VMail, another Outside The Box Product

Frequently Asked Questions

This advice applies to any email broadcast campaign...does your email tool take care of all this for you?

What makes email such a great marketing tool?
An email message costs much less to send than the postcards and other mailers sent out by the thousands by many businesses large and small. Printing costs alone make marketing effectively by these "hard-copy" methods too expensive for most small businesses.
Also, when used properly, email messages which reach contacts who have "opted in" to your lists generate the best response rates available, and if you advertise a special Web page or site in your email broadcasts you can measure the rate at which your customers respond to email messages.

If email is such an important tool, why should I trust Outside The Box to handle this for me?
OTB has helped many businesses gather existing and new contact information into useable form, and go well beyond other firms in offering advice on what to send and when, and how to handle the ongoing maintenance and development of your contact lists. We have overseen email broadcast schemes both large and small, and our expertise will allow you to skip past the problems most businesses are having with email marketing, and jump right to the proven effectiveness of this new marketing phenomenon. Check out our Add-On Services for more information.

How often do I send email to my list(s)?
Most people send out a regular broadcast to their mailing list, monthly, every other week, or weekly, depending on how quickly their products and services are changing.

How long should my email message be? What should I say? Can I include images and formatted text?
Keep it short! Ideally, you should set up a Web page, presenting your "current specials" or other offerings in the most effective way, using images and formatted text (and even multimedia). Then you can put a link to your Web page in your broadcast with just enough text to make it compelling. This allows you to measure the success of your email campaign using Web site statistics, like our SearchFind/Traffic analysis service.
Most importantly, don't overuse your lists, send multiple copies of the same message, let other businesses use your list without you knowing what they are sending, or otherwise lose the trust of the contacts on your lists.

I still want to do it: How do I send formatted text and images?
VMail allows you to copy and paste an HTML file directly into the Send Message tool. That means you can create an HTML file using any Web tool on your machine, and send it out to your mailing list.
In order to put images and other text formatting into your messages you must write "HTML mail." HTML can make your messages look much nicer and add important branding elements such as your logo or advertisements for upcoming events, special promotions, or as visual enhancements to newsletters. However, you must be advised that HTML that makes a page look good on the Web doesn't necessarily look the same when rendered through an email client! It is important to know the differences between HTML that renders well on the Web and HTML that renders well in email! (We're sure that you have been inundated with HTML mail that has images scattered all over message, so you know what we mean!).
f you are interested in help with "HTML mail," talk to us about our Add-On Services, including eMail Broadcast Content Analysis and Consulting.

Now that you have been forewarned, here is how you do it yourself. Use your favorite HTML editor (FrontPage, DreamWeaver, etc.) to design your email message. STAY AWAY FROM TABLES! They do not render the same in email clients as they do in Web browsers. View the raw source, and cut and paste it into your "message" field in the "send email" tool of VMail. VMail will sense by the <html> tag that this mail should be sent as HTML mail, and will handle everything else appropriately.
Another note: Make sure all the links to images contain their "fully qualified URL". If you are designing a page from your desktop, referencing images that exist only on your hard drive, they will show up as broken links (and mess with the overall layout.) All images, audio files (including "MP3" and Shockwave files), and other multimedia files should reside on a Web server that can provide access to the file via a URL.
If you are interested in what to send, and how often, and to which lists, talk to us about our Add-On Services, including eMail Broadcast Content Analysis and Consulting.

Can Outside The Box provide "templates" for formatted emails for my company?
We have developed many "templates" for our clients for formatted email. It's important to know how much formatting to use, exactly how much to send and how frequently, and what most email tools can handle (and how to "fail gracefully" on those that don't support formatted messages). Too many people break lots of simple rules when sending broadcasts, we can help you you look professional and get people's attention amidst the onslaught of spam we all face. We can send you examples of broadcasts we've "designed" for clients, and we can usually use materials already on your company Web site to develop your formatted email templates.

Is there any way to send a message that will "revert" to plain text if the recipient's email tool can't handle "formatted" messages?
This is an interesting question, and from our research the answer seems to be "no." That means you need to send emails that "collapse" into text-only without changing the look (i.e. no images, no bolding or centering or other formatting). Or just send text-only emails to begin with. The companies that develop email tools are still catching up with the fact that people want to send formatted email, and in the meantime there is no way to assure that all your email messages will look like they do on your end...unless you use plain text only.

Why should I maintain multiple lists?
Depending on your business, you may want to have separate lists for clients, advertisers, supporters, employees, or different departments or stores. Then you can send targeted email messages to those groups, and also gather contact information in ways that increase the power of targeted marketing.

What do I do with all the email addresses and other contact info I have scattered about?
Using VMail's simple Intranet interface, you can enter email addresses, as well as other contact info like name, company, and postal address, and also sign contacts up to one or more mailing lists.
If you have hundreds or thousands of email addresses in one or more different locations, talk to us about our Add-On Services, including Contact Data Extraction and Loading.

When I load data from a file does it retain opt out information about email addresses?
Yes. When you load data from file, only contact information is modified. Participation in the list is only modified for new contacts, so the opt-in/opt-out policy for existing contacts does not change even if their address information does.

How do I get more email addresses and contact info?
VMail works with our Collector Web forms tool to enable any Web form to load contact info into your VMail email lists.
If you are interested in help with other ideas on how to gather email addresses using the Web, print and other marketing media, talk to us about our Add-On Services, including eMail Address Gathering Campaigns and Consulting.

How many vStamps do I need?
Each email you send uses one vStamp. VMail is set up to meet the needs of businesses large and small. If you have a list containing 100 email addresses, you can send a weekly email for an entire year using 5200 vStamps...at a cost of $51.48! Since you can always buy more vStamps online, we recommend you determine how large you want your lists to grow, how frequently you want to send to each list, then buy enough vStamps to last about 6 months to a year, based on your unique situation.

What if I run out of vStamps?
Simple, buy more online! Use the formula mentioned above to buy enough vStamps to last you 6 months to a year. You can always check how many vStamps you have left through the simple VMail Inranet interface.

Why does it take longer for my messages to get to "xyz.com" than to my own inbox?
Just like regular postal mail, eMail has to go through different "post offices" between the sender's computer and the computers of the many recipients. And just like regular post offices, these email "gateways" vary in speed and reliability, and sometimes they are "closed" altogether, causing email to pile up. Note that email isn't lost, only delayed.

How big of a list do I need before VMail is really cost effective?
Compared to the costs of stamps (currently 37 cents for a first-class letter), you'd only have to send 300 email messages to cover the startup fee plus cost of that many stamps ($99 setup fee + $2.97 worth of vStamps)!

Can I send an attachment to my mailing lists?
No, the best thing to do is to place whatever document you wish to attach on your Web server (publicly or privately), and provide a link to it in the email message. Including attachments is fine when you are sending things around the office to one or two people, but is considered bad etiquette when broadcast to a mailing list as it takes up lots of bandwidth. The same holds true for embedding images in email messages, it's always better to place them on a Web server, provide a "link" in your broadcast, and let the mail clients "fetch" as needed.

Let us know if you have any questions!