We’ve all been using email for years and take it for granted, and now the big decision is whether you want to handle your email on your smart phone. Business owners also have to decide when they’re ready to invest in an eNewsletter (also called an eZine) to stay in touch with their customers.
This article offers advice on picking the right newsletter service. The problems are beyond your wildest imagination and this morning (Saturday) is just another newsletter nightmare I find hard to comprehend after doing newsletters for more than 6 years.
Learning What You Need
When you only do something occasionally, you rarely become an expert. Sending out a newsletter isn’t easy but here’s how you can get started when doing it yourself.
- Sign up for several newsletters that you like and after several months, you’ll get a good idea of what you like and don’t like in the newsletters. Save them so you can easily go back later for ideas.
- Once you’ve got some ideas, print off 3 newsletters that you like best. If you print 2 copies of each newsletter, you can cut them up when designing your newsletter (next step).
- Now you’re ready to design or layout your ideal newsletter. You can either blueprint what you want to include in your newsletter, everything from a header at the top, to a table of contents, articles down to your signature and footer.
Picking a Reliable Email Newsletter Service
Now that you’re ready to create your first newsletter, it’s time to decide which service you want to use. One of your best clues is which service is being used to send the newsletters you’ve been getting. Here is a list of functions to compare or you can check out the many reviews of email marketing software like Email Marketing Options).
- Ease in creating your email template – seems to be focused on offering more templates versus smart templates. When you start you don’t know what you need. It was frustrating after 6 months, finding the Constant Contact template I used didn’t provide a coupon (so I had to creat my own).
- Email deliverability – is critical and while you send email every day, it’s different when you’re sending to 100s of addresses all at once as you’d be amazed at the messages you get back when doing this yourself with mail merge.
- Contact management – is much easier when people can subscribe and unsubscribe themselves versus sending you an email. It’s a great way to keep your list updated and only occasionally will you have to update the database personally (when someone sends you an email).
- Customer support – is another one of those “how do you know if it’s good” capabilities. There is a lot of finger pointing where Constant Contact says it’s a Microsoft problem and iContact is too willing to fix the problem this month, and every month rather than fixing their software.
- Analysis reports – are great if you have time (who does?) so I’m looking forward to Mail Chimp which integrates with Google analytics (migrating from Constant Contact and iContact).
Avoiding Newsletter Headches
Members of the Association of Home Professionals have another way to send newsletters to their customer database. We offer Done 4 You Newsletters where we handle everything for you, except collecting email addresses (we’ll help you with this). We write the content, we send you a preview which you can tweak, we schedule the content for distribution and monitor delivery, fixing problems we find throughout the process. Here’s an example of today’s problems with iContact (definitely not a vendor you want to use).
After figuring out that several emails didn’t get sent this morning, I opened an email from iContact and found this message. Not happy as I’ve been down this rat hole before and there’s no customer service on Saturday even though Saturday is the best day of the week to send your newsletter.
Last time this happened, it was due to a credit card problem so I first called to verify that there aren’t any problems with the card. No problems and my iContact agency billing went through a few days ago.
So it’s time to click to try and pay whatever is required to get the newsletters out today. I’m less than optimistic as last time, nothing worked and I couldn’t fix the problem until Monday. I’m also pressed for time sitting in a hotel with my family getting ready to attend a wedding!
I accepted the charges although this makes no sense. I have an agency account so I can log in once and access all of my email subscriber accounts. Payments are supposed to get processed against my agency credit card. Whether this is some type of annual bookkeeping on the part of iContact where I have to reauthorize each account once a year, I have no idea.
When I saw the second screen I wondered what would happen as the scheduled send time had passed (5:30am). Fortunately several of my other subscriber’s emails arrived in my inbox, so I knew I didn’t have to repeat the approval process for each account. It took about an hour for the final email to arrive … ironically, for the subscriber account where I authorized the charges!