Playing with Email Marketing

Back in August, I wrote a blog piece about Playing with Google Friend Connect Newsletters and other stuff. It turns out that if you have Google Friend Connect set up on your blog, you can use it to send newsletters to people who have opted in. At the time, there were 49 people that had opted-in and I sent them an email.

I haven’t sent another email blast using Google Friend Connect since then. Email blasts just really aren’t a high priority for my blog. Since then, the number of newsletter subscribers has grown to 80 out of the 289 people that have joined Orient Lodge on Google Friend Connect. I’ll probably send them an email about this blog post and random other updates.

At my new job, we’ve been talking about improving our email marketing, so I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at different email marketing systems. I’ve asked a bunch of friends, done a bit of testing and have some initial thoughts and a further request.

The email marketing system that has the greatest mindshare is Constant Contact. If you ask people about email marketing systems, just about everyone will mention them. They are very good. People also mention that they are the strictest. If you want to do anything more than very straight forward opt-in email marketing, they are probably not the folks to use.

The other email marketing system that got a lot of comments was Vertical Response. The comments I received were unanimous. Avoid them. Most of the complaints were about usability. It is just too hard a system to work with.

GetResponse got some good reviews, but I haven’t really spent time exploring them. There was one other system that was recommended called Emma. However, they seemed awfully pricy and I decided not to use them.

The two systems that got the best response and seemed to fit best with what I’m looking at are MailChimp and Mad Mimi. Mad Mimi seems to be better oriented towards building up new lists. They are pretty straight forward about who you can contact:

To add audience, each person must either:
Be a customer, member or subscriber of your organization.
Have asked to get your emails by signing up in some way.
Have bought something from you in the past 18 months.

MailChimp says

No 3rd party lists, no prospects, no lists that you scraped from websites, no chambers of commerce lists, etc

The two statements are perhaps not all that different, other than the tone, but for someone interested in building their lists, they should look at these policies to see which system feel more comfortable.

One other system I started looking at was CoreMotives running as part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. There are some really interesting aspects of embedding an email marketing system within a CRM, but it probably doesn’t work well for smaller bloggers.

In terms of ease of use, I found Mailchimp pretty nice in terms of constructing nice emails. On a first pass, Mad Mimi doesn’t seem as strong in this area. I also like Mailchimp’s SocialPro. It pulls data from different sites, including Rapleaf and Gravatar so that you can better segment your lists. SocialPro is free until March, but still needs some work. They have some other nice integration with social media, Google Analytics and other tools for tracking and interacting with the system.

Mad Mimi does some really nice social media integration, and may be easier for some sorts of email blasts once you get everything configured just right. I’m told they have some other interesting features that are worth exploring.

Both Mad Mimi and Mailchimp put up the emails as webpages and you can see my first attempts here and here.

So, that’s where I’m at right now with testing these systems. I’ve added sections in the lower left hand part of my blog where you can subscribe via MailChimp and Mad Mimi. If you’re interested in participating in my testing, please consider signing up. Also, if you use any email marketing system to promote your blog, share your thoughts.