Monday, October 29, 2018

Best Email Marketing Services

Nearly every email marketing platform promises the same thing: great deliverability, intuitive tools, designer-quality templates, and useful reporting so you can make the most of every email you send.

We looked at the best email marketing services and found that yes, they do all reliably deliver email, make it easy to manage your massive lists, and make sending emails more intuitive. But they’re not all the same. These are our four recommendations and how they stack up.

  ConvertKit GetResponse Mailchimp Mailjet
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Editor's Pick Best Budget Workflow Best for Beginners Best for Collaboration
Hands down the most intuitive way to edit emails and automation chains A nice visual flow builder that's half the price of ConvertKit
The forever free plan includes beautiful templates that are easy to use The only email marketing service with real-time collaboration à la Google Docs
Starting price
$29 / month
$15 / month
Free trial
14 days
30 days
Up to 200 emails / day
Cost for 5,000 subscribers
$79 / month
$45 / month
$40 / month
$10 / month for 30,000 emails
Drag-and-drop email builder
Visual workflow builder
Landing pages

The 4 Top Email Marketing Platforms

If you’re a more advanced user — maybe you’re already dreaming of your complex automated email workflows and your robust tagging system — check out ConvertKit. Its workflow builder is the easiest to use, not only letting you visually map out your emails sends, but also editing the emails in those flows seamlessly. Instead of clicking back and forth between editing your workflow and editing each email one-by-one, you can edit them all from one space: the workflow simply slides to the side when you edit an email and slides back out when you’re done. It’s our most expensive top pick, but if you’re living in this software, it’s very much worth it.

Don’t have a big budget, but love the idea of a visual workflow builder and a robust tagging system? Consider GetResponse. Its workflow tool is easy to use, just not as amazingly intuitive as ConvertKit’s. At half the price, though, it might be worth the tradeoff.

If you’re new to email marketing, Mailchimp is a great place to start. Its templates are knock-out gorgeous. There’s helpful just-in-time information at every step. And just about all of its reporting, testing, and tools are free on the Forever Free plan. You’ll get up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month at that price. When you grow too big to stay free, it won’t be painful: Mailchimp’s pricing is competitive.

Finally, Mailjet: the Google Docs of email marketing services. Astonishingly, it’s the only option we found with real-time collaboration. We’ve lived in a world where design and copy and merchandising and a dozen more people are sending feedback to one sole email marketer like it’s 1999. Get everyone in the same email builder and collaborate. You’ll need to sign up for the Premium plan to access to this feature. If you choose Mailjet, we recommend the upgrade.

Our Top Pick: ConvertKit

  • Editor’s pick for most impressive workflow
  • Starting price: $29 / month
  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Tagline: We exist to help creators earn a living
  • Sign up

ConvertKit’s product is hands-down the best in its class. It’s intuitive in a way that we didn’t even know to ask for — like the game-changing way of the iPhone touchscreen. We won’t be surprised if more platforms start to copy ConvertKit.

How’s it so great? Updating the emails in a flow is phenomenally simple. You’re always working in the visual automator flow chart. Click into any email and the flow chart slides to the side. Edit the email, then click on any other email to edit that one. You can seamlessly move from one email to the next and save them all at once.

Imagine, for example, that you have an automated flow to sign up for a webinar and you’ve changed the price or the date of the webinar. You’d like to change it throughout the entire email sequence. This method makes it simple to move from email to email within the sequence without using a bunch of tabs, or trying to remember where you left off.

ConvertKit’s demo page has a good video walk-through of its best-in-class workflow.

If that alone wasn’t enough to win it our crown, ConvertKit’s tagging system is impressively robust and operates as its segmentation functionality. Instead of grouping your subscribers into multiple lists (where you’ll get double charged by most services), with ConvertKit, you have one list and many tags. You can manually tag subscribers with just about anything, and auto tag them based on source, link clinks, and purchases through integrations. Use those tags to target your emails to particular customers, or use conditional content tags to show or hide different pieces of information to subscribers within each email.

