Comparing Self-Hosted Email Marketing Software

This article is Part 6 of a 10-part series on Email Marketing: Self-Hosted vs Traditional Cloud-Hosted Options.

OK – now we’re getting to the important bit. If you’ve decided that the time is right to move on to a self-hosted email marketing solution, we’ve got everything you need to know covered right here. We’re going to take you through the various options available to you, explain the pros and cons of some of the big players in the market right now, and then tell you why we chose the solution we did.

These options are in no particular order, and it’s up to you to decide which solution works best for you.

WP Autoresponder (plugin)

WP Autoresponder has a couple of cute things going for it that make it stand out from the crowd. The first is that it is completely free for you to use. The second is that it’s the brainchild of a single guy, Raj, who made the platform out of love for his craft and a real customer need. This also has a downside though; Raj is the only person available to provide support and, as he is working for free and isn’t supported by a slick customer service team, it kind of limits your options if you have any teething problems getting set up.

Having said that, WP Autoresponder is pretty simple to use, and lets you create unlimited mailing lists, autoresponder sequences, subscribers and subscription forms. It also works well with third-party subscription form plugins, so you can easily integrate it with your other business activities. It has a “Wizard” tool for setting up new projects, guiding you through the process and making it reasonably quick and simple to use.

WP Autoresponder can import or export your subscribers, allows you to display all subscribers belonging to a specific mailing list and supports bulk and manual editing. It refers to your mailing lists as “newsletters”, and you have the functionality to segregate your subscribers by the newsletters you want to send them. There’s no cap on the number of newsletters you can send out, and no cap on subscriber numbers either.

WP Autoresponder has a really warm and fuzzy feeling about it. People who use it are complimentary, knowing it’s been developed voluntarily and all (scant) support is being provided for love, not money.

And it’s completely free.

Naturally, if you like it and want to support the developer, there’s a donations page you can use to show your gratitude. But it’s still free.

Did we mention WP Autoresponder is free?


PoMMo has inspired a lot of love from die-hard supporters, so it’s definitely up there in the list of top choices for your email marketing. As with all the other platforms there are pros and cons to using it that come down to your personal choice and your business needs. You can use PoMMo to add a mailing list to your site or for stand-alone messages, and it’s pretty strong on features, such as segregating your mailing list into sub-sets of subscribers for targeted marketing.

Other strengths include the simplicity of set up, strong support documentation, strong import and export of subscriber lists, drag and drop field ordering and compatibility with all of the main Web hosting services. You control look and feel through template files that you can customise, and you can also limit mail sends by time, bandwidth or domain.

The software, once downloaded, can be installed with a single click and it’s nice and easy to get up and running quickly. This is one of the reasons why it scores pretty highly overall on online review boards and chat forums.

Like WP Autoresponder, PoMMo is absolutely free, but this brings the same drawbacks in terms of not having a super-slick sales team on hand to provide ongoing support.


ActiveCampaign not only offers a traditional cloud-based email marketing solution, but also a self-hosted product that you can install and run on your own server (

It includes pretty much all the same features as their standard cloud-hosted option such as autoresponder sequences, great reporting and split testing, but also has some cool additions like advanced list segmentation and ‘conditional email content’ so you can tailor your content precisely to each recipient, based on any piece of information you have collected about them previously.

Although the one-site edition of ActiveCampaign really is feature reach, there were a couple not-so-great features of the package. Firstly, the licence pricing for the one-site self-hosted solution is based on the number of subscribers you have. To us, this seemed really incongruent because it is your server and database resources that will need to scale with size, not the email software. So, how they can justify using a tiered pricing model for a self-hosted solution is beyond me (having said that though, the tiered pricing doesn’t start until you have a database over 50,000).

The other issue we found relates back to our requirement of “Allowing Repeat Opt-Ins.” During our testing, it seemed like ActiveCampaign didn’t allow for the same subscriber to complete different opt-in boxes without receiving an error. So we reached out to their support and this is the response we got:

So although it appears to be possible, the extra effort to have to customise every opt-in box was a disappointment.


We may as well tell you right now, we chose Interspire for our self-hosted email marketing. Even though I said previously that ActiveCampaign hosted email is a really good choice, there are still a couple of key reasons why we ultimately decided to stick with Interspire.

Chief among them is that Interspire offers a much cheaper licence than most of the other options out there, which is a massive consideration when you weigh up the balance between making profit (which is what this is all about, isn’t it?) and paying out for a really strong solution.

Another reason we’ve stayed with Interspire is that it enables us to do multiple sign-ups without any issues or API requirements. It’s simple and easy to use, and has more functionality than a lot of the other options out there on the market. Also, I mentioned previously how I really wanted the ability to set up basic triggers, and customise other functions cost-effectively, and Interspire allows this with no problems whatsoever. There are no size limits imposed for what you want to achieve with your marketing campaigns.

There’s also one other pretty great factor that influenced our decision…

Interspire is an Aussie company.

OK, I know what you’re thinking; this isn’t a great selling-point if you’re not Australian, especially if you’re based on the other side of the world. But for us? It’s great to know we’re dealing with a firm that operates the same working hours that we do, will pick up the phone to help us when we need it and has an accent that we can understand!

Last, but not least, Interspire seemed like the right choice for us because it enables us to pop in multiple attachments or embeds within an email to subscribers, even though ActiveCampaign restrictions are a positive constraint to help avoid spam flags.

With Interspire, we may need to have multiple accounts for the various businesses we run within the group in future and, given that we now have all of the infrastructure in place, we’re considering offering white-label sub-user accounts to a handful of key colleagues or high-end consulting clients who want all of these advantages without taking the self-hosted route themselves. (Interested in this? Drop us a line!).

Overall, Interspire won out because of these factors but we have to admit that ActiveCampaign does look pretty good and only lost out by a hair. So, if anyone with pull or clout over at ActiveCampaign wants to offer us a licence, we’ll definitely give it a great test drive, see how it gets on, and then publish a fair review.

The Choice is Yours

There are, of course, plenty of other alternatives, but the above providers are the most popular on the market and will likely provide the most stable solutions.

If you’re not sure where to begin, have a good think about which is most important to you: price, functionality or customer support. Use that as a starting point to narrow your choices down to just 2-3, and then give each of those a test drive to see which feels the most comfortable.

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  • Pete Williams

    That’s where we’re here for Kylie.


  • Julia

    Thanks for the article. Finding it useful as I’m selecting a self-hosted option for a client right now. Interesting that you didn’t consider arpReach. Any particular reason, or just didn’t know about it? (I use it myself, incidentally.)

    • Pete Williams

      I haven’t really looks to much in arpReach.. as it was still in beta I believe when we did the original research.

  • David

    I was looking at interspire too, I saw somewhere it doesnt process bouncebacks from sendgrid, have you found this to be the case?

    • Pete Williams

      I don’t think we’re having that issue at all David.

      But let me get my tech guy to chime in here.

  • Pascal

    Unfortunately, Interspire Email Marketer has not been updated since 23 August, 2010. It would appear that they continue to sell but no longer develop the self hosted version.

Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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