For someone who used to teach computer classes, my e-mail newsletters were ghet-toooh. I’m talking drafted in Apple Mail and then sent to just five recipients at a time so it wouldn’t get filtered out by spam. It took so damned long they usually went out at around 3am, ensuring that they would get the worst possible response. Deciding it was time to grow up, I did a cursory look at the e-mail marketing programs my friends and colleagues use: Constant Contact, Vertical Response and PHPList.
Although it’s very pretty, Constant Contact is too expensive for me. I only send about six e-mail newsletters a year, so the lowest monthly fee ($15) would still cost me about $30 per newsletter. PHPList, on the other hand, is like the ZenCart of e-mail marketing. It’s a free, open-source manager with so many possible features it gives me a headache. There’s so much stuff and so little user interface that I just don’t have time to sort through it all. So, like Goldilocks, I went with the happy medium.
Vertical Response offers both monthly and pay-as-you-go pricing, based on the number of recipients you have. For my six e-mails a year it costs me about $3.75 per e-mail, or 1.5 cents per recipient. Here are some things I like about their service:
- Tracking of all your newsletter links, including integration with Google Analytics
- Video tutorials for absolutely everything
- The ability to upload an html layout you created elsewhere
- The ability to upload an existing contact list as a CSV file (This was actually a huge pain for me, but only because I stupidly use Apple’s Address Book, which only exports “vCards.” I had to use this Online vCard Converter to convert the .vcf file to a .csv file using the following settings: csv, comma-delimited, check “add header lines”. When I finally got the fields mapping correctly, I had to turn off more than 20 unused fields by choosing “do not import” from Vertical Response’s drop-down menus.)
- Scheduled launches to ensure your e-mail sends exactly when you want it to (both Mail Diva and Ball State University agree it’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning).
There are also a couple of things I didn’t like:
- Help for importing contact lists is not in the Lists Help section of the site. You have to go to the main Help area for that.
- The “wizard,” which is supposed to be the easiest way to create an e-mail, was confusing to me. I used the “Canvas” with a “business template” instead, which was fine, but it used a lot of tables and was therefore very blocky. It took a lot of tweaking to get it to look decent. Next time I’ll probably create something using CSS and upload it.
- The text in their online previews looks WAY bigger than the test e-mail I read in my mail program.
- If you don’t remember to save your changes and walk away from the computer, they will log you out due to inactivity without saving your changes for you.
All in all I’m quite happy with how everything turned out. I’m especially happy that I never have to type or paste all those e-mail addresses ever again. I’m still pretty new to all this, so if you have any tips on e-mail list managers or on e-mail marketing in general, please share them in the comments section below.