28
Dec

Affordable Alternative to Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to communicate with customers. As you may know however, simply blind copying a very large number of recipients is not allowed by most email services (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.). Even if you are sending emails directly from your server, you will realize that sending bulk mail directly will lead to your messages ending up in the spam folder of your contacts.

In the light of this, mailing list services such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc. were created. These services provide easy ways to send newsletters in a reliable way (that is,  without ending up in the Spam folder). Most of them also have a free plan that enables you to send messages to a limited number of contact at a limited frequency.

However, as your contact list or email frequency increases, you may discover that these newsletter services may become rather pricey. Also, with the high exchange rate and the limitations many banks have now placed on naira denominated debit cards for dollar purchases, paying for your newsletter subscriptions can become a heavy burden. 

Therefore, it is important to creatively explore alternative avenues for email marketing without having to break the bank. One such way is a combination of Amazon SES and a self hosted newsletter application such as PHPList.

Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) is a cost-effective email service built on the reliable and scalable infrastructure that Amazon.com developed to serve its own customer base. More information about the service can be found here: https://aws.amazon.com/ses/.

PHPList is a self-hosted email marketing application that helps you send bulk email, manage subscribers, plus other functions etc. It is a very robust and popular email marketing application.

The idea is to set up PHPList on your server and configure it to send email through Amazon SES.

Let us look at how cost effective this combination is. For illustration, if we have a contact list of 5,000 recipients and are going to use Mailchimp to send newsletters to this list regularly, the cost will be $50 per month! (MailChimp’s pay as you go option is not worth considering as it is only for infrequent email sending and hence not cost effective).

For Amazon SES, email messages are charged at $0.10 per 1,000. The cost will be just about $0.50 per email blast. Assuming two newsletters per week i.e. 8 newsletters per month, this will cost just about $4.0! That is a difference of $46, compared to Mailchimp! Also, the great thing about Amazon SES is that it is postpaid! You only pay for emails you send. If you do not send any email in a month, you will not be charged. However, with services such as Mailchimp, you are charged automatically every month regardless of if you use the service or not.

What you will need:

  1. Your own hosting account. You need to have hosting that supports PHP and MySQL/MariaDB. Most Linux hosts (which are the most popular) support these requirements. You will need to install PHPList on this account. If you are not a tech savvy person, you might need to find someone who can assist you with the installation. Also, many hosts provide one-click installers to help you with the installation.

  2. An Amazon web services account. You can easily create one here: https://portal.aws.amazon.com/gp/aws/developer/registration/index.html?nc2=h_ct

Instructions on how to configure PHPList to work with Amazon SES can be found here: https://readmode.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/amazon-ses-with-phplist/ . I advise that either you or your consultant reference that page during the setup process.

Thanks for reading!