Email marketing has become one of the most important parts of any business, especially as so many of our shopping transactions move online. But how do you know which email marketing platform is best for your individual business? Well, hopefully this will help you decide.
With around 12 million active customers, Mailchimp is easily one of the most popular email marketing systems out there. Mailchimp offers numerous pricing plans and can handle campaigns for nearly any size of business. The company boasts their “award-winning support” and hefty list of features helps them stand out from the crowd.
Mailchimp offers a newly redesigned email builder that uses a block system. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can set up an entire email newsletter or mock up a promotional email for your next sale or product release. You can also use Mailchimp’s pre-built templates or set up your own templates so you can simply replace images or text without creating the entire email from scratch. Furthermore, Mailchimp offers options for you to insert surveys, images, videos, and more right into the email.
Mailchimp doesn’t just offer email designs, though. You can create landing pages, custom forms, and even webpages. While these can all help businesses grow and expand their reach, Mailchimp’s simplistic system can limit your design capabilities.
Mailchimp gives users the option to send emails to their entire subscription list or to just specific audience segments. You can also program delivery times based on time zones or other options. Additionally, you can generate a campaign link to share your email campaign on your website, or link social media accounts to share emails out through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Mailchimp includes some analytics tools so you can see your reach through open counts, click rates within the email, and number of replies. You can also connect your Mailchimp account with Google Analytics to receive insights as to how your email campaigns impact your site traffic and sales.
Finally, Mailchimp offers app integration with close to 30 different applications as well as some automation features with certain plans.
Mailchimp offers a free for life version or several paid subscription options depending on your business needs. However, the paid subscriptions include more options for custom branding, better analytics, A/B testing, and other features.
Plan options include:
- Free ($0): Limited to 2000 contacts and only includes basic features
- Essentials (starting at $11/month): More options, plus 24/7 tech support
- Standard (starting at $17/month): Offers time optimization and behavior targeting
- Premium (starting at $299/month): Features for enterprise users
Additionally, each plan has a base price based on a set number of contacts. However, you can pay an additional fee per month if you have more contacts than what’s included in the plan.
Although Mailchimp offers many great features, it does come with its fair share of limitations as well. For starters, their system doesn’t allow for as much in terms of formatting customization as some of the other email marketing services out there. While the company has expanded its automation options, they are still somewhat limited and require you to purchase one of their more expensive plans. Furthermore, many customers say the brand’s list segmentation process is complicated to figure out.
2. Constant Contact
Constant Contact is one of the fastest growing email marketing services out there. This is likely because it’s easy to use and very beginner-friendly compared to other options on the market.
Constant Contact Features
Like Mailchimp, Constant Contact uses a drag and drop block builder for email design. Constant Contact offers a wide variety of pre-built templates plus several pre-designed layout options that you can further customize. Within the email designer, you can add blocks for text, images, videos, polls, products, and more. However, if you don’t see options you want, you can also use custom coding to design your email campaign.
In addition to email design, Constant Contact also offers options for building landing pages, social media posts, marketing ads, survey pages, and even website design. Furthermore, Constant Contact offers app integration with hundreds of other applications businesses may use, including options for payment collection, event promotion, and WordPress.
Depending on the plan you choose, Constant Contact offers helpful features beyond design. In fact, you can set up email automations, A/B testing, drip campaigns, and more. You can also use list segmentation to distribute the best content to the right people. You can even use built-in reports to view individual campaign performances or scope out recent trends in your marketing efforts.
One standout feature Constant Contact offers isn’t actually within their system at all — it’s within their customer support. Even with their 60 day free trial, the company will assign a marketing expert to you who can help answer questions and offer advice as you start using the platform. Their customer support is also available to help you customize your templates or work out any possible issues you may encounter while setting up your account.
Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial, then after that you have two plan options to choose from:
- Core plan (starting at $10/month)
- Email Plus plan (starting at $45 per month)
For the additional fee, the Email Plus plan provides added benefits like email automation, advanced list building tools, and the option to add in coupons or polls. Furthermore, the Email Plus plan allows you to add unlimited users to your team.
Each plan increases by $20 per month for each additional allotment of contacts you add.
The largest limitation with Constant Contact comes down to cost. The company does not offer a free option beyond the 60-day free trial. With that being said, the company does offer a discount for non-profit organizations, which may be helpful to some users.
Constant Contact also lacks in some more sophisticated automations, and some of the automations (like abandoned cart) limit you to using specific other tools (like Shopify).
Hubspot is a leader in CRM (customer relationship management). The company offers software products that can help businesses with sales, marketing, and customer service, including email marketing campaigns. However, this review will solely look at the email marketing service.
Like many of the other options on this list, Hubspot uses a standard drag-and-drop email builder that works with a row-based block system. However, Hubspot’s free version limits you to only a few pre-set templates to choose from and very limited options in terms of what you can add into the email. In fact, you can really only add images, text, videos, dividers, and buttons. With that being said, the system is easy to use and makes building an email quite simple.
