I’ve used phplist on and off for the past couple years with no problems other than possibly getting my website’s mail server blacklists with ISP’s and a pathetic 5% open rate. Some of these other sites out there tout very high open rates and delivery rates in the 98% range, which is awesome. I created a product newsletter email and tested the free trails the sites offered and have shared my opinion below. In the end, I went with icontact.com over verticalresponse.com because of the lower pricing, especially when the subscriber list reached 25,000 or more.
– Update 4/14/2005. My account was frozen by icontact after 24 of the 8800 emails were flagged by AOL as spam. I talked to somebody from icontact and even though my email and method of gathering the email addresses was can-spam compliant, it was not up to their standards. To use their service, I must have an opt in form on my website where they voluntarily, by double opt in, sign up for the mailing. My customer list had to be removed and therefore I canceled my account.
Price: $62.90/month for up to 10000 subscribers
Trial: 15 days and allows you to send an email to 250 subscribers
Recipient Opens: 11%
Comments: The site has a lot of good tools, templates, spam score checker, html and text versions, and graphical reporting of results. The only thing that annoyed me was the html editor literally took a full minute to save a draft of my html newsletter as I built it and ended up crashing my firefox twice before I gave up. I switched to using… yes… IE7 and the save process was ten times faster and no more crashing. I suppose I could put up with IE for creating newsletters with the right company only if I had to. They also have a nice tool that will convert your html email into a text email for you with the click of a button. This saves me from having to create a separate text based email.
Price: $75/month for up to 10000 subscribers
Trial: Allows you to upload a maximum of 100 subscribers. Once you go over 100, your trial period automatically ends and you must pay. What they fail to tell you is they’ve already added you to your own subscriber list, so if you upload 100 email addresses like I did, you’ll have 101 and your trial period will end until you make another account.
Recipient Opens: 9%
Comments: I was unable to figure out how to modify the text version of my email. The site would send a text version, but it would be blank except for your name and address at the bottom, which is worthless. They don’t have the pretty graph reporting that icontact and vertical response have.
Update 4/1/2009: In the past week I’ve received phone calls and emails from multiple sales reps from this company. A little annoying since I had to tell multiple sales people that I was no longer interested.
Price: $69/month for up to 10000 subscribers
Trial: Their “trial” is really a money back guarantee. You have to pay up front, then cancel afterwards if you’re not satisfied. Sorry, homey don’t play that. You guys just disqualified yourselves.
Comments: Lacking an easy to use, hassle free trial.
Price: $20/month for up to 20000 emails
Trial: 249 subscribers/emails
Comments: Interface is not so much user friendly. After you click submit on one of their forms, you’d expect this page to reload and advance to the next step, but it does not. The page reloads and a little link appears on the page that you must click to continue. Annoying. When you upload your import list you must wait in a queue that processes one import every five minutes. That right there tells me they don’t have a lot of customers. Here is a good example of what I mean by bad interface… I was looking for the link to “create email” or something like that so I could paste in my html email. I could not find this link. I finally did find it… it was “schedule”. Why would I click “schedule” if I have nothing to schedule yet? Ok, I created my email and clicked to have it sent. Apparently it goes through a review process of some sort. Once I found my way back to the main user dashboard, a message appeared that said my list was over the 249 subscriber limit and that my message would not send. Dammit! I was looking for the free trial limit everywhere and could not find it! I’ve had it with this site. I don’t even care if it’s free at this point.
Update 4/1/2009. I received three emails from these guys today and two of them were the exact same thing. One of them was a bill for $19.50 because I had some “complaints” from my mailing list. Complaints are recorded when somebody’s mail client flags the message as junk. The second duplicated email is a notice that my “free trial” account has been suspended for non payment. Give me a break; you guys are a joke.
Price: $20/month for up to 10000 emails
Trial: 200 subscribers/emails
Comments: Was not able to import a list of email addresses with the free version. That’s dumb. Why give me up to 200 email addresses and make me type them all in? Also, they insisted that every email address get a confirmation opt in message before I could send to them. That just disqualified listcast.com.
Price: $72/month for up to 8000 subscribers
Trial: 30 days and 100 email max.
Recipient Opens: 11%
Comments: User interface is very good as I was able to find what I wanted usually with in two seconds. It has many templates and a “build your own” editor. It also has the nice copy button where it’ll create a text version of your email with one click. Very nice. I was able to upload my list, paste in my email message, and schedule the mailing within 20 minutes. Very good! The message is pending a review to ensure it follows the CAN SPAM laws. They review messages every couple hours, so no big deal.