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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 - 4 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.

More...

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.

Stacey Corrin

Richard Martin is just a normal guy earning money online, and he hopes to help you do the same. His blog is at:

http://www.smartincomedetective.com

Richard Martin

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:

http://www.theplrstore.com

Ron Killian 

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.

Carol Amato

Exclusive Bonus: You can get a downloadable PDF version of this post later on, so stick around to get your copy.

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.

My Journey

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?
  • Price?
  • Features?
  • Benefits?
  • Reviews?
  • Popularity?
  • Deliverability?

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 3 service providers:

table1

Diversion

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!!

SaaS

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.

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 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.

The Experts

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 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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

2. Why did you choose your current Email Marketing service provider?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol
  • 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?

  • Stacey
  • Richard
  • Ron
  • Carol

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?

  • Carol

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!

Why?

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!

˜Carol

Here is an updated table with ActiveCampaign included:

Email Marketing Table2 | byteofdata.com

Wrapping Up

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.

Exclusive Blog Post Bonus:

To get instant access to your free PDF download

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?

Summary

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?
David Hartshorne
 

I'm David and I'm the guy doing most of the writing around here. I'm a freelance writer helping solopreneurs and small businesses build their online presence through friendly, engaging and shareable blog posts.

  • An excellent post David, very well thought out and balanced. I love how each of us have widely different tastes and experiences with our email programs. Hopefully people will be able to make a more informed choice after reading. Great work.

    • Hi Stacey,
      Firstly, thank you so much for contributing to this post – it was great to get your perspective of MailChimp, alongside the other experts here!
      I hope people will see that each service provider offers different features and that its important to choose the one that matches your requirements.
      Thanks again!
      – David

  • Great stuff here David.

    I haven’t ever done a comparison of email service providers because I hadn’t used them all – this is a great way of getting individuals who have got experience to give your readers a well rounded view of them all. Nice thinking.

    I’m just about to email you about something as well, look out for that one.

    Good work here my friend. 🙂

    • Hi Richard,

      Thank you very much for your contribution to this post. GetResponse is the Email Marketing service I almost went with and I’m sure it would have been fine for me.

      I didn’t want to sign up to 4 Email Marketing services just to test each one out, and so I figured it was best to use experienced bloggers familiar with their own service to provide the input. I’m extremely grateful to each of you for giving an honest appraisal of your Email Marketing service.

      Thanks
      – David

  • Thank you for the opportunity and including my thoughts in your post. Greatly appreciated. Hopefully my input helps people with email marketing. Plus with the likes of Carol, Richard and Stacey, there’s some great information on that page.

    I enjoyed reading all the other contributors viewpoints and inputs. Always something new to learn, or new idea’s to try.

    I really like the layout of the post, the tabbed content boxes was a good idea. Your so sophisticated 🙂

    Thanks again David.

    • Hi Ron,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience of AWeber with us. It was good to get that input alongside the other tools here, and hopefully we have helped people with a well-rounded review. It was interesting to see how each of you valued your chosen email marketing tool and how they fit in with your slightly different markets.

      I like the tabbed feature in Thrive Content Builder. I think it lends itself to this type of comparison where you can see the four answers next to each other under the question. (I’m not sure about the sophisticated bit!)

      Thanks,
      – David

  • Hi, David,

    What an important topic of discussion, and I am honored that you invited me to participate, thank you so much.

    I had to laugh when I read about your I want nation of MailChimp due to its name, that’s funny. I don’t like animal names for companies either, but you definitely made me smile with that one. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us also. We all evolve in our knowledge and understanding, so I really like your advice to not always “cheap out” but consider value – excellent!

    I used to look at price first thing long ago, no more do I do that because I’ve been burned so many times, and my time is worth something as well as all the frustration and time lost due to problems…

    Great comparison – four good companies, and you’ve hit a homer on this post. Sharing with friends…

    ˜Carol

    • Hi Carol,

      Thank you so much for contributing to this post – it was great to get your new experience of ActiveCampaign against AWeber. I’m sure this will challenge readers to really question what they want vs what they are getting from their service provider. It certainly has me thinking!!

