SendGrid picks fight with heavyweight MailChimp in email marketing

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SendGrid made its name connecting people with their web apps via “transactional emails” —  sales confirmations, invoices, opt-in/opt-out messages. If you use Foursquare or Pinterest or Airbnb, you are also using SendGrid, probably without realizing it. Now the Boulder, Colo. company is branching out into email marketing where it will run smack-dab into MailChimp, which sends out tens of billions of emails, typically newsletters or other targeted pitches — on behalf of businesses to their customers.

The new SendGrid Marketing Email service, launching Tuesday, will rely on the same infrastructure SendGrid already uses for the 8 billion transactional messages it sends monthly. But, unlike its transactional email service, this new offering targets non-techie marketing people, not developers.

A company’s marketing staff can opt for one of several newsletter templates, “build” the content using a drag-and-drop interface, and create mailing lists. According to a statement about the new service, once the newsletter is ready to roll:

… marketers can distribute to their entire list in seconds and view campaign performance in real-time via SendGrid’s newsletter analytics dashboard, which provides insight into delivery rates, opens, clicks, click-through rates, unsubscribe requests and more.  Similar to SendGrid’s transactional email service, technical users can leverage an API for the marketing email service and forgo the online interface.

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SendGrid’s pitch is that it will all do this for less than competitors like MailChimp or Constant Contact because it will charge based on how much mail is sent and not on the size of the subscriber list.

Given that tech vendors see Chief Marketing Officers and their minions controlling more of the IT budget, it makes sense to build tools tailored for that constituency. That trend is also driving quite a bit of M&A activity as evidenced by Salesforce.com’s recent $2.5 billion buyout of ExactTarget early this month.

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