The main focus of our sister site for the last 5 years has been website builders. We’ve thoroughly tested and reviewed dozens and dozens of them. But we soon realized users also needed help once the site was done, especially when it came to email marketing.
Tons of price plans, hundreds of providers… It can be hard to select the best newsletter tool. Which is why we’ve put together a selection of the best solutions available at the moment. Hopefully you’ll come out with a clear idea of who to choose next.
But first, let’s ask ourselves the following question: do you really need email marketing?
These days, online marketing has become almost synonymous with social media marketing. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are free to use and reach billions of users.
But while these platforms are great for your brand presence and identity, they’re not always ideal for conversions. In fact, an article by AgencyAnalytics claims that the click through rate of emails averages 3.57%, while Facebook gets a meagre 0.07%.
It is indeed old, but it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. In fact, its maturity can be a strong indication that it’s here to stay. Look at the following pros:
As you can see, email marketing is still a robust and reliable workhorse. And as we mentioned in the last point above, the platforms are increasingly easy to use for complete beginners. Best of all, many of them come with free plans so you can test the waters before spending money on the solution.
A self-described all-in-one marketing platform, ActiveCampaign’s main goal is to help you send fewer emails with better results. To that end, the American provider clearly focuses on automations. None of the other tools we’ve tested come near them in that field. With ActiveCampaign, you can automate everything based on your website visitors’ behavior with complex if/when/then logic. The CRM also makes it easy to manage sales directly from the backend.
What we like: great design with clean, responsive themes. The automations, as mentioned above, are absolutely some of the best around. The prices are reasonable, and support is excellent, plus it comes via email or live chat. Also, great deliverability rates.
Where they can improve: The amount and complexity of the features can be a bit overkill for complete beginners.
Recommended for: power users who need complete control over their automations. Small businesses have a lot to gain by turning their email communications into sales channels with ActiveCampaign.
With 350 000 users in 182 countries and more than a billion messages sent monthly, the numbers look good in favour of GetResponse. We particularly like two unique features of theirs: a landing page editor and the ability to create webinars. Moreover, GetResponse offers excellent automation functions and we like their free access to 1000 iStock photos.
What we like: ability to easily create landing pages, automation tools, responsive templates and the webinar feature for the Pro pricing (up to 500 emails).
Where they can improve: Deliverability isn’t fantastic. Some of their templates look a bit outdated.
Recommended for: marketers looking for a solid, versatile tool with the latest features.
A newcomer based in Lithuania, MailerLite has a young and dynamic team (averaging 25 years of age) that creates a modern and simple newsletter product. Their aim is international: both the support and interface are available in multiple languages. And in spite of basic appearances, Mailerlite offers good tools, a robust editor and a “free for life” price plan. Too good to be true? Apparently not, as you’ll see in the pros and cons below.
Note: 30% discount for yearly payments
What we like: general ease of use. Clean and intuitive interface with a fast editor. The templates are well-designed and flexible, plus you get the most important marketing features.
Where they can improve: Could maybe introduce more advanced automation and email analytics features.
Recommended for: small businesses, freelancers and website owners who want an affordable solution with an easy learning curve and good features.
Mailchimp is now one of the world-leading solutions in email marketing. Maybe it’s thanks to their generous free offer: you can send up to 12,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers, with only a small footer ad. The premium plans, on the other hand, come with advanced marketing features such as autoresponders.
Note: you can also purchase pre-paid plans.
What we like: they regularly add new features to the platform. Social media features are great, and so is the quality of the support (for paid subscriptions). You can easily customize the email templates and subscription forms.
Where they can improve: the interface can be confusing as certain features are pretty hidden (e.g. registration forms). Even if the free plan is generous, premium prices are fairly steep compared to the competition.
Recommended for: users who want a great free and easy way to use email marketing service.
Present in 15 countries around the world, Benchmark prides itself on its international service. We’ve spoken with numerous members of their support team (in different languages) and the service was friendly, fast and gave good answers.
We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how easy and intuitive the platform is, while offering powerful tools. This is particularly impressive when you can access many of the features without spending a dime.
What we like: intuitive editor. A great choice of flexible and varied templates. The support is top notch.
Where they can improve: The automations are lacking. Storage space is limited, and you have to pay extra if you run out. Also we found issues with their deliverability.
Recommended for: those looking for an affordable and intuitive tool with a generous free plan.
Launched in 2012, SendInBlue is a young Parisian platform that used to focus on transactional emails (for invoices, subscriptions, etc…). They have since pivoted and provide mass email services with their own newsletter platform. The bet seems to have paid off. They now send around 30 million email and SMS daily in more than 14 countries.
What we like: good ease of use. Interesting prices and a generous free plan. List management and reporting are both good.
Where they can improve: Certain features are lacking. No A/B testing for instance.
