Choosing a Home for Your
Mailing List? What You Should Know Before Moving In
If you have a website, you know the importance of having your own list. Most
site guests won't buy from you on the very first visit. Collecting their
email addresses and building a relationship with them through an ezine can
lead to converting them to buyers later.
So how do you manage your lists? You have two options:
1) In House - Manage your own list, either from your own server, or desktop.
Either way, you will need to install special software for this purpose.
2) Outsource: Use an outside web-based service to manage your list. You log
in and manage and send mailing from the Net.
How do you know which solution is best for you? You must consider all your
needs so that no matter which option you select, it can do what you need
it to do... even as your needs change.
The first thing to consider is the format you'll be publishing in; text or
HTML? Some list management programs can publish in both formats simultaneously,
(called Multi-Part MIME). If your list management solution doesn't include
that feature, the only way you can publish in both formats is to maintain
two separate lists.
You also need to consider your technological skill level. If you're a novice
with simple needs, you don't want to use something overly complicated. Some
vendors offer a 30-day free trial; do take advantage of these before making
your final decision.
Finally, the size of your list will affect your decision. If your list is
very large, the cost of using a third-party service may be the factor that
determines how your list will be hosted.
So how do you know if the software or service you're thinking of using is
reliable? Look for testimonials on their site. If people are happy with a
product or service, they won't hesitate to send in a few words about their
great experience. If you have questions, ask. Send a few emails to customer
support for further clarification. Their response time may be another indicator
of their quality and dedication.
Another thing to consider in this day and age is "Double Opt In." With more
and more states instituting Spam laws, you may want to go this route now
if you haven't in the past. Do make sure that the service or software you
select can handle both single and double opt in. Requiring your readers to
confirm their subscription requests will slow down the growth of your list,
but will also help to protect you and give you proper documentation if you
ever find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit or accused of spamm!ng.
Also helpful for documentation is the ability to record a subscriber's IP
address. Many services and programs do this automatically.
If you decide to use an outside service make sure they're trustworthy before
handing over your hard earned list. You wouldn't want some devious person
abusing your subscribers. Your subscribers' privacy should be as important
to you as it is to them.
As an online publisher, you'll also have to deal with bounces. There are
two types, "hard" and "soft." A hard bounce is a permanent error, meaning
the email address is no longer valid. Soft bounces refer to temporary problems
due to a "full mailbox" or other server issue. You'll want to know what system
is in place for removing the hard bounces so your list stays current and
clean. I know in my own case the software I was using didn't provide for
this, so I paid my programmer to write a script that would automatically
delete all hard bounces the very first time they bounce.
Manually maintaining your list can take up a lot of your time, so this is
an important issue to consider, especially as your list grows larger.
Also, if you continue to send to bad email addresses, some service providers
may block your IP address. The result is that none of your emails will ever
get through again. This leads me to the topic of blacklisting. If you decide
to go with an outside service, you'll want to make sure they're not being
blacklisted. If they are being blocked by any of the major ISP's like AOL,
none of your email will get through to any of your subscribers that use that
service. This is very important. You don't want to be found "guilty by
association." Choose wisely. You don't want to move your lists and then find
out that hundreds of copies of your hard earned ezine are being returned
to you as undeliverable.
So now that you know what features to look for, let's go over some of your
options when it comes to software or service providers.
1) CGI Script:
With a cost of only $49.00, this script installs on your server and uses
your own hosting provider for actual mailings. Creates HTML or text ezines.
Allows you to quickly and easily generate large numbers of personalized e-mail
messages using your database of recipients and a "template" e-mail message.
A free evaluation version is available. Purchase for $59.00
Desk top software that allows you to manage multiple. Sends in Two Part Mime
format so you don't have to keep two separate lists for text and HTML
subscribers. If the user can't read HTML, he'll automatically get the text
version. You can also schedule messages for future delivery. Three versions
available: free, pro and plus. Free to $179.00, depending on the version
Installs easily on your server and runs on UNIX or Windows platforms. Allows
unlimited mailing lists and the ability to track your incoming clicks from
links in your newsletter. Offers single or double opt in.
5) PHP List:
Free to download. It is written in PHP and uses an SQL database for storing
the information. Personalized mailing list manager.
6) Mojo Mail:
Mojo Mail is a web-based e-mail list management system, which runs on any
hosting account that can run custom CGI scripts. Free to download. Try out
the live demo on the site.
Web Based Services: Outsource
Browser based; upload and manage your own list. Charges are based on how
many emails you need to send out. Full template system available and a free
trial so you can test it out.
2) Email Works:
Pricing depends on usage: 1 credit = 1 email sent. You can sign up and try
out the service, as you'll be given 25 free credits for registering. Can
send in plain text or HTML.
Free 60-day trial. Create professional HTML personalized emails and even
allows you to schedule delivery times in advance.
Create and manage unlimited lists. Sends in Multi Part Mime Format. Pricing
is based entirely on the total number of subscribers that you have in your
account. A list of 5,000 will cost you 25.00 per month, less if paid annually.
Try it for 30 days, and if you don't like it your money will be refunded.
A web-based tool for the design, management and distribution of graphical
e-mails. Use the online editor to design your own ezine, or use one of the
handy templates. A list of 5,000 subscribers will run you 19.95 a month.
No obligation, 60 day trial.
Create and manage your own lists with this easy online interface. Offering
many levels of service, the cost of the beginner tier includes a one time
set-up fee of $100.00, then $25.00 a month. Easy to upload an existing list,
and can send in text or HTML with full personalization.
Simple web-based interface that allows you to upload your existing list or
start a new one. Templates available if you'd like to use them. Sign up for
the ability to try them out by sending up to 200 messages for free.
8) Simple Post:
Easy to import your existing list. Provides you with statistics about how
many people received the message, how many opened it, and what links in the
email were clicked. Your subscriber base can't go over 50,000 and a list
of 5,000 will cost you 24.99.
As you can see, you have many options when deciding on a home for your list.
It's important that you find one that does what you need now and has the
ability to grow with you into the future. Inhouse or outsourced, the choice
is yours just make sure you choose wisely. A good home is hard to find, and
once found you wouldn't want to have to move out unexpectedly.
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