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September 26, 2006

1-2-All Bulk Email Software

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

One of the greatest challenges for a political campaign is to use bulk email effectively. We have all been on that small campaign that tries to use an Outlook program to email a bunch of contributors or volunteers and being almost embarrassed by the way the emails look.

1-2-All Main Admin Screen

One of my friends in London introduced me to Active Campaign and their suite of tools for site operators to handle marketing and customer management. Of these tools, my favorite is 1-2-All, AC's own email management software. Equipped with all of the features that come with some of the more expensive hosted services, I was easily able to install the software onto a virtual server hosted at my local hosting company. One suggestion they gave was to install Zend, the free PHP optimizer for my machine. Once it was installed, the admin process was simply a breeze.

Running the software was also quite easy - though, I would assume the need for technical prowess is there for someone to handle the upload to the server. The interface (which seems to improve steadily with each new version) is very easy to use.

Once you have a list of emails and names, the filters are very powerful in terms of targeting emails - and the only limitations you have on outgoing emails are the limitations of your ISP/hosting providers SMTP (read:outbound) email server. I recently attempted to use this software on godaddy.com and discovered a painful lesson about Terms of Service (to the tune of $200).

There are some issues:

  • Filters are not as flexible as I would like - I miss the features from WhatCounts.com with their very flexible filter setup and the simplicity of segmenting the database for me. Granted, most customers will like it, but I am a bit of a power-user.
  • Bouncebacks are not working as well as I would like - I have used other services before, and I do not normally have to manually update the bouncebacks. They have an automated system, but I never did discover if it works properly yet.

  • Name is only one field - turns out that most people must think that Name is for the whole name. I built my own work-around by including either FirstName or LastName as another text field, and then used Name as the other field

  • HTML editor does not like manually entered paragraph tags - I manually craft my HTML emails and use P tags for separators. For some reason, using the HTML editor after storing the email causes the separators to change the format somewhat. A simple workaround is to use BRs for your line breaks.
  • Bad location for the Send Now button - when you get through the process, I have accidentially sent emails when I wanted to schedule the email. User interface design bug here.
  • Ugly Unsubscribe link - for some reason, the automated unsubscribe link is difficult to find (at least, I could not find the template for the line). To workaround it, I made a version of the email in the HTML editor with the Unsubscribe link on, went to the next page, copied the link, went back to the original page and substituted my personal Unsubscribe link with the automated link. Then I took off the check for their Unsubscribe link - and that's it.

Opinion - Nice for medium strong campaigns
Truth be told, this is great software if you are simply looking for bulk email serving. The cost is incredible ($189 for a single license at the time of this writing) and you can get a discount if you use the non-profit card. And, since most campaigns have a challenge with double-opt-in, 1-2All offers a lot more freedom and cleanliness from the ASP model. The challenge will be when you get on the blacklists of various email service providers if you are not careful (which often leads me to suggest ASP providers). But, if you are somewhat technical and can handle the operation, 1-2All is a great solution.

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