I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Constant Contact. They’ve spent more on marketing their brand than any other email marketing service out there. And lately they’ve been adding television and radio ads. The question is – are they really the best? Or are they simply spending the most? We break down the most popular email marketing companies out there and give you recommendations of our 2014 Top 3 winners for Best Email Marketing Service provider.
2014 Email Marketing Service Provider (or E-Newsletter) Winners
We also provide pros and cons so that you can dig deeper to find which ones suit you best depending on your specific email marketing needs. We’ll start out with giving a description of each email marketing, and will then point out some weaknesses and strengths of each marketing with email company, as well as provide links to special sign-up offers and promotions we’re permitted to extend to our visitors.
What are my options when it comes to email marketing services?
Not only do we review some of the most popular email marketing providers, we give you some background on email marketing in general, and provide you with a comparison table and a guide to common definitions and terminologies to help you compare essential differences at a glance.
Email Marketing Reviews
To jump straight to an in-depth review of an email marketing provider you’re interested in, use the list below:
- Campaign Monitor
- Constant Contact
- Google Groups
- Omnistar Mailer
- Vertical Response
Our 2014 Winners for Best Email Marketing Service Provider
Below you’ll find our 2014 top picks for email newsletter services based on a variety of factors ranging from price and features to reliability and customer service.
Visit Website: GetResponse
GetResponse – Intelligent reporting pushed this company to the top as they actively help you improve your campaigns to better reach and connect with your audience at every step of the way. Other no cost perks include: online surveys, inbox preview, auto responder and social networking integration. And, they get high marks for customer service which goes a long way in our book. The only real negative we could find on them was that their image search can be a bit confusing once you have uploaded an image. Try a free 30-day trial of GetResponse and read our full GetResponse review. To celebrate their 15th birthday, GetResponse is offering 15% off any plan for life!
Visit Website: StreamSend
StreamSend – A longtime power player in the email marketing world and this vast experience has encouraged them to keep things simple, even for the brand new email marketer. Its biggest selling point vs. the competition is that it is the only company that offers unlimited image hosting so that you never run out of space for all your photos. And, it is no secret that a picture speaks a thousand words. They also include a private IP address, trigger-based messaging, live telephone support and extensive social media sharing capabilities which is often an added fee with other providers. Try StreamSend out for free for 30 days and read our full StreamSend Review.
Visit Website: Campaigner
Campaigner has the best entry price at $10 for up to 1,000 subscribers. This paired with a 30-day free trial will likely be just what most small businesses need to get rolling. They also have one of the best reputations for customer service, offering around the clock, 24/7 support. Boasting more than 700 email templates, they have one of the largest libraries of creative to help you make a unique impact on your customers. Lastly, they include A/B testing, social media integration (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and even YouTube!) and auto-responder at no additional cost. The only real negatives would be if you plan to do any online surveys, this will cost you more with Campaigner than some which include it in the monthly email cost but the tradeoffs may still make it worth your while. Try a 30 day free trial of Campaigner and read our full Campaigner review.
Email Marketing Service Comparison Table
To help you sort through the email marketing madness, we’ve also created an email marketing comparison table that highlights the main features of each EMSP (Email Marketing Service Provider), along with their pros and cons.
Due to the large size of our EMSP comparison table, we are putting it on a separate page so you can reference it more easily. Please visit our email marketing services comparison table (or click on the image at left) for pricing and feature details on the EMSP’s we review in this article. We’ll continue adding EMSP’s to the table as we gather data, and update existing ones as they add and support new features.
You’ll find a list of terminologies following the table, as well as at the bottom of this article.
In-Depth EMSP Reviews
Jump to the comprehensive reviews below where you’ll find more details on features, pros/cons, and pricing plans for each provider. Or continue reading to learn more about EMSPs in general, common features you should expect, industry terminologies (lingo), and more.
What should most email marketing services have in common?
It’s important to know what email marketing companies have in common, so we can leave these criteria out of our pro and con lists below. In order to even stay in business, an EMSP needs to have relationships with the major ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) such as AOL, Yahoo, Juno, etc. If they didn’t, emails would get blacklisted and clients, unable to reach their customers, would not be happy. They all advertise as having the best “whitelisting” relationships with ISP’s, but the truth is – the arrangements are more or less the same. The important thing is that the email marketing provider have the support and staff necessary to maintain the relationships, analyze the SMTP send logs, etc.
Along the same lines, an email marketing brand must have an anti-spam policy in place to keep many users from being blacklisted in the event that one user misbehaves. Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Streamsend, and iContact and the rest of the lot typically take the same anti-spam measures. Common anti-spam measures, in accordance with CAN-SPAM (an official anti-spam policy), are the requirements to include a postal address, unsubscribe option, information on how the recipient joined the list in each email newsletter, and not using false or misleading headers and subject lines.
Many service providers, such as Constant Contact, offer a free or paid service that will archive your old email newsletters on their website. From an SEO point of view, we should point out that this is not always ideal for you. Your email newsletter contains valuable content relevant to your business that could be indexed by search engines. If the content is archived/hosted on the EMSP’s servers, however, you won’t get credit for it. Look to either archive your old newsletters on your own website, or find a way to copy/paste the archive from their service over to yours.
From our research, Campaigner, MailChimp, Streamsend, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, and iContact provide the best entry-level opportunities for small businesses, as they offer a good balance of pricing (low-cost per month per subscriber and email send count), reliability, flexibility (email template design and management) and reporting (bounce, unsubscribe, spam reports, etc.). In addition, they all provide online support communities where users can interact with other users, share their opinions on the service, as well as get support from administrators and extensive knowledge bases.
