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Does email marketing seem like an ancient method of communicating with your followers? Think the opposite, because it’s definitely far from outdated.
In fact, the ROI is $54.33 for every $1.43 spent on email marketing (up from $35.64 the previous year)1, despite the proliferation of promising new digital channels.
There are hundreds of email marketing companies out there (we review over 20 of the top brands here!), so how do you weed them out and find the best one for your business? We give our recommendations for the best email marketing service providers as well as some other need-to-know information.
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.
To even stay in business, an email marketing service provider (EMSP) needs to have relationships with the major ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, etc. If they didn’t, emails would get blacklisted, and clients, unable to reach their customers, would not be happy.
EMSPs all advertise that they have the best “whitelisting” relationships with ISPs, but the truth is — the arrangements are more or less the same. The important thing is that the EMSP has 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 if one user misbehaves. Constant Contact, Vertical Response, StreamSend and iContact (and typically the rest of the lot) take the same anti-spam measures.
Common anti-spam measures, in accordance with CAN-SPAM (an official anti-spam policy), 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.
These requirements got even stronger in May 2018 when the European Union introduced a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Compliance measures were put in place across the world to meet these requirements, strengthening data privacy for all consumers.
Many service providers, such as Constant Contact, offer a free or paid service that archives your old email newsletters on its website. This isn’t always ideal for you, from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) point of view.
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 EMSPs servers, however, you won’t get credit for it and may miss out on valuable website traffic. Look to either archive your old newsletters on your own website, or find a way to copy/paste the archive from the service over to yours.
From our research, Benchmark, GetResponse, Campaigner, MailChimp, StreamSend, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, iContact and Active Campaign provide the best entry-level opportunities for small businesses. Of these nine companies, we would recommend that you start with our top 3 overall winners to determine the best fit for your needs.
These services 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.
We’ve chosen the top 3 picks for email marketing based on features, price, customer service, usability and more.
GetResponse’s user-friendly interface and email intelligence make it one of the easiest programs to jump into and get emailing in no time, and it has more than 350,000 customers to prove it.
GetResponse actively helps you improve your campaigns to better reach and connect with your audience every step of the way. Other perks include online surveys, inbox preview, autoresponders and social networking integration. It gets high marks for customer service, which goes a long way in our book.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with its monthly accounts — more than most other email marketing service providers. What are its limitations? Advanced list segmentation and HTML-based email customization.
Get Response offers a 30-day free trial (no credit card required).
GetResponse’s fees are on a per-month, per-contact pricing scale, and there is no contract to sign or cancellation penalty. All include an unlimited number of emails. If you’re looking for longer-term use, you can save some substantial money with their annual 18% discount or 30% discount for two-years (prices below don’t reflect this discount, and you must pay ahead of time).
GetResponse gives nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organizations a 50% off “forever” discount on all of its pricing.
|List Size: 1,000||$15/month||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|List Size: 2,500||$25/month||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|List Size: 5,000||$45/month||$49/month||N/A||N/A|
|List Size: 10,000||$65/month||$75/month||$165/month||N/A|
|List Size: 25,000||$145/month||$165/month||$255/month||N/A|
|List Size: 50,000||$250/month||$280/month||$370/month||N/A|
|List Size: 100,000||$450/month||$490/month||$580/month||N/A|
|List Size: 100,000+||N/A||N/A||N/A||starting at $1,199/month|
iContact moves up to our second spot for the best email marketing service provider this year. iContact offers very competitive pricing plans for its basic services (starting at $14/month for 500 subscribers) with a wide array of features and a solid deliverability reputation.
