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  1. #1
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    Looking for advice - Hosted newsletter management services

    Hi,

    We are looking for advice from the wise and sharp minds who visit this forum, hoping that it's the right place to post this.

    We operate a B2C/B2B website through which we send weekly personalized meal plans to our members. We have been operating for over 2 years, and now count 110,000 active members (users of the service). Out of these, some 100,000 have subscribed to our weekly newsletter, through double opt-in.

    So far, we've sent out our weekly newsletter from our own server, using the MailMan php utility. The three main shortcomings of this are:
    1) deliverability issue, since we obviously have no preferred relationship with ISPs, meaning that a number of our subscribers don't get the newsletter, possibly because the filters at some ISPs get nervous when a large quantity of emails come in from the same server.
    2) no ability to measure opening rates, click rates, etc.
    3) no built-in ability to send different newsletters to different segments of our subscriber base

    Because of 1) above, we believe that we have to look for a solution hosted by a 3rd-party who does have relationships (whitelisted) with ISPs, as opposed to buying a software (such as oempro) which would run on our own servers.

    We do have a special requirement however: We cannot "surrender" control of our subscribers database to the newsletter company because the service that we provide through our website is personalized, i.e. we need to have access to all the details about the subscribers (name, email, address, and several other demographic data).

    In other words, we need to retain control of our subscribers database, including opt-ins, profile changes (e.g. email address), and opt-outs. It seems to us that the best way to achieve this would be the following:
    1) uploading our entire list of 100,000 newsletter subscribers data to the server of the newsletter company.
    2) continue to handle ourselves the double opt-ins, the opt-outs and the profile changes, as opposed to using a form that sends the data to the newsletter company.
    3) update the list on the server of the newsletter company, whenever there is a new opt-in, opt-out or profile change in our own subscriber database, ideally through an API. N.B. It could be acceptable to do this once per day.

    We found in this forum good recommendations for companies such as aweber, constantcontact, icontact, verticalresponse, etc.

    We then looked in some detail at what they offer exactly and found the following:

    (prices for list of 100,000 emails)
    Aweber: $90/month
    ConstantContact: $550/month
    Vertical Response: $750/month

    Aweber would therefore seem a clear winner, BUT they offer no API, whereas the other two do. However, paying several hundred dollars per month is a problem.

    That's where we stand. And, as mentioned above, we could use smart and wise advice...

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by SOSCuisine; Nov 28, 2007 at 12:50.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    There's also http://www.campaignmonitor.com/ to add to your list

    With the price issue and the volume you send I would investigate Aweber a bit more and ask yourself why they're so cheap compared to the others. They may well be fine but the price difference for a similar service to too much to ignore.

    It's also worth asking all of them about bulk rates!

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    There are a lot of other email vendors who are likely to take you on given your volume but few will be cheaper than what you already found. At the 400,000+ monthly volume, you start to get into the realm of more enterprise solutions that are selling service and features rather than just the ability to send.

    Awber seems like a great decision price wise but what are you really getting for the money? Are they going to manage deliverability to a suitable degree versus what you do now? What's their reporting like? Do they offer more advanced features like automated emails, triggers, segment managers, or anything else that you may want to use longer?

    The more you grow the list the more you're going to want tools like the option to remove inactive addresses, add in dynamic content, use surveys, send-to-a-friend tools and on and on.

    At over 100,000 unique subscribers, it would seem like you could more than cover the cost of a higher end solution either through sales or advertising. Are you using email as a profit driver and if not, is sending this volume the most effective way to meet your objectives?
    - Ted S

  4. #4
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    I manage a number of mailing lists so I have gone through a similar search of options several times ever since I started doing this (1999).

    I've experimented with many options but have stayed with Aweber as it is cost-effective and does all that I need it to do. I've been happy with them but my operation is not at the same level as yours. I have a lot of smaller lists.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your inputs

    Thanks for your valuable inputs. I'm investigating further the various options and will report here asap.

  6. #6
    winter is around the corner Tomer's Avatar
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    I use VerticalResponse and it works great for me.

    Sure $700 per month sounds a lot, but if it's worth it, only you can say. At 400k emails per month, I'm sure you have a great ROI even after the $700.

    If you do not make anything off this [hobby or something] then that's a problem cause these types of thing cost money, so you should get a return on the investment.

    So anyways, I would go with Vertical @ $700. Very good service.

    Good luck!

    - Tomer


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