Self-Hosted Email Software: Sendy Review
I have been desperately trying to find a solution to building an email list that didn’t cost a fortune to send an email to my readers. I have tried using MailChimp which is fine, but expensive if you grow out of the free tier which is always the goal. I have not used any of the other big named ones so there is always a measure that I might miss.
Note: I am not being paid, asked, or compensated by Sendy. I am writing this because I believe in it and use it.
The most challenging part for me with getting things started was the setting up of the pages and creating follow-up emails which overall wasn’t bad. This was the first time I had built a list; which my own misunderstandings made this a bit harder than it needed to be. Some folks might think that setting up Amazon SES/SNS or installing Sendy onto a server might be challenging, and it certainly was for me as well. Installing scripts and connecting things together isn’t a massive undertaking and Sendy has created a simplified step-by-step guide . To be fair, it was no harder than installing WordPress or any other CMS like it.
If you feel that it isn’t something you can do then let the guys over at Sendy do it for you for $79. If that is too much then maybe other routes can help you out.
The goal is to discuss each section of the software and talk about my thoughts on Sendy. I have only used MailChimp and Sendy so that is where I will make most of my comparisons. There are few videos in the editing process that builds upon Sendy and what it can do for your lists. For now, let’s dive into this starting with the price!
The price is $59 and I paused before buying since these kinds of purchases can add up quickly. The upside is that I own it, and the downside is that I have to maintain it. I hate paying monthly fees because it’s taxing and I tend to forget about it. I don’t want to constantly think about a bill coming due and paying for something that I might not be using to the fullest degree. I know it’s not a big deal for some, but when you add up every little thing on a day-to-day basis it builds up.
The other price you have to consider is the sending cost. Each big email service, like MailChimp, gives you a small allowance for free each month. This is great for small lists that don’t send emails too often. Amazon charges $0.10 for each 1,000 emails sent. With my list of 5,000 that totals to $0.50 for the push each time. MailChimp would charge me $135 for the same thing if I was outside the monthly free limit. Other services also charge big money for email marketing, but I haven’t used them. This makes Sendy really stand out and I appreciate Amazon SES for their credibility and ease of use.
Think beyond the initial price of the $59 and look long term. You will quickly find the math to be on Sendy’s side and it’s what convinced me to get on board. I have saved a lot of money since I started the switch and let me make investments in other areas. I give Sendy a 10/10 for price. At $59 per license it really is an amazing tool and a ton of benefits for the price.
Install & Setup
Installing Sendy can be confusing and difficult for someone that has no idea what web hosting is or even how to manage files. For those that have used cPanel or other interfaces to include the CLI, this will be a breeze. This is much like WordPress or any other CMS. Simply download the Sendy files after you purchase, upload them to your server and connect it to the database (MySQL). Finally, run through the steps to get the little things right.
For those that don’t understand the majority of the previous paragraph, you can find someone to install it for you on a freelancing site or just pay Ben (Sendy developer) $79. Don’t trust them? Give me access to your cPanel so I can create a Mysql DB, upload the files, and connect them together in about 5 minutes. I will delete the access and forget about it in quick succession so you don’t have to worry about me doing anything else. I don’t mind helping and hopefully this offer doesn’t blow up my email.
Don’t sweat the install because it really isn’t hard and the real work is creating the landing pages and responders. Focus on the learning curve and I will hold your hand if need be. For the rest of you that know how to install, prepare to enjoy the world of Sendy! I give the painless install a 8/10 because it could always be simplified more and there could be more tutorials out there. The issues I had were not understanding how to setup the double opt-in and autoresponders. This will be the harder part for many people.
Still, for a straight-forward install, this can’t get too much easier other than more examples and visual how-to’s. I plan on getting a lot of them out there to patch the holes I had along the way.
Ben seems to be the support person in the Sendy forum. Replies are answered quickly and there are a lot of answers from the previous questions asked. I haven’t found a problem yet that hasn’t been tackled before. One tip I will share that I grabbed off of Reddit was searching with the word “solved” in the search terms. Ben deserves some kudos for creating a massive knowledge base in the Sendy forum.
Ben gives the option of email or posting your issues and the answers are fast. Perhaps Ben is like me, always sitting around the computer. He doesn’t have support hours that I noticed. This support is a 10/10. There is no weakness that I have experienced and the only thing he could add is a phone number and Skype. That would be a nightmare though.
Seriously, huge props for the instant support for the product. If I could, I would hire Ben somehow.
Amazon AWS SES & SNS
This is probably the trickiest part of the entire process. If you are able to install Sendy onto your server with the step-by-step walk, then this will not be that difficult. It might look daunting the first time you walk through it, but it has gotten simpler since the last couple updates. Kudos to Ben for this.
Previously, you had 3 additional Simple Notification Service (SNS) topic configuration steps and I hated it. Having all the steps for each brand became an afternoon of reading and tweaking settings. I greatly appreciate the new simplified process.
My largest concern about Amazon is their strict terms of service. If you have lots of bounces, spam reports, or unsubscribes, it could lead to your account being disabled. So far, this has not been a problem in more than a year of using the services. I only send about 1 email to my list per month and the list has about 5,000 subscribers. On average about 1-2% bounce, unsubscribe or mark the email as spam. I quickly remove those accounts and clean it. I don’t know the threshold Amazon allows, but I am sure they have a way to separate legit emailing from spamming operations.
