Introduction

Running community events occasionally is not enough to engage your attendees/members. Unless you are running daily events, you are advised to communicate with your members between the events, as much more as possible. Using Email Marketing Service (EMS) platform is one way to make it happen. This blog post is going to take you on a leaving the MailChimp journey and exploring few of the alternative Email Marketing Service (“EMS”) platforms that we (organizers of Los Angeles Data Platform User Group and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles event) chose to use as well as few DNS settings to setup to avoid the spam filter.

After years of using MailChimp to keep our members engaged for both LA Data Platform/SQL Malibu user group (started on 2013) and SQL Saturday events (started on 2017), we’ve finally decided to draw a line and choose something else.

While MailChimp has a great product, the company that became the staple in the world of emails got overly confident and decided to squeeze every dollar. Some of the features that made MailChimp the king for SOHO market are ability to schedule posts to Facebook and Twitter, superb email deliverability reports, and overall great interface. At the same time, some of those features became paid plan only features. We were enojying a FREE plan, but over the years MailChimp decided to make it less attractive by pushing some of the previously included features behind the paywall.

It’s started with something minor like making it difficult to BYOH (bring your own HTML code), continued with reduction of the contact list, and finally ended up with making campaign scheduling capabilities only available in paid plans.

Problem

We are a non-profit and trying to enjoy a champagne on a beer budget where we can. We prefer to enjoy free services as much as we can. With Mailchimp taking away campaign scheduling, we decided to seriously consider alternatives. We briefly migrated to MailerLite to only discover that sending 12,000 emails a month is not enough for us. If initially, our user group emails were mostly about inviting members to attend user group meetings, in a last couple of months we have added weekly links Friday campaigns which caused us to run out of 12,000 monthly emails quicker and making MailerLite not that attractive any longer. Hitting the 12,000 monthly emails limit for a free plan too soon, effectively brought us back to look further and consider much more forward looking alternatives that would work for us today and a year from now.

Solution

What are we using today? We reviewed and analyzed all different alternatives here and chose 2 platforms. As of May 2, 2021, we are using Sender.net for SQL Saturday in LA event and Moosend.com for LA Data Platform.

What are we getting for free from each platform?

Sender – 15,000 monthly emails for a contact list under 2,500 subscribers with all features included.

Moosend – unlimited emails for a contact list under 1,000 subscribers. We can schedule campaigns and we can see open/clicks/problems reporting.

How did we migrate from MailChimp/MailerLite?

Migration is a fairly simple process of exporting/importing your contact list and exporting/importing your regular campaigns. What might take you more time is matching every EMS platform dictionary (see Fig 2). What might be also a bit confusing is how to recreate Signup form, so people can easily subscribe to your mailing list.

Fig #2 – MailChimp’s Audience is MailerLite’s Subscribers is Moosend Mailing lists is Senders subscribers

Like with any EMS platform, you would want to invest some time in setting things up to improve email deliverability beyond the content of your email. You would want to make sure that your DNS is aware of your EMS. Luckily, all major EMS platforms can you help with that and would even provide you with instructions on how to fix it.

SPF, DKIM

In a nutshell, you would need to add the following records to improve your email deliverability and avoid the spam filter:

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication method designed to detect forging sender addresses during the delivery of the email.[1] SPF alone, though, is limited to detecting a forged sender claim in the envelope of the email, which is used when the mail gets bounced.[1] Only in combination with DMARC can it be used to detect the forging of the visible sender in emails (email spoofing[2]), a technique often used in phishing and email spam.

DomainKeys / DKIM is an email authentication method designed to detect forged sender addresses in email (email spoofing), a technique often used in phishing and email spam.

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) is an email authentication protocol. It is designed to give email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorized use, commonly known as email spoofing. The purpose and primary outcome of implementing DMARC is to protect a domain from being used in business email compromise attacksphishing emails, email scams and other cyber threat activities.

While the 3 settings mentioned above are a great way to ensure your emails are reaching your member’s mailboxes, you would be strongly advised to get a free account with mxtoolbox that would constantly scan your domain records for problems.

Disclaimer

This blog post is partially based on the following resources:

https://tutorialdeep.com/blog/free-mailchimp-alternatives

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