How to choose a mailing list provider and what to avoid

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A few weeks ago, I published an article titled Mailing List Management: Start With The Beginning, which explained that choosing an email marketing service shouldn’t be the first step in building one. your list.

A reader texted me this week and told me that she had done her background work based on this article and was now ready to choose her mailing list provider. This week’s article will therefore help you make this important decision for your business.

Avoid the low cost mindset

Besides the freedom of time and place, the biggest advantage of starting an online business is the lack of required start-up capital. But it can lead some entrepreneurs to adopt a low cost mindset, which can cause you to lose sight of the big picture.

While it’s possible to start a business without spending any money at all, it’s really not a good idea. This free hosting account will definitely have some downtime issues (not to mention the ads it will show to your visitors). Free word processors will have compatibility issues with other more common solutions. Free WordPress themes and plugins can have support issues.

So while seed is a good thing, making business decisions based purely on cost is not. And nowhere is this more true than when it comes to choosing a mailing list manager.

Common issues with low cost mailing list services

  1. Deliverability issues. The biggest issue I see with low cost providers, including the ones you install and manage yourself, is deliverability. Popular email services like Yahoo, Gmail, and others vigorously defend their users’ accounts against spam and often mark your legitimate email as spam, simply based on the IP address it originated from.

The big mailing list providers have the resources to tackle these fake spam reports and keep their deliverability rates high. This is what their users pay. But when you choose a free or low-cost provider (or run your own server), that may not happen. Over time, you will see your deliverability rates drop.

  1. Limited functionality. Deliverability aside, many low-cost vendors can afford to charge lower rates because they limit functionality. For example, you might only be able to collect 500 addresses, or you might only be able to send a few emails each month. Worse yet, you may not be able to segment your list or automate your emails.

Before making the choice to use a low cost or free email provider, make sure you understand the account limits. While some concessions may be right for you, others could seriously hamper your business start-up efforts.

  1. Future growth. Finally, keep in mind that switching providers later (when you’re “ready”) can be a huge undertaking. You’ll have multiple landing pages and signup forms to edit, logins with your cart, a webinar host, social media accounts, and countless other integrations to manage. And you’ll have a list of names to import to your new provider, many of which will either be disabled or undeliverable to your new host.

Rather than going through all of this trouble, the best option is to pick the right provider up front, and if cost is an issue, create a plan to cover the expenses instead of settling for bad service.

What you should look for in a mailing list provider.

The best list management services are affordable and don’t require extensive technical know-how. They also offer a variety of features to help you target specific demographics and bypass spam filters, which can improve the efficiency of your emails.

The minimum features you should look for are:

  • Availability of automatic responders. You will use them throughout your business to communicate with clients and / or program participants.
  • Triggered responses. For example, schedule a follow-up email based on a certain date or based on a reader action.
  • Responsive models. This allows your email to appear correctly on any device your reader uses, from desktop to mobile phone.
  • Several registration forms. Beware of any service that only allows you to have one registration form. You will need several lists beyond a basic interest list.
  • Price flexibility. You need to be able to scale up plans to include more contacts and emails as your business grows.

There are many plans on the market today and it is a very individual choice. While you can ask your coworkers what they use, keep in mind that their needs may be different from yours.