The Best Email Marketing Tools – How to Find the Right One for Your Business

Email marketing is incredibly important, no matter what size of business you own. More than half of the world’s population uses email as of 2019 (according to the Radicati Group), so it’s vital to be able to send engaging, personalized emails to your contacts or customers.

In our guide to the best email marketing tools, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best platforms out there. We’ve tested each platform, so we can show you their features in detail to see how they compare to each other.

First, let’s take a look at what key features a good email marketing platform should have to offer.

Email Marketing – Key Things to Look For

Email marketing tools vary in what features they can offer you. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect to find:

Email Builder and Templates

Obviously, this is the main thing you’ll want to look out for! If you’re creating a lot of emails, you want the process to be as easy and intuitive as possible. Most email marketing tools offer a simple drag-and-drop editor, which should allow you to create interesting, dynamic emails with a range of features including text, images, videos, social media follow buttons, and more.

You should also see what premade templates they have to offer. Some of them are more up to date than others in this respect, and you want to make sure you can send professional, well-designed emails.

Marketing Campaigns and Automations

Many platforms allow you to set up marketing campaigns, but these can vary in scope and complexity. Some platforms have a simple process for sending a chain of emails in a certain order: others offer much more flexibility, allowing you to create a highly personalized, step-by-step path for your customers to follow. These usually come with a bit of a learning curve if you’re new to it, but no matter how many contacts you have or the size of your business, it’s a skill worth learning.

CRM

A good platform will allow you to view and organise your contacts efficiently. Most will offer some form of tagging or segmenting, which will allow you to send email campaigns that are aimed at certain groups of people. Having a well-maintained contact list could make a huge difference to your business.

Extra Features

There are more features that an email marketing platform might have to offer. For example, most offer a form builder, to allow you to capture the information of new subscribers. Many offer split testing, which will allow you to send slightly different versions of emails to see which one performs better. Others may offer other marketing tools, like the ability to create pop-up ads for your website, landing page builders, or ad creation for other platforms, like Facebook or Google Ads. Obviously, what features you need depends on your own business and other platforms you might be using already.

Analytics and Reporting

You should be able to view how well your email campaigns are performing. Some platforms offer more details than others, and some even offer revenue reports if you link your account to an eCommerce platform.

Knowledge Base and Support

Most people need to take a bit of time to learn a new platform, which is where a knowledge base comes in handy – most platforms will offer a range of articles and video tutorials to help you learn how to use it. If you need more support, however, a good marketing tool will allow you to contact their support team, and you should get a quick and helpful response to your question.

Now, let’s take a look at five of the best email marketing tools out there.

ActiveCampaign

Founded in 2003, ActiveCampaign is an email marketing service that offers marketing automation, CRM, split testing, and many more great features.

Email Editor and Templates

The drag and drop email editor is intuitive and very simple to use. It’s easy to drag and drop elements where you want them into the email, and you can choose from text blocks, images, buttons, videos, line breaks, spacers, an RSS feed, social links, and HTML blocks. 

Everything works very smoothly, and it’s easy to customize each section. At any time, you can access the settings, which will allow you to change the subject and preheader text of your email, and to send a test email to your account to check how it looks.

In terms of templates, there are some great, attractive choices:

These are themed around type – for example, Abandoned Cart or Call to Action.

You can choose from the following campaign types:

  • Standard
  • Automated
  • Auto Responder
  • Split Testing
  • RSS Triggered
  • Date Based

You can send your campaigns via SMS, which is another great way to reach potential clients or customers.

You can easily manage your various email campaigns in the ‘Lists’ section, which allows you to see all of your currently running lists.

Marketing Campaigns

It’s really simple to create an email campaign.

Once you’ve chosen a trigger, you can choose some action options, for example, ‘add to list’. You can then choose from a variety of actions – there are a lot to choose from, which will allow you to make a very personalized campaign.

You can see an overview of what your campaign will look like:

It does have a bit of a learning curve, but having so many options means you can create something that is going to make a real difference to your business.

Contacts

When it comes to managing contacts, ActiveCampaign have a lot of great features. You can add tags to your contacts and view them by category. You can also use lead scoring, using your own customizable rules. You can also add tasks, which is great if you’re working in a larger team. You can choose a contact, choose the type of task, add a description, and even set the duration of the task.

Extra Features

ActiveCampaign offer a lot more than email marketing, including Deals. You can create new deals, and assign them to a category – To Contact, In Contact, and Follow Up. If you run a larger business that relies on building good relations with potential clients, this is a great way to manage your team and keep everyone on task.

