How To Send Mass Email Without Subscribing To The Likes Of Aweber or Mailchimp

Bad, BAD idea to send mass email from your own web server. I know. I used to do it. I was the cheap-ass who hosted my email list in-house (in order to save money), and it was a seriously stupid decision.

Fortunately, there are other types of options.

The money is in the list.

We’ve heard it a million times and I think, by now, most of us know it to be true.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I personally use Aweber for my email marketing, and it is the solution I recommend to all who ask me. Others like using other companies. Many bloggers find themselves using Mailchimp, for instance. Mailchimp is a nice company with a nice interface, but it is no Aweber. And we’ll just leave it at that. 😉

Still, sometimes, we just don’t want to use full-fledge email marketing companies like these. Perhaps you’re just… well, cheap. 🙂 I could argue with you all day about the importance of investing in your business, in getting your email marketing right from day one, on the importance of an abundance mindset versus a scarcity mindset. But, too many… and whether I agree with them or not… they just won’t sign up for something like Aweber because they’re too cheap.

Others have technical reasons. For instance, what if you have a bunch of emails in a local database? Importing into Aweber is possible, but you’ll most likely have to re-confirm everybody (unless you have a proven history of your emails being properly managed with another reputable company).

For instance, I have a large forum over on PCMech. As of this writing, there are over 54,000 registered members in there – sitting inside of vBulletin. vBulletin has a built-in capability to mass-email members, but the absolute LAST thing I want to do is send that many emails from my own server. Not only will it hurt my server load, but I’d probably get my IP address banned on any blacklist in the civilized world.

Bad, BAD idea to send mass email from your own web server. I know. I used to do it. I was the cheap-ass who hosted my email list in-house (in order to save money), and it was a seriously stupid decision.

Fortunately, there are other types of options.

Host In-House, But Outsource Email Delivery

So, you use some kind of local system to host your emails locally. Some kind of PHP/MySQL system would work fine. The one I used to use before I switched to Aweber was ActiveCampaign. This company now has a hosted option, but I used to use their self-hosted option.

If you’re using a forum, then most of them have the ability to mass-send emails to registered members.

One way or the other, let’s assume you have emails sitting inside your database, along with some in-house way to mass-email them. What about outsourcing email delivery?

I’ve signed up for SendGrid.

Sendgrid - Email Delivery

SendGrid differs from the likes of Aweber in that they are SOLELY about email delivery. They don’t manage your lists for you.

SendGrid takes care of delivery and removes the load (and potential blacklisting effects) from your own server. Along with that, you can get things like open rates, click rates, and other stats.

SendGrid integrates with your in-house software. It has various ways to do that (including an API), but perhaps the easiest way to integrate is using the SMTP relay. See, ALL outgoing email (even from your local mail client) is sent using an SMTP server. So, all that would be necessary to send an email via SendGrid is to have your software use their remote SMTP server. It is literally as simple as entering the server name, your username and your password.

For example, vBulletin has the option of either using PHP’s mail() command (the default option, but this means it is being sent from my own server)… OR a remote SMTP server. If I plug in Sendgrid’s info, then all of my outgoing emails from vBulletin (including mass emails) are now being sent using a much more reliable network dedicated to email delivery.

How I’m Using SendGrid

Well, you might have guessed by now, but my usage for SendGrid is for my PCMech forums. I’m reaching out to those 54,000 members to “reactivate” them. See, a lot of those registered members haven’t been back to the forums in quite some time. Some of them register and then never actually posted anything. From a marketing standpoint, I should have been maintaining contact with them, but I wasn’t.

Today, all new vBulletin signups are being synced with Aweber. But, I still have ~49,000 members in the database which aren’t synced with Aweber. Without SendGrid, my only option is to email them using the built-in emailer… and that’s why I haven’t done it.

Imagine the potential benefits of emailing 49,000 people! Now, in all reality, a good chunk of those emails will be invalid or simply don’t want to hear from me (seeing as it has been so long), but the idea is to weed that out. Because there are still THOUSANDS of people on that internal email list that probably would be interested.

Like any good email service, SendGrid is concerned about spamming. Being that my first email is likely going to be sent to a lot of invalid addresses, my plan is:

  1. Contact SendGrid directly to notify them of my intentions.
  2. Send the initial email.
  3. Export all the bounced email addresses to a file.
  4. Run a local script to disable all those emails within vBulletin so it won’t attempt to send to them again. If the email is invalid AND the member has zero posts, we’ll probably just delete them.
  5. From this point, future sends should have much better delivery. And, over time, the list will be weeded down to those who want to hear from us.

