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Which Email Service Provider is Right for Your Business?

by Tracie in General, List
Choosing an email service

Choosing an email service that speaks to you.

For online course or membership creators, email service providers are the lifeline to their business. An email service is how they send out newsletters, how they communicate with their mailing list, and where their customers’ email addresses are stored.

If you have a business online, chances are you will spend a whole lot of time using your email service. In fact, it’s probably where you’ll spend a majority of your time some weeks.

So it’s important to choose the right mail service for you: for the way your mind works, and for the way you see your business now, and the way you expect it to grow in the future.

Why do you need an email service provider?

Sending out emails to your clients via Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or the equivalent might work okay if you’re sending out an email or two a day to personal friends and family who are hiring you to do some work for them on the side.

Once you decide, however, that you’re going to take your business seriously and will be building a following of people who will eventually buy a product, service or course from you, you can no longer use your personal email address. It goes against the terms of service for those services: they cannot be used for business. And yes, that even means addresses like YourBusiness@gmail.com.

Instead you need to have a domain hosted email address. Something like Joe@YourBusiness.com. Here’s one article on how to set that up using Gmail.

You also need to use an email service designed for business.

Email Service Providers (ESPs) and the Law

Using an ESP isn’t just good business practice, in many countries (including the US), it’s the law. Email services provide a layer of protection for consumers and their email addresses. The services themselves carefully monitor the businesses which hold accounts with them to ensure they aren’t sending spam, and that they follow email laws, such as the CAN SPAM law in the U.S. These laws require all emails sent by businesses to have an easy, one-click way to unsubscribe and offer reporting features for when email recipients think a business isn’t following the rules.

It’s about more than just email

Okay, so now that you understand why you need an email service, how are you going to choose which one to use? For the most part, you’ll need to do a little research to decide which email service seems like the best fit for your business and the way your brain works. That may sound strange, but the reality is, many companies providing email service are very similar. The only difference between them aside from price, may be the way they look and operate on the inside. The most important thing for you to consider when choosing a service for your mailing list is whether you feel comfortable using the service you choose. You can collect all of the recommendations and data you like, but if you don’t like working in your email service you won’t do the most important parts of building your business: growing your list.  

To make it easier for you, I’ve compared five of the most popular services used for online course and membership creators for you: Active Campaign, Aweber, Mailerlite, Convertkit and MailChimp.

My three favorites even have insider video views so you can take a peek inside without having to sign up for a free trial.

Let’s take a look:

Active Campaign

When it comes to deliverability, automations, tagging and the ability to grow with your business, Active Campaign* is about as robust as you can get without spending thousands of dollars on a much bigger system than most people need. Active Campaign focuses on one thing: email and they do that so well it makes up for them not offering landing pages.

Automations can be set to do nearly anything, tagging can be set up based on customer activity, links clicked, date joined, or just about anything else that can be dreamed up. Despite the ability to go deep and get geeky with tracking and automations, Active Campaign is intuitive and fairly easy to use. Best of all, it grows with a business, adding features and benefits when your need them rather than dumping them all at you when you’re just starting out.

Active Campaign details:

  • 14 day free trial
  • Landing pages: No
  • Automations on free/basic plan: Yes
  • A/B Split  Test on free/basic plan: Yes
  • Live Chat Support for Basic Level: Yes

Active Campaign deliverability**: 90.2%

Find out more about ActiveCampaign (including an insider’s video view) here.

Aweber

Aweber* is also a great choice for online businesses interested in great email deliverability along with the ability to automate and tag subscribers based on their actions. Not quite as in-depth as Active Campaign when it comes to automations and tracking, it feels a little out of date when trying to perform some tasks. Customization options are limited for email templates, and the way its dashboard is organized is a little hard to figure out.

It should be noted that Aweber has started offering landing pages. This can be handy if you’re on a budget, but I still prefer using a service that specializes in landing pages rather than an email service that is dabbling in them on the side. After all, if your landing page doesn’t convert, you’ll never grow your email list.

Aweber and Active Campaign have many similarities, even in pricing. If, however, you know you’ll want to highly segment your lists, do in-depth tagging and will be watching your reporting, Active Campaign has an edge.