      I just have a (peculiar) problem about the animal named products. Its totally non-technical and I’m sure MailChimp is a great product, but it just turns me off before I even look. I just felt I had to be honest with people in why I reached that decision.

      Quality rules over price and shortcuts. Its a fact of life, not just with software products. On the other hand there can be excessively priced products which are very poor. So, in my opinion, you need a trusted brand with quality products and support to get the best ROI.

      Thanks
      – David

      • Fantastic! I completely understand, and I think you must do what’s comfortable for you.

        Absolutely, my friend, quality rules most of the time, in my opinion, I agree wholeheartedly. Ciao Ciao ˜Carol

  • Hi David,

    Carol Amato and Richard Martin are good friends of mine, so first off it was nice to see them here.

    You know what? I tried the free version of MailChimp about 2 years ago and it was so confusing to me that I would have never sign up for it. but maybe it’s just me.

    Back then, I was with Aweber which charges you $30/month as soon as you have 500 subscribers. Plus, let me tell you something, about Aweber, they don’t charge everybody the same. I think it’s not fair. I won’t say anything in the open here, but I know that for a FACT!

    So I recently got rid of them and went with GetResponse, which I have to say I really like now that I understand their system.

    Thanks for sharing this great insight.

    • Hi Sylviane,

      Welcome to Byte of Data – its lovely to have you here, and any friend of Carol and Richard is a friend of mine!

      Thanks for sharing your experience of MailChimp and AWeber here. I’ve never tried MailChimp, but sometimes certain products just don’t click with individuals, for whatever reason. I’m not in the 500+ bracket (yet:) but it is quite a jump, and I think that is one of the best benefits for GetResponse that you don’t pay extra until you reach 1000. (You can email me your AWeber story!)

      The main thing is that you have found a service you are comfortable with, but remember to challenge yourself every now and then to see if it is still the best.

      Thanks again Sylviane, hope to see you again soon.
      – David

      • Yes, that’s why I had to quite Aweber. Every week I had to go in and delete some people who had not open my email in the past 2-3 months (because every week I was above 500) but I didn’t want to do that, so now I’m good until I have at least 1000 GOOD subscribers.

        What’s your email?

  • Hey David,

    i’ve actually been going back and forth myself with email marketing services. I use AWeber and have thought about using GetResponse and ActiveCampaign (From reading Carol’s review of it).

    Two important reasons for me were the cost and the features. GetResponse and ActiveCampaign has gotten AWeber by cost hands down and at one point GetResponse had more features up until AWeber upgraded. So right now it’s been AWeber hands down.

    As Sylviane pointed out, I have heard that AWeber doesn’t charge everyone the same although many users may be over the same threshold. I haven’t seen this for myself and hopefully I won’t. But if anything, if I had to give a good reason to change over, it would be because of the cost and features.

    The only thing I don’t like about AWeber is that they charge for each email list a person subscribes to. So lets say a person is on List A and decides to also go to List B, then you will get charged twice. I don’t think this is fair, but yet this system is popular with a lot of people who have home businesses, so I believe don’t see this as important just yet!

    Anyways, thanks for sharing other’s views on the different email marketing services they use! This was helpful for me to make my own decision! Take Care David!

    I found your post on kingged.com under the category of Email Marketing
    http://kingged.com/4-experts-compare-the-best-email-marketing-tools

    • Hey Sherman,

      Thanks for sharing your experience of AWeber – sounds like another person not 100% happy with them. Carol certainly makes a good case for switching to ActiveCampaign. I have to admit I had not heard of them until a few weeks back when I read about it on her blog.

      Both Richard and Sylviane seem quite happy with GetResponse and the pricing is that bit more keen than AWeber. Have you tried GetResponse yet or did you just look at the demo?

      I’m pleased this review has helped you. Let us know which way you go!

      Thanks
      – David

      • Hey David,

        I have looked at Get Response before, but once I was about to change over, AWeber made some changes.