I’ll be curious to see how this pans out. 🙂

Signing Up For SendGrid

If you think you have a need for something like this, you’re going to be pleasantly suprised by the pricing.

The plan I signed up for is only $9.95/month and allows me to send up to 40,000 emails. That’s a BARGAIN.

If your volume will be higher – or you need some additional features for deliverability – then their next plan up is $79.99/month for 100,000 emails and more features. I might eventually upgrade to that plan, because you also get a dedicated IP address rather than a shared one (which is better for delivery rates).

But, think about it. $9.95/month to get reliable email delivery for up to 40,000 emails per month. It is a no brainer, really.

It is almost like a poor man’s Aweber. 😉

Click here to check out SendGrid (aff link).


  1. I have a fast growing list and the Mailchimp costs are on their way to becoming crazy.

    What are the options when you have a milion or more subscribers and need to send maybe 8 to 10 messages a month to those?

    Mailchimp is around 4500usd per month

    There HAS to be something better (My list aim is to ultimately take it up to to 20 million and according to mailchimp the cost will be around 500,000usd per year to send emails!

  2. I am completely new at this. I am the owner of one holiday rental property and would like to send Christmas Greetings to my past clients, informing them of our new website.
    I also want to send the same greeting to potential clients – namely people whose contact information I kept when they had sent a request, but could not book due to a lack of availability.
    I do not wish to make this a regular newsletter, nor do I want subscribers. My total list comprises 420 contacts. My question: how can I send mass emails to these two groups without doing anything illegal, and without asking for subscribers?

  3. Hi David,

    I wonder which local script did you use to disable all those emails within vBulletin so it won’t attempt to send to them again. And which one did you use to find out if the email is invalid AND the member has zero posts, so I can delete them.

    Thank you!

  4. I am happy to find your
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  7. I tried Mailchimp a while back. I spent a few hours trying to figure it out, and eventually gave up on it. If any of these email list programs you mention are easier to figure out and actually use, they would be well worth a few dollars per month.

  8. I tried SendGrid some time ago with Interspire Email Marketer (an alternative to ActiveCampaign) but it wasnt a good solution because it wouldn’t send bounce notifications to Interspire, which it needed to process bounces. So I used AuthSMTP instead. They’re also extremely affordable although their deliverability may be just behind SendGrid. If you need an alternative to SendGrid I highly recommend AuthSMTP 🙂

  9. It’s an interesting alternative. I initially went with Aweber from Dave’s link, then left for cheap MailChimp, then heard horror stories about MailChimp not allowing affiliate marketing and disabling accounts. So I’m now back on Aweber, but I really need to get some more subscribers to make it worth it. If you can’t make money with it, it adds up.

  10. Theres a wordpress plugin you could use called plugin great for this.  I bought it sometime ago but never put it to use.

    If you went with these sort of volumes with aweber it would cost you a small fortune…

    1. Depending on how that plug-in does the emails, I’d stay FAR away. Unless it can tap into an outside SMTP server, you’d be harming your reputation to mass email from it.

  11. In addition to Davids excellent post, allow me to veer slightly off center with a similar situation I faced recently… Last week I needed to find a new web hosting provider because the service I used for over 10 years had serious transfer degradation problems with their aging equipment. After four days of searching, emails and posting questions on numerous technical forums, I chose a company which not only is hosting all of my WordPress sites, but, they also allow me to use a newsletter/email plugin and send up to 750 emails per hour/per site. Quick math… it adds up to 18,000 emails per day/per site, every day of the week/month/year. Not bad considering I don’t have pay for a separate service. Just trying to throw another idea into the mix, as not everyone can afford individual services, and the need for fiscal responsibility is important every step of the way in just about any endeavor.

    1. That’s cool. Just need to keep in mind dedicated email delivery. I would rather use a company whose only concern is email, then trying to use a company which purports to do it all.

      1. I could not agree more. Your advise is very sound and welcome. When I reach the point where I need to have a dedicated email company as you do, I will be looking into your suggested organizations to serve my needs.

  12. SendGrid is pretty much the solution of choice for the local (San Fran) Rails and tech community. According to Scoble, that’s probably a good indicator of its long term success. I know I’ll be using for in-app email very shortly.

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