Now that you have an idea of what EMSP’s can offer you, we’re going to dig a little more deeply into some of these companies so you can find the email marketing provider that fits the unique needs of your company or organization.
Visit Website: AWeber
AWeber is rising in popularity. What began as an auto-responder service is now a full-fledged email marketing provider. AWeber prices themselves competitively, and is a contender in the email marketing battle. Their basic plan ($19 per month or $194 annually) lets you enlist up to 500 subscribers and send an unlimited number of emails. Check out the discounted $1 trial for the first month of AWeber.
- Their interface is clean, polished, and easy to use. It’s easy to manage the subscriber lists associated with different email campaigns.
- Good WYSIWYG editor – AWeber has one of the better WYSIWYG editors we’ve seen. It’s easy to format text, add images, hyperlink text (create links), etc. It’s so extensive that it gets close to allowing you to create custom HTML newsletters.
- You can add attachments to newsletters (this appears to be an offspring of their auto responder service). In other words, if subscribing to your newsletter allows people access to a file (such as a 5 page PDF file with race results), they will receive it as an attachment.
- Extensive reporting and tracking functionality lets you track statistics such as number of emails sent, open rate, click-through, emails that were not delivered (undeliverables), and more.
- Good list management.
- They are can-spam compliant and take spam seriously. In other words, your newsletter won’t end up in the junk mail as often as it might with a competing provider.
- It is now possible to send one message to multiple lists – simply check the boxes of the lists you’d like to add to the sender’s list when preparing your message.
- Broadcast archive – lets you archive your newsletters by publishing them as an easy to navigate web page that can be shared among your existing visitors as well as to attract new subscribers.
- They are well-known for solid and easy to reach customer support via phone, email, or chat. They also have an easy to use and extensive knowledge base, video tutorials, etc. on their website.
- Shopping cart integration: Google Checkout.
- Custom integration with Zapier: connect AWeber to shopping carts, payment gateways, event registration sites, form buildings, CRM, Google Contacts, and SMS text messages.
- Web form options: integration with Formstack, 123ContactForm, Gravity Forms, Zendesk, Salesforce, Connected CRM, and more to extend your visitor subscription options.
- Image hosting: store an unlimited number of images with a maximum size of 10mb each
- Facebook and Twitter integration
- HTML editor
- No surveys – They do not include a survey tool that lets you create surveys and monitor responses (you are able to create a generic Q&A using their form building tool, but this falls short of some of the more advanced survey tools offered by competitors).
- At time of writing, you can’t auto-remove duplicates from your email lists, you’ll need to do this manually.
- “Tell a friend” forms are not permitted.
- The broadcast archive feature optimizes the newsletter archiving process by turning your newsletters into easy to use web pages for your visitors.
- Follow this link for a $1 trial of AWeber
Visit Website: Benchmark
Benchmark is at the very forefront of email marketing because of its progressive and consistent use of social media features and its intuitiveness when it comes to integration of email lists and information. Benchmark also utilizes advanced email marketing methods to ensure no spam will ever appear on your emails or marketing material. What we really like is that they genuinely care about their customers’ concerns, and this is showcased by their in-dash feedback forum where you can voice your concerns without ever navigating away from the page. Benchmark pricing starts at $9.95 per month for 600 emails or $11.95 for 600 contacts. Click here to get a free 30-day trial.
- Interactive video and links make email campaigns look great and stand out from other template designs.
- Fantastic systematic approach to email marketing creation makes designing and producing templates easy to understand and easy to do.
- Drag and Drop function makes importing your own pictures quick and easy.
- Intuitive marketing team will assume all responsibility and create marketing campaigns for you with only an email list, pictures, and an idea of what you want to say.
- Fantastic help and support team.
- 30-Day Free Trial
- No private IP address.
- Does not allow for the use of attachments in marketing campaigns but they do give you up to 10mb per file to store and link to them on their server.
- Unique Dashboard – brings all of your marketing campaigns, including social media, on to your main screen and allows you to monitor all activity from one page.
- Integration with Google Analytics - allows you to track statistics on your home page.
- Subaccounts – you are able to set these up to send out multiple campaigns for multiple target audiences.
- Interactive Campaigns – incorporating video and social media into your marketing is faster and easier than ever.
Visit Website: BigHip
BigHip isn’t known well in the email marketing world. Doing a simple Google search will bring up one result, their website. This makes it hard to tell the pros and the cons because no user has given feedback. They have a ton of features but are missing some much wanted items like surveys and attachments. One thing they’ve got going for them is the first pricing tier is free for 1,500 emails sent to 50 contacts forever. Pricing starts at $19.95 for 75,000 emails to 2,500 contacts or click here for a free 60 day BigHip trial.
- Unlimited data fields
- Double opt-in list moderation
- Moderation triggers
- Template library
- Schedule and send unlimited campaigns
- Personalize campaigns
- Click thru traffic
- Geographic statistics
- Manage multiple users
- Detailed reporting
- Email and phone support as well as live chat
- No surveys
- Doesn’t allow attachments
- Receipt statistics tells you when an email was delivered and opened
While they might not have the name recognition of some of their competitors, Boomerang has been in the email marketing game since 1991. That’s an eon in internet years, and that sort of longevity certainly suggests they know their business. They offer sixty different reports to help track who’s clicking what, where and when. That is a massive amount of information if you know how to use it. Boomerang offers integration with most large social media networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Yahoo) as well as online webinars for beginners and experienced users. Pricing starts at $9.95 for 500 email credits, or sign up for free trial and get your first 100 emails free.
