I get the question "what email software should I use in my business" at least once a week. When I first started, there was only a handful of email marketing software companies, but now the possibilities seem endless: Mailchimp, AWeber, MadMimi, Constant Contact, GetResponse, ConvertKit, InfusionSoft, Ontraport ... and that doesn't even include the multi-tool platforms (that include extra robust shops and even online course hosting) like the New Kajabi and Shopify. How do you even know where to start?
You read the rest of this blog post, make an educated decision, and move on. Seriously.
You could debate until you're blue in the face which one to choose, but as in life and anything biz related, there won't be just one platform that will have everything you need all in one place and is the best at all of the functions you need. It doesn't exist.
One company might be better at getting through spam filters while another will give you the ability to create multiple lists and track clicks.
You've got to pick the one that ticks most of your boxes, then make it work for all it's worth.
However, if there's only one thing that you learn from this blog post, it's that you need to be growing an email list for the success of your business.
Whether you choose one of the companies I list below, or go with another completely different one, promise me that you at least HAVE an email list. Pinky swear?
This is one of the top 3 mistakes I made in my first year as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (you can read my most popular blog post about that by clicking here), and I don't want you to make the same one that I did.
I've also used my email list and free email challenges to create thousands in income from online programs, which are detailed in this blog post here (how I grew my list by 245% in 30 days and created $7,000 in income the next month) and get into detail of why you need to have an email list in this blog post here.
P.S. if you already have an email list but it's not growing fast enough, click here to learn how you can convert up to 30% of your blog readers and traffic to email subscribers!
In the past 6 months, I've created over $12,000 in net sales (i.e. what I actually bring home, not just what I sell) of my Brand, Build, Blog program from a small email list of less than 500 people. That's the power of the email list versus growing your followers on social media!
Now that I've (hopefully) convinced you that you should be growing an email list, what software should you use?
Wait, why do you even need software in the first place? Because you have to have an unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email.
In US, Canada, and many other first-world countries, there are anti-spam laws protecting consumers. In the US, it's required that when someone gets added to an email list that they can easily opt out at any time. In Canada, the person must give you consent to be added to your email list in the first place.
If you're just collecting a list of emails from people who want to hear from you, and then sending them emails from your regular email program (i.e. you have to add their email address in the "to" field in an email program like hotmail, gmail, yahoo, custom email address, etc), this doesn't provide the people on your list an option to easily opt out without emailing you back to say "please remove me from these emails".
Also, if you live in Canada or have people on your email list from Canada and are sending them emails as per this manual method, there is no way to prove to the government that those people gave their consent to you. Without this proof, you may be fined thousands, tens of thousands, or even more depending on your list size.
When you use email marketing software, all emails that are sent will have a one-click unsubscribe button at the bottom, and you can turn on a double opt-in process and have reports that show when each person completed the required steps to legally opt in.
Double opt-in means that the person can give you their name and email, for example if they sign up for a free bonus on your website, but they get sent an email that says, in so few words, "are you sure you want to be on this email list/get this free gift? Click here to confirm". The people who click to confirm will be recorded in your program, and you're now legally able to send them emails!
Also, don't disregard the fact that your emails (and your business) look super profesh when you invest even a few dollars a month into the proper email software.
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten an email back from someone with them saying that they're amazed that every email they get from me has their name at the top. They feel like I'm talking just to them, and some of them even ask if I manually send every single email. Uh, no, I pay for software to do that 😂. It's truly the little things that bring people the most joy!
Not only do you look more professional, but you can pre-schedule emails to go out on a specific day at a specific time. This is great for time blocking out your weeks (click here to see how I get everything done with my busy schedule!) to allow for blog writing at a certain time but sending an email later when your subscribers are more likely to read them. If you finish writing a blog post and turn it into your newsletter at 3 am, there's not much chance of most of your subscribers being up then (none of mine are, unless they're nursing a baby 😳). You can get the content entered into your email marketing software and set it to go out at 7 am when your subscribers are just getting up and checking their phone first thing the morning.
At this point in my business, I've used 3 email marketing platforms that happen to be the most popular (I keep upgrading as my business grows), so let me break down the pros and cons of my experience with them:
When I first started my business in 2008, I used MailChimp for my email marketing platform ... mostly because it was the only one I had ever heard of! Even today, MC is one of the most popular email marketing providers because they have a free basic version that allows you to send out 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers. You can use this free version when you're just getting your biz off the ground and want to keep your expenses low.
I teach how to use MC and set it up with your website in my Brand, Build, Blog course because it automatically syncs with SquareSpace (the website platform that I recommend) with about 5 mouse clicks or less and zero coding, so it's a breeze to use from the set up side!
