Through the years I’ve tried many email marketing tools. Some were better. Some were worse. The truth is that they all have their pros and cons. And none of them fit me the right way. So, I decided to create my own tool. It’s like my baby. It’s not perfect, but I just love it. Let me share my story with you.
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive review of these email marketing tools. You would need a whole book for that. It is just my personal experience working with these tools.
I worked for a small company at the beginning of my career. This company was using Dynamics CRM from Microsoft. I didn’t like this one. It just didn’t fit me. There is no email designer like the one in MailChimp, for instance. You can only write standard text emails that don’t look very professional. It takes too long to select the list of recipients. You need to first filter all your contacts according to some criteria. You can’t use an unsubscribe link and you won’t see any reports after you send out your campaign. And you can forget about autoresponders and easy integration with signup forms on your webpage. There are nice 3rd party addons that solve most of these problems such as ClickDimensions, but you will end up paying a fortune for these. In conclusion, Dynamics CRM is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, not an email marketing tool. It is very robust. Large companies will make use of it since pretty much everything can be customized. But you can expect to spend a lot of money and time.
Max Bulk Mailer and Atomic Mail Sender
I disliked Dynamics CRM so much that I installed Atomic Mail Sender on my PC and Max Bulk Mailer on my Mac. Instead of CRM I was often sending bulk emails via these 2 tools. My boss hated me for that since he couldn’t see any statistics in his CRM. But they were very cheap and reliable. You can very quickly set up and send out a campaign with both of these. To ensure better deliverability of your emails, make sure to setup SMTP or use other 3rd party services such as Amazon SES or Mandrill. With Mandrill you will get 12,000 monthly emails for free. This is enough for most of the small marketers. If you exceed this amount you will end up paying $0.20 for 1,000 emails, which is still very cheap. However, there are some cons you need to take into consideration. Neither of these tools is hosted in cloud so you cannot use unsubscribe links and you won’t see any statistics about your campaigns, such as open rate and click rate.
When I quit my job I started doing an online business, so I needed my own email marketing tool. First, I tried Sendy. For $59 it was a no-brainer. I installed it on a separate hosting which cost me about $1 / month. Sendy is integrated with Amazon SES so you get very good deliverability of your emails. You don’t have a fancy email designer here, but I was pretty familiar with HTML and CSS already at that time, so I designed my own email template. Since Sendy is running all of the time in hosting, you get some nice additional features. After you send your campaign you will see a pretty nice report with open rate, click rate and other statistics. Integrating Sendy with a signup form was quite a hassle. I needed to dig into php, which I wasn’t very familiar with. But finally, I managed to integrate it with Gravity Forms, which is a plugin for WordPress, which I was running on my site. Even more difficult was setting up unsubscription. I lack development skills and I just couldn’t make it work.
Sendy was a very nice tool at the beginning and I used it for quite some time. But after my list grew, I knew I needed something more sophisticated because I lacked the autoresponder functionality. I always wanted to automate my income and make it more passive. It’s a dream of everyone I guess. Living on a beach and having your website supplying content automatically to your subscribers. Some of them purchase your product online and you just keep getting money from them. Now I am convinced that this is rather a utopia. Having a fully automated money making site without any effort will work, just in the short-term.
I browsed some forums and my next choice was Aweber, which has probably the best reputation in “cloud hosted emailing tools” space. It is used by many email marketing gurus (many of which will teach you how to make money with email marketing, although they never made any on their own). I didn’t like the user interface of this one. There are many distracting and unnecessary things. It took me a while until I got used to it. However, I had a bigger issue with Aweber. Since all of my subscribers were Slovak, I needed everything that they get in contact with to be in Slovak. This was not possible with Aweber. I couldn’t translate particular things such as the body of the confirmation message when somebody subscribed to my list and some other stuff as well. I ended up cancelling my Aweber account pretty quickly.
I was deciding between MailChimp and GetResponse, so I read plenty of reviews such as this one. I decided to go for GetResponse. First thing I noticed was that the user interface was much better than in Aweber. I could find everything I needed pretty quickly. They also have a nice iOS app. I was eagerly checking this one throughout each day to see how my list of subscribers had grown. If you do email marketing you probably know what I am talking about. Quite a large portion of my subscribers kept complaining that they did not receive my autoresponders. I was sending 1 autoresponder per day for a period of 100 days to each subscriber after they signed up to my list. They were expecting these emails. Some of the emails ended up in spam. Other emails were not received at all. I spent some time sending them these emails manually, which annoyed me a bit, but it wasn’t a big enough reason to switch from GetResponse to something else. But a bigger issue has arisen. Some guys hacked into the GetResponse servers and they had a major outage which lasted almost a week. My subscribers (I had about 5,000 at that time) weren’t receiving their emails so they were complaining. I spent much time resolving this. And I was losing money, subscribers and my reputation. GetResponse fixed this error, but a week or two later it happened again. This was enough for me. I knew I had to switch again.
When comparing Aweber, GetResponse and MailChimp, the first thing I have to say is that MailChimp has definitely the best user interface. You find everything quickly and you have this satisfying feeling just by using this tool. All of my emails got delivered with MailChimp. Nobody was complaining. It has a beautiful email designer and plenty of email templates to choose from. Regarding the functionality and experience I was totally satisfied with this one. It maybe doesn’t fit large companies, but for me it was perfect. The only downside was the price. I had 6k subscribers at that time so I was paying 75USD per month regardless of whether I sent 1m emails or none. It’s maybe not a lot of money for somebody, but for me it was another one of those many annoying recurring costs I had at that time. Gym, Lynda subscription, 1 membership subscription here, 1 membership subscription there, hosting, another hosting, SSL certificate, various software subscriptions, phone bill, etc.. Living in a country with an average monthly net income of around 830USD I was spending almost the same amount right after each month started. And I hadn’t paid my rent, gas and food yet.
I was thinking – I have all of these tools available and none of them really fits me for several reasons.
So I made a list of my needs:
- I want this tool to be integrated in WordPress
- I want it to have signup forms that I can easily design and put on any page, post or widget
- I want to have campaigns and set up autoresponders
- I want to easily import all my lists of existing subscribers
- I want to see how many time people open my emails, how many times they click on links, which links they click on, how many of them unsubscribe and where they all come from
- I want it to be integrated with Amazon SES so I get the best deliverability possible
I haven’t found such a tool and I couldn’t develop it on my own, so I spent time looking for the best developers possible. I found them and together we created Mail Masta plugin for WordPress. No, it is not a perfect tool for email marketing. It can’t do 300 things like Aweber, MailChimp or GetResponse can. It does only 10 things. But those 10 things are the things you actually need for email marketing. And it does them exceptionally well.
Do you have a different experience with these email marketing tools? Let me know in the comments below.