        There was one feature that they added which they didn’t have early in either 2014 or late 2013 which was the option to add social media buttons at the bottom of each email.

        I use to find images off the internet, add the html code and add them like that, which look really clunky. But since I found this feature, I thought I’d give AWeber another chance.

        Then I found out about how they charge for each subscriber. I will have to call them about that.

        • I couldn’t see anything specific on their website about how they count subscribers. If you call them then let us know what they say.

  • Ilka Emig

    Hi David!

    A great post! You managed again to cover your topic from all sides and angles.

    And it is very interesting to see your expert’s experiences. I think they are all great. I really take Carol Amato’s advice quite often 🙂

    • Hi Ilka,

      So glad you enjoyed reading the post from all sides with our 4 experts input – weren’t they great!

      Carol is a very experienced online entrepreneur, so you are taking good advice there!

      Thanks
      – David

  • Hi David.

    Thanks for introducing this discussion.

    I’m still quite new to list-building, so there was a lot for me to learn from this. The insight that you, Stacey, Richard, Ron, and Carol was most helpful for my plans moving forward.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Nathan.

    • Hi Nathan,

      You are most welcome. If you need any more help or advice then please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

      Thanks
      – David

  • Hi David,

    Beautiful layout and it’s makes reading super easy.

    It’s great to hear the opinions for others and pros and cons from their points of view because I’ve only ever used Aweber.

    Thanks for the insight

    Naomi

    • Hi Naomi,

      Welcome to Byte of Data – good to have you here!

      I’m so pleased you like the layout! I tried to make it as easy as possible to stack the answers from our 4 Experts next to the question and I figured this was the best way!

      They shared some great opinions and experience which is exactly what I wanted, and I believe everyone has really benefitted from reading this article.

      Thanks
      – David

  • Just had to chime in again, guys, to say it’s all about marketing automation…. Do some reading on that. None of the other companies offer that, and it’s the most powerful and biggest reason I switched. Thanks!! 🙂

  • Hey David,
    Great Post indeed 🙂
    As all, we know email marketing the very valuable marketing strategy that every blogger adopt, but there is always a confusion that which tool we should use for our marketing campaign. Here all the expert share his view on the different tools and I think now everyone can compare with their cons and pros.
    Thanks, lots to share this roundup post.
    Have a great day 🙂
    Naveen

    • Hi Naveen,

      Glad you enjoyed the post! I thought it was the best way to get an all-round opinion on the subject as each blogger has their own experience to share.

      Enjoy your weekend!
      – David

  • Watermelon

    Thanks for sharing! I prefer GetResponse because for me it’s the most user friendly email marketing service.Take care!

    • Thanks for your comment Watermelon!
      GetResponse is certainly a very popular option and many people speak of its user-friendly interface.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on email marketing tools Al. I’m currently using GetResponse too after switching from Aweber. I don’t think there is too much difference between them – both provide a good service.

  • Nathan Elward

    I used a lot of email marketing tools comparatively i found Easysendy Pro is better. It allowed me sending bulk emails and gave me service at very cheap price than others.So my vote goes to easysendy.

    • Thanks Nathan, always good to hear about other tools that users have found beneficial.

  • Aimee

    Great post and insights! I think that before choosing the platform we need to know what we want to achieve and what functionalities are going to help us. It’s good to test different options before settling for one. I like GetResponse. They go in an interesting direction now with marketing automation.

    • Thanks, Aimee! Yes, it’s important to know what functionality you want from any tool, and I agree that testing the options before buying is good. Most email service providers offer a free-trial period that you can take advantage of. GetResponse is a good choice, especially with more automation features being added now.

  • Julia Gulevich

    Hi David, thank you for a great comparison! I’m using the in-house system EasyMail7. I like it because it allows to create multiple email accounts using different email settings and quickly choose the account for sending the message. And I like the integration with a spam testing service. It allows to quickly test an email and gives an extra level of visibility where the email is delivered (Inbox or spam).

    • Hi Julie,
      I’ve not heard about EasyMail7, so thanks for sharing your feedback here.
      – David