Aweber details:

  • 30 day free trial – credit card required
  • Landing pages: Yes
  • Automations on free/basic plan: Yes
  • A/B Split  Test on free/basic plan: Yes
  • Live Chat Support for Basic Level: Yes

Aweber deliverability**: 85.4%

ConvertKit

When it comes to simplicity, ConvertKit can’t be beat. It offer basic email services, along with segmenting and tracking good enough for people first starting out. There are also landing page templates available. At its core, ConvertKit seems designed for bloggers or casual online marketers, not necessarily launchers who will want to automate a bunch of email sequences based on user action.

Lots of people love ConvertKit and plenty of big online marketers use it until they are ready to bring on a team to help them go deeper with analytics, segments, A/B split testing and other statistical tracking.

Here’s the problem: as your business grows, ConvertKit just doesn’t have the ability to do what you’ll need it to do. Changing email services is a pain any time, but it is even more so when you’ve finally gotten so big that you realize it’s time to make the change.

ConvertKit:

  • Free to start
  • Landing pages: Yes
  • Automations on free/basic plan: No
  • A/B Split  Test on free/basic plan: Yes
  • Live Chat Support for Basic Level: No

ConvertKit deliverability**: 60%

Mailerlite

Although Mailerlite has been around for a while, it doesn’t get seem to get the same attention as some of the other services on the list. The free option they offer is nice because, unlike some of the other services, the free option doesn’t hold back basic features.

Mailerlite also includes a landing pages option, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I still prefer using a dedicated landing page solution like Leadpages where conversion rates have been tested.

People who use Mailerlite tend to be raving fans. The layout of the dashboard and features weren’t intuitive to me, and I didn’t like the limited options in their templates, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be the perfect fit for you. One of the things that bothered me about Mailerlite is the fact it names things differently than other services, or industry standards. Tags become interest groups, lists are called groups, etc. This is confusing and unnecessary.

Mailerlite details:

  • Free to start
  • Landing pages: Yes
  • Automations on free/basic plan: Yes
  • A/B Split test on free plan: Yes
  • Live Chat Support for Basic Level: No

Mailerlite deliverability**: 78.4%

Find out more about Mailerlite (including an insider’s video view) here.

MailChimp

Ah, good ole’ MailChimp. MailChimp is a favorite among people just starting out with their email list because it is free. And it can remain free forever. Sounds pretty good, right?

The problem is that MailChimp isn’t designed for launching, or for selling some products/services online. In fact, it actually goes against its Terms of Service. MailChimp is the only email service in which I’ve actually heard of people getting their accounts shut down, no appeal, no questions asked due to violation of TOS. In neither case was the business owner doing anything spammy or out of the ordinary for an online marketer.

MailChimp details:

  • Free to start
  • Landing Pages: Yes
  • Automations on free plan: limited
  • A/B Split Test on free/basic plan: Yes
  • Live Chat Support for Basic Level: No

MailChimp deliverability**: 81.6%

You can read more about MailChimp here.

A word about email deliverability

As you can imagine, deliverability is a big issue when it comes to email services. Although deliverability rates do vary for each of the services (**you can find the study I used for my research here), there are also things you can do on your own that will affect your how many people are opening your emails. This blog post may help. It is worth noting that deliverability and open rates are actually different things, but most often, when just starting out, if you use one of the services I’ve mentioned, you’ll need to focus more on whether your emails are being composed in a way that entices people to read them than whether or not your email is actually winding up in someone’s inbox.

An in-depth video explaining all about email automation services

A few years ago, I recorded this video explaining all about email services. Why you need to use them and the important things to know. A few things have changed. I no longer recommend GetResponse, and instead recommend Mailerlite, for one. And I have also found that now email platforms have enough various levels of service that there’s no need to start out with a beginner service and move your list later on. Choose the one that works for you now and stick with it.

There is so much good information in the video, that I decided to make it available even though a few things have changed. I hope you find it valuable.

Now that you have figured out your platform for email, what other online services will you need to launch? Find out here…

4 Comments
  1. Judy Ringer says:

    Thank you, Tracie, for the GREAT info. Really helpful to see the differences in services. And I appreciate the link to the study.

    1. Tracie says:

      You’re welcome! I thought that study was so interesting as well!

  2. Sandrine says:

    This is the one article I’ll be sending EVERYONE to in the near future!
    I was surprised about some of the data btw. Super interesting, thank you for writing this!

    1. Tracie says:

      I’m so happy to hear it’s helpful to you! Share away!

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