There are a lot of email and enewsletter providers out there. So how can a small business person choose which e-newsletter service is best for their small business?
We’re here to help!
Here at Small Business Connection, we analyzed all of the best email and enewsletter services and concluded which ones are best, which are not, which enewsletter provider is most affordable and which isn’t worth your time.
And while all marketing options have their pros and cons, email marketing is among the best of the bunch for one simple reason: With email and enewsletter marketing, especially with the right email service, and maybe even with a free email service, customers are giving you permission to market to them. They want to hear from you. They are opting-in to having you email them.
That makes email marketing unique, and as such, finding the best email service is imperative.
Since business marketing generally, and email marketing specifically, is really is a multi-faceted web (pun quite intended), it can sometimes be overwhelming. Pay-per-click or Facebook ads? Facebook ads or Google ads? While there is plenty to A/B test, and while you should not feel pressured to adopt every single marketing trick out there, a few are absolutely requisite.
Email marketing is one of them.
All of this then begs the question: Which is the best email service for your company? We looked at them all so you don’t have to.
Most of the platforms we reviewed are relatively inexpensive and have some version that offers a free email service. In fact, a few actually have fairly functional free versions. Also, if time is an issue and learning the ins and outs of using a new program is what’s deterring you, keep in mind that most of the platforms we reviewed are easy and intuitive, and even somewhat geared toward beginners.
We reviewed six of the most reputable email marketing platforms on the market. The criteria we concentrated on were:
- Ease of use
- Social media management
- Auto-responders, and
- Third-party add-ons
Specifically, the features we most wanted to see were
Ease of use
Ease of use is arguably the most important feature for both beginners and veterans alike when it comes to choosing an email service, so this was in the very front of our minds when looking for the best email marketing platforms. Some of these platforms offered limited campaign templates, and some offered none at all. For the layperson, a variety of easy-to-use, attractive, intuitive, drag-and-drop templates is a must.
Pricing is a key concern to businesses for obvious reasons, and for entrepreneurs especially.
Almost all of these email platforms set their price based on a user’s number of subscribers, so you need to start by determining how many subscribers you have (or anticipate having). Additionally, most platforms offer both monthly and annual subscriptions. You will pay a lower overall fee by choosing an annual subscription.
It might be smart to start by opting for a free trial or limited free version first so as to get a feel for the look and functionality of each email / newsletter service. This helps as, at first at least, determining price can be difficult to figure given the many options and the extent of features you might need. Playing around with a free version for a bit will thus allow you to get a better idea of what you will and won’t need.
Other features to consider
There are plenty of various features that go into determining the best email marketing platform. Things like email limits, auto-responders, A/B testing, add-on capabilities, social media management, thorough analytics, and mobile compatibility are features that may or may not be important to you. You are not likely to find a platform that offers all of the above, so it will likely be a bit of trial and error to see what matters most for your business.
That said, here are the email marketing platforms that we recommend most:
Best Overall Email Marketing Service
MailChimp very well may be the most well-known email marketing platform, and for good reason. It is great. The user interface is intuitive, attractive, and easy-to-use. The pricing is straightforward. It is easy for beginners to learn and robust for veterans to use.
MailChimp has several plans that can grow and scale with your business. At the entry level, MailChimp has a free email marketing service, starting literally at $0 per month. With this option, you are allowed up to 2,000 subscribers and can send up to 12,000 emails per month. While this isn’t bad for a free version, it is lacking some of the features that make MailChimp so popular.
The first level of their paid plan is called Grow and it starts at only $10 per month. As your list grows, so too does the price, but also so does the functionality.
MailChimp also offers a Pro plan starting at $199 per month. Each paid plan offers both unlimited subscribers and unlimited emails sent per month. The Pro plan makes sense if you send out a lot of emails to a lot of people. It also offers some great analytic tools like comparative reports, advanced segmentation, and multivariate testing.
Whatever plan you choose, MailChimp’s set-up process is helpful and easy with plenty of import options at your fingertips. They offer many different layouts, as well as an HTML editor option. The mobile app and tracking capabilities are also solid.
There are only two drawbacks to MailChimp:
- It is somewhat limited in the support department: There are lots of self-guided help materials throughout their website, but it was difficult to locate an email, phone, or live chat section.
- With a big list, the price can get pricy, upwards of almost $2,500 a year.
That said, the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to MailChimp and no doubt you will be happy with the look, feel, and functionality of the newsletter and other email campaigns you run from the site.
Best Email Service for Small Business
Constant Contact is another great option for email marketing, and given its longevity and reputation in the field (it is one of the first email marketing services), it is another especially solid choice, not to mention a very good choice for beginners.
Constant Contact offers two paid plans: Email and Email Plus. You can send unlimited emails no matter which plan you choose, which cannot be said of all email platforms. And, as with most of these services, the price of either plan depends on your subscriber list:
- For up to 500 subscribers, you will pay between $20 and $45 per month
- For 10,000 subscribers, you will pay $95 to $125 per month
Constant Contact excels in its comprehensive reports section, above-par mobile app, importing options, form building, and add-ons. It even offers a stock image library, which is unique to Constant Contact. Its support section is also excellent – phone support and Twitter support are its two main options.
