Mike Connell

The Spin Sucks Question: Best Email Marketing Software

By: Mike Connell | November 2, 2018 | 
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best email marketing softwareWe send a lot of emails. Not just “we,” as in the Spin Sucks team, but we as an industry. As communicators.

Email campaigning is a stalwart component of the content marketing mix.

And while we’ve discussed the best email newsletters, we don’t often stop and think about whether or not we should be thinking (or rethinking) about the software/platform we use to manage those campaigns.

True, there are oodles of email marketing solutions out there to choose from.

But what makes one better than another?

Price? Ease of use? Scalability?

So, we thought we would put it to you for the next Spin Sucks Question:

What is your preferred email marketing software solution, and why? 

There were a ton of responses to this week’s query, so thank you, everyone, for your contributions.

That said, it also made filtering through the various (and many) email marketing options difficult!

Best Email Marketing Software: How to Choose

Off the top Chip Griffin didn’t have a specific email marketing platform he wanted to promote, but he did provide a great summary of what we should be considering when we are choosing one:

As with the selection of any tool, you should start with your “must have” requirements and then look at the “nice to have” list second.

It’s very easy to get lured in by a cool “nice” feature and overlook something important on the “must” list.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

It depends on the scale (number of emails and sends), non-email functionality (landing pages, autoresponders, lead scoring, etc.), ease-of-use, and budget (probably in that order for most people).

Best Email Marketing Software: Features

Sumit Bansal‘s response grabbed our attention because it focused on scalability.

In other words, his organization didn’t opt for a quick fix or the most affordable option.

They knew where they needed to grow, and invested in the solution they knew could get them there:

I have an email list of 31K email subscribers that I send weekly emails to.

In the past five years, I have tried many Email automation tools and the one I have found the best is Drip.

Drip is meant for people/companies who want to use the power of email automation to grow their business.

It is easy to get started with and is reliable when it comes to email deliverability.

Drip integrates with all the popular tools used by bloggers and online businesses.

It also has visual workflows that allow you to see the automation that you’re building.

The reason Drip is so popular is that it has a free plan for up to 100 subscribers.

In the free plan, a user gets all the functionalities and the integrations (they hold back nothing).

When it comes to pricing, Drip is a little bit more expensive than other similar email tools such as MailChimp or Convertkit.

However, the level of features/automation and deliverability more than makes up for it.

Best Email Marketing Software: Ease of Use

While many agencies and communications professionals themselves have software and platforms they bring to the table, just as many have to adopt the tools their clients prefer to use.

For Andi Graham, that provided the opportunity to test and determine which email marketing software worked best for them as an agency:

As an agency owner, we are often forced to use whatever platform our clients bring to us, so we’ve worked in just about every email platform out there.

Our favorite, by far, is Campaign Monitor.

The interface just *makes sense*. The microcopy, the design, the placement: the entire system is easy to use and easy understand, even when they add new features.

The workflow design tool and new automation features are easier and more robust than any other platform.

Planning user journeys and nurturing workflows is visual and fun.

Even their API is incredibly easy to use and well-documented.

I especially love their professionally designed templates that I can use as a base from which to design fully-custom templates as needed while maintaining the necessary ability to add and edit modules as content needs dictate.

Best Email Marketing Software: K.I.S.S.

Similarly, for Ryan Toth, the most compelling factor when it comes to the best email marketing software is simplicity.

I’ve used MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit and I’ve had clients who used Constant Contact and InfusionSoft.

They all send emails well and a few feature pipelines (which is a feature I don’t use with my email platform).

Given how similar they are, it comes down to one thing for me: simplicity.

I want to be able to jump in and create an email sequence or send an email blast to my subscribers as easily as possible.

And I don’t need all the extras like CRMs, pipelines, landing pages, etc.

For me, ConvertKit takes the cake.

ConvertKit’s design is simple and keeps all the extras out of the way. They get you to writing and sending your emails faster than any other email platform.

Plus, an oft-ignored fact is that emails get lower response rates when they’re designed.

All the other email marketing solutions put their pretty templates front and center and tempt us into using them and lowering our response rates.

ConvertKit doesn’t. They don’t even have a set of pretty templates or a way to design any unless you know how to code.

For keeping it simple and focusing on what really matters, I go with ConvertKit.

