How To Set Up An Email Marketing System For Your Business At No Cost

Most business owners are aware that they should be building a mailing list of customers, so that they can use email marketing to quickly and inexpensively let their customers know about new products, special offers, events and news about the business.

At the same time, business owners are probably aware that they should be capturing information about the people who don’t buy, or who aren’t yet ready to buy.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to stay in contact with your past customers, and to teach prospective customers about what you do.

Setting up a robust email marketing system for you business can be a challenge.

In this article, I’m going to look at a couple of the most popular methods businesses use, and share a system you can use to build a mailing list of thousands of people, at no cost whatsoever (except a bit of time setting it up!)

What Email Marketing Systems Are Available For Businesses To Use?

Once they realize that they should be using email to stay in contact with their customers, many small business owners and entrepreneurs use their everyday email software, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to send emails to their list of customers.

There are a couple of problems with this.

The first is that if you use CC to send the same email to, say, 100 people, all of those people can see the email addresses of all the other people.

Sharing people’s email addresses like this, without their permission, is extremely discourteous, and illegal in some countries – it’ll soon be illegal in South Africa as well.

The second problem is that using CC or BCC is a red flag to Internet service providers. It indicates that you are sending bulk email from your desktop, and it’s quite likely to get your email account blacklisted. This could dramatically reduce your company’s ability to deliver emails to all your contacts.

The next step up would be to use some form of desktop-based email marketing software. Rather than trying to send the same email to your entire mailing list at once, this kind of software will send the same email to each contact in turn. It will also allow you to personalize the emails by, for example, automatically inserting the recipient’s name at the beginning of each email.

This is a somewhat better solution, at least until your mailing list is bigger than 100 or so contacts. The problem is that Internet service providers limit the number of emails you can send per hour. If you have a list of 2000 contacts, and your ISP limits you to 200 emails per hour, it’s going to take 10 hours to send all the emails.

If you exceed the ISP’s limits, you’ll probably get blacklisted.

Third Party Email Services

Email MarketingOne answer is to use a third-party email marketing service. These services allow you to build a list of subscribers and send emails to your list in exchange for a monthly fee. The fee usually depends on the number of subscribers you have, or the number of emails you send.

A major advantage of using a third-party email marketing service is that they deal directly with ISP’s and other organisations to ensure that the deliverability of emails sent through their systems is kept high.

Many email marketing services offer a wide range of additional features. For example, you can usually get accurate stats about how many recipients opened your emails, how many people clicked on a link in an email, how many emails were undelivered and so on. This information is invaluable when it comes to planning marketing campaigns.

If, for example, you know that 30% of your subscribers are likely to open an email which offers a coupon, and 40% of those subscribers are likely to make use of the coupon – and hopefully buy something else at the same time – would that persuade you to send coupons more regularly?

Email service providers also usually allow you to create more than one mailing list.

This means you could segment your subscribers, adding your prospects to a list called “Prospects” and your customers to a list called “Customers”. The emails you send to your prospects could be focused on educating them about your company and products, nurturing your relationship with them and establishing trust and familiarity to the point where they become a customer.

The emails you send to your customers might have more emphasis on new products, customer-only special offers and events, and getting feedback about their buying experience.

Another feature provided by some email marketing services is the provision of hosting for landing pages. A landing page is simply a web page which appears when someone clicks on a link or on an online ad.

The goal of a landing page is to convert visitors into sales or leads, either by getting them to call a phone number or by entering their contact details on a form.

If an email marketing service provides hosted landing pages, you can quickly and easily set up a page and drive traffic to it – you don’t even need a website.

Most email marketing services also allow some form of automation. For example, when a prospect buys something from you, you would want to remove them from the “Prospects” mailing list and add them to the “Customers” mailing list. You can do this manually, of course, but most email marketing services allow you to automate the process.

For example, after making a purchase, your new customer might be asked to enter their name and email address on a new form. Submitting the form would automatically add them to the Customers list and remove them from the Prospects list.

Of course, this is easiest if the sale is concluded online, but there’s no reason why you can’t ask customers to enter their details in a form on a tablet or laptop in your store, to sign up for your “Exclusive Customers Club”.

Marketing Automation

If you could identify the visitors to your website who are most likely to buy from you, and send them an email or give them a call when you know that they’re going to be receptive, what would that be worth?

Marketing automation takes the basic idea of email marketing and adds marketing intelligence.

This means the ability to track your prospects as they interact with your website, sign up for your mailing lists, fill in surveys, download your ebooks or white papers, open your emails, and click on your links.

Every time a prospect performs one of these actions, they are given a score. So opening an email might be worth 5 points, while filling in a survey could add 50 points to their total.

Once a prospect reaches a pre-defined score, you could reach out to them by email, on social media or with a phone call, knowing that they are really interested in your products or services.

Instead of spinning your wheels, contacting people who aren’t yet ready to buy, you can filter out the 3 to 5% of prospects who are qualified and eager to hear from you.

There are dozens of companies selling marketing automation systems; every vendor has a different approach. Some companies integrate direct mail and voice broadcasts into their systems; others have blogging platforms, customer relationship management integration and other features.

According to Scott Brinkers’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic there are more than 80 companies which provide marketing automation software solutions.


The one thing these companies have in common is that they charge hefty fees for their software. Most vendors use a SaaS model, so you’re paying a monthly rate for the use of the software, and maybe more for training on how to use it.

Email Marketing and Marketing Automation Costs

Here are some ideas of what you can expect to pay for some third-party email marketing and marketing automation systems:

3rd Party email marketing services

ConstantContact iContact AWeber MailChimp* GetResponse
Entry Level 500/$20 500/$14 500/$19 500/$10 1000/$12.75
Up to 5000 Subscribers $55/mo $47/mo $49/mo $50/mo $38.25/mo

*Mailchimp has a generous free level – 2000 subscribers + 12000 email a month. However, this is a stripped-down version of their paid service.
Most providers offer a 30 day free trial.

There are a few other companies which offer free email marketing services, but most of them incorporate branding or advertising in the emails they send, which doesn’t look very professional.

Marketing Automation Services

Marketo Ontraport HubSpot InfusionSoft Eloqua
Monthly Cost $895 / mo $297 / mo $200 /mo $199 /mo $2,000 / mo
Included Leads 10,000 25,000 100 2,500 10,000

As you can see, there isn’t much that’s free, apart from MailChimp’s free level.

How To Set Up An Email Marketing System For Your Business At No Cost

The system I’m going to tell you about is actually not an email marketing system; it’s a full-blown marketing automation system, which includes lead tracking, lead scoring, tagging, custom fields, social media integration, landing page hosting, flexible reporting, multiple user management and more.

It’s available in two versions: a hosted version, which is free for up to 2,500 subscribers and $12 a month for more than 2,500; and a self-hosted open-source downloadable software version, which is completely free for as many subscribers as you want (it’s recommended that you use a third-party SMTP provider like SendGrid, in which case there would be a charge once you start sending more than 12,000 emails a month).

The hosted service is available at https://mautic.com, and the self-hosted software can be downloaded from https://mautic.org.

mautic logo

Go ahead and create a free account on Mautic.com. You’ll find the system easy to use – you can ignore the marketing automation features until you’re ready to try them out. Setting up a simple email marketing system is easy.