Its premier offerings, however, seem to be its best selling point. With iContact’s marketing services you get a dedicated account manager to focus on your email design, campaign and analytics, but it’s unclear how much this will cost you — you have to contact the company for pricing.
iContact offers a 30-day free trial, with no credit card required.
iContact fees are very competitive compared to other providers. Its pricing is based on the number of contacts per month, and you can pay monthly — no long-term contract is required. You receive a 15% discount on monthly pricing if you purchase the annual plan. It also provides a 20% discount for nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organizations (free account for North Carolina-based nonprofits). iContact has a 30-day free trial.
|Number of Contacts||Price Per Month for Essential||Price Per Month for Professional|
|25,001-35,000||$239||Call or request a quote online|
|35,000-50,000||$299||Call or request a quote online|
iContact occasionally has seasonal coupon codes, visit our dedicated iContact coupon page
Constant Contact is one of the oldest and best-known email marketing services around — it’s been in business since 1996. One of its biggest selling points is that it’s easy for beginners to get up and running in no time. The platform makes it easy to manage your contacts, segment mailing lists, use email templates, take advantage of reporting and analytics and much more.
However, to get advanced features, like trigger-based messaging and split A/B testing, you’re going to have to upgrade your pricing plan. These are features that many other services include in base plans — and the main reason Constant Contact doesn’t fall into our top 2 spots. It’s also expensive compared to our top 2 picks. But if you can fit it into your budget, it’s one of the easiest platforms to use.
Follow this link to receive 60 days free.
Pricing for Constant Contact is on a per month basis. You get a 10% discount on the following prices if you pre-pay for 6 months or a 15% discount for 12 months.
|Number of Contacts||Price Per Month|
Constant Contact also offers an email marketing service called Email Plus. It includes email automation, online surveys, events management, online donations and more.
|Number of Contacts||Price Per Month|
If you are confused by the terminology we use in the table below, you can get definitions of our industry terms at the bottom of this article.
To see the full table, make sure you *use the scrollbar at the bottom* of the table. Alternatively, click on the table and use your arrow keys to scroll across.
|Company||1st: GetResponse||2nd: iContact||3rd: Constant Contact||Best For Small Businesses: Benchmark||Best For Large Companies: Pinpointe||Best For Ecommerce: SendinBlue||Best For Overall Value: Mailigen||Best Free Plan: MailChimp||ActiveCampaign||AWeber||Campaign Monitor||Campaigner||ConvertKit||Emma||FireDrum||FreshMail||JangoMail||Mad Mimi||Salesforce Marketing Cloud||SharpSpring||VerticalResponse|
|Company||1st: Get Response||2nd: iContact||3rd: Constant Contact||Best For Small Businesses: Benchmark||Best For Large Companies: Pinpointe||Best For Ecommerce: SendinBlue||Best For Overall Value: Mailigen||Best Free Plan: MailChimp||ActiveCampaign||AWeber||Campaign Monitor||2nd: Campaigner||ConvertKit||Emma||FireDrum||FreshMail||JangoMail||Mad Mimi||Salesforce Marketing Cloud||SharpSpring||VerticalResponse|
|Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
|Free Plan||None||None||None||2,000 subscribers, 14,000 emails per month||None||300 emails/day||None||Up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails/ month||None||None||None||None||None||None||Up to 100 contacts & 500 emails/month||None||None||Up to 100 subscribers, unlimited sends||Unavailable||None||Up to 300 subscribers and 4,000 emails/month|
