Facebook may have made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire, but email is still king. Despite the rapid growth of online social networking, email has three times the reach, according to a new Forrester survey.
An email newsletter should hold a prominent role in every nonprofit’s communications strategy. The tools you use to create and send your message have a huge impact on whether it ever ends up in your recipients’ inboxes and how likely they are to read and act on it.
If you’re sending newsletters from your regular email account, the odds of being blacklisted are uncomfortably high. And if you’re building your own HTML newsletters from scratch, you’re probably wasting your time.
Hosted email marketing services are your best bet for quickly producing newsletters that are both pretty and powerful. There are a whack of great features common to many of these services that will help you:
Save time: most hosted services are so easy to use that a space monkey could put together an attractive, easy-to-read newsletter in minutes. Schedule your messages to send in the future, or even set up a drip campaign.
Track your emails: you’ll benefit from stats on open, bounce and unsubscribe rates, and can easily compare your campaigns to gauge effectiveness. Most services often useful charts, easy data exports, and integration with Google Analytics.
Manage your lists: easily add and remove individual subscribers or quickly import entire contact lists. They’ll handle your bounces and unsubscribe requests for you, and offer cut-and-paste forms for your website. Running split tests is a dream.
Be responsible: ensure your messages comply with spam legislation with features like confirmed opt-in, one-click unsubscribe, and removal of duplicate entries.
Have fun: many of these services have a playful interface and are a pleasure to use. You’ll look forward to crafting your messages and tracking the results once they’re sent.
Who’s who in email marketing
Now that you see a hosted service is the way to go, you’ve got a handful of good options. My personal pick is Mad Mimi. Along with a surprisingly intuitive interface and pricing that can’t be beat, they have the greatest customer service of any company I’ve ever done business with. (Thanks Dean and Gary!)
If Mimi ever croaked, I’d hook up with Emma. Her services are bit steeper, but she plants five trees for every new customer she receives, makes microloans to entrepreneurs in the developing world, and gives away twenty five accounts to deserving charities each year.
There’s also MailChimp, who offers a free library of email marketing guides to anyone who’s interested. When it comes to solid marketing advice, these guys don’t monkey around. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Now if you’re looking for oodles of features and full-service support — or your company frowns upon suppliers with funky, unique names — you might want to take a look at the pricier plans offered by Constant Contact and Bronto.
Many of these services offer free basic accounts to get you started, so sign up and start playing around. Once you see how fun and easy email marketing can be you’ll never send a hand coded email from Outlook again!
Disclaimer: I take part in the Mad Mimi affiliate program — but my love for her is true, I swear!