However, the reason it's free, or very affordable if you upgrade to the paid version, is because it doesn't have some of the functionality of some of the other platforms that I talk about below.
If you do decide to upgrade, here are MC's prices per month (in $US) depending on list size (prices up-to-date as of Aug 31, 1016):
- Free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers and paid plans starting at just $10 US per month
- Email templates included even in the free version. While this might seem really enticing at first, emails with too many images and not enough writing don't make it through spam filters. The best emails to get through spam filters are actually 100%, plain text emails! Personally, I don't even bother with templates, and the only image I use is my logo at the top.
- Easily (like sometimes with a few clicks and without using coding) integrates with other popular tech services like SquareSpace, WordPress, WooCommerce, Facebook, Shopify, Zapier, Stripe, and LeadPages (to name a few).
- One of the highest abilities to get through spam filters (i.e. more people actually get and read your newsletters and marketing emails).
- Has the ability for you to make different lists for different things, like one list for your mail email newsletter, one for a free email challenge, one for a specific content upgrade on a blog post, etc.
- They have pretty great reporting abilities, in that you can easily see how many people opened your email, clicked on links in the email, and where your subscribers are from to name just a few. This is where MailChimp soars over the competition.
- They have a free mobile app where you can check all your campaigns and stats. If you have an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus, you can even add new subscribers instantly to your email list from your phone, which is awesome for trade shows or presentations where you have any size of captive audience that you can funnel into your email list.
- You can create pop up boxes on your website, although this is a pretty advanced function. However, it's possible!
- The back end is not overly intuitive to use. This is the reason why I switched from them, because it's so FREAKING HARD to figure out how to do anything without Googling or watching YouTube videos.
- You have to upgrade to the paid version to be able to send autoresponders, which are emails that automatically get sent out when someone joins your email list or for a free or paid email course. Autoresponders are one of the fastest ways to create trust with a new email subscriber, even leading to sales within a few days if you do it right.
- MC is list centric, meaning that if one person is on multiple different lists of yours (like they opted in to get your regular newsletters AND they've signed up for a free email challenge you're running) then you pay for them twice. If they're on 3 of your separate lists, you pay for that same subscriber 3 times. When I ran my free 30 Day Calm Mom Challenge, I had almost 1,250 women sign up in 30 days. If I wanted to also add them to my regular newsletter list, I would have been paying double for 1,250 people. Basically, you could get to the point where you only have about 500 people receiving any one of your emails, but if they're all on a different list because they opted in to different goodies on your website (let's say each person has opted in to both your mail email list AND 2 other goodies), you could double or even triple your monthly costs ... even if you're not emailing more total people.
- MC has no automation, meaning that if someone opts in for one thing on your website, you can't automatically add them to another list. Continuing the example above, what if I wanted to email my regular bi-weekly newsletter to those 1,250 women who signed up for my free challenge? There's no way to easily do this in MC. Some of them may be on both lists, but some may not be. If you don't manually send the same email to the challenge list, a majority of them probably won't see it. If you DO take the same newsletter email and send it to them, the people who are on both lists will get double emails, and that's just annoying (and a certain number of them will unsubscribe).
Conclusion: If you're just getting started, and aren't sure if this whole run-your-own-business thing is for you, then MailChimp is probably the right option for you.
I used AWeber for almost 5 years, and it was definitely an upgrade from MailChimp. It's not free, but for the functions that you get, it's totally worth the monthly fee if you're at the point where you're ready to take your business seriously.
Here is AW's prices per month (in $US) depending in your list size (prices up-to-date as of Aug 31, 1016):
You can see that when you're first starting out, the price per month is about double that of the paid version of MailChimp ... but for more functionality. MC has more subscriber vs. monthly fee levels, but when you start getting towards the tippy top for each subscriber level, you're essentially paying the same in AW as you would be in MC.
When you start with AW, you get all the functions right from the get-go, and your monthly price depends on how many people you have on your lists. There's no need to pay to unlock certain features, you only pay for the number of peeps you've got on your lists.
I didn't use all the more serious functions of AW like segmenting, but they're there if and when you need them.
- List automation is included as soon as you sign up. Automation means that you can set up multiple lists, and have the same person added to one list when they subscribe to another. Continuing with the 30 Day Challenge example above, when someone signed up for my Calm Mom Challenge, I could automatically add them to my bi-weekly newsletter list. For the content upgrades that I have on various blog posts (what are content upgrades? Click here to find out), I can have a separate list just for that particular content upgrade (which tells me how popular a specific topic is, potentially the topic of a future paid online course or product), and also automatically have that person signed up for my bi-weekly newsletter. Conversely, if someone is signed up for marketing emails for a paid program that you're launching, if they purchase you can automatically unsubscribe them from the launch emails. This is super handy so that you're not annoying people with sales emails when they've already purchased.
