I receive hundreds of marketing emails each month. I generally open about 20 out
of every 500 emails that I receive, and I rarely ever make a purchase based upon
one of these emails. So, when a marketing email to me results in a purchase, it
has achieved a great deal more than the sender might guess.
As a small business owner I am always evaluating the various marketing tools
available to me. Recently I began looking at mass email marketing, and I was
surprised at how complicated the email marketing process is. Time and space do
not allow me to discuss the entire process in this article, so I will only focus
on the software tool used to create and distribute the marketing emails.
Choosing the right software is critical to the success of email marketing
campaigns. If the email is not delivered in a consumer appealing manner, then it
will likely bypass the reader altogether, and end up in the spam folder.
When I began my research of email marketing software I became aware of several
things. First, there are an abundance of different products. Second, each
product varies significantly in the features that they include. Third, the price
of the products was not necessarily reflective of the product’s quality. And
finally, I became acutely aware that I will need to review several different
products to give you a good overview of what the market offers so that you may
make an informed choice about the product that best suits your needs.
I begin this series of reviews with a product called RoboMail version 1.8.2.
This 21mb product from Envinco Solutions LTD claims to be “The Most
Comprehensive Mass Mail Software”. Envinco also claims that the product will run
on the following platforms: Win98/ME/NT/2000/XP.
RoboMail downloaded quickly and error free. I am not overly concerned that the
setup file was large, given the magnitude of what the software does.
The main screen is simple in both design and labeling. All menu choices and icons are familiar and self explanatory. Although the design is relatively intuitive, I found the need to refer to the help file for certain information. Unfortunately I could not use the help. Each time I attempted to access it I received the following error message:
“The c:\Program Files\RoboMail\bin\hlp\robomail.hlp help file was created for a
language not supported by your version of Windows.”
Now that’s confusing. I am using Windows XP Pro, and that is one of the
platforms that Envinco claims RoboMail will run on.
I was able to open the internal “Quick Start Guide” which does somewhat explain
the overall process for creating and sending the emails. I was also able to
access the “User Guide” on Envinco’s website. These did not give me much
assistance. The documentation was vague and poorly written for this “Yank”.
The trial version of RoboMail may or may not have been fully functional. Envinco
makes no claim that the trial version is fully functional. I did notice that
there were several features that did not work for me. I was not able to import
addresses from an Excel file (I got a successful import message, but the
addresses were never added).
The internal SMTP server feature did not work for me either. I could only send
emails using my own SMTP server.
The other features that did not work for me included:
- Mail scheduling
- Email Read Confirmations
- Unsubscribe Process
In all fairness to Envinco, if these features worked, they did so with results
not obvious to me.
The trial version is limited in the number of emails that the user may send. The
current limit is 50. Sadly, this was simply not enough for me to be able to
fully evaluate the product. I would like to see Envinco double the number of
mailing to 100. I think this would provide potential buyers with a greater
understanding of RoboMail.
Basically, there are three steps to using RoboMail. (1) Create the email template. (2) Add the email addresses to the email template. (3) Click the start button to send the emails. These steps require that the user provide the setting information in each step. While it can be a bit confusing in places, overall it is all easy to do.
Users will find the actual email template editor easy to use, but somewhat rigid and lacking. For example, font color options are limited to sixteen. Font types are limited to three, Sans Serif, Monospaced, and Serif. I also noticed that the user can use copy/paste on the template editor only. This feature is not accessible in any other reas within RoboMail.
I was disappointed that the only way to include an image in the email body is by
linking to a website for the image, rather than being able to upload one of my
own image files and imbedding it into the letter body.
I was also disappointed that I was not able to use background colors or tables
within the body of the letter. I even went into the html editor and included the
tags for these functions, but they did not work.
I was pleased that the template editor did allow the user to personalize the
emails by inserting predefined variables such as the contact name, address,
phone numbers, email addresses, etc. RoboMail also provides ten additional user
In my tests, I was able to successfully send emails using my own SMTP server. So
clearly the product does work with some limitations. RoboMail is priced at
$85.00. The price seems a bit on the high side to me, however, it is important
to note that email marketing software range in price from $39.95 all the way up