SMTP Hosting – Transactional, Marketing or Both?

If you are looking for an SMTP hosting service, then you probably have an application that sends out either marketing or transactional messages and are looking for a host to relay these messages in bulk. Or perhaps you are sending both transactional and marketing messages and would like to find a single provider to handle your deliveries. If you’re not sure what type of messages you are sending but just know you need to send bulk mail, read on. Understanding what you’re sending and finding the right plan and provider for your type(s) of messages will improve both your relationship with an SMTP service as well as your email deliveries.

Messages that are “transactional” in nature include customer alerts, notifications, receipts, invoices, and any other type of message that recipients would not consider to be advertising, marketing or in any way “commercial” in nature. Transactional messages are not subject to the CAN-SPAM act, provided they are genuinely transactional messages and do not contain falsified header information.

On the other hand, messages that are marketing in nature include newsletters, promotional messages, advertisements and any message a recipient would classify as commercial. Marketing messages are governed by the CAN-SPAM act and anyone sending marketing messages should understand and adhere to the points outlined by this law.

Both transactional and marketing messages are bulk in nature and should not be sent out on a regular email hosting server. In the case of transactional messages, this is not always true. If your email hosting provider does not throttle or rate limit messages, it is possible to send transactional messages in low volumes through a regular email hosting service. However, low volume is the key here, and the moment you exceed what a host considers to be low volume and are categorized as a bulk sender is when you need to look at a third party solution for your transactional sending.

So if you’ve gotten this far, you can probably identify the type(s) of messages you are sending. If you’re sending newsletters, you’re in the marketing camp. If you’re sending order receipts, you’re a transactional sender. Because SMTP hosting plans generally come in these two flavors, transactional and marketing, knowing what kind of messages you are planning to send makes a difference in the type of SMTP hosting plan you select.

Though transactional and marketing servers are both considered “bulk” in terms of the overall quantity of messages they send, the manner in which they relay messages and their relative queue sizes differ vastly. Generally, a transactional server has low queues and relays messages quickly. This is because transactional senders relay in small batches, hundreds of messages at a time or even singly. Transactional servers are optimized for senders relaying small quantities steadily over time and, with relatively low queues, can quickly deliver messages.

Conversely, marketing servers have large queue sizes and take longer to send messages. While a marketing sender may only send a blast to 10,000 recipients once a month, the server they are sending through sees similar sending patterns from other marketers meaning its queues are consistently higher at any given time compared to a transactional server.

What this means for a sender is never to send transactional and marketing messages out through the same server. Sending transactional messages through a marketing server will result in slow deliveries of messages that might be timely in nature. Imagine waiting 2 hours for a password reset or an order confirmation. The opposite scenario, sending marketing messages through a transactional server, will cause a queue bottleneck for legitimate transactional senders and slow down their deliveries.

The kind of messages you are sending will determine what type of SMTP hosting plan you will select. At Greatmail, our default SMTP hosting plan is geared towards transactional senders. However, for email marketers or clients sending both marketing and transactional messages, we have servers reserved and optimized for marketing messages. In addition, email marketers looking for an application to manage their email campaigns can take full advantage of our hosted Interspire Email Marketer without having to install or manage any software. Please discuss adding on this feature with your Greatmail account manager after signing up or while registering an account.

Differentiating your messages as transactional or marketing and relaying them through an appropriate server designed for similar senders ensures a smooth relationship with your SMTP host and will help your messages reach their intended destinations.

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