If you’re reading this, you’re probably a marketing enthusiast trying to figure out which is the best email marketing software and perhaps also trying to buy one for yourself or the company you’re working for.
Well, you’re in the right place. Why? I’ve been a marketer for more than a decade and have used pretty much every email marketing software out there in the market today.
In the last fifteen years of playing different roles in Marketing, like blogger, startup marketing manager, SEO, and solopreneur, I have learned a lot about email marketing tools.
In this article, I’ll share with you…
- How email marketing software works
- What you really need to care about when buying an email marketing software
- The gimmicks email marketing companies throw
- How pricing works and what they don’t tell you upfront
And of course, which are the best email marketing software and the worst.
Why buy an email marketing software?
Why not a free tool?
Exactly what I was thinking ten years back when I was a beginner.
After all, there are so many free email marketing tools available. Why not just pick one up and save some money?
Well, the truth is that yes, you can get away with free email marketing tools but you’re gonna have to upgrade to a paid one at some point.
If you’re serious about email marketing that is.
Email marketing is amazing if you do it right. And one “problem” that comes with doing it right is scale.
Your email list might be just a few hundred today. But it’s gonna grow.
Hundreds become thousands once your business grows.
And that’s when you will realize that your free email marketing software cannot handle the email list growth and that you need to upgrade.
And trust me, free email marketing software folks know this really well. That’s why they try and “hook” you into a small, but free plan early on.
So that they can catch you when you grow and charge a bomb.
‘Cos they know that switching email providers and email marketing software is difficult.
I know many folks who started off with email marketing software, and stuck with it, despite them being a rip-off, just because switching to another “serious” email marketing software would be too much of a fuck up.
If you are serious about email marketing and growing your email list, do not invest in a free email marketing software. By the time you will realize your mistake, you would have gone way too far.Mani Karthik
Which is the best free email marketing software?
The best free email marketing software in my experience are…
I’ll explain why in the reviews below.
How to get started with email marketing
Email marketing is serious business. It’s one of the most converting marketing channels today.
Of course, there are heated debates over whether it is effective or not, but if you do email marketing right, then it can be the best marketing channel ever.
So then, how to get started with email marketing and how to do it right?
Here are the steps to get started with email marketing.
- Identify your target audience and when they would need an email “intervention” in their buying/decision-making journey.
- Identify their pain points and solutions for them.
- Figure out when you should contact your target audience with the “solutions”.
- Figure out what kind of communication is preferred by your target audience. i.e, formal, casual, in-between?
- Find out what others in your niche are doing on email. Find out their weak points, and what they are doing right and wrong.
- Come up with a well-written, sharp email campaign sequence including the above points.
Here’s an example of an email marketing campaign that was meant to send welcome emails to new subscribers at specific periods of time.
Once you set up such a sequence, it’ll be sent automatically and you don’t need to intervene unless there is an issue.
What is the best email marketing software?
The best email marketing software in my opinion is Active Campaign because it has all the factors of a good email marketing software, like…
- Great email deliverability
- Well-balanced pricing structure
- Host of useful features
- Amazing customer support
- Adaptability according to your business needs
- And an easy-to-use interface.
Having said that, it is not fair to recommend one email marketing tool that fits all. The secret to running an amazing email marketing campaign is to choose an email marketing software that suits your business needs. In this article, I have email marketing software recommendations for all types of businesses.
In order to get the best email marketing software, look at pricing, deliverability, automation, and integrations. To make the best use of email marketing software, it should be simple to create emails and monitor metrics. They should also reach users’ primary inboxes. You have to find a good balance between these factors when choosing a good email marketing tool.
Last but not least, email marketing is all about timing. So your email marketing software should be able to help you find the right time to send emails.
Here’s an example of how one feature can make your email software awesome.
Some of the best email marketing software offers a feature called “suppression lists”.
Suppression lists keep track of “bad emails” in the list and keep pruning/removing them from the main send list so that you don’t keep sending emails to those who aren’t interested.
This helps your email list stay relevant and fresh.
Not all email marketing software offers this feature.
10 Best Email Marketing Software
Here is a list of the best email marketing software that I’ve used and reviewed.
You’ll find ActiveCampaign on the top of many lists online, and that is for a reason. No, not just because they have a great affiliate program, but for the reason that, it is a great option for those looking for a robust email marketing platform.
It’s great to get started with and scale in long term.
If you’re just starting out with no experience in email marketing, then ActiveCampaign may not be the right email marketing platform.
But if you have some basic knowledge on how to get started with email marketing, and are looking to grow your email list, then Active Campaign can give you the tools and features to help that growth.