One other thing we loved was the 60-day free trial, which also makes Constant Contact stand out.
Constant Contact falls short when it comes to marketing automation; choices are limited when setting up auto-responders, and there is not much to be said for its sequencing or workflows. Options are also limited when it comes to scheduling campaigns.
Best Affordable Email Service
MailerLite is one of the newest programs out there, and it shows (in a good way) – the design and interface are quite clean and modern. Out of all the programs we reviewed, MailerLite seemed to focus most on simplicity.
While the functionality is solid, and the templates and look of the product equally impressive, what makes MailerLite stand out is the price. MailerLite is one of the most affordable options out there, and the best for the price. For up to 1,000 subscribers, your plan is free (and with unlimited emails to boot.) For up to 2,500 subscribers, you’ll only be paying $10 per month. For 5,000 subscribers, $20 per month. I personally have a list of 50,000 and on MailerLite we pay a little more than $1,000 a year (all plans offer a discount if you sign up annually rather than monthly.)
MailerLite excels in a lot of ways. Although they only offer 21 email templates, the designs are fantastic; you might not need too much variety with these beautiful designs. Everything is very user-friendly, and their customer support is above par. MailerLite offers A/B testing, good auto-responders, and an excellent reports sections.
There aren’t many cons when it comes to MailerLite, but that could be attested to their newness. As far as we can see, though, MailerLite very well may be the best bang for your buck.
Best Email Service for Ecommerce
Drip is unique from other email marketing platforms in that it focuses specifically on e-commerce and truly understanding and engaging with your customers and buyers. Because of this, Drip is demonstrably more expensive than the rest, but it very well may be worth the price for small businesses that are focused on ecommerce.
As Drip says, “Personalized emails drive first-time and return buyers. With Drip, you can easily send abandoned cart messages and customized emails that drive sales and deepen customer relationships. Drip’s unmatched deliverability rate will make sure you’ll land in the inbox.”
Drip’s Basic plan starts at $49 per month, for up to 2,500 subscribers. Though the price point is a little high, keep in mind that you still get unlimited email sends. Their Pro plan starts at $99 per month for up to 5,000 subscribers. For either of these two plans, you can opt for a 14-day free trial before committing. If you have more than 5,000 subscribers, you can sign up for the Enterprise plan, the price of which will vary depending on your subscriber list. Keep in mind that each plan includes all features, which is also unique.
Drip’s best features are its customization and personalization, its automation workflows, advanced tracking and analytics, form building, and seemingly endless tags that can be added to individual subscribers. The support section is also quite good.
Yet, while Drip is one of the very best email marketing platforms on the market, it might not be well-suited for beginners. The highly advanced e-commerce marketing automation comes with a plethora of excellent features that might only feel straightforward to the more seasoned user.
One downside is that although A/B testing is supported, it is difficult to test out your actual email content (testing out subject lines and delivery timing is no problem, however.) There are also no email templates.
Best Email Service for Social Media
iContact is another solid option for beginners, especially if your main focus is social media integration. Indeed, in terms of social media tools, there is no better option than iContact.
For up to 500 subscribers, the Essential plan will cost $14 per month, and the Pro plan will cost $99 per month. For up to 2,500 subscribers, you’ll be paying $32/99 per month, respectively. Like most platforms, the cost of your plan will depend on the size of your subscriber list.
Again, iContact is best when it comes to social media. The platform is able to integrate with all the main social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. You can even schedule posts on those platforms and see in-depth analytics.
Besides social media, iContact is also great with form building, user management, and ease of use. Their campaign tracking is state-of-the-art. As well, they offer hundreds upon hundreds of attractive email templates with tips for how to use each of them.
iContact is mostly pretty great, but it falls short when it comes to scheduling recurring campaigns and adding contacts (you cannot import from your primary email.) The help section is good, but hours are limited.
Other Email Services
One other service we looked at worth noting and considering:
GetResponse is an easy-to-use platform with an intuitive dashboard and straightforward features.
GetResponse’s Email plan starts at $15 per month, for up to 1,000 subscribers. The Pro plan starts at $49 per month for 5,000 subscribers, the Max plan starts at $165 per month for 10,000 subscribers, and the Enterprise plan starts at $1,199 per month for 100,000 subscribers and up. GetResponse offers a 30-day free trial for up to 1,000 contacts, too. All plans offer unlimited email sending.
GetResponse is best at marketing automation and setting up autoresponder triggers, which cannot be said of many of the platforms that are geared toward beginners. Campaign scheduling is thorough and easy, the campaign tracking is top tier, the help section is great, and there are no limits on A/B testing. GetResponse offers decent campaign templates as well as an HTML option.
Other than the lack of mobile app and social media automation, GetResponse is a fine choice too.
The Bottom Line
All of the platforms we reviewed are top-of-the-line, but choosing the best platform you depends on what you need for your business in particular. For marketing automation and e-commerce, go with Drip. For social media concerns, choose iContact. For people beginning their email marketing journey, MailChimp might be right. And for the biggest bang for your buck, go with MailerLite.
Whatever your choice, email marketing is one of the best investments you can make for your business.