When it’s time to select your e-news distribution method, I recommend that you use a web-based provider. Such services are easy to use and quite inexpensive. Advantages of using an outside service provider over sending your own e-news out are:
- It is much less labor intensive.
- You won’t be accused of spamming by your ISP.
- Distribution is fast and won’t hog your computer’s resources.
- You get reports on bounces and user response.
I advise against sending out your e-news yourself if you do not have a full-time technology staffer on hand. Even if you do, you run the risk of being identified as a spammer and having your organization’s domain name (that means all emails from your organization, not just your e-newsletter) filtered. It’s far better to outsource your e-newsletter distribution to a provider that is 100%-focused on deliverability (getting your e-news through to readers).
Before you start searching for the right provider, you need to define what you’re looking for. Common features you’ll want to include are the ability to easily move your database of emails and names in and out, opt-in set-up, reader tracking information, bounce management, ability to segment your list and personalization. You’ll also need to estimate number of recipients and distribution frequency to ballpark service provider fees.
Here are a few tips:
- Solicit recommendations on e-newsletter service providers from colleagues, based on your own parameters.
- Research other providers and get additional input on those recommended.I’m considering the following providers as a result of my research:
- Intelli Contact – User-friendly and fairly priced. Very focused on ensuring deliverability to e-news subscribers.
- Constant Contact – Also easy and fairly priced with a few less features. Good customer support.
- BrontoMail – More expensive but offers other tools such as e-survey distribution to e-news subscribers. Very service oriented.
- Focus on these Critical Factors:
- Ease of Use – It should be straightforward and fairly quick to import your mailing database, manage your list online, create and send e-newsletters and review results.
- Deliverability – Ask prospective providers what they do to ensure the highest probability of e-news receipt. Ideally, they will maintain a strict anti-spam policy, build relationships and feedback loops with major ISPs and get on white lists (lists of approved email addresses) to ensure your e-news is delivered.Ask what kind of information you get on bounces and how bounces are handled. You’ll want to know which email addresses are hard bounces (the address no longer exists) and which are soft bounces (undeliverable at the present time).
- Reliability – Make sure your provider has a track record of reliable service. Ask for references or statistics to prove it. Your organization has too much to lose if something happens — your email list gets copied or your newsletter goes out looking very different that the way you previewed it.
- Flexibility – You may want to switch from text to HTML format at some point, to send both for different purposes or to segment your email addresses by state or title.
- Tracking – One of the greatest benefits of e-newsletters is generation of quantifiable results. Make sure your e-newsletter provider tracks how many people (and who) get it, open it and/or click through to your website.
- Pricing – Usually a monthly fee based on size of your list and/or number of emails sent. Some providers also charge a modest one-time set-up fee.Constant Contact charges $50/month for 2,500-5,000 readers to whom you can send an unlimited number of emails. Intelli Contact charges $25/month for unlimited emails to 2,501-5,000 readers. BrontoMail charges $150/month for up to 5,000 readers.