- Automation tools are well built.
- Campaigns are easy to set up.
- Plenty of pre-built email templates.
- Easy to use interface.
- Integrates with many popular marketing & sales platforms.
- Good tech support.
- Many users report deliverability issues.
- Reports aren’t robust as it could be.
So, I took an ActiveCampaign trial, and here’s what I liked (and didn’t).
Their onboarding process is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Once you get started, you can start creating campaigns right off the bat.
ActiveCampaign has six sequence automation email templates to get started. All of them can be used for different use cases. There is a date-based sequence, an RSS triggered sequence (to send blog updates), an autoresponder, and a standard template. This is very useful for beginners setting up their first email automation sequence.
There’s a big list of triggers you can choose from while setting up a new automated email sequence.
Everything from form submission, and email clicks, to web page visits and tags.
If you wanted to create an email sequence based on user behavior on your site this is a great option.
For example, if you wanted to send a follow-up email every time a subscriber visited your website or took action in the email you already sent, you could do it with ActiveCampaign’s automated sequences.
Creating emails too is easy on ActiveCampaign.
There are many pre-built templates to choose from, that you can customize to your liking.
If you’re already using a basic, free email marketing software and want to move to a robust platform that can scale with your business without hiccups, ActiveCampaign is a good cadidate to consider.
SendinBlue is a serious contender to many of the so-called “best email marketing software” out there. Here’s why.
- It offers almost all the top features every top email marketing platform offers at perhaps half the price.
- It’s the most “rapidly updating” email marketing software.
- It can take care of small to big email lists without burning a hole in your pocket.
I love their UX because you can get to most of the things in one click or a glance. Like the reports and dashboard (seen above).
Creating emails from templates is super easy on SendinBlue. I like how you can switch to mobile mode and preview the content in one click.
Their automation and workflows are pretty similar to other platforms like ActiveCampaign with drag and drop UI and a flowchart-like sequence. But it’s not perfect! I made a few mistakes along the way and had to struggle a bit. After a few tries, you’ll get the hang of it though.
P.S – I wish there were more triggers like in ActiveCampaign. 🙁
SendinBlue email marketing software is super competitive when it comes to technology and features. Where it lacks behind is in customer support and hand holding for beginners.
Everybody knows MailChimp. It’s probably the most popular email marketing software there is. But is it the best? I doubt.
MailChimp is amazing to get started with. If you’re a beginner with email marketing or if you have a small email list under 2,000 and don’t plan to grow much, then MailChimp is obviously the best choice.
Which is very useful for beginners and folks not familiar with email marketing.
The focus is on building your email list and sending emails. It’s served like a boilerplate template.
If you try to go deep, customize things, or try something new… that’s when things get difficult.
MailChimp makes it extremely difficult for you to do something even as basic as changing the default text on confirmation emails.
You’re better off just leaving things as is.
There’s this nifty feature I love in MailChimp.
And that is, the ability to create segments. You can create segments by matching many filters.
For example, everyone who opened a particular campaign or all recently sent campaigns.
This is a great way to re-engage with your subscribers if you get creative about it.
Reports in MailChimp are also slick!
It shows just what you want in the most intuitive way. No further digging or customizations are possible, but they have thought about most scenarios and give it to you right away.
What’s good with MailChimp
- Super easy to get started.
- Amazing UX and UI.
- No technical knowledge is required.
- Free to use for up to 2,000 subscribers.
- Well-designed email templates.
- A whole lot of apps to integrate with.
What’s not good with MailChimp
- Super expensive if you have a big list.
- Not ideal to scale for businesses with multiple lists.
MailChimp is great if you want to play around with email marketing without any investment. Once you get serious, you gotta move out.
Drip is an email marketing software for eCommerce websites. And the best at that. Period.
While most other email marketing software focuses on drip campaigns (date-based email sequences etc), Drip ironically focuses on transactional and behavioral trigger campaigns.
That is, you’re able to send emails to customers or potential customers, based on actions they take on the site, like page visits, transactions etc.
For eCommerce websites that might want to send marketing emails and post-purchase communications to their customers, this is an excellent tool.
While most other email marketing software like MailChimp or ActiveCampaign can also do this, Drip puts all of it’s effort into eCommerce.
Which is, a good and bad thing.
Good, because it’s great for eCommerce websites. Bad, because it is not so great for everyone else.
Even their email templates available are very “sales-y”, which eCommerce websites will find interesting.
What’s good about Drip
- Amazing UX.
- Focus on eCommerce.
- Plenty of triggers and custom segmentation.
What’s not good about Drip
- Not very useful for other segments other than eCommerce.
