Sendinblue’s features seem to cover all the basic things you’d want in an email marketing platform, right off the bat. I’ll get into the details below, of course, but you can expect a decent template editor, contact sorting and management, email automation, social media integration, and more.
If you’re new to the email marketing game, then Sendinblue will have most of what you need to get started. It’s not the most feature-filled marketing platform out there, but it’ll do the job, no question.
Well, maybe some questions, like, “The features are there, but are they any good?” But hey, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s start with what your campaigns will actually look like.
Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization
So, the actual number of emails you can send out will depend on the plan you’re paying for. There’s no limit on the size of your contact list, though. Just make sure your plan covers everyone who’s signed up for at least two-three emails a month, and you’re good to go.
That monthly limit can be anything from 10,000 emails to 1 million, with lots of room in between for variable pricing, depending on how many emails you’ll actually need to send.
If you really need to send more than 1 million emails in a month, you can contact Sendinblue about its enterprise plans, but I wouldn’t. Any business that really needs to send emails on that scale might as well have their own servers, and a self-hosted mailing platform,
You can also simultaneously publish your campaigns via SMS. If you think your customers absolutely must see your latest deals in their text messages, this is the option for you. (Personally, I’m not a fan of getting these messages, but it depends on your customers.)
You can also share any email campaign via social media. However, I did not see a way to share the campaign at the same time as you send it out to your mailing list. You have to manually find a campaign you already sent, click through a menu, and then share it via social media. Frankly, that’s an extra step that shouldn’t be necessary.
But now the question is: how will your emails actually look? Can you make them fit your brand and style guide, if you have one? The answers to those questions are “not bad” and “probably yes,” respectively.
You can choose from one of three ways to create an email campaign:
- The drag-and-drop editor – This allows you to put text and images in a simple visual layout, and what you see is what the reader sees.
- The rich text editor – It’s like Word, but a lot simpler. This is probably better for those text-heavy newsletters.
- Custom code – You can make your own HTML email template, or have one made for you, and import it to Sendinblue. This option provides the most creative control, but is also the most complicated way of doing things.
Going back to the drag-and-drop editor (which is what most people will probably use), there are 60+ templates you can start with, or you can create a design from scratch if you want to. The templates are a mix of modern/minimal designs, with some being a bit more dynamic and colorful than others. They’re sorted into categories like “Newsletter,” “Sale,” “Holiday Greeting,” and more.
All of the templates are responsive and mobile-friendly, so your smartphone-loving customers are covered. Given that there are more smartphones in circulation than laptops or desktops these days, that’s an essential feature. Another essential feature, the templates support right-to-left languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Purdu, and Kurdish.
There are no stock photos. Well, there’s no library of stock photos for you to choose from. There are some default images in the templates, but you are definitely supposed to replace those with your own images.
The editor itself is fairly simple, with an easy-to-understand interface. You can drop in content in different layouts, create image galleries, that sort of thing. The functionality is limited to what you can actually display in an email, and that’s not much, to be honest. So the drag-and-drop editor just does exactly what it’s supposed to, but with few bells or whistles.
Where it gets (sort of) fancy is with personalization and conditional display. Now what are those?
Personalization is easy. Basically, you can put variables into the content, such as the first or last names of your contacts. That’s how companies send thousands of emails, and everyone sees their actual name in the content. So instead of “Dear valued Customer whose name we don’t know,” you get, “Hey Jerry! Come buy our stuff!”
Well, that’s how I’d write it, and that’s why they don’t put me in charge of marketing.
Conditional display is a similar concept. So let’s say you have customers in Denver, Colorado, and some in Guadalajara, Mexico, because life is funny that way. If your contacts are sorted by location (and that’s something you can totally do, with a bit of work), then you can put content into your email campaign that actually changes based on the location of the reader. So your Denver customers could see Denver deals, and Guadalajara customers would see deals tailored to them.
You could also change the content based on other factors, such as how long it’s been since your readers have opened your marketing emails, or clicked through to your website. This feature is contingent on just how detailed your mailing list is, though. The more information you have, the better.
