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Unless you have a large IT department and a platoon of web developers, it’s probably not a good idea to build your own shopping cart from scratch. (Before your programmer writes a single line of code, it’ll take you at least a week just to write the specs for what you want.)

Then even if you do have all those resources at your disposal, if you’re also sending emails to all these people, it’s almost mandatory that you put a 3rd party in charge of your email delivery.

Email delivery is the diciest thing of all. The fact that email is still “free” and the reality of spam makes it extremely difficult to reliably deliver email to your customers and prospects. You send 1000 messages and only 400 get through. If you don’t to this right your communication will be very ineffective.

  • If you’re not “white listed” with major service providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL, many spam filters will automatically eat your messages, even if you’ve never sent a spam message in your life
  • If people complain about you (i.e. press the “this is spam” button in AOL for example) you may end up on blacklists, and then nobody will get your messages
  • If you decide to take on the challenge of dealing with whitelists and blacklists, congratulations – you’ve got a new full-time job.

For these reasons, and even legal reasons, it’s a very, very good idea to outsource your email delivery to a 3rd party. Basically if you’re sending more than about 100 emails at a time, you need to give this job to somebody else.

This article is about the challenges of email delivery, the pros and cons of various services, and comments on the shopping carts.

“Why Combine Email Delivery with a Shopping Cart?”

The answer to this question becomes very clear once you actually start to do it. Having more than one customer database is a nightmare. If your shopping cart and your email list are a separate database then you’ve already got problems.

A good marketer never treats all customers and prospects the same. If you sell 3 different products, then at minimum you need 6 email lists: a prospect list for each product and a customer list for each product. And you should use Autoresponders to communicate information separately to each list.

Your email list needs to know that someone just bought a product, and they should be taken off the prospect list and put on the buyer list. This is the simplest explanation of why your shopping cart and your email list need to be connected.

The scenario is greatly complicated if…

  • If you have affiliates
  • If you want to track the effectiveness of various elements of a complex sales sequence
  • If you’re doing offline marketing with direct mail and other non-internet media

Additional Warning:

Be VERY cautious when you choose an email service provider, because once you’ve started, you’re stuck with them. It’s very difficult and sometimes impossible to get other providers to let you import your list into their database – because if they’re any good, they don’t trust your list. If you switch from one to another, you’ll probably have to make every single subscriber re-subscribe to the new service. That’s very hard to do. You’ll lose two thirds of your list overnight.

So make this decision with great care!

With that in mind let me tell you about three different solutions I currently use for various projects, clients and businesses:

1. Aweber – if all you need is Email list management and Autoresponders, a lot of people consider Aweber the best of the best.

Aweber’s strength is email deliverability. My friends who measure this stuff tell me Aweber’s delivery rate percentage is in the high 90’s, maybe 98% or something like that. For email, that’s excellent. Aweber has good relationships with all the top email service providers, they’re white listed with the AOL’s and Hotmails of the world, and they have stringent requirements that their users must abide by.

Aweber does not have a shopping cart feature. However Aweber does integrate with 1ShoppingCart. So you can use 1ShoppingCart to handle your affiliates and orders and use Aweber for its outstanding email deliverability.

2. 1ShoppingCart – For the majority of small businesses, especially consultants, publishers and information marketers, this is an excellent choice. Their system combines all of the following into one single tool:

  • Order processing (with very easy creation of new products)
  • Sales tax computation
  • Tracking of affiliate sales and payouts
  • Autoresponders
  • Email blasts and list management
  • Maintenance of separate email lists (as many as you want)
  • Simple conversion tracking and ad tracking links
  • Integration with PayPal and major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Discover
  • Sales reports by day, week, month, product, affiliate

1ShoppingCart’s email delivery is good, though not generally as good as Aweber’s. 1SC has recently added a feature which is helping. They have one server that sends email to prospects and single-opt-in email addresses. They have a different server that sends email to paid customers and double opt-ins. So delivery rates are higher for those parts of your customer list.

You can sign up for 1ShoppingCart, get a merchant account hooked up, and now adding e-commerce to your website is as simple as adding hyperlinks to your order pages. For beginner or intermediate small business marketers, it’s the service I recommend.

3. Infusionsoft CRM Software – Infusionsoft is similar to 1ShoppingCart but is designed for very sophisticated marketers.

Infusionsoft is for people who:

  • Want to use online and offline marketing together – i.e. seamless integration of email, direct mail, fax broadcast, voice broadcast
  • Have complex, multi-sequence sales processes – i.e. a prospect requests information from you which triggers a whole series of events: An autoresponder sequence starts, a direct mail package goes out, a fax is sent on day 3, a voice broadcast goes out on day 9.
  • Have multiple, inter-related sales processes – When the prospect buys product A, he is taken off of Prospect Sequence 1 and added to Customer Sequence 1 and also added so Prospect Sequence 2 (because he is still a prospect for product 2). The chains of events can be as simple or complex as you like.

Infusionsoft is a sophisticated tool for sophisticated marketers, and is not for everyone. It’s a bit more difficult to use than 1shoppingcart for example. It’s also substantially more expensive. The strength, however, is that combining offline and online marketing together in this way is extremely effective – maybe 2-3 times as profitable. It was originally designed for some of Dan Kennedy’s most sophisticated niche marketers (Joe Polish, Reed Hoisington) and in the last year or so is starting to being used by Internet marketers like myself.

A few comments before you dive in: You should only use Infusionsoft if you’re really ready for it. In my case my main website was outgrowing the capabilities of 1ShoppingCart (especially in the areas of complex list management and marketing sequence capability). Also, the company is somewhat young, the software is a little buggy and their documentation leaves some things to be desired. Don’t expect a totally painless experience.

Nonetheless for people who develop 10, 20, and 50 step marketing campaigns both online and offline, there are very few reasonable choices and the pain will be rewarded with a tremendous increase in effectiveness. I think you will also find the company is conscientiously run and has a strong vision for the future. I expect that in the next year or so the full promise of Manage Pro will be achieved. That’s no small accomplishment.

By Perry Marshall