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We’re adding some great features to help developers looking for a Mandrill alternative. Spoiler: subaccounts are here.
A Feedback Frenzy: How You’re Helping to Make SparkPost Better
Wow. It’s been an amazing month of hard work for the product team here at SparkPost. And I know I’m not the only one keeping my caffeinated drink of choice flowing (through an IV drip, if necessary. Diet Coke girl, here BTW).
We’ve always worked to make SparkPost the most awesome email delivery service, period. And we hear from developers and other customers with product feedback pretty often. But, in the wake of MailChimp’s decision to stop offering their Mandrill product as a stand-alone offering (and endorsing SparkPost as a Mandrill alternative for developers), our Twitter and community Slack channels have been flooded with feedback, feature requests, praise, and yes, even constructive criticism. And we’ve tracked, discussed, and prioritized every single one. In fact, if you’ve given us product feedback, you’re likely to have seen one of our product managers or engineers reach back out for additional insight on the pains, challenges, and use cases you’re trying to solve.
This type and volume of feedback is every product manager’s dream come true, and I want you to know that we’re giving your feedback the care and attention it deserves. That’s just how we work. For over 15 years, our team has lived and breathed the belief that partnering with our customers to drive innovation and excellence in messaging is the right thing to do.
Now, that’s not to say we’re going to implement every feature or make every change that’s asked of us. A big part of my job is to take a hard look at requests to ensure they:
- Help developers integrate our service easily… and make it possible to really innovate with email;
- Meet the functional needs of the current and future markets we serve; and
- Are aligned with our goals and values as a company, as well as the best practices in the email and tech industries.
This perfect storm of feedback could have become really overwhelming, really quickly. Fortunately, we’re big believers in agile development practices. And, as an agile company, leveraging a mix of Scrum and Kanban, we’re pretty darn good at knocking out small wins while also working to implement more complex or comprehensive improvements. We’re also huge fans of iterating on features—allowing our customers to get started using a feature, sooner rather than later. Once a feature or improvement is released, we capture feedback on how it works in the real world, and what could use a little tweaking, and continue to iterate from there.
As a product manager, It’s been gratifying to me to see how well the agile development practices really work, even (or perhaps especially!) at the pace that we’ve been working over this past month.
Here’s the New SparkPost Goodness
So: what have we done in the last couple of weeks? A lot! Without further ado, I’ll summarize some of new SparkPost highlights of the past month:
- We got the pricing right: Check out what we’re doing with SparkPost’s pricing
- Test Mode: The ability to test your integration before moving it to production, without the fear of sending to real live customers! We’ve also heard requests to support test-only API keys and webhooks—it’s definitely on our radar. Learn more about SparkPost’s new test mode.
- CSS Inliner: To ensure that your email looks the same across the wide proliferation of inboxes (particularly with the…quirks… of Gmail), it’s a good practice to inline your CSS by removing it from a <style> block and putting it directly into each HTML attribute. That can be extremely painful and honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that. Put some fun back in your day and let us handle this task for you. Learn more about CSS inlining with SparkPost.
- Mandrill Template Converter: Our template guru Ewan Dennis recently wrote some preliminary tips for manually translating Mandrill templates for SparkPost. Now, he’s working on an automated tool to make it even easier. The tool is still in… let’s call it beta, but if you want early access (and are willing to do some real-world testing), he’d love to have you. Join the SparkPost community Slack and ask for @edennis. He’ll give you the good stuff. **Update: the Mandrill-to-SparkPost template tool is live! Check out Ewan’s latest post about where to get it and how to use the tool to convert and migrate your Mandrill templates.
- WordPress Plugin: We’re continuing to evolve this plugin by adding support for API over SMTP for people that are blocked for ports 587/2525, template selection, and to allow tracking to be toggled on/off from the plugin. Have more ideas? Please share them! Learn more about SparkPost’s WordPress plugin.
- C# Client Lib: This one makes our heart swell because it came from a community member! Thank you thank you! Check out the community-developed SparkPost C# library.
- Run SparkPost in Postman: SparkPost is an API-first service, because we love developers. And because it’s the best way to innovate with email. It’s that simple. What this means in practice is that we build our APIs (you guessed it) first, and then build our UI using those same API calls. Having said that, we also love our UI, and there are plenty of SparkPost users who’d rather not use a cURL command line or dig into the details of HTTP to build their API requests. This is where Postman comes in, turning an API request and response into something much more human-readable. Learn more about running SparkPost in Postman.
- Slack community: where our teams are available for real time feedback on integration support, best practices, and developer love. Also? We’ve just uploaded all of our favorite emojis. It’s amazing what a little :homerbush: can do for your mood. Join the SparkPost community Slack team.
