Best Email Marketing Software for Marketers in 2020

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Let’s say it’s a crisp Monday morning. You’re a marketing professional, and like any marketer worth their salt, you’ve got caffeine jolting through your veins from your last five coffees, and you’re busier than ever working out new ways to use your marketing automation software to reach your customers. With so many customers you’d like to remarket to, you’re scratching your head and already reaching for that sixth cup of coffee (bad habit; you swore you’d cut down last week). But as the roasty, delicate notes of a fresh cup of South American Black Gold serenade your tastebuds, you’re still coming up empty on new ways to keep customers engaged. Enter your email marketing software.

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Best Email Marketing Software

 

What is that, you say? Nothing more than a marketing automation guru’s weapon of choice when trying to broaden their horizons (and pad their bottom line). With more than 25 years of history behind it, this class of apps has come a long way from when Hotmail launched in 1991 (and even longer than that when Gary Thuerk sent the first marketing email in 1978).

In order to parse through the literally hundreds of email marketing tools out there, we fed our analysts a steady diet of coffee, put our fingers to the keys, and came up with a list of the top five email software solutions out there — because better data means better marketing. Read on for a list of essential and advanced features, or click here to jump to our crowned top five.

Essential Features

Email marketing software, in a few short words, are applications that allow you to compose, send and monitor email marketing campaigns. Like the humble email itself, however, not all email tools are composed equally; features across solutions vary, though all solutions come armed with the essentials — the tools to get the job done without all the bells and whistles. These are your bread and butter when it comes to emails. Most, if not all products, are going to have the following features:

Composing

Don’t underestimate the composer — it’s where your email lives and dies. Every email marketing tool is going to have a window that lets you add in text, images, custom code and more so that your messages look filled out and plump. Think of this as a robust, marketing-forward text editor.

Sending

Sending isn’t as simple as pressing a button. With most tools, you’re getting more than that. You’re getting something that lets you schedule your emails to hit inboxes at optimal times for maximum performance.

Unsubscribing

The CAN-SPAM Act was revolutionary for both senders and receivers of emails. In short, all emails are required to have a no-nonsense “unsubscribe” button in their email footer. Because this is a legally required feature, you can expect all of your emailing software solutions to have a feature that lets users easily unsubscribe from your lists.

List Management

A list of engaged customers who you can contact on a regular basis is every marketer’s dream. Unfortunately, sometimes those dreams become caffeine-fueled nightmares, except instead of being chased by giant spiders that look like your mother, you’re burning entire email lists. That’s where list management comes into play. In order to keep your dreams happy and full of dollar signs, list management lets you segment customers into smaller and smaller lists; ideal for personalizing content and setting up tags, right?

Some solutions will automatically filter users into lists so you can target specific subgroups in your campaigns. Essential data points like age, location, purchase history and more are taken into account when being filtered, giving you nearly unlimited opportunities to personalize your messaging.

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Advanced Features

Advanced features might vary far and wide, and are unique to each product, but here are a few general ones you might encounter:

Analytics and Reporting

There’re a billion different ways to slice this section (just like there are a billion different ways to slice data), but the real meat and potatoes of it is that analytics give you insight into your campaign’s performance. You get visibility into open rates, CTRs (click-through rates), jetpacking content and more. And with reporting, all this data is infinitely shareable in interactive charts, graphs and dashboards.

Tag Merging

Ever wonder how emails seem to know your name? When you signed up for an email list or bought a product you probably exchanged some information that got filtered into tags. These tags are then sprinkled throughout the email in order to personalize its contents.

Integrations With Social Media

Social media integrations are considered a luxury because, well, how do you share an email? Actually, you don’t. With social media integration, your social media is the destination, and your email is the vehicle. You can invite subscribers to like pages, and integrate data from your social platforms into your email marketing automation software to expand your reach.

