Email Marketing Software: Episode II

Hey. Good morning, Internet fans. It’s Ryan Perry with Simple Biz Support. It’s Thursday, it’s Internet Marketing Thursday, therefore, I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center in Petaluma, and yes Virginie, I forgot my name, too. So I just put it down there at the bottom of the screen. So feel free as you’re talking, to click your buttons and put your name in there.

Virginie Dorn: Oh I can’t find it. Anyway, my name is Virginie. I’m glad to be on board with you today. How are you?

RP: I’m doing wonderful. It must be sunny outside ’cause the window blinds are open. Well, yours are open, not mine.

VD: Can’t complain, little bit of rain last night, but now it’s nice and clear.

RP: Yes. It should be a beautiful day. Last week, we talked… Specifically, we really talked about MailChimp and Constant Contact. I think we were pretty much in agreement that MailChimp was… Out of those two, MailChimp was kind of the preferred way of going for the basic user. And then, we also talked about some advanced systems such as Infusionsoft which is much more than just email automation. And the other thing that we talked about was actually creating your own custom email program much like MailChimp where you actually have a template, you can put information in, you can select different databases on who you want to send emails out to.

And I think a lot of times, any business owner, regardless of how big or small your business is, whenever you hear custom, you automatically think “Ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching. And this is really going to cost me a lot of money and therefore it’s not affordable.” And so we were talking off air and the fact is it sounds like it’s very affordable.

What that price point is or where the break-even point is is going to really be dependent on each company depending on how many people they have, how many times they send emails. But if you have thousands and thousands of emails that you’re sending out on a monthly basis, the basic plans for MailChimp or Constant Contact go from very inexpensive in the beginning, 20 bucks a month or so, to a couple of hundred dollars, to $500, $1,000. So at some point, it does become cost-effective to actually build your own email system. So why don’t you talk about that a little bit since it’s something that you’ve done for clients yourself?

VD: Yes. Having a custom email marketing campaign inside your own content management system is a great option for people who already have a database in their CMS. And by this, I mean, maybe they run a membership website. So they have thousands and thousands of members or they have an e-commerce website, so they have lots of buyers that have created accounts in order to purchase items on their site. So that database is on that website it’s hosting and also in their content management system. They don’t have to go elsewhere and update that contact list. They can stay with their own website, log in, and send an email directly from their own server.

What works well is that… Because it’s, again, you don’t have to update the data, the data is as fresh as it can be ’cause you’re on your own CMS, is you can customize it any way you want. You can have your programmer customize a template that looks identical to your website. You can customize maybe a different types of campaign per season and then it’s easy for you to just go there, open a template that you like that looks just like your website, fill in the fields, and decide who to send that email to based on your database. Maybe anybody that bought shoes and they also bought T-shirts. So you could check mark the little categories you want and it will email only those individuals.

RP: Okay. Now because I’m sure scared half the audience out there when I mentioned custom, and everybody’s going, “Oh, so it’s going to be horribly expensive,” can you give us just like a general ballpark range of what an email system, a custom email system might run?

VD: Sure. Typically you’re looking at about $3,000 for a standard email campaign system integrated into your website. Thus assuming you have a strong website with new code. I mean, if you’re looking at an old site that was done 10 years ago, then your Webmaster will have to rebuild the website to support that type of technology. So it again, depends on the age of your website. But $3,000 gives you something you get to own. It doesn’t have any maintenance fees, it’s yours to keep. It becomes an asset for your company as well, so whenever you want a business loan your website with that new functionality has a value. And I’ve had clients use their website as an asset for their company therefore being able to get the larger business loans, just as a site note.

But if you’re doing for instance, I don’t know, three… Let’s say you have 300,000 members. And it could be a simple membership website that has lots of members. If you going with MailChimp which is one of the most affordable and easy-to-use, third-party email system, we’re still looking at $1500 a month to have that many subscribers. So $1500 a month, after two or three months, you have paid for the cost of something that you won’t have to pay again for.

RP: Right.

