My neighbor Jerry came by the house last Sunday, to help me build a makeshift ice skating rink in our front yard.
OK, that’s not exactly true. Saying that Jerry came by the house to help me build a skating rink, is like saying that Moses came by the encampment to help me part the Red Sea. Although I was in fact present at the scene of the miracle, my role was clearly that of assistant.
As I quickly discovered, one of the key distinctions between my approach to construction and Jerry’s (disregarding for the moment his superior experience, intelligence and hand eye coordination) was power tools. He had them; I didn’t.
When Jerry arrived that morning, I was standing in the garage, doing my best to manually cut up a pair of 10 foot long 2x10s (or 5.1×25.4s for those of you on the metric system). I needed 20 one foot pieces of wood to serve as braces for the rink. It was a long, slow process, and the fact that the wood was partially frozen made it all the harder. I was on piece number two when Jerry showed up, considerately stifling a laugh.
He grabbed his power saw, plugged it in and stepped up to the workbench. Zip, zip, zip; all the cutting was done in about 15 minutes. It would have been finished even faster if he had not accidentally sliced through the power cord along the way (hey, even Moses drops a stone tablet now and then).
The point is, the right tool can make any job faster and easier.
Which is why I am continually amazed by the number of companies that are still “manually” sending out their monthly E-Newsletters. What I mean is that instead of signing on with any one of the dozens of email marketing vendors out there offering reliable, secure, easy to use and unbelievably inexpensive services, they are using some kind of jerry-rigged (no pun intended; my neighbor’s name really is Jerry), home made system for maintaining lists, tracking response rates and publishing newsletters.
There are many arguments in favor of outsourcing this function, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the least debatable aspects of what constitutes effective E-Newsletter marketing. With that in mind, I offer you four reasons for handing the logistics off to somebody else:
1. Time Savings. Once you get set up with an email marketing vendor, you’ll be relieved of most of the grunt work inherent in managing an E-Newsletter publishing machine. Readers add or take themselves off your list; welcome letters are sent automatically upon sign up; newsletters are delivered at predetermined times. All without you doing a thing, or frankly, even being in the office.
2. Tracking. Most home grown systems provide no tracking data. That means you don’t know such critical things as how many emails were opened; which links were clicked on; or how many emails were forwarded on to others, much less which readers did what. When you sign up with a quality vendor, they give you all this stuff as part of the package.
3. Deliverability. As you well know, it’s getting harder and harder for legitimate emails (i.e. yours and mine) to get through to their intended recipients. Much of this is the result of Internet Service Providers (e.g. AOL, Earthlink, etc.) and corporate IT departments making determinations regarding who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy.” Good guy emails get in; bad guy emails don’t.
It’s somewhat arbitrary, and anything but scientific, but if AOL for example, decides tomorrow that you’re a spammer and blocks all your emails, good luck convincing them otherwise. As they used to say in those early 70’s anti-drug commercials about traveling abroad, “If you get busted over there, you’re in for the hassle of your life.”
When you sign up with a vendor on the other hand, they have people working full time who do nothing but maintain relationships with these large organizations. If there’s a problem with deliverability, they’ll be on it before you even know about it, leaving you completely out of this nightmare.
4. Cost. Sure, you say, but how much does all this wonderful stuff cost? Good question. How does $10 per thousand names per month grab you? It varies by vendor, but that’s the ballpark. That means that if your list has 2500 names on it, it will set you back a whopping $25 a month. Slightly less than the cost of one ice skating lesson at Rockefeller Center.
When it comes to E-Newsletters, it’s the words, not the delivery system that your readers care about. Focus your energy on writing useful, interesting, authentic content for the audience you’ve pinpointed, and leave the logistics to the people who do it for a living. And the best news of all? There’s no power cord to worry about.