In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg made headlines by announcing the death of email marketing at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference.
True, social media and chatbots are fast becoming effective online marketing communication channels. But that doesn’t mean that email’s dead.
Far from it!
Email marketing’s still one of the most effective strategies to nurture leads and convert them into customers. On average, businesses experience a $39.40 return on every dollar invested in their email marketing campaigns.
Choosing an email marketing service provider
Before you can launch an email marketing campaign, you’ll first need to have an email marketing service provider. This is more than just a platform where you create and send emails to your email list subscribers.
Many email service providers used today provide a host of features like mobile-friendly email templates, list segmentation, A/B testing, and analytics.
Today, there are so many different email marketing service providers to choose from that finding the right one can be exceedingly overwhelming. After all, each email marketing service provider has its benefits and limitations.
So how do you know which one to choose?
To answer that, you need to consider five specific factors.
Email marketing features
All email marketing service providers share the same core features, namely:
- Composing emails,
- Creating email lists,
- Scheduling email broadcasts, and
What separates one email marketing service provider is the additional features they provide. Some of these other features include:
- Mobile-responsive email templates,
- Drag-and-drop composer dashboards,
- Email list segmentation, and
- Email marketing automation, to name a few.
When assessing an email service provider based on the features it offers, I recommend comparing its most expensive plan for your long-term marketing goals.
The most expensive plan is where you’ll get to access all the features the email service provider offers. It should be able to give you everything you’ll need within the next 3-5 years. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at possibly migrating your email list to another service provider so that you can do the things that you plan in the future.
This factor goes hand-in-hand with the first simply because the features you get directly affects the price you’ll pay.
If you’re just starting with your business, the tendency is to always go with the cheapest email marketing service provider you can find. However, that may not always be the most cost-effective route to take.
That’s because there are other things that you’ll need to have in place to launch an email marketing campaign. In addition to an opt-in form, you’ll also need to build a landing page to host your offers.
If you’re running a B2B business, you’ll also need to have a CRM with a built-in lead scoring system so that you can accurately qualify your leads before handing them over to your sales team.
You may even end up saving more if you’ll choose an email marketing service provider with a slightly higher price, but already provides all the features you need than if you’ll get these tools separately.
Ease of use.
Whether you’re running your business on your own or you have a team of marketers, you’d want to make sure that the email service provider that you’ll choose is easy to use.
Email marketing, after all, is just one of the many strategies you’ll be using to promote your brand and products. Plus, there are other aspects of your business you and your team need to attend to. The last thing you’d want is to pay for an email service provider that’ll make the process of launching an email marketing more tedious and complicated.
Compliance with privacy policies.
In recent years, we’ve seen government agencies pass policies and regulations on how you’ll use your leads’ personal information.
First, there was the CAN-SPAM Act. The GDPR followed this. And by January 1, 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act will be enforced.
These policies govern not just how you collect your visitors’ personal information, but also whether or not your emails will be classified as spam.
As such, you’ll need to make sure that the email service provider complies with these regulations. Otherwise, you could risk your brand getting penalized for non-compliance.
Chances are, you’re using several different platforms and tools to handle various aspects of your overall marketing strategy as well as other business activities.
That said, you’d want to make sure that your email service provider seamlessly integrates with these other tools you’re using. That way, it’ll be easier for you and your team to transfer data from one platform to another.
Feedback from existing customers.
Not all email marketing service providers provide a free trial period for you to try out their platform before you decide to buy.
The next best thing would be to check the reviews left by existing customers on review sites like Capterra and Trust Pilot.
When reading through the reviews, look for those that have given a 3-star rating. These are those that would give you the most objective reviews.
You can also visit Facebook groups and ask for recommendations on what email service provider to use. You’ll be surprised by how many in the group will be happy to help you make your decision.
Quality of customer support provided.
Next to the features, this is perhaps the most critical factor to consider when choosing an email marketing service provider.
The reason is simple:
Even the most robust and sophisticated email marketing service provider isn’t perfect. There’ll be times when you’ll need to get in touch with the email marketing service provider’s customer support for assistance.
