by John Eberhard
I wrote an article about a year ago about online email services. This is an update with new and more detailed information about these services.
I think that everyone who wants to develop an email mailing list and send out email to that list should subscribe to one of these services. For years I used a desktop based program to send out HTML email (you can’t do it through Outlook) and I think the online services make it much easier.
There are several main online email services, where you can do these things:
- Sign up and put a form on your site offering an email newsletter
- People sign up and they are dumped into a database that is stored online
- An email goes out to anyone who signs up asking them to confirm that they wanted to subscribe. This is called “double opt in.”
- You can now send an HTML email out to your subscribers any time, with the service providing nice looking templates for you to use. You can also create a template yourself using Dreamweaver or some similar program.
- You can set up a series of automated emails that go out to everyone who signs up, on a timer, i.e. one immediately, one 4 days later, 7 days later, 11 days later, etc. Whatever schedule you choose. This is called an autoresponder.
- People can then opt in and opt out without you having to manually add them or subtract them from a list
- As you build up your list, you don’t have any daily limits from your ISP on sending out to your list, which you often do with sending out from your own desktop computer
The major services are Aweber, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and iContact.
No prices listed on website
Has HTML email templates
Can import email lists
Easy creation of signup forms to put on website
Double opt-in feature
Sends email to you once person signs up, with their name and other info
Requires sending out a re-opt-in message to any list you import
As you can see most of the providers offer pretty much the same features. But a couple of them bear comment because they are important.
All of the providers allow you to upload a list that you have into their system. However, most of them require that a “re-opt-in” email is sent out to those people, saying, in essence, “Hey, you opted in before but are you really sure you want to be on this list?” And only the people who respond newly will be kept on the list.
I understand why these providers require this. They are trying to protect themselves against the shadow world of the spam Nazis, those self appointed police of spamming who proclaim certain people as being spammers. And this practice of requiring that a re-opt-in email be sent out to any list you upload, pretty much stops you from uploading a purchased list, which you’re not supposed to do.
The problem with this is for someone who has built up a valid opt-in list elsewhere, either with another email service or on their own desktop. You upload your list, they send out the re-opt-in email, and only the people who respond again will be included on the list in the future. The problem with this is that with the amount of email that people receive today, probably only 20-30% of those people will respond and opt in again to be on the list (I’m guessing as I haven’t done this). So if you have a valid opt in list from another source, you will in all likelihood lose 70-80% of your names.
I bring this all up because Mailchimp currently does not require this re-opt-in email to be sent, and I have recently opened an account for a client and uploaded a list they had built previously and mailed to it. So that is a big plus in my opinion.
Another interesting feature, which you wouldn’t know until you got in there and started using the service, is that Constant Contact will send you an email when someone has signed up, but it basically just says “someone signed up.”
So if you wanted to use the service to collect people who respond to your lead generation campaign, it won’t work very well with Constant Contact. Because instead of receiving an email every time someone fills out the form, with that person’s name and phone and other information in the email, you just receive an email saying “someone signed up.” And you’d have to log into your account online and find that record to get that person’s information.
On the other hand, with all the other services the system will send you an email when someone signs up, but it will include all the information in the email that the person typed into the form. So those emails can be sent or forwarded to your salesmen and they can get right onto selling the prospects. I only found out that Constant Contact’s system does not do this when I tried to set it up that way for a client recently. I confirmed it by contacting them.
That means that with Aweber, Mailchimp and iContact, you can use the system to get people to sign up for your newsletter, but you can also use it for people to respond to your lead generation program and request more info or your free offer. With Constant Contact, their system makes it not very convenient for a lead gen campaign, so basically the only thing they’re good for is for newsletter signups. I know some people think they’re the best but that hasn’t been my experience.
I didn’t mention this in the grid, but I have used Aweber a lot and know their system integrates really well with a Google AdWords campaign. I know Constant Contact does not. Not sure about the others.
So my picks for the best service has to be either Aweber or Mailchimp. And if you have a list you’ve built up elsewhere that you want to import, Mailchimp is the way to go.