You need an email marketing service provider. After all, email has a higher ROI than any other marketing channel.
The only problem? Which email marketing platform should you choose?
The best tool for the job depends exactly on your needs.
In this post, I’ll be comparing the best email services and sharing recommendations for various use cases towards the end.
Let’s get right to it:
The best email marketing services
Here is a quick summary of each of platform:
- ActiveCampaign – Best all round email marketing + automation service.
- ConvertKit – Best email marketing platform for bloggers and content creators.
- Drip – Best email service and CRM for ecommerce.
- GetResponse – Great all-in-one platform that includes email marketing, automation, sales funnels, and more.
- Sendinblue – Great free plan. Supports transactional emails and SMS marketing.
- Mailerlite – Best free email marketing service but support is not great even for those on a paid plan.
- AWeber – Long-standing email marketing service with a solid feature set.
- Sendlane – Powerful email marketing service but not ideal for beginners due to their starting price point.
- SendX – Budget friendly provider but lacking some important email marketing features.
ActiveCampaign is a leading email marketing platform known for having the best balance between functionality and affordability.
This tool has an extremely rich feature-set that goes beyond email marketing. It has an incredibly powerful visual automation builder – one of the best I’ve tested.
When it comes to the core emailing functionality, you have all the features you need. For example; you can choose from a selection of email templates, or design your own with a drag & drop editor.
You have several options for sending your campaign emails; one-off emails, timed campaigns, automated emails, RSS-based, A/B testing, or auto-responder.
ActiveCampaign has a lot to offer in terms of contact management. You get plenty of ways to filter contacts, and full history of how your contacts have interacted with you – this works in sync with their site & event tracking functionality. List cleaning functionality is included, which can also be done via automation sequences.
Segmenting your email list is easy, and you have access to advanced functionality such as A/B testing and dynamic content. These two features alone can help you get more opens, clicks, and conversions.
Balancing functionality, price, and performance, ActiveCampaign is the best all-round email marketing service.
ActiveCampaign’s offering is configured in such a way that it makes industry-leading marketing automation available to content creators and small businesses, while supporting larger businesses with enterprise-specific functionality.
You’ll find user accounts available for your team, live chat, on-site messaging, custom domains, CRM & sales automation, and plenty more.
- Powerful marketing automation – ActiveCampaign has one of the most feature-rich visual automation builders around.
- Large library of automation sequences saves you time & effort – Don’t waste your time building long automation sequences from scratch. Import pre-made sequences you can edit in moments.
- Site & event tracking – Automate your email marketing based on triggering of events, and how your visitors interact with your website.
- Inclusive live chat functionality – Add live chat to your website in minutes that connects to your automation sequences easily. Use mobile apps to reply to live chat messages on the go.
Plans start at $9/month (paid yearly) for their lite plan which includes all the important email & automation features most people will need. Increase your plan to unlock site messaging, custom domains, CRM, SMS marketing, and more.
ConvertKit is an email marketing service with a strong-focus on bloggers & content creators.
Most platforms focus on trying to please everyone. ConvertKit doesn’t. Instead, they cater to the needs of a specific audience – bloggers & content creators.
The result is a well-crafted tool that is incredibly simple to use. You get the all important features such as visual automation, with the addition of opt-in forms & landing pages. While you’ll get more mileage out of a dedicated landing page builder, it’s a nice option to have for building your email list.
Simple reporting gives you a good top level view of how your forms are performing, and how your email list is growing overall, and tagging/segmentation is extremely easy.
You can add email sequences, then pull them into the visual automation builder. You can do the same with forms too. With most platforms, you’d need to jump between these options, but you can open both directly while editing your automations.
Given ConvertKit’s simplicity, there are some limitations. For example, filtering your subscribers isn’t as easy as other platforms, there’s no spam scoring, and there’s no visual email builder as such.
But, if you’re new to email marketing and you’re after simplicity without sacrificing powerful email automation functionality, be sure to give ConvertKit a try.
- Simple user interface – The interface makes it easy for you to get your email list started without much of a learning curve.
