Ever wished that you could grow an email list and send newsletters without needing to leave the comfy confines of your WordPress admin dashboard?
Mailster is a WordPress newsletter plugin that lets you run all of your email marketing efforts right from your WordPress site. Beyond helping you grow your list and create emails using a drag-and-drop editor, it also lets you send autoresponders and set up other email automation rules.
Keep reading my Mailster review to learn more about its features and see it in action.
Mailster Review: A Look At The Features
Mailster aims to be a complete alternative to services like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. Rather than needing to use those separate dashboards (and pay a monthly fee), you can do everything from your WordPress dashboard and, maybe more importantly, pay a one-time fee.
So what all can it do?
First, to help you grow your list, Mailster can help you create opt-in forms. Or, you can also connect to other form plugins or opt-in plugins. For example, it works with Gravity Forms, Elegant Themes’ Bloom, ConvertPlug, and plenty others. And like the SaaS tools, you can also segment your subscribers into different lists as needed.
To build your emails, Mailster gives you a drag-and-drop email editor, as well as lots of pre-made templates. You can also insert information straight from your WordPress site, like all the details for your latest blog posts.
You can either send your email blasts out manually. Or, you can set up autoresponders or other email automation rules. For those automation rules, Mailster integrates with other plugins including in part:
So you can do some cool automation like:
- IF customer purchases a product
- THEN automatically send them an email 24 hour later
To ensure deliverability, Mailster lets you connect to any SMTP server, as well as services like SendGrid and Mailgun.
Finally, Mailster also comes with a built-in analytics dashboard where you can view data for insights like:
While keeping everything inside the WordPress dashboard will certainly be a selling point for some people, I think the biggest unique selling proposition of Mailster is its price.
The vast majority of email marketing services charge an ongoing monthly fee that goes up as the number of subscribers you have or emails you send increases.
With Mailster, it’s a flat one-time fee (currently $59). No matter how many subscribers you have or emails you send, you’ll never pay more for Mailster.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never pay another cent for your marketing services – you still might want to pay for a premium delivery service like SendGrid or Mailgun.
But that’s still going to be a lot cheaper than a dedicated email marketing SaaS. For example, SendGrid lets you send 100 emails per day for free. And after that, it costs just ~$10 to send up to 100,000 emails per month.
So even with paying for a sending service, Mailster still offers a really attractive price point.
Hands-on With The Mailster Plugin
Now that I’ve told you what Mailster can do, let me show you how it works on my test site.
When you first install the Mailster plugin, it offers a startup wizard to help you configure the most important settings:
I like this approach because it makes it very easy to get up and running with the plugin.
The setup wizard also does a good job of pulling in general WordPress information and pre-filling fields. So for many of the options, you can either leave them as the default or just tweak them a bit to match your site.
For example, Mailster automatically creates a newsletter homepage and pre-fills the text editor with the relevant shortcodes:
One of the most important steps here is the Delivery area.
While Mailster will let you use PHP mail(), that’s really a bad idea as it’s going to almost certainly end up with most of your emails in people’s spam folders.
Instead, you should take advantage of those other tabs to either set up SMTP, or install one of the extensions to help you connect to services like SendGrid, Mandrill, Mailgun, etc.
The Privacy tab gives you some important settings for things like tracking and GDPR compliance. Then, once you enter your license key, you’re off to the races.
Creating A Newsletter Signup Form
As I mentioned at the beginning, Mailster works with other form/opt-in plugins like Gravity Forms, ConvertPlug, Ninja Popups, etc.
So you might not necessarily need to use the built-in forms. But, assuming you do, you can create and manage your forms by going to Newsletter → Forms.
In the Add new Form area, you can use a simple drag-and-drop editor to build your form. By default, it only comes with fields for:
- First name
- Last name
But you can add your own custom fields in the plugin’s settings, which I’ve done. These custom fields are applied as tags, which helps you segment your lists:
Once you set your form fields, you’ll be able to configure all of the colors, as well as add your own custom CSS:
Then, you’ll be able to choose some other settings, like which list to subscribe users to and whether or not to use double opt-in:
Finally, to display your form, you can either use the shortcode or the included widget.
