Have you thought about getting in touch with your potential customers, but did not know the right way to do it? Did you think it must be hard, complicated, and probably expensive? Have you been sending e-mails instead of newsletters, putting all your recipients in “CC” or “BCC” field? Then this article is for you.
What is wrong with this approach?
- Design. It is very hard to create a good-looking e-mail that will render well on all devices and in all mail programs. Some of them format text differently; others do show images upon request only. To avoid these difficulties some send plain-text e-mails, which look neither good nor very professional; others put the entire text of your message into an image, which, even when displayed by mobile phones, is very hard to read; the most common seems to be sending all information as an attachment, which some recipients will not open, especially if the attachment is in MS Word format and can be affected by a virus.
- Everybody or nobody? There are two ways of sending group mailings – CC (copy) и BCC (hidden copy). Using CC is unethical – not only does it allow any of your recipients to hit «Reply all», annoying everybody on the list, but it also gives every recipient access to your entire mailing list and an option to add them to their mailing lists, as well. BCC is better in that sense: at least, your mailing list is protected. But mail programs also «know» why BCC is used, and letters with large number of recipients in the BCC field often are sent to Spam folder automatically.
- Spam and potential of your e-mail account. Once on your list, one cannot unsubscribe from such mailings. No objections here, is there? Not on your side. But, although laws that regulate spam depend on the country, group mailings that do not offer an option to unsubscribe are usually considered spam. And remember that it is common practice to add “subscribers” without their consent, after exchanging business cards with other business owners or sending business e-mails. Some such “subscribers” write and ask to be deleted from the mailings. Others block such e-mails or mark them as spam until mail filters learn to do it automatically; if it happens often, your e-mail account may be blocked. On the other hand, research shows that, if recipients have an unsubscribe option and newsletters are not sent too often, they are less likely to unsubscribe or mark such letters as spam.
Not following good practices creates bad impression about your business; instead of increasing sales, you turn into an unprofessional person to be avoided.
So, what can be done? These days there are quite a few websites one can use to make a pretty letter and send it to your subscribers. How will they solve your problems?
- Design. Simple and convenient drag-and-drop interface will allow you to create good-looking newsletters that will render well on all devices. Newsletter services often provide templates to choose from. In some programs, after the first letter is designed and created, you do not even have to design the next one anew – you can just copy previous letters and change text and images.
- Protection. Your subscribers will not see who else received the e-mail. No one will be able to gain access to your subscribers list. And yet, newsletter websites do not send all e-mails at once; they have a lot more complicated algorithm when e-mails are sent in small batches and have a better delivery rate.
- Respectability and trust. Popular newsletter services follow strict rules and regulations. For instance, they always include an unsubscribe link. No one wants to lose subscribers, but it is better than furious e-mails demanding to be deleted from the mass mailings, having your e-mail address blocked, or potentially having your e-mail account blocked. Mail servers recognize that an e-mail was sent through one of the respectable newsletter websites and are less likely to mark it as spam.
- Easy to manage subscribers. You can create various lists and groups within one list; your subscribers can also control what kind of news they receive. For instance, you can send information about new arrivals of children/adult clothes to those who is subscribed to receive corresponding updates and discount information to both groups.
- Additional protection of your e-mail. Your account on a newsletter website is not connected with your e-mail account. If you have a company, you can give access to your newsletter service to some employees who will send newsletters; they will not have access to your e-mails – it is particularly important if your e-mails may contain sensitive information.
- Subscribe option. If you have a website, you can easily add a subscription form for your visitors. And you can just as easily add a sign-up form for your Facebook page.
- Scheduling. You can create newsletters at your convenience and schedule them to be sent at later time. This function cannot be overestimated.
- Organizations. It is easier to view old mailings when they are not lost in the Sent folder.
- Statistics. An important marketing feature. You can always find what percentage of your newsletters was received, opened, bounced, which campaigns were more successful, which are less. And you can also see who unsubscribed from your mailings.
- Automatic social media posting. If you wish, a link to your newsletter can be shared in social networks.
- View in browser option. Your newsletters exist not only in e-mail; they can be viewed in a browser – additional convenience for your subscribers.
