Using Simplelists for e-mail marketing



Why is email marketing important?

There are many types of marketing: search engine optimistion (SEO), social media marketing (for example, on Twitter and Facebook), marketing via a website, advertising, email marketing and more. The serious business person is likely to be using several of these. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses  – so, why use email marketing?

  1. It’s direct - this means that when you send an email it goes directly to the recipients email inbox. This gives you the opportunity to get the full attention of your customer.
  2. It’s targeted - you can decide who you will send your emails to and tailor your email for the people that receive them. You can also send different emails to different types/groups of customers.
  3. Convert visitors to customers - when people look at websites, most don’t buy from the first website they see. We tend to visit several websites and also research the area further, collecting information from several websites and returning to buy when we are ready – perhaps after several days or weeks. Often people will remember the shop they visit and e-mail marketing can really help here.
  4. Encourage repeat business - customers that have bought from your site/shop before are more likely to come back. You can use email marketing to reach out to them directly about new offers, products or services and turn a one off customer into a regular one.

Why use Simplelists?

Simplelists can help you do great email marketing:

It’s simple - you needn’t be a techy expert to use the Simplelists interface. You simply write an email and send it to your whole list.

It’s quick - there are plenty of other things to do when you run a business so time is of the essence. If it marketing takes up a lot of your time, you may have some headaches. With Simplelists, you can send an email to all of your customers in just a couple of minutes, which gives you more time for everything else.

Emails get through - there is nothing worse than your marketing emails not getting through to your customers. Simplelists have better deliverability than email clients and free providers. You can read more about this on our blog here.

Your emails do not include advertising - many free group email providers place adverts on your emails so that they can advertise to your customers. This doesn’t look great and can have a negative effect on your business. There are no adverts sent with Simplelists emails.

You can send HTML emails - with Simplelists you have the option to design emails using HTML. This means that you aren’t constrained to templates so your emails can look exactly how you like. Of course you don’t have to use HTML – you can send simple text emails too. For more information about sending HTML emails, visit our blog here.

Setting up multiple lists with Simplelists

Sometimes, you need more than one email list. You may need separate lists for different businesses, groups or organisations, or different lists for groups within your organisation. For example, one list for employees and another for managers, or individual lists for different topics, such as one list for marketing and another for discussion. In this short post, we tell you how to set up multiple lists using Simplelists (or watch a short video if you prefer).

Multiple email lists

Getting started

It is very straightforward to set up multiple lists. Simply go to, navigate to Products, select the blue ‘Sign up free for a multiple list’ arrow and fill in your details. You’ll have the option to choose a subdomain for your list (if you own your own domain, you’ll be able to add this later). There is a free, one-month trial for multiple lists so that you can try before you buy.

Managing the lists

To manage your multiple lists, simply log in using your simplelists username and password and select your multiple lists account from the ‘Account’ drop-down menu on the top right of the screen. On the next screen, verifying your account enables you to add members to your lists without needing them to confirm their email address (although you can still use the confirmation functionality to check that emails are valid). Simply enter the details of your organisation, what your list is used for, and how you obtained the emails (you can read another post about the rules around how people can opt-in to receiving your emails). Once you have done this, you can create a list by navigating to ‘manage lists’ in the left-hand menu, type in the name of the list, and click ‘Create’. This is where you could create a number of lists for your different groups (e.g. managers, employees and customers).

Adding members to your lists

Once you have created the lists, you can add some members. Select the address book from the left-hand navigation and choose to add members individually, in bulk, or by uploading a .csv file. If you choose to add them individually, you can enter their details and their email address and then select which list they will belong to. You can also add notes about the members if you wish. 

To view the members of your list, select ‘list members’ from the left-hand menu. The email address for your list can be seen at the top of this page. It is possible to use your own domain name for this email address and we will show you how to do this in an upcoming blog post, or you can view a short video that explains what to do).

