by Lisa McGrimmon
Before you can launch your newsletter, you'll need to compare email marketing providers and choose the one that's right for you.
Why can't you just send out mass emails from your business' email address?
An email marketing provider makes your newsletter more professional looking, provides you with valuable data that can help you improve your newsletter, can improve the delivery rate of your newsletter, and helps to ensure you aren't accidentally breaking anti-spam laws.
Email marketing providers allow you to set up your newsletter with attractive and professional looking headers and other images that can improve click through rates (the number of people who click to your site or shop) and make your newsletter more engaging and appealing to readers. It's tough to get that kind of look and professionalism when you send a newsletter from your business' email account.
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Email marketing platforms will provide you with all of the data you need to discover what works and what isn't working with your email marketing campaigns. You can use that data to adjust your approach to make the most of your marketing. If you simply send mass emails from your business email address, you won't get any of that data, so you'll have no way of assessing your newsletter performance.
Any improvements you try to make will be based on guesses, not on hard data. Without good statistics, you could unknowingly make a change that causes your newsletter to be less effective for your business, and less enjoyable for your subscribers, and you'd never realize it.
Mass emails from email marketing services are more likely to be delivered to your subscribers' inbox. Email providers, like gmail, recognize reputable email marketing companies, so they are less likely to block your messages if you're using a professional email marketing provider.
If you're sending mass emails from your business email account, it can look like spam, which can result in your messages getting blocked.
There are rules around email marketing, and they vary from one country to the next. Professional email marketing services stay informed of these laws and help you to keep your newsletter within the bounds of anti-spam legislation.
Keep in mind I'm not a lawyer, so this information is not intended to be legal advice. My understanding is, a couple of ways professional email services help you comply with anti-spam laws are with double opt in options and easy unsubscribe options.
Double opt in means the subscriber has to click on a link in an email to confirm they want to receive the newsletter. That process helps to ensure that only people who actually want to receive your newsletter are signed up.
Professional email marketing services also provide easy unsubscribe options. They will automatically generate a link in every email you send that allows a person to unsubscribe. If you simply send bulk emails from your business email address, unsubscribing is not as simple. People can get quite anxious if they don't see an obvious unsubscribe option in a newsletter, which can cause them to mark your email as spam.
The good news about using email marketing services is you can find reliable and free options while your mailing list is small. The bad news is, email marketing providers can get pricey as your list grows. Depending on how well you promote your products and cultivate your list, these services may or may not seem affordable once you have to pay for a larger list of subscribers.
Here are some options and pros and cons to consider.
SiteSell is the company I use to provide me with all of the tools I need to build my website including (among other things) a website builder, hosting, business building education, and a professional email marketing service.
As part of my subscription, I get a basic newsletter delivery service which allows me to grow quite a large newsletter subscriber list at no extra cost.
SiteSell allows 5000 emails per month, and your balance carries forward each month. That means, if you were just getting started, and you only sent out 100 emails to subscribers in January, you would have a balance of 9900 emails in February (5000 for February, plus the 4900 you didn't use in January). Your unused email allowance accumulates forever.
It takes time to build an email list, so that generous carry forward feature means you accumulate plenty of room when your list is small, so you can send more emails at no extra charge when your list becomes larger.
The downside to SiteSell's newsletter service is that it is fairly basic. They don't allow you to create an autoresponder series, and they don't allow fancy list segmentation features you get with other providers - just straight emails. However, they do provide a lot of instruction in how to set up and grow your newsletter, and spectacular instruction in how to build a web business in general.
SiteSell is not just about email marketing lists (that is just one feature among many). SiteSell is a collection of integrated tools, research and guidance for building a complete online business from scratch. So, you don't sign up with Sitesell because you just want to send emails. You use this company if you want to build all aspects of an online business.
I pay $299 per year for my SiteSell subscription (there's also a $29.99 per month option), and it gives me everything I need to run my website.
I have not used any of these other services I'm going to list below, but they are popular service providers, and I did research them fairly extensively when I was thinking about adding an autoresponder series to my newsletter. I can provide you with features and details to consider, but I can't share first hand knowledge of these companies.
At this point, I've decided to stick with the email service SiteSell provides because it is integrated nicely with all other aspects of my site, it meets my needs, and my newsletter is large enough that if I used one of these other services, I would have to pay a minimum of $50 per month, which is double what I pay for an entire suite of tools from SiteSell).
Although these companies aren't right for my needs at the moment, they might be right for your needs, so it's worth checking them out.
The companies listed below are well known email marketing service providers.
What these providers offer that SiteSell doesn't are advanced features like advanced statistics, subscriber segmenting and autoresponders (Too much jargon? Definitions for those terms are here). They are dedicated email marketing providers so they offer more features, while SiteSell is a complete online business building service, and email marketing software is just part of what they do.
Square Marketing (aka SquareUp) also offers an email marketing service. While this service isn't as well known as the other options, it may be of particular interest to craft professionals who sell at shows. Square is the same company that provides mobile credit card processing. Look around at a craft show, and you'll very likely see plenty of Square card readers attached to vendors' mobile devices.
The advantage of using Square in email marketing for craft professionals is if you already use it for accepting payment, you can also add newsletter subscribers during the check out process.
Square Marketing has a free 30 day trial period, and after that, prices start at $15 per month for the marketing feature if you have 500 or fewer subscribers. Prices go up with more subscribers. If you also use Square for processing credit cards, credit card transaction fees are additional. The company website doesn't list prices for larger mailing lists, so if you think you'll end up with more than 500 subscribers on your list, you may want to contact their customer service first to clarify their prices for larger email lists before you commit.
People often look only at their immediate needs when choosing an email marketing service. They don't always look to the future.
One factor people often don't consider is the fact that if you want to switch email marketing providers, it can sometimes be tough to move your newsletter from one company to another.
Because the move isn't always simple and seamless, you can lose subscribers in the process. It's easier to start with the right provider in the first place, than to change mid-stream. Certainly, you won't be able to completely predict the future needs of your business, but do try to think beyond your immediate needs when choosing the right provider for your business.
Once you have the tools you need to send a newsletter, you need to get people to sign up. Although your newsletter is free, you still need to promote it. That's right, you have to market your marketing materials. Here are strategies to grow your email list.