I'm going to put it out there, right from the start: I love email. I know you're thinking “No one LOVES email. It's just one of those things, like public transportation or the weather. We use it, we tolerate it and that's it!” Not me – I'm the kind of guy who consolidates 3 email accounts into one mighty behemoth. I'm the kind of guy that chooses CRMs based on their interface likeness to Gmail (like Insightly – tell them I sent you, they'll hook you up with some free stickers and a cool t-shirt).
That being said, I'm also very particular about my Email Marketing system. See, people like calling it an app, a program, a site maybe (you weirdos), but it's really a system. You compose, you schedule, you automate, you get results and you optimize. If done right, email is a blessing, so the email marketing system should match those precise objectives and goals.
If you're like me (that is, still young at heart, short greyish hair and observant), you've gone through a few systems for sending emails in bulk.
StreamSend was the first for me. As I joined my Digital Marketing Agency, this was put in my lap and I was supposed to…tolerate it. That and use it productively to send email. And it was fine. StreamSend is fine. It handles multiple clients ok, it's pretty fast and has loads of features. Problem is it's all pretty vanilla. Nothing really stands out and the reporting interface is a tad bland.
Our next move was to Mailchimp. This was the big daddy of Email Marketing systems, the popular kid on the block.
Sleek, great interface, easy to understand interface and reports. And great pricing plans, with a free one that was more than adequate for most of our clients' needs. But then we grew and noticed that its fantastic list segmentation and automation tools came at a price: we couldn't really scale it in terms of size, to match the number of clients we had.
Along came the little guy. The bad boy. The rebel. Sendy.
Sendy is a self-hosted application that runs on PHP and MySQL. That means 2 things:
- You don't pay a monthly fee (or rather, not to Sendy – more on that below)
- You need to setup Sendy on your server to be able to send email
Getting Started with Sendy
Getting started might seem like a lengthy 8 steps (compared to Sign-up, Import List, Send newsletter from Mailchimp), but even to a non-developer like me, everything made sense. Their guide makes it easy to do what you're supposed to, but also understand WHY you're doing it. If you are in a hurry or really non-technical, their team also provides installation on your server for a fee of $79. Which takes us into one of the unique features – its pricing.
Right now Sendy costs $59. That's just the application you have to install. And then there are the actual monthly sending costs. Because emails are delivered through Amazon SES, the pricing is very low. I can't underline how important this is so here's a handy chart from their website to illustrate it:
We usually send about 10.000 emails/months for our clients, so our costs are about $1. That's not a typo, that's a single digit for sending email via Sendy+Amazon SES. There are a few caveats, which will talk about in a few sections below.
Similar to StreamSend, Sendy is built on the idea that you're either an agency or an entity that needs to handle multiple accounts. That's built right into the system, no questions asked. Their reporting interface is nothing out of the ordinary – that is, it colorful and very straight-forward. Which I love.
It's one of the many little things that are done right and it's something that permeates throughout the whole application. “Bare-bones” might describe Sendy best, but then there's also “useful”, “amazing”, “innovative” and “disruptive”. How many times were you in a position where you had to deliver a newsletter delivery report? For me, that experience was never fun, I had to look through charts, export files, recreate graphs and do some manual calculations. No more of that – I just screenshot the campaign report screen and everything is there. Nice basic colors, charts and graphs. Not too much, but not too little.
Sometimes you might need to give access to a client, so that feature is there too. You just create a specific client login and he only sees his account, not all the others you're managing. And on top of that, you can setup Sendy to charge the client directly for every send. You can essentially make money through the application.
Autoresponders are there and, as you'd expect it, everything is in plain English and ready to go. There's a bit of fiddling with CRON jobs, but if you're a techie, you should have no problem getting it up and running. This sort of feature is great, especially since it's built in and not a premium add-on (although I suppose that could've been the case). That's another reason why I'm such a huge Sendy fan – you don't feel tricked when you're using it. You get the full package – sometimes it's almost too good to be true.
One last feature I've been impressed by is the automatic handling of bounces, complaints and unsubscribes. If emails are non-existent, reject your email via firewall or email rules or if people unsubscribe – those are all handled in real time. Not only that, but the next time you'll be sending emails to that list, those problematic emails will be filtered out. No need to go through your list and clean it manually.
As with any great thing, there are always downsides. Or problems. So here are my top 3 issues with Sendy:
- Sending is not always the fastest. Let's get this out of the way – Sendy is not the system to choose if you're looking to send 1000s of emails in seconds. Amazon SES does have some limitations. You start off with 5 emails/second, with a sending limit of 10.000/day. We've requested extended access and we're now at a cool 14 emails/second and a limit of 50.000/day. This access is given after you've already sent a few hundred emails and have a good reason for it – if you're an agency, you should be fine and Amazon will approve your request.
- List segmentation is almost non-existent. Coming from Mailchimp, with their groups and segments, Sendy feels very bare. You do have a few options, but we don't have the power to really use advanced list options. At least not yet.
- Updates might break your addons. If you're working with their API or writing code to plug into the system, even small updates can dramatically change or break the way it functions. So be aware of that limitation.
The Most Fun I've Had with Email Marketing
Ben Ho is one of Sendy's creators (along Melly Fong at Hex) and treats the system like its baby. Ben answers pretty much every question on the forum, posts updates on future versions, gives feedback, moderates and is an all around knowledgeable and fun guy. Having your voice heard and being part of the development process is something much closer to startups than giant corporations.
Because Sendy is built as a side project for Hex (more apps can be seen on their website), it's not really meant for huge profits. As an affiliate, you can earn $12 within 24 hours of someone purchasing a license for it. You do have to be a Sendy owner and use your special dedicated affiliate link, but that's almost a no-brainer by now. Very simple and straight-forward.
The small price tag is only available until major releases. That is – when Sendy hit 2.0, you'll have to pay more. But don't worry, it's barely at 126.96.36.199 right now and it's being updated on a rather irregular pace (previous update was about a month ago). Every new version makes me think “Oh wow, of course this should be here” or “Nice, they cleaned this up”. Everything remains simple and fluid so don't expect any major feature implementations until version 2.0.
For now, Sendy still feels fresh. And amazing. I'm all for disrupting industries and email marketing always felt like it was supposed to be expensive or slow – I mean sending hundreds and thousands of emails can't be cheap, right? It can and it is.
Here's to the crazy ones. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
What about you – have you used Sendy before? An what's your favorite Email Marketing system? Let us know in the comments area below :)