Email Spam and the Law – UK and Europe

If you take part in email marketing it’s worth taking a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the law on spam. The law in the UK (the US will be covered in the next post) regarding spam emails is relatively straightforward and spending a few minutes making sure that you understand what you can and can’t do will keep you on the right side of the tracks and help you avoid fines of up to £5000!

gavel email spam 3d Illustrations on a white background

Before starting though it is worth noting that email spamming is bad marketing – bad as an wrong, bad as in ineffective and bad as in counter-productive. Not only is it annoying for the receivers of spam emails to get their inbox filled with junk mail, it can also be detrimental to the sender. The image of a company that sends spam emails can be ruined, potential customers can be scared away and loyal customers can become annoyed and leave.

Don’t worry though – it is easy to use good email marketing practice by simply following a few simple guidelines. These will keep you on the right side of the law and enable you to build a thriving email campaign which improves your brand image and increases your customer base…

What is Spam Email?

To put it simply spam emails are emails that are sent without consent – the person who receives the emails didn’t ask for them.

It may sound strange that people must ask to receive emails before you can send them and although true, there are many ways that people can opt in to receive emails. The simplest way that consent can be given is for the person to tick a box that asks: ‘would you like to receive periodic emails from us’. However, this is not the only way…

Soft Opt-Ins

When people opt-in to receiving emails by taking an action other than specifically asking to receive emails it is known as a soft opt-in. There are a few well-tested and valid soft opt-ins that can be used with confidence:

  • The most common soft opt-in is when a customer has bought something from you they are considered to have opted in to receive emails. If someone enters negotiations or expresses an interest in buying something from you they are also considered to have opted in. It’s worth noting that this is not carte-blanche to email the customer about anything you like – your emails must only contain information about products and services that are similar to those which they purchased or expressed an interest.
  • Another case where it is considered that a person has opted in is if they have been given the option to refuse the right to use their contact details but they don’t. It’s worth noting that the right to refuse must not be hidden from them or be difficult to find – it should be prominent and easy to refuse.


When you send marketing emails there are several things that must be included in order to comply with the law:

  • You must include a valid email address to unsubscribe or opt-out of future emails.
  • You must make the identity of the sender clear

These are very easy to do and come as default when sending email to a list through Simplelists.

Businesses vs Individuals

A lot has been made of the fact that the law is different when marketing to businesses as opposed to individuals. It is not illegal to send unsolicited email to businesses, so in theory email could be sent without businesses opting-in. However, this is not recommended for a number of reasons:

  • When an person is emailed at their company address the email is considered to be to an individual NOT a business: e.g. is an email to an individual.
  • When the business is a sole trader or partnership (as opposed to a limited company or organisation) the email will be considered to be to an individual.
  • If the content of the email is not related to the business but has subject matter related to an individual it is considered to be an email to an individual.

UK Law – EU Directive

Because Simplelists servers are based in the UK we’ve based this information on UK law. It’s worth noting that this is the UKs implementation of an EU directive and therefore the law throughout Europe is similar, although it might vary slightly from country to country. In the next post we’ll look at spam law in the US – if you’re sending marketing emails from the US this will be important for you.

Gmail – mail sent to a list doesn’t show in Inbox

We often get queries from Gmail users asking something like this:

“When I send a Simplelists email to my list I don’t see it in my Gmail inbox, even though I’m a member of the list – why is this and what should I do?”

monitor screen

Why list emails don’t show in Gmail’s inbox?

The reason for this is that Gmail doesn’t put emails that you send to your own aliases in your inbox.

The official line from Google is:

“To prevent clutter, Gmail doesn’t route messages that you send to your own alias to your inbox. You can find the message in Sent Mail or All Mail. If you need to see messages sent to your alias in the Inbox, you can configure the alias as an alternate ‘Send mail as’ address for your account.”

You can see Google’s own help page related to this issue here.

What’s the solution?

