Did you know that an engaged email list is one of the most valuable assets a small business can have?
So much so that 94% of marketing professionals named email as one of their three most effective marketing channels in the Litmus 2020 State of Email Report.
Also, 80% state that they would rather give up social media than email marketing, which makes perfect sense given the effectiveness of the latter.
If you haven’t started building your email list yet, you should do so right now.
Step one is choosing an email marketing software that’s right for you.
Table of contents
- Is email marketing still effective?
- What does an email marketing service do?
- Email marketing software comparison
- Campaign Monitor
- Constant Contact
- FAQ (Commonly asked questions)
Is email marketing still effective?
Yes. Email marketing is arguably the most effective form of online marketing there is. According to DMA’s “Marketing Email Tracker 2020” report, the average return on investment for every £1 spent on email marketing is £35.41.
And that’s just the average. It means that if you master email marketing, you might get an even higher ROI. So it’s a no-brainer that this marketing channel should be part of any digital marketing strategy.
What does an email marketing service do?
Email marketing services (EMS) provide software suites for end-to-end email marketing management — from email list creation to remarketing.
An EMS helps:
- Create enticing opt-in forms for subscribing to your email list.
- Segment your list based on different factors (e.g., geographical location, purchase history, interests, etc.).
- Create and schedule action-triggered email autoresponder sequences to engage new and loyal subscribers.
- Set up more complex automation rules for audience segmentation and email personalization.
- Send manual, one-off bulk emails (“broadcasts)” to your entire list or a particular segment of that list.
Best email marketing software for small business owners: comparison
Given the popularity of email marketing, it makes sense why there are many email marketing platforms out in the wild. But which one should you pick?
We did some homework for you and lined up the top 6 contenders (based on pricing, features, and personal experience with the product):
They didn’t make our list, but you might still want to check them out.
Drip is an email marketing service initially designed for eCommerce startups.
- Customizable forms. Quickly build beautiful sign-up forms (no HTML knowledge required) and create regular pop-ups as well as targeted pop-ups.
- Email marketing software. A wholesome set of features for list building, campaign management, email marketing cart personalization, and use case-specific emails such as cart abandonment emails, onboarding emails, transactional emails, and more.
- SMS marketing. Send text messages to your customers and enjoy super-high open rates.
- Segmentation. Segment your list based on customers’ behavior on your website.
- Analytics. See a detailed overview of your email marketing campaigns and track metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, unsubscribes, and more.
Drip has one pricing plan that starts at $19/month for up to 500 subscribers and costs $39/month for up to 2,500 subscribers.
There’s also a message add-on plan that costs $15/month for 1,000 SMS sends or $30/month for 1,000 MMS sends.
Drip’s main strength is its powerful ecommerce personalization technology, which you can use to engage potential shoppers and pull them towards a purchase.
However, this level of sophistication also means that the learning curve is steep. So it might take some time to learn your way around this app.
- $19/month for up to 500 subscribers.
- $39/month for up to 2,500 subscribers.
- Everything an ecommerce business could wish for from EMS.
- Robust automation for email workflows.
- Ever-growing collection of attractive email templates.
- SMS and MMS messaging functionality.
- Integrations with major ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce by WordPress.
- No email sequencing functionality.
- Customer support can be slow to respond at times.
- New features are rolled out slowly.
ConvertKit is an email marketing service designed to empower creators (bloggers, YouTubers, artists, etc.).
- Customizable sign-up forms. Point-and-click email form, pop-ups, squeeze, and landing page design, using templates.
- Email marketing core. Convenient email designer, clutter-free writing experience, and an average 98% email delivery rate. With ConvertKit, you can send broadcast emails such as email newsletters, set up autoresponder sequences, or build more sophisticated email marketing funnels.
- Robust email marketing automation tools. You can build powerful and custom email automation workflows using an intuitive interface to match your funnel design, A/B tests, and campaign goals.
- Integrations. You can interpret ConvertKit with popular online course platforms (to deliver email courses), website platforms, live-streaming and webinar tools, CRMs, and an array of other business tools.
- Native ecommerce features. Create sales landing pages for your digital products and accept credit card payments.
- Analytics. See the critical email marketing metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribes, and other useful information such as deliverability rates.
ConvertKit is probably the best option on the market for anyone who wants to make a living as a web creator and monetize their knowledge.
