Thursday, July 03, 2014

Email Marketing Software / Services – Which One is the Best?

Email Marketing Software / Services – Which One is the Best?

Written by Marcus Taylor
Posted on Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Written by

Over the years, I’ve played around with at least a dozen email marketing tools across Venture Harbour’s various projects and clients. While there is no overall ‘perfect’ solution, it’s become evident that some email marketing software services are better suited to some more than others.
email marketing Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
From the simplicity of tools like Sendy, to the more comprehensive solutions like InfusionSoft, finding the right email marketing tool ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. Do you need API integration? Beautiful newsletter designs? Auto-responders? Or are you just looking for the cheapest solution? All of this will determine which email marketing service is best suited for you.
I’ve reviewed some of the most popular email marketing service in quite some detail below, but for those looking for a quick comparison, I’ve created the following table.
Service Pricing In the Cloud? Free version?
Get Response From $15/month Yes Free trial
Constant Contact From $15/month Yes Free trial
Aweber From $19/month Yes Free up to 500 subscribers
InfusionSoft From $199/month Yes No
Mailchimp From £12.30/month Yes Free up to 2,000 subscribers
Sendy $59 one-off + $0.001 per email No No

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, so I’ve tried to keep each review as neutral as possible, highlighting both the good and the bad.

Get Response

Get Response are an exceptional underdog in the email marketing space, and are in my opinion probably the best email marketing service available. While they may not have the legacy of Aweber, or the brand of Mailchimp, they probably have the best overall service.
One of the areas that Get Response are leaps and bounds beyond their competitors is design. Their newsletters are visually beautiful, and they’ve clearly put a lot of thought into getting engagement from emails.
get response Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
Get Response have a number of really useful features, including built-in email A/B testing, the ability to preview emails on a number of different devices, and a range of integrations with CRM systems, customer service platforms, and other sites with APIs. These integrations provide many powerful ways to build your list passively.
Another feature I really like about Get Response is the inclusion of social sharing stats within their email reports, which enables you to drive social shares of your newsletter and analyse the traffic and shares driven from social media by your email marketing.
Screen Shot 2014 05 14 at 23.09.47 1024x557 Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
A final feature that is extremely useful and quite unique about Get Response is their ‘time travel’ functionality, which enables you to set a universal time that your email campaigns arrive into your list’s inboxes regardless of their time zone. In other words, you can schedule an email so that it arrives at 9am in London, Tokyo and Moscow, without having to segment your list into different time zones.
Screen Shot 2014 06 19 at 17.58.23 1024x616 Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
I originally placed Get Response lower in this review as they used to be a bit pricey, but they’ve since lowered their prices to start at $15/month, which is more affordable than both Mailchimp and Aweber’s starter package. Overall, Get Response get my vote as one of the best email marketing software providers.

Sendy

If you’re after a ‘no frills’ solution, you may be interested in using Sendy. I personally use Sendy for a handful of side projects, as it’s incredibly simple to use and very cost effective.
One other benefit to using Sendy is that, because it uses Amazon’s SES (Simple Email Service) to send emails, you don’t have to mess around with double-opt-in, or even single-opt-ins, to add people to your list. While, of course you should have all of your subscribers opt-in, it isn’t always possible, and other services like Mailchimp make this very difficult.
sendy send newsletters cheaper Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
The main consideration to bear in mind with Sendy is that it needs to be hosted on your web server. In other words, you’ll need to create a subdomain like ‘email.yourdomain.com’ and upload the files that you download from the Sendy website.
Thankfully, Sendy provide a comprehensive start-up guide, which 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.
Sendy is completely white-labeled, making it useful for agencies 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.
Below are some screenshots showing some of the functionality of Sendy.
sendy create campaign Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
sendy reporting Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?

Aweber

If for whatever reason you’re not impressed by GetResponse, I’d recommend looking into Aweber.
While their user interface could do with an update, Aweber sits in a sweet spot of being very cost effective, easy to use, and having all of the important features 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 also helpful for walking you through how to setup signup forms and craft your newsletters.
If you’re more advanced in your email marketing, Aweber has a handy split testing feature, enabling you to send different variations of an email campaign to different segments of your list to compare open rates and engagement rates.
They also offer auto responders, RSS-to-email, and a tonne of third-party integrations. Perhaps their most useful integration is with WordPress, which enables you to add email signup forms on your website by simply installing the Aweber WordPress plugin.
aweber email marketing Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
Overall, the thing that draws me to Aweber is that it’s so simple, yet still has everything you need to get the job done. I’ve personally switched between Aweber and Mailchimp for some of my own projects several times, but despite Mailchimp’s slick user interface, I find the functionality, reporting, and overall quality of Aweber much better.
With Aweber, there are no long-term contracts, and they have unlimited sending packages for up to 25,000 subscribers. Starting at $19/month, it’s still a little bit more expensive than Get Response, but with $4/month difference, it really comes down to a matter of opinion.

