Exploring a New System

About a year ago, I rebuilt this blog site with WordPress. This has worked well, so over the last week, I’ve rebuilt the PowerKeys Publishing website with WordPress.  Now, I’m switching the system that handles email from arpReach to Mautic.

Or, at least, I’m exploring Mautic to see if it’s going to be a good fit for me.

I had learned of Mautic, a free open-source marketing automation tool, a few years ago.  Back then, it offered an intriguing idea, but had too many problems to be seriously considered for professional use.

Recently, I learned that certain software running my server needed to be upgraded, and arpReach would not work with the upgraded version.  So it became imperative that I find a replacement.

I tend to do a fresh review of web software from time to time anyways, to find if there’s a better option for running my business, and to help those I take as clients set up and run their businesses.

The software I tend to research most often is mailing list management software, because there are so few really GOOD choices available.

Most mailing list management options are either way too technical for the average person to understand, or they have way too few options to flexibly adapt to the way real businesses are run.

And then there are the options which are only available as a monthly service, where you are asked to pay $100 or more PER MONTH to use the system.

Those are good options for businesses with 100,000 or more subscribers, but for the smaller businesses with 1000 to 5000 subscribers, they just don’t make financial sense.

Some of the popular mailing list management options currently available are Sendy, MailWizz, and MailChimp.

MailChimp is good for those who don’t want to deal with the software itself, and would prefer to pay a monthly fee to have someone else deal with the technical side of things. They also are a good option for those just starting out, as they let you start for free, and you only have to start paying once your list grows beyond 1000 subscribers.

But once you get to 2500 or so subscribers, you’ll be paying about as much as with most of the services. For example, if you have close to 5000 subscribers, you’d be paying about $50 per month to run a mailing list.

Not quite the $100 per month I quoted above, but then again, you won’t have all the fancy features of the $100/month systems.

If you are comfortable with installing software on a web server, or are willing to pay $50 to $100 to have someone do it for you, you can get the same level of mailing list management with something like Sendy, MailWizz, or Mautic.

Of the 3, Mautic is the only free option, and incidentally, is also the most flexible.

Not only will it give you the tools to run a mailing list, but it also lets you customize your web pages to display different content for different groups of subscribers.

You can also program a mailing sequence to respond with different emails depending on whether a subscriber has opened a previous email, clicked a link, or visited a particular webpage.

And you can mix emails, text messages, and Twitter tweets in your communication mix, even allowing your subscribers to indicate a preference, and using their preferred channel to communicate with them.

This level of flexibility is something I haven’t seen in ANY of the other systems, except maybe Infusionsoft — at $200 per month.  A big reason why I’m taking time to study Mautic in depth.

Luckily, there are a few videos on YouTube giving a nice overview of what the system can do, and how to set it up to do it.  Most of the videos are more than a year old, but they are still useful.

And there’s a 264-page user guide describing all the intricate details of the system. That’s where I am now. Reading through this massive guide.

Currently, I’m on page 51, and will probably be at this for a couple of days.

Then, I’ll set up a few tests, run it through its paces, and see how reliable it is to work with.

If if passes my tests, I’ll be switching all of my mailing lists to this system, and will be recommending it to all my clients.

One Comment

  1. To follow up with this post, my testing of Mautic revealed a limitation when adding new emails to a programmed sequence. Specifically, subscribers in the middle of the sequence do not get new emails added to that sequence. Since this is something I do quite often, I took a couple of days to test out one of the other options — MailWizz. This is a piece of software I had purchased a year ago (based on the feature set), installed on my server, found a couple of problems that I was unwilling to accept, and went back to using arpReach.

    MailWizz is one of the better self-hosted mailing list managers, and a lot of marketers are using it. The developer is still actively adding new features and fixing bugs as they are found, and is active in the forums answering questions about how to do various things with the software. Being only $54 at the time of this writing, this is an excellent deal for many folks.

    There are a couple of significant problems with MailWizz, however. First, there’s practically NO documentation. A very brief user manual that addresses only the most significant features, and a handful of YouTube videos that were created last June.

    Another problem, at least for me, is that MailWizz does not list pre-programmed emails (autoresponders) in the order they will go out. For example, it lists emails scheduled to go out in 2 weeks before emails scheduled to go out in 5 days. This was the problem that caused me to go back to arpReach a year ago.

    The biggest problem though, is that in my testing, there were several emails added to the system which never went out at all. According to the developer, this would only happen if certain server settings (cron jobs) were set up incorrectly. This was not the case for me, as I could see that the cron jobs were running exactly as they should.

    So, in the end, MailWizz looks good, but doesn’t always work as it should. So I went back to Mautic and started looking for a way around the situation of adding new emails to a programmed sequence. At least this software WORKS.

    It didn’t take very long to find that this problem has been dealt with by others, and a workaround has been found. Just add a “decision point” at the end of the sequence, which will be true for everyone reaching the end, and have the result of that decision send out the next sequence of emails.

    On the surface, this seems to add unnecessary complexity to an email campaign, but there are some advantages of doing so.

    Mautic, as many high-level email managers, schedules emails all at once rather than checking every single time if there are emails that need to go out. The advantage of this is that the system runs faster, uses fewer server resources, and is more robust. This is why new emails added to a sequence aren’t added to pre-existing subscribers mailing schedule.

    The advantage of breaking up an email sequence into segments is that the database holding the mailing schedule can be kept smaller, and there’s less work for the system to do if anyone unsubscribes, since there are fewer emails in the schedule that need to be removed.

    For marketers who like to program a year or more of emails, this will take a little rethinking to set up shorter campaigns which feed into each other. For example, set up a week’s worth of emails for a brief introduction, then feed that into a longer 2-week series of emails for a more in-depth introduction, and feed that into a month-long sequence to deepen the relationship with your subscribers. From there, you can move subscribers to various week-long and month-long sequences to promote various products.

    And keep in mind that you can always send out broadcasts to everyone to announce a special event or launch a new product.

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