Monday, July 30, 2007

Developing a quick and dirty bulk email infrastructure to clean your lists

If you want to send an email newsletter, I can only recommend you use:

In our research for the ideal tool, we have found that services are weak on editing and layout and strong on reporting, whereas software is strong on editing and weak on opt-in/opt-out use cases and cleaning contact lists. There is no perfect tool. There is in my opinion an advantage to email marketing services because there is a workaround to their weaknesses which is to compose the newsletter in an HTML editing tool like Dreamweaver.

You may choose not to use these software and services, either to spare your marketing dollars or because you need specific features that these tools do not provide. In this case you will need to assess the following requirements and you will find that developing a bulk email infrastructure is no easy task:

  • Editing and layout
  • Contact list management
  • Mail merge
  • Bulk send performances
  • Opt-in/opt-out use cases
  • Cleaning contact list (email bounces)
  • Reporting

In our case, we had to find a way to clean our contact list before considering a subscription to an email marketing service because their pricing is per contact and some contacts in our list were fairly old. To achieve that, we have spent a couple of days building a quick and dirty bulk email infrastructure comprising:

  1. An SMTP server with two mailboxes, newsletter@domain.tld and dsn@domain.tld, where the first one has an autoresponder;
  2. A bulk email tool including management of bouncing emails, which is only a GUI around devMail;
  3. An opt-in/opt-out web page;
  4. Integration with Google Analytics for reporting (not in the sample).

The process to build, send and analyse a newsletter is the following:

  1. Design the newsletter in Dreamweaver (use %%dbfield%% for mail merge)
  2. Check the newsletter against the SPAM checker of iContact using a trial account
  3. Open the newsletter in IE and save as web archive (*.MHT) with embedded images
  4. Open the MHT file in the bulk email tool (configured to use a specific database and SMTP server)
  5. Build the text version of the HTML newsletter
  6. Click send
  7. A few days later, open the tool and click Analyze to interpret delivery status notifications and tag bouncing emails
  8. Open the mailbox in Outlook to handle manually the notifications which could not be interpreted

You can download the source code here. This tool does not measure up with the software and services mentioned above, but it offers a convenient way to purge a contact list before subscribing to an email marketing service.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Where is the source code?