As an email marketing pro who’s handled email lists with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, I’ve tried just about every email service provider (ESP) known to man. I’ve used everything from FREE tools to solutions that cost over $10,000 a month. In my experience, there are some I LOVE and some I absolutely hate.
So if you’re trying to get your business going in the right direction, here’s my review of the 5 Best and Worst Email Marketing Services.
In this post, I will talk about some of the FREE and cheaper services, as well as solutions built for organizations expecting to grow. I also want to discuss some of the most powerful ESP’s that make services like Constant Contact look like Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster General in the 1700’s.
- Silver Pop aka Watson Campaign Automation $$$
My absolute favorite email marketing service provider is Silverpop aka IBM’s Watson Campaign Automation.
This service is on the higher end and may start at $3-$4k a month. Larger companies will pay over $10,000 depending on the size of your email list and your send volume.
Why I love it
Watson Campaign Automation can do so many things. When it comes to sending personalized emails, Watson can easily send contextual messages to people, simply by dragging and dropping a topic into your email builder. For example, if it’s a rainy day in California, you can drop a line of code in your email copy that says “I hope your keeping dry” that will only send to people in California experiencing heavy rain. But if the user is snowed-in at her condo in downtown Chicago, that same message can read “Something warm for the Windy City”. And you only have to create one email… Watson will deliver the right message to the right person depending on the criteria you give it to send (e.g. weather, shopping behavior, recent Facebook comments etc).
This is bigger than just using the first name in the subject line, this is smart automation that can do anything you can dream up.
Why you should hate it
If you’re just getting started with email marketing, this isn’t for you. But I’ll show you what is.
- MailChimp $
If you’re just getting started, MailChimp is the perfect solution. Starting out, MailChimp is free. But as you grow, they will start charging you a monthly subscription which is still very reasonable.
MailChimp is the largest email service provider on the market, but it can be limited in many ways.
MailChimp does have some basic automation and segmentation features that are great for people with a list under 10,000 subscribers. But creating segments and setting up automation can be a little tedious. But if you don’t have the cash flow to pay for a larger EMS, sticking with MailChimp is your best bet until you secure a nice email marketing budget.
Why it’s the worst
If you have more than 10,000 subscribers, it may be time to move to something a little more robust. A service like MailChimp can hinder your growth, and I don’t think the increased sending fees will be worth it.
- Zaius $$
I absolutely love Zaius. I like to call it “Watson Jr.” It’s the closest thing you’re going to get to IBM’s WCA on a budget, but this service is well worth it. I would say this is the next step up from MailChimp when you really want to start getting serious about your email campaigns.
Why you should hate it?
There’s no reason to hate it… It’s really awesome, from price to functionality.
- Emma $
Emma is neck and neck with MailChimp. The service is about the same price and they’ve been around just as long.
What I like most about Emma
I Love Emma’s interface and its ease of use. I also like the fact that it checks for spam before you send off any email to make sure it makes it to users inbox without going into any junk folders. I also like Emma’s heat maps to let you know exactly where users focus is. For one client I was able to help them redesign their email to help them get more click-throughs on popular products. The heat map revealed where users eyes were focused the most.
Why everyone should hate Emma
Deliverability issues! It takes FOREVER for Emma to send to your entire list… this is horrible. Even when I segmented the list to send to only 500 subscribers, people received their emails in spurts. Some even hours after sending it. Imagine this kind of deliverability on a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. For this reason, I would avoid Emma altogether.
They do offer a free demo, so you can test out the service for yourself.
- Salesforce Pardot $$$
Salesforce Pardot is very similar to IBM’s Watson Automation. However, they named their artificial intelligence (AI) Einstein. Pardot also offers dynamic content that can personalize just about any content for any users with a few clicks. They also have what is called contextual content, that can be sent to fit the context of the receiver. And your website (and email) can dynamically feature any content they have recently viewed on your site or social media.
Most features are identical to IBM’s WCA. If you have the money to spend, it’s up to you to decide what you prefer.
Why it’s the worst
Again, if you’re just starting out or you don’t have much experience with campaign automation, this problem isn’t for you. It will be a waste of money.
And that’s it. These are my 4 Best and 5 Worst Email Marketing Services for online marketers. If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to comment.