Hubspot allows users to view how the email will look on both desktop and mobile before sending it out. Plus, it offers A/B testing as well. Furthermore, users can set up email automations based on certain “yes/no” criteria, which is less limiting than some other email marketing platforms.
Outside of email, Hubspot also offers the ability to build custom landing pages, schedule social media posts, and even work on SEO. However, not all of these features are available for free. Hubspot also offers lot in terms of integration. However, it primarily focuses on integrating with its own CRM so you’ll use Hubspot as an entire solution.
Like Mailchimp, Hubspot does offer a free-for-life, basic version of their email marketing system. The free version limits you to 2000 emails per month, but does include many great features like list segmentation, reporting, and more.
If you need more than what’s included for free, Hubspot offers three paid tiers:
- Starter: begins pricing at $50/month for 1000 contacts
- Professional: beginning at $890/month for 2000 contacts
- Enterprise: beginning at $3,200/month for 10000 contacts
Although Hubspot offers many great features, there is a slight learning curve for those wanting to use some of its more involved features. Furthermore, there’s a steep jump in pricing between their three subscription tiers, which makes it one of the most expensive email marketing platforms on this list in terms of bang for your buck.
ConvertKit brands itself as “the creator marketing platform.” With a quick glance, it’s easy to see why. In most cases, ConvertKit isn’t like many of the other email marketing platforms on this list, but rather something entirely different.
Unlike most of the other email marketing systems on this list, ConvertKit does not use a drag and drop builder. Instead, you get a text-based builder with limited formatting options. With that being said, you can add images, links, and some minor formatting features — but it’s nothing like what you get with the drag and drop systems.
With that being said, ConvertKit is one of the easiest email marketing systems to use in terms of list segmentation, automation, and email broadcasts. ConvertKit’s system makes it easy to set up tags that you can assign to your email subscribers then later use for targeted email campaigns based on the user’s demographics or purchase history. You can even segment off specific subscribers and send specialized email broadcasts just to those users so you’re maximizing click rates.
Furthermore, ConvertKit really shines when it comes to email automations, especially in comparison to competitors like Mailchimp. ConvertKit offers users the ability to set specific email sequences based on an action the subscriber performs (such as signing up for a lead magnet or downloading a freebie from your company’s blog). However, you can set a total of five unique entry points for each sequence, and you can also couple up sequences with other automations to maximize what emails each unique subscriber receives.
Finally, ConvertKit does offer the ability to create landing pages and forms in addition to marketing emails. However, like the email builder, these tools also offer limited features and mainly work off of templates which simply allow you to edi the text and change out images.
ConvertKit does offer a free for life plan, plus two other paid subscription levels. While the free plan does include some features, sequencing and many of the other stand-out features of ConvertKit require you to buy into at least the lower-level subscription, which starts at just $9 per month.
- Free plan: $0/month
- Creator plan: starting at $9/month
- Creator Pro plan: starting at $25/month
ConvertKit is great for someone who needs lots of options in terms of list segmentation and email automations. However, the brand falls behind most of the competition in two main areas: design and integration.
In terms of design, ConvertKit’s text only email builder can feel very limiting to anyone who has used an email marketing platform with a drag and drop system in the past. Furthermore, it limits what you can really do in terms of customization and branding.
When it comes to integration, ConvertKit doesn’t offer a lot of options. In fact, the company doesn’t do any eCommerce integration whatsoever besides Shopify. Additionally, ConvertKit only integrates with Squarespace and Teachable, which aren’t useful to most folks.
Emma is another cloud-based email marketing platform that works for marketing teams of any size. Users can work with Emma on nearly all devices, including smartphones and tablets, which is great for marketing agents who are constantly on the go. As the company claims, Emma can help you do your best work as an email marketing specialist.
Emma offers a straightforward, drag and drop email builder that many people find to be user friendly. The block system works with predefined rows, but Emma gives users the option to turn these off for greater customization. There are also hundreds of pre-designed templates available for users who want to save time and energy.
Furthermore, Emma offers an option to toggle between mobile and desktop views, which is a great feature for anyone who wants their content to look great on a smartphone screen. Within the editor, there are even mobile optimizations that will help you make sure your email campaign looks great no matter where your subscribers open their mail.
In terms of analytics, Emma offers some great insights beyond just open rates. In fact, the company offers click mapping, which essentially tells you exactly what parts of a specific email your subscribers are clicking on, plus side-by-side score comparisons of your most recent email campaign against previous mailings so you can see what direction your stats are trending in.
Additionally, Emma offers app integration with nearly 100 of the most common applications that businesses use, plus several great automation options for emails. Of course, this email marketing service also includes options for list segmentation, A/B testing, and dynamic content, much like many of the other options on this list.
Unfortunately, Emma doesn’t offer any sort of free plan or even a free trial (although you can request a demo through their customer service team). They do, however, offer a total of three pricing tiers: Pro, Plus, and Emma HQ.