- There will be some learning curve. It is easy to create new e-mails, but first you need to create an account and do initial set up. If it presents a problem, you can hire a professional who will do everything you need in a couple of hours and show you how to get around. Most likely, you will never have to change any settings again, and editing e-mails is very similar to editing a Word document.
- It is better if you have a domain name. But it is better anyway. If you have a website or at least a domain name and e-mail address that looks like firstname.lastname@example.org (as opposite to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org), then there is no problem. Using e-mail address like email@example.com increases probability that some e-mail programs will mark your e-mails as spam, and the newsletter website will warn you about it every time you are creating a new e-mail. However, you will have the same problem if you are sending mass mailings from your e-mail account, and e-mail address like firstname.lastname@example.org looks more professional. By the way, you do not have to check two e-mails – it is enough to forward all your e-mail to the address you check most. Still, if you do not have e-mail address at your own domain, you can send newsletter ignoring the warning.
- Promotions folder. Gmail recognizes newsletters and sends them to the Promotions folder. To avoid it, you can as your subscribers to add your e-mail address to the address book. There are other ways – sending newsletters without external links, not having more than one image per newsletter – but they are not very effective and limit your content, as well. After all, what you are sending is really a promotion, and sending mass mailings from your e-mail will not solve that problem, either.
And what should you do with the existing mailing list? If you keep it in a file, you can save in .csv format and import easily. You can also add subscribers manually, one by one, even though it is tedious. But this function exists and is very useful, when somebody is asking you to add them to the mailing list – at lectures, exhibitions, fairs, etc. many people leave a sign-up sheet just for that purpose.
So, you would like to try, would you not? But it must be expensive?
There are quite a few newsletter services: ConstantContact, AWeber, ConvertKit, GetResponse, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, ActiveCampaign… Let us explore those that offer some free services.
SendInBlue – https://www.sendinblue.com/
Free: unlimited subscribers, 9000 newsletters per month, template library, mobile-friendly designs. But there are daily sending limits and SendInBlue logo is visible on all e-mails.
MailChimp – https://mailchimp.com/
Free: 2000 subscribers, 12000 newsletters per month, template library as well as ability to create pretty letters from scratch. You can save e-mails you created to be used as templates in the future. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, subscriber profiles, third-party integration, analytics, sending plain-text e-mails, and much more. It is considered a standard platform for a reason; it is simple to use and gives the essential features you need to manage and grow your subscriber list.
MadMini – https://madmimi.com/
Free: 100 subscribers, image hosting, reports, Google Analytics, WYSIWYG editor, third-party integration.
ConstantContact – https://www.constantcontact.com/
One of the better-known email marketing platforms, Constant Contact offers a free 60-day plan which includes professional-looking templates, opt-in forms, analytics, and their extensive online library of marketing tips and strategies. This platform is extremely easy to use, and you do not have to supply a credit card for the free 60-day trial period.
TargetHero – https://www.activetrail.com/
Free: 100 subscribers, unlimited mailings, WYSIWYG editor, image hosting, plain-text e-mails, real-time analytics, and a lot of marketing functionality. Target Hero is perfect for home businesses that need or want a broad range of features for their campaigns, but do not have large subscriber lists. Target Hero requires SMS verification to activate an account. If you do not text, you will be unable to start an account.
SendPulse – https://www.sendpulse.com/
If you have less than 2,500 subscribers you can send up to 15,000 emails per month for free. Flexible payment plan. Free plan for start-ups. Comparing to MailChimp, it is easier to generate sign-up forms and the editor is also easier to use. However, it seems it has no other benefits compared to MailChimp and is generally rated lower by the online community.
As you can see, there are enough free options available, if you want to try and compare. And if you want to try something and stick to it, it is worth opening a MailChimp account. They offer a lot of services, and by the time you are over their free limits, you will know what else you need.
Disclaimer. The author is in no way connected with MailChimp or its operator, Rocket Science Group, and the recommendation to use this platform is based solely on her own experience of using MailChimp for herself as well as for her clients and is strengthened by online ratings.
Source of information about platforms that offer free services – https://www.theworkathomewoman.com/free-email-marketing/