Over the years, I’ve played around with a dozen or so email marketing tools.
It’s become clear to me that there’s no one-size fits all solution when it comes to email marketing software. The best tool for you completely depends on what you’re looking to get out of your email marketing.
If, for example, you just need a tool to send out newsletters, GetResponse might be ideal. On the other hand, if you need a service that sends behaviour triggered emails to customers, Infusionsoft may be a better fit. Finding the right email marketing software all depends on what you’re looking for.
In this post, I’ve written a detailed review of six of the most popular email marketing services. For a quick summary and comparison, I’ve created the following table.
Email marketing software reviews
Below, I’ve reviewed each of the email marketing tools mentioned above in great detail. Admittedly, every solution has both upsides and downsides. I’ve tried to keep each review as neutral as possible, highlighting both the good and the bad.
GetResponse are an exceptional underdog in the email marketing space. In my opinion, they’ve built the best email marketing service for small to medium sized businesses.
While they may not have the legacy of Aweber, or the strong brand of Mailchimp, they probably have the best overall service.
There are a few things that I really like about GetResponse.
First of all, their newsletter designs look beautiful and are leaps and bounds beyond their competitors. They offer over 500 professionally designed newsletter templates to choose from, all of which are mobile-optimised straight off the shelf.
Secondly, their autoresponders and automation tools are amazing. While not nearly as powerful as dedicated marketing automation services like Infusionsoft, you can easily automate email campaigns based on whether subscribers buy a certain product on your website or sign up through a certain form.
Considering that GetResponse costs a fraction of what most marketing automation services charge, this is a huge bonus that I wasn’t expecting when I signed up for GetResponse.
Next up, GetResponse have extremely intuitive A/B testing functionality. By default, you can A/B test subject lines, email content, sending times, and the from field. This feature alone has enabled me to double my email engagement rates.
GetResponse has a good API, making it easy to integrate it with plugins and other software platforms. We use the official GetResponse WordPress plugin to capture email addresses from our contact form and comments, as well as integrating it with our CRM system and reporting software.
One final feature worth mentioning is time travel.
Time travel enables you to set a universal time that your email campaign arrives in your recipient’s inboxes. In other words, you can schedule an email that arrives at 9am, regardless of whether the recipient is in London, Moscow, or Tokyo.
This is a life-saver if you have people from all over the World on your mailing list. Gone are the days where your email campaigns arriving at 2am in the morning!
There are a few things that I’m not particularly fond of with GetResponse. Firstly, their user dashboard is not as intuitive as it could be. While I’m used to it now, it did take a while having to Google “How to delete lists from GetResponse”, before I understood where everything was.
I also find their form builder quite difficult to use. Again, it’s fine once you get used to it, but initially it gave me a few headaches. That said, no email marketing service is perfect and out of the lot of them GetResponse is definitely my favourite.
In terms of cost, GetResponse are one of the most affordable email marketing services. Their pricing starts at $15/month and includes a 30-day free trial. This makes GetResponse more affordable than both Mailchimp and Aweber’s starter package.
Overall, GetResponse has my vote. If you want to give them a shot, you can sign up for a free trial here.
If you’re after a ‘no frills’ email marketing tool, you may like Sendy.
After stumbling across Sendy on Twitter last year, I decided to give them a shot. I ended up using them for about six months before finally deciding to migrate all of Venture Harbour’s mailing lists to GetResponse.
For me, the main attraction to Sendy was the affordability and simplicity. Sendy is by far the most cost effective email marketing service, as they use Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) to send emails, which costs about $1 per 10,000 emails.
The main advantage/disadvantage with Sendy, depending on your perspective, is that it’s a self-hosted tool. In other words, you have to install it on your website’s server and setup a subdomain like ‘email.yourdomain.com’. Here you will upload the installation files that you download from the Sendy website.
Thankfully, Sendy provides a detailed setup guide on how to do this. Their setup guide gives you easy to follow instructions on how to upload the files and connect your site to Amazon SES.
I’m not particularly technical, and I managed to get it up and running in about 25 minutes.