- Powerful but simple visual automation – If you’re a beginner to email marketing, you’ll appreciate the simplicity. That said, you can do quite a lot with their email automation builder.
- Ideal for those with multiple lead magnets – Each form or landing page you create can deliver a different lead magnet.
- Opt-in forms and landing pages included – Create opt-in forms and landing pages without needing any other tools.
A free plan is available for up to 1,000 subscribers but does not include visual automations or email sequences. Paid plans start from $29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and unlimited email sends.
Learn more in my ConvertKit review.
Drip position themselves as an ecommerce CRM, and while they do that job incredibly well, they are one of the best all-round email marketing services I’ve tested.
Create drip email campaigns, individual broadcasts, or use their robust visual automation builder. One particularly great feature is the ability to split test within automations.
You can send simple emails that do a good job of getting out of the promotions tab, or use their visual email builder for branded emails.
They have plenty of reporting functionality available. And for those of you with ecommerce sites, you’ll find ecommerce specific reports that are actually useful.
Even if you’re not running an ecommerce site, Drip is well worth testing out. Hands down, it’s one of my favourite email marketing platforms.
- Robust email automation with split testing – Drip’s visual automation builder is straight-forward to use and allows you to split-test your automations directly.
- Power more sites for less – If you run multiple sites Drip becomes far more affordable. Instead of having to purchase individual accounts for each site, you can simply add a secondary user account to your main account.
- A strong-focus on ecommerce – Drip’s feature set uniquely caters to ecommerce sites, and has ecommerce specific reporting.
- On-site tracking for complete history – Like some other platforms on this list, you get a full view of everything your subscribers do on your website, and can use that data to build out your email automation sequences.
Plans start from $19/month for 500 subscribers and unlimited email sends.
GetResponse is a veteran amongst email marketing software platforms.
While there was a time when they were losing ground to other platforms, they have really stepped up their game by adding a slew new features.
While their core email marketing product has always been strong, the addition of visual marketing automation, landing pages, webinars, CRM, and other new features has helped GetResponse become more of an all-in-one platform.
There is a great selection of email templates, which are organized by industry. Split testing is available for your newsletters too. The visual email builder is drag & drop and has built-in preview functionality & spam scoring.
Contact management offers easy filtering, list hygiene, and reporting. You’ll find a visual automation builder that’s functional, and like ActiveCampaign, comes with automation templates to get you up and running.
Out of all of the features GetResponse offers, what impressed me most was their Conversion Funnel feature. Together with their other features, they’ve created a platform that gives you everything you need to build an entire sales funnel.
This includes ad creation to fill your funnel, the creation of your landing pages, webinar creation, exit-intent popovers, sales page creation, ecommerce integrations & payment processor integrations. You can also build your own store within the platform.
And since you can do this within a single tool, analytics & reporting are exceptionally convenient.
The only issue I have with GetResponse is it’s convoluted pricing. It seems designed to confuse. For example, some basic automation functionality such as segmentation, and on-site tracking isn’t available until you get to the higher plans.
- Powerful email marketing automation – The visual automation is easy to use and comes with templates to help you get started.
- Create entire sales funnels fast – Autofunnel allows you to create well designed sales funnels in moments.
- Landing page & form creation made easy – While a lot of email marketing tools may offer a landing page builder, it’s typically quite limited. This isn’t the case with GetResponse.
- Built-in tools for store creation – You can build your own mini ecommerce store within GetResponse which is great for those selling digital products. Alternatively, you can integrate payment gateways or other ecommerce platforms.
Plans start at $15/month with access to basic features. Higher plans unlock more features. Unfortunately not all automation features are available until you get to those higher plans.
Sendinblue stands out as an email marketing tool that delivers incredible value without sacrificing functionality.
You’ll find core features such as a drag & drop email builder, feature-rich marketing automation, and more specialised features such as spam testing & A/B split testing.
Sendinblue stands out in a few ways. Firstly, they offer transactional email.
What is transactional email? Well, there are two types of email. Marketing & transactional. If you send newsletters, then this is classed as marketing email.
