Though it may seem ancient amongst a digital world filled with instant messaging, social media and video chat, email remains a powerful and preferred method for communication both at a professional and personal level.
In fact, when looking worldwide, the number of email users is expected to increase from 3.8 billion in 2018 to 4.2 billion in 2022. Considering earth’s population is estimated to grow to just shy of 8 billion in that same time frame, well, email is sticking around for the foreseeable future.
Even teenagers, those purveyors of anti-everything their adult peers recognize as a convenience, can’t escape the everyday necessity of email. As recent as 2015, it was still the third most popular communication method of the 13 to 19 age group.
From a business perspective, email is practically a requirement. For any office or sales job, it’s a necessity.
It’s also the most efficient way to reach a massive amount of customers in a short amount of time. Thanks to the rise of email marketing services, connecting to both your established and prospective clients has never been easier.
What is Email Marketing?
Simply put, email marketing is sending a recipient an email that pushes a particular product or service that is of personal benefit to them and monetary benefit to you. In other words a call to action or solicitation of business.
It’s also not unreasonable to view any email that you send to a current or potential customer, regardless of its purpose, as a form of email marketing.
For this discussion though, let’s focus on email marketing in the most traditional sense, how to reach a large recipient base in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible.
This is where an email marketing service can make a significant impact on your business.
How to Choose the Right Email Marketing Service
Sure, you can always create and manage your own email lists within your Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo service provider, but why would you?
While these offer natural solutions for internal company group emails, when you’re building or maintaining contact with those that impact your organization’s bottom line, you need more.
Something more robust, that’s easy to setup, cost-effective, and can provide you feedback and data on your email campaigns and help you make practical decisions on next steps. This not only includes who opened your emails and when, but bounces, unsubscribes and click-throughs.
To assist in your decision making, these are the top items to consider when looking at potential email marketing services:
The first significant point to be aware of is cost. You’ll find the monthly pricing structure is fairly consistent service to service with most based on the subscriber level you need to access. Make sure your needs match your budget, and as your subscriber lists grow you can absorb the increased pricing.
Even though all businesses hope to reach a large group of people that will help them be more successful, the approach can significantly vary. A blogger trying to reach readers has a different set of needs from a manufacturer trying to sell widgets.
Which means you must find the feature set that best suits your needs.
Just as with cost, email marketing services have a level of similarity with the solutions they offer. However, some services do specific tasks better than others. Know what you need and find a provider that does it well.
Easy to Use
You’d think that just like cost and features, ease of use between these providers would also be comparable.
Yes and no.
With most services, you can produce a primary email campaign with little effort. However, the deeper you get into a provider’s functionality, you’ll find some are more complicated than others. A few providers lend themselves to the endeavors of a larger, enterprise-level company, while others are better suited for small to medium-sized businesses.
Finally, does your provider of choice offer the support you need?
For the most part, if you ever find yourself stuck with any of the primary email marketing services, help is easy to find. We do recommend though that if you are a tech novice or new to email marketing campaigns, choose the one with the best level of support. It alone can make the difference between a good email campaign and a great one.
Best Email Marketing Services
With a better grasp on what email marketing services do and how to find the right one let’s take a look at seven of the best and find out which prove to be a good fit for your business.
1. Constant Contact
Arguably the most popular and widely used email marketing service today, Constant Contact is our top pick thanks to its versatility for any size or type of business.
The most significant advantage of Constant Contact is the list of features. From the choice of templates that span everything from business to holidays to announcements to the straightforward methods of both importing contacts or organically building your email list, they cover almost any variation of an email campaign that you may require.
Beyond general email lists and their related templates, the service also boasts solutions to help you solicit donations, broaden your social media marketing, and even a survey function should you subscribe to their Plus plan.
First-time users will appreciate the simple interface and easy to navigate pages which makes getting your first campaigns simple to get off the ground. Though, should you run into problems, the support is also robust, with available phone, email, and live chat assistance.
