OK. You have made the decision. You are going to send out email newsletters to your fans. Good for you! It doesn’t matter whether it will be sent to 24 or 240 or 2,400. Oops! That last number just slipped out. It took me a few years to rise above that number, but the message is the same. The message is also the same no matter whether you are addressing the first or last number.
We move on, now, to platforms (above), those entities that will take care of putting it all together and sending it out. You have many choices, but you should also have a few questions.
• What is the cost?
• Can I get a Free trial?
• How many contacts do I need?
• Is customer support responsible and “human?”
• Do they have good statistics?
• How do they rate against competitors?
Fortunately, in this age of instant information, the answers to these questions are fairly close at hand.
Most of those providers will offer a free (or limited) level, usually allowing no more than a few hundred contacts. You should take advantage of that offer, at least in the beginning stages of your quest. Depending on the level of your anticipated growth, make sure that their levels fit your needs. Most should be more than happy to offer clear explanations of those contact and pricing levels and guide you through the process. If they don’t, move on!
Besides ease-of-use, I think the most important feature should be how sophisticated are their statistics? Do they offer information on opens, both unique and actual? Can you access click-through rates? Can you compare your campaigns? Can you figure out where each newsletter was opened, geographically? Can you get an email list of those who clicked on certain sections of the newsletter so you can send them a more targeted message? Most of the time, in the “Free” stage you will receive limited access to many of the features that are available to paid customers.
Since, structurally, they are mostly very similar, the final decision can be made very simply. Find out who in your circle is using any of these platforms and ask them what they think. You can also ask those people who send you email newsletters. If they are small operations you can usually talk to the owner. Take a closer look at the newsletters you receive. Pay attention to things like the headers. Are they attractive? Do they “grab” you? How does the body of the newsletter “read?” Do you like the design of the layout? You can use all this research when you begin your newsletter.
At the present time I use both Benchmark and Mail Poet, which is a WordPress (WP) plugin. I use Benchmark for Red Dog News and Mail Poet for an email newsletter I send out to Shadow & Light Magazine newsletter subscribers. In the past I have also used Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. Mail Poet is the new kid on the block but is catching up rapidly, and I am hoping that I will utilize them much more in the future simply because they are a WP plugin.
As always, if you have any questions or considerations, let me know.
You can click on the PC Magazine link, below, to read the reviews of all those mentioned in the graphic.