Surely, you can test email marketing by going into Outlook or Gmail and hitting send right?
No, you can’t.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Putting a bunch of people in the To: line of an email gives everyone’s email address to everyone else. This will royally tick off everyone who is on the list, making your list smaller and far angrier at you. And let the fates help you if someone decides to reply to all.
- You’ll just put them in the BCC line instead? Both every email system worth its salt and AOL will recognize your message as spam, putting it in email purgatory with emails like online scams, pictures of (redacted), and (really really redacted) that you won’t be able to get out of your mind.
- You can’t effectively customize emails. The loveliest sound to all of us, from the age of two-ish on, is the sound of our own name. Not having a name in an email isn’t a cardinal sin, but it is a venal one.
- You can’t test and you can’t effectively report results. This is a cardinal sin. The commandments say “Thou shalt test,” and implied within that is being able to measure the results of said test.You may argue that it isn’t actually a commandment, but it will be at least as helpful to you in your career as anything that anyone says about donkey-coveting.
- Your emails will look bad. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Ugly can often convert well. Let me rephrase: your emails will not look like you intend them to. That is the deal-breaker.
So you want some email software to help automate your sending. The things you are looking for are:
- Quality reporting, including open rates, click-through rates, click-through rates on each link, unsubscribe rates, and (ideally) conversions. If you can’t measure conversions through your email reporting, you can set up different forms for each email and measure it on the back end.
- Ideally, you want to be able to address people by name as discussed above. Also, you’d like to be able to customize other information. I’ve seen double-digit response rate increases just through simple state customization like “help reduce childhood cancer rates in XXStateXX.”
- Mobile adaptivity. We’ll talk more about this in coming months, but if you had to choose whether something will look good on mobile or on desktop, you might choose mobile. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to choose.
- Form management. Your email provider should ideally have forms that allow people to sign up that automatically go into your email database. This moves people through your system easily and makes your life a lot easier.
- Managing unsubscribes, email preferences, etc. Same reason.
If you absolutely must have free, you might want to look at Vertical Response, which gives you 10,000 emails per month free, and MailChimp, which gives you 12,000/month. Please post your comments in the, you know, comments section on either system. I’m starting up with MailChimp, so if you would like to test the user experience for receiving newsletters, you can sign up at right. (hint hint)
However, I strongly urge you to look into email providers that you may pay for, in that it’s really nice to have an email system that ties into your larger database, is part of a true CRM system, or can be part of a larger marketing platform. Take a look at user ratings of different email systems (and different types of systems). This does bode well for MailChimp, which was highly reviewed for small and medium enterprises.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about actual email content.