ReleMail Offers E-mail Audits

A new company launched this week to audit and certify the marketing programs of bulk emailers. It also evaluates the sending practices of a large database of marketers, and makes those ratings available online.

Called “ReleMail,” the paid service assigns a coach to each prospective customer. The coach subscribes to an organization’s newsletter and conducts a 15-point audit. Should the newsletter pass the audit, paying customers can get whitelisted status and permission to use the Relemail certification seal. The service costs $395 for a year.

The venture is headed up by Arial Software founder Mike Adams, and shares offices with that company. A number of familiar faces in email marketing sit on the advisory board, including Debbie Weil of Wordbiz.com, Inbox Interactive’s Kim Macpherson, and Anne Mitchell of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy.

Separate from its direct services, ReleMail publishes ratings on the ethics and CAN-SPAM Act compliance of email programs run by over 1,000 companies, evaluating them on the same 15-point, five-star scale it offers customers. These ratings, conducted via secret email registrations, are available through a searchable database on the ReleMail Web site.

The legwork required to compile that database was done by Arial Software during the first half of 2004. Arial founder Mike Adams took the findings of a study of 1,057 mailers and made them available as part of the new venture. Spokesperson Steve Delgado said the idea to launch ReleMail was partly the result of the reaction Arial got from that study.

The 15 elements in ReleMail’s best practices audit overlap partially with requirements laid out in CAN-SPAM, but some are not in the Act. Included are legal compliance items such as “Unsubscribe link appears in outbound email” and “Unsubscribe request is honored within 10 days.” Items not in the law include “Privacy policy link or statement appears in outbound email.”

The company has signed five clients: Beachbody, News Target Network, Peppers & Rogers Group, The Children’s Place and USPins.com. No ISPs have yet begun to recognize its whitelist.

“While we are making efforts to market our whitelist recognition to the major ISPs, it will take some time, and this is explained to Relemail clients,” said Delgado. “We have companies signing on and working to meet Relemail certification requirements every day, and we expect this program to be standardized soon.”

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