Mailchimp

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.
mailchimp Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
The major downside with Mailchimp is the requirement for subscribers double opt-in. While you can import subscribers, Mailchimp forces anyone who joins your list to opt-in via a web form and confirming an email link. 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 very familiar. While you can customise these, they somehow always have that Mailchimp newsletter look!
One thing that I think Mailchimp do very well is their API. Their integration features are spectacular, and there’s a huge amount of support around connecting Mailchimp with WordPress contact forms, CRM systems, and other tools / services. If the API is important, then Mailchimp may be worth consideration.
The general functionality with Mailchimp is fine. Their user interface, reporting, and campaign manager is easy to use and does what it should. One other thing worth mentioning about Mailchimp is that they offer two pricing structures: pay as you go, and monthly subscriptions.
When I was running The Musician’s Guide, I would occasionally take a break from sending newsletters for several months at a time, making the pay as you go option quite useful, albeit more expensive.
mailchimp pricing Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
At $0.03 per email, that’s over 300x more expensive than Sendy.co.

InfusionSoft

InfusionSoft is an interesting option. Personally, I don’t really see it as being an email marketing tool, as email marketing is just one of the many services included in the InfusionSoft tool suite. However, they’re certainly a contender to consider when deciding on how to manage your email marketing, and if you have the budget, then it is excellent.
So let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room; InfusionSoft is expensive. Starting at $199/month, with no free trial, and a mandatory kick-starter package (that costs a few thousand dollars), it’s quite an investment for most marketers and business owners. However, the investment aims to ensure that you will make the most out of the platform.
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 marketing based on customer behaviour.
infusionsoft Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
With InfusionSoft, you can set up triggers so that if a user adds a product to their shopping cart but doesn’t complete the order, an email is sent to them reminding them to complete their order. If after another two days they’ve not completed, they’ll receive another email. All automated, all personalised.
For a business like ours, if a user downloads one of our white papers, we can add them into our CRM, and if they match certain criteria, we can send certain types of emails out to them.
It’s a complex tool that takes a while to get your head around, but if you’re running a business that relies on email marketing, it’s one of the best marketing automation solutions out there.
Generally, I advise clients who are already generating in excess of $100,000 / year from their website to use InfusionSoft. I’ve seen it work best for eCommerce businesses and information product businesses where there is a lot of potential to increase conversion rate. If you’re just starting out, InfusionSoft is almost certainly not the right fit.

Constant Contact

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 Email Marketing Software / Services   Which One is the Best?
Constant Contact’s selling point used to be that they were extremely cost effective. Many of our clients used them because they were free (in return for including a Constant Contact logo at the bottom of every email). However, it seems that their prices are now quite expensive relative to some of the other options. At $50/month for 2,501-5,000 subscribers, it’s hard to think why you’d choose them over another option like Aweber or GetResponse, both of which have better integration, nicer design, better reporting, and costs less?
However, 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. As email newsletters and auto responders can be quite a challenge to set up correctly for first-timers, this is a handy feature that several of the other services don’t currently offer.
Constant Contact also appear to have branched out into a few different areas, offering support for event registration, online events, feedback forms, and surveys. Personally, I’d much rather just use Eventbrite for events, and Survey Monkey for surveys, but for those that want everything in one place this may be a selling point.
Overall, I find Constant Contact’s offering just a bit too dull. There’s no strong selling point over competing services and everything that they claim to do well, the other services do better anyway.

In Summary

While we have reviewed only six of potentially dozens of email marketing services, I’ve covered the ones which I consider to be the main contenders for small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups, agencies, and online marketers. Of course, there is no 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. At approximately 100x cheaper per email than the other services reviewed here, it’s the most cost effective way to send bulk email. The only considerations are that it’s locally hosted, so you’ll need to install it on your web server, and the functionality is very basic.
The best email marketing softeware 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.e. behaviour-triggered emails), I’d recommend InfusionSoft. It’s certainly not the cheapest option, but for a good reason. Their team spends a lot of time training you on how to integrate it into your business, to ensure that it has a meaningful impact on increasing your sales.
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’re running an eCommerce website, or a small business that requires product emails and CRM integration, then InfusionSoft may be worth the money.
I hope that’s helped – if you have any questions then feel free to post in the comments below, or contact us here. Finally, I’ve also created the following video summarising the points in this post.

What’s the Best Email Marketing Software for Newsletters & AutoResponders?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ZUYEmvSns


Description:
A review of six of the most popular email marketing software services by Marcus Taylor.
Image Credit: Johnny Hughes
Written by Marcus Taylor

Written by Marcus Taylor

Marcus Taylor is an award-winning entrepreneur, and founder of Venture Harbour. Marcus also built the World's first scientifically valid 'comfort zone calculator', which he has spoken about at TEDx.

Marcus speaks about marketing and entrepreneurship at conferences internationally, and contributes to Econsultancy, Moz, Forbes, and Huffington Post.