In addition to the options they provide on how you can get in touch with them for support, take into consideration how their customer support staff will handle your concerns.
The best way to check this is to reach out to the email marketing service provider’s customer support to learn more about it. How they’ll handle your inquiry will be very much the same way that they’ll handle your concerns once you’ve chosen to subscribe.
Now that you know what factors to consider when choosing an email service provider, here are 19 of the best options to consider based on the factors we’ve discussed earlier.
ConvertKit’s email marketing service provider is a great option to consider if you’re a freelancer, blogger, or running an independent consultancy business. This is the email marketing service provider I use for my business.
What I like most about ConvertKit is that it includes several advanced features like creating triggers and email automation sequences.
You can also easily segment your list so that you can send personalized emails based on what stage your leads are in your marketing funnel and what offers they downloaded.
ConvertKit’s limitation is the number of landing page templates you can use. These landing pages are also elementary and, frankly, not very appealing. This is perhaps why many ConvertKit users opt to use a landing page builder like LeadPages.
ConvertKit offers users a 14-day free trial to test out all of their features. After that, you’ll be charged, depending on what plan you choose. The starting plan is $29/month for 1,000 subscribers.
In the last 5 years, ActiveCampaign has grown to earn a reputation as being one of the most affordable email marketing service providers in the market.
ActiveCampaign provides its users with a comprehensive list of features to create mobile-friendly emails as well as create automated email sequences using a visual workflow dashboard.
You’re also provided with a CRM platform where you can store and organize your customer’s information. It also has a host of sales automation tools to help you manage your sales pipeline, keep track of the proposals you send out, and follow-up with your potential clients at the right time.
It also provides advanced features like live chat and SMS, giving you more opportunities to connect with your visitors, build your email list, and convert them into customers.
Plus, all of its plans allow you to give access to multiple users.
ActiveCampaign offers a free 14-day trial. The price for their Lite Plan starts at $9/month, but this only provides you with the essential email marketing and automation tools. To get access to their email marketing automation and CRM, you’ll need to upgrade to their Plus plan, which is priced at $49/month. This is still a reasonable price, considering the features and tools included.
3. Constant Contact
From one of the newest, we go to one of the oldest.
Founded in 1995, Constant Contact is one of the largest and most established email marketing service providers around.
Constant Contact provides its users with the standard tools and functions you need to launch an email marketing campaign. This email marketing service provider also seamlessly integrates with WooCommerce and Shopify, making this an ideal option if you’re running an eCommerce site.
Constant Contact also provides one of the most extended free trial periods compared to the others on this list. You can sign up for an account and use their services for 30 days for free. Their pricing plans start at $20/month, depending on the number of contacts you have on your list.
Drip’s a relatively new email marketing service provider, but it’s now fast becoming a favorite by business owners.
In addition to the core email marketing features, Drip allows you to create visual workflows to automate your email sequences and segmentations. That means you no longer have to do the segmentation manually.
Also, Drip allows you to segment your list based on the actions that they do on your website and the emails you send using triggers. This will enable you to segment your email list further, increasing the personalization of the content you send to your leads. In turn, you’ll improve your conversion rates.
However, with its plans starting at $49/month, it’s one of the pricier options in this list. Still, the features that you get make this email marketing service provider worth considering.
If you’re primarily using inbound marketing to drive more traffic to your site and convert customers, you’ve probably heard about Hubspot. After all, they’ve coined the term ‘inbound marketing.’
Since email marketing is one of the strategies that Hubspot promotes, it’s not surprising that they also provide the tools for you to launch an email marketing campaign.
Hubspot provides an all-in-one email marketing platform fitted with a CRM, landing page, marketing and sales automation, and content management system that allows you to optimize your blog posts and even publish this to social media.
The upside to this is that many of the essential features that you’ll need to start doing email marketing are available for free with no time limit. This includes sending up to 2,000 emails a month and use of their CRM.
If you want to gain access to their more advanced features, you’ll need to upgrade to their premium plans.
