The editor of Florida Bulldog came to me a few months ago asking for ideas on how to stretch the budget of his nonprofit news website. He particularly asked if we could find a more economical alternative to Mailchimp, for which the subscription fee was rising with the size of his list. Florida Bulldog is an investigative news site, and whenever it publishes a new hard-hitting report, email is an important element of getting those stories read.
His query prompted me to take a closer look at Postmark, a reliable and cost effective service for email distribution. RSVPMaker makes it possible to compose email messages using the same WordPress editor you use to write and edit blog posts and other web content. Postmark integration allows you to distribute those messages to thousands of people, with Postmark handling the complexities of bounced emails and spam complaints. Like Mailchimp and similar services, Postmark can track how many people opened your messages and clicked on links.
“For me, this is a heck of a lot easier than dealing with Mailchimp!”Dan Christensen, Editor and Founder, Florida Bulldog
Here’s how it works:
The examples in the video are of sending out a blog post or listing of blog posts, but the same techniques can be applied to sending out event invitations. Event invitations and confirmation messages are why all these email functions are in RSVPMaker in the first place.
Building Your Email List
The latest release of RSVPMaker also allows you to add a popup to your website that prompts visitors to join your mailing list. To avoid interrupting the reading experience unnecessarily, RSVPMaker tries to show the popup only to visitors not recognized as existing subscribers. So anyone who clicks through to the website from a newsletter link will not see the popup.
There’s also an RSVPMaker Email List Signup block you can include in any page or in a sidebar widget where you want the form to appear.
Leveraging the Block Editor
RSVPMaker embraces WordPress block editor techniques for styling of both messages and message templates. For example, in the screenshot below I’ve selected the RSVP Email Body Wrapper block that represents a wrapper for the message background, allowing me to specify a background color (shown below) or a background image.
Originally introduced as a beta test add-on, the option for integrating Postmark is now available in the core RSVPMaker plugin, available for free in the WordPress repository. Postmark gives you one service that handles both broadcast email, such as newsletters, and transactional messages like registration confirmations. Pricing starts at $10 for 10,000 emails per month.
Note that Postmark’s pricing is based on the total number of emails sent, not the size of your list. Depending on the size of your list and how frequently you send to it, switching to Postmark from a service like Mailchimp might or might not save you money.
Florida Bulldog will save money but the saving of time spent setting up messages is even more significant. As a former newspaper journalist, most recently at the Miami Herald, Founder and Editor Dan Christensen wants to focus on publishing great stories more than futzing with technology. Eliminating the need to switch from the WordPress editor to the Mailchimp editor when he wants to send out an email broadcast is a big win, he says.
How can I help?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to assist with setting up a website that includes this integration on a consulting basis.
If you host websites for others on WordPress multisite, contact me for help selling access to Postmark services as an upgrade — something I’m already doing with a service I operate on behalf of Toastmasters clubs. I’m working on bundling up that functionality, along features for managing email forwarding and discussion lists from the WordPress dashboard, into a premium plugin. While that’s under development, we can work together to define the requirements.
P.S. About the Comparison with Mailchimp
RSVPMaker will continue to support API integration with Mailchimp, which allows you to compose messages in WordPress and submit them for distribution through Mailchimp’s services. Sticking with the combination of RSVPMaker and Mailchimp may make sense if you make use of its services in other ways, for example sending some messages through RSVPMaker but others composed using Mailchimp’s native design tools.
However, some RSVPMaker email features don’t work as well if the mailing list is managed through Mailchimp’s cloud service rather than the local WordPress database. This is particularly true for messages related to an event you’re managing with RSVPMaker, where you can send a broadcast to just the people who have registered for an event or just the members of your email list who have NOT registered and need another reminder.
There may be some website owners who choose to use both services — Mailchimp for publicity and Postmark for confirmation messages etc.