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).

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