heya,

I’m back and eager to talk with you about the tech side of traffic generation, because i spent the best part of the last few years neck deep in it.

Our topic today is email marketing solutions. I developed a bit of a pet peeve with traditional email marketing solutions and i’ll never use them again. We’ll explore my peeves first and then i’ll show you what i’m doing instead…
 
 
 
1. PRICING
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Until recently, email marketing services had two types of cost variables:

   1) number of contacts
   2) and, number of emails sent per month.
 
 
For a daily emailer like myself, this often meant i was paying for subscriber packages four, five times my list size, so i can email with the frequency i needed.

Most services bring you in on a small monthly fee which is great when your list is small or non-existent, but as your list grows, that cost balloons exponentially. Eventually, instead of a few dollars a month, you’re paying several hundred, if not thousand dollars per month.

Admittedly, i went to research this point last week so i can give you specific examples of services that do things this way…and to my bitter disappointment i found my usual suspects have changed their ways. lol.

iContact, for example, for many years allowed only 6 emails per month per subscriber, which meant if you had 5,000 subscribers, for example, and wanted to email them daily, you need to pay for the 25,000 subscriber package. I didn’t even understand Aweber’s pricing, but after mere months of starting at 19.99 found them charging me several hundred dollars per month.

Like i said though, this does not seem to be the case any more. According to their support, both now offer unlimited emails and only bill on the basis of list size. Sweet!

All the same, pay attention when picking a service about how they calculate their pricing. Is it number of stored subscribers, number of monthly sent emails, or both?

The trouble with making the wrong choice in the beginning, is your needs will not remain simple forever. Once your list grows, migration to a new service is a nightmare. Making the right choice early is key.
 
 
 
2. MIGRATION & DOUBLE OPT-IN
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Moving from one mailing service to another is tedious and in most cases will lose a large, responsive portion of your list.

In almost all cases, importing your existing list of contacts into a new mailing service will require you to explain the source of your contacts and then to ask your contacts to confirm their subscription. These rules, put in place to protect services from spammers, are conveniently thrown out the window for clients with large lists who are worth thousands of dollars per month in fees to the new mailing service.

My guess is you’re not one of those lucky guys and neither was i in the beginning.

At one point, i was maintaining different mailing lists in three different services (1Shoppingcart, iContact, and Aweber), paying each a separate monthly fee, and unable to merge my contacts into one mailing service. Any time i tried to import contacts from one service into another, the service i was importing into required me to send out a prewritten email to all my subscribers asking them to click a link to confirm their subscription.

The argument is if these people really wanna hear from you, they will be eager to confirm their subscription.

Truth is, unless people are EXTREMELY into your emails…like their life depends on them somehow and they avidly read every email you send, most are unlikely to take a proactive step of confirming their subscription.

For what reason?

What motivation could they possibly have to go through this process?

I mean, you as the marketer, you’re changing list providers, that’s your problem…what does the subscriber care?

Anyway, all this assumes the email doesn’t land in junk, the subscriber sees it and opens it, believes it to be from you, and reads and understands far enough to recognise they need to take action, and finally decides they care enough about not missing out on your emails to do what you’re asking.

How likely is that?

Every time i tried this exercise, i could only get a small handful of my list to comply. I earned every subscriber fair and square, paid for every lead, i wasn’t going to lose them over some technicality.

So, i ended up with several email services, with some subset of my subscribers locked into each.

In addition, many email marketing services impose really strict rules on how you can add subscribers or move them from list to list, requiring double confirmation from subscribers. Aweber, for instance, is a nightmare to integrate into any automated API because by default they require double confirmation even if you turn it off.
 
 
 
3. TERMS OF SERVICE
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Email marketing services all have rules about what you can and can’t market in your emails–like the nature of products and services.

And some of the rules are really arbitrary and crazy! I’ve seen some seriously open to interpretation types of things which i’m sure they just put in there to cover their butts.

Here’s an example. A couple of months back, i asked my d!ck pill client to join Mailchimp because it integrated nicely with our shopping cart and other bits of tech. I had a look at it, and the email writing interface was beautiful and it was overall quite impressive.

Once we had everything setup, i did all the work of putting in the emails and creating all the appropriate autoresponders. We started up the traffic campaign and spent money. But for some reason the email follow-up part of our funnel wasn’t converting.

It took several days to figure this out. When i dug a little, i discovered they had paused our follow-up campaign because it violates their terms of service. Apparently this stuff is sexually explicit and isn’t allowed on Mailchimp. We asked for a refund and i quickly found an alternative i’ll share with you shortly.

But man was i pissed off. The amount of time and money we wasted because of these jackasses!
 
 

I think this covers the major issues i’ve had over the years with email marketing services and why i no longer use them.

