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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Comparing Email Newsletter Services - YOU Decide

If you're looking for a service to provide email newsletters to your readers, here are 3 comparisons for Constant Contact, Vertical Response and MailChimp. I've used all of them.

I've found different uses for each. I have since dropped Constant Contact, and now I continue to use both Vertical Response and MailChimp.

Each service has customer support, but I feel that Constant Contact does this best. They all provide email templates, but allow you to customize your email brand to your personal look. You can include photos, videos and social media links to all of them. Unfortunately, Vertical Response's video service is a little lacking. Whenever I send an email with a video, the option is there, it looks great in my work space and preview, but does not always follow through on the delivery. Some of my subscribers have replied that they couldn't view the video in my email. I started including a link to my YouTube channel, but it just doesn't have the same effect. If I send an email with video, I prefer Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.
The rest of your decision will come down to pricing and personal tastes. Additionally, all 3 provide ways to upload, download, and convert your existing database, website coding that allows people to subscribe to your email newsletter, and spam filters to make sure fewer of your emails land in people's spam folders.
(You can click on the images below to get a better view of the charts.)

Constant Contact
This is one of the most popular services, but it is also one of the most expensive. They require a monthly fee whether or not you use their service each month. I send out a quarterly newsletter and cannot see the benefit in paying a fee for the months I'm not using their service. This is the main reason I decided to stop using them. Their prices are tiered, depending on how many contacts you have. The more you have, the more expensive it gets.

For these expensive prices, you get great customer support by phone, by email, and they hold free workshops in several places. I attended one of their workshops in Charlotte and learned some interesting things. They have more templates to choose from than the other two services, but they limit your photo usage to 5 photos. You have to pay more if you want to insert more photos. This is a problem if you want to archive your newsletters and make them available online. If you swap out your photos, it will leave a white box with a tiny red X in place of the now missing photo. This is the 2nd reason why I stopped using them and why I call them expensive. They provide excellent reporting as to how many emails bounced, were opened, unsubscribes, new subscribers, links clicked on, and other detailed analytic info you might find helpful. 

Vertical Response  
This is the one I use most often since I only produce quarterly newsletters and they allow you to pay as you go. They also provide a monthly service fee that is conveniently priced a couple of dollars less than Constant Contact. There isn't a limit of 5 photos. I've been allowed to used as many photos as I wanted without having to pay extra. However, unlike Constant Contact, I have run into a problem with reaching a limited number of words in my email and was forced to scale back. I haven't had this problem recently, so they might have fixed it. They have a good number of templates to choose from.

This is a great plan to get started with until you build up a large subscriber base. Why? Because it is free. They call it the Forever Free Plan. For up to 2,000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails each month. Few of us send out that many emails. We would drive people nuts! You do miss out on a few perks and they list them on the site, but for the most part, you get most of everything you need.

While I use Vertical Response for my quarterly newsletters, I use MailChimp to send out emails to Influencers and small lists for specific things. This list is much shorter and it is less than quarterly, since I only send it out when I have a book release. This way Influencers get a chance to see the book cover, a video book trailer if it is available, and all the visual details. And it's free!

If you want more of the bells and whistles through MailChimp, below is their pricing fee for Pay As You Go service, as well as a monthly service. When you compare the number of emails and subscribers vs Vertical Response, the latter is less expensive, but you may have to deal with the video issue. Although I'm hoping this will soon be fixed.

The left side is Monthly Fees. The Right side are Pay As You Go Fees

Have you used any of these services? If so, what are your thoughts. What other services have you tried? Please share your experiences for the benefit of others. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why You Still Need to Provide Email Newsletters

You may be wondering why you need to bother with a separate newsletter if you're already actively promoting yourself through blogging and social media. One of the main reasons is because it provides the best channel for direct access and target marketing.

On social media platforms, your news posts and tweets roll on and off people's newsfeeds before they have a chance to see some of your news and announcements. Additionally, they have the option to turn off notifications of your posts even if they follow you--and many of them exercise this right. You can't send all of your followers a direct message or it will be considered spam, and doing this could get your account suspended. Additionally, social media platforms are forcing people to pay for accessing the very social media platforms they've built on those sites through ads. As social media sites grow and paid advertising is dominated by the people who have the most money, once again small businesses--such as authors--will be lost in the mire of chaos and confusion.

People use social media in varying ways. Some hop on and check it several times a day, while others once a day, and some may go several days between logging on. Just because you have a number of friends and likes doesn't mean they are interested in YOU and what you have to offer, instead many are hoping you are interested in THEM and what they have to offer. Others are looking for friends, but they may not have an interest in what you do or want you marketing books to them.

Providing a newsletter, whether monthly or quarterly, gives you tangible names and emails of people who have an interest in what you're providing--the types of books you write. If they weren't interested, they would not opt-in to receive your email newsletters, or if they are already readers, they wouldn't be buying your books. This is your target audience. Your newsletter is delivered directly into their inbox and they aren't likely to miss it as they would on a social media site. It feels more personal when they have something delivered to them and they don't have to go looking for it or stumble upon it.

A social media post is only limited to 140 characters on Twitter and a bit more on Facebook. You can post 1,000 - 2,000 words in an email newsletter, including photos and videos. There are few limitations. It will sit in a person's inbox until they have time to read it in detail, after the kids go to bed, early in the morning when getting their coffee and checking their email, or after they return from vacation. It isn't rolling off a timeline. The sense of urgency isn't as demanding as it is with social media. I hate it when I see something on someone's feed, and I don't have time to respond or read it. Later on, I'm forced to go digging for it on their timeline and by then I may not find it or I might forget about it and distracted by new posts on my timeline.

Blogging is a better advantage in being able to post as many words and images as you want, but people either have to remember to return to your site, bookmark it, or subscribe to it on a reader feed or have it delivered to their inbox. This is more like receiving an email newsletter. It's more personal and direct.

If you use an email newsletter service, you have a general idea of who is receiving it--at least their name and email address. Also, you can see how many people click to view it, which links they click on, how many subscribe and unsubscribe each month. You can view an overall report on what topics and posts appeal to people the most and target future topics accordingly.

Do you already send out an email newsletter? What is your experience? What would you advise others to consider? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Introducing Blind Dates With Books

Have you ever wondered if your book would hold up next to a bestseller if no one knew who wrote the bestseller or its title? If marketing and promotion really works, then it's reasonable to assume that if enough people or promotional tools tell readers that a particular book is better than all the others, they will be pre-exposed and biased into believing it before they even have a chance to read it. 

Introducing No Names, No Jackets, a blind date with books. The idea is to eliminate author names, titles, reviews, sales records, ratings, testimonials, all the promotional pieces that influence buyers and allow the writing to stand for itself. 

Authors submit the first chapter of a novel or the first few paragraphs of a novella. Readers will be able to browse through selections  at random either by length or genre. If you find a piece of work you would like to purchase, click the link at the end and it will take you to the actual book on Amazon where you can purchase it. If you don't like a selection, click on the next option. 

Right now that are no genre options for Christian fiction or Inspirational fiction, but perhaps a few authors can change that if you are interested in submitting your work. 

What are your thoughts? Do you think this is a good idea? 


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