Here’s an example: You’re a skydiving instructor. You use your list to sell skydives with customers and potential customers, and run a Conquer Your Fears email course to get new leads. You also use your list to up-sell existing customers multi-packs of skydives, and you offer a six-week 40-skydive instructor training course.

As we discussed in The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation, your job is to long-term guide each of your customers through the different points of your conversion funnel. The people who’ve signed up for the Conquer Your Fears challenge are not the same as the ones interested in the training course. You need a more complex system of tagging and segmentation. You need ConvertKit (or GetResponse, depending on your budget). You’ll be able to tag each of your subscribers with the number of skydives they’ve done — based either on purchasing from your web-store, or by clicking a link in an intro email.

ConvertKit is not the best email marketing service for everyone. 

We appreciate ConvertKit’s honesty in its blogpost 5 Reasons you should not switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit. Even though ConvertKit is our favorite email service provider, we totally agree! If you want beautiful, drag-and-drop email templates, you should stick with MailChimp. ConvertKit doesn’t have them.

A collection of Mailchimp template designs
Mailchimp has tons of beautiful image-rich templates and an inspiration gallery that’s truly inspiring.

The three simple text templates from ConvertKit
ConvertKit only has three “templates” and they’re about as simple as an email you’d send to a friend.

ConvertKit highly encourages text emails that create the feeling that you just opened Gmail and sent a note. So, it only comes pre-loaded with three email templates: text-only, classic, and modern. The difference? Text-only has no pictures; classic and modern have pictures. Classic uses a serif font; modern uses a non-serif font. That’s it folks. There are no fancy email templates, no GIFs, no header images.

The best way to market online is to teach, to regularly deliver valuable content to your audience so that they will trust you and eventually want to purchase from you. So when you send an email, what part of the communication delivers the most value?

That’s right, the content. So we should be stripping away everything else that isn’t necessary in order to focus on the content. Multi-column layouts, background images, logos, and all the other nonsense that typically fills marketing emails doesn’t deliver value to the recipient. Instead it is all about you, the sender. Flip that around and start delivering value.
ConvertKit Founder and CEO Nathan Barry

And, ConvertKit isn’t free. Even on its lowest plan, you’ll be paying $29 a month (or $24 if you pay annually up front) — which is still $29 or $24 more than you’d pay to get started with MailChimp. There is a 14-day ConvertKit free trial, but you’ll be paying up front, no matter how successful (or unsuccessful) you are at building a list of subscribers.

If you don’t have a list yet, you might want to start with MailChimp. And if you have one list, and plan to send to them all the same thing, MailChimp will serve you well.

Other ConvertKit features to note

  • Pricing: Monthly pricing is based on number of subscribers. All plans include visual workflow and unlimited emails.
$29 / month $49 / month $79 / month $99 / month $119 / month $149 / month
0–1,000 1,001–3,000 3,001–5,000 5,001–8,000 8,001–10,000 10,001–15,000
  • Automation triggers: Welcome, date-based, abandoned cart, order notifications, product retargeting, product recommendations, product follow-up, customer re-engagement, best customers, first purchase, promo codes
  • A/B testing: Available for headlines
  • Reporting: Automation, comparative, landing page, Facebook ads, Google ads
  • Landing pages: Unlimited free landing pages
  • Integrations: 80 ecommerce integrations including Crowdcast, Demio, Teachable, Shopify, Woocommerce, and Zapier

CovertKit Customer Support

  • Clear and useful documentation:
    — Helpful materials for beginners
    — Helpful materials for advanced users
    — Live or recorded trainings
    — Active user community
  • Support portal
    — Chat support (available 24-hours a day, 5 days a week)
    — Email support (average 3-hour turnaround time)
    — Phone support

Runner-Up for Best Workflow: GetResponse

  • Starting price: $15 / mo
  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Tagline: Powerful and easy to use
  • Sign up

The best things about GetResponse are its visual flow builder (a less powerful version of ConvertKit’s flowchart style that doesn’t integrate with its email editor) and its landing page integrations. If you’re going to be doing any webinar marketing, these landing pages are already set up for you to crush it. And GetResponse probably won’t blow through your budget as fast, either.

