Its been a while since we took a detour from the way we were marketing our e-commerce products. We were relying on Search Engine Marketing to market the products but now shifted to Real time Email Marketing campaigns, starting with around 1000 emails each day and slowly scaling our systems to make the number almost 1 million email marketing campaigns each day. Although the numbers look huge, the entire process demanded a lot of hard work from all of us. From collecting data to filtering them and sending the emails to relevant groups- every bit of it was a backbreaking work at our end.
When we started off, we had long discussions on the best and reliable way to reach out the mass via email campaigns. The discussions would go on round the clock as we kept on exploring new options. We expanded our research to every possible horizon- from Google Feedburner automated emails, Mailchimp, Sendgrid and then extended our research to Transnational email service providers like Mandrill, Sendgrid, Mailgun and many more. We were also actively searching for a one stop solution and thus searched for “Best Email Marketing Companies in India”, “Email Marketing Companies in Bangalore”. To get better results we refined our search and came to know about SMTP Servers. Eager to know more, we started learning more on SMTP servers and finally landed on websites, left contacts and now, here we are- their sales representatives are still following us religiously!
To start with Google Feedburner Automated Emails Updates:
No doubt the acquired product of Google serves quite well for newbies when it comes to send regular updates to the newsletter subscribers. For this you just need to verify and configure Google Feedburner properly followed by putting a simple subscription box on website. Moving forward, everything is taken care by Feedburner itself, from Double Opt-in email list verification to sending updates to the subscribers as soon as the blog is updated with new post.
However, in our case we tried to tweak this email campaign to the next level by applying various themes to our wordpress RSS setup. Our aim here was to get the desired look and feel in the emails. After trying many opions, we finally succeeded in doing so. This continued for next few months- we kept on iterating with our themes. However, we started to realize the need of new requirements like easy email opt-in process for website users. With this need in hand, Google Feedburner was not enough as we were unable to add our own list of subscribers to Google Feedburner Email List. Thus, we moved ahead to find a better solution.
Lack of Ease to add new subscribers to email list and Limited Control over Email Updates made us to look for new solution.
Using Mailchimp to Send Mass Email Campaigns:
Poised with the need of adding our own subscribers list manually in email campaigns, we turned to Mailchimp- an easy to use Email Marketing solution. We configured Mailchimp according to our needs to use it on a regular basis.
Very soon we crossed the limit of minimum number of free subscribers at Mailchimp and hence, shifted to a paid account. Having a paid account opened up various new features that we started applying in our email campaigns. Starting from using separate mail campaigns for various list of subscribers, Mailchimp also gave easy to use Email Campaign Editor, which I feel is the best in class for the marketers.
Growing need for Sending Email Campaigns to new list of Subscribers made us search for new email marketing tools.
As days passed, our list of subscribers kept on increasing by leaps and bounds, thereby increasing the number of emails being sent out. Consequently, Mailchimp was becoming costly for us. Moreover, our marketing team started to feel restrictions with editors. At last we put our foot down and decided to look for a new solution that will be feasible in every way.
Cost: $297 for 30,000 Subscribers a Month
Using Mailerlite to Cut Down Cost of Email Marketing Campaigns:
As we were on the hunt for the best feasible solution, we chanced upon Mailerlite which came around to be 12 times cheaper than Mailchimp. Not just that, it had similar Email Editor for creating effective email marketing campaigns. For 2 months we used its paid subscription, but due to its limited point based subscription, we had to stop using this email marketing solution.
Limitation on adding New Subscribers and removing old one, made us search for inhouse email marketing setup.
Cost: $297 for 30,000 Subscribers a Year.
An Experience with Interspire Email Marketer Software:
This is the last bulk email marketing tool which we tried on a shared SMTP server through local reseller. Although everything was fine, after few campaigns we found, that all the gmail emails are landing in spam. On further analysis we found that this was an issue with email reseller. On further research on internet we got the same response from everywhere, pointing to reseller and the ip address.
Interspire Email Marketer Suite is a complete solution for Email Marketer if you can afford to setup and maintain own SMTP Server.
After going through this bad experience, we thought of buying the Interspire Email Marketer suite and deploy it on our own SMTP server. This made us understand many in-depth facts regarding setting up our own SMTP server. We needed to afford a VPS Sever along with IP addresses and installation of PowerMTA, with DMARC, ADSP, EHLO in order to send about 1,500,000 emails per month. New terms also popped into our analysis, like IP rotation and IP warmup.
