by Jonathan Garro
Published on 4 December 2013
Instiller Review - An email marketing suite designed specifically for agencies
With the huge volume of email-users in the internet age, an effective marketing strategy must tap into this enormous audience. However, creating a campaign that utilizes email can be overwhelming given the challenges revolving around complexities and scale. Agencies that get hired to handle email marketing often have to contend with vastly different sorts of businesses with a variety of goals. Instiller is an email marketing solution designed specifically for agencies, and helps them manage all of their clients' needs from one central location. In this Instiller review, I will examine the features of the app and discuss how it can solve an agency's marketing needs.
The Instiller interface is wonderfully clean and easy-to-use, and the tabbed navigation makes finding the tool you need simple. Upon logging in, you are met with the app's dashboard. From here, you can quickly get several statistics including the total number of emails sent, total transactions, events triggered, webhook requests, and API commands. A series of graphs also help you visualize key percentages, including emails delivered, opened, and clicked.
Instiller's tabbed navigation
Across the top of your interface are links for lists, templates, campaigns and events. As you navigate within Instiller, a navigation path helps you see where you are relative to the home page. Throughout the interface, the mouse-over function over potentially new terminology or concepts brings up a helpful dialogue box with a link to more information.
Email marketing depends on having a large audience, and the Lists page gives you tools for building and maintaining your distribution database. You can upload an existing database using the CSV format, and this import function adds several options, including selecting the import type (opt-in or opt-out users) and the ability to filter out generic email addresses. Of particular benefit is the ability to create your own customized field mapping. This means that if you maintain a spreadsheet with columns whose information you would like to maintain, you can define those in order to be sure that Instiller imports everything correctly. You can also import users from Basecamp and Salesforce.
From the Lists section you can also integrate sign-up forms. This allows you to capture data from external websites, tag incoming sign-ups, and set up auto-responders. This means when the user hits submit, you can either just record the information, or you can have that form trigger an action that occurs automatically. You can also set up custom URLs to send users once they hit the submit button.
Simple list overview
Your database of users is also highly customizable. The target feature allows you to create searches based on variables that you choose. These filters can be based on three different pieces of data: user information, user tags, and specific email address or domains. First you select a category, then whether you want the filter to select records that either match or don't match the search term, contains the search term, is blank, or is not blank. Finally, you fill in what you want. For instance, if you wanted to send an email to only those users who live in New York City, the category would be City, the selection criteria would be Matches, and you would enter "New York." Anyone that is familiar with SQL language will understand this process, and newcomers will learn quickly as no manual coding is required.
To help save time, Instiller allows the creation of email profiles, which store basic information and settings. This allows you to save email header information and utilize web metrics from Google Analytics or Omniture. Instiller also has powerful tracking features that help you record user actions from the email, meaning that you can track conversions, email responses, and more. Finally, these profiles offer the option of including opt-out features at the footer of each message.
With a profile in place, you are ready to get started with templates. After inputting some basics, you have four choices for building a template. You can upload your own existing work with images, text, HTML and CSS. This option also offers the ability to convert the pre-built template into a text-only version (which is useful for users who opt for HTML-free messages), and an option to have Instiller check your code for errors. If you want to go the manual route but don't have the code written, you can also use the entry form to input the HTML and images directly through the website.
There are also a few pre-built templates of varying styles to choose from. If you want a more customized solution, you can use the online editor. This entry box allows you to use rich text to craft a message using controls for everything from fonts to colors. You can either use this editor to start from scratch, or to customize the pre-built template of your choosing.
With a template chosen (or created from scratch), Instiller walks you through the steps to get it ready for mailing. You simply add the content, preview the product, let Instiller validate the code, include any tracking you want (such as social media sharing codes or Google Analytics), test it with your own account, and send it off. The validation tool was particularly interesting, and I found it to be very useful in checking some basic HTML that I created. In addition to HTML errors, the tool checks to make sure images are uploaded correctly and that links work properly. Furthermore, the spam assassin feature checks your message to alert you if spam filters are likely to pick up on anything in particular.
The test step is full of great tools to help you identify any issues that users of various email clients and web apps might experience. Instiller runs your message through several of these and generates a screenshot to help you visualize what the final product looks like to different people.
The campaign tab presents you with a dashboard with information about how your campaigns are performing. Here you will see percentages of messages delivered, undelivered, opened, clicked, soft bounces, hard bounces, opt-outs and FBL complaints. All of this data can be repacked into reports that offer visual graphing to help you better understand whether your current strategy is working.
As Instiller is designed to be used by agencies with several clients, the campaign mode allows you customize the address that each email is sent from. That way, the "from" field in the message shows up as your clients' addresses rather that your own.
Instiller's pricing is based on a sliding scale, which is dependent on the number of monthly transactions you can have. A transaction is defined not just as an email sent, but interactions with Instiller, including API or Webhook requests, event triggers, etc. Fortunately, all features remain the same regardless of the volume you choose to pay for. A nice calculator helps you figure out what you would pay per month, ranging from 325 GBP for 100,000 up to 1,100 GBP for 1,000,000. Special bulk orders over that amount require contacting customer service. A free 14-day trial is available.
Instiller manages to pack an immense number of features into a single package. Email campaigns are complex, and agencies that deal with several clients find that complexity to be an even greater challenge. Being able to track user's activity after a click, including what they do on the website that they are sent to, makes this a tool that any company with a dynamic sales and marketing strategy will want to explore. The data produced offers users a wealth of information that can help them continually adapt to how various campaigns are performing.
Instiller is unique in that it is designed for agencies, and the benefits of the developers focusing on that aspect are apparent throughout the service. However, this wealth of features can, at times, become overwhelming.
Fortunately, the app guides you to useful explanations with mouseover messages when you have skipped an important step along the way. With variable pricing that can adapt to your needs and the free trial, I recommend giving Instiller a shot.