As for cost, at $20 per month for up to 500 monthly contacts, Constant Contact is priced a little higher on average against other services at the entry level, but the costs become more competitive at the upper tiers. Their Plus packages offer even more add-ons (like the survey tool) but tend to run $25 to $30 more in the 0 to 10,000 subscriber tiers.
This is something of a drawback, especially for cost-conscious businesses, although the features and potential ROI from various email campaigns can make it easily justifiable.
There is a 60-day free trial for those that want to test the basic attributes.
Ultimately, regardless of your type of business, Constant Contact will provide a massive boost to your email marketing. More specifically, we feel that small to medium size businesses and those with little email marketing experience have the most to gain with this service.
Number two on our list also comes with plenty of name recognition and a lot of fans too.
MailChimp typically scores high as one of the most accessible services from which to build email campaigns. However, it may possess one of the top attributes of any of our featured providers in its entry-level free plan.
There is a trade-off with fewer services and no support after the first 30-days (you can utilize their knowledge base), but you can still send up to 12,000 emails to a max of 2,000 contacts per month.
No too bad for a no-cost plan and a huge plus for small firms on a tight budget. Even their entry level plan, which gives you unlimited contacts and emails is a bargain starting at $10 per month pricing (as your subscriber list goes up, so does the price).
The list of features is more than adequate with lots of varying templates, a super simple campaign creator, and a solid set of basic performance reports.
If you subscribe to a paid plan, the support offered includes live chat and email but no phone. Their knowledge base, however, is quite extensive and incredibly helpful.
If you’re looking for simple and straightforward, MailChimp is an easy choice. Though some organizations with much larger needs may find it lacking, individuals or small businesses on a budget will find a perfect fit.
Along similar lines, charities or nonprofits who need a low-cost way to reach donors or volunteers should make MailChimp their first consideration.
Much like Constant Contact, AWeber is an excellent overall service that does a little bit of everything and does all of it very well.
From the extensive template options to a smooth drag and drop editor to intuitive automation for building out your email sequences and a library of over 6,000 images, the service has a lot of functionally for any user.
The subscriber management functions and its seamless integration with web-based platforms including WordPress (and WooCommerce) and Shopify rate as AWeber’s top two attributes. There’s plenty to like with some of the best email tracking of any provider and a reliable delivery system that hits the proper inboxes more than many other systems.
Pricing starts at $19 a month for up to 500 subscribers, which is a bit on the higher end, but it does come with unlimited emails and immediate access to all functionality (there are no plan options, just simple pricing based on your contact list). Support includes phone, email, live chat, and periodic webinars.
AWeber is the type of service that will check off of the main boxes for any email marketing project, but it stands out if you manage a web-based business, particularly if you run it through WordPress or Shopify.
So we’ve sorted through three services that capture the best all-around functionality, and carry a lot of the general name recognition, but what about the rest? There are quite a few equally robust services that definitely deserve a look. First among these is GetResponse.
The email marketing tools are extensive with over 500 campaign templates available and access to over 1,000 free use stock images. Personalization for your contacts, auto response automation, segment subscriptions, and delivery schedule optimization are just a few of the core services offered at the entry level pricing of $15 a month for up to 1,000 contacts.
Generous with functionality, GetResponse also houses a ton of landing page templates with drag and drop capabilities that make building your landing pages effortless. There’s also analytics, called A/B tests, that assist you in determining which designs will net the most favorable results.
The support is pretty stout too with an extensive resource database and help available through phone, live chat, and email. There is also a 14-day free trial to test the service.
If you needed more convincing of the success of GetResponse’s service, consider they count Hilton. Avon, and IKEA as part of their client list.
Though the name recognition may not be on par with Constant Contact, the service should be an equally strong consideration. We’d recommend them for any business, but especially established firms who are wanting a marketing push and need enterprise-level features at a fraction of the cost.