GetResponse marketing automation visual workflow builder
“I’ve seen the workflow builder in action, and it is one of the more impressive click-and-drag interfaces on offer, yet it is extremely easy to use.” — Stewart Rogers in VentureBeat

GetResponse has the most complex pricing structure of our top picks. With MailChimp and ConvertKit, your price increases as your subscribers increase, but you aren’t necessarily unlocking a bunch of features or tools — you already had access to most of them. With GetResponse you pay based on the number of subscribers you have and the level of service you want: Email, Pro, Max, or Enterprise.

Subscribers Email Pro Max Enterprise
1,000 $15 $49 $165 $1,199+
2,500 $25
5,000 $45
10,000 $65 $75
25,000 $145 $165 $255
50,000 $250 $280 $370
100,000 $450 $490 $580
100,000+ -- -- --
1 user 3 users 5 users 10 users

Monthly prices listed. Sign up for an annual plan to save 18%. If you go opt for two years, you’ll save 30%. No refunds if you cancel early.

Other GetResponse Features to Note

  • Landing pages: GetResponse offers “basic” and “advanced” landing pages, but we think the names should actually be “very limited” and “unlimited.” If you stick with the Email plan, you’ll get “basic” which hosts one landing page with up to 1,000 visitors a month. The advanced option allows you to build an unlimited number of landing pages with an unlimited number of visitors, and do A/B testing on them. If you know you’re going to be using landing pages, sign up for the Pro plan. If you’re not sure, start with the Email plan.
  • A/B testing: You can test up to five messages varying the following fields: subject line, send time, from field, content.

GetResponse Customer Support

  • Clear and useful documentation:
    — Helpful materials for beginners
    — Helpful materials for advanced users
    — Live or recorded trainings
    — Active user community
  • Support portal
    — Chat support (available 24/7)
    — Email support (available in seven languages)
    — Phone support

Best Email Marketing for Beginners: Mailchimp

  • Starting price: Free
  • Tagline: Tools for Pros. Prices for everyone.
  • Sign up

If you’re looking for a free or freemium product, Mailchimp is the place to start. (You probably already knew that. As FastCompany says, Mailchimp is probably the biggest name in the freemium category.) You get access to almost all of Mailchimp’s features without dropping in any credit card information. Once you outgrow the free plan, you can upgrade easily.

It’s also an easy starting place for beginners. To Mailchimp, you’re not sending an email, you’re having an interaction with your recipient: It’s not an abandoned cart, it’s a show of deep interest in a product and an opportunity to capture their interest! As you scroll and build your interactions, Mailchimp acts like a cheery, helpful workbook with with pro tips, best practices, and optimization advice waiting for you on every page. (And it’s good stuff you’ll recognize from how to write emails that get results.) Don’t just send a receipt, MailChimp says, send some suggestions for other products they may want to add to their order! We concur.

The interactions you create will be beautiful. Mailchimp’s pre-made templates are beauties ready for images, GIFs, designed headers, the works. Its drag-and-drop tool isn’t necessarily impressive, but it certainly isn’t hard to use, and allows for simple customizations. Add a module, delete one, edit one, or swap the order.

Other Mailchimp Features to Note

  • Pricing: Free is free forever (up to 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails a month). When you get bigger or start sending more email, you’ll need to upgrade. You can pay per email or per subscriber. 
    Free Grow Pro Pay per use
    $0 $10+ / month based on list size $199 / month on top of subscriber fees $0.01–0.03 per email
    Up to 2,000 subscribers
    Up to 12,000 emails
    Per month