MailerLite is the underdog in the email marketing software category. It’s powerful, feature-loaded, yet way cheaper.
I came across MailerLite when I reached the limit on MailChimp and wanted to move to a cheaper email marketing software.
MailChimp is notorious for being expensive if you go beyond the free subscribers limit and this is where MailerLite scores.
It offers pretty much everything MailChimp offers but at almost half the price. Let’s do a comparison.
If you compare features between MailChimp and MailerLite, I can safely say that all the unnecessary frills in MailChimp that you won’t use either way are missing on MailerLite.
Deliverability – MailerLite is better than MailChimp.
Reporting – MailChimp is better than MailerLite.
Forms and Landing Pages – MailerLite is better than MailChimp.
Technology – MailChimp is better than MailerLite.
Automation – MailChimp is better than MailerLite.
MailerLite is an amazing alternative to MailChimp. It is better in terms of features, deliverability, technology and price.
AutoPilot is an amazing software that goes beyond your typical email marketing software and goes all the way up to being even a CRM.
If you’re a SaaS company, it can pretty much do everything from simple email tasks to complex lifecycle marketing tasks.
It excels in email marketing by providing a smarter solution – that is to send relevant emails based on customer interaction/behavior.
The list of triggers AutoPilot offers is way more than what most other email marketing software provides.
You can set up email marketing drip campaigns and sequences by pretty much automating anything with its easy drag and drop (fully customizable) automation sequence creator.
Here’s how it looks.
As you can see, it can be as complex or simple as you want. But the possibilities are plenty.
AutoPilot is also strong with integrations. If you’re using any third-party apps for marketing and sales, like say example SMS campaigns by SendGrid or Customer data scoring by SalesForce. AutoPilot can get data from integrations and use it to create automation.
AutoPilot is an amazing email marketing software for startups and smal businesses. For beginners getting started with email marketing, it can get complicated and may not be a good choice.
8. Email Octopus
Email Octopus is an email marketing software that offers a cheaper alternative to MailChimp and other such expensive tools.
According to their website, their biggest highlight is cost savings and they compare themselves with MailChimp.
All the features you’d enjoy on MailChimp, you’ll get on Email Octopus as well.
For example, email ists, date-based automation, email templates, reports, and app integrations.. all these features are available on Email Octopus.
But what are you missing out on the price drop?
Deliverability – Emails sent via Email Octopus might end up in spam (depending on your content).
Advanced Features – Like A/B testing and event triggers.
Reports – Pretty basic. Nothing fancy.
The biggest disadvantage of Email Octopus is that it can only do simple date-based automation and nothing beyond. Even the automation builder is pretty basic. Not the popular drag and drop UX.
If you want to do advanced behavior-based triggers like in ActiveCampaign or AutoPilot, you’ll need a more robust email marketing software.
But Email Octopus is great for simple email marketing campaigns. It can save you a lot of money as well compared to MailChimp.
Email Octopus is a cheaper alternative to MailChimp. Think of it as a scaled down version that does the basic email marketing tasks at 1/5th the price.
We’re getting into mature territories now.
While MailChimp, MailerLite etc are for beginners and ActiveCampaign for SaaS companies, ConvertKit is an exclusive email marketing software built for bloggers and marketers.
Why do bloggers need separate email marketing software?
Because bloggers don’t need the unnecessary features a SaaS or eCommerce company needs for email marketing.
Bloggers usually leverage content and build email lists based on niches. So, any email marketing software that serves the purpose of lead generation based on topics/niches/CTAs (call to action) is a perfect fit for them.
And that’s what ConvertKit does.
A straightforward email marketing software built for bloggers that will build email lists and send automated date-based email sequences.
What I really love about ConvertKit is its focus on CTAs (call to action) and how many of them are available to experiment with.
When you try to create an email form (to capture emails) it offers you these different options.
ConvertKit has put in the effort to understand why people signup for emails and try to offer as many options for bloggers and content creators to effortlessly capture emails.
In many other email marketing software, they focus on the technology and less on lead capture. Some of them even offer clunky old HTML forms and landing pages for email capture.
ConvertKit clearly wins in this area.
ConvertKit is a good email marketing software for bloggers and marketers who wants to focus on building big email lists with content.
OmiSend is an incredibly feature-rich email marketing software built for eCommerce companies specifically. It competes more with Drip than any other email marketing software.
It’s got everything from SMS, list segmentation, automation, etc.
The sad part is that bloggers, beginners, and anyone looking for a straightforward email marketing solution will find it intimidating.
I would recommend it for those who need to trigger complex email chains based on user behaviors like transactions.