- You don’t survive in marketing for 20+ years without knowing your stuff.
- Vast amounts of analytic data allows users to really pin-point what is working for them and what isn’t.
- Live webinars can be a great tool, especially for those just starting out.
- “Email credits” can be a dubious proposition. It’s often less cost-effective than more straight-forward pricing models.
- All of that analytic data is only helpful if you know how to use it. Someone just starting out could easily feel overwhelmed.
Visit Website: Campaigner
Campaigner tout themselves as “an email marketing service built by marketers for marketers and non-marketers alike.” (Not much different from the tag lines of most email newsletter providers). They are a cloud-based business service offered by j2 Global Canada, Inc [NASDAQ: JCOM] (the makers of eFax and other software). Campaigner has been around since 2005 and pride themselves on their customer support reputation. Pricing starts at $10 for unlimited emails to 1,000 contacts or click here for a free 30 day Campaigner trial.
- Excellent customer service reputation with little to no wait times (won the 2014 Silver Stevie International Business Award for Customer Service Team of the Year – Telecommunications)
- Competitive pricing – Some of the best pricing of any EMSP, starting at $10 for up to 1,000 contacts. And they use contact pricing, which lets you send an unlimited number of emails to all of the email addresses in your contact list. Per email pricing, on the other hand, would only let you send a certain number of emails per month).
- Large amount of customizable email newsletter templates (over 700 ready-made templates).
- A solid and flexible newsletter template editor.
- Fast sending of email newsletters (a couple of minutes).
- Includes 10MB of image hosting space.
- Integration with social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Pinterest, etc.).
- Solid contact manager that lets you import your contacts via Excel, Outlook, a CSV (comma-separated values) file, or popular email providers such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.
- Includes an autoresponder that will send a pre-written message to new subscribers.
- You can automatically have unsubscribes and bounces removed.
- Features opens, bounces, unsubscribes, clicks, forwards, spam stats, best performing links, click trends, heat maps, reporting comparison, social sharing stats, a/b split testing and workflows
- No internal support for surveys.
- Template Builder – one of the easiest to use and most powerful email template editors we tested. And if you don’t like their editor, developers experienced with XHTML/CSS can upload their own designs.
in Depth Review
- Check our in-depth review of Campaigner
Visit Website: Campaign Monitor
Campaign Monitor is an email marketing product that was built specifically with graphic designers in mind. This interface is very pleasing to the eye and allows for multiple account management. Prices start at $9 for 2,500 emails or $29 for unlimited emails up to 500 subscribers.
- Design emails with your favorite design tools.
- Preview screenshots of a designed email in more than 20 email clients before sending.
- No pre-built logos, watermarks or links in emails.
- Unique features include trigger-based messaging and A/B testing.
- Integration with Google Analytics.
- Track return on investment and conversions.
- Offers unlimited image hosting.
- You cannot reach a person for customer support and this is a pretty big negative if you actually run into a question.
- No telephone customer support.
- No live chat support.
In Depth Review
Check out our full review of Campaign Monitor
Constant Contact is one of the oldest email marketing companies around – they have been in business since 1996. Here’s a breakdown of what you get, and the pros and cons. Follow this link Constant Contact (or on the logo at left) to receive 60 days free to try them out.
What you get
The Constant Contact pricing structure has changed over the years. In other words, prices have gone up. They used to have a free option for email lists of 100 users or less. The free option is no longer available. This service is now only available as a paid service, starting out at $15 per month for 0 – 500 contacts (but you can try it for free for 60 days – see link above). Constant Contact’s pricing then increases according to the pricing schedule below.
Toolkit is a newer Constant Contact service that is an online marketing platform that simplifies small business marketing. It does so by bringing together the tools you need to drive repeat customers and reach out to new ones through a variety of campaign types distributed through email, social, mobile, and web.
- 0-500 contacts – $15/month
- 501-2,500 contacts – $35/month
- 2,501-5,000 contacts – $55/month
- 5,001-10,000 contacts – $85/month
- 10,001-25,000 contacts – $195/month
- 25,001-50,000 contacts – $295/month
Optional features include the ability to archive emails and host them on a Constant Contact-hosted homepage, and conduct surveys, both of which cost extra. This brings us to our pros and cons list.
- One of the most experienced providers, having been around since 1996.
- Well designed interface that is easy to learn and use.
- Email newsletter templates (400 and counting) that get you up and running in minutes. You can also hire them to custom design a template for you.
- Contact manager/importing contacts – they have two utilities that help you mass import contacts into your subscriber list:
- QuickImport - import from Gmail, MS Outlook, Outlook Express, and Facebook. You can upload 100 individual email addresses (no other details) at a time. Use QuickView to add contacts from your iContact list as well.
- InfoTransfer - import from QuickBooks, Salesforce.com and ACT!.
- Excellent customer service and support – including your own support agent assigned to you when you sign up. They are also one of the few EMSP’s that answers phones on weekends.
- On the more expensive side (you have to pay for the personal customer support). And Constant Contact is known for their “nickel and dime” approach that charges for just about every add-on feature they or you can dream up.