Recommended for: users who want a good budget solution with decent features, whether for free or to send large volumes (40,000 emails) for 25.
Another young player in the bulk email service space, ConvertKit is taking an interesting approach by focusing on creators. That means Vloggers, Youtubers and bloggers, amongst others.
It’s a strange angle, especially since the features are basically the same as with other providers (for example, MailChimp). On the plus side, you get all the features, even on the cheaper plan. The landing page editor is useful, and the tools are decent with excellent deliverability. Find out more info about what we like and what we don’t below.
They have even higher plans if you need them.
Test video :
What we like: The landing page editor, cool if you want to start on email marketing and don’t have a website (for instance, you could just integrate email marketing with social media). Good subscriber management features. Tags let you create advanced segmentation. Helpful support.
What they should improve: no free trial and plans are pricey, especially when compared to more advanced tools like MailerLite. Not many design options (only 3 templates available). Registration forms are difficult to personalize. Reports could have more options – they do not even show bounce rates.
Who is it for: Individuals or small-teams of digital marketers with a budget who are only looking to send plain text newsletters. Good enough for small companies without complex email marketing workflows.
AWeber claims to have invented the autoresponder. With 18 years of operations, it’s entirely possible they did. However, we would have hoped these years of experience would deliver a better tool – more on that below.
On the plus side, all price plans offer the same features. You get things like A/B testing, email analytics and conversion tracking. They also have a mobile app, so you can send emails on-the-go.
Test video :
What we like: Good features for list management and decent support.
What they should improve: AWeber is pretty expensive, which would be fine if the editor wasn’t buggy (after 18 years!). The automations are a bit basic.
Maybe because Constant Contact has been doing email marketing since 1995, they’ve managed to find new avenues that no other providers touch. For instance, they’re the only solution that offers event management tools, surveys or social campaigns.
It seems to work. They now have around 650,000 users worldwide, and 270+ app for integrating extra services to their platform. Is it still enough to make them relevant? Find out below.
Prices: No free plan | All plans have the same features, only a difference with subscribers limit.
Test video :
What we like: Good deliverability results. The event management feature is ideal if this is your industry.
What they should improve: Expensive and no proper automation. In general, ConstantContact lacks basic functions that you find elsewhere.
Like the aforementioned SendInBlue, MailJet is based in Paris, France, and also used to focus on transactional emails. Their recent foray into the world of email marketing seems logical enough, and the editor works great for such a new product. Automations are still in beta, but they delivered well enough.
Note: you must pay more for premium features such as A/B tests, campaign reports and email automations.
What we like: Very affordable plans, and the free offer is generous too. Drag and drop editor works great, and the automations are decent.
What they should improve: Still basic features at this stage.
Who is MailJet for: There’s not much you can’t find elsewhere. Maybe the fact that premium features are optional can help you save money though.
Now one more thing before we begin, let’s just recap the basic email-marketing lexicon.
Autoresponder: A series of automated emails sent in sequence. Usually start as soon as a user subscribes to one of your forms. They can range from tips and tricks to sales funnels designed to convert clicks into sales.
Email automations: Slightly more complex and flexible than autoresponders, as they don’t need to be on a time schedule. You can tag a user depending on the page they visit on your site and send them customized automated emails. Or you can trigger an email based on behavior (for example when they unsubscribe). Some of these automations can go really far with site-tracking and complex logic trees.
Template: A predefined style for your newsletter. The design styles might be basic or very fancy, with different fonts, colors and buttons. Using the built-in template-editors, you can easily create nice looking emails that contain images and rich-formatting.
Responsive newsletter: like for a website, the email adapts to the screen size. It means your newsletter should look good on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Email bounce: undelivered email, because the address is invalid or deleted. Email marketing providers usually deactivate these users for you.
Pay as you go and subscription models: pretty self-explanatory. It’s like for a mobile phone plan. You can credit a certain amount of emails to your account. Or you can pay monthly, which seems to be the most popular solution, especially for businesses. This usually means unlimited campaigns, with prices variations based on your amount of subscribers.
Deliverability: not all emails reach users’ inboxes, for a number of reasons. The success rate is called deliverability, and it’s worth considering when settling on a provider.
Now that you’ve had a good refresher, let’s start comparing the best email marketing services we’ve tested.
Prices vary a lot between different platforms. And more expensive doesn’t always mean better. For instance, SendInBlue and MailerLite have very good cheap plans. AWeber is on the pricier end, and you don’t even get better automations than with GetResponse or ActiveCampaign (nobody does better automations than Active Campaign).
Choosing a free plan to start with seems relatively risk free. You can always export your contact list, so if you don’t mind small ads or limited features, it’s easy enough to move between the generous free plans of Mailchimp or Benchmark. In any case, we hope this article gives you a good primer on the pros and cons of each service, so you can make your decision today.
Questions? Feedback? We answer all comments below.