Web & communication software

Email Campaign Services Can Save Versus In-House Costs

You could spend a lot of time creating email newsletters and promotions, only to take even longer trying to manage lists and send everything out. Forget trying to send to Outlook groups; spend a little extra, and go with an email campaign service. You'll make up the difference in your labor costs and valuable tracking results that can hone your next mailing.

Emma email marketing service handles almost everything except your specific message content. The company designs an email template based on your preferences, website, and logo. So for future mailings, you can just change the text for a new message.

Emma imports your contact list as an Excel spreadsheet file. Even better, the service cleans up bounced addresses and duplicates automatically, saving you time from culling the database. Additional features can target recipients based on their geographical location or alert you if your message seems likely to trigger spam filters.

And after you send messages, tracking tools can return helpful information. How many people opened your email? Which links--and placement--were the most clicked? How many people forwarded the note to a friend? In all of these cases except the final one, you can see the specific people who responded. Plus, Emma stores these details so that you can compare results from different campaigns.

All of that automated tracking magic comes with a few caveats, however. Like other services that return similar information, Emma relies on HTML messages to report reader feedback. If recipients have turned off automatic HTML image downloading--something I recommend for simplicity and security--Emma doesn't know if they opened the email to read the plain-text instead. Plus, the forward-tracking feature relies on an internal link; Emma doesn't know if someone manually clicked Forward in Outlook.

A 2007 MarketingSherpa study said that people block HTML images in email 59% of the time. So you'll miss actual data from the majority of results, but you could still roughly extrapolate from that 41%.

Those issues aside, Emma's per-campaign pricing could save in overall labor costs versus trying to run your own mailings. An initial fee of $99 to $399 includes your customized template design. (This price varies with your business size and needs.) Plus Emma charges for each mail, starting at $30 for 1,000 messages a month. Costs go down in bulk, such as $70 for 5,000 message or $210 for 25,000.

By paying for services that are outside of your expertise, your businesses could end up saving money in labor and hassle. Do you have a team of designers and marketers in-house? If not, an email campaign service could help your smaller business compete on a bigger level.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

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