Cost: $45 for 100,000 emails.
Experience with Sendy over Amazon SES – Simple Email Service:
Its been almost 2 months now we are using Amazon SES, and we didn’t face the need of making a shift. This made me sit down and write about our experiences in the last 8 months. To be honest, this email marketing solution that we are using at present is an ideal solution, and frankly, I knew about it all along the past one and half year. Yes, I am talking about the PHP software Sendy, which can be configured with Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) to send out emails in bulk.
Although I knew about this software, I never really gave it a try. The reason for this was, I always had a perception that Amazon SES emails will straight land in the spam folder. I had read somewhere- Since Amazon SES is not pricey at all, a lot of spammers are using it for sending spam email campaigns. I am sure by now you have figured out what kind of emails I am talking about here!!
Two months back, I decide to take the plunge bought Sendy License from their website, installed it on my favourite DigitalOcean SSD Cloud Server in about 10 minutes’ time. I used pre-built LAMP image on DigitalOcean Server and configured DNS on Cloudflare Services.
DigitalOcean SSD Server is quite fast and available at affordable cost.
Followed by successful installation of Sendy on $5 Cloud Server, I followed Sendy Get Started Guide to setup, SPF and DKIM records for the domain name. Here I faced an issue with DigitalOcean DNS service, I was not able to verify DKIM, that’s why I shifted the DNS Service to Cloudflare.
Installation of Sendy is quite easy.
After completing DKIM verification of domain name, I went ahead to setup, bounce and complaint handling setup with Amazon SNS, followed by configuring the Sendy php files in Amazon SES Domain Notification Settings.
It is quite important to setup feedback processing system to handle bounce and complaints in SES service. Amazon takes it quite seriously.
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Cost: $10 for 100,000 E-mails and $5 for Server per month.
Configure Sendy Over DigitalOcean SSD Sever – Best Solution Ever:
You can find step by step Sendy Setup information on DigitalOcean here.
Once you will order Sendy Online you will receive license and Official Get Started Guide in email.
Configure Sendy Over Amazon EC2:
Yes, you can also use Amazon EC2 Free Tire server to setup the sendy. All configuration remain same and I prefer using DigitalOcean because of SSD.
Sending More than 1 Million Marketing Emails:
When we started using Sendy with Amazon SES, we were given production access and then daily limit of 25,000 emails per day. Now with increasing need of sending email campaigns to big list of emails, we requested AWS to increase the daily limits along with increasing limit on emails sent per second, which was initially 10 emails per second.
This festive season we got request to send mass mail to a list of Million subscribers. We accepted the challenge and took changes required on server accordingly. First, we got confirmation from Amazon SES team that they have increased our daily quota, followed by upgrading server and making it more fast to send emails very quickly.
Changes made on existing setup:
For first week we used $5 server to send a lot of emails, then with increasing demand we upgraded the plan to $10 and now to send out Million mails, we upgraded the Server plan to $20 which gave us 2Gb Ram, 2Gb Processor, 40 Gb SSD and 3 Tb Transfer. Also, to handle this mass request, we made some technology changes like changing from Apache to nGinx, which can handle requests smoothly. After that we changed PHP5-FPM to HHVM, to make php processing blazing fast. Technology changes also included a lot of testing and tuning to improve performance.
Finally, we were allowed to send 50 emails per second and we were successful in sending a Million mail in about 8 Hours.
Cost: $100 for 1,000,000 E-mails and $20 for Server per month.
Safe Email Blast Tricks:
Until now our experience with Amazon SES is really good and one thing I must mention is that, Amazon is very serious about the use of Simple Email Service. During the first week, our account was put on probation and we needed to clarify everything like, the business, why our customers have opted for email and how we are handling the subscription and un-subscription of emails. Every bit was clarified and laid down clearly. Finally they cooperated with us to give us complete access again.
Here are some points you should always keep in mind while using Amazon SES Service:
- Always keep watch on Bounce Rate.
Don’t try to send any kind of e-mail advertisements.
Getting Email Marked as Spam, is quite dangerous, keep watch.
To increase the deliverability of email don’t use spam sensitive words and/or lot of symbols.
Always maintain text to image and text to link ratio.
Avoid using external links in e-mail campaign.
I will discuss more on how to avoid emails marked as spam and increase the deliverablity of emails in mail box, in coming posts.
If you need help on installation or have any question feel free to leave the feedback below.
Update: Until now we have received 47% Open Rate and is increasing with time.