You can also create two different versions of every campaign to see what content, email layouts, and subject lines work better for you. This is called A/B testing, and it basically allows you to send two different versions of your campaign at the same time. Some of your mailing list will see “version A” and the other will see “version B.”
Then, you can check the analytics for your campaign to see which performed better, which one got opened more, how many people clicked through to your site or sale on each version of the email, and so on. However, the A/B testing feature requires a Premium plan, or the paid addon to the Lite plan.
In the end, it didn’t take me long to figure out how this system worked. I mean, there’s still more to learn, but the user interface wasn’t overly complicated to use.
If you’re new to this whole thing, Sendinblue does have a fairly extensive help center, and plenty of tutorials on its blog, which I found to be super helpful. What I couldn’t find buried in the archives, I found out by asking the support team.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
Importing contacts is simple enough, thankfully. You can import any standard file format for contacts, including .csv files, .xls(x) files, and comma separated text files. If you have any sort of existing mail application or a bunch of addresses in a spreadsheet, you can import your list of addresses in at least one of those formats.
Naturally, the file you choose can also include your contacts’ names, physical addresses, phone numbers, the date they signed up, and any other details you want, all stored in a table-style database. Sendinblue will parse it all, and include all information as searchable, sortable data. You can also copy and paste the information straight from any XLS file — that’d be Microsoft Excel — and Sendinblue will do the same data-parsing magic.
So if you want to import addresses that are all in the same file, but add different addresses to different lists, just copy and paste the addresses you want. Then rinse and repeat. Ah, copy/paste. It’s why digital workers have careers.
I’m kidding. Mostly.
Anyway, you can also create a web form and put it on any page you like to collect email addresses. You know, the classic newsletter sign-up form, ideally not placed in a pop-up.
All addresses you import can be added to specific mailing lists, or even placed on a blacklist. This is especially useful for managing “unsubscriptions.” And keep in mind that in many places, by law, you need to have a way for people to unsubscribe from your emails. Sendinblue, thankfully, includes an unsubscribe link in every email by default. That might sound bad, but trust me, you want it there for legal reasons.
And moral reasons. I shouldn’t have to say this, but non-consensual spamming is bad.
Speaking of which, importing any email addresses requires you to promise, on pain of account-banning and possible legal butt-kicking, that everyone you’ve added consented to having their address on the list. There’s nothing to stop you from lying about that, but if you want to keep your account, I suggest that you don’t.
Once your contacts have been imported, it’s time to sort and manage them as you run your email campaigns. Now, there are four main aspects to managing your email lists:
- Listing options
- List hygiene
- Suppression lists / blacklists
Let’s go over a quick explanation of each one, and how Sendinblue handles it:
Listing options are just that: your options for sorting / listing the email addresses you’ve collected. Usually, you can quickly and easily sort them by name, IP address, subscription date, and more. Well, Sendinblue specifically includes whatever information you give it, and only whatever information you give it. If you import a bunch of addresses without the IP address attached for each one, then you won’t be able to search by IP.
Note: IP addresses are not collected automatically through forms. You’d have to find a manual way to do that, or have a developer alter the form.
Basically, it infers very little information. That’s great for accuracy, but less great for convenience. By default, you can only sort your contacts by the date they were added, the email address, SMS number, the date the contact was last changed, and the first/last name. And if you only upload raw email addresses like I did? You only have the email address, and the “Date added” column to work with.
Segmentation is the practice of sorting your contacts by more advanced criteria. So, let’s just say you have an email campaign advertising a veterinary school. Helping puppies in need, what’s not to love? You send out a ton of emails, and your analytics say the campaign is doing well. Great! But who do you follow up on with more emails?
That’s where segmentation comes in: it’s a feature that allows you to sort contacts by how they’ve interacted (or not) with the emails that you’ve sent out, and other criteria as well. So, you could set up a filter (AKA a segment) for contacts who have opened your emails, and follow up on them.
Or, you could set up a filter for those contacts who have actually opened your emails and clicked through the links in them. You can even create a filter for contacts with the first name “Gary,” if you want to get that specific.
Sendinblue manages segmentation through its advanced search form. Once you’ve done a highly specific search with lots of rules (e.g. “look for contacts named Gary who have opened my emails”), you can save those search parameters as a filter.
