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Choosing a Home for Your Mailing List? What You Should Know Before Moving In

By Merle © 2003

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.

Software/Inhouse Options:

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.

2) WorldMerge:

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

3) GroupMail:

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 you select.

4) Subscribe Me:

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

1) iBuilder:

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.

3) Constant Contact:

Free 60-day trial. Create professional HTML personalized emails and even allows you to schedule delivery times in advance.

4) IntelliContact:

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.

5) GraphicMail:

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.

6) EmailFactory:

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.

7) Mailer Mailer:

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.

About the Author:

Merle "Where some of the BEST Deals in Ezine Advertising are Made" Buy & Sell Ezine Ads in a live auction setting! Publishers sell off your excess inventory and Buyers pick up some Fantastic bargains. Free E-book on how to write "glowing" ezine ads.....Download Now at

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