The downside is that their premium plans don’t come cheap. The lowest plan that’ll provide you to their full email marketing features starts at $800/month, making this one of the most expensive email marketing service providers in this list.
Ontraport is a comprehensive email marketing service provider that comes with a built-in CRM where you can manage your contacts.
Along with tools to help you build landing pages and opt-in forms, Ontraport also comes with marketing automation and reporting platform that allow you to map out your marketing campaigns visually. With this, you can monitor every interaction between your business and your leads as they progress through your marketing funnel. That way, you know when they’re hot and ready to be handed to your sales team so that they can convert them into customers.
The downside to using Ontraport is its learning curve. Because there are many sophisticated features and tools included in their platform, it can take a while for you to learn and maximize its full potential.
Another is its price point. Ontraport’s Basic plan is priced at $79/month for only 1,000 contacts. If you exceed this, you’ll need to upgrade to their Pro plan, which can set you back at $297/month.
Campaign Monitor is another excellent alternative to Mailchimp. The platform has a user-friendly interface that’ll allow you to design fancy-looking and responsive emails. At the same time, it provides A/B testing and in-depth email list segmentation.
One advantage Campaign Monitor has over the others in email marketing service providers in this list is its Enlist app.
This mobile app lets you create forms that’ll allow you to collect information about potential leads you meet during offline events like trade shows and conferences.
Another advantage is that it provides separate packages for email marketing for those running an eCommerce site. These packages allow you to automatically send receipts, product recommendations, discount coupons, and cart abandonment emails.
If you’re running an eCommerce site or you’re planning to sell digital products like online courses, GetResponse may be a good fit for you.
Alongside the standard email marketing service features, GetResponse also provides a host of eCommerce tools so that you can create sales pages to promote your products and receive payment.
Recently, GetResponse launched its auto funnel feature.
As its name suggests, the feature lets you recreate your marketing funnel within the email marketing service provider. This now will enable you to create automated email sequences to engage and nurture your leads.
Plans for GetResponse start at $15/month for 1,000 subscribers.
If you’re considering doing affiliate marketing as one of your sources of income, this email marketing service provider might be the one you’re looking for.
Along with the standard features you’ll find present in the other email service providers in this list, Sendlane’s also capable of lead segmentation, lead scoring, customizable CTAs, drip campaigns, and landing page and opt-in form builders.
Sendlane’s pricing plans start at $79/month and comes with a 14-day free trial period.
Formerly known as Infusionsoft, Keap’s one of the most expensive, with their paid plans starting at $199/month. On top of that, Infusionsoft requires new users go through a Kickstarter coaching package so that you can learn to use the system. This will set you back $1,999!
Much of this lies in the fact that the platform of this email marketing service provider is one of the most complex to use. So, unless you have someone in your team that’s got some background using Infusionsoft, it’s going to take some time for you to use, much less get an ROI from what you’ll invest here.
However, the moment you do get used to its platform, the features here will allow you to create, launch, and track your email marketing campaigns on a granular level.
Aweber is another one of the pioneer email service providers, which explains why it seamlessly integrates with over 900 different applications and platforms.
Its dashboard is straightforward and easy to use. You can even do up to three different variations of a specific variable in your emails before sending so that you get the maximum potential results.
And while it does allow you to set up email marketing automation, this email marketing service provider doesn’t allow you to create any automation if you’re just sending a newsletter.
Also, at $19/month for 500 subscribers, it can be quite a pricey option considering that other email marketing service providers within the same price range cover double the number of subscribers Aweber does.
MailChimp is often considered as the “Stepping Stone” for many businesses who are just starting with email marketing for one good reason: It’s free for you to use for as long as you have 2,000 subscribers or less.
Once you’ve exceeded this limit, you’ll have to upgrade to one of their paid plans, which starts at $10/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. Compared to the other email marketing service providers we’ve seen so far, the price is still reasonable enough if your business is still in its infant stage.
As far as features go, MailChimp’s got all the essential features to help you get started to launch an email marketing campaign. It also allows you to create basic landing pages that you can either host on their platform or embed it on your website or your Facebook page.
