Email marketing systems; you need one but they are not all born equal.

Only one mode of communication with your ideal prospects remains steadfast in the face of a changing social media landscape -EMAIL” – Amy Portefield

Have you ever heard the phrase “the money is in the list”? It’s something that floats around in online circles, especially in the service-based business world. But I’m guessing if you have made it here then you want to know how you can get in on this game.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: This blog does have affiliate links – I will style and mark these as such: affiliate link^). And, if you want a full breakdown of terminology, I wrote a whole blog about it here, for an overview of the words used and how each system can help you in your business.

Your CRM is not your Email Marketing System

There is always confusion with people who haven’t been told differently that a CRM system is the same as an email marketing system (EMS). It’s not. There are some CRM options that perform the duties of an EMS, but in my opinion (and believe me I have tested lots), it is much better practice to have two separate systems. Not least because not every one of your leads or clients will want to be on your email list, and not everyone on your email list is going to buy from you – I am on my own email list with four different email addresses for goodness sake. (I like to be thorough, ok?).

If you have ever spent any time with me, you will know that I am the type of person that won’t pay for something unless it is absolutely worth the money. My CRM and EMS are two spaces that I pay for functionality, style and ease of use over some of the free options – which I started out with and were fine at the beginning, but now, honey I want better (and so should you!).

Today I’ll be concentrating on email marketing systems. There are five that I want to bring your attention to, I’ll give you the pros and cons and my personal recommendations (spoiler – one of these I currently use, and one of them I switched from).

MailChimp

If you’re an old school podcast fan like me, you probably first got to hear about MailChimp through Serial (if you haven’t listened to it, you must, it’s gripping. Only series one though, trust me). Up until really recently, MailChimp was a decent free option for those starting out as it has its limits but functionality wise it works and is fine. Problem is, it’s not really any more than fine.

Pros

– It’s free. That’s a biggie. Yes there are pricing plans however at base level it is a free option that will give you everything you need to kick off your email marketing journey.

– You can host landing pages. This is great if you are going to be growing your list through a “freebie” and you don’t have a website where you can host this freebie. Speaking of which….

– If you do have a website, you can embed Mailchimp sign up forms which means you have a way of growing your list organically. If you have this link on your social media pages, you upping your website hits AND growing your list – fab-u-lous!

– There are lots of templates to use to get you started. This is useful when you are sat in front of a blank computer screen and have no idea where to start with your email marketing journey.

– The email builder is drag and drop, so that makes it super easy to decide how you want your emails to look

– There are so many direct integrations available, and even more with Zapier in use. This is key if you are using a range of online systems to run your business.

Cons

– Ok it is free. BUT only to a certain point. Once your list gets bigger, you will need to pay for the use of it, and with this comes features, but once you start to pay for your list hosting every other option on this list is better suited to your needs.

– It’s clunky. I tried to think of a more sophisticated word but honestly, there isn’t one that suits it better. It isn’t a visual system, although the templates are, creating complex work flows, if/then conditions and yes/no click tracking is not intuitive. This means that you have to test and test again, and it takes more time to get this right in MailChimp than any other system.

– The customer support is poor. If you are using the free option, support is only available for 30 days after you sign up, then nada. Zilch. Bad, huh? You’re going to have to pay for that priviledge unfortunately!

– Limited segmenting. For those who want to do more than send out a weekly newsletter, MailChimp won’t allow you to have lots of tags or segments on the free option. Advanced segmenting is available in the Pro or Premium plans only.

Verdict: In case you haven’t realised by now, MailChimp is my least favourite email marketing tool, and for the price of less than £5 a week you have way better options available to you.

MailerLite

I’d like to describe MailerLite as the option for those who got sick of MailChimp’s flaws and moved on up.  It’s a younger but more user friendly free option for those who aren’t quite ready to pay but want more from their email marketing system.

Pros

– Again, at a base level it is free.

– You have customer support from the get-go. This means any problems, you have someone on hand to help you figure it out.

– The interface is SO much friendlier than MailChimp!

– There are inbuilt templates for you to use if you aren’t sure how you want your emails to look and feel in the beginning.

– Lots of integrations with other systems in the online space.

– If you are a blogger or a creative, there is the ability to integrate with the RSS feed

– Video marketing is AOK in Mailerlite – not the case for all systems

– The workflow, tagging and segmentation is much more intuitive than in MailChimp and this makes it much easier to use

– Inbuilt landing pages to push out that freebie!

Cons

– Again with the pricing! Once you hit 1000 subscribers (or more than 12,000 emails per month) you have to start paying.

– Triggering within MailerLite is limited within the free plan. This means that if you want to track behaviours and start new workflows based on this you will have to pay.

– Reporting is poor too, so if you want to integrate with Google Analytics or your Facebook pixel you aren’t going to have any joy here.

– Facebook doesn’t seem to like MailerLite links and won’t approve them in ads. I don’t have any proof for this officially, just know from some of my clients that they had to switch provider after several problems in this area in 2019.

Verdict: If you truly are starting out and don’t want to pay for the service, MailerLite is 100% the platform I would recommend.

Convertkit

This was the first tool I used in my foray into paid email marketing systems. And I love it! I have now moved to another provider (see later on), but Convertkit showed me truly how powerful email marketing can be in your quest to nurture an audience.