VD: And that programming is good for many, many years especially if it’s done well.

RP: Sure. And if you look at it even from the lower end, if you’re paying $100, a lot of times, people look at return on investment within two to three years. If I can justify paying for that and I can recoup it, and I’m going to be in the business a long time. Even at a $100, if you’re paying $100 a month, in three years that’s $3600. It’s paid for itself. If you’re paying a $150, $200, that time frame for that return on investment is very quick.

So that’s the part I think that really surprised me and it’s one of those things, you just assume that Constant Contact who has this huge database, this huge company, is going to be able to keep the cost down for you and that it would be prohibitively expensive to have something custom done. And I think the other thing that’s important as you said is that once the code, the base code is built, and you’ve got a couple of templates made, there really isn’t any maintenance that needs to be done to it. So, there isn’t really any ongoing cost.

And then of course, my other concern was, it’s like, Let’s say I’m sending out 10,000 emails or even just 5000 emails every single month. With spam laws, with all those other issues, is your hosting company going to allow you to send that type of volume or they’re going to black flag you and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You are obviously spamming because you are sending out so many emails out of your account.” So, what’s kinda the rules I guess, when it comes to how many emails you can send and what your hosting company will allow you to do?

VD: It’s a great question. It depends on your hosting provider. If you have someone like Good ID or HostGator, typically on their cPanel server, which are the newer servers, they average about 500 emails per hour when they like to process if you are on a shared account. So, those are usually the very cheap hosting $8 or less per month. It’s not like it’s going to stop you, so if you have 10,000 emails to send, it’s just going to send 500 at a time every hour until it’s done. So you are not restricted. So, if you have a large database, it might take you a few days, but it’s not a bad idea. You don’t want everybody hitting your website anyway, at the same time.

And even MailChimp and Constant Contact, don’t send all your email at once. You can actually see the progress if you’re on their dashboard. It will show your files unsent and then nothing and then two files unsent. It’s showing you that they’re not doing it right at the same second because their server can’t even handle that.

So Again, it depends on your server. If you are a very large company and you can afford your own dedicated server, you can do a digital or virtual server with again, Good ID, Bluehost, any of those companies offer host services and then make dedicated server much more affordable. They range from a 100 to 400 a month and with that kind of servers, you pretty much have no limit to what you can do. It’s like you’re owning your own computer with a hosting company. Of course, it has to be set up by an IT person, but once you are set, it’s done. Still would be more affordable then paying a third-party email campaign company.

RP: Right, and that 100 to 400 that you talked about, that’s not just for an email campaign, that’s also for hosting your website and if you are generating that type of volume through email, you’d probably have a lot of visitors going to your website. So, you are going to need a more robust server, anyhow for your website, right?

VD: Yes. Otherwise, your hosting company is going to flag you or charge you more for bandwidth or if it don’t do that’s going to slow down your website. So, the 1000th person on the site is going to be stuck, the server slowdown. So. Yeah. At that level, you need your own dedicated server and the company that we’re referring to, they would know that too.

RP: Okay. Let’s shift gears a little bit from some of the technical backend stuff to the actual end-user interface. When you are building out something custom, you need to create a custom template, I’m assuming that’s part of the initial cost. Obviously, people want different templates, maybe seasonal type of templates, something for Christmas, something for fall, all that can be added on for an additional cost. It really isn’t that much more, but from the actual end-user’s interface, they’re going to log in and… I’m used to Constant Contact, MailChimp that backend. So, It’s just a matter of filing out the title, filing out the body and then picking which database you want to mail to. Is it that simple?

VD: Yes. It’s as simple as the site owner wants it to be. For people when sending a newsletter for instance, we like to create a pre-made newsletter template and all they have to do is fill out the field; the titles, this is where you put a photo, this is where you put text, this is where you put testimonial. It’s just a bunch of field boxes the site owner can fill up very easily. They can preview it, or we can even add a function that will automatically PDF that new email template. So, you can send the email that looks like your regular monthly newsletter, but at the same time you can generate a PDF from your CMS, that automatically goes into a certain landing page that archives all the newsletter.

