4 Experts Compare the Best Email Marketing Tools
Did you catch the red carpet as you came in?
Today I am honoured to have FOUR very special people here - Four Experts in their own online niche markets.
I’ve asked each of them to share their invaluable experience regarding their choice of Email Marketing service provider.
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Stacey, Richard, Ron, and Carol.
Stacey Corrin works with bloggers to help them create their perfect online space. Through her blog design and blog consulting services, she’s able to cut through the nonsense to the heart of your message. She’s also a freelance writer, a massive geek and blogs about blogging.
Richard Martin is just a normal guy earning money online, and he hopes to help you do the same.
Ron Killian has been a full-time online business owner since 1999. He currently specializes in private label rights products, with one of the largest collection of PLR products on the Internet:
Carol Amato is a successful Internet Entrepreneur and known by her students as the “Coach with a Heart.” She enjoys helping 40+ tech-challenged folks start and grow a profitable online business.
But first let me share a little background…
Email Marketing Tools
If you were to ask any online marketer what their most valuable asset was I’m sure most would answer, “My Email List.”
You may have read elsewhere, "The money is in the list." And there are many successful business people who would indeed testify to the fact that without their email list they would not have been able to make a living online.
There are others who may say, "The relationship is in the list." However, perhaps a more sensible expression would be, "The money is in the relationship with the list."
But the bottom line is you need to be able to reach out and contact those people who have expressed an interest in your business, and by far the most achievable way is via email.
This means we need an Email Marketing Tool to manage our contacts - subscribers, customers, members, etc.
When I started to investigate the available tools around a year ago I was staggered to see how many were available. This meant I had quite a bit of reading to do in order to decide what was going to be the best option.
How do you decide? What do you compare?
From my research I drafted a small comparison table to help visualize the pricing structure of the different services. My search had narrowed down to three service providers:
Having done that nice piece of homework I was sidetracked by a Shiny Object! Yes, I was sucked into a piece of email marketing! In my defense I was new to the online business world!!
You’ll notice that the best Email Marketing Tools are actually all Email Marketing Services. In the IT Industry it’s referred to as ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS). By that I mean the vendors provide a service that you subscribe to rather than downloading software to install on your computer or web server. Other examples of SaaS are Buffer, HootSuite, LeadPages, ThriveThemes, etc. Notice that some offer free entry-level services as well as paid subscriptions, often referred to as Freemium services.
Anyway, back to my story...
I was ‘introduced’ to a piece of software called IMSC Rapid Mailer. This was a one-off price to buy and install a WordPress plugin that would do all the email marketing from inside of your WordPress installation without the need for a monthly subscription.
Tempting yeah? Why not, if you can get away with a one-off payment rather than monthly subscription? Well, lets just say I didn’t get on with the software or the vendor, and I wouldn’t touch it or them with a barge pole.
Let that be a lesson to you, like it was to me, that sometimes its just better to ignore the cheap option and go for the quality established service that countless others have been using successfully.
Back On Track
So, I was back to my shortlist of 3.
MailChimp was ruled out on a non-technical reason. (I don’t like technology products with animal names).
That left AWeber or GetResponse.
You can see in the table above that GetResponse is slightly cheaper than AWeber. And that probably counted against them on this occasion because I’d already been stung by the ‘cheap’ route. Plus, it seemed to me that every email list I subscribed to was managed by AWeber, and at the end of the day that swung my decision.
I don’t want you to make the same mistake that I did last year, so I thought it would be better to get the views of 4 Experts who use 4 Different Email Marketing Services.
The way I’ve structured this post is to ask 8 questions and then stack their answers next to each one so hopefully you get a good picture of the pros and cons of each service and the experience these experts have had.
OK, let’s get going!
1. Which Email Marketing service provider do you use?
2. Why did you choose your current Email Marketing service provider?
When I began my mailing list, it was in the infancy of my blogging journey. My funds were limited therefore an email service that required a monthly subscription wasn’t within my budget.
Because MailChimp has a limited service available for free, it suited me perfectly and allowed me to start building my list, with zero cost.
I choose GetResponse because of the pricing. I was paying $29 a month with Aweber because I had over 500 subscribers, by moving to GetResponse I saved nearly half – by paying just $15 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.
