Last month, SmoothFunction released their first add-on. It’s called Boomerang and it allows you to handle email marketing right inside of ExpressionEngine. Now, with ExpressionEngine you can already send email to a group of members using the Email module. But Boomerang brings in some of the email marketing and tracking features that you can find in services like MailChimp, CampaignMonitor and Publicaster.
With Boomerang you can set up and manage email templates and email lists (using the built-in Mailing List module), view reports and, obviously, send emails. Getting setup is quick and easy with the Configuration Settings—you only have to enter in basic information about the email sender and some unsubscribe language.
The Configuration Settings also has some handy information for scheduling your email sends using a cron job. It’s nice to see that information right there in the module and not buried in some documentation; it’s an extra plus that it is customized for your setup.
Creating a new email is a four step process. First, you input the newsletter content (HTML and Plain Text). This can be as simple as a few HTML tags or a fully-designed HTML email that contains images and styled with CSS. Unfortunately, Boomerang doesn’t ship with any sample templates. It would have been nice to have one or two rudimentary sample templates included with the module.
The second step is to preview your email to make sure it looks exactly how you wish. There is the option to send a test email before continuing. If you don’t like how your email looks, you can go back, make an edit and then resume the process.
The third step is to choose which mailing list you want to use. Mailing lists are set up using the built-in Mailing List module in ExpressionEngine. You have the option to schedule the mailing in the future.
The fourth and final step is to send the email.
If you’re looking for an add-on that will let you send to small- to medium-sized email lists, then Boomerang might be what you’re looking for. This is a great solution for small churches and organizations who only want to send out a hundred or so emails at a time. I don’t suggest you try to send large amounts of email from your own server (or that of your webhost) using any software. Leave that to the email hosting experts.
In my basic testing, the module works as advertised. I’m not completely sold on the UI, as it breaks completely away from the standard EE interface. The change from the normal EE Control Panel look and feel to Boomerang was abrupt. Because Boomerang uses the existing Mailing List module to manage email list, it’s even more abrupt when you access “Manage Lists” from the Boomerang Dashboard; you go away from the green Boomerang interface back into the standard Control Panel interface.
This is, however, just my opinion and preference. Because I develop almost all of my EE-powered sites for clients, I am always extremely sensitive to the user experience while managing the website.
Building an email marketing module for EE was, I’m certain, a huge undertaking. I applaud SmoothFunction for their ability to pull off this ambitious project. If your needs fit the features of Boomerang, you might want to give it a try.
Boomerang costs $95 per site and is available now at the SmoothFunction website.