You’re going to need to send out two kinds of emails from your system, bulk marketing emails and notifications/transactional emails. There is some overlap that is why I like to use MailChimp with the Mandrill extension to handle all of it.
As I mentioned before, I prefer MailChimp because they have more triggers in Zapier than some other email providers so you can add AND remove subscribers from your email lists. If you upgrade to get access to Mandrill, you can also use the automation features in MailChimp so you can target emails based on past behavior or what is in a field. For example, you can send an email on someone’s birthday if you have a birthday field or if someone has purchased something from you it will suggest additional products in the same category.
To connect a Gravity Form to MailChimp, install the MailChimp Add-on for Gravity Forms. In the settings for a specific form go to MAILCHIMP in the dropdown. You’ll first need to configure your MailChimp Settings by adding and API key. To generate an API key, go to your ACCOUNT in the top right in MailChimp. Then go to EXTRAS > API KEYS to generate one. Then go back to the form SETTINGS > MAILCHIMP and create a new feed. You can name the feed anything and then choose the list you want to map your form to. You’ll then be presented with available fields in Gravity Forms that you can map to fields in MailChimp.
WP Engine isn’t the best host for blasting out tons of emails and they will eventually let you know to cut it out. If you’re using Gravity Flow or Gravity Forms to send out notifications, Mandrill is a must. You can use the Mandrill plugin for WordPress to set this up. First you need to go to your ACCOUNT in the top right in MailChimp. Then go to EXTRAS > API KEYS to generate one.
After you install the plugin, go to SETTINGS > MANDRILL and enter the API key you just created and fill out FROM NAME, FROM EMAIL, REPLY TO EMAIL. (You can customize these for each email notification in the NOTIFICATIONS section in Gravity Forms.) Then click on the TRACK OPENS and TRACK CLICKS checkboxes if that’s what you want and you’re good to go.
You’ll get a lot of useful analytics so you can troubleshoot your emails if something is going wrong and you can see if people are opening your emails, which is my absolute favorite. No more having to deal with read receipts. If I’m sending out proposals to prospects, I want to know if they opened them and how many times they opened it. To get the most complete reporting, avoid using the BCC field in the Gravity Forms Notification.
There are some free transactional email providers, like SparkPost, so you could theoretically have all your email needs covered for free, but you’ll find keeping them separate will make managing unsubscribes a nightmare later because you’ll need to remove someone from both systems.