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Useful E-mail Services for SMBs

Natalia Yashenkova
Natalia Yashenkova
Head of Marketing and PR at StarForce Technologies.

Natalia Yashenkova has more than 15 years experience in software development and information security. Before StarForce Technologies she worked at Netris and Vimcom Optic.

9 Oct 2014

The successful companies of the next decade will be the ones that use digital tools to reinvent the way they work. These companies will make decisions quickly, act efficiently, and directly touch their customers in positive ways.

Bill Gates
«Business @ the Speed of Thought»

In this article we will talk about tools (services), which for free or at minimal cost can solve any company's problems with sending messages by email, including making mass mailing, opening tracking and protection of confidential documents.

Email allows you to send and receive messages and attachments instantly. This type of communication has become fundamental in the business world, thanks to the speed of delivery on the one hand and an opportunity to study the contents and prepare an answer carefully on the other.

Outgoing messages can be divided into two groups: the first group includes emails that require an answer and the second group consists of informational messages (sometimes marked as For Your Information, FYI), that do not need to be answered. Even small sized companies prepare informational mailings with different content from time to time. It can be company news, partner digest, notifications for personnel, etc.

Informational mailing with Outlook

The easiest way to organize a mailing is to use standard mechanisms of default email client, e.g. MS Outlook. For staff notifications you can start special groups and this way send emails in one click. But this kind of mailing do not suit for external mailing because when you use groups in Outlook every recipient can see the list of mailing in the address bar. Here you have a chance to break the law concerning personal data.

Outlook email client allows to solve it rather easy with blind carbon copy (BCC). This time you make yourself the main recipient of the mailing and the list of true recipients you can put in BCC. There are some advantages and disadvantages in this variant. As a plus we can consider that it is the same email client with your corporate signature and styles. You know how it works and it doesn’t take much time to organize a mailing. Speaking about minuses some people confuse when they receive an email that is addressed to another person (because there is your name in the address bar and a recipient can’t see who is in BCC). As well it is impossible to personalize an email, e.g. to greet a person by name (Dear Mr. Smith).

Mailing mechanism as a module for the company’s site

Almost every respectful company now has a site. And if the approach to the site building was correct then it has content management system (CMS) or in other words a site engine. There are free CMS: Joomla!, Drupal, WordPress, etc. and paid CMS: NetCat, UMI.CMS, 1C-Bitrix, etc. Usually a well-known CMS has a lot of different modules to enlarge a number of supported features. Some of them help to make a beautiful banner on home page, some to organize the company’s news subscription and mass mailing.

The setting of such a module does not take much time and efforts for a web designer. Marketing and sales departments get a convenient tool for notification and advertising. If you have enough data these mailings can be personalized. The contacts can be divided into several groups (lists of mailings), e.g. media, partners, site’s subscribers, customers, etc. Depending on circumstances there are can be prepared different bulletins for different groups.

The key benefits of this variant:

  • There is a data base where you can keep all the necessary information about recipients: name, email, group ID.
  • Automate the process of sending messages.
  • Personalization of messages.

But still it has minuses too. Even when a site has CMS it doesn’t mean that everything will be easy to use. A user needs to know a bit about HTML and web technologies, e.g. how to insert a picture in the email message. But it doesn’t matter if you have a web designer in staff or outsource.

Mailing through third-party services

To facilitate the work of marketers and salespeople companies offer ready to use software products and services for mass mailings that enable both the sending newsletters and offers.

The number of such services and software products is large and almost every one of them offers a free rate for a small number of emails. Let's count how small should be the number of free emails. Experts argue that the normal percentage of opening for the emails sent via mass mailing is from 11 to 15%. It means that if you can send for free 1,500 emails per month only about 200 people will read it. And according to my observation only 1% of recipients click the link and here we have 15 persons. Math lesson is over.

Outlook email tracking

One of the most valuable features of mailing services is an opportunity to monitor opening and link clicking statistics. It works perfectly when you use a third party service and it occurs to you that you would love it in Outlook.

What does Outlook have now? When you send an email you can tick to get delivery and read receipt confirmations. But read receipt confirmation is sent only after the recipient’s approval. And as we all know people prefer rejecting it. That is why there are services that try to provide info on email message opening without the recipient’s approval. They are ToutApp (http://toutapp.com/), ContactMonkey (https://contactmonkey.com/email-tracking), Signals (http://www.getsignals.com/) and some others.

The benefit of these services is obvious. You have an opportunity to track sent emails and know exactly when an email is opened and if a recipient clicks the link. As to disadvantages every service has its own. For example Signals requires Google Chrome as a browser, ToutApp doesn't have a free tariff plan - only 14 day for testing. By the way the services mentioned above have additional features. They allow making massive mailing and tracking your clients’ appearing on the corporate site.

Email service for confidential information

Speaking about emails that contain sensitive information, trade secret and intellectual property it is crucial to understand that threats frighten you and what next should happen with the protected documents.

If you send a document for notification, information or training (do not need to edit the received documents) then your choice is Sfletter.com (https://sfletter.com). It protects both email body and attachments against forwarding, copying, and printing. As well you are able to track opening time and recipient’s IP address. The advantages of Sfletter.com are free subscription and belonging to StarForce Technologies, an international company that has been developing copy protection solutions since 2000. The disadvantage of the service is the necessity to download and install a special viewer program to open protected documents. But this program provides protection mechanisms and a recipients needs to install it only once.

If the document needs protection only against interception with an ability to edit it, you can use one of the email services with encryption such as Galaxkey (http://www.galaxkey.com/), Voltage Security (https://www.voltage.com/products/securemail/), Encryptomatic (https://www.encryptomatic.com/pdfpostman/). They are oriented on corporate segment and for free you can use only Galaxkey. The thing I like about it that there is a plugin for Outlook. What I dislike – after decryption the recipient can do with the document whatever he/she wants including to share it on the internet.

Conclusion

The number of different online services is increasing every day, and everyone is interested to find its niche in the market. Therefore, companies have an opportunity to choose services that are best suited for the solution of their problems. Judicious use of electronic tools will improve the efficiency of our operations and reduce some of the risk, almost without increasing operating costs.

And finally, I want to encourage the audience to test new services. Perhaps the most of them will be rejected, but some will be really useful and can make life easier, as well as increase the efficiency of the workflow.


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