Every movement begins with a moment.
At Moxie, we often use the Sitecore Content Management System to build online solutions for our clients. One of the benefits of using Sitecore is that it allows you to learn more about your customers as they interact with your website. Sitecore also allows you to broadcast email campaigns from this same system, enabling you to target specific types of users with your emails. You can gather data from email click-throughs plus the resulting website visits using the same software that drives your website, thereby bringing the user’s data profile full circle — from website to email and back again.
We recently implemented Sitecore’s Email Campaign Manager (ECM) on our own website, MoxieUSA.com, in order to gain further insights into our users and to better meet their needs. The process of getting the ECM up and running in Sitecore 7.1 was not without its challenges, so I thought I would document what we experienced for the benefit of other Sitecore users who have yet to upgrade to version 8. With email capabilities more tightly integrated in Sitecore 8, we anticipate this being a much easier process.
Before you begin, you may wish to refer to the Sitecore ECM Administrator and Developer Guide and the ECM Marketer’s Guide, which can be found in the Sitecore Developer Network website under Products > Email Campaign Manager > Email Campaign Manager 2.1 (for CMS 6.6-7.2) > Documentation. These documents help you think everything through before you begin. But also be sure to read this full post because it could save you a lot of headaches as well.
One of the first decisions you need to make is how you wish to send your email. You can use your own mail servers or, for a small fee, you can use Dyn’s MTA service (brokered by Sitecore). We chose to leverage Dyn’s service because it offered more assurance that our marketing emails would not get marked as spam. Dyn is a trusted email broadcaster, and they are diligent about keeping their email servers listed in good status so that your emails get through. Also, if you choose to, you can purchase add-ons that allow you to preview your emails across multiple email clients (and you can purchase an additional spam check tool just to be sure). To configure the email service, visit the Sitecore App Center from within your CMS. There you can establish payment terms and test the connection between the service and your Web server.
Tip #1: If you are using Sitecore’s email service, you MUST set up an SPF record for the DNS entry for your website. You need to add "include:customerspf.sitecore.net" to this record, which essentially tells email systems that you are officially allowing Sitecore to send out emails on your behalf. This step increases the level of trust in your emails as they are sent and reduces the chance that they are designated as spam.
Tip #2: You may not realize this until later in the process, but the Sitecore ECM relies on being able to make Web requests to itself in order to display email previews and other content. So ask yourself this question: “If I open a Web browser from the desktop of my production Web server, can I view my website?” Your Web server may not be configured to see its own Web domain. You MUST fix this in order for the ECM to work. You might as well take care of this now, before you move on.
Once the Sitecore email service is established and connected, we move on to installing the ECM software. Be prepared for the fact that this process will require publishing your site multiple times, so make sure that any content that you do not wish to go live is protected from publishing. You can protect an item by selecting it, going to the Publish tab and clicking the “Restrictions>Change” button in the top ribbon menu. There you will find a checkbox for “Publishable,” and you can uncheck that box to keep that item from going live during a site-wide Publish command.
Under The Hood
To install the ECM software, we now have to dig a little deeper into Sitecore. We will be installing the Sitecore Email Campaign Manager version 2.1 into our Sitecore 7.1 CMS. The main steps to accomplish this goal are as follows:
1) Install the SPEAK 1.0.0 package because the ECM was built using the SPEAK system, which provides an improved user interface experience.
2) Install the ECM 2.1 package.
3) Install the ECM 2 Save Actions module.
Step 1 should be pretty straightforward for any Sitecore developer. You simply download the SPEAK 1.0.0 package from the Sitecore Developer Network website and install it using the Sitecore Package installer within your CMS. Once this package is installed, Publish your full website (you can use Smart Publish).
Step 2 is where things get tricky.
Tip #3: You need to verify that your Web server can run .NET MVC 2. Yes, version 2. We had to add the following to our web.config to remedy this:
<assemblyIdentity name="System.Web.Mvc" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" />
<bindingRedirect oldVersion="126.96.36.199-188.8.131.52" newVersion="184.108.40.206" />
Now we can install the Sitecore ECM 2.1 module using the Sitecore Package Installer, but be ready for a quick fix immediately afterward:
Tip #4: Is your Web server 32-bit or 64-bit? Do you have access to the Web server’s file system? You might want to make sure you do because there is a file installed by ECM that needs to be renamed in the /bin folder called either ChilkatDotNet2.x32 or .x64, depending on which type of operating system you have. We had to rename the appropriate file to ChilkatDotNet2.dll because the ECM package did not install an actual DLL for this library — and the website would not run without that DLL file in place.
If your CMS is not configured for multisite, you may be ready to start using your Email Campaign Manager. If you do use multisite, you should know:
Tip #5: Because we use the multisite features of Sitecore on MoxieUSA.com, we found that we had to implement the fix found on this Web page: https://kb.sitecore.net/articles/837879. The ECM was having a hard time determining which hostname to use for serving email content. Once this pipeline setting was in place, things started working.
As a finishing touch, you may want to go ahead and use the Security>Domain Manager to create a domain called “Emailcampaign,” which will be used by the ECM to maintain users subscribed to mailing lists.
Ready To Go
Ideally, you now have everything up and running, and you can launch the Email Campaign Manager from the Sitecore button in the lower left (look under All Applications > Email Campaign > Email Campaign Manager). If you have any trouble, be sure to refer back to the Sitecore ECM Administrator and Developer Guide.
I hope you have found this post useful for troubleshooting your Sitecore ECM installation. We have been very pleased with the results as we move forward with our email campaigns on this new platform.
Are you happy with your current email campaign system or looking for somebody to help your get set up with Sitecore’s? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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