    No credit card needed to sign up
    Requires a MailChimp footer
    Unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers: $10
    5,000 subscribers $50 / mo
    Adds things like premium support, advanced segmentation, comparative reports, and multivariate testing Purchase credits in bulk: 5,000 credits for $150; 75,000 credits for $750
  • Automation triggers: Welcome, date-based, abandoned cart, order notifications, product retargeting, product recommendations, product follow-up, customer re-engagement, best customers, first purchase, promo codes
  • Reporting: Automation, comparative, landing page, Facebook ads, Google ads
  • Landing pages: Unlimited free landing pages
  • Segmentation: We aren’t very impressed with Mailchimp’s ability to segment, tag, or build workflows. Mailchimp comes with a bunch of pre-built segments you can use from the get-go: New / Active / Inactive subscribers, Potential / Recent / First-time / Repeat / Lapsed customers, Male / Female, Under 35 / Over 35. If you have a basic account, you can use up to five conditions to do simple list filtering, but not combine logic. You’ll need Pro to do that — then you’ll get access to complex and flexible list filtering with unlimited conditions.
  • A/B testing: You can test up to 3 variations (or if you go Pro, up to 8 multivariate combinations): subject lines, content, from names, and send times. There are lots of helpful notes throughout setup, like suggesting you send to 5,000 recipients per variant for significance. Right above that, it notes how many recipients you currently have. This is the kind of easy-to-get-it-right support Mailchimp serves up throughout its platform.
  • Integrations: 175 integrations including Spotify, WooCommerce, Eventbrite, Zapier, Salesforce, and Big Cartel

Mailchimp Customer Support

  • Clear and useful documentation:
    — Helpful materials for beginners
    — Helpful materials for advanced users
    — Live or recorded trainings
    — Active user community
  • Support portal
    — Chat support (first 30 days, then paid users only)
    — Email support (first 30 days, then paid users only)
    — Phone support

Best Platform for Collaboration: Mailjet

  • Starting price: Free
  • Tagline: Where teams create and send beautiful emails
  • Sign up

If there are a lot of cooks in your email marketing kitchen — we’ve run campaigns that needed buy-in or comments from design, branding, copy, merchandising, PR, legal, and more! —  then Mailjet Premium is going to be a game-changer.

Instead of funneling all email campaign changes through one person, emailing out a preview, and having that same person make all of the changes, everyone can hop into Mailjet and collaborate. Make comments, make changes, and even lock down sections that are already approved. Track changes and restore old versions whenever you’d like to rewind. Worried about letting loose the power of email sends to everyone? Add a “publication request” and automatically require manager sign-off before anything gets launched. It’s the stuff Google Docs has conditioned us to expect — and Mailjet is the only service that offers this option. For this reason, we recommend Mailjet for larger marketing and branding teams.

If it’s just you working on an email campaign, real-time collaboration won’t matter at all, and we think you’d be just as happy with Mailchimp. There’s nothing else super special about Mailjet on its Free and Basic plans: you get access to drag-and-drop email templates and 24/7 support. Opt for Basic and Mailjet will drop its branding. Every Mailjet plan allows you to have unlimited contacts. Want to add a million people to your list? Go for it. You’ll only be limited by the number of emails you can send in a day or a month. On its free plan, that’s just 200 a day. (It’s really more of a trial than a plan in our book.)

Other Mailjet Features to Note

  • Pricing:
Emails / month Free Basic Premium
6,000 $0 $10 $21
30,000 --
60,000 -- $19 $42
150,000 -- $69 $97
450,000 -- $167 $230
900,000 -- $334 $399
  • Reporting: Real-time dashboard with opens and clicks, sorted by contact or by email provider
  • A/B testing: Mailjet says, “You can test everything!” and it’s true in a way. You can pit up to 10 different emails head-to-head, testing things like the light blue header with the orange CTA button versus the the light blue header with the green CTA button — and both of those options with different CTA texts.
  • Segmentation: Limited (and for Premium plans only). Segment by gender, age, location, past opens and clicks, or past purchases.
  • Integrations: 85 including Shopify, Zapier, Salesforce, Zendesk, Typeform, Slack, Google, and WordPress

Mailjet Customer Support

  • Documentation is a little bare bones. There are a few questions briefly and directly answered, but nothing feels “just-in-time.” You’ll need to think of what to ask (for example: What is a good open rate?) then click over into the help section (where the interface ages 20 years) and read a pretty plain answer.
  • Support portal
    — Chat support
    — Email support
    — Phone support

Recap: The Best Email Marketing Platforms

from Quick Sprout