Speaking of lists, the Lists area lets you as many lists as needed to segment your subscribers:
Sending Emails (Campaigns)
Once you have some subscribers on your lists, you’re ready to send some emails, which the plugin calls “Campaigns”.
When you go to create a new campaign, you’ll work in an interface that looks a lot like the WordPress editor.
Configuring Email Settings
You can use the top to configure the subject and preheader, and the sidebar offers important settings for:
- Which list to use
- Tracking settings
The sidebar also includes another important Delivery setting. You can choose between:
- Regular campaign – send the email at a certain date and time.
- Auto Responder – automatically send it if certain conditions are met (on an ongoing basis)
The autoresponder feature is where things get interesting. You can trigger emails at a specific time after:
- A user signs up
- A user unsubscribes
- You publish a new post, page, or post type (including WooCommerce products)
- Another campaign has been sent
- A specific time (you can choose which days). For example, send a weekly newsletter but only if new content is available
- A specific action hook. This lets you trigger emails by pretty much anything, though you will need some basic PHP knowledge or a developer
For each option, you get more settings that are unique to that option.
For example, you can trigger an email only if a new post is published in a specific category:
So what are some actual use cases that these features enable? You can send…
- A welcome series of emails to get people acquainted with your site.
- A weekly digest of new content – either new blog posts or something else like new WooCommerce products.
- Immediate notifications for whenever you publish a new blog post.
All in all, you have a good amount of flexibility here.
Using The Drag-And-Drop Builder
To build the body of your email, Mailster provides a drag-and-drop email builder.
To create your design, you’ll use the pre-built modules on the right. You can’t use drag-and-drop editing on the content inside a module. But you can drag-and-drop the entire module:
For content inside a module, you can edit the text using inline editing:
You can also use that toolbar to insert dynamic information (merge tags), like the name of a subscriber:
You can also insert WordPress content into the modules. For example, you could choose an existing post to insert. Or, you could opt to automatically fill a module with the latest post in a category:
These options are what let you create automated digests – you can just have Mailster fill the template with your latest content.
Once you finish building your email and configuring all of the other settings, you can start your campaign.
Analytics And Managing Subscribers
Next, let’s cover a few of the areas that you get for managing your subscribers and campaigns.
In the Subscribers area, you get a list of all your subscribers, as well as their:
- Custom fields
You can also import and export your subscribers as needed:
You can also use the bulk actions drop-down to manipulate your subscribers, like moving them to a new list or changing their statuses:
And if you click on a specific subscriber, you’ll be able to see all the campaigns that have been sent to that subscriber, as well as their personal open/click stats:
Beyond the individual analytics, you can also view analytics for each campaign:
If you click into a campaign, you’ll be able to view more detailed analytics, including a click map and a look at exactly which recipients opened/clicked the email.
A Quick Look At The Settings
One thing that I haven’t shown you so far is the plugin’s general settings. These are pretty detailed so I won’t show you everything. But if you want, you can dig in and do things like:
- Change the text strings in various spots
- Automatically add WordPress users as subscribers (and keep them synced)
- Create custom tags to use in email templates
- Add custom fields
- …lots more
Final Thoughts On Mailster
As I mentioned before, I think the most attractive part of Mailster is its pricing. For the one-time price that you pay, you’re getting a ton of flexibility, especially when it comes to WordPress-specific automation rules.
One small consideration might be the size of your list. Mailster says their send script can send up to 5 emails per second, which equals 18,000 emails per hour. Now, most people will probably never have a problem with this. But if you have a super large list, you might be better off with a dedicated email marketing tool as they can handle much larger volumes (for comparison, MailChimp says they can handle up to one million emails per hour).
Most websites probably won’t have lists that approach that limit, though.
So if you’re looking for a flexible way to send emails from inside your WordPress dashboard, including all kinds of flexible automation rules, you should definitely give Mailster a look.