Pros

– It is very visual. Every workflow you create is exactly that – a flow. There are unlimited tagging and segmenting options, meaning you can create endless avenues for subscribers to go through based on their previous behaviour

– Many integrations are available which is especially good if you have a WordPress website and run WooCommerce; Convertkit will tag these buyers so you are able to target again

– Domain authentication to host landing pages on your own website. This means that when you share a landing page it looks like it is your own website – get those clicks mama – but the subscribers are also going to go through your welcome sequence. Best of both worlds! AND the URL is nice and tidy – makes for a prettier social media presence, no?

– An ever moving company means that there are constantly new features being released, and recently they have started releasing workflow templates which are amazing for re-engaging cold subscribers and even removing them from your list to keep those open rates high

– Unlimited email sends – this is important if you are nurturing through a sales launch; imagine getting to day four and reaching your limit? Horrifying!

Con

– It isn’t free. There isn’t even a fremium option, just a free trial. That being said, the entry-level price around £22 per month for up to 1,000 subs, and that’s what you are paying for – the subscribers. All features are available to all users. Which is a big deal! Because they aren’t trying to entice you to pay more to get the good stuff; it is just for them to process your emails.

– ConvertKit are advocates of the plain text email being better for deliverability. Whilst there is some sense behind this, actually with careful planning it doesn’t have to be that way. That being said, if you are a visual or creative business there are better options for you to use to make those emails something people look forward to receiving.

– Due to the plain text approach mentioned above, you aren’t able to embed video messaging. This might not be important right now, but in the future as video gets more prevalent in marketing strategies this will be a biggie. You can embed a GIF of the video and send the subscriber off to a third party site, but aint nobody got time for that.

Verdict: For user friendly-ness, price and features, ConvertKit is a great option for someone who wants to get serious about their email marketing.

ActiveCampaign

The daddy! ActiveCampaign is absolutely THE name in the email marketing game. A huge player, if you want to get serious about emailing your list, this is the option to consider.

Pros

– The user interface amazing and really user friendly. It really is click and go, you don’t have to go and find what you need as it is used in a really logical way.

– Zapier integration means lots of tools are available to combine with ActiveCampaign to automate your business.

– The intuitive nature of ActiveCampaign means that it will prompt you if it thinks you’ve missed a stage – invaluable if working on workflows early into the morning!

– Reporting on the paid options is brilliant – you can nurture your hottest leads with a click of a button.

– Workflows are super visual, just like ConvertKit. If/Then, Yes/No, re-engaging subscribers and resending emails if not opened are all made really easy.

Cons

– The pricing starts really enticingly, but to get any sort of impactful use out of ActiveCampaing you need to go for one of the higher priced options. It is a big jump from using a free option like MailerLite to the £45 a month ActiveCampaign charge for their next tier. If you aren’t using email marketing to sell, this is a big cost.

– The more your list grows the more you pay, so unlike Convertkit you are paying for extra features and extra subscribers.

– If on the cheapest plan, the reporting is poor.

– The email campaign builder isn’t great, much like ConvertKit. It is more concentrated on the content rather than what it looks like.

– No landing page builder. This means you need another tool (LeadPages is the prime example) to link everything together, and that means another subscription and another set of tech to learn. Can you be bothered? I couldn’t…

– There are no native integrations for ActiveCampaign although there are over 300 ‘add ons’, the majority of them involve another subscription (a key example of this is LeadPages).

Verdict: If you want to get serious about your email list and want to grow grow grow, but it is pricey compared to other options out there.

Flodesk^

In September, I switched from Convertkit to Flodesk^. And not just because it’s cheaper!

Pros

– The price. At the moment the service is in beta (see below) which means that using the link above you can get all features and unlimited subs. And as the platform grows, your price will stay the same. This is amazing!

– It is SO pretty. The templates are gorgeous and feel super professional. Jenna Kutcher has created a set of templates and there are more constantly being added. This means there is very little thinking time involved in how you want your email to look.

– You are able to authenticate your domain which improves deliverability rates and a keeps things above board

– You are able to host landing pages within your website which, as with Convertkit, means that you are sending people to your website to sign up rather than a random bit.ly link or similar.

– The site has a really simple dashboard that is user-friendly and easy to navigate, along with visual workflows that make sense.

– The customer support is phenomenal. Seriously considering the youth of this platform it is mindblowing how quickly they fix or look into issues for you. There is also a dedicated Facebook group with the founders present in there along with lots of advocates to help if you get stuck.

– The open rates of the platform are insane. Mine jumped from around 25% to consistent 60%+ when I moved. INSANE.

Cons

– It is still in beta. At the moment, there are no integrations available such as Zapier or eCommerce tools other than Shopify, however these are on the way (the founders promise many every single week!). Other problems with a beta programme.- the servers can get clogged and the analytics can be slow too.

– The workflows are simplistic. There is an ‘if/then’ option, but that is it.

– At the moment, it isn’t suitable for more than your usual nurture / newsletter routine. There are no ways of tagging clicks (although the founders again assure us that this is being done in the background and will arrive with archived data at some point), so at the moment it’s not worth it if you have big sales to push.

Verdict: Flodesk is the one to watch. With some big names using it (for instance, Dubsado^, the other love of my life) I truly believe that this is the system to get involved with at the tiny price that It is at the moment – less than £20 per month! You could even run Flodesk and Convertkit at the same time for more complex systems and STILL pay less than ActiveCampaign.

Honourable mentions

There are SO MANY email marketing systems that you can use, all with a different spin – I’m just going to list them but if you want more info feel free to get in touch! Here are other systems that are lesser known but also do the job:

BombBomb, GetResponse, SendInBlue, Kajabi, ThriveCart.

What’s your system of choice? What have I missed? Leave a comment and let’s ch