Look, the mailing list is an internet marketer’s entire business. If you lose it, you have lost your business. The trouble is because they collect, store, and email contacts for you, traditional email marketing services forcefully take ownership of your most important business asset. And they dictate what you can and cannot do with them.

I don’t think they should have that much power over us.

A better approach, i have found, is to decouple our email leads from the service that emails them.

I mean, we invest great amounts of time and money into collecting our contacts–sometimes our contact database contains records of customers! Those are super important contacts NOT to lose under any circumstances. That’s our property, it does not belong to any service that facilitates mailing.

This way, we collect and store our contacts independently into our own database and then use a separate service to email the contacts. This way, if an email service wants to lock you out or be a dick about your email content, they only prevent you from emailing through them. Your contacts are yours. So you quickly switch the service without losing or affecting your hard earned contacts.

How do we do this?

There are several techniques. But the one i will describe here is what i found to be easiest and fastest to setup.
 
 
 
WHAT I DO NOW (INSTRUCTIONS)
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With this approach, you get to maintain all your contacts in your own WordPress website, where you have complete and exclusive control over them.

A free plugin takes care of collecting and storing contacts for you into your WordPress database. It also allows you to write and store your emails locally on your own server…Emails are simply a custom post type. (which reminds me of one more peve…losing all my old emails when leaving an email marketing service).

When you’re ready to send an email broadcast, the plugin integrates with one of several services that ONLY does sending on your behalf. It does not manage your leads in any way.

Let’s go through the setup steps quickly:

First, install the FREE WordPress plugin: Mailpoet 3.

Mailpoet is completely free. However, it does offer an OPTIONAL paid mailing service with a free usage tier. But it also integrates with other mailing services i’ll talk about shortly.

The email composition interface in Mailpoet is beautiful and really easy to use. It works very similarly to Mailchimp, but inside your WordPress site, and without Mailchimp’s jerkiness.

Additionally, lots of form plugins integrate with Mailpoet out of the box. I will share with you some experience on how to build lead capture pages that collect leads into Mailpoet in a subsequent email of the series. You can also link email leads to their purchases which is SUPER important when determining a lead’s value. And you can have customer lists automatically made for you when people buy things.

The beauty of Mailpoet is it collects leads straight into your WordPress database.

Even if you uninstall the plugin, your leads are yours. You can look at them in your Users section, export them, do whatever you want. You don’t pay anyone to store them. No one holds you hostage through them. No one forces you to confirm or double confirm them. Move your site, move your server, they go with you everywhere.

The next step is to setup your email sending service.

Like i said, Mailpoet has their own sending service which they push. I have NOT used their service so i cannot speak for its quality but it does seem to be the simplest way to go if you’re looking for EASIEST.

However, Mailpoet also allows you to choose between using your own local server, Sendgrid, or Amazon Simple Email Service. These options, i HAVE tried and have some experience to share.

Sendgrid is an excellent transactional email service with a full fledged sending interface inside should you ever want it. We only need to access it by API with Mailpoet, however. When you sign up, you can do so for free and get 40,000 emails the first month and 100 emails per day thereafter in their free tier. Once your needs increase, you can do 100,000 emails monthly for $14 which isn’t too bad. They walk you through all the steps for configuring DKIM and SPF so your emails are delivered to inboxes instead of junk.

Amazon SES is a bit more advanced and does NOT have a nice sending interface. But, once more, we only need its API. I like it best because their free tier gives you 62,000 emails free per month before billing starts. And it’s only 10 cents per 1,000 emails thereafter. This is pretty darn cheap for data independence and peace of mind if you ask me. They too walk you through setup so your emails are delivered to inboxes instead of junk.

The final option is sending through your own server. Now i would NEVER recommend you do this, unless your own server has been configured with a Postfix smarthost relay connected to some other external sending service.

This is super advanced stuff, but i only mention it because if you have the right tech guy on your side, you can connect Mailpoet to ANY other sending service you want.

I know this whole thing ends up sounding like a big ad for Mailpoet. But please understand I am receiving no compensation from them or any of the other services i mentioned here (this is why i didnt link any of them). They just served my needs really well and impressed me.

Mailpoet’s code is REALLY clean and well written. I have seen some nice looking projects with awful code under the hood (eg, Sendy is absolutely vomit inducing).

This is how i setup all email marketing for my clients these days. If you too care about retaining ownership and control of your most valuable online business asset, i’d recommend you follow these steps today.

And hey, if you’re enjoying this series, drop me a line and tell me what you like or what else you want to know about. And if you enjoy my take on things, you’ll probably love the Super Traffic Machine. This series of manuals documents in step by step detail exactly how to setup your online business to maximise traffic and conversions.

Read all about it at the link below…

See you tomorrow,

~jim