One of the biggest hurdles I see when it comes to actually starting with email marketing is the tech involved. Most email tools out there (FloDesk, MailChimp, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite) do the same thing.
The trick is to choose one that best fits your specific business needs and commit to it. You can always switch later since the beauty of email lies in it’s ability to take your audience with you should you need to change.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the ESP’s (email service providers) out there. New ESP’s spring up almost every day and I do not cover enterprise-level software (e.g. SalesForce Marketing Cloud).
These are the ESP’s (ranked from easiest to use to more complex and robust) that I strongly recommend for small businesses because of the positive feedback I have received while working with my clients, their ease of use, pricing, and their powerful features.
ESP #0: Mailchimp
NOT RECOMMENDED. You’re probably most familiar with MailChimp but I have gotten plenty of feedback from my clients that it’s complicated to use and has become increasingly expensive for what it is. Plus the free plan keeps getting stripped of features. For example, you cannot schedule your emails on the free plan anymore. Boo.
I used to be a hardcore Chimp fan and even have a t-shirt. Alas, I have broken up with them 🙁
ESP #1: Flodesk
Pros: The most intuitive ESP out there. If your brand is very visual and you don’t want to deal with too much tech complexity to build a gorgeous email, this is THE premier choice. Plus the cost stays the same no matter how large your audience becomes ($19/month with link below) Bonus: this is a woman-owned company!
Cons: It’s still in beta so the integrations you’re used to may not be available yet. There’s also no free plan. Link to get 50% off: flodesk.com/c/EMAILBEAM
ESP #2: MailerLite
This is perhaps the best alternative to MailChimp out there with similar features that is much more user-friendly AND much more affordable (almost half-price). Freemium model is included up to 1000 subscribers. I would recommend this if you’re brand is equal parts visual/text and you need robust email automations.
Cons: There’s an approval process that takes time and MailerLite has experienced some growing pains which is why there are some negative reviews online.
ESP #3: ConvertKit
This is the one that I use because I rely on powerful automations to better personalize email content. If you’re willing to become a bit tech savvy and you want email marketing to become your prime revenue generator, this is the choice to go with.
Cons: If you’re wanting to send beautiful emails, ConvertKit ain’t it. There’s research that points to plain text emails getting more engagement but if you’re a visual brand such as a photographer, this is probably not the ESP you want to go with. Also, pricing starts at $29/month if you want to unlock automations. Referral Link here.
ESP #4: ActiveCampaign
If you’re needing a powerful CRM (customer relationship management) along with your ESP and plan on investing a lot of time into your email marketing efforts, this one is it. Depending on what plan you go with, you can also send out text messages.
Cons: Not beginner friendly. No landing page builder feature.
ESP #5: Omnisend or Klaviyo
If you’re business is purely e-commerce this is the software to go with. Omnisend is the more affordable option to Klaviyo and has a freemium model as you begin to build your business.
ESPs I generally don't recommend
Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, ConstantContact
Reasons: Not good for scaling, limited functionality and integrations, not user-friendly. Although Squarespace does have a beautiful email builder, their capabilities are very limited and can get pricey.
A note on all-in-ones
Kajabi, Podia, Kartra
These can be good alternatives to having separate software run your business but all-in-ones can be pricey. These all-in ones may also run into the jack-of-all-trades, master of none problem. Therefore, they may not offer robust email marketing functionality if you’re wanting to really maximize the ROI of your email marketing efforts.
If you need more clarification on choosing the right ESP for you and setting up your email marketing system, I invite you to check out my beginner-friendly “From Email Chump to Email Champ.”
Now go get that email $money$.