ConvertKit has three plans:
- Free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers that offers basic functionality.
- Creator plan costs $29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and $49/month for up to 3,000 subscribers. It offers everything in the free plan + automation features.
- Creator Pro plan costs $59/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and $79/month for up to 3,000 subscribers. It offers everything in the Creator plan + Facebook custom audiences, newsletter referral system, subscriber scoring, and advanced reporting.
- Easy-to-use for email marketing beginners and folk interested in the visual design side of things, rather than hardcore analytics.
- Excellent landing page designer and integrated ecommerce functionality. Both eliminate the need to purchase standalone tools.
- Convenient tagging functionality for organizing and managing different list segments based on your preferences.
- Integrated functionality for setting up a reward system for email list sign-up referrals (available with Creator Pro Plan).
- No built-in spell-checker inside the email editor.
- Don’t have an open API for building custom integrations with other business systems.
- Customer support can be hit-or-miss.
- More expensive compared to some of the other solutions on the market.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing tools with over 20 years on the market.
- Standard email marketing features. Customizable opt-in forms and landing pages. List building and email marketing workflow automation tools.
- Behavioral targeting. Personalize messages based on the subscriber’s behavior on your website.
- Dynamic content. Personalize content blocks in your emails to tailor your messages to each subscriber (based on the known past behaviors or demographic data).
- Robust A/B testing capabilities. Split test your campaigns, including subject lines, email copy, calls to action, and more.
- Analytics. Track all the key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes, as well as the more advanced metrics such as engagement.
- Native CRM. Use Mailchimp’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform to organize, refine, and auto-update your contact data.
- Smart recommendations. Get automated recommendations from Mailchimp on how to optimize your email campaigns further.
Mailchimp’s main strength is its brand name. It’s the go-to “starter” email service for many small business owners because it’s a familiar recommendation.
However, Mailchimp isn’t just for beginners. The platform has some advanced features, such as predicted demographics, customer journey mapping, and more.
Meanwhile, its main weakness is its lack of clear focus. Unlike with Drip and ConvertKit, Mailchimp doesn’t cater to a specific audience. Respectively, their functionality and overall platform UI/UX are tuned to just any type of business.
Mailchimp’s marketing category includes four pricing plans:
- Free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers that offers all the basic functionality you need to get started with email marketing.
- Essentials plan costs $30.99/month for up to 2,500 subscribers and offers everything in the free plan + email templates, multi-step journeys, custom branding, and more.
- Standard plan costs $51.99/month for up to 2,500 subscribers and offers everything in the Essentials plan + customer journey builder, time optimization, behavioral targeting, dynamic content, and more.
- Premium plan costs $299/month for up to 10,000 subscribers and offers everything in the Standard plan + advanced segmentation, multivariate testing, phone support, and more.
- Robust, well-rounded suite of email marketing features for nearly any type of email campaign.
- Very generous free plan that lets you get a good grasp of the product.
- Over 100 pre-made email templates and an extensive knowledge database of email marketing best practices.
- Constantly evolving host of features including surveys, appointment scheduling, management functionality, online commerce features, and more.
- The drag-and-drop email designer isn’t as advanced or user-friendly compared to other solutions.
- Expensive compared to other solutions on the market, but that’s somewhat mitigated by its wide range of features.
- Email responsiveness is sometimes an issue with standard templates.
4. Campaign Monitor
Campaign Monitor is another popular option with online entrepreneurs. It’s a seemingly simple email marketing app with a ton of advanced features under the hood.
- Drag-and-Drop editor. Visually craft beautiful, professional-looking emails, opt-in forms, pop-ups, landing, and squeeze pages.
- Email templates. Choose from a variety of pre-made, conversion-optimized templates. Then customize it any way you want.
- Automation. Automate email marketing with features such as behavioral triggers.
- Link review. This feature automatically checks emails for broken links and flags the ones that might be broken or outdated.
- Analytics. See open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribes, engagement, and more.
Campaign Monitor’s main strength is its simplicity.
Don’t want to spend an entire workday trying to learn the ins and outs of an email marketing app? Then this might be the solution for you.
Campaign Monitor has three pricing plans:
- Basic plan starts at $9/month for up to 509 subscribers and costs $29/month for up to 2,509 subscribers. It offers all the core email marketing features.
