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.
Table of Contents
Before we jump in, 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.
Tip #1: Want a quick way to find the right email marketing service for you? Try out our Smart Finder – you’ll have your personalized recommendation in less than a minute!
So which are the best email marketing services? Take a look at our ranking table below to find out.
|#||Email marketing service||Pricing||Comments|
The Automation Champs
|500 contacts: $15/mo
|+ Extremely powerful automation
+ Thorough reporting
+ Great deliverability
+ Free migrations
– Features can be overwhelming
The Swiss Army Knife
|1,000 cont: $15/mo
|+ Intelligent list automation
+ Landing page editor
+ Design and spam testing
– Templates look dated
Simplicity and Design
|1,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Landing page editor
– Missing some pro features
800 Pound Gorilla
|2,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Thorough reporting
+ Generous freemium plan
+ Great template editor
– High-cost subscription plans
– Limited email automation
Impressive free plan
+ Generous free plan
+ Use your own domain name for links
– Templates not all responsive
– Newsletter editor
Email Marketing Made in Germany
|1,000 emails: $0/mo
|+ List management
+ Deliverability rates
+ Free plan
– Registration form design
– No unlimited pricing plan
Bang For Your Buck
|Free Plan: $0/mo
40,000 emails: $25/mo
|+ Low-cost plans
+ Solid email automation
+ Landing page editor
+ SMS marketing tool
– Editor and general usability
|2,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Easy-to-use editor
+ Flexible templates
+ Marketing automation
– Deliverability issues
– File storage charges
|1,000 cont.: $29/mo
|+ Landing page editor
+ Flexible subscriber management
+ Responsive support
– It's pricey
– Poor designs options
– Reports are lacking in depth
The Expensive Choice
|500 contacts: $20/mo
|+ Niche features
+ High deliverability rates
– Very poor price to performance ratio
– Limited automation
For Stunning Emails
|5,000 emails: $69/mo
|+ Unlimited contacts
+ Keep data in-house
– Form/contact fields
Transactional Email Specialists
|6,000 emails: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Transactional emails
+ Drag and drop editor
– Premium features cost extra
Email Marketing Old-Timer
|500 contacts: $19/mo
|+ List management tools
+ Sales tracking
– High price and unfair subscriber count
– Editor bugs
Tip #2: Want to be able to compare two or more email marketing services side-by-side? Use our comparison tool.
Nowadays, most email marketing software is designed to perform a range of functions beyond simply sending emails and newsletters. Which features are an absolute must? Here’s our list of the key things you should be looking for:
Still not sure? Take a look at our short video which highlights how these features should work in your email marketing software.
Tip #3: You can also compare the prices of different email marketing services using our Newsletter Cost Calculator.
At EmailToolTester, we only review cloud-based email marketing software. They have a couple of advantages over packaged software which is installed locally on your computer:
However, there are some disadvantages too:
In general, we’ve noticed that cloud-based email marketing software is coming out on top. Smaller and medium-sized companies, in particular, benefit from having no IT maintenance to worry about. Never underestimate the amount of time and money that this costs. For smaller companies, it’s almost impossible to run an email server for newsletters that isn’t blocked by services such as AOL or Gmail at some point.
And then there’s the security aspect: many companies don’t like hosting their recipient lists off-site. The email marketing software services themselves will obviously be very careful to fix any security issues as quickly as possible – after all, it’s their reputation on the line. However, there will always be some residual risk.
Cloud-based software is usually available for a monthly subscription fee. There’s no upfront cost, and you’ll often get the chance to pay month by month, or opt for discounted yearly plans. You can expect the following to be included within your monthly fee:
Tip #4: We often hear from people who are worried about not having many contacts to write to. If that’s the case for you, consider setting up a welcome email series as an autoresponder. This way, everyone who signs up starts receiving emails from you right away without the need for you to publish on a regular schedule (just yet).
A great way to encourage sign-ups is a free checklist, ebook or other exclusive content.
Here’s a more detailed look at the email marketing services in our ranking table. Each profile also contains a link to the full review, in case you need more information.
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.
Who ActiveCampaign is 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 for 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.
Who GetResponse is 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.
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. Good deliverability rates, too.
Where they can improve: Could maybe introduce more advanced automation and email analytics features. Email templates are sadly not included in the free plan.
Who Mailerlit is 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 automations.
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.
Who Mailchimp is for: Users who want a great free and easy way to use email marketing service.
CleverReach seems to go all in with their generous free plan that's good for up to 2500 subscribers and 10,000 emails (you can only use it though if you are from the US, Canada, India, New Zealand or Australia).
