I often get asked “what’s the best email marketing software for small business?” and the truth is that there’s no one size fits all answer.
Choosing the right email marketing platform allows you to manage and grow your subscriber list, while helping you design and optimize beautiful emails, in an effort to build your business. On top of it all, you also get different analytics that allow you to you determine just how well your email did, and how you can improve it in the future.
This post is part of a larger CRM Comparison effort.
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Finding that “right tool for your business” can be a challenge. Countless email marketing software companies have sprouted up, determined to convince you that they are the perfect solution for your small business marketing needs.
Which of them is correct? As it turns out, that depends on your exact needs as a business owner. To make the decision just a little easier for you, we’ve compiled an overview of some of the best email marketing software for small business, and how they can help you achieve your goals.
Let’s dive in…
MailChimp – A Perfect Place To Start For Bootstrappers
MailChimp is perhaps the most widely used email marketing tools among small businesses. And that’s for a reason: the service is entirely free if you have under 2,000 subscribers or send less than 12,000 emails per month.
After reaching that threshold, the price goes up in a pricing method that’s precise rounded up to 100 subscribers to ensure you’re never overcharged.
But its flexible pricing structure isn’t the only reason for MailChimp’s popularity. The service allows businesses to spend as much or as little time designing their marketing emails as they want, offering both free templates and an easy-to-learn drag-and-drop template editor for customization.
Depending on your skillset, the web-based tool also comes with a built-in editor for your pictures, making MailChimp one of the most flexible tools on the market: it’s just as useful if you’re just starting a business as it is when you’re looking to grow beyond your initial customer base.
AWeber – Longtime Darling and Focused On Email Delivery
AWeber is the first email marketing system that I signed up for when I was starting my online business, and it’s one I’m still happy to recommend today. (I ended up moving to an all-in-one system called Infusionsoft, which you’ll find out more about below.)
What I love about AWeber is their “no fuss” focus on delivering your emails, and giving you good stats about what people do with your emails. Their autoresponder and list management options are also more flexible than MailChimp’s list management… which is important if you have more than one type of customer or email list offer.
Especially if you engage in eCommerce by selling products directly on your website, you need an email tool that integrates with your shopping cart so that you can send well-designed, automated confirmation and shipping emails each time someone purchases one of your products. AWeber does just that.
In fact, we would go as far as to say that AWeber is the perfect choice if you are looking for a tool that integrates with your various customer databases.
Salesforce integration comes with the tool from the start, as does an easy way to set up auto-responders that will become invaluable as your business grows and you don’t have time to send emails manually and individually.
If you’re technologically savvy, AWeber even allows you to take your email marketing one step further: at AWeber labs, you can create custom apps that integrate seamlessly with your email marketing.
Constant Contact – It’s Easy To Get Started, But Restrictive In The Long Run
Unlike MailChimp, which gives its users almost limitless flexibility in how robust or complex their email marketing should be, Constant Contact goes the opposite route and takes care of the choice for its users.
This makes it a restrictive choice that I personally don’t recommend to any of my clients.
The options for integration with other digital marketing are almost limitless, allowing users to attach videos or documents to the emails along with seamless social media navigation.
Constant Contact is easy to navigate and master, and its many help and support articles and resources are sure to answer any questions that may remain. The cheapest plan begins at $20 per month, but this email marketing service leaves much to be desired for digitally savvy business owners.
Mad Mimi – Simple Design, Out of The Box
Mad Mimi provides perhaps the most beautiful emails out of all the options we mentioned here.
That’s not to say the creators ignore customer service – it’s just that they have clearly made design their top priority, and it shows in the software.
Rather than relying on pre-designed templates like most of its competitors, Mad Mimi instead offers Themes that are reminiscent of their WordPress equivalent and allow users to customize the look of their emails without any prior design knowledge.
The result: no two emails look the same, and it’s almost more difficult to make an email look bad than the opposite. If beautiful design in your emails is your #1 priority, this is the route you should go.
Infusionsoft – Top Of The Line, All-In-One Marketing Platform
Let’s start with the most important part: Infusionsoft is one of the most expensive platforms on this list.
If you’re not willing or able to spend at least $200 per month on your business, you may want to skip to the next tool we’ll discuss. But if the money is available in your budget, then the added benefits of a full fledged program like Infusionsoft will pay for themselves.