You can create forms using ActiveCampaign. Again, these are highly customizable, and very easy to set up – so its easy to capture new subscribers.

You can run split tests on your campaigns, too. This is great, as it enables you to improve your email marketing and make your campaigns as efficient as possible. This is only available on the Professional and Enterprise plans. You can customize your split tests, and you can either have ActiveCampaign choose a winner for you, or you can analyze the results yourself.

They also offer an extra service called Conversations. These allow you to create live chats, allowing you to engage with your customers on your website easily and simply. The data captured from this is then fed into the rest of ActiveCampaign, allowing you another way to add contacts to a list or linking customers to deals. It’s a very interesting feature, and you can try it for free for 14 days, and then at a reduced price of $9 a month for an introductory period (normally $19 per month).

Analytics and Reporting

Reporting is detailed in ActiveCampaign. You can view reports for:

  • Campaigns
  • Automations
  • Goal Reports
  • Deal Reports
  • Chat Conversation Features
  • Marketing Revenue

You can easily organize these reports by date. You can also export them as a CSV, TXT, Excel, JSON, HTML or Markdown file.

Knowledge Base and Support

ActiveCampaign has a detailed knowledge base with a variety of articles, tutorials, and how-to guides.

They also have user forums, which is a great way to get extra support and tips from people who use the platform on a daily basis. You can also contact the support team using their website.

Pricing

ActiveCampaign have four pricing tiers – Lite, Plus, Professional, and Enterprise. The price varies depending on the amount of contacts you have. The Plus plan includes a lot of great features, including lead scoring, CRM with Sales Automation, and SMS Marketing. 

It’s pricier than some of the other email marketing tools out there, but given the huge amount of CRM and marketing features that are crammed into the platform, it’s still great value for money. You can check out a free trial here.

How does ActiveCampaign compare to other e-mail marketing tools?

Aweber

Aweber was founded in 1998, so it’s one of the longer-running email marketing tools on our list. It has some good features, including a drag-and-drop email editor, premade templates, split testing, a sign-up form creator, and more.

Firstly, the email editor. 

Email Editor and Templates

It’s pretty easy to add headlines, paragraphs, articles, images, videos, buttons, logos, and more. Using ‘snippets’, you can personalize your email with your subscriber’s information, location, or a signature or contact link. 

Aweber has an image gallery built into the platform, with thousands of images to choose from which you can search for via keywords. This is really handy if you need to find royalty-free images quickly. You can also upload your own images if you like, although when we tested the platform, we found that uploading large images didn’t work.

We found that sometimes the drag-and-drop editor wasn’t as intuitive as we’d like, and sometimes we would drag an element onto the email only for it not to go where we wanted it to. It’s pretty self-explanatory, however, and you can check what your email will look like on a mobile device at any time.

If you don’t want to build an email from scratch, there are a range of premade templates to choose from. 

A few of them look a little dated compared to other platforms we’ve tried, but there are a few great templates in there to choose from.

You can create the following types of messages:

  • Broadcasts, for time-sensitive events like sales or news
  • Follow-up emails, like the emails your subscribers will receive when they sign up
  • Blog broadcasts, which allow you to email new blog posts directly to your subscribers

Marketing Campaigns

You can create marketing campaigns with AWeber.

If you like, you can create a campaign from scratch. AWeber give you a few templates to choose from – welcome series, blogger series, lead magnet, or mini-course.

You can choose a trigger, which will begin your campaign, and then choose the message you want to send. You can add a few more actions, like adding a delay of a certain amount of days, or adding tags to people who have received the emails. It’s pretty basic, but it means it’s fairly simple to learn how to use it.

Split testing is a possibility with AWeber. You can test how different subject lines or emails perform once you’ve sent your first broadcast. You can choose your recipients, define your segment size (what percentage of your recipients will receive Email A, Email B, or Email C, for example). You can then choose the email that gives you the best results.

Subscribers

AWeber allows you to import subscribers from another service, or to add subscribers manually.

You can also tag and segment your subscribers by categories of your choosing, which is great – using this in conjunction with the marketing campaign builder could allow you to create personalized messages for specific people in your contact list.

Extra Features

What about extra features? AWeber has a form creator, which is obviously essential for capturing new subscribers. The form builder is customizable and simple to use.

You can also create forms for other platforms, including Facebook, WordPress, PayPal, Squarespace, and Shopify. This opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of capturing new subscribers.