Going up the scale, GetResponse seems marginally cheaper as well.
I picked AWeber because it was a trusted brand; it was a well known and a highly recommended service. Also it had the highest delivery rate, plus the fact they have been a pioneer in email marketing.
My goal is to grow my business in 2015 and ActiveCampaign can help me grow more easily.
I’ve mapped out my sales process, and designed plans to grow my business. I’m using the marketing automation software, ActiveCampaign, to automate all the steps in the process.
I’ve enjoyed the AWeber service for many years, but the direction I would like to go (list building/email marketing/relationship marketing) with my business can no longer be supported by Aweber.
3. Have you tried another Email Marketing service provider? If yes, what made you switch to your current service provider?
Before using MailChimp I used the standard subscribe option that comes with the Jetpack WordPress plugin. While this worked for a little while, I didn’t have much control over what content was delivered to my readers.
I used to use Aweber. Aweber was fine, but I found the user interface clunky and difficult to get a grip of. In fact, I found it difficult to understand.
I wanted something a little more easier to understand, so I trialled GetResponse using their 30 day free trial. Once I saw the dashboard, and things like the calendar (for stacking emails), I knew I would be switching.
There was also the issue of pricing which I mentioned in the last question.
Yes, I've tried GetResponse for a few months, about a year ago. I wanted to see if they might be better than the service I was already using. I stopped using the service shortly afterwards.
The main reason I stopped using GetResponse is because of the lack of support. I had difficulty getting answers and assistance for simple questions. There was also a lack of any type of knowledge base or support materials. The limited support materials were difficult to access.
Support may have improved since I've used the service, but I have not checked recently.
Yes, I’ve tried AWeber and GetResponse. I respect these companies, but ActiveCampaign blows them out of the water, in my opinion.
I had switched to GetResponse while I was still using AWeber because I heard they had a more user-friendly interface, so I tested it and liked it.
Soon after I signed up for a free GR account, AWeber made some updates and big improvements to their platform.
So since I didn’t see much difference now with GetResponse, (other than you could buy leads, which I was definitely not interested in), I cancelled my GR account and went solely with AWeber - until I learned about ActiveCampaign because they're on a completely different level!
The reason I switched to ActiveCampaign is because list building, email marketing and relationship marketing are the core parts (foundation) of my business. I wanted the best possible solution, with the most powerful features in marketing automation, I could get. The ‘cherry on top’ is that it’s something I will never grow out of.
I could have gone with ONTRAPORT (formerly Office AutoPilot), but they were complicated plus I wasn’t willing to pay $300/month when I can get almost the exact same features with ActiveCampaign for $29/month.
4. What features do you like most about your current Email Marketing service provider?
I love that I can use MailChimp’s core features, without having to spend any money. For bloggers just starting out, this is brilliant. It means you can create campaigns, track them and set up sign up forms for a small list. Then when the time comes when you’ve outgrown the free service, it’s easy to upgrade.
I really like the dashboard when I am logged into GetResponse. It makes it easy to select the different options, and it’s really clear and simple to understand. It also gives you an overview of your subscriber numbers, and how well your last email did.
As well as this, I like the calendar feature, where it lists all your emails on a calendar, so you can quickly see at a glance if you are sending too many emails in a month (or in some cases, not enough!)
The simple interface makes it very easy to use. It has almost all the options I require. The service is also straightforward and doesn't take long to learn. I also like the feature to split test opt-in forms.
Drag and drop interface, Mobile friendly, Free image hosting, Data driven segmentation, Intelligent behavioral-based emails, and much more.
ActiveCampaign allows subscribers to ‘self-select’ what they want to receive. So essentially: the most relevant message will go to the right customer, at the exact time they need to hear it.
This is referred to as intelligent behavioral-based emails (Autoresponder on steroids). I can create automations (sequences of actions and/or emails) that are based on contact and behavioral information. I can also trigger follow up emails based on contact’s actions, interests, or behaviors on my site.
Segmentation is based on real data, not guess work. You have the ability to segment your contacts by their contact data, email interactions, activity on your site, interests/social data, and much more. Use segments to explore contacts, send targeted emails, and affect automations. Extremely powerful!
