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What to Look for in an Email Services Provider (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, I wrote about the pre-deployment tasks that an email services provider (ESP) should include when you outsource your email marketing effort. This week, I'll cover what happens when the campaign goes live.

And now, we hit the send button….

Then Monitor, Answer, Handle

Once you hit the "send" button, there's not much you can do if you find a mistake. However, just because the mailing has been sent doesn't mean the job is finished. Far from it!

  • Monitor deployment. Your ESP should watch the progress of your mailing, verifying before the scheduled send time that the mail is in the queue for deployment. Once the deployment begins, progress should be monitored. You don't want to find out at 6 p.m. that a mailing scheduled for 10 a.m. has yet to leave the server.

  • Answer "challenge" messages. With the advent of "challenge-response" solutions, a meaningful percentage of your mail will go undelivered (some say as much as 10%) unless someone handles these responses very soon after the mailing goes out. Your ESP should offer this service.

  • Handle responses. Your email will generate some automatic as well as manual replies. These replies will vary in content—from "I'm out of the office" to "Please remove me from your list" to "Have a sales rep call me" to "Die, spammer, die!"

Your ESP should have an established protocol for handling response management so that you see only those replies that require your direct involvement.


When the Dust Has Settled

When the mail has been sent and most of the responses have been generated, it's time to for post-deployment reporting and analysis.

You'll look to your ESP to give you basic metrics such as deliverability, open, click-through, unsubscribe, and possibly even conversion rates. If you're stopping your review at these one-time numbers, however, you're not getting a complete picture:

  • Look at the trends. More important than the individual campaign's results are the trends. Are open and click-through rates holding steady? Decreasing? If dropping off, you need to scratch beneath the surface and try to figure out why, and your ESP should facilitate that effort. The same goes for bounce rates and unsubscribe rates.

  • Lessons learned. With each campaign, try to learn at least one or two lessons that you can take with you on the next effort. Did you do any subject line testing? What were the results? Which article generated the highest click-through on your newsletter? Your ESP should provide you with this feedback and come up with ideas to make your next deployment even more successful.

  • Domain analysis. Your ESP should look at the top 10 or 20 domains to which you send mail, ensuring that your mail is being delivered. Also, less popular domains that might represent important customers should be reviewed. You do not want to find out six months after the fact that mail to one of your biggest customers has been blocked.

  • Filter resolution. If not all of your mail is getting through, it is the ESP's job to work diligently on clearing the matter up. Many corporate email system administrators are receptive to brief, personalized, truthful explanations as to why incoming mail should not be blocked.

  • List maintenance. Finally, as part of the care and feeding of your email list, your ESP should provide you not only with an unsubscribe file but also with ideas about how to build up your list by obtaining accurate information for names where inaccurate information currently exists.

Although there's little you can do to win back an unsubscribe request, there will come a time when you should visit your bounce file and see what data can be reclaimed.

* * *

As you can see, there's a lot more to setting up, testing, and deploying an email campaign than uploading a couple of files and hitting the "send" button.

Keep in mind, also, that some ESPs do even more than what I've outlined, and others do less. I've seen pricing for this service as low as $55 and as high as $1,000-plus, so it's safe to say there is a wide range of services and capabilities.

Choose wisely!


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Paul Broni is EVP/client services director of Inbox Interactive (www.inboxinteractive.com), a full-service email marketing company. Reach him at paul@inboxinteractive.com.

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