Recently I decided to re-activate one of my email lists (that is, to start sending emails to the subscribers again). The list has around 50,000 subscribers, so I started comparing the prices of email marketing providers for a list of that size.
I went to Aweber, MailChimp and GetResponse. They prices were pretty similar, gravitating around $300/month for a list 50,000 subscribers, with pretty much unlimited emails.
Quite expensive if you ask me, especially for someone who plans to send an email to the entire list only once or twice a month.
I figured that perhaps I could use SendGrid for my email marketing as well, saving a lot of money on the process. I already use SendGrid on some projects, but mostly for transaction emails (i.e., the welcome email fired to the user when he signs up on a website or app). It turns out that their basic plan costs $19 and allows me to send 100,000 emails per month. That is exactly what I needed, meaning that I would be able to send two email blasts per month to my entire list paying just $19 instead of $300 per month. Sweet huh?
Before you cancel your account with your email marketing provider, however, understand that there are significant differences between the service offered by SendGrid and the likes of Aweber and MailChimp.
Email marketing providers like Aweber offer a complete and turnkey solution for website owners. This means that you will only have to include the subscription form on your website and they will do the rest for you. They do the opt-in verification, store the contacts on a database, allow you to create auto-responders, manage unsubscriptions and so on. That is why they charge a relatively high price for their services.
SendGrid, on the other hand, offers email delivery, and that is it. You need to manage everything else yourself. All they do is to send the emails you pass to them to the final destination. You basically use SendGrid (instead of using the email server on your hosting plan) to make sure your emails will reach the inbox of your subscribers.
What if you don’t have technical skills to create the scripts and databases to manage the subscribers and relay the emails to SendGrid? Well, building a tool for that purpose is not that complex. I hacked my own script and database in one day. This means that you should be able to hire a programmer to create a custom tool for you for a very affordable price. My guess is something around $1000 on sites like Upwork.com or Freelancer.com.
Let’s say you have a smaller list of around 20,000 subscribers. This means you would pay around $150 to an email marketing provider, so your annual cost would be $1800. If you hire a developer and go with SendGrid, your cost on the same year would be $1000 (developer) + $240 (SendGrid). And that is during the first year while you are still amortizing the development costs. On your second year you would pay just the SendGrid costs, which are significantly smaller than paying for an email marketing provider ($240 against $1800 more or less).
You could boost your savings even further by going directly with Amazon SES (Simple Email Service). They offer even fewer features than SendGrid, but the costs are even lower.
If you decide to give this a try and hire a developer, make sure that you ask him to make everything compliant with anti-spam laws. They vary from country to country, but at the very minimum you want to include your business address and an “Unsubscribe” link on every email you send out to subscribers. You will also need some proof of consent from your subscribers. This can be done by storing the web page, IP address and date/time of when the subscriber joined your list.
If for some reason you can’t find a developer or don’t want to mess around with that, and yet you are tired of spending too much with email marketing providers and would be interested in moving your list to a simpler but less expensive solution, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do for you (I might be able to hook you up with my scripts). I know Jeremy likes to play with email marketing too. Who knows, if demand is high I will talk to him to see if he is interested in building something together!