Oh, and One More Thing: Subaccounts!
Of all the requests we’ve received over the last several weeks, by far the one raised most frequently is for “Subaccounts.” Fortunately, we were already well underway in terms of R&D for this feature, and we were able to shift some other priorities around in order to focus on bringing this to market ahead of the Mandrill cutover on April 27.
Before getting into any of the details, let me answer the most frequent one: “When?”
** 3/31/2016 – Update: Subaccounts are live! This initial launch will be closely followed with additional feature updates throughout the month of April, with all of the core components in place by the week of April 20. We know that this timing will make it tight for some customers who currently rely on Mandrill’s subaccount features. So, here’s what we’re doing:
- We’ve already updated the API and SMTP documentation to include the subaccounts components, so you can start preparing immediately. The subaccounts API and SMTP documentation lives in our Developer Hub.
- A comprehensive knowledge base article will be available within a few days that will outline use cases, implementation specifics, how-to’s,; and a host of future enhancements we’re already focused on.
- Our awesome team is available on Slack to help answer any integration questions you may have.
What all of this means is that you don’t need to wait for the Mandrill cut-off date to get started with your migration. You can open a SparkPost account now, begin your integration, and familiarize yourself with the features and resources that are already available. By following these steps you can be up and running with subaccounts prior to the April 27 Mandrill cut-off date.
Some more details on subaccounts:
- Subaccounts will be available on all pricing plans, including free. There will be no additional charge associated with subaccounts.
- Both the UI and our APIs have support for subaccounts features, though some areas of the UI and API will not be supported fully at launch.
- The first launch in early April will provide subaccount support for the following features:
- Metrics API (Not available for subaccount API keys)
- Message Events API
- Sending Domains API
- Tracking Domains API
- Suppression List API
- SMTP API
- Following closely behind the initial launch (but before the Mandrill cut-over) will be subaccount support for:
- Transmission API
- Custom Tracking Domains
- And more!
In addition to subaccounts, we’re actively underway with providing customers the ability to have multiple dedicated IPs per account, as well as the ability to manage those IPs for your subaccounts. More to come on those items in the next couple weeks as well.
Thank You, and Please Keep Your Feedback Coming!
I want to acknowledge personally how valuable the feedback of our growing developer community has been in helping us to prioritize and accelerate many of these new SparkPost features.
To everyone who has taken the time to reach out to us, please accept my genuine thanks and appreciation. It’s people like you, sharing the good and the bad, that are helping us make SparkPost an even more amazing service for everyone. You rock. I’m reminded every day why I love the developer community.
VP Product Management
One of the great perks of attending Insight, SparkPost’s annual user conference, is sharing best practices and learning from the expertise of the pros who build, manage, and use next-generation email infrastructure on a large scale. No small part of that is the hands-on sessions led by members of our product team and longtime expert customers who know how to make the SparkPost platform sing.
Three of these technical boot camp sessions dug into powerful SparkPost features: finely-grained tracking of user engagement, the rich capabilities of advanced templates, and the intelligent business logic of multi-channel email, SMS messaging, and app push notifications. Though nothing beats being there for the technical deep dives, here’s a chance for the next-best thing: notes from the sessions and the boot camp leaders’ presentations. Dig in, and enjoy!
First off the blocks was “Using the Engagement Tracking and Metrics APIs to Bring Insights to Your Business.” This informative session examined the ways SparkPost allows senders to get the most from the fine-grained information about customer behavior and interactions with messages. Engineer Steve Tuck demonstrated using SparkPost’s web user interface for interactive queries, APIs for pulling data into external systems, and Webhooks for streaming events data in real-time.Insight User Conference Bootcamp – Use the Engagement Tracking and Metrics APIs to Bring Insights to Your Business from SparkPost
Next up, SparkPost’s Fiona Snoddy and Isaac Kim used “Advanced Templatization” to demonstrate how to use the powerful templating features of our service. SparkPost templates can incorporate substitution data, conditional statements, looping flow controls, and dynamic content pulled from other systems. Together, these features enable a sender to personalize text, optimize offers, or deploy other business logic.
One final bootcamp discussed how to incorporate “Multi-Channel Messaging with SparkPost Elite.” Using one platform and set of APIs to generate email, SMS, and push notifications means it’s possible to send a customer the right message at the right place at the right time, whatever the medium. SparkPost’s Ewan Dennis and Bruce Nowjack teamed up to give a really compelling demonstration of building a multi-channel app in real-time.
If these power features make you want to learn more, it’s easy to get started with SparkPost. And if you’re a developer looking to get your hands in some code, the SparkPost Developer Hub is a great place to begin.
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