- You have one sign-up form for your entire account. This is not ideal if you are planning on maintaining multiple lists within one account, and signing up different groups of users on multiple websites using different sign-up forms. For this purpose you’ll need to open multiple accounts, which can be a pain, as well as prove more costly.
- Charges extra for additional features such as conducting online surveys and archiving email newsletters that others include at no extra charge.
- Cluttered user interface can make finding what you’re looking for time-consuming.
- Flexibility of template design is limited compared to some providers. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor (ie. word processing interface) is only available if you use their in-house templates; not with your own html designs.
- Only 1/2 mb of online image storage is included (5 images and 5 documents) with your subscription. If you want more space, you pay extra ($5 per month for up to 250mb).
- Social media marketing – available for a monthly fee of $20.00. You get access to contact management tools, coaching and support, small business MarketPlace, and more. (The fee for this service is constantly changing.)
Constant Contact is the email newsletter provider most known of nickel and dime features. Pretty much every add-on feature is going to cost you extra monthly. That’s one of the main downsides with their service. Is the social media marketing worth it?
Free 60 Day Trial
- Try a free 60 day trial of Constant Contact
In Depth Review
Please read our Constant Contact review for more detailed information.
Visit Website: Contactology
Contactology is an email service provider that prides itself on white labeling (or rebranding as their own), which allows users to use their own color scheme and logo so that the recipients don’t realize that an email service provider is being used. They offer monthly subscriptions starting at $10 for up to 500 subscribers and the first 100 are free. There’s also a “Pay-as-you-Go” option which is discussed below.
- Designed for newbies and seasoned marketing experts.
- Industry Leading API allows for added functionality.
- Pay-As-You-Go Plans is unique in this industry. (see cons as well below)
- Inbox Analysis to test campaigns in 30+ various email clients and 12+ spam filters.
- Multivariate Testing will compare up to 26 campaign versions, select the winner and send it.
- Import History Report gives you access to a 30-day history of import jobs. This report will show you duplicate contacts, invalid addresses or errors.
- Pay-as-you-Go is unique but not a best practice – we would not recommend it.
- Surveys cost extra, an additional $35 a month.
In Depth Review
Check out our comprehensive review of Contactology
Emma boasts over 40,000 users and they’re growing fast, having made Inc 500/5000 four times. Emma emphasizes the service end of email marketing and it shows in rave reviews of their customer service. Their drag and drop email editor is easy to use and they offer full image integration from Facebook and Flickr, which could mean the world to a small business looking for free image hosting. With prices starting at $45 per month for 1000 subscribers (unlimited sending) Emma is slightly more expensive than some other services, but as you work up the pay scale the prices become much more competitive.
- Easy to use drag and drop interface.
- An impressive selection of templates from which to choose.
- Fully integrated with Facebook and Flickr for image hosting, as well as other social media for automatic content sharing.
- Top notch customer service.
- Request a 30 day free trial.
- Among the most expensive options we’ve reviewed.
Visit Website: ExactTarget
ExactTarget tags themselves as the future of marketing and is a company that has been around since 2000. While claiming to be from “humble” beginnings, this company now operates one of the more dominant email marketing and comprehensive marketing solutions on the market today. Unfortunately, this growth into big business has created somewhat of an intimidating appearance for many smaller businesses seeking these services. But, if you are looking for a comprehensive marketing integration tool to put everything in one place and make it easy to analyze all of your online marketing efforts, Exact Target may be perfect for you. Click here to schedule a customized demo to see how it could work for you.
- Live chat customer service allows for access to customer service without long phone wait times.
- Comprehensive marketing integration across email, mobile, social media, web, data and analytics make cross-platform marketing simpler.
- Individually based pricing – Pricing for the ExactTarget email marketing solution is based on an individual basis which is catered to each company’s unique needs.
- ExactTarget offers both a WYSIWYG email editor as well as an HTML email editor.
- Email attachments can be activated for ExactTarget accounts if needed.
- RSS feeds can easily and quickly be integrated in to email sending.
- No immediately available pricing information.
- You must have knowledge of AMPScript to use email attachments with ExactTarget.
- No listed customer service hours.
- No image hosting service.
- Software Suites – One of the most attractive features of the ExactTarget email marketing system is the variety of software suites available. For example if you were looking only to utilize social media marketing there is an option to do so through ExactTarget without investing in a complete e-mail marketing solution.
In Depth Review
- Check out our comprehensive review of ExactTarget.
Visit Website: GetResponse
GetResponse is an email service provider that was founded in 1999 and touts itself as the world’s easiest email marketing. They are our 2014 choice for best email marketing service. Their user-friendly interface and email intelligence makes Get Response one of the easiest programs to jump in and get emailing in no time and they have over 300,000 customers to prove it. Pricing starts at $12.30 per month (w/annual discount) for 1,000 subscribers.
Try GetResponse with a no-risk, 30-day FREE trial! Then you can find out first-hand whether it is the best email newsletter service for you.
- Intuitive Email Intelligence makes tracking, gauging and analyzing a pleasure.
- Creating a newsletter is incredibly intuitive with Email Creator.
- List Booster allows you to import email addresses 16 ways including uploading from a hard drive, importing from mail clients, and from services like Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce and LinkedIn.
- Form Builder makes creating embedded sign up forms easy on your website, blog and Facebook fan page.
- Free Surveys to capture valuable feedback from customers, find out what improvements could be made and make sure your campaigns are targeted correctly.
- Choose from over 500 templates.
