We have gotten many requests for the best answer to sending out custom designed email campaigns. For every solution there are pros and cons. By far the best solution is to use an experienced web designer and your choice of delivery methods. For some handling more of the process themselves can end up being more cost effective so we’ve outlined some options. These recommendations assume running on a Mac and no desire to code in HTML. The solutions are not exhaustive as there are many available options.
What’s the big deal about designing email newsletters? HTML is the code that makes up the layout you see on webpages and emails with advanced layouts. Basically when designing HTML for the web there are three main browsers to test for how they draw the layout. With email there are about twenty email clients which adds a lot to making sure the email draws properly in each. Add in that webmail is already in a web page and that many email clients are set to not automatically load images and it is a much more complex process.
How do companies do it? You may see Office Depot and other email newsletters come through to your email client without issue and look very similar to what you would like to send out. Many companies work with full-time web designers to create and test these emails. If you are curious look at the bottom of the email and many times you will see the name of the service that designed and/or delivered the email and you can check out that service is a good fit. You will notice that even the largest companies typically have "Having trouble viewing this email?" at the top of the email so clearly everyone has to deal with the number of different email clients out there.
Why not just use Mail or Entourage to send my campaigns? Spam is such an issue on the internet most email providers limit the number of recipients you can send to at the same time. Even without this limitation many servers will tag your address as a spammer if they receive an email addressed to too many people. The delivery methods listed below avoid this by automating how many emails are sent out and how often.
Text/Image (No Layout)
The easiest way to get email marketing campaigns out with 100% assurance that everyone will see the same thing no time for testing at all and minimal cost is to just use basic text with some bold and links to any web content.
Text/Image (Advanced Layout)
You can also use basic text with a link to a published web page. While browsers still draw HTML differently they are much more accepting of different formatting. The other bonus is it is easy for people to forward these emails to friends (with other methods the forward many times will break the design) and when they view the newsletter they are already on your site. You could also attach or link to a jpeg image of the final layout so there is a rich layout in the email. Additionally you can use Google Analytics on your site to easily track visitors.
Out of all of the options out there currently iWeb is by far the easiest way to create an HTML layout with no knowledge of code at all. It is also the easiest to publish to any web server. Using iWeb and Direct Mail together is a great combination. The downside is depending on how advanced your layout is many webmail clients may not draw the layout properly but this can be resolved by either using the design method above for the actual email or adding a link to your iWeb site at the top of your email to provide them with another view.
If you want highly customized and tested layouts working with an experienced web designer may be the best route go. Check that they are familiar with the complexities of HTML design for email and you can easily use almost any service with Direct Mail being the most cost effective in the long term.
Tool Studios: http://www.toolstudios.com
These design methods require a delivery method and except for the first a web host MobileMe account or web-based provider to store the images that load in the email or the webpage. It is fine to attach one small image to an email but otherwise you will want to link to an image on a server.
We have found Direct Mail to be the best Mac-based solution for sending email campaigns and easily connecting to applications such as Mail Address Book Daylite and Lightspeed. Since it is a one-time cost it can also end up saving a lot of money if you send out a lot of emails.
Direct Mail: http://ethreesoftware.com/directmail
Web-based subscription services
With these services all the hard work for browser compatibility has been done and if you are satisfied with the layout options and the math on the price works out this is the most turnkey way to get emails with advanced layouts. Since all of the subscription list management is centralized on a website it is definitely the best method for a team of people managing the campaigns on multiple systems.
Constant Contact: http://www.constantcontact.com
Mail Chimp: http://www.mailchimp.com
Campaign Monitor: http://www.campaignmonitor.com
Campaign Monitor is our favorite with the most compatible templates but is best to use when you have a web designer.
MyEmma Full Service Pricing: http://www.myemma.com/pricing.php