|Lowest Price (Monthly)||$10.50 (1,000 subscribers and 24 months pre-paid)||$11.90 (500 subscribers and 12 months pre-paid)||$17 (500 subscribers and 12 months pre-paid)||$13.99 (600 subscribers)||$42 (5,000 subscribers, 75,000 emails and 6 months pre-paid)||$25 (up to 40,000 emails, unlimited subscribers)||$8 (500 subscribers and 12 months pre-paid)||$10 (500 subscribers)||$9 (500 contacts)||$19 (500 subscribers)||$9 (500 subscribers)||$19.95 (1,000 subscribers)||$24 (1,000 subscribers)||$89 (10,000 contacts)||$5 (up to 500 subscribers)||$14 (up to 1,000 subscribers)||$90 (18,000 emails)||$10 (500 subscribers)||Unavailable||$450 (1,500 subscribers)||$11 (500 subscribers)|
|Up to 2,500 Subscribers||$17.50 (24-month pre-paid)||$27.20 (12-month pre-paid)||$38.25 (12-month pre-paid)||$31.99||Unlisted||$25 (up to 40,000 emails, unlimited subscribers)||$20 (12-month pre-paid)||$30||$39||$29||$29||$29.95 (up to 3,500 subscribers)||$41 (up to 3,000 subscribers)||$89 (10,000 contacts)||$20||$23||$90 (18,000 emails)||$16||Unavailable||$650 (10,000 subscribers)||$33|
|Up to 5,000 Subscribers||$31.50 (24-month contract)||$67.15 (12-month contract)||$55.25 (12-month pre-paid)||$51.99||$42 (6-month pre-paid)||$39 (up to 60,000 emails, unlimited subscribers)||$32 (12-month pre-paid)||$50||$69||$49||$49||$49.95||$64||$89 (10,000 contacts)||$35||$41||$90 (18,000 emails)||$27||Unavailable||$650 (10,000 subscribers)||$55|
|Up to 25,000 Subscribers||$101.50 (24-month contract)||$126.65 (12-month contract)||$191.25 (12-month pre-paid)||$164.99||$135 (6-month pre-paid)||$66 (up to 120,000 emails, unlimited subscribers)||$96 (12-month pre-paid)||$150||$179||$149||$199||$149.95||$166||$369||$125||$131||$144 (for 100,000 emails)||$89||Unavailable||Contact Sales||$160|
|Free Trial||30 Days||30 Days||60 Days||Free Plan||15 Days||Free Plan||30 Days||Free Plan||14 Days||30 Days||5 or less people||30 Days||14 Days||None||Free Plan||None||30 Days||Free Plan||Free Demo||15 Days||Free Plan|
|Customer Service||Live Chat 24/7; Email||M-F 8am-8pm EST via Phone & Live Chat; Email||M-Th: 8am-10pm; F: 8am-9pm; Sa: 10am-8pm EST via Phone & Live Chat||24/7 Live Chat, Email, Phone||M-F: 9am-6pm EST for Phone, Live Chat, Email||Phone, Email||24/7 Live Chat, Email, Phone||Live Chat M-F: 9am-5pm EST; Email 24/7||Phone, Email, Live Chat||Phone, Live Chat: M-F 4am-8pm & Wknds 9am-5pm EST||24/7: Email; Phone Support Only with Top Plans||24/7||Open a Support Ticket||Phone, Email||M-F 2-10am Phone; M-F 7am-11pm & Wknds 8am-8pm GMT Email||M-F 7am-5pm EST Phone, Email, Live Chat||Live Chat & Email||Live Chat, Phone & Email||Phone, Email M-F: 8:30am-8pm EST||Phone, Live Chat & Email|
|Image Hosting||1GB||5MB||1GB or 2GB||10MB (upgrade to unlimited for $5/mth)||Unlimited||Yes, but unlisted||1GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||50MB||N/A||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||1-100GB||25MB (free)|
|RSS Feed Integration||Coming soon||N/A|
|Built-in SMS (Text) Messaging||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||N/A|
|Surveys||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration Only||N/A||Through Survey Monkey Integration Only||Integration Only||Integration with Survey Monkey Only||Through 123 Contact integration||Integration Only|
|Allows Attachments||Up to 5mb||Yes, One Attachment (1mb Limit) Per Campaign||Up to 1mb||N/A||Using AMPScript||Up to 5MB|
|Google Analytics Integration||N/A|
|Private (Dedicated) IP Address||$28.95/month||$50/month||N/A|
|Sign Up||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
Now that you have an idea of what EMSPs can offer you and our picks for the overall best 3 EMSPs, we’re going to dig a little more deeply into this industry so you can find the email marketing provider that fits the unique needs of your business or organization. Here are our winners that are “best for” the following categories:
- Small Businesses & Nonprofits: Benchmark
- Large Companies: Pinpointe
- Ecommerce: SendinBlue
- Overall Value: Mailigen
- Free Plan: MailChimp
A solid and progressive email marketing provider, Benchmark has stepped up its competitive edge with its Free Plan for Life, which gives you up to 2,000 contacts and 14,000 sends per month with many standard and advanced features that other service providers don’t offer for free.