- Time Traveler allows you to send your email at the optimal local time for all recipients to maximize open rate. (e.g. You want all recipients to receive the email at 9am local time so it will deliver to east coast readers at 9am EST and to west coast readers at 9am PST).
- Inbox Preview to make sure your email will look correct on many different email providers.
- Free live webinars are conducted on a weekly basis.
- Social Sharing tool lets your readers share your newsletter instantly and all of the data is tracked in the easy to understand and use Social Share Analytics (includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and LinkedIn).
- Lots of free images from iStock photo and also easy to add in your own videos, pictures and other media. They even have a QR code generator if you’re into that sort of thing.
- No Free Plan.
- Once you have uploaded images to their database, it might prove difficult to find the imported images to actually use them.
In Depth Review
- Check out our detailed review of GetResponse
In early 2013, Google rolled out a new Google Groups for Business platform but the focus is no longer email marketing. Today, this is a tool for improving online collaboration between team members, groups and communities who frequently interact in digital discussions. This product been removed from this article to make room for true competitors in this space.
Visit Website: GraphicMail
The services offered by GraphicMail’s marketing software are designed to give users complete control of their marketing campaigns. Among the features included in Graphic Mail are the ability to: customize or create newsletters from templates, manage and build opt-in email lists, send emails via HTML and text, send emails via secure servers, ensure timely delivery of emails, a 24-7 team of support staff tacking message delivery, create CAN-SPAM compliant emails, check SPAM scores, create actionable reports, get detailed information on email recipient activity, track clicking activity, deliver emails over time, view bounced email rates, view complaints reported and export full graphs and data of important account analytics. Pricing starts at $9.95 per month for 2,000 sends.
- Offers a free account to those with less than 500 contacts and who don’t need to send more than 10 releases a month.
- Users are given free access to marketing eBooks that focus on mobile marketing, industry information, email marketing, taking small business online, building email lists and how to successfully email market.
- Graphic Mail offers Connect +, a social content management system that integrates into their email marketing service.
- Webinar and video support are made available to users in addition to live chats and telephone support.
- This software can be integrated into IT platforms utilizing the API (full support for this process is provided on the GraphicMail website.)
- Offers users the opportunity to have professionally designed newsletter templates designed for them but this comes at a cost (see below).
- SMS messaging with link-to-site capability enabled comes with an extra cost of $0.03 for USA, South Africa & Canada; $0.06-0.09 for other countries.
- Custom newsletter templates come at a cost of $350 per template which is a considerable price in comparison to the fees charged by most non-affiliated graphic designers.
- Monthly credits that go unused do not carry over in to the next month and are lost.
Visit Website: iContact
iContact offers very competitive pricing plans (starts at $14/month for 500 users) and a wide array of features. But how reliable are they? Read the pros and cons to find out how iContact compares to others. Want to give them a try? Try iContact for free (or click on the logo at left) to receive a free trial account.
- Very competitive pricing.
- iContact offers flexible options for your subscriber sign-up forms. You can create multiple different forms on different websites with various fields for gathering unique types of data (name, email, street address, etc.).
- Live Customer Support via phone as well as webinars, video tutorials and more.
- HTML editor for email newsletter templates.
- You can create surveys at no additional charge. iContact surveys are fully supported, which means they don’t use any third-party plugins.
- You can archive email newsletters at no additional charge.
- Supports the creation of auto-responders.
- Seamless integration with Salesforce for stronger CRM programs.
- List segmentation by demographics, interests, and subscriber behaviors.
- Supports 5mb for online image storage.
- Comprehensive contact manager that includes:
- Subscription management
- Bounceback handling
- Contact history reports
- Slow loading website.
- Social media marketing included at no extra charge only includes Facebook and Twitter (Pinterest, LInkedIn, GooglePlus, etc. are excluded).
- Google Analytics integration is only in place for members of their premier level service vs. other services that include this as a standard feature.
- We’ve heard reports that their support system is not nearly as good as the competition (i.e. inexperienced support staff, long wait times, etc.).
- Support community appears to be more of a “content blog” where people can post content on various topics completely unrelated to email marketing.
iContact offers the following tools to help you customize your email newsletter templates:
- MessageBuilder – allows you to build newsletters from scratch using a WYSIWYG editor.
- MessageCoder – allows web designers and developers to code templates in HTML – the same technology that is used to build web pages, so you can imagine the flexibility this allows you as far as designing your newsletter templates and getting them to match your website look/ layout.
- Google Analytics Integration – iContact’s Google Analytics integration, for premier account holders, allows you to:
- Enable Analytics tracking on a per-message basis.
- Customize source, campaign, and content parameters.
- Automatically have Google Analytics parameters attached to your messages.
- Track results for an unlimited number of domain names.
Coupon CodeFor the 2014 Holiday Season, We Rock Your Web readers will receive 15% off their iContact purchase. Click here take advantage of this offer!
In Depth Review
- Check our thorough review of iContact
JangoMail began as a single company’s elegant solution to a complicated problem. How to pull data from multiple servers (some local, some halfway around the world) and assemble it into a single mass email? That feature is JangoMail’s unique claim to fame, although it incorporates many other features, including foreign language support, in-depth personalization options and fully customizable RSS to email conversion. Pricing starts at $15 per month for up to 2500 emails.
- Extremely competitive price.
- Many innovative features, including their customizable RSS and foreign language support in both plain text and HTML.
- We can’t stress “fully customizable” enough. If you don’t see a feature, just ask. They’ll make it happen.
