- A Fairy Story
- Avoiding the seven sins of email
- Be streetwise to get the message home
- Choosing an email provider: Ten questions
- Discover the secrets of successful surveys
- Nine tips for building opt-in lists
- Planning and designing surveys
- Seven-step newsletter launch plan
- Six tips for effective newsletters
Choosing an email provider: Ten questions
It's impossible to work out the best mobile phone package. How many bundled minutes and texts do you need? Should you pay as you go, or sign a year-long contract? The tariff structures and features offered by providers are so different that they can't be rationally compared to each other.It can seem the same when you're looking for an email service provider (ESP). You know you need one - you don't want to get bogged down in managing your list, designing and sending emails, and working out sender authentication yourself. But with all the different features and pricing structures, you don't know which one is best for you.
They'll all have nice presentations and serve a decent cup of coffee (biscuits may vary). To ensure you discover what you really need to know, use these questions to qualify agencies:
1. Do you send email to bought lists on behalf of your clients?
Or, to stop beating about the bush, 'are you a spammer?'. If so, expect low prices and poor results. Spammers get blacklisted, and your legitimate messages sent by them will too.
2. What do you do to ensure messages are delivered?
There's an art and science to getting emails through corporate gateways, even though recipients have chosen to receive them. The best agencies will be registered as legitimate bulk senders with ISPs and will know how to build creative that passes through gateways intact. They will also have the tracking technology to show you who opened, read and responded to email and whose went undelivered.
3. Do you run consumer campaigns?
Business to business email lists are small but perfectly formed: targeting is everything. Consumer campaigns use massive databases. Servers that are used for consumer campaigns will have slower response times at peak periods, impacting your own campaign.
4. Where are your servers located?
Many providers have their servers in the US, either because that's where the HQ is or because that's where the hosting is cheapest. When UK customers receive their emails, there is often a lag while the images travel from the US - long enough for the message to be deleted unread.
5. How much will my newsletter cost?
Some providers look cheap when priced per-email. But who's writing the copy and designing the creative, and how much will that cost on top? Scope out your project and ask providers to quote to your specifications so you can compare them side by side.
6. How flexible are you?
"Well, I can touch my toes." Decide how much control you want over your campaign. The best providers will be able to provide you with direct access to the software they use, so that you can manage your creative and lists yourself. They'll also be able to provide consultancy services across the full spectrum of strategy, creative, data management, execution, and analysis.
7. Can I try the software?
The easier to use the software is, the more productive you can be with it. If it's awkward, you'll be forever on the phone asking for help and will lose the speed and flexibility advantages that come from managing your campaign directly. Make sure your provider offers initial and ongoing training, and make sure you try before you buy.
8. What experience do you have in my industry?
Designing effective creative and getting it delivered requires an in-depth understanding of the audience that can only be acquired through experience. At StoneShot we specialise in helping IT and finance companies and marketing agencies.
9. Can I talk to your customers?
You probably won't learn much by talking to customers - they'll most likely be delighted, otherwise you wouldn't have been given their name. But you'll learn a lot about the companies that aren't willing or able to let you talk to customers. And there are more of those than you might expect.
10. Can I run a trial campaign?
Before signing a long term contract with a provider, run a trial campaign with them. Listen to their feedback. If they're not giving you good advice now, that's unlikely to change when you become a client.
That should help sort the wheat from the chaff.
We know that that StoneShot won't be everyone's ideal agency, but we invite you to compare us to the best of the rest and to put us to the test.
If you'd like to find out our answers to these questions - or talk about any other aspect of email marketing - call us on 020 7628 4444.