Best Email Marketing Software: Integrations

Keri Lindenmuth notes that her preferred email platform sports the simplicity other respondents have targeted, but this tool’s ability to layer in additional functionality sealed the deal.

Our team’s preferred email marketing software is Zoho Campaigns.

We like Zoho Campaigns because it uses a simple drag and drop platform that our non-design team can use when sending emails, but also features the ability to upload custom code for more interactive email templates.

In addition, it has great reporting features. You can run reports on every single email campaign you send, segment lists, and even send follow-ups.

Finally, it integrates seamlessly with other applications in the Zoho Suite.

For example, if you’re using Zoho CRM, you can create a sync that integrates all of your leads into campaigns or create a mailing list in campaigns based off CRM contacts with specific interests.

There are endless possibilities for the ways you can customize and segment your lists and data.

Best Email Marketing Software: Open Source

Christopher Penn considers scalability a significant factor in his email marketing platform.

That said, as a more technically-inclined communications professional, Chris opts for tools he can—what’s the word?—muck around with?

We use Mautic because it’s open source and highly scalable.

It’s marketing automation software that encompasses email, lets us do lead scoring, and send tens of thousands of emails a month for the grand cost of $8/month.

BUT… you also have to know how to build, deploy, and administer a Linux-based server, operate a bitnami container, and connect said container to the AWS ecosystem.

So the “cost” is not financial, but technical.

Um. Okay, Chris. Thanks (steps back slowly).

By way of comparison, Chris’s partner, Katie Robbert had this to say:

What is your favorite email marketing software?

Whatever Chris tells me we’re using.

Best Email Marketing Software: Best Cost per Volume

From Greg Brooks:

Amazon SES is a cheap ($1 per 10,000 emails), high-deliverability solution for mail transport. Sendy is a stripped -down, $50 web software package for creating/managing custom HTML emails and transmitting them via Amazon SES.

Using this, sending a million emails a month would cost me $1,000 vs. $4,500-ish on MailChimp.

Best Email Marketing Software: Mailchimp

Overall, the winner for most respondents was/is Mailchimp.

From Jonathan Gilde:

As an agency, we work with a good mix of clients, and many are small businesses.

More often than not, I recommend MailChimp for a number of reasons:

It is free to get started. As their email list grows and surpasses the free level, they are bought in at that point and willing to pay for a service that provides value to their business.

It’s easy to learn and use. MailChimp is extremely easy to use for creating and deploying campaigns.

Want to create a sign-up form or even a drip campaign? It’s surprisingly easy and requires little to no previous knowledge or programming know-how.

Their resource center and support will just about always get you the info you need.

Competitors aren’t that much better. At times, we have used Constant Contact, Send Grid, Infusionsoft, and others. Some serve specific purposes very well, but MailChimp is the best all-around solution.

From Cari Bugbee:

This is ALWAYS a good topic. I see it discussed frequently in other forums as well.

In recent years, I’ve mostly used MailChimp so I can’t offer a comparison. That said, I absolutely would NOT use Constant Contact. I worked with a client recently that was using it and I was appalled at how far behind that platform is.

It couldn’t do some very basic things that I would consider necessities, such as the ability to design an email confirmation page (choose colors, fonts, etc.) It seems very 2006. Which is about the last time I had a client that used it.

From Sara Hawthorne:

We’ve used Mailchimp for years, it’s always offered us the right combination of things we need, and our data volumes are within the free to use range.

I do have a look around for alternatives once or twice a year but so far, Mailchimp is our go to.

Next Time…

Twitter. In an ever-evolving social media landscape, it continues to be the preferred platform for many communication professionals.

But it can also be a tough nut to crack. Cutting through the clutter can be difficult.

Which makes this recent story—shared in our Spin Sucks Community by Matt Maxey—very interesting:

Should Twitter Kill the Retweet? (The Atlantic)

Actually, the headline isn’t actually positioned as a question in the story. It’s a statement: “Twitter Should Kill the Retweet.”

The biggest issue?

“The feature derails healthy conversation and preys on users’ worst instincts.”

So, we put it to you:

Should Twitter Kill the Retweet?

Alternatively, what Twitter features would you change, if you could?

You can answer here, in our free Spin Sucks Community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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