Email service features
Once you decide which type of provider is best for your situation, there are several primary email services you should investigate.
Real-time tracking is one of the most valuable components of email services. It provides a full analysis of everything that happens from the moment an email is sent, allowing you to gauge the success of your campaign and make adjustments and improvements.
Most email tracking programs track similar data including:
- Total emails sent: Total messages the email services vendor sent on your behalf
- Total emails bounced: Emails that were undeliverable due to bad addresses or spam filtering
- Messages successfully delivered: Emails that successfully reached the intended recipients
- Open rates: How many people opened your email to view the contents
- Click through rates for each link: Statistics of what links the email recipient clicked when reading your messages
- Unsubscribe/opt-out requests: Email recipients that request to be removed from any future mailings
- Subscribe/opt-in requests: People that want to receive information about your offerings because of a referral from a friend or through a link on a web site
Some advanced tracking programs may also track sales conversions and generate exportable reports for an external spreadsheet or email database.
Ongoing maintenance of your mailing list is necessary to maximize your campaign effectiveness and to ensure that you are in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act. Vendors will typically review your list to make sure that email addresses are valid. They also check for bad addresses such as a missing "@" or misspelled ".com", remove duplicate addresses, and honor unsubscribe requests promptly.
After uploading your lists onto their email databases, email services vendors configure the list according to customer email preferences such as preferred email format. They also upload your email content and process and deliver the emails. If emails are bounced or flagged as spam, the better vendors will investigate why it happened and try to fix the problem. List management also involves capturing recipients' actions in the email database, such as clicking on links or opting in/out.
Vendors can arrange your list by interest categories and reported demographic information you supply, allowing you to target specific audiences with audience-specific content. You can also segment your list randomly to measure the effectiveness of different messages and subject lines in a single mailing. This "split test" allows you to send different versions to different audiences to determine which performs best.
While most email service vendors don't offer mailing list rental services, they typically offer tools to help grow your list. They can set up forms on your web site for people to opt-in to receive newsletters, alerts, or mailings about products and services that interest them. Vendors typically provide an autoresponder that sends follow-up messages to confirm that a person has been successfully subscribed. And many offer viral tools such as "refer a friend" forms that let subscribers tell friends and colleagues about your site or newsletter.
Most email services vendors can make your emails more relevant to the recipients. The most basic option will let you personalize your greeting in the message by merging the name of the recipient with the salutation (e.g. "Dear Susan"). The most advanced providers will enable you to include multiple merge fields within a message and to swap in or out different offers, images, or entire paragraphs based on the profile of the message recipient.
Some vendors provide other email services such as appending. This involves taking your customers' postal addresses and matching them up with a database of known email addresses. Appending can be an effective way to grow your list, but exercise caution when including customers who haven't already opted in to your emails. You still need to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act and you don't want to risk alienating your customers.
Vendors can also help with the writing and design of your emails. If you don't have in-house staff to write copy, create logos, or customize templates, an email services vendor can do it for you for an additional cost.