If you already have a website or a software product then there’s a good chance that it sends emails to your users. If not, then you’re missing a golden opportunity to reach outside of your website or software to strengthen the relationship with your users. Email is a great way to do that.
It’s relatively easy to programmatically send an email. But what do you do when the emails that your website or software sends end up in people’s spam or junk folders?
Is there anything you can do about that? The answer is, Yes!
Although it’s easy for your website or software to craft an email, it cannot actually be sent without an email service provider. Think about the correlation between email and traditional “snail” mail. The letter you write or print and stuff into an envelope is analogous to the email itself. But someone has to physically move that envelop from your home or office to its destination – the United States Postal Service (USPS).
It’s the same with email. The email that your website creates needs someone like the USPS in order for it to be sent. That’s where an Email Service Provider comes into play. Unlike sending a physical piece of mail where in the US we basically have one choice, there are many vendors that will send an email for you.
Here are several, but there are many more…
They all offer similar features and services, and most are pay to play. At Array Digital we prefer SendGrid and use that on almost all of our projects.
The main goal of an Email Service Provider is to transport your email to where it needs to go. But Email Service Providers really need to do much more than that. First and foremost, they need to make sure that those emails land in your users’ inboxes.
Most Email Service Providers have their own proprietary algorithms to increase the chances that your emails will land in inboxes. How do they do that? I have no idea – it a proprietary black box – but I know it works! So by sending through a third party instead of, say, through your own email server used by your staff to send normal human to human emails, you’ll greatly increase your chances of email from your website or software sticking the landing – in the Inbox.
With this feature, your software can send one message to the Email Service Provider. That single message will contain a subject and body with optional placeholders for the recipient’s name and other personalization data. The message also includes the list of email addresses and personalized data that needs to be merged in. So your software sends one message, but hundreds or thousands end up going out.
Without a bulk sending feature like that, your software would need to loop through hundreds or thousands of contacts and send one email at a time. Not only can that hurt performance, but you’d also have to pay your developer to create that code. Don’t build that code – it already exists with your Email Service Provider.
Wondering whether a particular person was sent an email from your software? Wonder no more. Your Email Service Provider will allow you to log into a dashboard and see for yourself. Get proof of when the email was sent and the current status of the email. It’s kind of like UPS Tracking, but for email.
You’ll also be able to determine how many people opened your emails and even how many clicked the links in the email. All of this comes without you having to set it up as long as your Email Service Provider supports it, which almost all do.
Often you want to know all the emails sent to a particular person. Traditionally, your developers would have to code that feature into your website or software and save the data in your database. Translation: You’d have to pay them to get this feature.
This comes standard with many Email Service Providers. So you can log in to their dashboard, filter for a person or email address, and see all the emails sent to them. You can also leverage their API to programmatically export that history for display in your website or software!
If you need a custom email sending function such as templating of common emails, most Email Service Providers support that through APIs (application programming interfaces). This will allow your developers to take full advantage of all of the features offered through a programmatic interface that is familiar and flexible for your developers. It also allows your designer to log in to make changes to the templates without having to distract your programmers from other tasking.
Each Email Service Provider comes with its own set of features. Research each to determine which is the best fit for your situation. You’ll need to figure out which provides the most bang for the buck based on your specific needs.
Be sure to also look into their support options. There’s nothing worse than discovering that an email was rejected, but having an idea of why and having no one to reach out to find out why. This kind of troubleshooting is invaluable for learning and to avoid the same problem in the future.
If you’re having trouble figuring out the best way to format your email content, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your visual formatting.
Erik J. Olson is the Founder & CEO of Array Digital—a marketing agency that enables its clients to achieve their dreams, fulfill their missions, and impact more lives with their services.