A comparison of top email marketing service providers
Email marketing service providers offer a range of services, from simply sending emails, to comprehensive design and campaign management. Pricing is based on either the number of subscribers on your list, or the number of emails you want to send.
How to choose an email marketing service for your business
A good place to start is with a site that reviews software services. I've taken a look at the email marketing providers listed on Capterra, which is a useful software comparison service. I sorted them by the number of reviews and the rating. I focused on those that provide email marketing as their main business. That left six to look at in detail.
Mailchimp, Aweber, SendinBlue, Constant Contact, Firedrum and Moosend.
The most widely used email marketing platform. Mailchimp has been around since 2001 and last year it sent over 24 billion emails. Mailchimp prices based on subscriber numbers, you don’t start paying until you reach 2,000 subscribers, or send over 12,000 emails a month. Email volume is unlimited and once you subscribe to a paid programme you access extra features.
Mailchimp has always been easy to use and the template and design features have become even easier in the last few years.
Some of us are ancient enough to remember Mailchimp coming onto the scene back in the early 2000’s and can recall the first time we saw a banana fuelled email campaign. Since then Mailchimp has continued to scale up and is now way off the funky little niche product that smaller, innovative (mainly tech and not for profit) companies stumbled across. Based in Atlanta; over 700 employees fuel Mailchimp and it's grown up without losing its way. If you’re a marketer in a mid sized company that takes itself a bit seriously, you’ll be able to sell Mailchimp in via stats, experience and functionality to even the most staid bean counter who might struggle with the concept of making a paper chimp whilst your campaign is sent…
Aweber is the Pennsylvania-based serious cousin of fun-loving Mailchimp. This service is less easy to use, template design is relatively restricted and feels pretty dated.
It feels like Aweber would rather users pay them to design templates than give them really great tools to do their own. Aweber has been around since 1998. It has ‘more than 120,000’ users and it only got round to allowing users to segment their mailing lists in 2017. If you're a marketer reading this you’ll know that segmentation is basic and that Aweber seems late to the party.
This was a new one to me, I've heard of it but not looked at it before. It’s been around since 2007, based in France. Vital statistics to help compare the service: It sends 30 million emails a day and is used by 50,000 companies. SendinBlue also sends SMS messages - over 5 million each month.
SendinBlue has compared itself to Mailchimp so I’ll share that with you.
The obvious difference and main sell-in is the price. SendinBlue is ‘on average, 4 times cheaper’ than Mailchimp. It also mentions a big difference that Mailchimp doesn’t do SMS. The comparison ends there as the stats are a little out of date since Mailchimp has launched a whole range of e-commerce based mailing tools. As a reviewer, I'm going to throw in the fact that SMS services aren't run of the mill with any email marketing service I've come across; it's a niche service, so using it as a point of difference for a broad email marketing audience isn't relevant.
SendinBlue offers a range of plug-ins for the names you’d expect - Magento, Wordpress, Woo Commerce etc. which is always good to see.
It looks like SendinBlue is worth exploring if you are price sensitive. Have to say though, I signed up for a trial account and the first thing I was hit with was a long form with a whole load of required fields which was a bit dull. It was clear the focus was on SendinBlue gathering information rather than being customer focused and thinking about my journey to sign-up.
Mobile number required for sign up to trial
I didn’t go on to try the SendinBlue service as the only way to access a demo was to provide my mobile number, in order to enter a verification code. This is apparently to stop people using disposable email addresses to sign up for a trial. Two things here - there are one or two (Email Hippo’s is the best obviously) APIs that filter disposable emails at point of entry… so given that SendinBlue sends so many SMS messages, I decided not to share my number!
First impressions are good. Clear video showing the ease of creating an email. Constant Contact claims to have the best image editor and template editor in the business. The drag and drop image upload looked good and I also liked the social media and list building services. (I don’t mean list buying - I mean managed opt-ins).
The company has been around since 1995 and has offices in the UK as well as the USA. Stats on the site show over 500,000 users. It felt good as someone assessing the service that I had access to the community and visibility of support queries. The query most recent was about using the new version. As a SaaS supplier we get queries through every update too, so I can empathise with the frustration of a customer facing a new dashboard for the first time. It was good to see Constant Contact support people take a customer from grumpy and frustrated to a happy 10/10 within two contacts. I like the transparency.
Constant Contact is part of a group that also offers a wider range of online services; hosting, ecommerce etc., so it’s got more meat on the bone than simply email marketing. That may explain why pricing for Constant Contact is higher than the other services, which is a shame, but there seems to be access to real people for help and support, as well as marketing services hands-on so it stands to reason that costs can be higher.
I think Constant Contact looks pretty good for companies that aren’t price sensitive and want the reassurance of having people at the end of an email for help and advice.
First impressions? The website feels a bit homely and the user experience makes me think of technical websites that are designed for developers rather than marketers. It's very awkward in marketing look and feel features compared to Mailchimp, Constant Contact and SendinBlue. For example, the feature list is purely text. I think it’s unusual to have a visual tool (the drag and drop editor) described in text.
I get the impression that FireDrum has been left behind by newer entrants in the market. Messages given about pricing being the main reason to switch provider, coupled with a little bit of cynicism and ‘competitor knocking’’ web content, e.g. ‘No temporary teaser rates here!’ make me think that FireDrum wouldn’t be the service I’d go for if I wanted a new email marketing provider.
Is this a moose at a loose end or a cow that sends mail…? Reader, I will discover this for you. Bear with me. It’s a cow! So Moosend promises ‘email marketing as easy as it gets’. There are some pretty big names in the customer list. World Wildlife Fund catches my eye - probably because, like the cow, the WWF panda is black and white.
Aweber, take note. The cow offers advanced, behavioural segmentation. That’s mooosic to the ears of any marketer.
I have just spent time looking through the website, auditing email marketing features and generally checking Moosend out. This service looks great. And it’s cheaper than all the others. You pay nothing for three months as long as you’ve fewer than 5000 subscribers. Then you pay $10 a month. If you’ve up to 25,000 subscribers you pay $80 a month. The nearest price is FireDrum at $125 - and this looks waaaayyy better than FireDrum.
Having checked out 6 of the email marketing software service providers with the most reviews on Capterra I can confirm that I'm a Mailchimp person who is strolling gently over to the cow side.
If you're looking for an email marketing software service I hope this has been a useful. It's limited as I've not got into technical detail about the behind the scenes stuff, like IP reputation, SMTP status etc etc., but hopefully it will save you some time in your service provider search.
Take my advice; just look at the chimp and the cow!
Here are links to all providers mentioned;
And here's Capterra -where you can read reviews and research a bit more.