As promised both in Arrow-Tip #6 and to David Couper in a great LinkedIn question, I’m continuing the topic of when to use Outlook distribution lists versus mail merge or some other email software. As we stated in Arrow-Tips #6, if you are regularly emailing a group of recipients smaller than 25 in number and they don’t mind sharing their email addresses with each other then distribution lists work fine. Otherwise, you really should think about the dreaded mail merge. Here are some benefits to using a mail merge:
Mail merges are especially good for snail mail envelopes or labels, but are they really the best solution for mass email or drip marketing campaigns? A year or two ago I might have said, “Yes”, but with all the new anti-spam conventions not to mention some of the wonderful products on the market specializing in email marketing the answer now is a resounding “No.”
First of all, you don’t want your domain to get labeled by all the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) out there as one that generates spam. It is not all that hard to end up in the spam list these days especially if you have ever sent the same email to more than 100 people. Some ISPs look for emails that go out in batches as small as 25 in number. So if you are using your mail merge to send out a newsletter to your entire list of 1000 contacts, you may already be on the spam list and once you get there it is a very painful process to get off. What is the harm in being labeled as spam? Best case scenario, your email goes through to the recipient, but the subject line gets the lovely word “Spam” added to it – we’ve all seen that before. Worst case scenario, you email is blocked by the recipients ISP and even if you send a regular email to the recipient that is not part of a mail merge, it gets blocked before it can even make it to their Inbox to be tagged as spam. Imagine not being able to use email to communicate with a client and you’ll understand the seriousness of this issue quickly.
So how do you remain spam compliant. There are some great experts on this issue (again I’ll point to my friend Johnny Dunigan with Concerto Networks), but here are some general things to keep in mind:
Really, that list is just the beginning – there are all kinds of anti-spam compliant rules and they change constantly as spammers find new and sneaky ways to get past spam detectors. So if you really want to make sure you are doing the most to stay anti-spam compliant, you should consider a third party software or service that specializes in handling mass email campaigns.
3rd Party Mass Email Services
Recently I started using a great service for my newsletters and announcements called Constant Contact. I know some of you are familiar with it because I get your emails with the trusty Constant Contact logo at the bottom (good job Brea Gratia of Sanctuary Spa d’ Sante!). Some of the benefits of using an email service include:
Constant Contact is a monthly subscription service that is very affordable and well worth the expense. I’ve also have clients who have been happy with a product called CoolerEmail and my dear friend Mona Curry of Aegis Internet Technologies is a huge supporter of Group Mail Pro. All of these products allow you to import contacts from Microsoft Outlook to include in your campaign. I’d love to hear from those of you using one of these services to share your experiences wih the rest of us. Personally, I wish Constant Contact integrated a little better on the back end with Microsoft Outlook e.g. updating unsubscribers contact records by checking the “Unsubscribe” category. But since I don’t usually get many unsubscribers, that really hasn’t bee an issue yet and overall, I’m happy with the service.
Most of you know that I’m a big advocate of outsourcing functions that are not part of your core business and using best of breed software products. You wouldn’t go to your general practitioner for dental work and you shouldn’t use Outlook for your mass emails either.
Again, I welcome your comments on this topic – let’s get a good discussion going!