Email Marketing For Your Small Business - Selecting The Right Server

There are many different methods for promoting your business online, but one of the most effective is still the email campaign.

Weighing Your Options

For emails, you have three choices of software, each with distinct benefits and drawbacks. You can install software on your desktop and be your own server. You can install software on the web server you're using. Or you can join an ASP hosted service.

The most obvious benefit of a hosted server is that getting your emails delivered is your host's concern. Says Dr. Ralph Wilson, of Wilson Internet Services, "With desktop or web server software, basically you're responsible to get them delivered… Whereas if you're paying someone else for that service, it's their job, and many of them take it very seriously." A hosted server starts with a monthly fee for 500 or 1,000 emails and the price builds as your email database grows.

With desktop server software, the biggest advantage is the price. You can pay a one-time fee for a desktop server and run it forever. Leasing a web server is also fairly inexpensive.

Beating the Blockers

If you use desktop or server based software, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help your emails make it to your customers' inboxes.

1. Avoid signs of spam. There are specific characteristics that trigger spam filters. You can increase your deliverability by avoiding certain pitfalls in your subject lines:

• Don't use all caps.
• Don't use HTML messages that are primarily graphics.
• Don't try to trick filters by replacing letters with asterisks or breaking words up with punctuation marks. Filters are getting smarter, and you could end up on a black list.
• Don't use sloppy HTML.
• Don't use large or small fonts. Stick with H1, H2, or H3 heading tags.

2. Consider sender certification

Bonded sender companies as http://Habeas.com and http://BondedSender.com have relationships with internet service providers. Legitimate businesses can go through these companies to get safe passage past spam filters. There's a cost for this service, but it's an effective way to ensure your emails are getting delivered.

What to Look for in a Hosted Server

If you choose to use a hosted service, there are a number of things you should ask before joining:

• What precautions do they take to prevent spammers from enrolling? A good host company will have measures in place, such as confirmed opt-in, to make sure that they're not allowing spammers to join.

• Do they offer conversion tracking? Similar to an ad tracking program, many hosted servers now let you see how many of your e-mail recipients clicked through to your site, how many click-throughs resulted in sales, and how much money you made from your campaign.

• What kind of customer service do they provide? You can often tell the answer to that question simply by how long it takes them to respond to your inquiries. Ask if they offer full phone support and if they charge extra for the service.

However you choose to promote your business, don't overlook the power of email marketing to increase your customer base and improve your sales volume.

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