Why free e-mail marketing can cost you
By Monte Enbysk, who is a lead editor for the Microsoft.com network and writes occasionally about technology for small businesses.
You're not a professional spammer. You run a
legitimate, upstanding business and you've chosen
to reach people online through e-mail newsletters.
Smart move: E-mail marketing is inexpensive
and effective, if done right.
However, if you're using a free e-mail service
to distribute your newsletters, you're probably
not reaching all of your intended recipients,
and some of your company's credibility could
be called into question.
If the e-mail address you're using doesn't
include your company name, but instead uses
Yahoo!, Hotmail or some other free service,
your recipients may be deleting your newsletters
or promotional mails before even reading them
¡ª especially if the mails end
up in their "junk mail" folder.
Spam filters steal from you
What's worse, many customers may really want
to receive your newsletter, but the mails
get sucked into a spam filter, never to be
seen again. You may get a bounce-back message
about it, or you may not.
"Spam filters are going to be taking
out a lot of those [free e-mail service] addresses
[in mass mailings]," notes Kimberly McCall,
a Freeport, Maine-based consultant and owner
of McCall Marketing and Media.
The point is, you're a legitimate business
and you may be coming off as a spammer ¡ª
or at least a novice. Why? Because the e-mail
address you've chosen doesn't reflect and
underscore your business credentials.
Yes, I'd understand if it's a soccer club
president trying to get out the team schedule.
Or maybe the president of the high-school
band booster club, trying to get word out
about the next meeting. But you are running
And if you are serious about being a professional,
you should invest the relatively modest fee
to get a professional e-mail marketing service,
using online tools such as Microsoft's List
Here are six reasons why:
1. Free services won't allow your users to
"opt-in" or "opt-out"
automatically. There are zillions of newsletters
out there, and subscribers deserve a say in
which ones they want to get and which ones
they want to keep getting. With most professional
e-mail marketing services, recipients can
opt-in or opt-out of a subscription easily,
without having to send you a heated e-mail
reply or change their e-mail address. Unsubscribe
links are included with every message.
2. With free services, you can't provide professional-looking
HTML newsletters or promotional mails. With
a professional service, you can design e-mail
announcements and newsletters that are clean
and attractive and reflect the professionalism
your business pledges in the products or services
it provides to customers. List Builder provides
basic HTML templates, enabling you to create
effective mailings in minutes (the mails will
be formatted in text for customers who can't
receive HTML mails). You also can design your
newsletter easily in Microsoft Publisher,
allowing for more flexibility in the visual
presentation of your mailings. Also, you can
preview and test mailings before they go out.
3. With free services, you can't personalize
your e-mail newsletters, unless you send them
one at a time. You don't have the time to
do that, do you? Didn't think so. So it appears
you aren't personalizing your mails. With
List Builder's personalization features, you
can address your subscribers by name in each
mail and can customize your messages based
on their profile and demographics.
4. With free services, you can't really track
the effectiveness of your e-mail campaigns.
Wouldn't it be smarter to know, by the numbers,
what is working and what isn't? With a professional
service, you'll be able to track the number
of mails that are opened and the links that
your subscribers follow. You'll know better
the rate of bounce backs and people who unsubscribe.
You can quickly respond to customer inquiries
with auto-response e-mail messages. You can
create targeted campaigns based on demographics
or survey responses. You're better off because
you'll know what not to do.
5. With some free services, you'll encounter
strict limits on how many e-mails you can
send out in a given period. Hotmail, for example,
allows you only to send to 50 recipients at
a time. On top of that, it has imposed a 100-mail-per-day
limit, in an effort to discourage spammers
from using the free service. If you're not
a spammer, you shouldn't be restricted like
this. List Builder enables you to mail newsletters
to up to 150,000 subscribers at once (for
larger e-mail campaigns, a service called
Campaigner from Gotmarketing.com is recommended).
6. With free services, you're managing your
e-mail lists the hard way. Adding e-mail addresses
manually to one or a few lists is not a good
use of your time, and it also poses a high
risk for getting addresses wrong. Professional
mailing services let you track subscribers
in a database and import customer information
easily from other programs. You also can use
customizable surveys to automate sign-ups
and to collect customer demographics and other
data. Your cancellations and non-valid e-mail
addresses will be handled automatically.