Friday, April 30, 2010

For some things, it doesn’t matter what your goals are: if you’re going to send mass email, you’re going to need some basic things.
Make sure you know who in your organization will:
  • Manage your lists / be the database wrangler
  • Create or gather content – the text and images for your email
  • Design your email templates and graphics
  • Enter content, set it up and test the actual email
  • Read the test messages, proofread, edit and approve
  • Collect and analyze reports and metrics.
Make sure the tools you look at offer:
  • List Management Utilities. Make sure you have ways to add, remove and change email addresses by hand and a simple means to export your list regularly for back ups and use in other systems.
  • Automatic Unsubscribe. Make sure your constituents can unsubscribe themselves (for instance, by clicking on a link in their email) without going through you. You’re required by law to remove those who request it – don’t run the risk that one of your staff members overlooks an unsubscribe request
  • Solid Deliverability. Whether or not your emails are considered as spam depends on a lot of things, but the history and actions of your emailing vendor are a major factor. For more on what impacts deliverability, see Idealware’s A Few Good eNewsletter Tools article.
  • HTML and Text Versions. If you plan to send HTML emails (to allow text formatting or images) you will also need a way to send the text version for those people whose programs can’t read the HTML. Check to make sure your tool sends Multipart MIME type emails.
  • Test Emails. It should be easy to send test emails to your own test email accounts, to check formatting, links, and whether it hits the spam filter.
  • Documentation and Support. Regardless of other features selected, you’ll need a solid understanding of how to use them. Consider carefully what level and manner of documentation, training and support are offered by each vendor.
As you look at additional features, keep in mind that you don’t have to go with a high price package to take advantage of best practices. You might be able to use a less expensive system if you shop around for a tool that has only the features you will really use.