pMailer LogoIt is hard to be excited about a mass mailer. Mass mailers generally cause two things in my life: Technical difficulties and spam.

Everyone who has ever had to set up a mass mailing system for a client knows exactly what I am talking about regarding technical hassles. Mailman is a shining example of this – an immensely powerful program that is a real hassle to set up.

One South African setup now offers an on-line solution, that along with SMS functionality is set to take care of at least the technical issues that you would encounter when setting up a mass mailer.

Enter pMailer

pMailer is an on-line mass mail and sms marketing solution. To use it is surprisingly simple and free of niggles.

The interface is relatively easy to understand, and is generally self explanatory.

pMailer has actually been around since 2003, and in 2007 it was launched as a general email marketing platform. In 2009 pMailer was rewritten from the ground up and has been put into production in 2010.

What about Mail Spam?

One thing that I really like about pMailer is that you cannot opt out of having an unsubscribe footer in your email.

This takes care of the legal requirement of allowing your recipients unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Now there is very little any mail provider can do to ensure that recipients have subscribed to a mailing list, but ensuring that their users fulfil legal requirements as far as they can is at least a step in the right direction.

First Impressions

When you first log in to your pMailer account you are greeted with a dashboard. This is par for the course for most online services these days. pMailer has one of the more complete ones that I have used, and everything you need to do is right there.

There is even a timeline of recent activity to the right, and shortcuts to edit contacts, generate reports and create SMS are right there, among other options.

pMailer Dashboard

The pMailer Dashboard (Click to Enlarge)

Minor Niggles

I cam across two minor niggles though.

Both of them relate to importing contacts into a mailing list.

Setting Up Contact Lists in pMailer

Setting Up a Contact List in pMailer (Click To Enlarge)

Before you import contacts you need to create a mailing list, and before you create a mailing list, you need to create a list group. This is not made readily apparent when you access the system and begin setting up your mailing lists.

When you click on creating a mailing list, a message informs you that there are no list groups to associate with the mailing list, and hence you need to go and create a list group.

In my opinion it would make more sense to the end user to work from the top down from the get-go, making a task on the dashboard to create your first mailing list and guiding them through the process up to the point that they can import contacts. (A related problem appears with the SMS system, but more about that later)

That brings me to the second minor issue I came across: Importing contacts.

Before importing contacts you need to create a mailing list, and this throws us back to the problem mentioned above, but there is another problem that crops up with importing contact lists.

Let me start of this criticism by stating that the actual importing of contacts into a new mailing list is one of the best that I have ever used, if not THE best – it recognises many different file types, and had no problem recognising my .csv list that I exported from my wordpress blog. LOADS of spammy users that I could use to test.

It guides you through importing your list impressively – it asks you to verify that it has read the fields correctly, and then imports almost faultlessly.

The problem I came across was with the number of contacts that were imported – not all my contacts in the list were imported, and there is no feedback as to why. I realize fully that there might have been some malformed email addresses, or missing ones, but a little feedback would have been nice.

[UPDATE] Jodine from pMailer contacted me with a screenshot of feedback when importing of mails have errors. It seems I either missed said feedback, or there was another problem, possibly with my browser and addons combinations that caused me to not have feedback. I am removing this one from the niggles list.[/UPDATE]

pMailer Importing Contacts

Importing Contacts Into pMailer (Click To Enlarge)

SMS Functionality

The company I work for uses an SMS portal, and it is very simplistic to use, this simplicity comes at a price though – it is ugly and if you want to do something out of the ordinary you really have to peck through menus to get the job done.

Gladly pMailer seems to have the SMS system generally well thought out.

Except, again, for the SMS lists. If you have added an email mailing list to the pMailer system the SMS system does not pick up that there are no Cellphone numbers in the list, and will allow you to create an SMS and select that list to send it to.

On the page where you select your SMS list to send to, there is no option of adding Cellphone numbers manually, nor is there an option to create/import a new list from there.

You need to go back to creating or importing a new messaging list and then re-create the SMS and select the list to send to.

This is something that will possibly only bother a new user the first time if he has no SMS list set up, but might be a bother for users who create an SMS and then want to send it to an individual number, possibly a new one, or want to create a new list after composing a message.

Costs

Using pMailer is obviously not free. Pricing begins at R49 per 1000 emails per month, or R150 per 500SMS’s per month. Your balance resets at the end of every month.

There are also feature sets that incur a monthly cost, from pMailer Lite which is free, to Premium which costs you R499 per month.

Unfortunately the link detailing what services are included with each feature set is not working at the time of publishing this review, so I cannot throw any light on that.

User Friendliness

Right, rating time.

Given my previous experience with mass mailers and SMS systems pMailer is a cut above the rest. I cannot ignore the issues I came across, and dock them a point for those in my user friendliness rating.

I am very impressed with this system, and would recommend it to both individuals and companies who want to have access to a powerful mass mailer and SMS marketing system – if the problems I identified are adressed. [NOTE that one of the problems I identified is a nonissue as per my update above.]

Hence I give pMailer a THREE out of FIVE for user friendliness, but cannot add it to my “SaGeek Recommended Products” list yet. If the niggles are sorted I would be glad to add it to my recommended products list. [Only one more niggle to adress then! pMailer is edging closer to recommended products.]

Three Out Of FIVE

Q Rating

For Product Reviews the Q Rating is given as a overall rating of a product. Completeness, User Friendliness and other factors are considered.

Short and long is that I give pMailer a FOUR out of FIVE for my Q rating. It might seem generous given the problems I identified earlier, but I have to take into account that this is the most complete and well integrated mass marketing system that I have yet come across.

A full mass mailer, with an easy to use email composer INCLUDING a pre-set unsubscribe link AND ALSO an integrated SMS marketing system all under one roof? This product scores full marks for product completeness.

Four out of FIVE

(Come to think of it, I think it is a mighty good idea to include a “Product Completeness Rating” in future reviews. Something to explore…)

Summary

I like pMailer, and like the way it is implemented. Sure there are minor oversights with the system, but that is true of many online systems.

I will keep an eye on this one, just as I have with SnapBill this past year, and if and when they improve the system I will check it out and maybe they end up on my Recommended Products List.

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