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Dec 04, 2002
How To

Top 16 Mistakes You Probably Made When You Chose Your List Host or Email Broadcast Service

SUMMARY: Ok, you probably did not make all 16 mistakes. We bet you made at least one of them. Find out which one, and how you might be able to fix it.
An estimated 85% of marketers and publishers have made at least one of the mistakes listed below when they picked a vendor to send out their email campaigns or email newsletters. (In fact, these mistakes are so common that I have even made some of them.)

Which have you made?

Mistake #1.
Using a vendor that allows any clients who use opt-out lists. In broadcast email you really are judged by the company you keep. If another client of your vendor is spamming a list (and your message goes out two hours later) and the spammer managed to upset enough people to get blacklisted by the major blacklists or to get the vendorís IP address blocked by AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Earthlink, then expect your bounce rate to exceed 50%.

Getting blacklisted or blocked is very easy but undoing the damage can take days or even weeks.

Mistake #2.
Shopping by price alone. When a vendor first quotes you a few cents per name, it sounds like a good deal. Then when you calculate how much that comes out to per week or per month, you may find that email marketing is not as inexpensive as you first thought.

Mistake #3.
Using a vendor for email because it is included with your Web site hosting account.

Mistake #4.
Trusting a vendor without a privacy policy and a spam-response staff. Should the vendorís IP get blacklisted, who will be responsible for following up with each blacklist and getting the block cleared? Will there be any relationships in place to accelerate the process? If they can not get their IP off the blacklists, then you are dead in the water.

Mistake #5.
Using a reseller who does not even send the mail without closely investigating who actually does send the mail. Just because the reseller is squeaky clean does not mean the vendor is.

Mistake #6.
Allowing your list to be held by the vendor without the ability (or foresight) to get a regular back-up copy for yourself. What if your vendor is down or blocked when you have a major launch planned? Make sure you have a very recent backup of every list so that you can set up shop somewhere else for a one-time mailing.

I have actually had to do this. It is ugly, but sometimes there is no alternative.

Mistake #7.
Picking a vendor who can not easily unsubscribe a name within 24 hours or less. Nothing smells like spam to a subscriber as much as a list owner who says, "you will be unsubscribed within a week," or something like that. Unsubscribe requests should be close to instantaneous.

Mistake #8.
Thinking you can bring email distribution in-house (to avoid vendor hassles or save money) without hiring the technical staff, privacy officers, and spam officers and without building relationships with all the ISPs, email services, and blacklist owners.

Mistake #9.
Assuming that because the list host has a big name, it must be fine and white listed everywhere. We have empirical evidence that even the biggest names are occasionally blocked at AOL and Earthlink, and even the most prestigious brands sometimes get filtered into junk mail by Yahoo and Hotmail. Assume nothing.

Mistake #10.
Assuming that faster is better when it comes to sending email.

Yahoo will institute a temporary block on your sending IP address (for 90 minutes) if you attempt to send them mail too rapidly. Worse, some backbone providers will block your IP address entirely (to all their downstream customers) if you are sending too rapidly, because it looks like a denial-of-service attack to them!

Mistake #11.
Getting talked into letting the plain-text version of your campaign or newsletter be generated automatically from your HTML version by the vendorís software. Make sure you enter and format the plain text version yourself (or it will be awfully ugly).

Mistake #12.
Getting talked into using fancier formats than you need. For example, HTML when text would be a superior option for your list/subscribers/message or rich media when HTML would do.

Mistake #13.
Not checking delivery reports beforehand to make sure you get the level of detail you need from them.

Mistake #14.
Only making one attempt to send your campaign or newsletter issue. Because not all servers are responding at any given time, you can often turn a 6% undeliverable rate on the first attempt into a 2% undeliverable rate by the fourth attempt.

Mistake #15.
Selecting a vendor who does not have support available during regular business hours in your time zone. Make sure you get guaranteed immediate response by email or phone. While you are at it, also make sure they do not do routine maintenance during your time zoneís workweek.

Mistake #16.
Assuming that your vendor will implement best practices for security. Make sure your RFP includes your security criteria. Insist on a firewall on the email server that is not also protecting (and exposing) the network for other applications.

How embarrassing or expensive would it be for you to have your list stolen? (It has happened to more list owners than you think.)
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