Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Look at Email List Management Services

This is something that I have been putting off for quite a while, but no more. I have decided to set up an email list. I am going to go over step by step what I am doing here in the hopes that this may help others who haven't taken this important step yet. I have heard over and over again that the email list is more important than any social media, and that "the money is in the list".

As with most of my great adventures on the internet it all starts with....

Step 1 - Google!

Duh! As if I would use Bing! Ewwww Bing! I heard Bing has skidmarks in their undies. The Underpants Gnomes told me so! I first Googled "author email list". I found a few sites that gave me a bunch of tips for maintaining a list, writing newsletters, promoting the list, etc.. This may be useful, BUT I'm not at that step yet! Let's try a new search. This time let's try "email list management". Now we're in business! This search gives a list of companies that manage email lists.

Step 2 - Research!

Let's take a look at our options now. Obviously the first option would be to do it all yourself, but who really has time for that? When comparing these services, I will use a price point of around $40 per month. There are cheaper price points for each.

  • http://www.mailchimp.com/ - Do you trust monkeys to send your newsletters? Apparently they are more reliable than pigeons! This site has some powerful tracking tools and email customization. Free to try if under 2,000 subscribers up to 12,000 emails per month. Pay as you go that scales down as the amount of subscribers goes up. For 2,000 emails it is $0.02 per email or $40.
  • http://www.phplist.com/ - A free do it yourself option that you can download and install on your own email server. I'll have to do additional research on that! I may be able to host this on my PC. I have hosted and maintained my own website on my PC before. This may be the option that I choose if it is easy enough to do. I do love PHP, and have built many websites using it. However for now there is a hosted option available. This also has tracking tools and email customization. There are a few payment options. For 15,000 messages it is $30, or for 10,000 subscribers up to 1,000,000 messages per month it is $45. This seems a more economical choice, but the email templates do not seem as robust. It will take a bit more work to use this service.
  • http://www.list.org/ - Another popular free do it yourself option, but looking through it a bit reveals that this option requires a lot of work. I'm looking for something a bit easier to handle and manage. If I had experience programming in Python, I may choose to use this option. I don't like snakes though.
  • http://www.lsoft.com/ - This is one well designed website! It starts with a questionnaire that helps you find the option that best fits your needs. Nice! Unless you are afraid the robots are taking over your life, then you should be afraid! The list of services is impressive. This looks to be tailored more toward medium to large businesses. The prices reflect that. There is a $750 one time setup fee. There is a yearly upkeep fee that amounts to $104.17 per month ($1250 per year). Finally there is a quarterly $2.50 per thousand emails sent fee. For $40 per month you can send 16,000 emails per month, BUT that's not including the other costs. This one looks the most professional, but sticker shock feels like I just put a fork in an electrical socket. No thank you sir!
  • http://www.sympa.org/ - Yet another do it yourself option. It's free and open source which are two of my favorite things to say. Say it with me... free and open source. Doesn't it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? If it doesn't then you probably use and pay for Microsoft Word and an iPhone while those who like free stuff use Open Office and have Android phones. There's nothing wrong with having an iPhone or using Microsoft Word. I just don't condone paying or paying too much for them when there are other options that are cheaper or free. This option may take a lot of work to set up, but you can't beat free.
  • http://www.aweber.com/ - This option came recommended on one of the websites from the first search topic I tried. It looks to have many of the same features from the previous options. This service bills by the amount of subscribers you have with no limit to how many emails you can send. For 5,001-10,000 subscribers it costs $50 per month.

Step 3 - Decision Time!

Hmmm... Since I don't have an email server at this time to run the free options off of, I'm going to eliminate them for right now. That leaves me with mailchimp and aweber. The first month of aweber is $1 while mailchimp offers their services for free for a low amount of subscribers. With both offering a somewhat free trial period, I can try them out without much risk. I can always revisit the free options if I magically find some free time and don't like either of these. Most of the features are identical or close enough, so the other deciding factor is price. Using the price calculator for mailchimp I have found that every 200 new subscribers increases their cost by about $5. The same 5,001 subscribers for aweber will cost you $5 more. No biggie. However, for 10,000 subscribers it costs $25 more. For some inexplicable reason 5,801-10,000 subscribers costs the same before increasing $5 every 200 subscribers again. Mailchimp will end up being much more expensive the more successful you become. That makes aweber the winner... for now.

Step 4 - Sign up and set it up!

Pretty self explanitory here! Next week I'm going to write a follow up that follows my journey to set up an email list through aweber. All the trials, tribulations, and triumphs will be shared! Stay tuned. Same bat-time same bat-website!

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