by John Eberhard

This is an article about email marketing, and I’m writing this article even though I know I’m going to catch grief from someone saying I’m wrong and their service is better.

There are three 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.
  • 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 on sending out to your list, which you often do with sending out from your own desktop computer

The three major services are Constant Contact, iContact, and Aweber. All will do all the things above. All start in the $15-20 per month range.

One of the downsides of working with these services is that all three of them will allow you to upload an email list which you have used prior, but they will require that an email is sent out to your list asking the person if they still want to be on your list. If the people on your list don’t respond, you lose them as subscribers. They have to say “yes I want to be on the list.” I don’t have exact figures on this but of course you will lose a majority of people from any email list with such a process, because many people will not notice the confirmation email or be too busy to opt in again.

I’ve never really been in agreement with the “permission marketing” thing, where you have to really, really make sure you have permission to send someone email. I follow the Federal CAN-SPAM act and basically that’s all you have to do. I don’t advocate that marketers go into propitiation with their target public (“Are you sure it’s OK for me to send you something???”).

OK, now that I’ve possibly made a few people mad, I’m going to cover a few features that the Aweber system has that I think makes it the best choice for an online email system.

First of all, Aweber is an autoresponder system, which is not offered by iContact (Constant Contact does have it). This means that you can set it up so that as soon as the person signs up for your newsletter, they receive a fully customized email from you, saying thanks for subscribing or whatever you want. But then you can also set it up so that they receive a series of emails, based on a timer that started when they subscribed. In other words, they receive your first email right after they sign up, but then they receive your second email 3 days later, then another one 7 days after signing up, then another 10 days after signing up. You get the idea. You can set the interval between each email.

This series of autoresponders going out to the subscribers can be a very powerful tool. You can set up a series of emails that educate the person on your products or services and sell them. You can offer a free email course with 4 installments, once a week. There are lots of possibilities for using this tool, in order to sell your products or services. And once you set it up, it is like an automated salesman working for you.

Secondly, Aweber just added another tool that I think is very significant and puts them ahead of the others. They call it the “blog broadcast.” It works like this. Let’s say you have a blog and you post some new content to it once a week or more. But then you have to spend time converting that content into an HTML newsletter to send out to your list. I’ve been doing this every week for a year and it’s been a time consuming, tedious pain.

Not any more. With Aweber, you hook your email list up to your blog, and every time you post something to the blog, it will automatically send it to your entire email list. You can also configure the format of the email so that it looks like whatever you want. This puts it ahead of Feedburner and other services where it will send your blog post out to subscribers, but it is a very plain email. With Aweber you can format it to look just like your past HTML newsletters.

And by the way, I’m not an affiliate and don’t get a cut from Aweber if you sign up, not that there would be anything wrong with that if I did. I believe that each of these online email services is a powerful tool to improve the quality of your online marketing, and I have clients using them all. But I believe Aweber has just moved ahead of the pack.