Elements of a comprehensive e-mail infrastructure
Setting a up a system for collecting, managing, and communicating with your
contacts can be daunting, but the effort pays off by expanding your relationship
with your customers and contacts in ways that benefit your customers (and you)
directly. Increased efficiency, repeat buys, networking, and boosting recommendations
are just a few benefits.
We have a great deal of experience helping our customers set up a strategy
for managing email, and we've summarized that expertise below.
Choose a Mail Server
In general, an internet service provider is a bad choice for delivering your
email. ISP mailservers are loaded down and often slow. ISPs have to deal with
tons of abuse too, which means they will often throttle back the number of mail
messages that you can send through their mail server to some ridiculously low
number anyway. So what to do?
Use your Company Internal Mail Server. If your company maintains its
own mailserver, using that server is by far the best choice. That way, customized
mass mail gets routed through the same traceable path that personal mail goes
through. You may have to configure your local mail server to accept SMTP authenticated
connections if you are using something like Microsoft Exchange, but that's
not difficult to do.
Use your Web Host mail server. Every decent web host worth its salt
provides email and SMTP delivery service. If you have a business hosting account,
you should be able to get your web host to allow you to send reasonable amounts
of email with your SMTP server. The advantage of this approach is that the
originating mail server will match your web host domain "from:"
address. If your web host does not provide SMTP service, find another one.
We recommend DewaHost for that, but if you have another good one to recommend,
let us know! We like options.
Use a 3rd party email delivery service. Some companies specialize
in SMTP delivery services for you and will provide that service on a per-message
or metered volume basis.
If none of these work well for you, there are some web-based or service-based
mass email service providers out there that may be able to meet your needs,
but they are rather pricey to use.
Decide on List Management
List management has two components: sign-up or establishment, and maintenance.
You need to provide an easy way to get your customers or your group members
on to your list. You can do this either by email or using a web based approach.
Once you have a contact on your list, any time you email them you should always
tell them what to do to manage their preferences or unsubscribe. The law requires
that you provide a working unsubscribe mechanism at least. But you want to be
personal, in any case.
Management via Email Since you definitely want your customers to be
able to reply to the email that you send out, you should ideally provide some
sort of list management via email. You can use an email processor like PopMonger
to chcek the inbound email box, match up any unsubscribe requests, add the
unsubscribe address to a list (or query and mark a live database), and forward
other mail to a different address where you can deal with it personally.
Management via Web Your website and email efforts should work hand
in hand. It is natural for your email communication to refer people to your
website. So you may want to add list management capabilities to your website
also. List management on a website is very difficult to implement correctly.
You need to make sure that subscribers adding themselves to your contact list
on the web get properly confirmed via email. You need to take steps to make
sure your list management forms don't become a mailbombing tool for the occasional
unscrupulous idiotic twerp that may wander by your site. We have a service
that can help you with this difficult task,which we provide free for limited
use, called M5 Subscriber.
Feel free to check it out.
Our recommendation is that you combine both a web and an email strategy for
Using a Database Source
You should maintain your customer data carefully and in a way that is appropriate
to the number of contacts you have. If you just have a few thousand customers,
a spreadsheet may work fine. If you have more than that, you may need a more
powerful database solution. In any case, it is handy if your email application
can connect directly to your
database for generating personal mass mail to your customers or contacts. M5
Mailer does that pretty well.
M5 Mailer will also use a M5 Subscriber database source directly, seamlessly
integrating your web-based list management with your email application,
and Subscriber also lets you add your own records easily, as you acquire contacts
from other sources.
In any case, do your best to make your individual emails personal and relevant
to the particular needs of the recipient. You need to store and maintain enough
data to make that possible, and use conditional content to tailor each individual
message to each recipient.