On top of that, Benchmark offers free surveys, polls and event marketing, as well as the option of having a private IP address ($28.95 per month) and a dedicated server ($199 one-time setup fee
) for large volume senders. The majority of providers don’t even offer these extended features.
What we really like is that it genuinely cares about its customers’ concerns, and this is showcased by its in-dash feedback forum where you can voice your concerns without ever navigating away from the page. Click here to get started with its Free Plan for Life.
Below is some of the Benchmark Email pricing. Visit Benchmark’s website for a full pricing list. Benchmark also gives you the option of upgrading image hosting from 10MB for free to unlimited for $5/month. Nonprofit 501(3)(c) organizations get a 25% discount on all services.
|Number of Contacts||Sends Per Month||Price Per Month|
Pinpointe is an advanced service geared toward B2B (business to business) email marketers and larger volume senders. It delivers all the features advanced email marketers want, and its automation is one of the best we’ve seen.
It includes sub-accounts for universities and larger companies (in the Enterprise version), surveys, advanced reports, including click heat maps, easy to use campaign builders, and trigger and drip campaigns with flexible and dynamic segmentation. While some of the more sophisticated services can get overwhelming, Pinpointe offers a surprisingly easy, intuitive interface, and users rave about the knowledgeable and responsive customer service.
Try Pinpointe’s 15-day free trial (no credit card required).
Pinpointe offers 10% off the following prices if you pre-pay for 6 months.
|Number of Contacts||Monthly Number of Emails Send Limit||Price Per Month|
Originally designed for online merchants, SendinBlue has made great strides (60,000 global customers) since launching in 2012. Its approach combines email marketing campaigns, transactional emails and SMS (text) mobile messaging to best meet its users’ needs, and many of its best features are geared toward the customer sales process.
There are some substantial missing features, but there’s been a lot of buzz about SendinBlue recently, so we think it’s worth trying out. Some big features for SendinBlue include marketing automation (send target emails based on contact’s activity), email heatmap (know where customers click most) and dynamic list (create lists that are updated every 24 hours based on filters).
Learn more in our interview with SendinBlue CMO, Amalia Bercot.
|Email Plan Name||Lite||Essential||Premium Silver||Premium Gold||Enterprise|
|Emails Per Month||40,000||60,000||120,000||350,000||Tailored Volume|
|Price Per Month||$25||$39||$66||$173||Custom|
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 template selections. All things considered, Mailigen is a fantastic option loaded with features that make for a solid product.
Try Mailigen’s 30-day free trial (no credit card required).
Mailigen offers significant discounts off of the following prices if you pre-pay for 12 months. Check out their website’s sliding price scale to see more pricing options. There is a 25% discount for nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations.
|Subscribers||Price Per Month|
MailChimp is one of the most popular choices for email marketing software, partly because it offers the best free plan compared to all other services. With the free plan, you get 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, free forever.
MailChimp has a simple and fun interface and a lot of features for beginners and budget-conscious users. Some of MailChimp’s latest additions include shoppable landing pages, enhanced segmentation and tagging, postcards and native integrations through their tool “Connected Sites,” which includes WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce and many other sites.
MailChimp offers the best free plan for 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails sent and variety of features than any other email marketing service. It also provides monthly pricing and pay as you go fees for those who need more than what you can do with the free plan.
With MailChimp’s monthly subscriptions you pay per number of contacts, but you get an unlimited number of emails you can send each month. You can add Pro to your plan for $199 per month. Pro provides analytics tools to help grow your business.
|Number of Contacts||Price Per Month for Growing Business||Price Per Month with Pro|
|5,000+||Use its online calculator||Use its online calculator|
Pay As You Go Plan
MailChimp gives you the option of buying packages of email credits, which you use like postage stamps. These can be a great option if you’re on the free plan but occasionally need to send more emails than the 12,000 limit.
|Number of Credits||Price|
To jump straight to an in-depth review of an email marketing provider you’re interested in, click on one below.
Although not widely considered one of the big players in the email marketing service provider world, ActiveCampaign is certainly giving competitors a run for their money. ActiveCampaign has one of the slickest and most intuitive interfaces out there, and all the features you’ll need, whether you’re a novice or a pro.