WordPress integration. There is an ActiveCampaign plugin that lets you connect to any forms you created in AC and bring them into WordPress.
5. What features do you NOT like and think could be improved?
There’s not a lot that I dislike about MailChimp, so it’s difficult to pin one down. If I had to be really picky, I would love the ability to set up one Autoresponder bundled in with the free package.
I now use the WYSIWYG editor when sending emails. This could be a lot better, with bigger icons at the top, and a smaller space to write your email as currently it goes right across the page!
One feature I wish AWeber would provide is the ability to label messages, private labels just for my use. For example, it would be helpful if I could label messages as content or promotional and have the ability to quickly see which messages were which.
Some of my follow up series have quite a few emails, and growing, so it would save time if I could easily see at a glance the type of message.
This is most useful for promotional emails, if I need or want to change links. Maybe a product is no longer available or valid.
Another useful feature would be split testing for follow up messages. Many of my messages are follow up, so this data would be a great asset and I could better improve my emails over time.
I have yet to see an Autoresponder service that provides split testing for follow up messages, so there may be a technical challenge that doesn't make it possible.
The one thing I think they could improve on is the forms builder, but they are in the middle of re-doing it and revamping the software. You can customize, add your own graphics, etc. but the forms are fairly basic and there are not very many styling options.
They are aware of this, however, and have completely redone their form builder to make it easier and more friendly. It's currently in Beta, so I hope to see them release it very soon.
However, I currently use LeadPages and LeadBoxes, so this doesn’t affect me.
ActiveCampaign also integrates with a ton of other form tools.
6. What would you list as the main benefits of your current Email Marketing service?
- You can start out for free - you don’t need to spend a single penny
- Creating campaigns is easy with a drag and drop interface
- There’s a host of pre-made templates for users who struggle with design
- Sign-up forms are easy to setup
- When you get to payment upgrading is a simple process
- There’s a huge amount of documentation, tutorials and guides if you get stuck
- Cheap when starting out
- Free trial (completely free)
- Excellent dashboard
- Nice selection of templates
- Calendar feature
- Trusted Dependable Service - I would have to say the biggest selling point about Aweber is that they are a trusted service. They've been around a long time so you don't have to worry about them going anywhere.
- Customer Support - They also provide outstanding customer service and assistance when you need it. Not to mention, they have a large knowledge base and support materials. Each time I've contacted AWeber for support, they have gone above and beyond. Other services seemed to leave me to figure it out.
- Easy To Use Interface - As I've already mentioned, their interface is quite simple and it takes little time to get up to speed. This could be very important for those new to email marketing.
- Detailed Stats - AWeber also provides very detailed statistics giving you great insight into your mailing campaigns. This allows you to improve the performance of your marketing.
- Burden is lifted and the pain and confusion caused by managing multiple lists is alleviated. ActiveCampaign allows ONE main list, with ‘tagged’ subscribers.
- Subscribers/customers enjoy the most relevant experience, which is self-selected based on their actions (real data) *This means more value is given, resulting in strengthened relationships, increased trust and ultimately more sales.
- Less expensive - You’re not charged extra if one person appears in more than one list (as you are in AWeber and other autoresponder companies). I get to enjoy the powerful features of companies that charge hundreds of dollars per month. If you use a free autoresponder or cheaper one, consider your return on investment.
- Easier maintenance - single list with multiple tags - once they’re on your list, it’s easy. Instead of moving them to another list, they would stay on the same list, but you tag them with something like a ‘Purchased eBook A’ tag. That would serve to trigger or ‘move’ them onto an automation where you thank them and send info on how to access/use the eBook, for example.
7. Do you have any tips on how best to use your Email Marketing service; e.g. to get opt-ins, to use the autoresponder, to engage with your subscribers?
The great thing about MailChimp is you don’t need to use their native sign up forms. For example, I integrate mine with the Genesis Enews Extended Plugin, which creates a simple signup form that’s a lot more attractive than what you’d get as standard.
Using your list’s ‘action’ URL (this can be found in the html of the native sign up form), you can use the likes of OptinMonster and LeadPages to really boost your sign ups.