But is free the only thing this German newsletter service does well? Not quite. They offer a lot of different pricing options, which may seem overwhelming at first but give you a lot of flexibility. Among them are flat-rate, pay as you go and high-volume options. Once you move past the free plan, their prices are in the upper third of the market though. Then there are pro features such as their content segmentation that allows you to customize content blocks to your reader's preferences.
What we like: their above-average deliverability. They feature a decent automation center and let you set up your own tracking domain for outgoing links. And of course, the free plan is great too.
Where they can improve: it's a pity that not all templates are responsive yet. Registration forms aren't responsive either by default. The editor has its quirks but nothing too bad.
Who CleverReach is for: Senders who require a newsletter tool with a broad range of features and great deliverability.
German email service provider Newsletter2Go may be much younger compared to other tools (it’s only been around since 2011), but in that time it has established itself as a solid and versatile tool. Offering both subscription plans and pay-as-you-go credits, it’s a cost-effective option for those who send emails just once a month, as prices are based on email sends rather than number of subscribers.
Features include responsive email templates, autoresponders, and advanced list management, which is especially useful for agencies working with multiple clients.
What we like: The free plan comes with 1,000 emails per month. Servers are located in Germany and they abide by strict EU regulations, making it ideal for European customers (and those concerned by data protection). They also have excellent deliverability rates.
Where they can improve: Features like the autoresponder and forms are still somewhat basic. And the pay-per-email-send model may not suit those whose email sending volumes change from month to month.
Who Newsletter2Go is for: Anyone looking for a simple but solid email marketing service that will get your emails delivered.
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, automations and reporting are all good.
Where they can improve: The user experience could be a little smoother, as could the email editor. Deliverability seems to be hit and miss.
Who SendInBlue is for: Users who want a good budget solution with decent features, whether for free or to send large volumes (40,000 emails) for only $25/month.
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.
Who Benchmark is for: Those looking for an affordable and intuitive tool with a generous free plan.
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, MailerLite). 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.
What we like: The landing page editor (for instance, you could just integrate email marketing with social media even if you haven't got a website yet). 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). Reports could have more options – they do not even show bounce rates.
Who ConvertKit is 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.
Maybe because Constant Contact have 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+ apps for integrating extra services to their platform. Is it still enough to make them relevant?
What we like: Good deliverability results. The event management feature is ideal if this is your industry.
What they should improve: Expensive and relatively basic automation. In general, Constant Contact lacks basic functions that you find elsewhere.
This French email marketing service recently revamped its desktop software with a smart new design, and a web-based version of their tool. It’s packed with new features, too, including automations, landing pages, and SMS. They offer a great selection of modern-looking email templates, and an email editor that’s easy to use.
Bonus feature – if you’d prefer your data to stay offline, Mailify’s desktop version will actually let you keep your data hosted locally.
What we liked: Great user interface, and some very fresh email designs. The editor is fast and easy to use, giving you plenty of flexibility to edit emails.
Where they can improve: List management and automations are quite simple – would be great if you could do more with them. As they charge based on email sends, the service can also get a little pricey. Deliverability rates could also be better, although we’ve seen signs of improvement as of late.
Who is Mailify for: If ease of use and good email designs are important to you, Mailify could be well-suited to your needs. We’d also recommend it for anyone wanting to keep their data offline.
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 relatively new product. You can still send transactional emails, and also send SMS. Plus, there are some surprisingly advanced features such as automations, A/B testing, sub-accounts (e.g. for agencies) and team collaboration.
What we like: Very affordable plans, and the free offer is generous too. Drag and drop editor works well, and the automations are decent.
What they should improve: It’s a shame you can’t trial out features like automations, segmentation or A/B testing on the free plan. In fact, to access these, you need to upgrade to one of their higher-level plans (Premium or Enterprise plans).
Who is MailJet for: For beginners looking for something simple, it’s a great tool (and its lower plans are well-priced too). But it’s also suitable for those who want more sophisticated features and don’t mind paying to add them on. Being able to manage multiple sub-accounts also makes it ideal for agencies.
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.
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.
Tip #5: Most newsletter services allow you to A/B test your subject lines. If you have a significant number of subscribers (2000+) you should start doing regular tests to get a feel for your subscribers’ preferences.
Now one more thing before we finish up – 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. Learn more.
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 click a link). 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. We have a list of free responsive templates that you can download, and that will work with any newsletter tool.
Responsive email: 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 price variations based on your amount of subscribers. Check out our newsletter cost calculator to see the pricing offered by each provider.
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.
Transactional emails: Some providers also offer the ability to send triggered, business-related emails – e.g. order confirmations, password resets, and renewal reminders.
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 guide 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.