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Need help finding a bulk email solution.
November 14, 2005 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I need to send out bulk emails to an opt-in-only list of over 200,000 people. Can you help me find good software to do this with?

Thus far, I've been using an SMTP server called MDaemon in combination with a bulk emailing program. I have tried two bulk emailing programs - E-Campaign and GroupMail Pro.

For some reason, I keep having this problem where the bulk emailing program will randomly stop sending out emails, and the SMTP server's UI becomes unresponsive.

The computer that I'm using is a brand new, very powerful machine with lots of RAM.

I'm starting to give up on the software that we've been using. Do you have any reccomendations?

(Oh, and I should mention that the software needs to be relatively inexpensive. All told, I'd like to spend $500 or less. As much as I'd love to use Port25 or LSoft, that's just not an option for me.)
posted by afroblanca to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I had very good luck with a program called 1-2-All from ActiveCampaign when I worked for a direct marketer with a big list of email subscribers. It's less than $500 by a fair margin.
posted by killdevil at 8:35 AM on November 14, 2005


If you're on a budget and need to manage a decent sized mailing list yourself I suggest you use a fast mail transfer agent (MTA) in combination with a well-regarded mailing list manager. I recommend either Postfix in combination with Mailman or perhaps qmail in combination with ezmlm. All four are free and available for your favorite UNIX variant.

Note that between babysitting servers, responding to user inquires, handing bounces, staying clear of anti-spam lists, handling AOL's feedback loop, and endless other tasks, managing large mailing lists can easily become a full time job.
posted by RichardP at 8:38 AM on November 14, 2005


afroblanca; Apparently I've "opted-in" to about three hundred mailing lists without knowing it. It depends on which "value-added marketing family partnership friendly-company-friend" your bank, or credit card company, or stock broker, sold your address to.
posted by odinsdream at 8:57 AM on November 14, 2005


Not that you're doing that - just... it's a touchy subject.
posted by odinsdream at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2005


I understand that it's a touchy subject. If you think that this is an inappropriate thing to ask, feel free to flag the thread.

I assure you that my company is legit, and we take great pains to stay that way, i.e. getting on whitelists, etc.

We do sometimes get caught in spam filters, which upsets us and our readers. However, that's a different question for another time. Right now, I'd just be interested in finding software that works.

Thanks all for your help.
posted by afroblanca at 9:03 AM on November 14, 2005


BTW: I met afroblance in a face-to-face last Saturday, he seems legit enough for a man with a giant fro.
posted by onalark at 9:22 AM on November 14, 2005


How about you get a cheap hosting account which includes mailing list software? You can get a hosting plan for $50 a year which includes mailing lists. That way you're not doing it on your computer any more, you're doing it on someone's far-more-powerful server.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2005


AmbroseChapel - My impression was that outsourced bulk-email solutions were expensive. What places would you reccomend?
posted by afroblanca at 12:40 PM on November 14, 2005


See that's exactly the vibe that causes people to turn their head and squint.

Legitimate hosting of mailing lists (tip: calling it bulk mail is a spammer word) is a standard capability of any server. There are hundreds of hosts that will rent you a dedicated linux server for very modest monthly rates, depending on hardware and bandwidth. Any bone stock linux machine can host mailing lists of nearly any size (bounded by bandwidth quota) using completely free software (MTA: exim, postfix, sendmail, qmail; MLM: mailman, ezmlm, majordomo). So these kinds of things are cheap and readily available. There are many large open-source projects that run dozens of mailing lists with probably millions of emails daily, and none of them pay a dime for software.

When you hear about "bulk email hosting" it has a much different context to it. What that implies is that you want to blast out millions of emails to lists that you bought (i.e. people who don't want it) and that you expect to be put on blacklists. This is sometimes called "bulletproof" hosting because the host guarantees that you won't be shut down -- which is the normal reaction of 99.9% of all legitimate hosts when they find you doing this. And this so-called bulletproof hosting costs a lot more -- just as, say, renting a hotel ballroom to use as an illegal casino will likely cost you a lot more than the normal rates.

And just so we're clear about the boundaries:

1. buying a list of email addresses from someone and then sending your newsletter to them: spammer technique, not legitimate. Reason: no matter what the person that sold you the list told you, those people did not give explicit permission for YOU to send stuff to them. (If they did, you wouldn't be buying the list from a third party.)

2. having a web form on your site where someone can enter an email address to be added to a mailing list, WITHOUT any closed-loop confirmation: spammer technique, not legitimate. Reason: I can enter any email address and they start receiving spew, obviously without their consent.

3. having a web form on your site where someone enters an email address, but before it is added to the mailing list the person must reply to a probe message that contains a unique identifier of some kind: This is the ONLY legitimate way to operate a mailing list.

If you are doing number 3 then I congratulate you. If this is the case then you should have nothing to worry about in terms of abuse, and just about any company that sells dedicated servers should be able to provide you everything you need. Check out the advertising section of www.webhostingtalk.com.

If you are doing number 1 or number 2 or anything that doesn't involve closed-loop confirmed opt-in, then you are not following email best practices, and really making everyone's lives harder.

Sorry for the rant, but I and many others get a little wary when someone isn't clear that they are doing whitehat activities.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:12 PM on November 14, 2005


To clarify (without giving away my workplace) here is our situation -

1) When people sign up for an account on our system, they are asked what kinds of mailings they want to receive. We use very clear language here, so that people know exactly what they are signing up for.

2) When people sign up for an account, we send them a confirmation email. If they don't click on the "confirm" link in the email, they are never allowed to log into our site, and never recieve any of our mailings.

3) All of of our mailings have a very clear opt-out link. They click on this link, log in to our site, and are taken to the page where they can opt out. Very clear. Very simple.

4) We don't buy email lists from anybody. We don't sell, give, or expose our email list to anybody. We're a reputable company, for god's sake!

These emails are an important part of our business, and it is essential that we stick to the best practices. Trust me, we care about these things as much if not more then you.

That said, thanks for your suggestions. Although we use an MS platform and cannot use the Linux packages that you suggested, I will definitely check out the website that you linked to.
posted by afroblanca at 2:16 PM on November 14, 2005


A mail server crapping out halfway through may be something to talk to your ISP about.

That said, when i was at TVT Records, we used Mach5 Mailer for all our bulk mails. Can do multipart, has a built in smtp server, can connect to a mysql database, etc... and only like $299, IIRC.
posted by softlord at 4:08 PM on November 14, 2005


A mail server crapping out halfway through may be something to talk to your ISP about.

Interesting. What kinds of problems could this be symptomatic of?
posted by afroblanca at 5:09 PM on November 14, 2005


Well, if i were an ISP and i saw one of my users sending large amounts of SMTP traffic out into the world without any prior notification, i'd be more than tempted to stop that user from doing so in an attempt to avoid having spammers on the service.
posted by softlord at 5:41 PM on November 14, 2005


Interesting. I'll have to talk to our ISP then. I should comb the forums some more. I'm sure that we can't be the only ones in this boat. Many of the websites that I regularly visit have regular mailings.

It's kind of sad that we live in a world where your mailing is thought of as spam unless proven otherwise. Yes, I understand why people do this. Yes, they are probably right most of the time. But still, assuming that mass-emailing has only negative uses is like saying that "filesharing can only be used for piracy."

Does anybody know of any good sites for people in my situation, besides the one that Rhomboid linked to?
posted by afroblanca at 6:53 PM on November 14, 2005


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