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Email Marketing (All)
Friday Mail Bag: Email Marketing for Small Ski Areas, the Two Platforms I’d Recommend

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After digging through the responses from last week’s reader survey, a few lessons stood out. First, I need to give a bit more attention to small resorts and areas. They get inspired by the Whistlers or Killingtons of the world, but they lack the resources to even attempt to act on that inspiration.

So, using an idea also shared during the survey, I’m going to try a regular “mailbag” post where I try to answer questions from readers and merge that with a small ski area focus. If you have a question you’d like my take on, send me an email at and I’ll use it in a future post.

Email for the Rest of Us
Today’s question: email. I’ve had this exact email in my inbox probably a half-dozen times so I’ll kick of the mail bag posts with this.

“We would love to use something like Ryan Solutions if we could afford it, but we’re a little too small. What email systems would you recommend we use at our small ski area?”

A fine question indeed. I’ve used probably 20 platforms over the years – MailerMailer, Aweber, ConstantContact, BlueHornet, Silverpop, MailChimp, ExactTarget, iContact, MyEmma, GetResponse, and Bronto to name a few – but there are usually two that I recommend.

Over the last half-decade a number of email sending tools have popped up that remove the fancy UI and give you access to the technology underneath via an API. Three that I have tried include SendGrid, Mandrill, and Amazon SES.

Mandrill used to have a free tier but now limits your free emails to the first 2,000 you send. Sendgrid was the opposite, they used to limit but now allow 12,000/month. Amazon SES, on the other hand, gives you 62,000 if your emails are being called from apps built using their EC2 infrastructure.

Here’s what Email Octopus did. They built a really, really simple and easy-to-use email client on Amazon’s EC2 system that sends everything through Amazon SES:

But use your own Amazon SES API key to send emails.

The result is that you get the benefits of both the incredibly cheap email cost of Amazon plus the user-friendliness of a client. They hooked me up with a free account a while back and I’ve been extremely impressed with their tool the deeper I’ve gotten.

CONS: The biggest is the skill to get this setup. They guide you through getting your API key and requesting higher sending limits, but getting something like DKIM setup will require some extra knowledge. It also means that if you exceed free tiers on either side, you’ll be billed by two different companies.

PROS: As you guessed, price. But also simplicity. Their editor and campaign creation flow is, quite frankly, the easiest I’ve ever used. You have everything you need at a crazy low price. And remember, as tricky as it may sound to get setup initially, once you’re done you’re done, and you then have access to basic email marketing for almost no cost.

There are a lot of email providers in this space, but I think my favorite is MailerLite. It’s super simple, super easy to use, includes most of the core features you really want to be effective (like DKIM and automated follow ups) as well as an API if you want to get fancy.

Perhaps one of my favorite thing, though, is their list of available integrations that make it easy to create some of the more effective opt-in systems like SumoMe, OptinMonster, or a Facebook subscription tab.

CONS: Costs a little bit more than EmailOctopus, but still a lot, lot less than any other provider out there.

PROS: Simple UI and API, unlimited emails (pricing based on size of your list), and lots of helpful extras without the bloat of other systems.

A Quick Comparison
Let’s explore a few simple scenarios and see which one comes out on top based on about 5 emails per contact per month.

1,000 Contacts / 5,000 monthly sends
Email Octopus: FREE
MailerLite: FREE

2,500 Contacts / 12,500 monthly sends
Email Octopus: $12/mo
MailerLite: $10/mo

5,000 Contacts / 25,000 monthly sends
Email Octopus: $12/mo
MailerLite: $10/mo

10,000 Contacts / 50,000 monthly sends
Email Octopus: $12/mo
MailerLite: $20/mo

25,000 Contacts / 125,000 monthly sends
Email Octopus: $28/mo
MailerLite: $50/mo

Notice where I’m cutting this off. If you have any more than 25,000 contacts you really should be using a more powerful tool because there’s a ton of value in a list like that if you have the technology to effectively extract it.

The Gist
As you can see, the real benefit of EmailOctopus comes with high-volume sending. So my basic summary would be: if you’ve got at least 7,500 contacts and plan to be active with your email marketing and can find someone either on staff or a freelancer to get your account going, consider EmailOctopus. If you just need something dead-simple for the occasional deal or bit of news, MailerLite may be your best bet.

Keep in mind that this is very basic email technology. You can send emails with good deliverability to pre-defined lists and that’s about it.

That’s effective, but most ski areas and resorts and the diversity of their guests will demand much more than that to make the most of both the channel but also the data they have access too. So I recommend these based on both the level of email marketing they provide but also the level of email marketing I’m expecting you’ll have the resources to achieve.

Hope that helps.

Have a question you want to ask for my next “mail bag” post? Email me at and let me know.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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