For the past 12 years I’ve been working in the email marketing industry. First for a digital marketing agency and then I set up EmailToolTester. My goal with this website was to make this powerful technology accessible to marketers who don’t want to invest hours and hours combing through the forest of newsletter services.
Tons of price plans, complex-looking email automation, differences in deliverability rates… It can be hard to select the best newsletter tool. Which is why our team has put together a selection of the best solutions currently available, all carefully ranked and organized.
Hopefully you’ll come out with a clear idea of which email marketing service to choose next!
Isn’t Email Marketing Dated?
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:
- Lifespan: Consider Friendster, MySpace or Google+. Social media platforms can come and go. An email address? People tend to hang on to the same one for an average of 10 years.
- Data insights: Facebook and other social media tools are primarily advertising platforms. The data on their users is a goldmine they aren’t willing to share. With email marketing, you control everything you get to know about your users.
- Flexibility: once you’ve got your address list, it’s easy to switch providers. All you need is to export/ import the list via CSV.
- Ease of use: 10 years ago? Those systems were complex beasts. Today, it takes two seconds to integrate a sign up form, create a template and email everyone. It will certainly be faster to send your first newsletter than to create an ad campaign on Facebook or Twitter.
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.
The Top Email Marketing Services Ranked
|#||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
Simplicity and Design
|1,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Landing page editor
– Missing some pro features
Bang For Your Buck
|Free Plan: $0/mo
40,000 emails: $25/mo
|+ Low-cost plans
+ Solid automation and deliverability
+ Landing page editor
+ SMS marketing tool
– Editor and general usability
The Swiss Army Knife
|1,000 cont: $15/mo
|+ Intelligent list automation
+ Landing page editor
+ Design and spam testing
800 Pound Gorilla
|2,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Thorough reporting
+ Generous freemium plan
+ Great template editor
– Expensive paid plans
– Limited email automation
Transactional Email Specialists
|6,000 emails: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Transactional emails
+ Drag and drop editor
– Premium features cost extra
Some Good Pro Features
|250 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Use your own domain name for links
– Forms are not responsive
– Not the cheapest option
The Expensive Choice
|500 contacts: $20/mo
|+ Niche features
+ High deliverability rates
– Very poor price to performance ratio
– Limited automation
|1,000 cont.: $0/mo
|+ Landing page editor
+ Flexible subscriber management
+ Responsive support
– It’s pricey
– Poor designs options
– Reports are lacking in depth
|Up to 250 emails: $0
600 cont.: $13.99/mo
|+ Easy-to-use editor
+ Flexible templates
+ Marketing automation
– Deliverability issues
– File storage charges
For Stunning Emails
|5,000 emails: $69/mo
|+ Unlimited contacts
+ Keep data in-house
– Form/contact fields
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.
How Do I Pick the Best Email Marketing Software?
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:
- Drag and drop editor: An easy-to-use visual editor that will let you customize your email templates (without any coding) is your best bet for getting campaigns sent out quickly and efficiently
- Different campaign types: Your software should be able to support a range of email types, including regular newsletters, A/B tests, and autoresponders
- Marketing automation: Whether you need just simple autoresponders or more targeted automated campaigns, it’s important to make sure that your software can cater to your automation needs
- Sign-up forms: A good newsletter tool will allow you to create your own form to capture subscribers, which can either be embedded on your site or hosted on a separate landing page
- Integrations: Your email software needs to be able to link up to your other key applications – e.g. your blog, online store, CRM, and analytics tool
- Deliverability: What good is a newsletter service if your emails don’t get past the spam filters?
- Support: A thorough knowledge base, email support and live chat/phone support are all ideal. Not all tools provide all these channels, though
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.
Common Questions From Email Marketers
Cloud-Based Email Marketing Software vs. Packaged Software: Which Is Best?
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:
- You can access the tool from any computer.
- Software updates occur automatically in the background, you don’t need to update manually.
- The newsletter editor, email server, and all the required web space are offered and maintained by a single provider.
- The email server is geared towards mass distribution – as a result, it’s been whitelisted and certified, which increases your delivery rate.
- You have access to customer support services rather than dealing with open source software.
However, there are some disadvantages too:
- Your list of recipients is stored on a server outside of your own company.
- A cloud-based tool is usually more expensive than packaged software, which can be purchased once and used for an extended period of time at no extra cost.
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.
What’s Included in the Price of Cloud-based Software?
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:
- A maximum allowance for subscribers or email sends (you can move to higher plans to increase these limits)
- Email templates + editor
- Registration forms
- Storage for emails and files (e.g. images)
- Mail delivery and technical maintenance
- Some support
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.
The Best Email Marketing Services in Detail
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.
1. ActiveCampaign – The Automation Pros
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 close to ActiveCampaign 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, it has one of the best deliverability rates.
Where they can improve: The amount and complexity of the features can be a bit overkill for complete beginners. Some might also find it slightly expensive in the beginning.
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.
2. MailerLite – Simplicity and Design
Based in Lithuania, MailerLite has a young and dynamic team (averaging 25 years of age) that has created 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, like landing pages, sign-up forms and reports. 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 MailerLite is for: Small businesses, freelancers and website owners who want an affordable solution with an easy learning curve and good features.
3. Sendinblue – Emails, invoices, newsletters and SMS
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 emails and SMS daily in more than 14 countries.
What we like: Good ease of use. Very appealing prices and a generous free plan. List management, automations and reporting are all good. They also keep adding features, the most recent additions are their CRM and live chat functionality.
