Sue Fidler on choosing the right system for sending mass emails to supporters.
Email might just be the revolution that finally delivers the direct marketing dream. You can personalise it, have any design and segment the lists to the nth degree - and all for a penny.
Well, that's the potential. As with all new technology, we in the charity sector first have to work out how to use it. Many charities have started sending emails to their supporters using their in-house email systems, such as Outlook or Lotus. These are great at what they do, but they weren't designed for mass broadcast - using these rather than a proper broadcast tool is like spending your budget on a glossy agency appeal and then sending it by carrier pigeon.
Problems with your PC
PC-based email systems have limited design capabilities and no address book manager, and they have no way of managing email bounces and unsubscribes - this will make life hard when you email 20,000 donors.
When you send an email from your PC, you are sending it down the internet from your office's internet provider address. This is not recognised by AOL, gmail or hotmail, so when they get 5,000 emails from you they assume it is spam and bounce the lot - and blackball your IP address for good.
An email broadcast tool provides all you need to send well-designed emails.
It should have a template manager, an HTML editor and an address book manager. It should handle your bounces and unsubscribes, stopping you from breaching the Data Protection Act. Most importantly, it should be an ASP system provided by an email broadcasting firm registered with the main web-based email providers. These tools shouldn't cost you more then £500 to set up and 1p an email. You won't get bounced as spam, and the direct marketing dream can come a step closer.
- Sue Fidler is director of communications and solutions at the Charity Technology Trust.