Once you’ve got filtered search results, you can always select the contacts in question, and make a new list from them. That list can automatically update itself based on your search criteria, so make sure to check the box that says “Dynamic list.” Then, you’ll always have an up-to-date list of Garys who like your emails.
List hygiene features are designed to help you locate users that have engaged with your emails, and who have possibly clicked links in them, and sort them from people who just don’t seem interested in what you have to offer. In Sendinblue, this feature is powered by the same advanced search/filter feature mentioned above.
Use this feature to prioritize your efforts on people who respond well to your emails, because lots of people won’t.
Suppression lists are lists of contacts who you do not want to send email to, at least for a while, or not for the current campaign. You have to select these contacts manually or search for them with filters and segmentation, but you can create suppression lists (also called “exclusion lists” on Sendinblue).
As for permanent removal or blacklisting, you can obviously have people unsubscribe on their own, for starters. Then, you can add individual email addresses to block manually, and even upload whole lists of contacts to avoid sending mail to (for instance, a list of people who unsubscribed from your emails through your previous service).
Lastly, you can blacklist an entire domain name, if you want to. That’s useful if you want to make sure no marketing emails go to anyone on your own mail servers. Or, you know, any domain owner who says they don’t want those emails.
Sendinblue includes a landing page builder, which can be great for advertising specific services or products (and one-off deals), rather than everything you do, or all of your products. Now, full disclosure: this is a feature I didn’t get to test properly because it’s locked behind the rather expensive Premium plan. That said, here’s what I’ve been able to determine:
The templates are similar to the email templates in terms of minimalism, they’re mobile-friendly, and there are a good few of them to choose from. From the examples I’ve been able to find, they look good.
You can, of course, build your design from semi-scratch if you want to, using predefined layouts and blocks of content in a drag-and-drop editor. You can also create more than one page, and chain them together to create a post-sign-up or onboarding experience for the user. And yes, you can use these landing pages to get people to sign up to your emails.
You can also connect these landing pages to a domain name you’ve already bought, which means they’ll look like they’re a part of your website. You can create from 5 to 20 landing pages on the Premium plan (in total, and depending on how much you’re paying), and more than 20 on the Enterprise plan.
And now, we come to the automation features. Well, there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with automation that takes the stress out of sending emails to and following up on hundreds or thousands of people. Let’s look at an example:
You have a veterinary school. You’ve got 500 people signed up to your weekly pictures of puppies, and that’s been just okay. You get an occasional lead, but nothing more. Now, your boss has told you that the school will be giving discounts for enrollment at four different times throughout the year. Great deal, right? So you just send a notice to all of your…
No, scratch that, terrible idea. If you just start sending them all more ads than puppy pics, your readers are gonna be annoyed. If they keep deleting your emails (or worse, marking them as spam), your mailing list’s reputation goes straight into the litter box.
So you create an automated workflow. Under this workflow, your 500 contacts on the puppy pictures list get a notice with their latest round of puppy pics. It says, “We’re going to be having discounts on enrollment this year. Sign up to our deals newsletter to find out when!” This notice can go under every bunch of puppy pictures, nice and non-threatening, with a link to learn more.
That link takes the reader to a landing page, which tells them more about the deals mailing list. If they sign up, then their address gets copied over to the deals mailing list, and automatically sends them a confirmation email saying that yes, they’re all set to see your latest deals when they’re ready.
And just like that, you have an entire marketing workflow that you can set and forget.
The automation tool is simple enough to use. Just assemble the series of events as you want it to happen in a diagram. You can use multiple points of entry for single workflows (e.g. you can have people come to your deals landing page via several different email lists and your SMS campaign), in order to direct lots of users through the same process.
Sendinblue is decent enough, and I had few actual complaints. However, there was little to blow me (or anyone else) away. It’s a serviceable service that’ll do a serviceable job of serving your emails to other peoples’ servers. I did like the automation tools, though. And the option of custom-coded email templates is always welcome.
Frankly, you’ll get all the same features (and more) for a better price over at a service like GetResponse.