Perhaps the biggest downside of using MailChimp is that it’s designed to be used only by the account holder. If you hired a VA or have a small team in charge of your email marketing campaigns, you’ll need to provide them with a verification code to input before they can access your account.
This can be extremely frustrating and tedious, especially if you and your email marketing manager are living in different time zones.
SendX is a cost-effective email marketing service provider that’ll allow you to create and email newsletters and drip campaigns. Its platform also will enable you to create pop-up forms to capture your leads as well as simple marketing automation programming and resending emails to those in your email list that haven’t opened it.
Other features here include A/B split testing, ‘Best Time to Send’ recommendations, responsive email templates, and a drag-and-drop editor to make it easier for you to create and send emails to engage and nurture your leads.
And with its paid plans starting at $9.99/month, it is one of the cheapest email marketing service providers you can use.
If you’re looking for a separate email marketing service provider to handle your transactional emails like sending invoices, receipts, and forgot password emails, SendinBlue might be the one you’re looking for.
While SendinBlue does provide its users with the standard functions you’d expect from an email marketing service provider, its strength lies in its ability to quickly send transactional information to your customers either through email or SMS messaging.
SendinBlue is also free to use for as long as you stay within the 9,000 emails/month limit, making this a good option for you to consider if you want to keep a separate database just for transactions and not have to spend a lot on it.
In addition to the standard features you’ll find in the other email marketing service providers in this list, Wishpond also gives you the ability to create complete marketing funnels and automate your email sequences. Their drag-and-drop editor also makes it easy for you to create attractive and responsive landing pages that’ll increase your conversion rates.
Additionally, Wishpond enables you to create and launch promos and contests on your different social media accounts, allowing you to convert your followers into email list subscribers and leads.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of using Wishpond is that many of its features require some technical know-how to use. This can mean that your onboarding process may take compared to other email marketing service providers.
Wishpond’s email marketing service plans start at $45/month.
If you’re running a startup or B2B business, you might want to consider this email marketing service provider.
Features provided by SendGrid include lead nurturing and receiving payments.
One unique feature of SendGrid is that it allows you to create your own landing page and email templates using its built-in Code Editor.
That is, of course, if you have someone who’s got coding skills. If you don’t, then getting this email service provider would not be the best choice for you.
SendGrid’s email marketing service plans start at $9.95/month.
If you need a bit more features than what MailChimp offers, this would be an excellent alternative to consider.
FreshMail offers more email templates, lets you segment your lists, and also provides A/B split testing.
And just like Mailchimp, FreshMail is free to use. However, you can only use their free version for as long as you don’t go beyond 500 email subscribers. After that, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their premium services. Paid plans here starts at $14/month.
MailerLite’s another new kid on the email marketing service provider’s block. However, the features it provides are positioning it to become a favorite among founders.
MailerLite allows you to access all of their features even if you sign up for their free plan. The only requirement’s you don’t go beyond 1,000 subscribers and you don’t send more than 1,200 emails a month.
Once you exceed any of these, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their paid plans, which start at $10/month.
The first thing that you’ll notice about iContact is its easy-to-use and a fancy-looking dashboard. It allows you to create responsive emails using one of their ready-made templates, email list segmentation, A/B split testing, and live chat with their customer support staff.
iContact’s plans start at $32/month. This can be this email marketing service provider’s downside since the features are quite basic compared to other email marketing service providers within the same price range.
A successful email marketing campaign begins with choosing the right email marketing service provider.
The 19 different options shared in this post are among the best email marketing service providers to choose based on their features, costs, ease of use, and customer support.
When making your choice, I’d suggest choosing one and test it out. Before the end of the free trial period, meet with your team, and get their feedback based on the factors I included in this post.
Some companies also offer a free demo. Take advantage of this and get members of both your marketing and sales team to attend. This will give you the chance to ask questions and learn more about the email marketing service provider you’re considering.
Is the email marketing service provider you’re using for your business is included in this list? If not, share it in the comments below what you’re using and why you chose this.