Email marketers are always watching their deliverability rates, or the flip side, bounce rates to closely monitor the health of their campaigns. Building, testing and sending marketing email is a basic function of any marketing automation platform. Companies who don’t use marketing automation yet, often keep their lists with a dedicated email service provider (ESP) like MailChimp or iContact. Up to now, using a third-party service to send emails to your prospects has been the best way to keep deliverability rates high.
One of the major factors that affect email deliverability is the reputation of the sending server’s IP address. The big marketing automation platforms and ESPs are very protective of their outbound IPs, with sizable spam & abuse teams who monitor their users’ emailing habits and set them straight when needed, with threats up to and including service termination.
As you probably know, permission-based email marketing is not just a best practice, but often a legal requirement with legislation like CAN-SPAM in the US and CASL in Canada. Requiring marketers keep a verifiable list of opt-ins minimizes spam complaints, with the added benefit of keeping the email servers’ IP addresses off of blacklists.
You never want the IP address of your email sending server to be on a blacklist; One of the most well known is Spamhaus. IT administrators fighting the onslaught of spam regularly download these lists and discard any emails coming from those servers before they ever reach the user’s inbox. To make sure your contacts actually see the email communication you’ve worked so hard to put together, it’s essential that your IP address keeps a solid reputation — by following good email marketing practices yourself and ensuring you’re not sharing an IP address with spammers, a so-called “bad neighborhood.”
By default, Mautic sends email using your web server’s built-in sendmail() PHP function. Especially if you are using shared hosting, web hosts can’t always ensure their users are not using their IP addresses to send unsolicited bulk email. There may be limits on the number of emails sent per customer hourly or daily, but even just a handful of spam complaints is enough to get on a blacklist. Even if you’ve purchased a dedicated IP address such as on a VPS or dedicated server, IP addresses are routinely reassigned to new customers; You never know what your address has been previously used for. If you’re not having deliverability problems sending email directly from your web server, you’re amongst the lucky few. MailChimp has a helpful list of email marketing benchmarks to help you determine what percentage of soft and hard bounces you should expect from a typical list in your industry.
We recommend Mautic users employ an external SMTP server to send email messages from their instance. Besides marketing emails, Mautic also relies on your email gateway to send important system messages such as new lead notifications or follow-up reminders. You certainly don’t want to miss those. Using a SMTP service such as Mandrill, SendGrid, Postmark or Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) can make sure your emails are delivered without a hitch.
Third-party SMTP services are similar to a traditional ESP, just without the email list management tools, templates, builder and autoresponders. All of those features are taken care of by Mautic, the marketing automation platform itself. The SMTP service takes raw email content from Mautic, in both plain text and HTML formats, and sends it out via its IP addresses on behalf of your domain. You can configure the SMTP service to use any From: address on your domain; All you need to do is set up Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys (DKIM) records on your domain’s DNS configuration. Here is an example of a tutorial from SendGrid which guides you through setting up SPF records for their service. A Mautic consultant will also gladly assist you with this process.
If you don’t send a large volume of email each month, the cost of an external SMTP service is barely noticeable. With SendGrid, you get the first 12,000 emails sent per month free, and up to 40,000 emails is just $9.95/month. Amazon SES is also ridiculously inexpensive at $0.10 per 1,000 emails (1/100 of a cent per message). For most customers, we recommend Mandrill or SendGrid because their interfaces are somewhat friendlier to set up than Amazon SES, unless you’re already an AWS user. You also get email analytics at the SMTP server level, including open, click and bounce rates with Mandrill and SendGrid, while Amazon SES has more of a no-frills feature set.
It isn’t difficult to see how building marketing emails in Mautic and sending them through an external SMTP service can be much more cost-effective than a traditional ESP. You can design beautiful emails with Mautic’s full-featured HTML email templating engine, and the ability to achieve equal (or higher) deliverability rates at a fraction of the cost. Especially as your email list grows, services like MailChimp can get costly — since you’re charged a monthly fee for the number of people on your list, regardless if you email them or not. Mautic is free and open-source software that allows you to keep an unlimited number of contacts, with no monthly fees.