How to Safely Send Bulk Emails Without Spamming

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Have you got an ESP?  I don’t mean Men Who Stare at Goats or Uri Geller.

An ESP, in this case, is an email service provider. There are quite a few of them, but how do you determine which is the best for your needs? And why do you need one in order to send emails?

Why you need an ESP

When  you first start building your email list, it’s tempting to either try to send from Outlook (or Mail) or to use a free email address like Gmail or Yahoo!  The trouble with this is that if you send too many emails from your home (or office), your internet provider is likely to think you’re a spammer.

Yahoo! limits you to sending 100 emails per hour.  For Hotmail, it’s 100 per day.  Google allows 500 if you send directly from Gmail, only 100 if you send from  your desktop.

If you’re going to be sending lots of emails, and don’t want to be branded a spammer, you’ll need to get yourself a dedicated email service provider to do it.

Better delivery

ESPs work hard to make sure that emails sent from their systems get delivered (no matter how many you send at once).  And, they’ve got built-in content filters and spam checkers that look at your email (before you send it) and alert you if there’s anything that might cause it to get stuck.

There’s also technical backup in the form of DomainKeys (basically an authentication system that makes sure your message isn’t being sent from a spammer).

Save time and effort on list maintenance

An ESP will:

  • automagically add/remove people as they signup or unsubscribe
  • offer you well-designed templates for  your signup forms and newsletters (or, often, allow you to upload your own)
  • help you if you get stuck (videos, tutorials, and even real, live humans
  • track and graph everything for you – the number of signups, your click rate, bounce rate, and who opened your email

Try it out for yourself.  I use (and strongly recommend) AWeber (affiliate link) It’s one of the top email service providers (used by Copyblogger, Darren Rowse, and yours truly). And, it’s only $1 for the first month. Pretty low risk (practically free). And a much better deal than the other kind of ESP.

Improve Email Marketing by Planting Seeds

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We usually think of seeds as something we plant in a garden.   There’s another kind of seed  you may not know about. And, you can use it to improve your email marketing.

In direct marketing (paper!) seeds are names you add to make sure your mailing gets delivered. If you don’t get your “seed” mailing when you should, it’s time to check on your campaign.

How to use email seeds

The same principle works for email too. Add your own email address to your newsletter sign up list. If you set up an email broadcast and nothing happens, you know something went wrong. Once, I thought I had scheduled something (and didn’t set it up properly). When no email showed up, I went to check and realized what had happened.

Bonus tip: if you’re setting a broadcast up in advance, set an alarm to alert you when it’s supposed to go out.

Place seeds on several email services

Add one or addresses on Yahoo!, Google, and Hotmail. Send a few test messages to yourself at those addresses. This checks several things: one, whether they’re delivered; two, how they look; and three, whether they get sent to the spam folder. Naturally, if your message is stuck in a filter, nobody will see it, or read it, pulling down your opens, clicks, and response rates.

So, go plant some seeds.

5 Email Marketing Myths: Busted?

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This post was inspired by a recent post on Problogger written by Georgina Laidlaw, Darren’s content manager.

She decided to do a split test of two emails, and what she found busted some common email marketing myths.

Do you follow these common rules (that aren’t necessarily true)?

Five email marketing myths

Here are the myths:

1) use call to action links
2) sell the customer before they’ll click
3) offer a discount
4) drive readers to action
5) use bold, bullets, and subheads to make your message easy to scan

Myth #1: Use call to action links

This means using words such as “order now”, “click here” – as a link vs. a link with the name of the product or other information. I would use both. See which kind gets more clicks, and then repeat that in the next email. And make sure it’s clearly a link – make it a different color or underline it, or put it on its own line (if you’re doing text emails).

Myth #2: Sell the customer before they’ll click

Where should the first link to the product be? In the fifth paragraph? Or near the beginning? Put both in. Some readers are convinced to learn more after reading a few lines. Others need more information.

Myth #3: The subject line must offer a discount

A discount isn’t the first thing people want – unless they’re sitting with credit card in hand, ready to buy that exact item. If I sent an email selling pink snow boots at 25% off it wouldn’t do much good – unless I absolutely knew that my audience was ready to buy pink snow boots. If they’re men, or hate pink, or live someplace without much snow, it won’t matter how big a discount I offer – it will be irrelevant.

Myth #4 -Drive readers to action

Yelling at people definitely doesn’t work. Instead, build a picture in their minds of what they’ll get from using/buying your product. Explain the problem, and how your service is a solution.

Myth #5 – Bold fonts, bullets, and subheads equal easy to read

What’s important is to break up the text. Long paragraphs are hard to read online. I agree about the bullets – do use them – and put the important words at the beginning. Use action words (such as achieve, master, learn).

What do you think? Are these really myths? Has she busted them? Do you think they would be effective with your emails?

Email Marketing Mistakes: Signs Your Newsletter Has Lost Its Way

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Even the most experienced email marketers can make mistakes (it’s OK).

If you do, the best thing to do is to admit it and correct it.

For example, I got an email yesterday from a top-notch internet marketer and copywriter.  He said that he’d gotten a complaint that he was pitching too much, and offering too little content in return.  He wanted to know (and I applaud him for this) if he’d lost his way.  If so, he wanted to fix it.

Here’s how to tell if your email newsletter marketing has gone wrong and some tips for fixing it.

Selling too much

People don’t sign up for pitches – they sign up for information.  They want solutions to their problems: whether that’s how to set up a twitter account,  how to build an app, or tips for growing an organic vegetable garden.

Newsletter signups are giving you permission to talk (you did get permission, right?), but not to sell, sell, sell.

The internet marketer’s newsletters were helpful.  However, there was a problem. He sent one monthly newsletter, and then six or seven promotional emails. And, you couldn’t tell which was which.

Selling in newsletters, or along with newsletters, is fine.  Just mix it up.  As a general rule, send three or four informational, helpful emails for every promotional one.

Not interacting with your subscribers

Do you answer your emails? I realize this can be tough if you get hundreds of them, but if your inbox is not that full, send out answers to reader questions.  Heck, they could become topics (with permission, of course) for another newsletter or a blog post (a win-win for everyone).

No reader exclusives

If you want to sell more, give readers a reason to want to hear from you.  Why not an incentive in the newsletter itself? Make subscribing special by offering something non-subscribers don’t get. Get raving fans.

  • Special offers available only to subscribers
  • First look at new products
  • Sign up for separate advance notice discount list
  • Offers that are fun: the Leave the Office Early Day sale!
  • First crack at entering a contest

No product tips/success stories

Show your readers proof your product works, or share tips on better ways to use it

  • regular updates (in the newsletter) on success other customers have had
  • send cheat sheets or point out hidden “easter eggs”
  • point out new ways your other customers have used your product

Essentially, make sure you engage with your readers.  Bring them in to the conversation (and make it a conversation, rather than a speech), encourage their feedback, and respond to their questions or concerns.

If there is a problem, address it quickly, particularly if it’s a bug or a public failure (your site is down for an extended period, you’ve been hacked, etc).

Share your thoughts

What do you think?  How do you handle your email newsletters?  How often do  you send newsletters?  Marketing messages?