- Much like MC, you can integrate AW with many different services like SquareSpace, WordPress, LeadPages, PayPal, etc, but you have to use some coding. They provide you with a tutorial on how to do this, and once you have the hang of it, it's pretty easy.
- AW has email templates that you can choose to use (or not, see argument above)
- They include over 6,000 stock images that you can include in your emails. However, as per the argument above under MC, this might stop you from getting through spam filters, plus you can't download them and add any sort of text or customization overtop. This is more of a "that's a cool feature" rather than a selling point for me.
- Much like MC, Aweber has a pretty robust reporting system, including total list growth, email open rates and clicks over time, as well as what country your email subscribers are from. I could tell that women from 25 different countries worldwide signed up for my Calm Mom Challenge, which is pretty cool!
- Along the lines of list automation is the segments function. After you send an email, you can go back and look in your stats to see who opened or clicked on any links in a specific email. If they did, you can make a separate segmentation of a list. For launch or sales emails, anyone who clicked to a sales page can be segmented as "Interested in [name of product]", and you can send more emails to these people without them getting as annoyed as people who are really not as interested (didn't click on a link).
- Again, like MC, they have a free mobile app that you can have people directly enter their info into to opt into your email list at events like presentations and trade shows. Cuts down on trying to decode people's horrible handwriting on paper lists!
- Like MC, AW is list centric. Even though I had only about 2,000 people on my main email list, because I had multiple other challenges or freebie opt-ins, I was paying for more like 5,000 subscribers. After the US to Canadian exchange rate, my AW account was costing me over $90 per month when I didn't have nearly that many total people on my list.
- With list segmentation, this can only be set up after other emails have been sent out. You have to be really organized and schedule in your calendar to go back and examine the stats of already sent broadcasts, segment out the people who clicked or opened emails, and then you can schedule and send them separate emails if you choose to. None of this can be set up beforehand, it can only be done after the fact.
Conclusion: If you're already using the paid version of MailChimp and are ready to take your online + email marketing and your blogging to the next level with multiple lists, automation, and content upgrades, then you're ready to upgrade to AWeber.
I was pretty happy with AWeber when I was using it, but as I expanded my opt-ins with free email challenges, I was tired of paying for the same subscribers on multiple lists. Why couldn't they just be counted as one subscriber since it's the same person? It was then that I was introduced to ConvertKit*, and it was the solution that I was looking for at a cheaper price!
How could this be? Because CK is subscriber centric, meaning that I can have one subscriber on multiple lists (called tags in CK) and only pay for that one subscriber. Hallelujah!!!
Here is CK's prices per month (in $US) depending in your list size (prices up-to-date as of Aug 31, 1016):
For up to 3,000 subscribers it's about the same price as AWeber, but for even more options. For me, it was a no-brainer to move my subscribers over.
Also, because it's subscriber centric, you might be spending $69 a month in AW (like me) but only $29 or $49 in CK, so you might actually be saving money!
The hardest thing to get used to when I moved everything over to CK from AW was the language that they use for similar functions. For example, lists in AW are called tags in CK. An autoresponder in AW is called sequences in CK. Campaigns in AW are broadcasts in CK.
Once you get used to the different lingo, it's basically the same.
Of course CK isn't perfect (nothing ever is), but it's about the closest you'll get to it in this price range. About the only options with more functionality than CK, and at a far higher price tag, are Ontraport (starting at $79 US a month for 1,000 contacts) and Infusionsoft (starting at $199 US a month for 2,500 contacts).
- CK is subscriber centric, meaning you're charged for just one email contact no matter how many separate tags (i.e. lists) are attached to it. You could have one person with 10 or 100 different tags and you're only charged once. This instantly saved me about $40 US a month when I switched from AW to CK.
- You can design landing pages right in CK and hosted by them, so theoretically you wouldn't have to pay for a separate landing page service like LeadPages (that is, if you don't want build your own landing page yourself on your actual website).
- Like AW, you have tons of automation that you can set up when someone opts into certain lists or clicks on links within emails. Want to make sure that someone who purchased a program doesn't get any more sales emails? Done. Want to add someone to your main newsletter list when they opt into a freebie on a blog post? Done. So many options of tracking exactly who is interested in what products or services you already have, or for testing interest for potential paid offerings.
- Also like AW, you can design static sign up boxes for your website OR pop-up boxes.
