How to manage your mailers

Tags: Knowledge
If you’re a small business owner, or perhaps even an independent consultant, the chances are that you’ve had to send out newsletters to your clients. There are basically two ways to do this: (i) by collecting contacts in your email account and manually sending out mailers; or (ii) having a mailing list service that manages the dirty work. For a few dozen recipients, it may not be that hard to select everyone in your contact list and send. But if you’re talking about a database of thousands, your email provider may have a thing or two to say about it. Moreover, the logistics could drive you up the wall and professional help might be well worth it. What’s more, there’s a chance it won’t cost you anything.

A chimp at hand

Now, a company with a cheeky­looking chimp in a cap may not inspire much confidence, but MailChimp (mailchimp.com) in fact happens to be one of the easiest web­based email marketing services to use. MailChimp even allows you to organise your audience into groups to send specific mailers to specific groups. There are tools to craft your newsletters — or campaigns, as MailChimp calls them — even though templates are limited in the free version. Blog owners will like the RSS­to­email module that automatically sends out a newsletter when the blog is updated. If you want to integrate a subscribe form into your site, that can be easily done with MailChimp, plus there are Facebook and WordPress integrations. Other features include subscriber management and profiles, multi­user accounts, analytics and tracking, auto­responders, time­zone­specific delivery and plenty more. And should you want to work from an Android or iOS platform, there are apps for that. MailChimp’s free tier is good for up to 2,000 email accounts and 12,000 emails per month. This is more than generous for many small businesses, and an upgrade of $10 a month expands your limit by another 500 email IDs and unlimited mails.

Insanely impressive

Mad Mimi (madmimi.com) has a free plan that gives you up to 2,500 contacts and 12,500 emails. But there’s a catch: you get no support (though you do get access to the help pages). But then Mad Mimi has a brilliant interface, such that even technologically challenged users will find it a breeze to create audience lists and compose newsletters.

The Mad Mimi composer lets you choose from a variety of themes or create your own. Drag and drop images and use some very intuitive text and formatting buttons to get things exactly how you need in your newsletter. You can’t use custom HTML or create a text­only newsletter in the free version, however. Go to the Audience tab in the dashboard to start add email contacts. It is possible to create multiple lists, and Mad Mimi also maintains an automatic sign­ups list. Other features include web forms for your website, multi­user accounts, analytics, RSS­to­email, social networking links, integration with web­based services like Survey Monkey, Freshbooks, Etsy, Zoho, and a subscription manager. You can turn these add­ins and more on and off from the Add Things page.

Do­ it yourself

For tech­savvy webmasters and mistresses who want a more hands­ on solution, the free and open source newsletter manager phpList (phplist.com) is the perfect answer. Try out a demo at phplist.com/demo first. You can either download and install it on your web server or opt for a plan hosted on phplist.com (free for up to 300 messages per month). Though there are definite advantages to having your own mailing list manager, it isn’t recommended to try this unless you have some experience in administering websites and working with PHP and HTML. Of course, we’ve just scratched the surface with these options. There are excellent paid services available, such as Campaign Monitor, iContact, Aweber and Campayn. zz

(The author is a freelance

technology writer)

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