WYSIWYG Editor

Pronounced “Was-e-wig” (what a fun sounding word), this stands for “What you see is what you get.” A WYSIWYG editor is essentially an email composition tool that lets you take advantage of things like a drag-and-drop editor. The drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to build emails by providing pre-made components like previews, headers, bodies and footers, so you can drop and stack your custom email into place. This is a far cry from the older, more archaic method of writing custom HTML and poring over lines and lines of confusing code (does anyone seriously miss nested tables?).

For the less adventurous among us (or those wanting to save time), most WYSIWYG editors also come with things like templates, responsive layouts and photo editing capabilities to streamline your marketing efforts. This also goes hand-in-hand with A/B split testing, because you can build out custom templates and then test their performance against each other.

A/B Testing

Let’s say you’re testing out coffee. One tastes nuttier and more bitter than the other, which is a light, roasty flavor. Turns out they’re from the same roaster, just with different roasting techniques.

A/B testing is kind of like that — in email marketing software terms, it’s when you send out two variations of the same campaign to test out what works, what doesn’t and ultimately optimize conversion rates.

Email marketing software does this by letting you send and monitor email variations, often reporting back in real-time things like campaign performance, conversions, open rates, downloads, unsubscribes and bounces (when an email never gets to its intended target. Read here for why that might happen).

Visual Composer

The visual composer is closely tied to the aforementioned WYSIWYG editor. Instead of coding out nested tables by hand, it lets you visually drop in sections of an email and build it to your specifications. Then you jump into the composer and drop in your copy, and baby, you’ve got an email going.

Integrations With a CRM

A sales person’s best friend (or worst nightmare), CRM software are valuable tools for centralizing customer data in a sales context. But that doesn’t mean marketing gurus aren’t able to use them. By piping in data from a shared customer data platform or CRM, you can target individuals who might need additional nurturing, or are already close to converting. Sales will give you a high five for helping to qualify leads, and you get a richer pool of data to target.

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Top 5 Email Marketing Software

In working with thousands of clients, we’ve been able to parse through the digital noise that so often drowns out important voices in the marketing automation software space. Looking to step up your email marketing game? Consider the following products.

Mailchimp

From the Rocket Science Group, Mailchimp is a web-based email marketing automation software that’s got close to 20 years of experience under its belt. It’s perfect for small businesses looking for affordable email marketing software, and it gets even more affordable when users opt for the free version, which has important features like:

  • Segmentation
  • Dashboards
  • Tag merging
  • Unique marketing channels (up to seven)
  • Simple, one-click automations
  • Free, simple templates
  • An integrated, marketing-forward CRM
  • Behavioral targeting
Mailchimp Audience Dashboard

Audience data in Mailchimp.

So for a lot of users, the free version is going to cover the essentials (and pretty much only that). But let’s say you’re a larger enterprise, leveraging more than 500 people and a robust marketing strategy. You’d be better off reaching for the paid options, which provide the same features and benefits of the free version, but with additional features.

Plans start at $9.99 per-month, and go all the way up to $299.99 due at the end of each month. Paid plans are going to get you things like phone support, A/B testing, advanced automations, branding, every email template they’ve got (and they’ve got hundreds), unlimited users and much, much more. Just take a look at our comparison sheet for the full rundown.

Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Constant Contact

Constant Contact (founded in 1995) is just a little older than its competitor, Mailchimp (founded in 2001), by about six years. But a lot of development can go on in six years. And more than 20 years later, Constant Contact has evolved into a product that’s substantially different where it counts (more on that in a second).

Let’s start with the basics: Constant Contact is a web-based email marketing software that’s long since grown out of its basic features. It’s ideal for small businesses with its accessible pricing tiers, which range from $5 to $45 monthly. This application comes with all the standard features we listed above, and, depending on your chosen tier of pricing, some additional features. If you want the full list, just ask for our comparison report.

Constant Contact Email Automation

Email automation in Constant Contact.