- You can set up different segments or tags based on who click on what in emails, however, unlike AW, you can set all of this up before an email is sent out. If you plan on sending out a follow up email to people who clicked on one of your sales pages, you can pre-schedule this before the first email goes out that has the links to the sales page. Pretty handy when you're launching something major.
- My favourite feature of CK is the confirmation email with a highly customizable message and a big, beautiful, attention-grabbing button for the subscriber to download their freebie instead of the super generic and zero personality "click here to confirm your subscription". You're not even giving them a chance to think "hmmm, do I really want to be on another email list?". Instead, this is what they see:
If they click on that big pink button that offers them free training? Boom, they've just confirmed their subscription and completed the double opt-in process!!! It's just an extra bonus that the button colour is customizable to your brand colours, too. Not only that, but that button offers you an option of re-directing them to a specific URL web address OR attaching the actual file right to the button. For example, if your free gift is a PDF, if they click on the link to get it, the file will automatically download to their computer with no extra steps required. Come on, you know you're excited about this!
- You can quickly see how many people are being added to your list each day and how they're opting in (if you have multiple different opt-ins or lead magnets). Your homepage will look like this, with a slightly different colour for each different form that was used to opt-in. When you hover over it, the name of the opt-in pops up, like this:
P.S. this also shows you that content upgrades work! That blog post with the free blog editorial planner content upgrade was written on December 16th of last year. It's almost 9 months later and I'm still collecting emails subscribers from it on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Most of them are brand new subscribers clicking over from Pinterest. It's a beautiful thing when your list grows on auto-pilot!
- CK doesn't integrate as easily as MC does with SquareSpace. To put opt-in forms on your website requires you do to a little code work, but they do provide tutorials showing you exactly how to do this.
- Their reporting sucks. There, I said it. Other than the nice chart shown above and some simple numbers shown at the top of sent broadcast (as per the pic below), that's about all you can see.
You can't see what countries people are opting in from, and you can't see your cumulative list growth like you can in MC and AW. However, CK is a newer company and is constantly working on their platform and adding new features requested by their users, so I wouldn't be surprised if more robust reporting is coming soon.
- While you can set up tons of automations, the one thing I forget to do from time to time is connect a sign up form to a tag (i.e. list)! Believe it or not, this doesn't happen automatically when you set up the form like it does in MC or AW. Sometimes I test the sign up process of a new opt-in box, and when I enter my name and email I don't get added to a tag. It's only then that I realize that I didn't connect that particular form to any sort of tag, and my name and email were going nowhere! Duh on my part, however when you're used to using another platform for 5 years that does that automatically, old habits are hard to break. Just remember to link your sign-up boxes to a tag (i.e. list) and you won't have this issue.
- No app that can enter new subscribers to your lists on the go. Boo.
Conclusion: This system is the most robust out of the three, and if you're already using AWeber and are tired of paying for the same subscribers who are on multiple lists, then you should totally try ConvertKit.
I made the switch about a year ago, and I'm so happy that I did. The functionality has blown me away, and since I'm serious about blogging and email marketing to grow my business, love to wake up to sales in my inbox without me doing any extra work, and aspire to have most of my business run on auto-pilot, ConvertKit* is my new software love (next to SquareSpace).
I know from conversations with people enrolled in my course and chatting with biz friends that most people have never even heard of ConvertKit, are curious as to how the back end works, and how they can use it on their website and in their biz.
I recorded a free tech training session called "Intro to ConvertKit" so you can see how it works!
This video includes:
- how to design an opt-in form and insert it on your website.
- how to separate email subscribers into different tags (i.e. lists)
- how to add people to your main list when they opt-in for something else (webinar, lead magnet, etc)
- how to send email newsletters, including how to include or exclude multiple tags (like when someone purchases during a set of launch emails)
- how to separate people who are interested in your paid offerings (and send them more emails) from people who aren't
- how to set up autoresponders to build trust with new subscribers quickly, converting them into paying customers ASAP
Like I said above, don't let all this information paralyze you from making a decision on an email marketing platform and moving forward with your business. I've been in business for 8 years and have used all 3 of these platforms at one time or another.
It's totally OK to start with the free version of MailChimp, work the crap out of it, and then upgrade to paid software when you're ready.
How will you know when you're ready? When you're trying to set things up that either can't be set up in that particular software, or it involves so many work arounds, with other software like Zapier, that it's worth it to upgrade for the sheer frustration, hair pulling, and time that you'll be saving.
I wanna know: what email marketing platform are you using right now? Is it time to upgrade?
*The link to ConvertKit is an affiliate link, meaning that if you choose to invest in their software that I receive some compensation from them for the referral. This is my first affiliate link on my blog, and I would never recommend something that I don't personally use and highly recommend. Thanks for the love! 😘