Also, it has fully built-in CRM sales and automation, a ton of apps and integrations and full API. However, there are a few drawbacks that keep it from rising to the top — if you need to do affiliate marketing, for example, look elsewhere. It’s strictly not allowed with ActiveCampaign. Still, this service brings a wow factor with its ease of use and affordable pricing.
ActiveCampaign has a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).
What began as an autoresponder service is now a full-fledged email marketing provider — one of the more popular ones out there. AWeber recently acquired Omnistar, another popular email marketing provider, so it continues its growth as one of the major players in this space. AWeber prices itself competitively and is a strong contender in the email marketing battle.
What’s missing? AWeber isn’t as up to date on social media integrations and tracking as other top services, and its lack of assimilation with Google Analytics and other standard complimentary products could turn some away.
One cool feature is its broadcast archive, which optimizes the newsletter archiving process by turning newsletters into easy to use web pages for your visitors.
Aweber acquired Omnistar Mailer, a previous competitor in this space.
Check out AWeber’s 30-day free trial.
AWeber pricing is per contact, per month, with no contracts or cancellation fees. Try it out with the AWeber free trial for 30 days.
|Number of Contacts||AWeber Cost Per Month|
Coupon CodeAWeber offers three months free to non-profits and 25% off after that. Students get 20% off. Click here to take advantage of AWeber coupons!
Campaign Monitor is an email marketing software built specifically with graphic designers in mind, but its drag and drop editor is easy to use for beginners. This interface is very pleasing to the eye and allows for multiple account management.
Campaign Monitor has most of the basics you’ll need to run successful email marketing campaigns, but if you’re looking for seriously advanced features, you may need to look elsewhere.
Campaign Monitor has a free trial if you’re sending to five people or less.
With Campaign Monitor, you have the option of paying per month or by campaign. The pay-by-campaign option is 1¢ per subscriber, plus $5 per campaign. So, if you send to 1,000 subscribers, you’ll pay $15 for the one-time send.
The pay-per-month option is based on your number of contacts, and for the Basic plan also the number of emails you send each month. The Unlimited plan is true to its name, allowing you unlimited number of emails sent each month, based on your number of contacts.
It also offers a 15% discount for nonprofits.
|Call or request quote online|
|Call or request quote online|
|Call or request quote online||Call or request quote online||Call or request quote online||Call or request quote online|
*Premier plan features
- Unlimited plan features
- Advanced link tracking
- Template management for teams
- Email design consultant
- Customer Success Manager
**Unlimited plan features
- Unlimited number of emails you can send
- Unlimited spam testing
- Unlimited inbox previews
- Advanced marketing automation
***Advanced plan features
- Advanced segmentation
- Activity-triggered journeys
- 1:1 email content
- Behavioral customer data
Campaigner has reasonable pricing and includes 50mb CDN, media/image hosting, A/B testing, social media integration and autoresponders at no additional cost. And its award-winning customer service team is known for reliable tech support.
While Campaigner has been a top choice for small businesses for years, their user interface hasn’t kept up with their competitors, and customers report that the system has become too buggy and slow.
Campaigner acquired StreamSend in 2017. j2 Global, Inc. (owner of Campaigner) previously acquired Contactology in 2014.
Try a 30-day free trial of Campaigner.
Pricing for Campaigner is on a per month basis, based on your number of contacts. All of these plans allow for an unlimited number of emails sent.
|Number of Contacts||Price Per Month|
|Up to 1,000||$19.95|
|Up to 3,500||$29.95|
|Up to 5,000||$49.95|
|Up to 10,000||$79.95|
|Up to 15,000||$99.95|
|Up to 25,000||$149.95**|
|Up to 50,000||$299.95**|
|Up to 100,000||$549.95†|
|Over 100,000||Call or request a quote online|
** With the purchase of these higher-end plans, you get some of Campaigner’s more advanced features included in the price: Custom footer, 1GB CDN media hosting, suppressor list, projects and more.
† And with the purchase of the “Up to 100,000” monthly plan you get even more features: Workflows, APIs, static segment sampling, dynamic content, 3rd party Ad content, delivery support and more.