- It’s a powerful system, but often reads like a tech manual. If you’re not a pro, you might feel like you’ve gotten over your head.
Visit Website: MailChimp
MailChimp is one of the newer contenders in the ring as far as our reviews are concerned. They offer a simple and fun interface, and a free plan for a mailing list under 2,000 subscribers. How does MailChimp stack up against the competition? Let’s find out…
- Competitive pricing (monthly plan starting at $10 for 500 users/unlimited sends) and a free plan for lists with 2,000 or less subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month). There are some limitations (e.g. no A/B testing until you’ve been using it for a while) but this is by far the best free plan we’ve come across.
- Straightforward contact list management and easy import of contacts via CSV file.
- Unlimited image hosting – MailChimp allows you to host as many images as you’d like.
- Embed email archives on your website – MailChimp offers a “Campaign Archive Folder” that will automatically sync your archived newsletters to your website. This is the best implementation of this feature we’ve seen. The benefit? You get the SEO benefit of all that content you’ve created.
- MailChimp includes a feature to track where your sign-ups originated from. You can use this to optimize your opt-out prevention methods.
- An Inbox Inspector add-on that lets you generate over 25 screenshots of your email in all major email applications, as well as live tests from all the major ISPs to see if spam filters are triggered. This is one of the better spam checking/score features we’ve come across.
- MailChimp’s HTML templates are easy to use, and you can use their WYSIWYG editor to customize your own designs.
- NEW MailChimp Editor for iPad
- It’s not quite as feature packed as some of its competitors. For one, it doesn’t have the comprehensive reporting options some other email newsletter providers do. On the other hand, it does integrate with Google Analytics to provide insight to optimize future campaigns.
- Importing of contact lists could be easier – the columns have to match up perfectly for the import to work.
- Importing templates from existing website graphics would be a great add-on. It takes some work to get your email template looking like you want it to.
- Embed and publish email archives – The feature described above that allows you to automatically and seamlessly (by copying and pasting a code snippet onto your website) have archived copies of your newsletters published on your website. These can then get indexed by search engines (such as Google), and you can receive visitors to your website thanks to all the hard work you put into writing unique, relevant content for your newsletters.
- Goal triggers emails from actions on your websites while Conversations keep track of replies from subscribers.
In Depth Review
Check out our deep-dive review of MailChimp.
Visit Website: Mailigen
Mailigen is a great option for beginners and experts alike due to its effortless customizations and wide array of features that make crafting a unique marketing strategy fun and effective. There are a few shortcomings, however, like limited stock images and an image (some would call it tacky) that is sent out with every email. All things considered, Mailigen is a fantastic option loaded with features that make for a solid product. Click here to get a 30-day free trial and pricing starts at $10/month for up to 500 subscribers.
- Dynamic Code Feature allows you to target very specific interest groups which makes for creating custom emails cost-effective.
- Autoresponders feature can be utilized to send out custom messages when very specific events occur (ie.- when someone joins your email list, they can receive a custom welcome email).
- Email Setup Wizard walks you through email content creation so novice users can showcase professional-looking products.
- Social Network buttons are easy to implement and link your contact to all of your social media sites.
- You can request your own IP address which will further protect you against spam and malware.
- Employ deliverability specialists and strategic account representatives which provide top of the line help and support.
- Very small database of images (10mb) to choose from makes customizing newsletters and emails somewhat limited (does increase to 100mb for the Pro Package and up).
- Does not offer ability to preview emails before you send them out, so you are not able to see a final product until it is released.
- Mailigen’s branding appears on every email unless requested otherwise.
- Automatic Follow-Up – Great way to create consistent and unique email marketing campaigns.
- MERGE Marketing – systematic and effective approach to email marketing
- Dynamic Content – allows marketers to interact with individuals by building multi-tiered marketing messages based on specific segments, criteria or attributes.
- Drag ‘n’ Drop Editor – multi-purpose editor makes crafting unique email marketing pieces easy to customize and easy to understand.
- Try out a 30-Day Free Trial from Mailigen
Visit Website: Omnistar Mailer
Used by over 14,000 clients, Omnistar Mailer is a powerful service with an easy to use interface that got its start in the real estate industry. But with its one-time pay fee structure, it is more likely to be used by companies that send out a great deal of email campaigns or plan to use it to promote another business and be compensated for this work (e.g. advertising agency). Omnistar also shines for designers to resell as their own product. Click here to get started with a free 15 day trial and then pay a monthly fee starting at $27 for 500 subscribers or pay $276 for unlimited email for a year (90 day money back guarantee).
- One time fee. Pricing starts at $287 for unlimited emails.
- Rebrand the software for resale (white label). For $587 you can resell to 5 clients and for $887 you can resell to 10 clients.
- Personalize each email so that recipients feel the email is just for them.
- Split Test Email Campaigns to test the effectiveness of multiple campaigns.
- Integrate with current design.
- Powerful reporting features.
- 24/7 Help Desk Support and Phone Support through the week.
- At $24+/month, it’s expensive and a little confusing for the beginner.
In Depth Review
- Check out our exhaustive review of Omnistar Mailer
SharperEmail offers a clean and streamlined product with a number of pros and cons. Their lack of social media integration shows that they may be a little behind the times, but they offer a good product that is affordable on most budgets. They do offer a 30-day free trial which will allow you to try the product and decide for yourself if it is right for you.
- Affordable service. Aside from companies that offer free sending, SharperEmail offers the most affordable basic plan price.
