Which email broadcast system?


When it comes to email marketing to a purchased b2b list we need to consider which broadcast systems are most appropriate, and indeed which ones should be avoided.

If you are new to b2b email marketing you may not realise that using the appropriate system correctly can drastically increase your open / click rates, it can also make the difference between getting a 3% or 30% bounce rate.

Online hosted broadcast systems

Online hosted systems are cheap and convenient, but are unfortunately not recommended for purchased list or unsolicited email marketing. There are several reasons for this:

Poor delivery

Online hosted services are known to return poor delivery results and high bounce rates due to server or spam rejections. It is important note that server rejections are not the same as hard bounces (as a perfectly valid email address can still bounce back).

There are several factors that cause high rejection rates;

  • As many as 80% of online hosted servers' IP addresses are thought to be blacklisted
  • Email headers and footers are fixed to that of the hosted service, and spam filters actively monitor (and reject) a high proportion of these headers and footers
  • The IP addresses of the hosted broadcast servers are known to spam filters (and a high proportion are automatically rejected)
  • DNS authentication is normally fixed by the hosted service and again will be picked up by spam filters
  • Many hosted services use 'global suppression lists', therefore if someone else has emailed the same recipient in the past, and that recipient has unsubscribed or reported as spam, then this means you will not be able to send to that same recipient (and bear in mind you are probably using the same server and IP address as thousands of other broadcasters).

Limited reporting

Almost all hosted services classify server or spam rejections generically as 'bounces', that is, you cannot determine how many emails have bounced due to the address being invalid and how many have bounced due to the recipient server rejecting your email. You are normally not given the facility to extract or download bounced emails with the relevant error message in order to determine this, (It is possibly not in the interest of online hosted service companies for end users to be aware that a high proportion of valid emails are being rejected).

To illustrate this; we carried out a test of the top 4 online hosted services, we sent a test mailing from a proprietary system with a result of around 4% bounces, and we sent the exact same thing using the online hosted services, and the result was between 14% and a massive 30% bounce rate.


Aside from performance issues, hosted services, especially those based in the US, normally do not allow marketing to bought lists (this will be stated in their terms and conditions), the reason for this is; email broadcasting laws are different (and far stricter) in the US and other non EU countries where only direct permission based email broadcasting is allowed.

Standalone broadcast applications

A standalone email broadcast application does a similar thing to an online hosted service, but the difference is you download the application and run directly from your PC rather than from a third party website.

There is a little more setting up involved initially, however in our opinion the standalone application offers the best results and avoids many of the downside's of online hosted services (they usually work out less expensive too).

However there are a couple of things to watch out for:

  • You should avoid using your main business domain, rather use an external smtp service. This way you protect your business domain in the event that you get a spam complaint (please see our email tips on avoiding spam complaints).
  • Most applications have a direct send or DNS send function, however this is an unsecure and outdated method that most recipients will reject, therefore make sure you use a recommended SMTP service rather than the direct send function.

The standalone systems we tested start around £50 (one off payment), and we would recommend using in conjunction with a commercial SMTP service, which costs in the region of £15.00 per 10,000 emails.

Sending from your normal email application (Outlook etc.)

While some people do this for very small lists it is really not recommended. If you are using your normal business email account for list marketing and someone hits the 'report as spam' button then you run the risk of your IP address being included on a blacklist, which means that your everyday emails might start going into your regular customer's spam folders.

Aside from that, the time factor involved plus the lack of meaningful reporting makes this a poor option.

Using an agency

For those new to list marketing, short on time, or maybe just not very technical, then a third party email marketing agency can be a good choice.

However do make sure you use an agency that specialises in list marketing as many agencies are essentially web design companies with an email design service bolted on. Web design agencies will be able to create a great looking design and send simple newsletters to an existing client base, however they are not necessarily familiar with the complexities of list marketing, which is a very different discipline.

Agencies will always be happy to give advice on your content, however it is a good idea to make sure you have your content (text, layout, subject and images) prepared as much as possible before handing it to the agency, as they will charge handsomely if they have to spend time correcting and amending poorly prepared content.