Campaigner occasionally has seasonal coupon codes, visit our dedicated Campaigner coupon page.
ConvertKit is specifically designed for bloggers, podcasters, service-based business owners and YouTubers to help grow your audience and customers.
With ConvertKit’s features and visual automation builder, you can organize your subscribers based on their interests and activity and send them personalized emails. They also have customizable forms, email and live chat support, and over 80 integrations, including Zapier, Shopify and WooCommerce.
ConvertKit offers a free 14-day trial (no credit card required), and their pricing starts at $29 per month for up to 1000 subscribers. They also offer a 30-day refund.
Emma boasts helping big-name organizations like NPR, DISH, Tito’s, Serta, Girl Scouts and more with their email marketing needs. Emma emphasizes the service end of email marketing, and it shows in rave reviews of its customer service.
Its drag and drop email editor is easy to use, and it offers full image integration from Facebook and Flickr, which could mean the world to a small business looking for free image hosting. Emma is significantly more expensive than some other services, but as you work up the pricing scale, the prices become much more competitive.
FireDrum offers a multitude of email marketing and automation services, from DIY (best for freelance to small businesses) to plans for marketing agencies and large companies. When you search its website, it can be overwhelming, because it has a wide variety of plans and services it offers for each plan.
The DIY plan starts at a free forever level, but it’s limited (only 100 subscribers and 500 emails per month), but the paid pricing levels are very competitive and include all the basic features you’ll need to get your email marketing up and running.
What’s great about FireDrum is the a la carte services offered if you don’t have time to take on the details, i.e., list assistance, HTML programming, campaign management, etc. All charge a fee, of course, but it’s a great option to have.
FreshMail’s paid plan is extremely affordable compared to similar EMSPs. You get a number of advanced features with an intuitive interface that makes the process simple and fun.
The downside of FreshMail? Since it’s based in the UK, its phone support hours are extremely limited. We’ve seen some excellent reviews about the high quality of its customer service.
FreshMail offers a 10% discount on its monthly paid plan if you pre-pay for 6 months and 15% for 12 months. Pay-as-you-go rates start at $30 for 5,000 emails.
JangoMail began in 1998 as an 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.
For all of JangoMail’s incredible feature options, it comes with a price. It is one of the more pricey services out there and probably better for larger businesses or marketing agencies (it offers pretty extensive agency features, including multiple-users).
Price is based on number of emails sent per month, rather than the standard number of contacts per month, so depending on your business needs you can end up spending a lot more than you would with its competitors.
JangoMail has a 30-day free trial.
Mad Mimi doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the top guns when it comes to email marketing providers, but we think that’s okay. Sometimes less is more if you don’t want to wade through features you won’t use.
Geared toward a simpler approach, Mad Mimi offers what most small businesses need with a very affordable price tag. Its standard features are solid, except split A/B testing and template selection variety. Yet it also provides a decent selection of apps/integrations, social sharing and a robust API, so it isn’t falling behind the technology times.
Omnistar Mailer has been acquired by AWeber, a competing email marketing service provider that’s growing in popularity and becoming a contender as one of the top services. Omnistar got its start in 1999 in the real estate industry and became popular for its excellent autoresponder features.
You can still access Omnistar Mailer through its original website for the time being, but all the links on that site drive you directly to AWeber. Check out AWeber to see how it compares to other services.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud has been around since 2000 and tags themselves as the future of marketing. 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 makes it easy to analyze all of your online marketing efforts, Salesforce Marketing Cloud may be perfect for you.
Call or complete its online email form. Unlike other email marketing service providers, Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides no pricing information online. It offers a number of different packages beginning with its Basic plan, and each step-up plan includes all of the features of lower tiered plans.
It indicates on its website that you can customize bundles based on your business needs, but it’s not clear how many specific features can be purchased a la carte.
SharpSpring, previously known as GraphicMail, is a young but popular marketing automation software solution that has received excellent reviews from its users so far.
