This post covers my experiences with email newsletters and how I started using Vertical Response.

The problem: I was in a job that was producing a monthly industry newsletter. I won’t even start on how hard is was to coordinate the content from my colleagues, but I will say the way we were sending it was very expensive and wasn’t getting results. The database wasn’t automated, we had no stats on how many people were reading it and basically we didn’t even know if people were reading it. We needed to fix this problem – quickly.

Solution: After a bit of research I worked out the I needed a hosted online newsletter with a fully automated database that was cost effective and easy to use. I trialled about 7 different products online and if you have ever gone through this process you’ll soon find that there are so many companies out there providing the service you don’t know where to start.

So I came up with the following list:

  1. Ease of Use – This system would be used by many people in our organisation with varying skill levels. Ease of use was paramount.
  2. Hosted online – I didn’t want to install software on our computers so this was a must. I wanted to be able to use analytics to track the responses, list management and not jam up my own email server.
  3. Price – Some systems ranged from $50/month to $10,000 a year with different charges for list sizes, email sizes and shoes sizes (it seemed to get that bad!). We decided to go for a pay per send setup where the software is hosted online and you only pay for what you send. The more you send the Cheaper it got.
  4. Reporting – The whole point of going online was to track and report. This was a very important feature and real time reporting was a must.
  5. List maintenance – With multiple stakeholders, being able to manage who we sent which newsletter to very important. Not every communication went to every person. In total we are managing about 15 lists with over 15,000 subscribers between them.
  6. Trial Periods – You can’t beat Try before you buy – I shortlisted the top three and trialled them all for 2 weeks. The systems were verticalresponse, cooleremail and constant contact.
  7. Support – once you sign up who do you call if you have any problems and how quickly will they respond.

So after I educated myself on all of the different systems out there, I settled with Vertical Response. They provided an online, fully hosted, pay per send system that had a smart and easy to use wizard and freeform html builder with a decent list maintenance and opt-in form builder system. I sent around 20 email campaigns using this system over 6 months and it cut our costs on the first edition by $900 (no external designers or senders). So you can imagine how this changed our online communications and the frequency at which we communicate.

We now use vertical response with all of our clients to help them manage online newsletters and client communications.

Just remember now that you have an easy system that’s makes online newsletters a breeze, take a second to think about your communications strategy, where email newsletters fit in and how often you use it as a marketing tool. Don’t become a spammer!

Another resource we use to keep on top of email newsletter trends is Marketing Sherpa. Of course they have a good weekly newsletter!

Here’s a great article from Janine Popick in her VR Marketing blog on Email open rates and what they all mean:  http://blog.verticalresponse.com/verticalresponse_blog/2005/08/email_open_and_.html