Ten areas in which your email marketing service provider MUST deliver

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In an earlier post I highlighted that it is not necessarily the tool that matters, but how you use it. I subsequently received a few emails from readers asking me to expand on the original topic of my post with some rather more concrete comments.  I’ve therefore put together the following Top Ten areas that I think your email service provider must deliver:

  1. Dynamic content – the ability to tailor communications by inserting text or blocks of HTML on a recipient basis.
  2. Dynamic ‘from’ and ‘reply to’ fields – so you can ensure that the name that shows will be one that the recipient will recognise. Often this is either your brand or Sales Team contact name.
  3. Link tracking – an obvious one, but email marketing is all about deriving insight and learning what your customers and prospects want – obviously this needs to be treated in a highly responsible way.
  4. Integration with back end internal solutions - often via an API. Key if you need your CRM solution to be able to talk with your email provider.
  5. Throttling – this is the ability to control how quickly emails are sent out from the email solution. This might be important, particularly in the B2C space, as it helps you avoid being blacklisted by certain ISPs such as AOL etc. In essence this works by ensuring that hundreds or thousands of emails do not show up at the ISP gateway in one go. ISPs often regard this as a clear sign of SPAM being sent.
  6. Integrated microsite capabilities – Key particularly from a B2B perspective. The ability to build tailored and dynamic online areas as extensions of the email tool provides you with incredible flexibility and capabilities that would normally entail you spending thousands on development.
  7. Triggered communication programs - This is an exciting area where communications are triggered by the recipient:
    1. Interacting with a communication in a particular way
    2. Abandoning a site process e.g. checkout
    3. Dynamically entering a group – e.g. reminding people that their insurance renewal is due in one month’s time
    4. By them not doing anything – if they haven’t visited your site in a long time.
  8. Good analytics – Its key that you be able to see:
    • Opens (unique and total)
    • Clicks (unique and total)
    • Forwards
    • Microsite activity
    • List growth / shrinkage
    • Deliverability
    • Complaints
    • Unsubscribes
  9. Does your email provider understand your industry -  I tend to work in the B2B space delivering highly tailored messages to financial advisers throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and the US. The issue I encountered with some email providers is that they do not consider this space ‘sexy’ enough from their perspective. As they are often remunerated on the basis of email volume, some are not that interested in talking to me as my volume, by normal standards, are not that great. Of course the irony is that each and every email I send tends to be of extremely high value – As I am communicating with people who either advise or place considerable sums of money on behalf of their clients.
  10. What kind of training and support can the provider offer – Can they respond to requests for help or dealing with emergencies quickly enough. Apart from incorporating obvious SLAs into contracts I insist that my team know the email solution inside out. To explain, when my team have to phone the help desk I want it to be for a genuine reason. Many smaller knit help desks are far more likely to take you seriously if you don’t phone up with inane questions. One of the obvious upsides is that they respect what you are trying to do, particularly if you are pushing their software to its limits. In my World this can often result in you being asked for references or even provided with business leads.

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