What’s exciting is its behavior-driven features, which bring together personalized emails, autoresponders, analytics and more so you can drill down to each customer’s specific activities (translation: you can target them in the areas in which they engage the most). Other EMSPs offer this feature as well, but customer behavior seems to be SharpSpring’s main area of focus.
SharpSpring offers a 15-day free trial.
VerticalResponse has been in business since 2001, and it’s come a long way. It has launched some excellent new features in the last couple of years including a free plan, the addition of an autoresponder (free for a limited time) and a new API and developer program that gives small businesses even more marketing tools to expand their reach. If you are a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), you can apply for a free credit program.
Below is the pricing for email marketing through VerticalResponse.
VerticalResponse now offers a pretty impressive free plan available to anyone with no limited time offer. You can have up to 300 subscribers and send 4,000 emails per month at no charge.
For those looking to send emails more frequently or for those with larger email lists, you can purchase monthly plans, which include an unlimited number of emails sent. Monthly prices increase as you add more subscribers, but paying a bit more gives you some added perks.
|Number of Contacts||Basic*||Pro**||Pro+***|
- Send unlimited emails
- Send automated follow-up emails to contact
- Award-winning phone and live chat customer support
- Remove VerticalResponse logo from your emails
- Create & publish multiple Landing Pages
- Analyze campaigns by engagement, device, browser, domain & geography
- See heat maps of where your contacts are clicking
- Automate campaigns with autoresponders and email series
- Optimize campaigns with subject line testing
- Get 10 Test Kit credits per month
- Work with an expert campaign strategist who will create and send emails for you
- Receive 1 expert-created promotional email per month
- Receive 1 expert-created newsletter email per month
- Receive 8 expert-created social posts per month
- Receive tailored reports and suggestions for optimization
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?
Export Your Subscriber List
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.
Transfer Your Archives
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.
Setup Your Email Sign-Up Box
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.
Design Your Newsletter
The last thing you’ll want to copy over is the design templates you use for your enewsletters. 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.
As with any new topic, over time, these terms will quickly become second nature to you as you begin using and applying them. To help you out, we have prepared a comprehensive list of definitions that will equip you with the knowledge and expertise to implement successful email marketing campaigns.
- A/B (Split) Testing
- Application Programming Interface (API)
- Bounce and Bounce Rate
- Click-through Rate
- Email Marketing Service Providers (EMSPs)
- List Segmentation
- Open Rate
- Newsletter Archiving
- Responsive Design Templates
- Spam Score/Checking
- Subject Line
- Text Version
- Trigger-based Messaging
- WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
If you have an email marketing term that you’re confused about or we didn’t capture in our list, leave us a comment below.
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. Some email marketing service providers include this feature to help you split test and give you results to find out which performs better.
Most popular Email Marketing Service Providers (EMSPs) now offer what’s called an API (or Application Programming Interface), which allows you to connect/integrate other existing software to the EMSP. Benefits include data sharing, better contact importing, better contact list management and analytic reporting capability and more. The options are numerous, depending on your needs and what type of API the EMSP offers. An example of an API would be Salesforce, a popular customer relationship manager (CRM) used for tracking leads. EMSP’s can use the Salesforce API to automatically send out campaigns to segments of your existing database, without having to import or export lists from other programs.
Almost all EMSPs 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’s (and your) delivery rates may be affected). Attachments can also be flagged as computer virus files. For that reason, 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.
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 schedule.
A bounce is when an email is rejected by the recipient’s mail server. There are two types of bounces. A soft bounce is when an email is temporarily un-receivable due to a full mailbox or email size, and a hard bounce is a permanent fail to deliver. Emails that have hard bounces should be removed from your email database because they do not exist. Soft bounces, on the other hand, are okay to keep in your database, but you should keep an eye on them over time. Some EMSP’s will continue to try to send to soft bounce emails several times to attempt success (but not guaranteed). The bounce rate is the percentage of emails that bounce back on your email list. For example, if you have one email out of 10 that bounces back, you would have a 10% bounce rate. If your bounce rate is high, then your account could be flagged for having a large number of undeliverable emails.