What’s important about Constant Contact is that no matter what pricing tier you opt for, you’re getting this big ticket email marketing feature: unlimited emails. In a world where 269 BILLION emails are sent every day, you might be thinking “Oh, great, all I’ll be doing is contributing to the digital cacophony.” Well, not quite. Despite the fact that emails are sent out ad-nauseam every day, most digital marketing software will limit the amount of emails you can send. Constant Contact doesn’t do that, and, as a matter of posterity, their list of features included in their cheaper plans is fairly close to those in their “Email Plus” plan.

Here’s a list of some shared features (again, there’s more in our comparison report).

  • Templates
  • Drag-and-drop email builders
  • Real-time reporting (clicks, opens, shares)
  • Data importation
  • Unlimited emails
  • Scheduling
  • Landing page creation
Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

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ActiveCampaign

This product differentiates itself from its competitors with the inclusion of powerful machine learning tools that empower users to augment their chats, phone calls, and most importantly, their email sends. And, since only performing email marketing is like having nothing but a hammer in your toolbelt, it also incorporates marketing automation and CRM capabilities to deliver a full suite.

ActiveCampaign Metrics

A metrics dashboard in ActiveCampaign.

Their pricing tiers are pretty flexible. The Lite plan costs $9 per user per month, the Plus plan can be had for $49 per user per month, Professional plan costs $129 per user per month and the Enterprise plan costs $229 per user per month.

With ActiveCampaign, you can expect features like:

  • Subscription forms
  • Site tracking
  • Dynamic content
  • Contact and lead scoring
  • Conversations
  • E-commerce
  • Geo-tracking
  • A/B testing
  • Integration with Google Analytics
Price: $$$$$
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Sendinblue

Following in the footsteps of other products, Sendinblue is a cloud-based solution that functions as a single, comprehensive email marketing tool. Its free version covers the essentials like unsubscribe links, composers and scheduled sending. Of course, like the ocean itself, Sendinblue’s list of features go a lot deeper than just basic, surface level tools. In a way, you’re hitting the Marianas Trench of email marketing products.

Sendinblue Email Campaign Report

An email campaign report in Sendinblue.

Here’s just a taste of what Sendinblue offers:

  • Email templates
  • Dynamic email personalization
  • Retargeting/Remarketing
  • Send-time optimization
  • Developer API
  • Powerful integrations
  • Browser previews

And there’s a lot more. But you know the drill by now. The rest of these features, compared alongside other competing tools, can be found in our robust comparison reports.

Price: $$$$$
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Omnisend

Omnisend bills itself as an “omnichannel marketing suite,” which means it’s got more to it than just email abilities. But for the sake of this article, we’re focusing exclusively on its email features. Speaking of which, those features include classics like a robust composer, drag-and-drop template builder (with included, pre-built templates), unsubscribers and tag merging.

Omnisend Email Templates

The email builder in Omnisend.

Where Omnisend starts to get a little adventurous is that sweet spot in its pricing — around its pro plan ($99 a month). This pricing point nets you everything in the previous two plans, and a handful of important features like 50 (yep, 5-0) segmentations, 15,000 emails monthly, A/B testing, automated campaigns and much, much more.

Price: $$$$$
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Final Thoughts

Let’s think about marketing automation software in terms that marketers can understand: coffee-based language. Marketing applications, be they cloud-based or locally installed, is like your standard black coffee; basic, but delicious — they absolutely do the job they’re intended to do. Email marketing on the other hand is like cream and sugar — it enhances coffee and allows you to reach people with a sweet tooth.

Email distribution software may sound like it does one thing: send emails. Actually, think of it more as a Swiss Army Knife, or a suite that does a variety of important things to help take away some overhead from the busy marketer’s caffeine fueled day-sprints.

But, like hitting that perfect blend of cream, sugar and coffee, figuring out which email marketing tool is best for you can be difficult. You can grab our product comparison report to discover which marketing automation solutions have the email capabilities you need. And unlike your favorite Starbucks drink, it’s totally free.

What’s your favorite email marketing software? Sound off in the comments with your personal choice!

Jason KellerBest Email Marketing Software for Marketers in 2020

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