Choosing An Email Marketing Service Provider

Once your business has decided to invest in online marketing, the first service you’ll be considering is probably an email marketing service provider (ESP).

Basically, an ESP is a hosting company that runs email marketing services on their servers for you to use. The servers and Internet connections are optimized to send email. You use a web interface to compile and send your email to the ESP.

Then, the ESP’s servers and Internet connections do the hard work. If you tried to send bulk emails through your regular Internet provider, your campaign could be blocked, as most regular Internet providers prohibit bulk mailings.

Good reporting helps you measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, and your ESP should also provide very detailed reports. You should even be able to see which of your subscribersopened your email and clicked on your links.

An ESP will also automatically include an unsubscribe link in every email sent through their service – and automatically remove these addresses from your lists – to make sure you comply with federal SPAM laws.

What should you look for in an ESP to make sure you choose the right one? Here are some criteria to consider:

IP Addressing
The IP address from which an email is sent is like a phone number – it tells the world where the email came from.

Just like you’d not want to share a phone number with a large group of strangers, you do not want to share an IP address with other customers at your ESP.

If your ESP uses shared IP addresses, too many spam complaints against another customer could get your shared IP address blacklisted by a major ISP. This would prevent your emails from being delivered, and it can take time for your ESP to get the IP off the blacklist.

Heavy Duty Systems
Make sure your ESP has multiple, high-speed connections to the Internet through more than one source, and that they have redundant hardware and servers.

This ensures reliability if one ofthe Internet connections fails or there is a hardware failure. This is important because the ESP’s click-tracking tools require that the links go to the ESP first, and then it is redirected to your website (that’s how it can track the click).

There would be nothing worse than sending an email to your prospects and customers and having the ESPs servers go down. The people reading your emails won’t be able to click through!

Support and Training
Your ESP should offer both online and phone customer support and training.

Good reporting
The ESP should offer a variety of user-friendly reports: deliverability success, open-rates, and click-through rates.

CAN SPAM compliance
Your ESP should require customers to comply with the CAN SPAM Act and make it very easy to do so. The last thing you want isa fine from the federal government for not complying with the law.

Free trial
Most ESPs offer a free trial. Do a test drive to see if the service meets your needs.

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What Is The CAN-SPAM Act?

The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets rules for commercial email, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be  costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message and identify the message as an ad.

Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address.

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the  recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.

Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30  days after you send your message.