- Users are given a choice of an HTML and a WYSIWYG editor as well as the ability to send emails in both HTML and text.
- Users are given unlimited image hosting capabilities.
- Existing contact lists can be imported directly in to the software with a few clicks.
- Provides a detailed set of reporting and analytics tools to measure marketing progress.
- Users are offered the choice of utilizing a dedicated IP address.
- Most basic features offered by email marketing services are offered including: split testing, trigger based messaging, spam score checking, list segmentation, inclusion of surveys, auto-responder services and RSS feed integration.
- 24/7 customer support: US, Europe and Asia
- They do not offer a free plan, instead, they offer users a thirty-day free trial and a pay as you go plan.
- Once users exceed 5,000 subscribers their pay as you go pricing is not as appealing as it was for lower level service.
- To date, SharperEmail gives no indication of integrating social media management in to their email marketing services.
- Attachments must be uploaded directly to the server and inserted in to emails as linked attachments. This is not unusual, as the prominence of viral attachments has forced most email marketing companies to ban direct email attachments. Additionally attaching files causes messages to get flagged by spam filters frequently.
- Google Analytics cannot be integrated
- Create personalized newsletters and flyers. – powerful creation engine makes creating personal newsletters easy to do and unique to each user.
- Large template library- from promotions to postcards, the template library allows users to choose from a wide range of themed templates.
- List building – email marketing is easy to set up and can be changed at any time.
- Sophisticated reporting – detailed reports on all activity is easy to understand
- Advanced delivery methods – anti-spam software and around the clock monitoring ensures your emails will be seen exactly as you send them out
Visit Website: StreamSend
StreamSend’s tagline is Email Marketing You Can Believe In. They are becoming increasingly popular amongst our readers. Streamsend differentiates themselves from the pack by offering unlimited image storage, a private IP address, trigger-based messaging, and extensive social media sharing capabilities. Read the terminology section below to find out what all this means. Pricing starts at $19.90 per month for 2,000 email per month (not limited by # of subscribers like most). If you’d like to try StreamSend out for free for 30 days, click here, or the banner above.
- Very friendly and easy to use interface, complete with drag & drop.
- Offers unlimited image hosting – this is practically unheard of in the industry.
- Unique features include a private IP address, trigger-based messaging, and A/B testing.
- Good list segmentation- includes filters to target specific recipients (filter by domain name, for example)
- In-depth campaign reporting that includes statistics on opens, bounces, subscriptions, and more.
- Integration with Google Analytics.
- Demographic reporting.
- Easy to use importing of contacts from Excel, Outlook, or a CSV (Comma Separated Values) text file.
- Developer API is now available.
- Email Analyzer – lets you analyze screenshots of your email newsletter as it will appear in 30 email clients. You can also see what your message will look like depending on how the user has their mail program setup – ie. with images, without images, and in the preview pane. Finally, you can run your email through 9 popular spam filters to see how it will fare.
- Live telephone support is now available Monday – Friday, 8-5 PST. Call (877) 439-4078, extension 3.
- HTML editor
- Costs slightly more than its competitors but the unlimited image hosting alone may make up the difference in no time if you use images in your emails.
- Doesn’t have as many great looking templates to choose from (100+) as some of the competitors.
- Try StreamSend for free! Jelly Belly is a proud customer of this company.
In Depth Look
Visit our detailed StreamSend Review.
Visit Website: Vertical Response
Vertical Response has been in business since 2001, and they have continued their commitment to customer service. Unfortunately, they have also been receiving quite a few complaints recently as you’ll see in our comments section. Sign up and receive 500 free email credits from Vertical Response (or on the logo at left – this is an exclusive deal for our readers!). And, if you are a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), you can apply for a free credit program. Pricing starts at $10 for 500 users.
|Email List Size||Monthly Cost|
|0 – 500||$10|
|501 – 2,000||$28|
|2,001 – 4,000||$46|
|4,001 – 8,000||$72|
|8,001 – 16,000||$120|
|16,001 – 25,000||$150|
|25,001 – 40,000||$240|
|40,000+||Call for Vertical Response pricing|
- Excellent support community. It appears that the support community has relatively fast response times, is well-organized, and has avid user interaction.
- Offers a whopping 25MB of online image storage for your newsletters.
- Email newsletter archiving included at no additional charge.
- You can segment your mailing list, and send out newsletters to sub-groups of your mailing list.
- Free webinars and support seminars, along with video tutorials, on how to make the most of your email newsletter campaigns.
- Realtime reporting and statistics, accessible from any web browser.
- Offers a free credit program to allow not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organizations to use this program free of charge.
- VerticalResponse Social includes a Social Media Dashboard with which you can schedule a full month of social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Also provides relevant content based on your industry and interests.
- More than 850,000 users so they’ve got to be good.
- No sequential autoresponder functionality, despite the fact that they’ve been promising this feature since 2009. They say they are launching a new VerticalResponse in 2014 with an autoresponder so stay tuned!
- They’re spam checking tools are very limited. For instance, you can’t get a spam score indicating the likelihood that your email newsletter will make it to your subscriber’s inbox.
- The first 25 online survey results are free but once you pass that threshold there is an additional cost (starts at $13.50 per month).
- It’s important that you don’t provide a “from” address in opt-in forms as this may result in confirmation notices not reaching recipients. If you leave the “from” field blank, Vertical Response will auto fill it with one of its own. This should be more obvious.
