When we work with the new client the first thing we have them do this open an account with an email marketing service. The response is always “which one should I use?”
There are many very good email marketing services but to narrow the field I’m going to list the ones that I like best. The list is broken into two groups. The first are dedicated email marketing services. The second are all-in-one digital marketing platforms that contain email marketing as part of broad suite of services.
I will list the positives and negatives of each service below, based on my experience. Included will be some basic pricing information and a link to each service’s website for more information.
AWeber is my all-around favorite dedicated email marketing service. It is relatively inexpensive, they have excellent customer service (i.e. phone support), and a high deliverability rate.
– Customer Service– AWeber provides life customer service from a call center in Philadelphia in the United States. I have had many opportunities to work with their tech support people and have always found them easy to reach and very knowledgeable. In the few times I’ve had tricky technical problems they have always escalated my concern to a developer who provided clear answers very quickly. In my opinion, they’re the best in the business.
- Deliverability – While all the services listed in this article have good deliverability rates, AWeber’s is probably the best in the business. That’s because they are very strict about adding new contacts to your lists. Anybody added to an AWeber email list must click a link in a confirmation email before you can send them messages. The only exceptions are list additions that come through one of their forms embedded on your website.
- Ease of use – The AWeber user interface is very intuitive and easy to use. When you become a new customer the system takes you step-by-step through the new list setup process. Creating new messages is as easy as writing a new document in Microsoft Word. And they have dozens of attractive templates to choose from. Aweber’s reports make it easy to analyze results and improve performance.
- Embedded Form Tool – All email marketing services give you the ability to create forms to embed on your website that enable people to subscribe to your list. AWeber has an excellent form creation tool with dozens of attractive templates for almost any business. You can create a form in just a few minutes and embed it on your website with no help from a developer.
- Multiple Websites – If you have multiple websites AWeber give you the ability to create a unique identity for each one. Each list has its own unique identifying information including the reply to email address and website name. S
- List Set Up – AWeber makes it very easy to create a new list by walking you through the process step-by-step. However once you’ve created a few lists you no longer need this level of help. The setup process goes from being helpful to tedious.
- Strict List Addition Policy – AWeber is very strict about adding new people to your lists. A few years ago I conducted a training for a group of 12 clients. During the training everyone agreed to allow us add them to our email list (which was an important part of the course). AWeber has a very simple tool that enables you to paste a list of names and email addresses from Excel into a box. I added the names then had to write out a lengthy explanation about the list. Then I received a followup email seeking further clarification. Keep in mind that new list members must still confirm before being added to the list. It’s a pain.
(prices are monthly)
– $19 up to 500 contacts
– $29 up to 2,500 contacts
– $49 up to 5,000 contacts
– $69 up to 10,000
Mailchimp is very popular because it gives a new users an opportunity to try the service for free. As a result it has become very popular with bloggers and solo entrepreneurs. Their logo and mascot is a very fun-loving monkey who they use throughout their training and website to keep things light and fun. Sometimes too much so.
- Free Account Option – The Mailchimp entry-level service is free. It includes up to 2,000 list members with a maximum of 12,000 e-mails per month. This is an excellent way to test the waters of email marketing at no cost. But as they say, if a service is free then you are the product. More on this under the negatives.
- Ease of Use – The Mailchimp service is also very easy to use with a very intuitive user interface. Opening a new account, setting up a list and creating your first mailing is easy with their excellent documentation.
- Bulk List Upload – Mailchimp is fairly liberal about adding list members to a new account. They allow you bulk upload a list without confirmation when moving from another service. This means your list members won’t have to opt in a second time. A few years ago spammers caught on to this policy and took advantage of it. I understand Mailchimp has cracked down on the evildoers it’s no longer a problem.
- Customer Support – Mailchimp provides customer support through email only. Their response time is good, but sometimes its faster to speak with a live human being. Especially if you’re not sure how to frame the question. If you’re good with this, then it’s a non-issue.
- Free Account – While it’s very nice to have a free option, it comes with many limitations. First, you can only use the free account with one website. Next, emails sent from accounts are branded with the Mailchimp logo. If you’re a real business it’s not a good idea to use a free service for something that is mission critical. Go for the paid account instead.
