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An Overview of Direct Mail 3

An Overview of Direct Mail 3

Daylite 4 is designed for one-on-one email communications with your clients, but there are plenty of times you’ll want to send out mass mailings to keep your entire client base—or select portions of it—apprised of what you’re doing. For example, you may want to send out a regular newsletter or a brief product or service announcement. Although you can do this within Daylite, there are some limitations which will make using another piece of software much more desirable.

(Limitations? No HTML. No images. Generally plain text only. No attachments. And it can be tedious to send a large number of messages.)

However, you still want to keep track of those mailings within Daylite and, like other activities, link them to the contacts you’re sending to. Here’s where a plugin or an application that can “talk” to Daylite comes in. There are at least two products in this category that are compatible with Daylite; today I’ll give an overview of Direct Mail and in the next article I’ll discuss how it works with Daylite. Later articles will cover the other options you have.

Direct Mail (Website, Mac App Store; various pricing plans) by e3 Software is a Mac-only app that allows you to “create, manage, and deliver powerful email marketing campaigns.” (There are some minor differences between the versions found on the website and the Mac App Store.) Your campaigns are centered in projects, which collect messages and subscribers and provide reports to show how your campaign is performing.

Direct Mail Messages Tab


Messages are template-driven; the app boasts 100+ built-in templates and you can import your own, including the stationery already in Apple Mail and templates available from a number of publishers. Once you’ve selected your template, you edit the text to your liking and add images (drag and drop from your photo library or anywhere on your computer) and links. Videos from YouTube and Vimeo can be easily linked to a thumbnail in your message and you can also add Like (Facebook) and Tweet (Twitter) buttons to share the message if you choose to archive it on the web.

Rather than send the same, static message to each subscriber, Direct Mail allows you to personalize each recipient’s message with mail merge tags that include up to 15 custom fields and fallback values for blank merge fields. It also has conditionals, so that you can, for example, insert text into your message based on the value of one of your custom fields.

Additional message options include multiple attachments and custom headers, and you can create a custom plain-text alternative of your message or let Direct Mail do it for you automatically.

Direct Mail Addresses Tab


Recipients are added to groups; you can add them manually or import them from Contacts, Daylite, or a variety of applications and file types. Smart groups are an extremely powerful method for segregating subscribers: you can select recipients not only by the normal subscriber fields, but also by how, where, or when they interacted with the last message you sent them.

Before you send, you may want to take advantage of two testing features that Direct Mail provides. Design Test shows you screenshots of what your message will look like in two or more email clients; the free option will test your message in Outlook 2003 and Gmail, while a $5 option will test in 30+ popular clients. Spam Test runs your message against SpamAssassin, a popular, server-side spam filter. Spam test is free.

Direct Mail Sending Sheet


If you just want to get a feel for the app and the service (or if your needs are really modest) you can send up to 50 messages per month for free without any signup; otherwise you will need to have a Direct Mail account. The type of account you choose will depend upon how you want to send your messages, how many per month you will be sending, and how many subscribers you will be sending them to.

You can purchase email credits for as low as 0.85 cents ($0.0085) each and use them just like you’d use postage stamps: one message, one credit. But most users will probably choose a monthly subscription plan that allows them to send an unlimited number of messages to a set number of subscribers for a single price. For that you’ll pay as little as $15 a month to send to up to 500 recipients.

(There’s an important distinction in “recipients”: your monthly rate is based on the number of unique recipients that you’re sending to in any given month, not the total number of subscribers in Direct Mail.)

The free, pay-as-you-go, and subscription plans all depend upon you sending your messages through e3’s e3 Delivery Service. You also have the option of paying a one-time fee of $99 to send your messages through your own SMTP servers. I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of this option in another article.

(Messages include a “Powered by Direct Mail” ad in the footer, which does not show in the HTML previews. The ad can be removed by users with a paid account.)

Regardless of the plan you choose, you can schedule a send date and time for your message; this may help the message show up in your subscribers’ inboxes when they’re most likely to read it. You may also choose to archive a web version of your message, which e3 will host for you along with your images for 5 years, although you must select that option in Direct Mail’s preferences—you can’t select it when sending a message.

Direct Mail Reports Tab


Once you’ve sent your message, reporting is in real-time; you can instantly see bounces, opens, spam complaints, unsubscribes and clicks on links, and you can see exactly who opened your messages (assuming a web “bug” image was loaded) and clicked on the links and when. Various charts are available and you can see a map of where your messages have been opened. And your reports can also be exported as CSV or PDF files.

An additional note about link tracking: your own domain can be included in the tracking URLs if you know what you’re doing.

There are two more features that may be of interest to you. First is integration with Stamps, an iOS app that gives paid accounts access to reports and the ability to cancel and reschedule deliveries, provided the user is using the e3 Delivery Service. Second is subscribe forms, which you can embed on your website, are hosted by e3 and allow your clients to sign up to your list on their own. (You can also add new subscribers from Stamps.)

As I investigated Direct Mail, I found the app generally easy to use and Mac-like (is that redundant?), but there were times that I had questions and couldn’t find answers in the web-based documentation. I posted those questions to Direct Mail’s Twitter account, but only received answers when I used e3’s live chat on their website; the tech support rep was quick, professional and knowledgable.

Overall I’m impressed with Direct Mail as a Mac application (I reviewed version 3.4.2). Next I’ll look at how it integrates with Daylite and how it compares to the competition.