Realising e-mail campaigns with the ASP provider Campaign Monitor
A while ago I got the task of sending out a Tell-A-Friend advert by e-mail to 180,000 clients. Until then I had only worked with a self-developed PHP solution for the posting of HTML e-mails and it quickly became clear that such a huge number of recipients would overstrain my simple PHP script. Consequently, I started looking for solutions that would facilitate the reliable posting of professional e-mail campaigns also to vast numbers of recipients.
Local application or ASP solution
It quickly transpired that there are basically two ways of posting e-mail campaigns: either with applications that are local or respectively run on your own web server or with ASP solutions where a web application on the server of the provider takes over all the tasks (ASP: Application Service Provider). After a fair bit of research I decided in favour of the ASP variant, as I clearly wanted to avoid that the medianotions server or any server of my clients ends up on a blacklist or my internet provider terminates my contract due to suspicion of spamming.
On the other hand I also hoped that the ASP providers - in times of excessive spamming - had done their homework in regard to putting their servers on respective white lists and additionally would do everything to ensure that the e-mails sent out to clients arrive reliably. After more research and a few calls to sales associates from German ASP e-mailing providers it turned out that all providers (of the ones I checked) charge monthly fees whether or not you are posting e-mail campaigns. And these fees can additionally be graded by the number of stored clients’ addresses. Not really an interesting option.
At one point I discovered Campaign Monitor and decided in favour of this provider as the web applications seemed first class and there were no monthly fees. Many e-mail campaigns later I still do not regret my decision. In the following I would like to show what working with Campaign Monitor looks like in general and also a few of my favourite features.
Management of clients-and recipients lists
Campaign Monitor allows the set-up of any number of recipient lists that can be assigned to individual clients. This is ideal for web designers who want to manage several clients. The import of recipient data is carried out smoothly in CSV format and - very importantly - this also applies to the export. For each recipient you can choose up to ten freely selectable data fields to deposit title, name, address or, for example, a voucher code and later export them as personalised. Of course, Campaign Monitor also manages registered and cancelled clients and provides tools for the set-up of newsletter forms.
The HTML for the e-mail is under the full control of the web designer. There is no restrictive HTML corset you have to obide to; Campaign Monitor only adjusts the link and image paths. On request, the text version is automatically created from the HTML sourcecode and then you can already run the first test to check whether the e-mail looks as expected in your own e-mail programme. If you want to test how the e-mail looks in many other e-mail clients, then Campaign Monitor offers a true test of the e-mail campaign for $ 5 (USD), which additionally displays the reaction of a number of popular spam filters to your e-mail.
For the sending of e-mailings there is a charge of $ 5 per campaign and 1 cent per recipient, so that the costs for recipient lists in the four-digit regions are manageable. There are discounts of up to 50% for projects with a higher quota of delivery. The sending can be carried out immediately or be programmed for a specific point of time, whereas Campaign Monitor conveniently takes different time zones into account so that you do not have to worry about the locations of the servers. Immediately after sending, you get a confirmation of delivery and bill per e-mail.
Analyses of campaigns
A big advantage of good ASP solutions in comparison to simple PHP based e-mailings is that you can statistically analyse the campaigns. And this is done in an exemplary way by Campaign Monitor. I especially like the feature that enables the clients - by using their own login - to access the analysis of the campaign. Also, faulty e-mail addresses are automatically erased from the recipient list.
What always catches my eye in a positive manner is the fact that the developers of Campaign Monitor have been thinking proactively at many instances and have taken into account the clients’ requirements. Further advantages worth mentioning are:
- web application that can be used intuitively and is designed in an exemplary manner
- transparent and easily calculable pricing system
- extensive online help manual, informative blog and a good forum
At the moment, the only thing that is missing in Campaign Monitor are different language versions of the web application, as especially in respect to clients it would be nice to be able to offer a localised German version.