Ah, the vital subscriber email list. Everywhere you look online, influencers are telling you to set one up, build it, and offer opt-in incentives. And it’s tempting (especially on a budget) to set up a quick MailChimp account and move on with your life – and that might work for you – but does it make a difference which company you use? And why pay for something you can get for free, right?
Do features really matter or is your list just a spreadsheet on a server somewhere?
Well, the first step to is to look at what an email service does, because it’s far more actionable than a collection of names and emails.
Depending on the plan or company you choose, your email service will be where you:
- Host your list of email subscribers
- Design opt-in and sign-up forms
- Schedule and create emails, including newsletters
- Set up auto-responders
- Automate your sales funnel
- Create automated email courses and series
- Deliver your opt-in incentive or freebie for subscribing
- Track you lists’ analytics and their interaction with your marketing efforts
Obviously, with that much going on, this will be an important decision and ease of use should be at the top of your wish list. You’ll also want to consider whether you’ll email affiliate offers to your subscribers as part of your monetization plan, since not all providers allow this, and whether you’ll want to publish some sort of newsletter, like PaidWrite’s The Hump, which is full-color, stuffed with links and info, and (mostly) goes out on Wednesdays.
Services range from free to not-on-my-budget, so we’ll cover a range of popular companies that are sure to suit your needs, in no particular order.
WPBeginnerdotcom hails Constant Contact, “the most easy to use and beginner friendly email marketing service.” Your first sixty days are free and there are two plans offered once your free trial ends: Email and Email Plus, with Plus having the added features of extra storage, more user accounts, and dynamic forms, as well as email automation, event marketing, online donations, surveys, polls, and coupons.
Of course, Plus costs more but both tiers are priced by the size of your list. So if you have 0-500 subscribers, Email will cost you $20/month, while Plus will run $45/month. For 501-2,000 contacts, those rates go up to $45/$70 per month, with a discount if you pay for the service annually.
This is the service I use for PaidWrite and while I’ve never been unhappy, the form-builder was a challenge at first. The good news is it’s widely integrative with plugins and other services, which serve as a workaround for any on-page functionality shortcomings.
AWeber offers drag-and-drop email and newsletter templates, plus you can create automatic emails from your new blog posts. You can automate email campaigns, use tags to trigger automated emails based on an action (like responding to a specific sign-up form), and create automated, autoresponder follow-up sequences – think 30-day email-driven challenges and courses with daily modules.
You can get AWeber free for the first 30 days. Plus, you won’t have to pay more for extra services. You get access to everything AWeber has to offer because your rate is based entirely on how many subscribers you have, with 0-500 costing $19/month, and 501-2,500 subscribers costing $29/month, and on and up, etc. Quarterly and annual payments are also available.
ConvertKit is built specifically for bloggers, by bloggers (though it shines at email sequencing) and is well-known as easy-to-use and for its user-friendly marketing automation.
But here’s what really stands out to me: you can create these visual flowcharts in the dashboard that show exactly how your automated email sequences will behave. If you prefer visuals, they’ve already done the work for you, which means you can become a master at email funnels, just by using this tool! Plus, its functionality makes delivering opt-in incentives a cinch.
You get unlimited everything and again, your rate is based on the size of your list, with 0-1k priced at $29 and 1k-3k priced at $49, and it goes up incrementally from there. They also offer a free concierge migration service if you’re moving your list of at least 10,000 subscribers from another service. Depending on the service you’re migrating from, ConvertKit may move fewer subscribers than that for free (for MailChimp it’s 5k) but they also provide a detailed tutorial, should you wish to migrate your list on your own.
This affordable (and popular) service is perfect for beginners, but also offers features that go above and beyond basic email with automation, integrated webinars, and landing page design software – though you’ll have to pay more for most of the advanced and premium services. Other features include a drag-and-drop email editor, a/b testing, advanced analytics, forms, and auto-scheduling with Perfect Timing to optimize your emails’ open and click-through rates.
A popular service for its value and award-winning service, with Campaigner you can collect up to 1,000 subscribers for $19.95/month, and still have features like autoresponders, segmentation, campaigns, and 900+ templates for building forms and emails.
As with almost all the other services on this list, if you want premium features or your list reaches certain sizes, your rate will increase but you can get an 18% discount by paying annually.
ActiveCampaign focuses on your subscribers and claims to listen and learn from each contact to better target them for conversion. There’s a custom goal-setting feature to measure your progress and detailed analytical reports.
There’s a 14-day free trial available and a number of upgraded packages to choose from, which increase in price as your list grows. The cheapest plan is $9/month (paid annually) for 500 or fewer subscribers with the highest listed price coming in at $399/month for the Enterprise package with 10,000 contacts. As lists rise above 25,000 there is a prompt to contact the service for pricing.
Campaign Monitor specializes in behavioral email marketing but also features email automation and an effective newsletter builder. The service also offers beautiful opt-in forms, list segmentation, and analytical reports.
There’s a free trial period available but it only lasts as long as you stay below five subscribers. The cheapest Basic plan (with limited features for up to 500 subscribers) is only $9/month and increases as you add functions and grow your list.
Right now Hubspot is offering free demos of its all-in-one marketing bundle, which includes blog post optimization, landing page software, all your email marketing and collection needs, marketing automation, lead management, analytics, drag-and-drop, seo-optimized, blog-building software, social media scheduling, seo keyword research tools, call to action (CTA) design assistance, ad tracking, and salesforce integration.
Whew! It’s definitely your one-stop package.
There’s a free version that offers email services, pop-ups, analytics, and contact forms but if you want all the extras (and of course we do – it’s all in one place!) packages start at $200/month. Yeah, it’s a hefty price tag but it’s a fantastic option for high-traffic and high-earning sites.
And what kind of list would this be without MailChimp? I admit it; I’ve high-fived that monkey a few times. (If you haven’t used it, you get a screen-five every time you send or schedule an email and it’s super-creative.) This service is easily one of the most popular email services available due to its clean design, easy-to-use email designer, segmentation, and analytical reports. Users can even set email deliveries based on timezones and segment users by location.
But what has really made Mailchimp popular is its affordability as a free service (while maintaining a high level of quality) and that legacy continues with their Forever Free plan, which allows for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles but even if you level up (with under 500 subscribers) the service will still only cost you $10/month.
Benchmark offers automation, triggered by website and email interaction. It’s also optimized for a number of devices and the sign-up forms are impressive. Plus there are real-time analytical reports.
And did I mention you’ll get all of this service’s features for free, up to 2k subscribers? Not bad.
As you can see, your list service is a lot more than a simple spreadsheet full of names and email addresses, and the features of these services are designed for effective marketing. Which is your favorite?
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