While I say this is my largest fear, this is not a huge concern because I am taking all the right steps. I don’t purchase lists or anything that would put a spotlight on my activities. I only do double-opt in and naturally build my lists. If you can do this you will never have to worry about Amazon cutting you off.
In this area, I give Sendy & Amazon a 7/10. What would I do if I got disabled? The answer is not much. There isn’t much you can do other than find another service or use your server as your email service and that sucks on both accounts.
There really isn’t a hard and fast number that you have to stay under, but stay as close to zero as possible. I try my very best to have a clean list, yet I have always had a bounce, spam, or unsubscribe on every newsletter I send. My main concern is having my Amazon account suspended for an honest mistake, but hopefully that will never happen.
Customizing Sendy is easy as a setup could be if you know a bit of HTML/CSS and there are plenty of crash courses on YouTube if you don’t. Start by getting your templates from wherever you want and add them into your brand’s arsenal. No sense in re-creating the wheel here as there are plenty of free email templates out there to choose from. Just remember, responsive. Your template needs to have flexibility.
I love the ability to customize any template to fit my goals. Making that right look matters a lot too. Invest the time choosing the right templates that will translate into better response. There is no limit on templates and you may want separate ones for different types of campaigns. In this regard, the options truly are endless.
Maybe you don’t mind shelling out some cash for paid templates. You can buy a template from Themeforest or other platforms that sell them. I always opt for the responsive ones to make sure it looks good on all screens. I use the free Atom editor from Github to edit my files and it makes the process painless. While this is mostly not within Sendy’s area of responsibility (AOR for my veterans), having a couple standard templates come with the script would be icing on the cake. I would give it a 7.5/10 for having lots of flexibility, but not coming standard with at least one responsive template.
Build as many brands and lists that you want. You can export and import subscribers all day long and even choose a single opt-in or a double. I always choose double-opt in to keep my list clean and safe. The worst thing you can do here is buy a list and start sending out campaigns. Sendy says upfront that you can risk your Amazon account if you are sending to people didn’t sign up for your emails. I take this seriously and only send people who have signed up directly.
Sendy gives you everything you could want for your lists except segmentation. You can manually segment though by exporting and importing csv files. Sure it takes a bit of time, but it is an option. I do not fault Sendy too much for this, but I am taking a point off my rating for not having segmentation.
You can create your welcome email, double opt-in, and success emails for each list. There is also an HTML form that you can grab from the list to insert into your landing page or site. There isn’t much to complain about here. I have the ability to control the states of each email such as subscribed, unsubscribed, bounced, and unconfirmed. Lots of options here and this gets a 9/10 for everything that it is.
We have the autoresponders and drip campaigns that give plenty of flexibility. I have gotten pretty far with it, but this is still an area that I am exploring to see how far I can go with it. I am going to leave this unrated for the time being because I have not completely set this area up to it’s fullest possibilities. Expect an update to this in the next month or two.
Someone unsubscribed? No problem, you can manage subscribers in bulk, individually, and export and import till your heart’s content. I quickly clean my list on a monthly basis and I can do this in a few minutes because Sendy has the tools. Using this correctly will keep you away from the Amazon hawks. I don’t need to do a deep look in this area because it really does give you all the controls you could want as you see below.
I will add that I do use Sendy integrated with Xenforo. This has greatly help manage my members and bounced emails so members can correct their email address. Nobita’s Sendy addon helps and only costs $20. Sendy has plenty of support for other software that you might work with too. 10/10 here for the flexibility Sendy gives me.
Plugins & Integrations
There are a lot of integrations available, but not nearly the amount you might want. It’s growing slowly and I contributed by creating the Total Support Widget for WordPress. I offer it for free, but here is the other list of third-party integrations. My point in this section is that more plugins and platforms are slowly integrating, but it’s not fast enough. Zapier just integrated with Sendy just a couple weeks ago as of this writing and that was a huge milestone.
Every plugin I buy from Codecanyon that has all of the other mail services integrated but doesn’t have Sendy triggers a comment asking for them to add it. We all need to demand more support for this. It will take more than just myself asking a developer to go back and add it in.
Maybe you are asking why integrations matter? They matter because it can add features, automate tasks, or add other benefits you may not have considered before. Having Sendy trigger an email because of a submission, click or something else comes in really handy. For me, the WordPress plugin gave me a way to sign people up using AJAX (no page reload) and give me the flexibility to be visually pleasing.
I give them a 10/10 for Sendy. I give a 3/10 to developers. The developers that creating plugins that integrate with MailChimp and other platforms that leave Sendy out. It sucks that they don’t see Sendy as a player while the API is very easy to use and implement. Why not just add it in so it appeals to more people and I don’t have to ask a bunch of times? One day…
The API helps connect third-party solutions to your lists. This was the hardest area for me to wrap my head around, but once I used it with my plugin it changed my view. It can do a lot of automation and I am not a coder so my opinion in this area is basic. I give them a 10/10 for their API and access to it. I am not sure what else I could add here beyond the API allowing unsubscribing, subscribing, choosing lists, and more options.
After buying two licenses and using it on a regular basis has led me to truly embrace this software and write some positives about it. I know the main players like MailChimp have their benefits, but when you boil it down, Sendy makes lots of sense. There are so many benefits to it beyond just the handful I covered above. Put your connection with your list into action for so much less. Check out Sendy and see if the features fit your needs. (Full disclosure: This is my affiliate link)
TL;dr Buy Sendy, saves loads of money and get emailing to push ideas, products, and connections to people who love or hate emails from you. You pay almost nothing to send to subscribers.