For the past few months, we’ve been working on a project to test some boundaries of promotional email marketing. We have access to large lists of email names, largely from associations and groups where we have excellent relationships. However, if you have ever used the well-regarded general email management systems such as mailchimp.com and constantcontact.com, you know you cannot use these services for this type of data.
The reason: Without direct and explicit permission from the person whose name is on the general list, you run the risk of being accused of sending spam. The mass-market email services know that if their mailings receive too many spam complaints, they will experience blacklists. In fact, these blacklist problems would exist, as well, if, say, we set up our own email server and sent out the emails directly from one of our own domains.
So, should we give up?
Business is largely about risk and reward, and managing our reputation and expectations. If we receive warnings not to do something (by the policies of constantcontact.com and mailchimp.com) and because we know that your reputation can be ruined if you are even remotely associated with spam-type activities, should we just say “okay, enough is enough” and move on to our next project?
In fact, I grappled with these issues for some time before making the decision to give the idea of a broadcast email work-around a test. In the end, I decided that if what we were broadcasting is not spam — if it is notifications of useful editorial content, public service, and other worthy information — then the objective of seeking a work-around to the email service blocking rules may be worth testing.
However, we still had a problem: If we tried to set up such a system on our own server, using our primary domains, if something happened to go wrong, would our email accounts experience permanent (or at least medium-term) blacklisting, disrupting our overall operations?
Accordingly, we decided to contract the work out. The cost of setting up the system: About $700, plus a monthly maintenance fee. We are registering a special domain not associated with any of our existing domain name servers, and designing the service to operate so that it cannot directly link to our existing accounts.
I will carefully control what emails are sent through this system, to ensure that the content is relevant, useful and not “spam”.
Fair enough. However, to give you some ideas of the hurdles involved in this initiative, we decided to move forward with the project about four months ago. Delays at our end, and now our contractors, are slowing things down. A simple initiative is turning into a rather more complex challenge. Because the project is not urgent, we aren’t too concerned about the time-lines.
I’ll let you know how it works after we complete the testing.
Have you experienced success/problems with email marketing? Please feel free to share your comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.