Thursday, December 17, 2009

Email Service Providers And Why They're Necessary

In the last post, I stated how important it is to have a master email list to keep in touch with your fans in these days of Music 3.0. I also briefly touched on email service providers (or ESP's) like iContact, WhatCounts and Constant Contact and a little on why they're essential partners needed for maintaining your master email list. What I didn't touch on was the biggest reason why using one is a necessity.

When I wanted to send one of my first email newsletters to a list of only about 1200 (which seemed large  at the time but is really tiny in grand scheme of email lists), I was astounded to find that my Internet Service Provider (ISP) wouldn't allow me to send to more than 200 addresses simultaneously from my company account. That meant that I had to split my list up into 6 batches, which made the job take a lot longer than it should have. After a number of calls to AT&T, I discovered that just about every ISP limits the number of email addresses that can be attached to an email in an attempt to keep spam in check, yet I knew that there were companies that sent emails to millions of addresses at time every day. How did they do it?

Then I found out about email service providers. ESP's have a deal with the ISPs to screen their customers to keep the spam count low, and the only limit to how many addresses you can send to is how much money you want to spend. The greater the number of email addresses, the more it costs.

ESPs are way more useful than just providing basic email delivery however, and are definitely worth the money in that they:
  1. clean your list for you, which means they automatically delete any old non-existent addresses (you have to do it manually if you use your personal email client, which is a big drag time-wise).
  2. provide a means to measure how well your email did in terms of open rate, click-throughs and pass-alongs and a lot more
  3. provide a means to easily subscribe and unsubscribe to the list (again, much more difficult to do manually)
  4. provide a host of pretty good looking HTML templates that you can use to easily design a professional looking email blast
Most ESPs offer more services than the main ones mentioned above that you can check out for yourself. As I said, you get charged more as your address volume increases, but some of them are free if you're just starting and only have a few hundred. Even with a volume that low, it's so much easier to use an ESP than your own email client. Try it. You'll wonder how you ever got along without one.

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