- When a recipient unsubscribes from a Vertical Response email they unsubscribe from all Vertical Response user emails, so they might unsubscribe from yours unknowingly.
- Direct mail postcards – send direct mail postcards for $0.75 a piece.
- FreeForm web editor – allows you to upload your own HTML.
- Image library & editor – large image hosting space (25MB), and an image editor that lets you crop, resize, flip and rotate your images.
- BigContacts – an integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) tool for advanced managing of your contacts. Pricing starts at $15/month.
- Survey Pricing – VR does offer survey functionality, but at a cost. Pricing is no longer posted on their site but this is the most recent info that we have:
- $13.50/month for up to 1,000 responses.
- $27/month for up to 4,000 responses.
- $45/month for up to 7,500 responses.
- $67.50/month for up to 15,000 responses.
- Follow this link for a free trial of Vertical Response
in Depth Review
- Check our comprehensive review of Vertical Response
Is your EMSP Not Listed?
If the email marketing brand you’re looking for wasn’t reviewed, check the comments below, you’ll find that many of our visitors are posting their own reviews and opinions. We will also stay as current as possible on this list to update existing and add new providers. Your requests are welcome. You can subscribe to our feed in the upper right corner to stay up to date.
Changing email marketing service providers
So let’s say you’ve decided you want to switch to another provider, such as from iContact to Constant Contact, or the other way around. How painful will the transition process be? Fortunately, any good email marketing provider should allow you to export your subscriber list. You can then import the subscriber list into your new email marketing provider. That’s the easy part. You should also consider how you will move your newsletter archives so you do not lose this valuable content you have created over the years. The more difficult part, depending on how your website is set up, will be replacing all the sign-up boxes you have scattered over the Web to gather sign-ups for your newsletter.
Content Management Systems (CMS) make transitioning easier
If you’re using a back-end driven, dynamically generated site such as a CMS (Content Management System – i.e. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) and you have a “block” or “snippet” for your newsletter sign-up box, you should be able to make one update and have it update across your website instantaneously. If you have more than one website, you’ll need to make this update for each website.
The last thing you’ll want to copy over is the design templates you use for your newsletters. Typically you’ll have access to the HTML for these, so copying these over shouldn’t be all too difficult in most services, as most email marketing service providers provide flexible template editing options.
In this section, we outline some email marketing terminology that may sound Greek when you first hear them but don’t worry, we have prepared definitions to help you out. These are referenced often in the reviews, so make sure to check back to this section if you get lost or confused.
- Surveys - email marketing surveys help you capture visitor data. Typically, surveys will let you:
- Create public (anyone can answer) or private (only a specified subset of your subscribers can answer) surveys.
- Choose different answer formats – text boxes, radio buttons, drop-downs, etc.
- Redirect visitors to a custom thank you page upon completion of your survey.
- Export survey results to a file or spreadsheet for analysis (ie. by sorting columns you can gauge responses based on different variables).
- WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get. This is used to describe a web editor interface that lets you design newsletter templates using buttons similar to those found in a word processor such as Microsoft Word. Examples of buttons include bold, italic, using headings, a button to insert images, and more.
- Autoresponder – An autoresponder fires off an email to a subscriber automatically. A single autoresponder is most common – this typically just replies to a subscriber when they sign up. A sequential autoresponder is a little more advanced and allows you to schedule a series of predefined emails to be sent out on a specified schedule.
- A/B Testing (Split Testing) – an Internet marketing technique that lets you test and see which elements of your email newsletter: subject line, text, graphics, design or layout, can be improved to increase your newsletter’s success rate.
- Trigger-based messaging – lets you send messages based on your subscriber’s actions. They offer a more personalized interaction with your subscribers. Examples of trigger-based messages include a welcome email, a “happy birthday” message, a reminder to renew a subscription, a note that a new version of a product is available, a “we miss you ” note to a subscriber that hasn’t opened a newsletter in a while, etc.
- List Segmentation – send messages to subsets of your subscriber base to help establish a stronger connection via more relevant newsletters. Customer segmentation marketing is becoming increasingly important as the consumer looks for more one-to-one communication in the Facebook age. You can use split testing mentioned above with list segmentation to test the efficacy of different subject lines, layouts, and content. You have the option of resending messages to subscribers who didn’t open or respond the first time. Finally, you can target subsets of your subscriber base and mail out promotions and offers based on demographics, purchasing history, geographic location, and more.
- Attachments – most EMSP’s do not allow attachments for a simple reason – they increase the probability of a given message being viewed as spam (as a result, the EMSP (and your) delivery rates may be affected. Attachments can also be flagged as computer virus files. You’re better off using inline links in your newsletter email, which you can then link to a hosted file. When the user clicks the link, they are given the option to download the file. Not as streamlined as an email attachment, but much more likely to allow the email to reach its full audience.
- Spam Score/Checking – finding out whether your subscribers actually got your email is important. If they didn’t, why not? Some EMSP’s offer spam score utilities that help you determine the likelihood of your newsletter ending up in a spam box before you hit send. Spam tests help you optimize and clean up your email campaign before sending it.
- Newsletter Archiving – the ability to save, or archive, your old newsletters. EMSP’s differ in the way they handle this feature. Some offer you to backup a certain quantity or volume of newsletters on their servers. Others offer export options that convert your newsletters into PDF or HTML files so you can download them and/or store them on your website. We point out that there is an SEO advantage to archiving your own newsletters (DIY).
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