Another benefit with Sendy is that it’s easy to white label. This makes it a great choice for agencies or web design companies wishing to provide clients with an email marketing platform. You can also set the price your clients pay per email, so that you can earn a profit from your client’s email marketing, if you wish to do so.
One of the other key benefits of using Sendy is that you don’t have to mess around with double or even single opt-ins.
Because it uses Amazon SES to send emails, you have a lot of control over adding people to your list. Ideally, your subscribers should always opt-in, but sometimes this isn’t possible and other services like Mailchimp make this quite difficult.
The user interface on Sendy is extremely basic, but has everything you need for basic email marketing e.g. reporting, a campaign builder, and contact lists. Here’s a screenshot of the Sendy campaign builder:
The reporting dashboard is refreshingly to the point. While very limited, it contains everything you’d need to know to analyse the performance of a basic email marketing campaign:
All in all, Sendy is a good choice for sporadic email marketers who don’t need any bells and whistles. There is a one-off fee to license the software ($59), but after you’ve paid this it only costs $1 to send 10,000 emails.
For Venture Harbour, we ended up moving to GetResponse quite soon after trying Sendy. The main reason was that, for the type of email marketing we do, features like automation and A/B testing is extremely important. For us, Sendy was way too limited.
That said, if you’re after a self-hosted email marketing service, or a cheap way to send a large amount of emails, it’s definitely worth considering.
If for whatever reason you’re not impressed by GetResponse, I’d recommend looking into Aweber.
Despite looking a bit outdated, Aweber sits in a sweet spot of being cost effective and easy to use. It has all the important features you’d want, without being too feature heavy.
For those starting out, it has great reporting to help you learn what does and doesn’t work. Their email campaign creator is great at walking you through how to setup your signup forms and newsletters.
If you’re more advanced in your email marketing, Aweber has some good features, such as split testing. Split testing enables you to send different variations of a campaign to different segments of your list. This allows you to compare and improve your open and engagement rates.
They also offer auto responders, RSS-to-email, and a ton of third-party integrations. Perhaps their most useful integration is with WordPress. Their WordPress plugin enables you to add email signup forms to your website in a single click.
The thing that I love about Aweber is that it’s so simple, yet still has everything you need to get the job done.
I’ve switched between Aweber and Mailchimp for some of my own projects several times. Despite Mailchimp’s slick design, I find the functionality and reporting of Aweber much better.
With Aweber, you’re not locked into any long-term contracts. Their pricing starts at $19/month, and allows you to send unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers.
Aweber is a bit more expensive than GetResponse. Although only by $4/month, so it’s really a matter of preference.
For years, I used Mailchimp to manage the email marketing for TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk, a site I ran with about 12,000 email subscribers. As Mailchimp got bigger, they introduced a lot of features that, in my opinion, have made it quite difficult to use for serious email marketing.
The major downside with Mailchimp is that subscribers must double opt-in. You can, of course, import subscribers without them having to opt-in. For anyone new, though, Mailchimp forces them to opt-in via both a web form and confirmation email.
This meant I was losing about 15% of subscribers who were signing up on the website but not confirming their email address.
The other thing that is not so great about Mailchimp is the homogenisation of their email templates. Because so many marketers use Mailchimp, their newsletter templates look familiar. While you can customise these, they somehow always have that Mailchimp newsletter look!
One thing that I think Mailchimp do particularly well is their API. Their integration capabilities with other services is quite extensive. Whether you want to connect Mailchimp to WordPress, your CRM system, or proposal software, there’s a lot of support to do so.
If having a good API is important, then Mailchimp may be worth consideration.
The general functionality with Mailchimp is fine. Their user interface, reporting, and campaign manager is intuitive and easy to get the hang of. Mailchimp also offer two different pricing structures; pay as you go, and a monthly subscription.
This can be particularly useful if your email marketing is sporadic. When I used to run The Musician’s Guide, I’d often take a break from sending newsletters for months at a time. While more expensive per email, the pay as you go option saved a lot of money over the long run.
At $0.03 per email, that’s over 300x more expensive than Sendy.co.
InfusionSoft is an interesting option.