Transactional emails are related to product purchases and account sign ups – the sort of emails need by default. So, if you run an ecommerce website or any other site that needs to send account related emails – you’ll find this especially useful.
Not only that, but Sendinblue prices its services based on the number of emails you send, not the number of subscribers. So, if you find yourself sending emails occasionally, you could save a lot of money with Sendinblue.
It’s worth noting that automations are capped at 2,000 contacts unless you’re on the Premium or Enterprise plans.
Overall, Sendinblue offers a deep feature set which is extremely impressive when you consider their low price point. And they have an impressive user interface which makes the platform enjoyable to use.
- Excellent email automation – Amazing to see such powerful automation at such an affordable price point.
- Transactional email tool – If you run a website that needs transactional emails, you can run everything through Sendinblue. Transactional SMS messages are also supported on higher plans.
- Landing page builder & Facebook Ads – On higher plans, you get access to a landing page builder, and Facebook Ads integration.
- Integrated live chat – Live chat is available on higher plans. This is great because you can integrate it with your email automation and it’s one less tool you need in your marketing stack.
Send up to 300 emails per day for free with limited features. Go for the Lite plan in order to send 100,000 emails per month, and unlock more features. Higher plans unlock even more features, and “Pay as you go” style pricing is available.
Mailerlite is an email marketing software that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to its feature-rich free plan.
You get access to a simple interface, effective subscriber management, drag & drop email builder, and full-featured visual automation builder.
You can segment your subscribers, remove inactive subscribers with a few clicks, and view subscriber activity. You can split test your campaign emails, or send emails via RSS.
The visual email builder has some nice templates included and it can be used to design emails used within your automations (paid plan required).
In recent years I’ve started using Mailerlite for my smaller sites as a replacement for MailChimp. I started to notice open rates dropping with MailChimp, and it makes sense – all the people adding me to newsletters without my permission seem to use MailChimp. Whereas Mailerlite has to approve all new customers before they’re allowed to send emails.
Overall, I was impressed by the simplicity of the platform, given the features included. And I love that there’s a simple paid plan that unlocks all features. So, whether you’re paying $10/month or $1,000/month – you have access to all features.
I have had a number of glitches with Mailerlite. Support couldn’t resolve them and each time their team took 3+ weeks to return with an answer of “we don’t know” or “we couldn’t find a problem” – this is why I haven’t featured it highly on this list.
- Great free plan – Get a free plan for up to 1,000 email subscribers, and hardly any feature limitations. Custom domains, promotional popups, visual email builder, email templates, live chat support, auto-resend, and a few other features require a paid plan. Still, not bad at all!
- One of the cheapest email providers I’ve found – It’s just crazy how much cheaper Mailerlite is compared to other providers. Whether that’s actually going to be a good or bad thing is difficult to say.
- Built-in landing page & opt-in form builder – You won’t get as much mileage as you would from a purpose-built platform like Leadpages but it’s great in comparison to what ships with some others on this list.
A free starter plan is available with access to most features and limited support. You’ll get a free trial of premium features. Paid plans starting at $10/month which offers access to all features.
AWeber was the first email marketing tool I ever used. They are one of the few platforms to stay true to its core focus – email marketing.
If you want a robust solution for sending emails that’s simple (but not too simple), AWeber is a good choice.
They have a great drag & drop email builder and a huge selection of 700+ templates to make your emails look great. And since they’re a popular platform, you’ll find that a lot of tools integrate with them.
Adding tags is easy, and split testing allows you to test your subject lines, email content, and more.
You can filter your email subscribers and access robust reporting. AWeber do offer automation but there’s no visual builder. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preferences.
One significant downside to AWeber is that unsubscribes count towards your plan and they have to be manually deleted.
- AI powered email template designer – Designing emails that look great has never been easier.
- Landing page creation – Create landing pages to support your email list growth.
- Large selection of email templates – Access 700+ email templates.
- Choice of traditional auto-responder or automation – If you don’t need full email automation, you can use AWeber’s auto-responder. Automation is simple to use but they don’t have a visual builder like other tools on this list.
