By John Eberhard

You might be wondering if email is still a viable marketing medium in 2021, what with all the other options available today.

The short answer is definitely yes, email is still an extremely viable method of promotion today. But you have to understand how successful email marketing is done today, because it has changed a lot over the years.

Two Types

The first thing to know is that there are two major types of email marketing:

  • Email sent to an opt-in list
  • Email sent to a non-opt-in list, usually purchased

A non-opt-in email list is a list of people with whom you have had no contact. The usually way one would acquire such a list today is to purchase it from some reputable list company.

The ways one sends email to these two types of email lists are completely different and one needs to know this and treat them as different.

Non-Opt-In Email Lists

The first thing to know about sending email to non-opt-in lists which you purchase is that it is not illegal in any way. The CAN-SPAM Act of the US Congress defined that there are only a few things that you have to do in order for your promo email to non-opt-in email lists to be legal:

  1. You have to list your physical street address in the email
  2. You have to provide a method for the person to ask off the list and you have to actually remove them within 10 days if they ask off
  3. You cannot use any deceptive method to disguise who you are.

That said, non-opt-in email can still be very effective today. There are quite a few companies out there that sell email lists. One that I have used a lot over the years is dataaxleusa.com. Especially if your target public is a specific profession, you can nearly always find email lists of those people.

It used to be that there were a lot of companies that offered list rental, where they have a list and they’ll send your email out but you do not take possession of the list. In general I do not recommend this today, except where you are marketing to a specific profession and you do this with one of the trade mags in the industry. List rental usually is pretty expensive. I much prefer to actually buy an email list, so I can email to it all I want and not have to pay money each time.

There are also email service providers that specifically service people who send email to non-opt-in email lists and are willing to do that. You cannot send out email to non-opt-in email lists with Constant Contact, Aweber or Mailchimp. They will close your account if you do that.

The email service providers I have dealt with and which will send your email out to non-opt-in lists include Hypermail, Hotsol.net, and Jmailerpro.com. There are others, but some of them have ridiculous rules of how few emails you can send in a day (like 20).

Of course as mentioned above, there are people who think that as a person who sends email to non-opt-in email lists, you are the spawn of Satan. But I try not to worry about those people any more than I have to.

I had some experiences in the non-opt-in email universe recently which were very interesting to say the least.

First of all, in working with one company I have had an account with Hotsol.net for nearly two years. But the open rates and response rates for our email there were dropping dramatically. So I wanted to see if I could get an increase by starting over with a new company, because I had done that before.

I did some research and was referred to Jmailerpro.com. I contacted them and they recommended that I have them do a “list cleaning,” where they take a list determine which emails are old and no longer used, or are what they call “seed” emails, where someone supposedly creates an email and gets it onto various lists just to find and report “spammers.” They said list cleaning was vital in order to accomplish my goals of increasing open and response rates.

So I had the list cleaning done. I had about 170,000 emails going in, and after the cleaning I only lost about 20-25%, which I thought was acceptable.

Jmailerpro.com also gave me a rather long list of things I had to do to make sure I didn’t get “flagged” as a spammer, including:

  • Start out slow. Send only 10-20 emails for a whole week, meaning send to only 10-20 people
  • Send an email to a list of 10-30 friends, asking them to click on something in the email. This shows the people who are out there waiting to see me as a “spammer” that I am really legit and am sending something that people want to see.
  • Use minimal images in the emails, and no big images.

So I did ALL of those things for about a month. And my open rates never even got up to the level of what I was getting in Hotsol.

Once again, what gives?

First of all it is important to know that in sending email to non-opt-in email lists, you are never going to get the same open rates that you do when you are sending to your in-house email list, i.e. your list of customers/clients and prospects. I have gotten anywhere from 7-30% open rates from emailing to an in-house list. But sending to non-opt-in, raw public lists, you can expect 1-5% open rates.

So were the recommendations from Jmailerpro.com valid? I concluded no. They didn’t improve my open rates one bit. Companies like that are unfortunately completely in fear of the spam Nazi’s. That’s my term for the people that think guys like me are the personification of the devil, and enough free time on their hands to work to make it harder for anyone doing email.

Another problem I had run into with both Hotsol and Jmailerpro was that I would upload my email list to their system, and for some reason they only would actually upload a small portion of the list. Tech support couldn’t give me a believable reason.

So in this case I decided to go back to a software program I had used before called SendBlaster, and send my raw public emails from a desktop computer, not from an online service. That way, I could send emails to my full lists, with no one to tell me what kind of emails or how many I could send.

Here are some of the things you can send to non-opt-in email lists:

  1. Free newsletter subscription offer
  2. Free ebook offer (of course you have to put together a free ebook, but this often works quite well)
  3. Some low cost, introductory offer

As stated earlier, the best way to send out promo email is to compile an in-house list of your customers and prospects, and send messages to them on a regular basis.

Good luck with email marketing.