- Pro starts at $99 per month
- +Plus starts at $159 per month
- Emma HQ starts at $299 per month
All plans include 10,000 contacts.
Beyond the fact that you can’t even test drive Emma for free, there are some other limitations that users should know about before considering this email marketing service.
For example, Emma doesn’t include landing page building in its lower level subscription, which is something many competitors do offer in their lowest plan options. Also, Emma does require an annual contract versus a month-by-month plan like many of its competitors, which may turn off businesses who aren’t certain that Emma will work for them.
MailerLite is not as well known as some of the larger email marketing platforms on this list, but don’t underestimate them before checking them out. In fact, MailerLite is a great option for someone looking for a stellar email marketing platform on a tight budget.
For email building, MailerLite offers three options: a drag and drop builder, a rich-text editor, and a custom HTML builder (with a paid subscription). MailerLite’s drag-and-drop editor is honestly much more sophisticated than many other email marketing systems use. It offers several categories of blocks you can include, and multiple iterations of each of those. Furthermore, you can choose from three different styles of block layouts, and further customize your email from there.
Outside of the builder, MailerLite offers a lot of integration options — 130 in total. They also offer a webpage builder, landing page builder, pop-up creation, embed forms, and even the ability to customize your unsubscribe page.
MailerLite also offers lots of options to help users maximize on their campaigns, especially in terms of optimization and personalization. In fact, MailerLite offers A/B split testing, auto resend for unopened messages, delivery settings by time zone, and RSS campaigns. Furthermore, you can use tags and segmentation to provide personalized email experiences for your subscribers and set up automations to delivery the right messages at the right time.
MailerLite currently offers a total of three pricing plans:
- Free plan ($0/month): limited to 1000 subscribers
- Growing Business plan (starting at $9/month): more options and higher email limits
- Advanced plan (starting at $19/month): automations, integrations, and promotion pop-ups
- Enterprise plan: custom pricing based on your requirements
In terms of affordability, MailerLite is a great email marketing platform to consider. However, the system is lacking in terms of more advanced features like advanced reporting and more complex automations. This can be a drawback for some.
Also, unlike many of the other options on this list, MailerLite requires users to undergo an approval process before they can start using the software. While this isn’t a huge deal, it may seem like a hassle.
If you’re looking for an outstanding WYSIWYG email campaign creator, look no further than SendGrid. With over a decade in the email industry, SendGrid boasts some big business users like Spotify and Airbnb.
Although they’re known primarily for their SMTP transactional email services, SendGrid offers a great marketing email creation system for people who like to pick their path in terms of visual editing versus coding. In other words, you can go back and forth between the drag-and-drop editor and the HTML editor. This is great for tech-savvy individuals who like having the ability to fully customize their marketing emails.
Also, SendGrid is hands down one of the best options on this list for anyone who needs to create automation sequences. You have the option to create things like automated recurring emails or set up time-based drip systems to maximize engagement. Given that some other email marketing programs don’t offer automations at all, the flexibility SendGrid offers is outstanding.
Furthermore, SendGrid offers lots of compatibility for app integration, and great analytics tools to help you measure your campaign’s success.
SendGrid’s pricing looks a little confusing at first because their Email API plans and Marketing Campaign plans are completely separate. With that being said, SendGrid offers a total of three tiers for marketing emails:
- Free: $0 for 2000 contacts and up to 6000 emails per month
- Basic: starting at $15 per month
- Advanced: starting at $60 per month
The main limitations with SendGrid come with the lack of pre-made template options that other platforms like Mailchimp offer. Also, since SendGrid primarily focuses on transactional emails, it doesn’t offer anything like landing page design or signup forms. However, you can get around these issues by using additional tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which email marketing platform will let me send the most emails for free?
With Mailchimp’s free account, you can send up to 10000 emails per month to up to 2000 contacts. Similarly, MailerLite lets you send 12000 emails per month to up to 1000 subscribers for free.
Does Mailchimp charge for unsubscribed contacts?
Even after someone clicks “unsubscribe” on one of your email blasts, Mailchimp will still count them in your total number of contacts list. However, you can easily remove all of your unsubscribed contacts so you aren’t charged for them.
To do this, simply navigate to the Audience tab, then click “View Contacts” and sort by whether or not their subscribed. Then, select those unsubscribed contacts, and choose “Remove Contacts” to archive or delete them.
What's the difference between Mailchimp/MailerLite and AWS SES/SendGrid?
Companies like Mailchimp and MailerLite are email marketing software options that help you build marketing emails through their system. However, these companies only allow you to send bulk emails, not individual (or transactional) emails to individual users.
Amazon’s Simple Email Service and SendGrid are actually SMTP service providers, meaning they allow you to send transactional and bulk emails. You will need to use your own email marketing software to make use of these services though.
Image credit: Mikael Blomkvist via Pexels
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