Best email marketing software for startups
Based on my research, the best email marketing software for startups is ActiveCampaign and AutoPilot.
Best email marketing software for beginners
For beginners who are just getting started with email marketing, the best software is MailChimp. Their free tier is amazing to play around with things. Once you hit the 2,000 email subscribers limit, you might want to move to another email marketing software though.
Cheapest email marketing software
Comparing all the email marketing software mentioned here (and some not), the cheapest email marketing software that provides value for money is MailerLite and EmailOctopus.
Best email marketing software for enterprise
If you’re looking for the best email marketing software for the enterprise, it’s got to be SendinBlue and Constant Contact.
Wait, what is email marketing?
Email marketing is the process of communicating through emails to a large number of people using dedicated email sending tools at scale.
Email marketing is used for communications, promotion of items or services, and sometimes customer retention. Email marketing uses email to nurture and develop relationships with subscribers to achieve marketing or sales goals.
Email marketing is a subset of digital marketing, which includes paid marketing, SEO, social media, and content. It is usually used at various stages of marketing depending on the marketing strategy. For example, sometimes email campaigns are used to welcome newly onboarded customers, sometimes to remind potential customers to buy a product, or sometimes to collect feedback from existing customers.
How to choose the best email marketing software?
When choosing an email marketing software, look for the following factors so that you get the best email marketing software for your business.
Emails sent through the software should reach at least 80% of the list members.
Here’s an example of a poor marketing campaign that I sent on MailChimp. Notice how the open rate is only 3.1%? That sucks.
It could have been the email title or the email platform itself that not many people read the email.
Availability of custom email designs
Email software should provide custom email templates to choose from.
A good email marketing software should be able to automate sending emails in sequences based on triggers and rules.
Example: I love this feature from Aweber, where it gives you pre-built automation sequences to choose from while creating a new campaign.
Any good email marketing software should give you reports and analytics on how the email sequences performed.
For example here is a report from MailChimp, that shows the subscribers with the most number of clicks in a particular email campaign.
Very useful! <3
It also shows the open rate and clicks rate of a particular email campaign and how it matches up with the industry average.
It even tells the links within the email campaign, that got the most number of clicks (and how many).
Very very useful when you’re deciding what links to add in the email.
A good email marketing software should provide landing pages and forms for lead generation and email signup.
Here is a snapshot of the kind of landing pages Aweber provides.
Most email marketing software provides pre-built landing pages but you got to choose the ones that are fast loading and well coded. Some of them are clunky and slow.
A good email marketing software should provide email list segmentation options, based on which signups can be segmented.
Should provide good mobile preview and support.
Low spam score
Any good email marketing software will have a low spam score on its technical infrastructure.
How does email marketing software work?
Email marketing software works by sending mass emails to subscribers (people who have opted in for email communication) through dedicated web servers like Amazon Web Servers or Google Servers. They are able to send custom emails in bulk to a large number of people (usually potential customers) based on their preferences like the product, time, offers, etc.
This strategy improves customer acquisition, connection building, and loyalty.
With email marketing, you may simply contact your target audience without paying for pricey Google or Facebook ads.
What are the benefits of email marketing platforms?
The benefits of email marketing platforms are that they are able to send a large number of customized emails in bulk, to a large number of subscribers based on various preferences. They can automate email sending, based on triggers (or customer behavior) easily without any human intervention.
What are some email marketing best practices?
Here are some email marketing best practices I’ve learned over the last couple of years sending thousands of emails using email marketing software.
- Do not send unsolicited emails.
- Always ask for consent from anyone before sending emails.
- Do not send irrelevant emails.
- Customize your emails to the subscriber’s liking.
- Send emails that can be read on any platform (mobile, web, laptop, etc)
- Send from your own domain name email id and not a free one.
- Avoid sending emails with plenty of images.
- Try to make the content as short and crisp as possible.
- Respect people’s time.
- Invest in good email marketing software. Do not go for free email marketing software.
- Get a dedicated IP for your email sending server if possible to reduce the spam ratio.
- Do not use “spammy” words/content in your email.
- Always start by sending emails to a small set of people before going for everyone.
In summary, choosing an email marketing software is easy if you know what your requirements are. Is it a basic email sequence for everyone who signs up on your website or is it a complex behavior-based trigger? Or is it an eCommerce solution? For every use case, there is good email marketing software. It’s just that you should know what you’re aiming for.
If you aren’t clear about what you want to accomplish with email marketing, you might end up buying an expensive piece of software that you don’t need, just because it’s popular.
So choose carefully, because switching from one email software to another after you have set up your systems is not an easy task.