The notion that social media is the next big thing in sales seems to have fallen flat on its face. Virtually every study conducted has shown that Facebook and Twitter campaigns only increase brand awareness. As far as driving traffic to your website and converting visitors into customers, email is still king.
A recent study of companies that used a dedicated email marketing client, good newsletter content and personalisation for each reader reported open rates of over 30%, with similar click-through rates – leading to above average conversions. This kicks Facebook’s ass.
Now, the guys behind the industry favourite ‘Mail Chimp’ have been working hard on a new product. It’s called Mandrill and solves many of the nagging issues of traditional email marketing. They claim it trumps the competition by a long-shot. Let’s take a look.
How Does Mandrill Work?
Most web-based email services use servers to process and dispatch the emails. Some databases can have hundreds of thousands of email addresses. SMTP, the method by which over 60% of bulk emails are sent, is an extremely “chatty” protocol; in order to send a single email, multiple back-and-forth communications must take place with the server. A single email can take three seconds. With these speeds, sending just 5,000 emails could take over a week!
Mandrill aims to solve this problem by having servers located all over the world to spread out the workload evenly and to make for a more efficient delivery process to email addresses located on different continents. Their dispatch time is a few milliseconds which allows for even the largest of email loads to be delivered within minutes. Users can also choose whether to send from Mandrill directly, or simply use the API to integrate their delivery technology into their own system.
The Mandrill infrastructure is highly scalable for small or large businesses and they report an SMTP server uptime of 100%. I guess that if one server goes down, there’s always dozens of others ready to take on the extra workload.
Key Features of ManDrill
Aside from the incredibly fast dispatch times, what makes Mandrill worth your while as a business or personal user?
A Great PAYG Price Model
To attract small business owners, Mandrill has allowed users to send 12,000 emails every month, for free. Beyond this benchmark, users are charged $0.20 per thousand. This fee scales downwards if you send more emails. For example, users sending in excess of five million emails per month will pay just $0.10 per thousand. For small and large users, Mandrill works out way cheaper than the main alternatives such as SendGrid or AWeber.
Templates, Formatting and Client Testing
The appearance of an email sent as part of a marketing campaign is crucially important to whether the reader even clicks through to your website, let alone converts to a paying customer. To make things a little easier on this front, Mandrill included several features to help users improve the appearance of their emails.
Along with standard templates, users can upload their own and save them to their account. Templates can be formatted in HTML and CSS, and can contain images and links.
My favourite feature however is their client tester. This tool allows user to quickly test their email template in dozens of popular email clients such as Outlook and Firebird for just $3. Any issues that arise can be quickly fixed in the code editor.
Mandrill has at its core a great analytics capability, which allows users to view their email history, gauge effectiveness and adjust future campaign to suit.
Users can analyse:
- Click-Through Rate
- Email Client Type
- Bounce Rate
- Open Rate
Data is presented as graphs, bar charts and percentages.
Other user meta-data can also be viewed and tracked. One of the biggest recent additions to Mandrill was the ability to track users’ demographics. A heat map of the world displays where most of your email recipients are located and how active their response is to your email.
Further data is available such as their OS or what mail client they’re using (this ties in nicely with the client tester mentioned above).
Like its cousin, Mail Chimp, Mandrill gets its very own mobile app for iOS and Android. It’s totally free and allows users to manage their accounts and view campaign reports.
The reports in particular go into great detail, providing line graphs and numerical data on open rates, bounce rates and unsubscribes.
Why not use MailChimp or SendGrid?
The main reason I think Mandrill is better than other email campaign managers is because of how fast it sends out bulk email. You see, when it comes to email campaigns, timing is everything. Having your email land in someone’s inbox on a Friday afternoon, due to delays with a slow server, is just not good enough. By the time they check their email again on Monday morning, your email will be snowed under dozens of others and likely deleted in a coffee fueled, Monday morning email annihilation session.
Mandrill does lack in some areas. For example, MailChimp offers far superior email design features and has a much more user-friendly interface. Similarly, SendGrid offers a superior analytics package and integrates better with business functions (separate tools for transactional and marketing emails).
Nevertheless, Mandrill really outperforms the others in terms of speed and reliability which, ultimately, will boost conversion rates. This emphasis on performance, along with the cheap pricing structure, makes Mandrill a fantastic option for marketers.