Email Marketing DIY

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Recently I started looking into a couple of different solutions for setting up an email marketing campaign. When done properly, email marketing can be a very effective way to brand yourself, announce new products or services, keep in touch with clients, encourage referrals and stimulate repeat business.

I first looked at some of the big players like EmailLabs – but quickly realized their platform was far more than I needed. Not to mention that their site was so full of corporate doublespeak that my head was swimming just trying to figure out what I was looking at (like can anyone just tell me how much it’s going to cost, for example?).

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I didn’t stick around long enough to sign up for EmailLabs’ free demo account and quickly headed over to Constant Contact, who count Redfin among their Real Estate 2.0 client base. Constant Contact recently landed $15 million in VC funding to build out its platform, so I presume they will be around for quite some time.

Constant Contact’s pricing is very reasonable and starts at $15 a month, based on the size of your contact list. If you’re sending to a list that’s less than 50 names, it’s free – which is very charitable. In any case, your monthly fee allows you to send an unlimited number of emails to your list each month – being wary not to spam them in the process, of course.

Creating an email is a fairly straightforward process and Constant Contact provides numerous templates as guides and multiple ways that you can customize the final look of the email. Overall, I found that it was fairly easy for me to create a pretty good looking email.

As easy as Constant Contact was, something just bugged me about the site itself – it just seemed too inflexible and there were too many options that I had to fiddle with and tweak. I felt the process to go from creation to delivery seemed overly cumbersome and required far too much clicking around. Furthermore, the site’s design itself leaves something to be desired – maybe some of that $15 million could go towards a bit of a facelift.

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So moving on. My final stop was at Campaign Monitor – and here I found a real winner. The site and interface were incredibly intuitive and easy to use. A nice clean site design complimented their ease of use. Campaign monitor charges a flat $5 delivery fee and $0.01 per name – so if you had a list of 3500 names it would cost $35, plus the $5 fee for a total of $40. Very reasonable indeed.

Campaign Monitor is really set up for designers, or at least someone with a basic knowledge of HTML. You have to design your email template in a standalone editor (a good free alternative is NVU) but Campaign Monitor does offer some basic HTML templates to get you started. Their blog is also an invaluable resource on how to conduct a great email campaign.

Once you’re finished designing your email, you upload the files (complete with the images) to Campaign Monitor or you can also host the page elsewhere and just point Campaign Monitor to the content. Their software does the rest. Then you can add your recipient list and finish personalizing your design and set up the delivery. One great feature Campaign Monitor has is the ability to schedule your email for specific delivery in certain time timezones, so if you wanted it to land on people’s desk at exactly 9am right across the country, Campaign Monitor will do it for you.

Finally, Campaign Monitor has a powerful and slick reporting system so that you can see exactly who opened your email and when, and track clickthrus, forwards and bounces.

It’s not for everyone, but if you’re comfortable designing in HTML or have access to a designer somewhere that can help you, Campaign Monitor is a elegant, affordable and powerful option for your email campaigns. If you need a bit more hand-holding but are comfortable with a little less flexibility, Constant Contact is a good option for you.

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