A notable extra that AWeber has to offer is a trio of mobile apps: Email Stats on the Go, Curate, and Atom. Email Stats on the Go allows you to see how well your emails are performing, Curate allows you to create emails to send to your subscribers wherever you are, and Atom allows you to capture subscribers using a simple form on your phone. The three apps work well as a supplement to the main platform, and they’re a nice extra to have.

Analytics and Reporting

Analytics-wise, AWeber has quite a lot to offer. They have something called QuickStats, which allows you a quick overview of who has read your messages and any responses they had to them. They also have sales tracking, which allows you to track sales on your website. This is a nice extra feature to have.

Knowledge Base and Support

There is a pretty extensive knowledge base on AWeber, including getting started guides. There’s also a blog including a lot of free marketing tips, which is a good resource.

Pricing

Price-wise, AWeber is pretty competitive, and the great thing about it is that all the features are available on every price tier.

They offer a free trial, which you can check out here.

How does Aweber compare to other e-mail marketing tools?

Constant Contact

Constant Contact have been going since 1999. It’s a really easy-to-use platform, and it’s visually appealing, too. It has a very intuitive drag-and-drop email builder, marketing automation, real-time tracking tools, and more.

Email Editor and Templates

The email editor is, as you can see, pretty nice to look at. A video pops up when you arrive, showing you how to use the email editor. It’s fairly self-explanatory though, and it’s simple to add images, text, social media buttons, and ‘action blocks’ (these are not available on the cheapest plan, however). The action blocks allow you to add extras like Shopify, WooCommerce, and EventBridge widgets, as well as extras like polls and coupons. It’s easy to design an email that works well with your eCommerce business.

Email Automation

You can create marketing campaigns, with a chain of emails sent out after a certain trigger happens. You can use Constant Contact’s templates, which allow you to send welcome emails, birthday and anniversary emails, automated email series, or resend emails to non-openers. 

It’s a straightforward process, although it’s not as extensive as some of the other platforms on this list.

Subscribers

You can segment your subscribers, which works well. You can even add Shopify criteria – this allows you to segment customers based on their shopping habits.

The great thing about Constant Contact is that it allows you to add subscribers in a variety of ways. The Facebook Join My List App creates sign-up forms to add to your Facebook page. You can also create a sign-up form to embed into your website’s HTML. You can also create a service called text-to-join, which allows your customers to send a text to sign up to your email list. These are great extras that will enable you to grow your subscriber list.

Extra Features

Constant Contact has a few extra features, including a website builder – this is a really interesting platform for building a page. You input your information, and then it automatically generates a template for you, which you can customize.

You can also create ads – this is a really simple process depending on the platform you want to create an advert for.

You can also create surveys and simple landing pages with Constant Contact, too.

Analytics and Reporting

You can see a basic overview of your email statistics, like open rates, click rates, and undelivered emails, and then you can check each email for more detailed statistics.

Knowledge Base and Support

Constant Contact has a great knowledge base:

It’s packed with information and tutorials, including articles and videos, and a series of QuickStart guides. 

Pricing

A good thing about Constant Contact is that the pricing is really simple – there are only two plans to choose from, Email and Email Plus. The prices go up depending on how many subscribers you have. They also offer a free trial – you can check it out here.

Drip

Founded in 2013, Drip is a really interesting platform with a set of slightly more advanced marketing tools. It offers a drag-and-drop email builder, advanced workflow rules to create complex campaigns, detailed analytics, and more. It’s more than an email marketing service, but we’ve included it on the list as it has really interesting features.

Email Editor

You can create two types of emails using Drip – Broadcasts, which are one-off messages, and Campaigns. The email editor itself is pretty straightforward – you simply drag and drop elements you want onto the email, and you can edit each section easily.

When you click on ‘settings’, you can add filters – this will tell Drip which customers to send the email to and what should trigger the email being sent.

Automation

This is by far Drip’s main strength.

It’s a very visual platform, but it still requires a bit of time to learn. You can choose the trigger, and then choose what will happen next – you can start split testing, for example, add parallel paths, add a delay, set a goal – you can set a very detailed path for your customers to follow depending on what you want to create.

There are pre-built Workflows you can choose from, if you don’t want to build one from scratch. These are very focused on eCommerce businesses, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Cart Abandonment being two of the available options. Some of these workflows are incredibly smart, and they may have the power to make a real difference to your sales.

