Deliverability: What's the point if your email goes straight to the spam folder?
Say you have your email addresses tucked away into groups in your Outlook account. You type up a message, select a group, and hit send. Well, thanks to Spammers, this is actually a great way to get your messages flagged as spam. Mass emails (as few as 100 at a time) are not considered "normal" for an individual user so spam filtering software will label a mass emailing as questionable or simply as spam. The outgoing messages are then blocked at several points along the way to the recipient. If the message does arrive at all, it is likely to go straight to the Spam or Junk folder. Worse, a client of mine recently had their website shut down for sending out too many message per hour. They thought they could get around the restriction by sending a few hundred at a time. The bottom line is that it's much more effective to use a service like Constant Contact. Constant Contact works very hard to make sure it's users are not spammers. It is set up specifically as a "whitelisted" mail sender and has the highest deliverability rates in the industry.
Legal Issues. Why expose your organization?
In 2003 Congress passed a federal law called the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act or CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. This law basically lays out some basic requirements for email marketers and stipulates penalties of $16,000 and up for noncompliance. Even with the 2008 update the rules are basic but require certain automated features. Constant Contact provides built-in compliance, it's silly to do-it-yourself and make your organization legally vulnerable just to save a few dollars a month.
Display Problems: Will your email look right on different computers?
Your carefully crafted homemade newsletter might look great on your computer but how will it look across different browsers and computer systems? And if your emails are text only, you've no doubt seen the beautiful, image-rich newsletters that are possible. Those nicely designed emails that include images are dramatically more effective than text only promos. Constant Contact has easy to use, drag-and-drop templates that are tested to look great across all computers, browsers and email programs.
Know Your Results: Who is opening your messages and what do they think?
Another great reason to use Constant Contact is that you get detailed reports telling you how many people opened your email and even what links they clicked. You pour your time and energy into making a useful, appealing newsletter that you hope will bring lots of responses. This is a great feature for getting a sense of how effective your efforts are.
The Bottom Line: Using your own account = bad idea.
Using your own email account, whether it's hosted on your own server or a free service like Gmail is a very bad idea for email marketing. Aside from being more time consuming and less effective, it can also potentially expose you to legal action. Learn from the mistakes of others and check out email marketing through Constant Contact.