Saturday, February 6, 2010

Help me find an email management system for

Email contact help needed for
Image by evo_terra via Flickr
You know about, right? Pushing around 80,000 episodes of close to 400 serialized free audiobooks out to thousands of listeners every single day. Some listeners opt to make a donation to a book, and the author gets 75% of that. Yeah, I'm a hell of a guy.

I use PayPal in a very non-automated system to handle both the collection of donations from donors and distribution of funds to authors/producers. I've got a pretty good system going, but there's one spot I constantly fall down on -- thanking those who have donated.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I simply can't thank each of these people one at a time. It takes me the better part of 2 days to do it when they pile up, and I simply don't have the bandwidth to do it daily. It's hundreds of people that donate per quarter, but thanking them individually takes time.

And I really don't like the thought of an auto "thanks" to be sent out as soon as the donation is received. Yes, I could set up PayPal or something else to do this. But I don't want to. What I'd rather do is wait -- maybe a month -- and then send out a big "thanks" email to everyone who donated during that time. I'd include some quick stats on growth, new books coming... that sort of thing. Something of more value than just a "thanks", but something that doesn't have to be customized for each donor.

And that's why I'm turning to you. I need personal recommendations on good, solid and inexpensive contact management services. I'm perfectly capable of searching Google on my own and doing research on my own, so spare me the links to LMGTFY. I want to hear from those of you who know of a system that will accommodate my needs.

Here's the weekly/monthly/quarterly workflow as I see it:
  1. Export week/month/quarter of donations from PayPal
  2. Import that list -- just names and email addresses, probably -- into CMS
  3. Write up a nifty little letter of thanks and tells the list a bit about what happened to Would like this to be pretty-fiable.
  4. Send.

That's it. Of course, I know I'm building up a list -- possibly a big list, though we have many repeat donors -- of donors. I may opt to, though I never yet have, send them important updates from time to time. Things like the new site launch, and when we start selling versions of some of our books, too. Those will be one-off and certainly few and far between.

I have the names and email addresses of everyone who has donated in the past, so I'd like to start with a big import of those (no sending of anything), then import a list of donors since October 2009 that have yet to be thanked... and thank them.

So... what do you think? More importantly, what do you use? Spread this around if you know someone who uses email/contact management software and may be of assistance.

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  1. I've just started using Constant Contact after reviewing them against Campaign Monitor. I only have good things to say about both. I selected CC after running some spreadsheet scenarios and figuring up costs. Within 48 hours of signing up for a free trial, I got a phone call from a guy at Constant Contact who was prepared to answer my questions. When I didn't follow through at Campaign Monitor, I got a really nice email asking me for feedback about why I didn't choose them.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Charlene. And for exposing me to Campaign Monitor. I really like their simple pricing based on sends and not my list size. That may be a deciding factor for me, as I'll have some 5,000+ emails to import right away, but will only send to 400 or so at any given time.


  3. I use My Newsletter Builder for a hobby newsletter (The Smartenizer) and used Vertical Response for Podcast Peer Awards mailings.

    My Newsletter Builder's interface is a bit clunky and they charge a monthly rate based on the number of e-mails on your list, regardless of how much you send. My subscription runs out there soon, and I'll be moving over to Vertical Response, who charges about 1.5 cents per e-mail sent. There are no monthly fees.

    I've only sent text e-mails through VR, so can't comment on their HTML interface.

    As far as performance, both delivered things quickly and efficiently and provided good reports.

  4. Thanks, Dave. Good to know that VR bases it on per-email sent rather than the total size of the DB. That seems to be a model I'll need.

  5. I could possibly help you with this Evo. Send me an email bruce at


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