be handled automatically