Plans start from $19/month for 500 subscribers and unlimited email sends.
Sendlane is a relative newcomer to the email marketing space, when compared to some on this list. That said, they have a rich feature set.
You can do all of the basic campaigns, and newsletters. Choose from a selection of email templates, or build your own with the drag & drop builder. Use tags and custom fields to segment your list, and view real-time analytics.
Sendlane has a particularly well-refined visual editor for creating emails. It’s drag & drop with a slick user interface.
Like some other platforms on this list, you’ll find that some features are locked behind higher plans. Although, some plans are only available on certain list sizes.
Regardless, Sendlane has a lot to offer and is really sticking it to some of the more established email marketing heavy-hitters with it’s deep feature set. Give it a try for yourself!
- Machine learning to optimize send times – If you want to improve your open rates, this will help you.
- Automated list hygiene – When adding a new list, you can automatically clean your list and choose exactly which parameters to choose.
- Visual automation builder – Create automation sequences easily using Sendlane’s visual builder.
- Pre-built automation sequences – Want to re-engage inactive subscribers? Or deliver a digital product? You can import pre-built automation sequences to help you get started.
Plans start at $99/month while additional features are available on higher level plans.
SendX is one of the newer email marketing services on the market.
Despite competing with a lot of established brands, they’ve come out of the gates swinging with a feature-rich platform that is a lot more affordable than some of their competitors. In fact, on a per subscriber basis, it beats most platforms on this list.
The interface is simple and easy to find your way around, and it’s easy to manage your contacts. Unsubscribed and bounced contacts are easy to find. In your contact history you can see a timeline of their activity.
Campaigns can be setup as a newsletter, or a drip campaign. You can also A/B test your campaigns, or trigger campaigns based on site activity.
They have a drag & drop email builder and a reasonable selection of templates you can use.
SendX doesn’t have a visual automation builder yet (it’s on their product roadmap). What they do have is a rule-based if X happens then Y happens style system.
If you have any issues integrating SendX with other tools, you can use Zapier to open up the ability to connect to 1,500+ other apps.
- Simple landing page & popup builder – You get a few nice looking templates to get you started, and some pretty deep functionality. For example, popovers allow you to select trigger behaviour such as scroll depth, time spent on site, and exit-intent.
- Team accounts – Considering SendX is very new to the email marketing space, I wasn’t expecting to see team accounts, but they have that too.
- Click-heat maps for email campaigns – See where people are clicking on your emails.
- 500,000+ stock photos included – Want to add stock photos to your emails? You can now.
Plans start from $9.99/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and unlimited email sends.
How to choose the best email marketing service for your business
The best email marketing service will depend exactly on your needs.
Here are a few recommendations based on specific needs:
- You want the best tool for email marketing & automation – ActiveCampaign and Drip are two platforms to consider.
- You need sales, CRM & live chat functionality combined with best-of-breed email marketing – ActiveCampaign is for you.
- You need an all-in-one tool for email marketing, automation, sales funnel, and selling digital products – GetResponse is for you.
- You’re looking for the simplest email marketing tool but you still want visual automation – Check out ConvertKit.
- You want the best value for money – Sendinblue, Mailerlite, and SendX are the platforms to consider.
- Are you a blogger or content creator? ConvertKit is built for you.
- Do you run an ecommerce website? Consider ActiveCampaign, Drip, or Sendinblue.
- You need transactional email as well as marketing email – Check out Sendinblue.
- You want a basic free plan to get you started – Sendinblue and Mailerlite are the platforms to look at.
Wrapping it up
Email marketing has a higher ROI than any other marketing channel. It’s not just important for businesses – it’s critical.
With the email marketing services we’ve discussed in this post, you’ll be able to find a tool that aligns perfectly with the needs of your business.
Everything from simple email marketing to all-in-one platforms to power your entire sales funnel. For example, some providers offer marketing automation, landing pages, and live chat on top of their core email functionality.
The best part is most of these tools offer free trials, and most of them won’t require a credit card to get started. So try a few and see what you think – ultimately it’s your opinion that matters most.
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