Subscribers

The ‘People’ section of Drip allows you to see your subscribers. You can segment them, which is really helpful when you’re creating automations. Drip also offer lead scoring – this will give a numerical value to your customers depending on their level of interaction with you. You can then trigger an action from that point – for example, sending them a specific series of emails. 

Extra Features

Drip have a very simple to use form builder to capture new subscribers.

The forms are very customizable and easy to use.

Analytics and Reporting

You can track milestones that your customers reach. You can view them across the whole account, or for individual emails – this is great for tracking how well your emails are performing and if they are translating into sales. You can also check bounced emails, click rates, and email metrics.

Knowledge Base and Support

Drip has a bit of a steep learning curve, especially if you’re completely new to marketing automation. However, the Knowledge Base is pretty great. You can follow a series of tutorials if you’re new to the platform, or you can view a series of articles that will explain how to get the most out of the platform.

Pricing

Drip’s pricing is on a sliding scale depending on how many contacts you have. It’s a little more pricey than some of the others on this list – however, it does include advanced marketing automation, so you will have to factor in whether you need that for your business or not. You can sign up to their free trial here.

MailChimp

Chances are you may have heard of MailChimp – it’s one of the most well-known email marketing platforms out there. Founded in 2001, it has accrued many customers over the years.

Email Editor and Templates

MailChimp uses a drag-and-drop editor – you can easily add text, dividers, images, image groups, and social share buttons. It’s pretty easy to use.

MailChimp also have a series of attractive pre-designed templates to choose from, and it’s easy to customize them to suit your needs.

Campaigns

You can create a variety of different campaigns using MailChimp – emails, ads, landing pages, postcards, or social posts. All of these come with different settings and personalization.

When it comes to emails, you can choose from a few different templates – you can welcome new subscribers, say ‘happy birthday’ to your contacts, reward your best customers, email lapsed customers, send out emails for abandoned cart recovery, and more. Once you’ve chosen one, you can edit it to your liking. These templates are not as advanced as, say, those offered by Drip, and you can’t customize them as much – but if you want a decent set of templates that will allow you to start using marketing automation, this could be a good platform for you.

Subscribers

MailChimp call subscribers your ‘Audience’. You can add subscribers, divide your audience into groups, create segments, and add tags. You can also see an overview of your audience stats here:

You can see your top email clients and view your top locations here, too.

Extra Features

MailChimp have a few extra features to choose from. The ad campaign creator allows you to create ads for Facebook and Instagram, which is really useful. 

You can choose from a few templates here, and then you can customize them to suit your needs. It’s a drag-and-drop page builder and works in the exact same way as the email creator.

You can also send postcards to your subscribers. These are priced from $0.75 per postcard, and they offer a free sample postcard, so you can test it out for yourself.

Social posts are another feature MailChimp offer. You can connect your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to create posts, a little like Buffer or other social media management platforms.

You can also create signup forms for your email newsletter. Again, these are customizable and very easy to set up. You can create an embedded form, a pop-up form, or a signup landing page.

Analytics and Reporting

When it comes to reporting, MailChimp are pretty great. They have a lot of statistics for you to view.

You can view recipients, delivery rate, open rate, click rate, audience average for opens and clicks, bounce rate, unsubscribes, clicks per unique opens, abuse reports, and even a graph showing the results after the first 24 hours of a campaign being sent.

Knowledge Base and Support

MailChimp have a pretty good knowledge base, too. It has guides and tutorials, including articles and videos, to show you how to make the most of each aspect of the platform.

Pricing

MailChimp does get pricey as your subscribers add up – that’s the only downside of the platform, and if you have many subscribers, you might find the price a bit prohibitive. It does, on the plus side, have a free plan which just offers the basics for new businesses. You can find out more about it here.

Conclusion: Which Email Marketing Tool is the Best?

Which platform is best for you will depend on what you need – you might be after something simple, in which case, something like MailChimp or AWeber might be best for you. However, there is a world of useful and clever tools out there that you could use to grow your business. If you want to take the time to learn how to do it, marketing automation is great, and platforms like Drip are excellent for creating highly personalized campaigns to suit your needs.

If you’re looking for a platform that has a lot of extra features, ActiveCampaign could be a great choice. For the price, the automation and CRM capabilities are great. It’s particularly well-suited to larger businesses with multiple employees, as you can assign tasks to different employees. We’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Other Email Marketing Tools You Might Be Interested In:

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David is a professional digital marketer. He’s the founder of First Click Content, a digital marketing agency that focuses on content development driven by organic search data analysis, where he's always on the hunt for new business tools. He’s also a passionate content strategist and writer.
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