A term you might often hear thrown around is “CAN-SPAM” which stands for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act – or “Canning spam” email. Signed into law in 2003 it contains a series of email marketing guidelines enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect U.S. consumers. Most of these compliances are standard in EMSPs including having a mailing address in email campaigns and requiring subscribers to opt in so you shouldn’t have to worry about adhering to them (but you should be aware of CAN-SPAM to make sure you are not breaking the law).
Just as the term states, the click-through rate is the percentage of how many people click on your email campaign. The click rate is used primarily in campaigns with a call to actions that encourage a subscriber to click on a link to buy, read more or sign up (it may be less important in general awareness campaigns). Some EMSPs like Mailchimp show you the industry average click-through rate so you can see how your campaigns compare to others.
These are companies that provide email marketing services for companies to create, deploy and track marketing emails. There are a wide-range of services that offer a variety of different bells and whistles, so it’s important to get to know which is the best service for you and what you are trying to achieve. Read our full review of the best email marketing services.
List segmentation is targeting messages to subsets of your subscriber base. Customer segmentation can be done using a variety of factors based on data you have captured from your newsletter subscribers when they sign up (like interests, location, etc.). If you have the time and resources, segmenting your lists is a great way to help establish a stronger connection via more relevant newsletters. A great use of segmentation is to resend messages to subscribers who didn’t open or click the first time.
The term used for when a subscriber joins your email newsletter. The subscriber must be aware of joining your list before adding them by agreeing to receive email communications from you. Conversely, if someone wishes to remove themselves from your newsletter, you must legally have the option for them to “opt out” within the emails you send.
Similar to click rate, the open rate is much like the name states and is the percentage of opens from a single email campaign. Open rates are often used as a benchmark for success with higher open rates translating to better emails. Catchy subject lines (see below), frequency and timing of campaign can all affect the open rate, so it’s good to test out each to get the highest open rate possible.
This is the ability to save, or archive, your old newsletters. EMSPs differ in the way they handle this feature. Some offer to back up 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. You need to keep in mind that there is an SEO advantage to archiving your own newsletters (DIY).
Given the popularity of smartphones, most email templates are now designed to adjust automatically for viewing on mobile, tablets and PC screens. There are also mobile-aware designs that are more basic in their design than their responsive counterparts. Ideally, mobile-aware designs render on all screens, but they are geared toward smartphone screens so they can get glitchy. Responsive design templates are the optimal choice these days as statistics show that consumers are increasingly opening their emails on the go through their smartphones and tablets. If you don’t have a good design that you know will render well on all screens, you risk losing a great opportunity to build and keep your customers. Use your EMSP to preview your email in smartphone mode or send a test and check it on your own device.
Finding out whether your subscribers actually got your email is important. If they didn’t, why not? Some EMSPs 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.
The subject line is the string of text in the subject field of the email. It gives the reader an idea of what to expect and is one of the most important parts of your message. Think of the subject line as a “hook” to get a subscriber to open the email. While the subject line in traditional email is more informational, the subject line for email marketing should be catchy and engaging, so it catches your audience’s attention. Subject lines should not contain any words that could be flagged as spam like “FREE” or over-use punctuation marks!!! As emojis become more popular, you are likely to see them used more frequently by marketers. However, emoji use may trigger a message to get caught in the spam filter.
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 (i.e., by sorting columns you can gauge responses based on different variables).
Some people might choose to receive a text-only version of email because they have a device that does not support HTML. This is not as common as it used to be, as HTML is now the standard email format.
This lets you send messages based on your subscriber’s actions. It creates a more personalized interaction with your audience. 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.
Aka 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, insert images and more.
Video: Email Still Reigns King
Does email still work? Watch this video to summarize why you should be doing email marketing (if you’re not already) and some additional tips on what to look for in an EMSP.
Email marketing is a great way to drive sales and stay top of mind with your consumers, so it’s a worthwhile service to invest the time and resources (learn more in our Introduction to Email Marketing article).
We reviewed quite a few companies, but if for some reason the email marketing brand you’re looking for wasn’t reviewed, check the comments below where you’ll find that many of our visitors are posting their own reviews and opinions.
Who do you use for your email marketing needs?
Sources:  DMA
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