Friday, April 30, 2010

Are regularly scheduled updates – for instance, eNewsletters or emails promoting events, articles, or information – a key part of your email strategy? If so, you’ll want to consider features that provide more support for an ongoing process and potentially more effective emails.

List Management Features

  • Subscriptions Management. A feature that allows readers to sign themselves up on your website – as described above - becomes even more valuable if you are providing periodic updates. A comprehensive profile and preferences management area on your website, where subscribers can update their own information, creates a real efficiency in service management.
  • Anti-Spam Measures. Periodic updates often involve a high volume of email over time, which can make it more likely that your email will be flagged as spam. Find out how each vendor handles spam complaints, and whether they have special anti-spam certification options or relationships with major ISPs. Taking extra steps, like Double-Opt in (asking subscribers to confirm their subscription via email) can also reduce deliverablity problems. Even if you don’t need these features right now, choosing a vendor that offers them may be important in the future as your list size and general spam concerns continue to grow.
  • Managing Multiple Groups/Lists. If you have several program areas or distinct audiences you might wish to offer specific updates to each group or list individually. Some email tools allow your subscribers to chose from multiple newsletters or categories when signing up and let you to manage several groups from the same administrative interface

Administration Features

  • Asset Archives and Management. A system that allows you to easily store and reuse email templates, content and images can be a major timesaver. Having to import your logo and start from scratch each issue may not be a deal breaker, but it can build up to a substantial amount of time with frequent emails.

Message Building Features

  • Template System. Templates, as described above, are critical for eNewsletters and update emails. They not only help to maintain a consistent brand and streamline the creation process, but a clear cut structure (such as sections for “In the News” or “Volunteer Highlight”) makes it easier to develop content for each issue. You might want to invest in professional assistance to create your template initially to reduce the ongoing workload of generating each issue.
  • Web Version. It is difficult to ensure that complex emails show up properly for everyone, so it is highly recommended to offer email readers a web alternative. You can manually link your emails to a version you have posted on your website, or some vendors offer tools to automatically create and link to the web-version.
  • Forward to a Friend. “Forward to a Friend” features can encourage subscribers to pass your information on. This functionality allows readers to email or refer their colleagues to a clean version of the newsletter. Simply forwarding the email through a browser typically results in some mangling of the format and links.
  • Merging Personalized Data. Features that can automatically show personalized information such as the recipient’s name or their history with your organization help your newsletter feel more personal and less like junk mail.

Testing Features

  • Spam Filter. The ability to test individual messages against the rules for standard Spam filters allows you to craft your emails so that more of them end up in your constituent’s inbox. As spam filters increase in complexity, this feature will become more and more important.

Reporting Features

  • Click-Through Tracking (CTT). Because each newsletter typically contains many links, information about which links get the most clicks provides a valuable guide for future email content and design as well as general communications.