Once you’ve started to get a bit deeper into the world of marketing, you’ll learn that your email list is the best marketing tool you could possibly have. It gives you direct access to your ideal clients, and the segmentation and automation capabilities that some tools offer is nothing short of something an evil genius would create. Naturally, like most products, there are a wide variety of popular tools that one can research and use. When I was searching for the best email marketing platform for my company, Something Blue, my business partner Julia found Flodesk and I thought it would be perfect for us. We wanted a platform that could easily create nice “designed” emails that wouldn’t break the bank. We had tried MailChimp ourselves individually and weren’t particularly impressed with it, but since we were still building an email list we weren’t sure if we should start spending the big bucks on a platform if we weren’t going to be getting much traffic.
Enter Flodesk, stage right. On first glance, it seemed perfect. It was something that both Julia and I would be able to use, since I’m familiar with coding HTML emails and she is not, to create nicely designed emails to send out to our list. We were also interested in the segmentation features and initially liked that there were visual automation sequences available. Both Julia and I have worked with Salesforce Pardot extensively, which has a very wide range of features that we’ve come to rely on for segmentation and automation.
Unfortunately, Flodesk started falling short of our high, high hopes.
#1: No built-in integrations
First, there was no easy way to create webhooks using our WordPress form plugin (Ninja Forms). This is something a little bit more technical, but for someone who is used to using form handlers in Pardot and creating the “front end” of the forms in a plugin in WordPress, this shocked me a bit. Their in-app form building capabilities were very limited, and didn’t give any sort of drag-and-drop option for realigning elements at all. If the inline form style you chose had an image in it, you had to include an image. But if you placed the inline code onto your website in a section that was too narrow, the image wouldn’t show up at all. Having this integration was essential for us because we wanted to create multi-use forms and capture more fields than just first name, last name, and email. I come from a SaaS background where we qualify the heck out of potential clients to ensure they’ll be a good fit for our services, so being constrained with only first name and email wasn’t going to cut it for me. It took literally a week to look through all the options for Flodesk to find out how it could be possible to use webhooks with the tool, and I even wrote a whole 2700 word blog post about it for Something Blue, however the workaround stopped working a couple months after I published the article. It still remains our most visited page to date because so many people were in the same, or a less technical, situation that we were in. The method to find the labels and values involved going into Advanced Options, clicking on something that sounded completely unrelated, copying an entire long string of code just for a single submit token, then adding it as a hidden field in your form. And this is supposed to be for a software that’s user-friendly.
Plus, the whole reason why this was in issue in the first place was because there’s no native integrations with any popular platforms like WordPress or Squarespace!
#2: No Double Opt-In
Second, there’s no way to add a double opt-in. (I’ve heard this is a feature that’s in development right now, but at the time of this article it is not available yet.) In Canada, you must get explicit permission to email people through double opt-ins, where you both click the checkbox in the form itself and another link in an email that gets sent to you reconfirming your decision to sign up for emails from that company. Flodesk did not have this option built into the forms like Convertkit or other programs do, where it will automatically send an email when someone fills out that specific form.
#3: No Reconnecting Workflows
Workflows and visual automations are a great way to get the logic right for some complicated campaigns… when they work properly. Flodesk’s capabilities are nowhere near ready to be used for anything more than a basic level. This turned out to be a big issue when we wanted to create a segmentation campaign for a client who had recently switched over to Flodesk, but wasn’t using segmentation before. We wanted to send out an email to everyone on their list with some button links that they’d click if they were interested in different topics, only to do so, you’d have to have literally the largest cascading workflow known to marketer-kind because Flodesk’s workflows can’t connect! So instead of going through a series of simple yes/no steps and reconnecting after, you have to repeat the if statements for every variable, which would’ve been over 50 combinations in this circumstance. I even emailed their support asking if I had missed anything just to make sure, and their advice was to “simplify wherever possible”… which was very helpful.
#4: The Price
Initially, the price seemed pretty good for Flodesk, but that’s just because I hadn’t done my research properly. Flodesk is currently in a public beta, but it’s regular price is $38USD/month for unlimited subscribers. Using a code, you can get 50% off for life, which brings your cost down to $19USD monthly. This to us seemed like a pretty good deal until we realized how far the product has to come. You can get the lowest level of Convertkit, which we ended up going with, for $29USD/month, but have access to waaaaaay more features and marketing automation functionality than Flodesk provides, making it a much better deal.
Overall, I wasn’t impressed.
Flodesk is not currently a tool for marketers. It’s a tool for a novice business owner who isn’t looking to get too serious about their marketing automation or branding. It doesn’t connect into anything nicely, and doesn’t have a support forum with enough skilled moderators to be of any use. The Flodesk Insiders Facebook group is filled with people who ask the same basic questions over and over again, and the answer is usually “yeah no you can’t do that right now”. The website doesn’t make it obvious that the product is still in a public beta, and promises features that aren’t completely ready yet. Other things we found remiss were the lack of customizability for certain sections, the lack of integrations with Google Fonts or Adobe Fonts to import non-included fonts, and a lack of comprehensive “global styles” to make building forms and emails faster and consistently.
It’s really a shame that Flodesk fell so short of my expectations as a professional marketer because the concept is so great. Aesthetic emails at a great price point? Sign pretty much every solopreneur in a creative industry up! Unfortunately, the product still has a long way to go to mature into something for more than the amateur or casual email sender. Anything more complicated than a couple of lists or weekly emails becomes overly complicated for Flodesk.