The solution is simple – you can see your email by looking in either your ‘sent mail’ or ‘all mail’ folders. Note that if someone replies to your email through the list that the email will appear in your Gmail inbox – so you don’t need to worry about missing a reply.






Simplelists API (beta)

Simplelists is designed to be really easy to use with only very basic computer skills needed to manage your email list – if you can click and type you can use Simplelists! However, there are also a range of technical features which open up a world of options for more advanced users. One of these is an API…

Robot with tools and application programming interface sign. Technology concept

What can you do with the API?

The Simplelists API allows you to automatically synchronise your Simplelists members list with the contact list in another website or system. This opens up many options such as:

  • automatically adding customers who purchase from your online shop to your Simplelists email list
  • integrating website registrations with your Simplelists account so that new registrations are automatically added to your list
  • removing members from your list when the paid membership of a service expires
  • integrating a company database with your Simplelists account so that new employees are added to the email list and employees that leave are automatically removed

In fact, the possibilities are endless!

In simple terms, how does the API work?

Simplelists provides a computer-friendly interface, which allows another website to
make amendments to a Simplelists contact list, without it having to
login using the normal web-interface, which is obviously designed for

CiviCRM Plug In

The easiest way to use an API is with a module that has been created for an application. Due to the popularity of CiviCRM we have created a (beta) plug-in that allows contacts to be synchorised both ways.

Features include:

  • When a contact is created or updated in Simplelists, it is automatically created or updated in CiviCRM too.
  • For multiple lists groups will be created in CiviCRM, reflecting the Simplelists list membership.
  • A number of options to help synchronise the 2 systems.

For more details on the functionality of the plug-in and for installation instructions please see this page.

API Specification

If you’re a programmer or have someone who can program for you, it’s possible to create your own plug-in to interface with your own system. The details that you’ll need to get started can be found on the API Specification page. There is also a complete example of code (PHP) used to for a complete API, including the code to: ‘Authenticate using User Credentials’, ‘Retrieve contacts’, ‘Authenticate using Authorization Code’ and ‘Obtain a new access token’.

Beta Testing

Note that the API is in beta testing at the minute so the protocol may change in the future.


Insert a Member’s Name into Emails

Simplelists has a feature which allows you to insert members’ names into the group emails that you send. We’ll jump straight in and tell you how to do it and then discuss why it’s useful and when it is important to include a person’s name.

Name Tag

How To Add Names To Your Emails

1) First you need to activate this feature for your Simplelists account – just send an email to requesting to ‘activate the insert names feature’ and we’ll activate the feature for your account. You can also tell us your preferred default option which is used if the member’s name is missing from their details in your address book – for example ‘Member’ or ‘Customer’ could be chosen as a default.

2) Simply add $FIRSTNAME to your email where you want the members first name to appear and $SURNAME where you want their last name to appear.

That’s all there is to it – each member will receive a personalised version of the email that includes they’re own name.

Here’s an example:


As a valued customer we are giving you a 10% discount code for…

What if a member’s name is missing from their details?

Don’t worry – if a member’s name is missing from your address book and you have let us know your preference for a default it will revert to the default setting in place of their name.

In the example above the email that would be received would read:

Hi Member,

As a valued customer we are giving you a 10% discount code for…

When To Use The ‘Insert Name’ Feature

Personalisation of emails is becoming increasingly important for email marketing.

Mail clients like Gmail are now showing the first 15-20 words of emails in the inbox before emails are opened. This means that, at a glance, people can see whether an email addresses them in person or not. If you don’t include a person’s name in your email and they don’t instantly recognise you as the sender it’s quite likely that they simply won’t open your email.

Stats from 2012 show that emails with personalised subject lines were opened 22.2% more frequently than those without (email marketing stats) – this is likely to be even higher now.

For these reasons, we’d recommend that you use the ‘insert name’ feature in all email marketing emails and in any email where you think that the person receiving it might not instantly recognise the sender.