VD: So, that’s one extra step Custom Programmer could do for you, so you can just… Very simple, everything is done for you. All you have to do is enter the content of your newsletter and then select who you want to send it to. Do you want to send it to all your active members? Do you want to send it to past members, to try to entice them back into your system? So, it’s very cool. It has no limit to what it can do. It’s based on what the site owners wants and what the business goal is.

RP: Right. And then speaking of custom programming and those type of things, what about data merge for, say websites that are actually selling a product, and maybe they just bought a black pair of shoes. Is there a way of data merging something that would send an email out that would say, “Hey, thanks for buying your black pair of shoes, by the way, we just got this new pair of black shoes in today”?

VD: Yes. So if you have a custom email campaign inside your own CMS, you don’t even need to merge any data, it’s automatically done for you. When you use MailChimp, you will have to tell it to put “Dear Joe”, mail merge the email, mail merge maybe, you’re sending user name and password to all your members, but in your constant, your own CMS, whatever mail merge you want is already in place. Does that make sense? But you could create…

RP: Yeah, well, ’cause you’re saying that the database, your MailChimp, you’re in a separate database from your website that you’re collecting information in. By combining those two together, now, what I want to know is, if let’s say, I’m selling shoes, one, I should be able to… There’s that default email that says, “Hey Betty, thanks for buying your black pair of shoes, they’re on their way.” But what if I get a new shipment of black shoes that are similar to these other black shoes that I’ve been selling and I go, “Hey, I want to send and email out to everybody that’s bought this style of black shoes because I think they’re going to like this new one.” So we can mail merge, or database merge, those two together, so that the email only goes to… Let’s say in the last six months or year or whatever it is.

VD: Yes, it’s all possible. So, “Dear Susie, thank you for buying the boots. Just to let you know we have a new style of sandals available for you,” and yes absolutely possible. Again the same functions that MailChimp and Constant Contact have, you can have in your own content management system.

RP: Right and I think the key thing there, though, is because the database is all in one place now, it’s very easy to access that information. There’s no export/import or anything like that. Alright, perfect. Alright, well very good. If people have questions, interests, comments about how to build, create, a custom email program, what’s the best way of getting a hold of you, Virginie?

VD: Well they can email us 24/7, so the email is info, I-N-F-O, at Petaluma website dot com. Petaluma is the town we’re in, P-E-T-A-L-U-M-A, website, W-E-B-S-I-T-E, or they can call us, it’s Pacific Standard Time here, so it’s 707-794-9999, and we’ll be happy to help.

RP: Alright Virginie. Well, that is our time for today. As always I appreciate your time and I think a lot of people if they understood the cost value of actually integrating their own email system into their website would be very interested in doing so. I can just see if you’re spending $100 or more a month, it seems like it would be a smart idea to at least consider.

VD: Yes.

RP: Alright, well have a great day, it’s always a pleasure. Take care.

VD: Thank you, bye.

RP: Bye.

About Ryan Perry

Ryan Perry has taken his 10+ years of business ownership and hands-on marketing skills and focused them on online marketing. In April of 2009, he started Simple Biz Support with an emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ryan is propelling local business websites to the top of Google, Yahoo and Bing resulting in increased market exposure and revenue for his clients using a variety of internet marketing tools including blogs, article submissions and video. Additionally, Ryan speaks and vlogs (video blogs) about internet marketing, educating business owners how to effectively use various SEO tools and techniques to promote their business on the internet. Ryan currently resides in Santa Rosa, CA. Connect with Ryan on Google+

Email Marketing Santa Rosa

E-Mail Marketing Software and Tips

Hey, good morning internet fans, it’s Ryan Perry with Simple Biz Support. It’s Thursday morning, therefore I have Virginie Dorn, with Business Website Center on the other end, down in Petaluma, California. Good morning, Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: Good morning, Ryan. Good morning, everybody.

