So you’ve decided to start focusing more effort on your ‘small’ business, and perhaps you’re still working out of your bedroom, but your customers don’t need to know that.
You’ve been sending out emails to your list of around 50-200 recipients that you’ve built up over the last few months, but Outlook isn’t quite cutting it anymore. Sometimes your emails get lost in the void that is spam folders, and then there was that one time you accidentally CC’d instead of BCCing! That sadly caused a few unsubscribes, which, of course, had to be removed manually.
There must be a better way, right?
It might be time to try out a more professional email tool. But wait, before you cry out ‘professional = expensive’, there are actually a bunch of free newsletter services that can do the job well. No more spam surprises and no more embarrassing personal data breaches.
If you’re like me, whenever you hear the word ‘free’ for apps or tools you’re probably wondering ‘so what’s the catch?’
Well it’s not a catch so much as a ‘freemium model’. This basically means that you may have certain restrictions perhaps based upon the amount of subscribers you can have, emails you can send or features available. In most cases, though, if you’re a small business these plans will be enough to get you up and running!
And I guess the ‘catch’ is that once you’re budget has become a little less lean, you’ll be so happy with the service you’re using that you’ll stick with it and invest in a higher plan. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Well, to begin with we’re only going to show you ‘hosted’ newsletter services, which basically just means that you don’t need your own email server or to install anything on your computer. In other words, they’re fully self-contained services. Nice and easy right?
Also, they all have a form of bounce management. This means that the service automatically takes care of emails that don’t reach their recipient, after a couple of tries, by removing them from your list. This helps keep your contact lists clean and uncluttered.
Even though your newsletters will most likely be the most useful emails your customers have ever received, there will always be those who aren’t as enlightened, and that’s where the next service comes in handy. They all offer quick and easy unsubscribe management, which can take place without you needing to do anything.
And finally, another useful feature of these providers is that they can provide you with statistics. Now you’ll be able to find out who’s actually opening your emails, and which ones are more popular than others…after all, it’s basically a popularity contest. May the best newsletter win.
Good question. I’ve put them into a handy table for you below!
|Provider||What's included for free?||Comments|
||MailerLite offer all features at all tiers, whether you’re on their free plan, or paid. This includes autoresponders, sophisticated webforms, reporting and full support options.|
||Unlike MailerLite, you have restricted features available on the free account (e.g. advanced segmentation and delivery by time-zone). But you still have a more generous subscriber amount, and it’s just as user-friendly. And most importantly, you can't use their email or chat support. There's also a small ad banner in each email you send.|
||SendInBlue’s free plan is a little more restricted in terms of emails. You can have up to 9,000 p/m, but there is also a daily limit of 300. You also have their branding present in all emails.|
||Similar to SendInBlue, Mailjet have a sending limit on their free plan, and a daily limit of only 200 emails.|
||Benchmark’s numbers look very similar to MailChimp’s. As most newsletter services these days they sport a drag and drop editor. Not all features are included in the free plan.|
||CleverReach have one of the more restrictive free plans out there, in terms of subscriber and email numbers. However, there is a small ad in your outgoing emails that can’t be removed.|
||Smallest amount of subscribers. Their backend is quite different to other tools, which may be a bit confusing if you’re used to other newsletter tools.|
||YMLP (Your Mailinglist Provider) is threadbare in both form and function. The design looks as if it's a relic from the 90s, and you'll need to be versed in HTML, or have a designer handy, to get something useful from the editor.|
With the above table, you can see that it’s perfectly possible to use free newsletter services for your small business needs, at least up to a certain point, depending on how big your dreams (a.k.a. contact lists) become.
Most services restrict either subscriber numbers or email numbers, and sometimes both, so pay attention to these amounts when deciding. You’ll also need to be aware that, while some will allow you access to all their features on their free plan (such as MailerLite), others restrict access to premium features (such as MailChimp). And be aware that some services like to add, in exchange for a free plan, their own branding within your newsletters (such as SendInBlue)
A premium feature that you won’t find with any of these providers is marketing automation, so it’s worth taking that into account. It’s often also not possible to access advanced reporting with most of these free accounts either. So if you need this kind of sophistication you may need to open up your wallet. You can get an idea of prices, and compare them between providers, with our newsletter cost calculator.
In regards to recommendations, I’d probably try out MailerLite or MailChimp to begin with, they have relatively good subscriber and email limits, along with an easy to use system. MailerLite has some great features, such as landing pages and multiple languages, while still being wallet-friendly, even in their paid plans. MailChimp can get pretty pricey in their paid tiers but has some really great integration options.
While there are a number of free services, it’s good to not only be aware of the limitations of each, but also to go with one that feels best for you. To figure this out, simply TRY them…they’re free after all!