16 DEC 2010 1
The debate over the use of an Email Service Provider versus in-house mailing will probably never end. Much like the heated Operating System War, where both Windows and Unix users boast the advantages of their favorite OS, each direct email marketer will tell you that his favorite choice of delivering email is the right one. This article will outline some of the top reasons why you would use an ESP to deliver your emails and, in a future article, I will talk about the advantages of running your own email servers.
Most Email Service Providers will offer low cost entry packages for small businesses. They have introductory offers even for beginners who are just “testing waters” to see if direct mailing is for them. On the other hand, we have the risk of mailing your couple of hundreds of customers from your @yahoo.com email address—either purposefully or not, some recipients will report you for spam. If you are unlucky enough to have a high complaint rate your account will be disabled and, if things get escalated, the webmail provider might even report you to your ISP. Don’t think huge numbers in terms of high complaint rates, three or four complaints per hundred recipients can be enough to get blacklisted. It can get even worse if you are using a @your-domain.com email—your hosting provider can shut your site down.
The important question to ask yourself is this: Are all these risks worth the few bucks you are going to save?
The more you know about the outcomes of your campaign, the better you can tweak future emails. ESPs provide you with seamless reports and figures your webmail or desktop client could only dream of. Good luck getting your @Gmail.com account or your Outlook to show you results like the number of emails that arrived in the spam box, the number of invalid or bouncing addresses or the number of people who opened your message. You could at most set up third party tracking services to monitor the click-through rates and use Excel sheets to split-test your campaigns—but why bother when you can pay a few extra dollars and have all reports delivered to you?
The HTML-rich email you build in your desktop email client will not look the same across all platforms. Web mail users, for example, have the images turned off by default. Your messages may appear garbled and impossible to read—this is where the ESP interface comes in handy. You can use a series of pre-defined templates that will look the same to all your recipients and provide an alternative, text-only version of each message for users who read their email from mobile devices or have chosen only to receive text emails.
All in all, an Email Service Provider is to email what the postman is to snail mail. If you wouldn’t deliver a letter across the country on your own and use a specialized service, why would you try to send out bulk emails?