RP: Yes. And we can’t see out of your windows, ’cause you have the blinds closed today, but I’m assuming that’s because it’s raining?

VD: No, I don’t know why it’s closed, maybe the cleaning crew did that, but it’s a bit of rain here, but very soft.

RP: It is. So, for those that don’t know, we’re up in Northern California, and California has been… This is our third year, I know it’s our second year of really bad drought, but I was not expecting rain. My mom actually drove up from LA yesterday. We’re driving home from dinner, and she’s looking at the clouds going, “Oh, it’s going to rain.” And I’m thinking, “Eh, it’s Sonoma County.” It’s just heavy fog, it’s overcast, like, “It’s not going to rain.” Five minutes later, I got the windshield wipers going, and all kinds of crazy stuff, so. But it’s good to have, good to have.

VD: Oh yes, we have a drought here, so we’re happy about it.

RP: Yeah. I would imagine that’s probably not the topic of conversation for this episode. What we’re really going to talk about is e-mail marketing. And basically, I assume everybody knows about e-mail marketing, people may not know the true value of e-mail marketing. A lot of times people don’t know where to start, so I want to kinda, maybe you can touch on what the value is of creating a database of people that you can market to on a regular basis. Just real quickly.

VD: Yes, absolutely. There’s great value, especially if you already have a relationship with those people. So, I’m not big fan of blast e-mailing a million people who’ve never heard of you. I think those emails just end up in spam, and people just delete them, purge them, and mark you as spam. But if you are a company, you know people, either customers, vendors, acquaintances, other business partners. All those emails are part of your database, and it’s great once and while, not everyday of the month, but to reach out to them to stay in visibility. Announcing new products you might be launching, or services, or maybe some how-to, or tips. So, it’s as long as the e-mail has value, and you have an established relationship with them, it’s great, because people remember you.

RP: Right. And I think, and the one thing that I know that I’m guilty of, in my own business, is a lot of times people will go, “Oh well, I need a second opinion, because I’m going to have somebody do X, Y, Z. Another company, we’re going to have them build the website, as an example.” I’m like, “Well, hold it. I could’ve helped you, I could’ve put a quote in for that.” And they’re like, “Oh well, I thought you just did SEO.” And so, when you have multiple facets of your business, but you bring a new client onboard, they may only really know about one thing. So for me, most of my clients are SEO related, and they may not necessarily know that I offer social media services. They may not know that I offer web design, and so having a database of clientele that I can e-mail on a regular basis. And whatever that time frame is, really needs to be relevant to your clients and your product. In my industry it might be every month, maybe every two months. With just keeping in touch, keeping top of mind, and reminding them that, “Hey, I don’t just do this, I also do this, this and this.” So, that if they need that service, hopefully they’ll think about me first.

VD: You’re so right. Most people just think of you only of they hired you to do. And if they love you, they love what you’ve done, and they don’t remember everything else you do. That’s not their job to do that, so it’s our responsibility as business owners to reach out to them and let them know, that indeed we do offer other services.

RP: Right. So, I think then the big point becomes, “Oh, you know what. This is another level. Besides the fact that I have to run my business. Besides the fact I have to go to Chamber meetings, to network. Besides the fact that I need to do social media. Besides the fact I need to update my blog. Besides the fact I need to keep my website current, now we’re adding another layer. And now it’s a new thing I have to learn, and how difficult is it?” So, the nice part is, that there are services out there, such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, that are very simplistic in the way of their design, in order to send out large volumes of e-mail. When I say large volume, what you don’t want to do, is if you have let’s say a 100 customers, you don’t want to have to go into Outlook or your e-mail program and say, “Dear Susie.” And then copy and paste whatever your message is, Send. And then open up a new e-mail and go, “Dear Bob.” Copy and paste. With MailChimp, with Constant Contact you can have a database of the all the names, that automatically plug the name in for you, plug the business in. And within, literally seconds, you can send off a 100 emails.

