Managing an email database
Most people start off using their personal email program like Outlook or Gmail. This is fine when your list is small, but as it grows – and as you move to a permission-based system – you really need to use one of the many programs and services designed for the job.
An email list management program or service takes care of two big jobs.
#1 Create professional emails and sign-up forms
In the old days, just a few years ago, you had to hire a web designer to produce a credible-looking email and sign-up pages for your email list. Now, even novices can do professional-grade email direct marketing.
Templates and email design tools
The leading email service providers (see below) provide user-friendly online tools to help you produce good-looking and well-organized emails. While a professional designer can be useful, it’s no longer necessary.
An important point to note is that their templates are also pretested to make sure they’ll look good and work in a wide range of email programs. This can have a material effect on the response to your campaigns.
Online sign-up facilities
Another important area that used to require a web designer’s help was creating sign-up forms so that prospects and customers can actually join your list. Once again, this job is handled by list management services. And they’ve recently extended this to m
ake it easy to get social media users to sign up for your email lists.
#2 Take care of the list management and sending of bulk emails
As your lists grow, so do the problems of managing contact details and sending bulk emails. While Gmail or Outlook can be OK
for a few tens or hundreds of names, you really need some professional help when your list outgrows this size. Here are some of the jobs that a list management service will do for you.
- Handle list opt-in and double opt-in
- Manage bounces. These are email addresses that no longer work and bounce back.
- Manage unsubscribes and changes. It’s essential that you make it easy for subscribers to remove themselves from mailing lists, a process that these programs automate.
- Manage multiple lists. You might want separate lists for different products, offers and interests.
- Deliver bulk emails. Your personal email system will grind to a halt if you send a lot of emails. You might also be stopped: most personal email programs have low limits on the number of emails that can be sent at one time.
- Provide auto-responders. This handy service lets you respond with automated emails to do routine tasks such as acknowledging requests or delivering standard instructions.
Email list management services
The easiest option for most people is to use a hosted email list management service. ‘Hosted’ means it’s on the internet and there’s no software to install. Your email database also resides on the internet so it’s secure and backed up, though you can download it to use in other programs or as an extra backup.
Next we’ll cover some suggestions for getting started with building your own list.
Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.