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Email Marketing: Part 3 – Delivering the Piece de Resistance

/ Tutorials & Advice

Two sleepless nights, fifteen cans of Red Bull, three Pot Noodles and a large Yorkie bar later, you’ve built your email template, got through the entire Outhere Brothers back catalogue and lost about fourteen pounds in pure sweat. You’ve worked those chubby fingers to the bone, typing specific in-line styles and font tags and you can now code nested tables for your country in the Olympics. In the arguably timeless words of Alicia Keys “Where do we go from here?” I hear you warble rather badly into your tiny, lifeless web-cam.

You need a platform my friend. There’s no joy to be had from sending to all your recipients from your company’s email account. That’s just going to get you and all your friends in big trouble, not to mention putting your poor helpless mail server at risk of getting spam listed and all sorts of other potential repercussions. The best way to deliver an email campaign is with a dedicated system designed with delivering lots of email as a primary goal.

Uncannily like Amsterdam’s infamous red light district, there is an array of options here, all varying in price and services and you may find your boss, or a client already has a preference or requirement. Not only that, but the more back-streets (of the internet) you’re willing to explore, the more chance you’ll find a cheaper, but slightly less impressive looking “solution” (or pick up a virus).

Campaign Monitor is my personal preference, although Mail Chimp is also popular, and I see a lot of people using YMLP too. In this overview I’ll not be referring explicitly to an individual provider, since in terms of process they all differ slightly, but you should be able to apply my guidance to your provider of preference.

First things first; you need to convert your email in to the required template format. More often than not this is simply throwing in a few tags so that the provider can replace those tags with dynamic content such as unsubscribe links, or a first name. If this is a one-off email you probably won’t need to do much more, but if it’s a template to be re-used you may need to put in loops and repeaters for the stories to be added. This should be documented in excruciatingly tedious detail by your provider on their site.

Once that’s sorted you’ll need to create your campaign, and decide on things like subject lines, sender and reply-to email addresses. Your subject is your front-line and your first point of contact with all your recipients. Do not – under any circumstances – underestimate the sheer power and wizardly-might of a good subject line. If you have to deliberate it for hours or even days, then better that, than rush it and lose all your readers at the first hurdle.

So your campaign has been uploaded, your hilariously witty, and spam-free subject line has been constructed, your details are in and you’re gleefully gripping the underside of your office chair in anticipation of unleashing this beast of an email across hyperspace and beyond.

Now you’ll need to add your subscribers. This usually takes the form of a “list” of subscribers that you’ll either add, or will have been gathering through a sign-up form created by the provider for your site. The provider will no-doubt ask you to verify that any uploaded subscribers are all kosher, and aware that they will be getting email from you.

As we’re happily creeping closer and closer to hitting that enticing big shiny send button, the final end-of-level boss is waiting, and there’s no cheats for this game…

Testing. Oh the joys of testing are our last major confrontation. A spam test to check against all the filters your email might come up against as it traverses the vast plains of hyperspace (Like Tron, but way more boring) and a visual test to see how your email will hold up in different email clients. Some providers help you with this, some don’t. I’d recommend getting a few accounts at different email providers, and running your own tests. A Gmail, a Live mail, a Yahoo mail and a hosted account solution will probably suffice. You can also use services designed exclusively for this like Litmus.

At this stage of the process trial and error will become your lifelong friend and buddy (the one you secretly hate for sleeping with your ex girlfriend back in high-school). You will learn to respect Hotmail in ways you never thought existed, and you’ll find that whatever you thought was working, probably isn’t. Still once you’re through what could be described as “the Pat Sharpe’s Fun House stage” you should have yourself a fairly robust email build.

And now to send. The final stretch of this silently epic journey. The end is in sight, and it looks oh so sickly sweet. But let’s not rush things. Take it slow. It’s your first time, remember? Is this the best time to frantically mash that send button, or should you schedule this for tomorrow afternoon? Your audience will determine the best time to send as we’ve discussed (in part 2) and you should always keep your audience in mind.

Rapid entry of your payment details, and an almighty earth-shattering click on the send button and you’re away. Congratulations soldier, you’ve just joined the legions of people filling our inboxes with (fingers crossed) delightful emails that are (with any luck) relevant and actually quite enjoyable to read.

The final part of my guide will cover the “now that it’s sent” stage.

Tune in next time for Part 4: “Oh boy, what did I just do?”

This post was originally written for the QueryClick blog.

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Alex Cowles

About The Author: Alex Cowles

A largely cynical and often sarcastic designer and front-end developer by day. Unknown international DJ & music producer extraordinaire by night (and at weekends). You probably won't like him.