In some ways it’s wrong to compare it with services like Aweber and GetResponse, as it’s not just an email marketing tool. Infusionsoft is a full sales and marketing automation tool. Email marketing is just one of the many tools provided.
That said, it’d be naive to not feature Infusionsoft in this post. For many businesses, their platform is a complete game changer.
So let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room; InfusionSoft is expensive. Their pricing starts at $199/month, plus you have to pay for a kick-starter package that costs $1,999.
For most marketers and business owners, this is way out of budget. For some, though, this is a fraction of the return that Infusionsoft generates for their business.
InfusionSoft is a full CRM system, with marketing automation and eCommerce tools. So what can you do with InfusionSoft that you can’t do with other tools reviewed here?
In short, you can automate your sales and marketing based on customer behaviour.
I was speaking to a friend recently who was telling me that his company created a virtual sales person on Infusionsoft. Bruce, as they named him, keeps in contact with thousands of customers for them. He checks in every few weeks with different messages depending on what each customer has or hasn’t done.
For example, if someone adds a product to their shopping cart but doesn’t checkout, an email can be triggered reminding them to complete their order.
Perhaps you want to automatically send discount coupons to customers on their birthday? Or, maybe you want to create funnels that turn your non-paying subscribers into customers. With Infusionsoft this is all possible.
It’s a complex tool that’s as powerful as it is addictive. The biggest complain I hear from Infusionsoft customers is that you can spend days creating sequences!
If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve written a more in-depth review of Infusionsoft here. In general, Infusionsoft only becomes a good investment when you’re turning over at least $150k per year. It also only really makes sense if your business revolves around selling products online.
If you’re just starting out with email marketing, InfusionSoft is almost definitely not the right fit.
I’ve never been a fan of Constant Contact, as I find their user interface a bit dated, and their overall service very mediocre. That said, it’s been 3-4 years since I’ve used their service on a client and it does appear that they’ve picked their game up somewhat.
Constant Contact’s selling point used to be that they were the most cost effective solution. Many of our clients used them because they were free (in return for including a Constant Contact logo at the bottom of every email).
It seems that’s changed, as their prices are now quite expensive relative to some of the other options.
Constant Contact charge $50/month for 2,501-5,000 subscribers. To put this into perspective, GetResponse only costs $25-$45 for this amount of subscribers.
That said, Constant Contact do have a few interesting features worth mentioning. First of all, they offer every customer a personal marketing coach to assist with any questions or problems you have.
For first timers, email newsletters and auto responders can be quite a challenge to set up, so I can see how this is quite a valuable feature.
Constant Contact appear to be creating a one-stop shop for marketers. With event registration tools, feedback forms, and surveys, it looks like they’re branching out.
This is a brave move, considering that there are excellent free tools like Eventbrite and Survey Monkey.
In general, I find Constant Contact’s offering just a bit too dull. There’s no clear USP or compelling reason why I’d use them over competing services.
There are dozens of email marketing services out there. The six we’ve reviewed are just what I consider to be the main contenders for small to medium sized businesses.
I don’t believe that there’s a one size fits all solution when it comes to email marketing, so you need to weigh up your requirements.
The cheapest email marketing software
The cheapest option for email marketing is without a doubt, Sendy.co. Sendy is approximately 100x cheaper per email than the other services reviewed here. It’s by far the most cost effective way to send bulk email. The only considerations are that it needs to be installed on your web server, and the functionality is very basic.
The best email marketing software for entrepreneurs & small businesses
For most entrepreneurs and small businesses, I’d recommend GetResponse.
For businesses that need a full email marketing automation system, I’d recommend InfusionSoft. It’s certainly not the most affordable option, but for a good reason. The automation capabilities can save you days of repetitive work, while lifting your conversions.
Generally, if you’re still undecided, I’d recommend giving GetResponse a shot. If you’re looking for something basic and are technically savvy (and have access to your server), then Sendy is worth a look at. If you run an eCommerce website that turns over at least $150k, then Infusionsoft may be worth the investment.
I hope that’s helped – if you have any questions then feel free to post in the comments below, or contact us here.
Image Credit: Johnny Hughes