Where they can improve: The user experience could be a little smoother, as could the email editor. Deliverability has improved a lot most recently.
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.
4. GetResponse – The Swiss Army Knife
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, which both come under their popular Conversion Funnel feature. 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 and their editor is a bit clunky.
Who GetResponse is for: Marketers looking for a solid, versatile tool with the latest features. If you’re looking for a sales funnel tool then GetResponse is worth checking out.
5. Mailchimp – The global US platform
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 10,000 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 and support on the freemium plan is non-existent after the first month. Also, the fact that you get charged per contact, as opposed to just subscribed contacts means you have to really stay on top of list hygiene. Find out more in our Mailchimp alternatives post.
Who Mailchimp is for: Users who want a great free and easy way to use email marketing service.
6. Mailjet – Transactional emails and more
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 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 and affordable, it’s a great tool. Being able to manage multiple sub-accounts also makes it interesting for agencies too.
7. CleverReach – Some Good Pro Features
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 registration forms aren’t responsive. The editor has its quirks but nothing too bad. Prices are a bit steep.
Who CleverReach is for: Senders who require a newsletter tool with a broad range of features.
8. Constant Contact – Covering different grounds
Maybe because Constant Contact have been doing email marketing since 1995, they managed to find new avenues that no other providers had touched. For instance, they were the only solution to offer event management tools, surveys or social campaigns. Unfortunately, they recently removed the event management tool, instead offering an integration with Eventbrite.
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.
What they should improve: Expensive and relatively basic automation. In general, Constant Contact lacks basic functions that you find elsewhere. It’s a shame they removed the events feature.
Who is Constant Contact for: We used to recommend them for their event management tool, but now that it’s been removed, we see Constant Contact as too expensive for what it offers. You’d get more for your buck with Active Campaign our MailerLite.
9. ConvertKit – The creator toolkit
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.
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: 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. Their free plan is very limited, not even including reports.
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.
10. Benchmark – As powerful as they say?
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, they have consistently performed badly in our deliverability tests.
Who Benchmark is for: Multilingual teams looking for an affordable and intuitive tool.
11. Mailify – Speedy and slick
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 like: 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.
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.
12. AWeber – 18 Years of Email Marketing Experience
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.
What’s the Best Newsletter Service for my Purpose or Industry?
Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all piece of advice, as the best newsletter software for you may be completely different to the one I’d recommend for the next person browsing this page. That’s why I created a few categories to help you navigate.
The best newsletter service for small businesses
Our ranking was created with small businesses in mind. So, basically, if you just want a decent and affordable email solution that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, I’d recommend MailerLite.
If, on the other hand, you want a CRM and are also keen on getting your automation close to perfection, check out ActiveCampaign. Of course, that means spending a little more, but hey, with all that automation you’ll either increase your sales or save time that you can invest elsewhere.
The best newsletter service for ecommerce (e.g. Shopify and WooCommerce)
As an online merchant, you have very specific needs: Sales data should find its way into the newsletter software so you can use it to create segments and launch triggered campaigns (like abandoned cart emails). We’ve compiled a list of the top Shopify newsletter tools here.
Omnisend is fully focused on ecommerce and offers deep integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce. Using their product picker you can drag and drop your items very easily into your campaigns.
If automation is important for you, check out ActiveCampaign. Use their free Deep Data Integrations for Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Square to pull in revenue, order numbers, order status, etc.
The most affordable newsletter service
If you want the most bang for your buck, there are two email marketing tools I can recommend. The first one is MailerLite. It’s completely free for up to 1000 contacts. After that it’s still very cheap, for example you pay $30/month for up to 5000 subscribers.
Secondly, I recommend Sendinblue. Even if you’ve got a bit of email volume they are very affordable. 40,000 emails per month go for only $25/mo.
The best newsletter service for affiliate marketers
Let me start by telling you which one you should avoid: Mailchimp doesn’t like their tool being used for affiliate marketing. Countless accounts have been closed because of this violation of their terms of service.
Instead, you should probably look at GetResponse. They recently introduced a sales funnel feature, which is particularly useful if you run lead generation campaigns via paid ads or webinars. We also have a much more detailed article on the 9 Best Sales Funnel Builders here.
Quick List of Email Marketing Services Features and Terminology
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.
Bounced email: Undelivered email, because the address is invalid or deleted. Email marketing providers usually deactivate these users for you.
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.
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.
GIF: It’s a graphic file that can be animated. Why is this important? It’s essentially impossible to embed a video in a newsletter that works across all email clients – most of the time it would be blocked. That’s why animated GIFs are a popular way to add moving images. Services like Mailerlite and Mailchimp even automatically create a GIF animation by simply adding a video link (e.g. YouTube) to the template.
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.
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.
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.
Transactional emails: Some providers also offer the ability to send triggered, business-related emails – e.g. order confirmations, password resets, and renewal reminders.
Tip #6: If you are still new to all of this you should check out our Email Marketing Crash Course. It’s a compact (and free!) ebook for beginners that will get you up to speed in very little time: Download it here
Email Marketing Services: Final Thoughts
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 ActiveCampaign).
Choosing a free plan to start with seems relatively risk-free. Do keep in mind that your emails will show a small ad and you’ll only have limited support.
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.
28 Apr, 2020 – Added updated MailerLite video
22 Apr, 2020 – ConvertKit added a free plan
22 Apr, 2020 – Benchmark made changes to their free plan and pricing
3 Feb, 2020 – Ranking changed based on new deliverability scores