(pricing is monthly)
– Free – Up to 2,00 list members, 12,000 email per month (see limitations above)
– $10 – up to 500 list members
– $15 up to 1,000 list members
– $20 up to 10,50 list members
– $25 up to 1,150 list member
As you can see Mailchimp’s pricing is complex. See this rate calculator for more details.
Constant Contact is the big dog in the email marketing field. They are probably the largest and best-known of the players in this space. Mainly because they spend a ton on advertising. Although I’m not a fan, they’re worth mentioning here because they are so well-known.
- Popularity – Because Constant Contact is so popular many other services integrate with them, extending their functionality. We have a client in the personal training field who uses a proprietary system for booking and scheduling client appointments. This system integrates which with Constant Contact which gives them the ability to add customers to the lists automatically.
- Ease-of-Use – Over the years Constant Contact has continued to improve their user interface. It is now easy to use and quite intuitive.
- List Additions – Constant Contact also enables you to bulk upload list members to a new account. This eliminates the need for them to opt in to your list a second time.
- Cost – Constant Contact is the most expensive of the services outlined in this article. From my experience they don’t offer any additional functionality to justify the extra cost. See the section for more details.
- Past deliverability problems– A few years ago Constant Contact for low deliverability rates. This caused their clients’ messages to be caught in corporate and email service providers’ (Gmail, Yahoo etc.) spam filters. That’s not good if you pay good money to communicate with your customers.
Monthly pricing based upon the number of list members.
Up to 500 – $45
Up to 2,500 – $60
Up to 5,000 – $80
Up to 10k – $110
Swiftpage (currently being rebranded as Act! emarketing) has a very different pricing structure than the other services. Its claim to fame is that it integrates with the Act!customer relationship management (CRM) system. And that’s my reason for including it in this article. If you use Act! to manage your customer relationships keep reading.
- Act! Integration – In my opinion Act! is the best of the bunch (and most popular) among small business customer and contact management systems. I used it together Swiftpage for several years. Changing CRMs is about as fun as moving into a new house after 20 years. And many businesses are not comfortable using cloud-based services and prefer to keep mission critical data on a local computer. So a lot of them have avoided jumping on the cloud-based all-in-one (see next section) digital marketing platform bandwagon. Act! users can have the best of both worlds by integrating with Swiftpage.
- Ease of Use – Compared to the other services Swiftpage is not very intuitive and has a fairly steep learning curve. It would be worth your while to engage one of the Act! certified consultants to help with the configuration.
Swiftpage monthly pricing is based upon daily emails sent.
250 emails/day – $14.95
1,000 emails/day $44.95
While these are not dedicated email marketing services, they’re worth mentioning. Both of these options offer email marketing plus a host of advanced services and analytics. The additional services make them much more powerful tools well beyond standard email marketing services. These two are so feature rich that a comprehensive side-by-side comparison is beyond the scope of this article. We’ll save that for another day.
Full disclosure, we use HubSpot in our own business and are members of the HubSpot partner program. But we wouldn’t use it or recommend it to if we didn’t believe that it’s a good solution.
HubSpot’s real strength are the tools to help you attract visitors and convert them to into leads that fill the top of your sales funnel.
It includes keyword analysis and integration to help drive traffic to your content. It also includes advanced analytics which not only reports on overall results but tells you who visited your website, what pages they visited, how long they were on your site and what content they downloaded. In short it tells you the interests of each individual.
There’s an old saying “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” HubSpot gives you the ability to measure the ROI of your digital marketing efforts strategies. Its main weakness is that it does not include a customer relationship management system.
Monthly pricing tiers
Basic – $200
Pro – $800
More full disclosure, we are Infusionsoft affiliates and I use it in another related business. Infusionsoft also bills itself as an all-in-one digital marketing platform. Like HubSpot it includes advanced analytics but its real strengths are its marketing automation tools, integrated shopping cart and integrated customer relationship management or CRM platform.
In my opinion it is an excellent platform for anyone who sells digital content and small businesses with a defined sales funnel.
Essentials – $199
Deluxe – $299
As you can see there is a variety of services that meet very different needs. I’ve just scratched the surface here with the services that I’ve used personally.