- Unlimited plan starts at $29/month for up to 509 subscribers and costs $59/month for up to 2,509 subscribers. It offers everything in the Basic plan + unlimited emails, priority customer support, and additional features such as link review.
- Premier plan that costs $149/month for up 2,509 subscribers. It offers everything in the Unlimited plan + premier phone support and several additional features such as advanced link tracking.
- Award-winning customer support.
- Excellent email deliverability rates. Your promo emails don’t end up in the spam or Promotions tab.
- Perfect for novice, non-IT users.
- Provides benchmark data for comparing your email marketing performance against others in your industry.
- The drag-and-drop email builder is somewhat basic and lacks customization features. You also cannot upload custom fonts or fiddle much with HTML.
- Not as many integrations compared to other email marketing software providers. Also, no open API.
- Has very poor integration with social media platforms.
5. Constant Contact
Constant Contact is another simple and easy-to-use email marketing app with all the functionality you need to start and grow your email list.
- Email marketing automation. You can easily run standard campaigns and email sequences on auto-pilot.
- Drag-and-Drop editor. Create high-performing campaigns with an easy-to-use email editor.
- Segmentation. Use triggers and audience segmentation to improve your results.
- Social marketing tools. Schedule your social media posts. Use Instagram and Facebook ads to grow your email list. Track the performance of your social media campaigns.
- Real-time analytics. See who’s opening your emails and clicking on the links inside them in real-time.
Constant Contact offers two plans:
- Email plan costs $20/month for up to 500 subscribers and $45/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. It includes basic email marketing functionality.
- Email Plus plan costs $45/month for up to 500 subscribers and $70/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. It includes everything in the email plan + additional features such as segmentation, coupons, donations, and more.
- Top-notch contact list management features. The app makes it easy to integrate new lists and organize contact databases — cleanse entries, format entries, etc.
- Great analytics. You know exactly who opens your list, what content gets clicks, and how the same campaign performs with different groups of people.
- Scalable to support bigger teams and bigger lists.
- There’s no way to remove Constant Contact branding from the bottom of every email.
- Some of the email templates don’t display properly for Outlook users.
- A/B testing is only available with the most expensive account tier.
GetResponse is another “veteran” email marketing service, praised by both novice and seasoned marketers. But don’t think it’s ancient.
On the contrary, GetResponse keeps evolving its set of email functionality and also expands into other marketing areas.
- Email marketing. List management, email designer, autoresponders, and contact list management — all the must-haves are present.
- Automation. Personalize your messages based on the subscriber’s behavior. Also, develop and schedule multi-path email campaigns based on your customer journeys.
- Lead magnet funnels. Convert website visitors into leads with lead magnets. Pre-made templates are available.
- Sales funnels. Guide the potential customer from subscribing to your email list to buying your product using GetResponse recommendations.
- Webinars. Collect leads during webinars and follow-up with targeted emails.
- Social ads creator. Use it to create high-performing social media ads to grow your list further.
- Live chat. Add live chat support to your landing pages, website, and marketing emails.
GetResponse’s main strength is its all-in-one approach. You won’t need to pay for a separate sales funnel app, webinar app, etc. — you get those features bundled with your subscription.
GetResponse offers four paid plans:
- Basic plan starts at $15/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and costs $25/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. It offers the core GetResponse functionality, including email marketing, funnels, and social media ads.
- Plus plan starts at $49/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and costs $59/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. It offers everything in the Basic plan + additional features such as marketing automation, webinars, and more.
- Professional plan starts at $99/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and costs $119/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. It offers everything in the Plus plan + additional features such as web push notifications, paid webinars, on-demand webinars, and more.
- Max plan comes with custom pricing. It offers everything in the Professional plan + additional features such as team and role management, multiple accounts and users, and more. There’s also dedicated support.
- End-to-end email marketing experience and a wide variety of additional money-saving features for marketers.
- Wide range of lead generation tools and tons of templates.
- Offers 500 free email sends per day on a free trial plan.
- 24-hours support team. Typically, quite helpful and knowledgeable.
- There’s a “Jack of all trades, master of none” danger here.
- B2B focus might lead to problems with personal email addresses such as the Gmail ones.
Commonly asked questions (FAQ)
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about email marketing software.