VD: Correct. The mail merge function is the greatest advantage of using those third-party companies. Is that you are able to customize each e-mail, in an instant. So, if you have a strong database, maybe first, last name, the product they brought from you, their e-mail address. You could do a mail merge within MailChimp saying, “Dear Susie Smith. Thank you for buying the red shoes. And just to let you know we’re now launching a new line of scarves that you might be interested in. Click here to find out more.” And this is all done automatically for you, as long as you follow the right process with the third-party company. And it’s very user-friendly. It’s just great, because again, doing it manually is not an option. Plus, you have more chances to be marked as spam if you do it from your own little private e-mail box. Most companies, that’s what they do for a living. They actually don’t… They don’t send one e-mail to everybody. They actually send each individual e-mail, one at a time, and over a period of a few hours. So, if you have 10,000 people they might send a thousand emails, and then another half an hour later another thousand. It’s not a copy, so it’s not everybody getting the same e-mail, everybody gets one e-mail to them and that’s how they’re able to bypass the spam filter on your e-mail.

RP: Right, right. And you know, the other cool thing is that… Well, first I want to say is that if you use MailChimp, Constant Contact, these are companies that are designed, they built their business around first-time users, so the interface is very simple. They have a lot of templates or you can have a custom template made, but very, very user friendly. If you can use Word or Excel, you should probably be fine in a MailChimp or a Constant Contact. Now, we were talking before the broadcast started about preference. I’ve had experience with Constant Contact. I’m not a big fan of their system, however, their customer service is very good. And I think on both sides customer service is very good because their business is built for first-time users, so they know they need to have that additional support. On the other hand, you’re a big fan of MailChimp, why is that?

VD: Yes. Well, we use both systems depending on the clients. Some clients already have their Constant Contact accounts, which they’ve paid for so, therefore, we would be using that account. I love MailChimp. They’re great. All the geeks in our industry just love them. But first and foremost, they have a freebie… You can have 2,500 subscribers in your database with MailChimp at no charge and you can send up to 12,000 emails every month without a single string attached. You can create campaigns. You can use their templates. You can upload your own HTML template if you want. You can attach the same template to different campaigns and modify them. You can do very easy mail merges we were talking about a few minutes ago. They’re just fantastic. Very user-friendly. Just… I don’t have any stocks with them, maybe I should, but very easy to work with. Their customer support is great as well. Constant Contact used to have a free plan, but now they have a free trial, so that’s not exactly a free plan, so if you want to do, I think, 500 emails was what? $15. Well, you can do 12,000 emails for free from MailChimp, so there’s no reason… Why pay unless you’re stuck on a contract with them?

RP: Yeah, exactly. And I think the big thing is is that anytime you’re starting out something brand new for the first time, 30 days goes by really quick, especially if you’re a solo-entrepreneur, if you’ve got a busy workload. You’d be surprised at how quickly 30 days can blow by. So having the ability to not worry about losing anything that you’ve built because your 30 day expiration expired, and now if you want access to what you already started building you’ve gotta pay. So I like the idea with Mail Chimp that, “Hey, you can practice, practice, build, build.” The other thing is both of ‘em… I taking it back. I’m pretty sure MailChimp has a direct plug-in for WordPress. I worked with a client last month who already had a Constant Contact account and they didn’t have a direct plug-in at the time, which I really thought was strange to… For people to sign-up, you know, like sign up for your newsletter. I’m sure everyone’s seen that on the website, “Put in first name. Put in e-mail. Hit submit.” When you do that if you have a plug-in from MailChimp it’ll actually put that person directly into the database and you don’t have to manually add them. And then the next time your newsletter goes out that person will automatically be included in that subscription, which is a great way of building your database and allowing you to constantly sell, especially when somebody raises their hand and says, “Yes, I want to receive more information.”

VD: Yes. Constant Contact has something similar, but it is not an easy plug-in for WordPress. They will give you the code so you can do exactly that, but you have to know how to put it into the code of your contact form. So that gets very tricky.