Write your emails like you are writing to a friend! And whatever you do, don’t sell in EVERY email.
My biggest tip for email marketing is what I talk about quite often, and that is to building a relationship with your subscribers.
When you have a good relationship with your subscribers, subject lines will not be as important, you'll see higher click through rates and you'll likely see higher conversion rates when your promote.
Just as important as the above, marketers must not be afraid to email their subscribers. Far too many list owners fail to mail their lists on a regular basis. The less they hear from you, the easier it is for them to forget you.
We also know that email service providers track email interactions. If your subscribers don't open your emails, if they don't "interact" with your messages, your emails WILL end up going in to the junk, trash or spam folders. Then who's going to see them? It doesn't take long for this to happen, so it's the utmost importance that you keep in contact and build the relationship, so your emails stay in the inbox.
While I am fairly new to ActiveCampaign, I’ve been list building and using email marketing from the very beginning of my online business.
My advice is to make list building a central focus in your business. Offer different messages/verbiage to appeal to different folks. We’re all unique with varying personalities, so we must be creative in offering different incentives to join our list.
Place different offers in multiple spots on your site, for example, at the top/header area, side bar widget, and also at the end of a blog post.Consider asking if they’ve enjoyed the post, and then if so, offer to send notifications so they won’t ever miss one, in exchange for an email address, of course.
8. Is there anything else you would like to add about your Email Marketing service provider?
You may be thinking, “I’ve never heard of ActiveCampaign! I’m going to stick with names I’m familiar with.”
ActiveCampaign has been around since 2003 and has 100,000+ users; this company is solid as a rock.
MailChimp and AWeber have added some automation functionality, but it's for an additional upgrade/cost. When you sum it all up, these companies have “tacked on” these features, and they're not part of the main/core product. Very limited indeed.
Recently I hesitated to make the switch from Aweber to ActiveCampaign!
Honestly, I didn't feel like 'dealing with it.'
I think it’s part of AWeber’s plan - just get folks on board for a little while, let them get used to it (yep, we’re creatures of habit) and once they find out how ‘limited’ and ‘awkward’ things get, it will be too 'painful' for them to switch to something else.
I say make a decision based on the 'Functionality and Potential for Growth' using marketing automation, not on emotion or laziness.
MY DESIRE to GROW was Greater Than my fear of trying something new or laziness of not wanting to learn a new platform.
We all know that if we keep doing the same things over and over, we’re going to keep getting the same RESULTS.
Bob Parson, the founder of GoDaddy, said: “I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zones.”
Autoresponder Madness, highly acclaimed course by Andre Chaperon, has been revamped lately, and he is using ActiveCampaign . . . What does that tell you?
ActiveCampaign can take your marketing methods to a whole new level.
I truly believe ActiveCampaign has just the right combination of features, power you won’t outgrow, and price.
My suggestion for you: Be willing to break out of your comfort zone in this critical area of your business, and sign up for an ActiveCampaign free trial.
Wishing you all the best - Happy list building!
Here is an updated comparison table with ActiveCampaign included:
Thanks to our 4 Experts – Carol, Stacey, Ron and Richard - for sharing their valuable experience here. I hope this information has given you a full-picture of what to look for in an Email Marketing service provider.
It’s difficult to assess a service properly without trying it, and whilst a free trial is good you can’t beat trying something for a longer period to see if it meets your requirements.
I think it’s important to note that none of these service providers are tying you into a long-term contract – they are all monthly-based subscription services, with the option to get discounted rates for quarterly/annual billing.
As you build and grow your online business your needs will most likely change, like Carol has experienced. What suits one person doesn’t suit another – Richard didn’t like Aweber whilst Ron didn’t like GetResponse.
There is no harm in reassessing the tools you use to see if you have the best fit for your business – in fact this is very good practice.
Always be looking at your toolset and asking:
- Is this right for me, now?
- Is there something better out there?
- Do I need it at all?
Here’s what you have learned today:
- You need an email service to manage your contacts
- An established Email Service is better than an unknown plugin
- Don’t always take the cheap option - Evaluate your ROI
Please share your experiences in the comments below:
- Which Email Marketing Service do you use?
- What is your experience of the service?
- Is it right for you now?