While you can scale every provider on our list to different levels of business, some do lend themselves better to specific segments than others. For ActiveCampaign, they seem primed to provide the most help to larger firms or any businesses that have a lengthy sales contact list.
Their mail marketing tools are impressive, including a top-notch autoresponder, easy setup for specific date and time efforts and drip campaigns. Contact and lead scoring as well as SMS marketing kick in at the second tier Plus plans.
It’s also worth mentioning they have one of the best editors we’ve seen, which includes the ability to add additional formatting with HTML and CSS coding.
As with everyone else’s pricing, you are charged based on the number of contacts, with the entry-level Lite plan coming in at $9 a month for up to 500 subscribers, which includes email and live chat support. There is a two-week free trial to test out the essential services.
Though they’d serve almost any sized company well, ActiveCampaign provides the most value if you have a number of people to reach and need a lot of customization and tools to reach them.
The Drip email marketing service would be easy to overlook as a niche provider, and although it shines brightest when coupled with an ecommerce solution, its got enough teeth behind it to help small and medium-sized businesses with their campaigns.
Drip provides an uncomplicated user experience that’s both easy to navigate and easy to create your targeted emails. In addition to numerous integration options, including Shopify and WooCommerce, the service offers excellent tracking tools, easy to develop automation, and straightforward reporting and analytical data.
The service does have an entry-level free option that has unlimited emails for a contact list of 100 or fewer. The Basic plan starts the priced tiers at $41 a month for unlimited emails for up to 2,500 contacts. Support includes email and live chat.
Although the fit for an ecommerce business is pretty clear, we also like Drip’s stater plan as an entry point for those new to email marketing. It’s a low stakes method for understanding some of the basics on an easy to use platform before moving up with Drip or another marketing service.
7. Vertical Response
We finish up our list with, Vertical Response, a lesser known service but one that is making some great strides and is a viable solution for multiple business types. Plus, they offer a free plan with up to 4,000 emails to a maximum list of 300 contacts. Not as broad as Mailchimp, but free nonetheless and great for small-scale non-profits.
Many of their features are what you’d expect including over 700 customizable templates, intuitive editor, simple contact management, social media sharing, reporting and analytics, and options for landing pages.
The big plus with Vertical Response though is the quality of its image editor and the importance they seem to place on the visual aspect of your emails. A nice touch as its an easy to miss element when creating your campaigns.
The downside with the service is the clunky contacts area that has limited customization and the delivery system which is at times hit or miss, with your emails sometimes finding their way into the Gmail Promotions folder.
In addition to the free offering, Vertical Response prices their entry level plan at a starting point of $11 per month, far cheaper than most other providers. They offer email support with phone and live chat help during business hours.
Though not as robust as the others on our list, Vertical Response is a great option for small businesses, individual uses such as companions to blogs, and for firms that value image-centric campaigns.
If you’re not making email marketing a priority, you are potentially missing out on a considerable amount of business, both in keeping current customers and procuring new ones.
No matter the professional (or even personal) goals for your email campaigns, there is a service that will fit your needs.
Here’s a brief recap of where to start first depending on your business and its marketing goals:
- Best Overall: Constant Contact
- Best for Small to Medium Sized Business: Constant Contact and AWeber
- Best for Established Businesses: GetResponse
- Best for Big Business: Active Campaign
- Best for Ecommerce: AWeber and Drip
- Best for Charities and Nonprofits: MailChimp, Vertical Response
- Best for Entry Level Users: MailChimp, Drip
As you can see, different services fulfill different needs, so it’s important to figure out your absolutes, your must-haves, and your can live withouts. When in doubt give some, or even all of them a shot. The free trials are offered for a reason and are a fantastic way for you to figure out the basics of each service before making a more substantial commitment.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple, it’s all about who has the best plan at the best price to fit your company goals.
Regardless of the service, the critical point to remember is that if you want to expand your customer base or solidify the one you already have, few things will help you achieve that faster than email marketing and even fewer make it as simple as an email marketing service.