RP: That’s why I was having issues, because I am not a programmer. I like plug-and-play. I like it when it’s a bolt and a nut and they fit together and I can just screw ‘em together and, “Boom!” I’m done. If I have to tinker, I have very little patience.

VD: So, Yes on MailChimp then.

RP: Yes on MailChimp. We’ve got about three minutes. Now the next thing is for larger enterprises. The next step up would be something like Infusionsoft. Now Infusionsoft is very intense. I signed up for Infusionsoft last year. I use it in my business. I actually ended up hiring somebody who’s a certified Infusionsoft Programmer to actually build out my campaigns. And it’s very expensive. The base price, last I heard was $3,000 and $300 a month, just to use it. Now the cool thing about Infusionsoft is that it’s very, very smart. It’s an actual program in the sense that it is wickedly customizable. I don’t know how else to put it.

RP: You can… People actually use Infusionsoft to help with their day-to-day processes, to run their business and the automation, and actually you can put thought logic into it, if somebody clicks on this, we can throw him into another campaign because maybe they like red. They indicated through an e-mail that they like red better than blue and if that has a psychographic or I don’t know the right word, but if it affects their way of looking at your business, you can throw them into a different e-mail campaign so that you’re speaking to them in the way that they want to be heard. Very, very over the top, absolutely crazy. If you want a truly customizable anything, Infusionsoft is a great way to go, but relatively pricey. And then the next level up would be actually integrating your CMS, your website that database in with something like Infusionsoft but you actually are able to build out you’ve done this for a couple of clients where you build in an e-mail editor, I don’t know what you would call it.

VD: Yes, we have multiple clients actually that have MailChimp inside their own program. So what we did, we custom built and that’s good for people who have big membership websites or they have a portal where all their clients access their portal website to access their products and services so the databases are already there with the client’s information and the site owner can go into the Content Management System, go to the e-mail marketing section and decide who they want to send that e-mail to, so for a client who has maybe 2,000 customers, he can choose all active customers who’ve recently but shoes and then they say they like sweaters. You can really customize that e-mail and the database know who’s who and automatically will send the e-mails through their database and it’s just like using MailChimp except you don’t have to go to MailChimp. You stay within your own Content Management System. Go ahead.

RP: I was going to say and the key advantage is large database, constantly changing database like you mentioned if somebody is selling products, people are buying stuff for everyday or ideally they’ll be buying stuff every day from your websites, so your database is constantly changing. If you’re still using a product like MailChimp, you’re having to export that information and then import it into MailChimp to update it versus if you’re working in the same database you don’t have to do that anymore.

VD: That is correct, so that’s one of the greatest advantage. The information’s accurate as it can be.

RP: All right, very good. Well that I wanted to spend a little bit more time on the fully customizable stuff because I think there’s… People don’t know what they don’t know and if you did know it was possible and maybe you’ve been one of those people who’s been using MailChimp for some time, you’ve got 5,000 contacts and you’re like, “Oh! I just feel handcuffed because of the limitations.” Maybe next week we can dive a little bit more into the customizable stuff and educate people what they can do, what’s possible by actually having their own custom e-mail built into their website.

VD: I’d be happy to speak about it, sure.

RP: Alright, well sounds good. Our time is up today. I hope you have a fabulous day and stay dry or get wet. Either way, I know a lot of people were probably out dancing in the rain last night just because it hasn’t rained in so long.

VD: Yes, so stay safe everybody on the road.

RP: Alright. Take care, Virginie, thank you.

About Ryan Perry

Ryan Perry has taken his 10+ years of business ownership and hands-on marketing skills and focused them on online marketing. In April of 2009, he started Simple Biz Support with an emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ryan is propelling local business websites to the top of Google, Yahoo and Bing resulting in increased market exposure and revenue for his clients using a variety of internet marketing tools including blogs, article submissions and video. Additionally, Ryan speaks and vlogs (video blogs) about internet marketing, educating business owners how to effectively use various SEO tools and techniques to promote their business on the internet. Ryan currently resides in Santa Rosa, CA. Connect with Ryan on Google+