In the last post on creating an effective e-newsletter, we discussed the basic do’s and don’t’s of creating an e-newsletter, as well as some ideas for topics. This post will focus on how to actually send out your e-newsletter, as well as some aspects of the CAN-SPAM Act you should be aware of, and some final tips for success.
When you send an email, the recipient’s mail host checks your message to determine if it is spam. Guidelines for how these determinations are made vary by provider, but most use a type of ranking system. They look at several factors to “score” the message and determine its probability of being spam.
Following are some general guidelines you can follow to improve deliverability.
- Avoid using words in the subject line or body of your messages that are commonly used by spammers. Words like “Free,” “Credit,” “Guaranteed,” “Sex,” and many others favored by spammers can increase your spam score, especially if there are other elements in the message that also trigger the filters.
- Using ALL CAPS or excessive punctuation (!!!) in the subject line can affect your score.
- A blank “To” field (undisclosed recipients) can trigger spam filters.
- A message that is addressed to dozens of recipients in the “To” field will also hurt your score. Messages should be sent to each recipient individually, which can be accomplished with a professional email marketing service.
Many of the commercial email programs provide tools that allow you to test the spam score for your email messages and alert you to problem areas. When shopping for providers, this is a good feature to look for.
E-Newsletter Service Providers
Sending a newsletter via email becomes challenging as your list grows larger. If you are using an email program such as Microsoft Outlook or AOL mail, the system will likely choke when you attempt to send a message out to several dozen recipients. Spam filters on the recipients’ end may also block a large broadcast from being received by subscribers.
Once your list exceeds several dozen subscribers, it’s time to invest in a newsletter management system. There are numerous providers to choose from and it costs just pennies per subscriber to manage your email marketing campaigns. Some are even free up to 500 subscribers.
Providers also offer templates for newsletter design and the ability to set up auto-responders. Auto-responders are used to automate your responses to email or proactively send messages to people on your list. Service providers will also make it easy for you to manage your contact list and will provide HTML code so you can easily add a sign-up box on your website. Here are some popular options:
- Constant Contact: constantcontact.com
- iContact: icontact.com
- Aweber: aweber.com
- Mail Chimp: mailchimp.com
What You Need to Know About the CAN-SPAM Act
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for the CAN-SPAM Act, which includes guidelines for commercial email senders and imposes penalties on those who send messages categorized as spam. To comply with this act, commercial email must adhere to several rules:
- The “From” and “To” addresses in an email must clearly identify the sender and recipient.
- The subject line of the message must not be misleading. It should clearly explain what the message is about.
- All messages must include a way for recipients to opt out of your mailing list. (Once someone opts out, you have 10 days to remove that person from your list.)
- A valid physical postal address must be included.
In addition to the above rules, commercial email senders cannot harvest email addresses. Unlike direct mail where you can purchase mailing lists, it is illegal to purchase a list of email addresses. Instead, you must build your own list from your customer base by allowing recipients to opt in to your mailing list.
Fines are steep for violating this act—up to $11,000—so it is critical to follow guidelines. For additional details, visit the FTC website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm
Tips for E-Newsletter Success
- Encourage new subscribers by making it easy to sign up from every page on your website, and offer some incentive for signing up such as a bonus report, coupon, or recording.
- Collect newsletter sign-ups from new clients. Make it a practice to ask them if they would like to receive special offers from you via email.
- Figure out what your subscribers want to know and earn their loyalty by delivering valuable content.
- Never send unsolicited email. Spammers are running rampant in cyberspace and the quickest way to lose customers is to send unsolicited messages. Make sure you get permission from each person on your mailing list.
- Beware of spam filters. The algorithms are changing so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep up, but there are certain words that can stop your messages from getting through. Avoid using words like “Free,” “Sex,” and “Money.”
- Insert a note encouraging subscribers to “Share this newsletter with a friend.”
- To comply with current regulations, you should include a link or instructions for customers to unsubscribe to your newsletter. You shouldn’t receive many unsubscribe requests if your content is perceived as valuable.
- Remember to include your contact information and website URL in all of your correspondence with customers.
- Send promotional announcements sparingly.
- Monitor your open rates carefully and pay close attention to your unsubscribe rates and feedback from readers. Email marketing should be closely monitored to best serve your subscribers.
- Use compelling subject lines. You want to entice readers to open your message without being misleading about what is inside. Write compelling copy that makes the recipient want to keep reading.
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