Best of the Banter: Managing email newsletters
by Donna Stryk, Moderator of the Online Ads Discussion List
Electronic or email-based newsletters allow companies to stay in front of their customers. These newsletters can range from product updates to industry news, but the key is to keep your name in the mind of your audience. In order to take advantage of this powerful medium, you have to have the right tools. On February 16th, Mike Driehorst told the members of Online Ads that he asked the recipients of his print newsletter if they would prefer an email version. He said, "For those that reply yes, what are some listserv programs that we should check out?"
The first step in deciding which solution will work best for your company is to understand what your needs actually are. Do you need someone to help you manage all aspects of the list including administration or do you only need help merging and distributing the email? Are you prepared to spend money on a solution or is the list small enough that it isn't economically feasible to do so? Based on questions such as these there are several routes you can take to implementing and electronic newsletter.
One option would be to outsource all of the management and administration. Jim Reardon mentioned a site that compiled a list of third party list hosts that could handle the project. It can be found at http://www.freecenter.com/maillist.html. Another member, Antonio Romero, recommended ListBot. He said it "lets you run a listserv-type system without any additional software."
The other option is to acquire software and manage the list internally. Mark Brownlow provided some useful links to lists of the various types of email newsletter solutions. These links were part of an article that he recommended, which can be found at http://Ezine-Tips.com/articles/management/
06221999.html. They include compilations fee-based hosting solutions, in-house software solutions, and free list hosting solutions.
Jim Reardon said that two of the largest listervs are Majordomo and Lyris. According to Reardon, Majordomo can be slightly complex, but it is very well priced at exactly $0. Lyris, on the other hand, is a little pricey, but Reardon claims "has a lot nicer set of features." I agree completely with his statements. Many of our members might remember when we changed over from Majordomo to Lyris back in August. The web interface provided by Lyris makes changing list settings and moderating messages intuitive and efficient. This was a welcome change from the cumbersome email process used by Majordomo. Stuart Hochwert pointed out that there is a free version of Lyris available, which is advertiser supported.
Here are some other recommendations from members of Online Ads.
Antonio Romero has had a good experience with Mustang Software's Listcaster, which he said could handle the list, but lacks some of the special features that Majordomo and Lyris have.
Lisa Melvin explained that World Merge was a "free downloadable program which utilizes Microsoft Excel files and allows for personalized email messages." She also mentioned Post Cast, which she described as, "a database solution with unlimited personalized merging possibilities, auto responders, scheduling, and auto additions and removals." Two others that Melvin recommended were Mail King and Unity Mail.
Philip Mak asked the list members to check out MailLoop. He described the software as, "the complete Internet email, newsletter server, web form processor, bulk email, customer database, and auto responder solution all integrated into an easy-to-use single application."
Finally, Alex Harmon listed the eight programs recently reviewed in PC Magazine. They were eGroups, EnvoyMail, ListPlex, Microsoft bCentral's ListBot, PostMaster General, SparkList, Topica, and UnityMail Express. He said, "Most programs offer a trial promotion or at the very least a minimal start up cost."
So, what's the verdict? Research. The big idea to take away from the discussion is that there are several different types of solutions you can implement. The first is to outsource all of the administration. The second is to acquire free software to help you manage the list in-house. And finally, you can pay for software with extensive list management capabilities. Obviously, there are too many different software and hosting solutions to name them all here. The goal was to give you a good starting point for researching which one might be right for your company.
Many of the members gave more details on the solutions they recommended and there may even be a few that were left out. To read everything that they had to say on the topic, go to http://www.adbanter.com/wordsearch/listmgmt.shtml. .
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