Too often, calculating the return on investment from email marketing devolves into a guessing game. How can you truly know how much revenue a single email or even a chain or email generated?
Infusionsoft provides an answer: it comes with a built-in ROI tracker that allows you to calculate exactly that, and the results have been higher ROI than most if not all competing email marketing tools.
The tracker has been so successful, it makes other advanced features (such as a lead scoring system that allows you to track which of your contacts are most likely to become customers or flowcharts that allow you to create comprehensive, consistent campaigns) seem like nice little bonuses.
I personally switched to Infusionsoft when my business started to get more complex, when I realized that I could automate my follow up and do more smart marketing based on people’s actions.
If you’re not sure if it’s time to upgrade to Infusionsoft or Ontraport, I’ve got a blog post giving you my advice here.
Ontraport – Email Management, Order Processing, and More
Ontraport is the Infusionsoft equivalent, with a slightly different approach to automation and contact management. There are a lot of similarities in terms of email contact management…
Both platforms allow you to tag people based on their actions, opt-ins, and orders. This means you can do smarter marketing and offer the right kind of email follow up based on what people do (or don’t do).
One of the deciding factors that might help you decide between Infusionsoft and Ontraport is the community and support that each company has cultivated. Infusionsoft has been around longer, but Ontraport is coming up strong with new features and a strong set of support professionals to answer your questions.
I’ve got a more in-depth post comparing Infusionsoft vs. Ontraport if this is where you’re stuck.
Vertical Response – Pay As You Go Budget Friendly Options
Finally, we finish with a software (Vertical Response) that’s almost the exact opposite of Infusionsoft and Ontraport, at least in terms of budget-needs.
You probably noticed that most of the email marketing tools we mentioned above base their pricing models on monthly subscriptions. But if you’re a small business that doesn’t necessarily send out emails all that often, these pricing models mean wasting money in months that you don’t actually use the service.
Enter Vertical Response. Much like MailChimp, sending to just a few subscribers is entirely free. But even beyond that, you may not have to pay much: the tool offers pay-as-you-go options that allow you to pay only when you actually send out an email.
That may not make sense if you have implemented a comprehensive email strategy into your marketing plan, but it’s perfect if you just want to send out a promotional email to loyal customers every now and then.
ActiveCampaign – Email and Automation in a Customer Management System
ActiveCampaign is a newer contender in the email marketing space that focuses heavily on automation and contact management. Think split testing emails, and automatically adjusting what people receive based on whether they clicked a link in an email or didn’t open another email.
I’m really seeing ActiveCampaign as the alternative to Infusionsoft and Ontraport for those on a smaller budget to start out ($49/month with full sales and CRM automation). However, the more email subscribers you have on ActiveCampaign, the faster your monthly bill increases… but I see it as a way to tap into automation before you are ready to jump into bigger systems like Infusionsoft or Ontraport.
ActiveCampaign also allows you to track leads and do more individual one-on-one sales, just like Infusionsoft does. It’s definitely a tempting option with an intuitive interface to consider!
ConvertKit – The Blogger’s Option For List Building
The new kid on the block of email marketing that’s gaining traction is ConvertKit. Their marketing is aimed at bloggers and those who are building an audience and wanting to segment follow-ups easily with their automation features.
One thing that ConvertKit has going for it is their intuitive interface design and the fact that they’ve gotten some big name bloggers on board, like Pat Flynn.
With ConvertKit you can build email drip sequences, and use automation features like triggers to change the default behavior and tailor it to each individual subscriber. Pricing is reasonable for smaller email lists and does pick up speed quickly, and once you pass the 30,000 subscriber mark you’d be better off on a system like Infusionsoft or Ontraport.
As A Side Note… PopupAlly Pro Integrates With All Of These Systems
PopupAlly Pro allows you to design the most beautiful opt-in boxes, polite popups for you website… using any of the email marketing systems we reviewed today.
Of course, a single blog post can’t even begin to list all available email marketing tools for small businesses. We haven’t even mentioned tools like ActiveCampaign, Get Response or Campaigner yet. But from MailChimp to Vertical Response, this list should cover the best tools for every situation.
So what’s the best email marketing software for small businesses? You Decide!
Questions about the best email tool available for small businesses are impossible to answer definitively. But there is such a thing as the best email tool for specific situations, and we hope you will be able to find the answer for your needs in our list above.
If not, leave a comment below!