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How to Choose an Email Marketing Tool

Jan 24, 2022

“Email marketing” sounds, well, boring. It sounds corporate and impersonal and like the very thing that we hope to avoid by running our own business. Ironically, email marketing is so powerful. If I’m being totally honest, it is probably the most powerful, creative, human, dynamic, vibrant thing you can do for your business with just a few hours of investment. I won’t skirt around it. It is a Garden Bed project. And once you realize that you’re ready to jump into the world of using email to grow, you'll need to take a look at the tools you’re already using and (possibly) upgrade to one that helps you meet your goals.

Because before you can really begin to harness the power of email marketing, you’ll need a tool that will support you and your growth. Below, we’re talking you through the different email tools out there and how to choose the best one for you. We’ll talk pro’s and con’s and as always – if you need help thinking this through, don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Often called an Email Marketing Service Provider or Email Marketing Software (think of a tool like Mailchimp or Constant Contact), these platforms range in cost, complexity, and ease of use. Most people start their business with a free mailing list tool like Mailchimp. And we’re all for that approach – go with what works, until it’s holding you back. But there's a high likelihood that at a certain point, those free tools may not give you enough sophisticated (but easy to use) options… and they can eventually stunt your growth. 

If you’re considering switching your email marketing tool, it can be overwhelming and confusing to sort through the many options out there. But don't panic. We've narrowed the choices down and walked you through the 3 steps to help you decide on the best tool for you:

1. Consider where you're at right now.

Of course, you may already have a gut feeling that you need a new tool (especially if you're already reading this article). But in case you're not sure, consider a few of the following questions:

How's your deliverability? Do you have insight on who is engaging with your emails? Are your templates easy to edit? Do your emails represent your brand? What are you currently spending on your email marketing? If you have a problem, how easy is it to get help? How simple is it to link your apps and create automations like a welcome sequence or cart abandonment emails?

 Recently, one of our members, Katie of Katie Kismet, wrote in about changing her email marketing tool and has seen some really tangible differences:

I had been sending my newsletters, with pretty good monthly consistency, via Mailchimp for at least 18-24 months. I had an open rate of about 2-3%, which I had (in error, as it turned out) thought was normal. I'd also found it odd that those nearest and dearest to me (think: husband and mom) literally never mentioned receiving my newsletter.

After changing over to MailerLite and sending just two newsletters, my open rate is now 14% with a 3% click through rate, and friends and family have gone out of their way to mention receiving it. So I don't know what the issue was with Mailchimp, but I don't think my emails were even getting into inboxes before the switch.

So while Katie realized where she was at after switching, this insight is a perfect example of looking at how your email tool is serving you now. And of course, if your answer is "perfect! great! love it!" to all of the above then, by all means, keep on using the tool you're happy with.

2. Decide on your criteria.

There are lots of great options when it comes to email marketing software. As you’re looking at the different tools that are available, think through your "top" criteria in a tool. Are you less tech-savvy and want something super easy to use? Or maybe cost is the biggest factor at the moment. A few areas to consider are:

  • Cost
  • Usability
  • Automation options
  • Email template choices and customizability
  • Customer support and training availability

For us, we wanted the best-of-the-best when it comes to automation capabilities since we use these to support our members throughout their lifecycle with us (and for other marketing.) That's why, here at One Mill School, we use a tool called ConvertKit. For most creative business owners, MailerLite or FloDesk are fantastic options that have plenty of automation features (although not as much as ConvertKit) while also being affordable, easy to use, and with beautifully designed email templates. 

3. Consider your options.

While we’re by no means offering a definitive or exhaustive list here, we went ahead and created a comparison of the tools we've mentioned, including a rundown of your options when it comes to functions like templates and integrations, as well as pricing. These are three options that we’ve seen work well for makers and what we recommend considering as you move through this process. 

In each row, we've listed one option in gold to indicate the "winner" in each category:

 

FloDesk

MailerLite

ConvertKit

User Friendliness
& Customer Service

Intuitive interface and strong customer service.

Interface overall easy, with a learning curve, and very responsive customer service.

Difficult to use interface with super-helpful customer support.

Marketing Automation

Simple, limited automation. Some segmentation is available.

More detailed segmentation and flexible automation.

Uber-powerful automation and segmentation.

Integrations

Direct integration with Shopify and Instagram. Zapier integrations also available.

Wide range of integrations including Shopify, Squarespace, and Instagram, plus personal API capabilities. Zapier integrations also available.

Several integrations including teachable, Shopify, and crowdcast. Zapier integrations also available.

Data & Analytics

See your open and click rates on the newsletters you send and how many opt-ins you’ve gotten on your forms. 

Open and opt-in rates, number of visitors that saw your forms and conversion percentage on each. Data breakdown for each group of subscribers and automations for them.

Everything in MailerLite plus exactly which subscribers opened, clicked or engaged for easier retargeting.

Email Templates

Gorgeous, easy to set up email templates.

Classic, straight-forward template builder.

More difficult to use builder with an emphasis on text-based emails.

Form Customizations

Beautiful, modern opt-in forms with an easy to use builder. However, template framework is inflexible.

Solid opt-in forms, easy to use templates with lots of flexibility.

Beautiful landing page templates and opt-in forms, but are nearly impossible to customize.

Deliverability

Great job, with a small chance of being sent to promo folder or spam.

Great job, with a small chance of being sent to promo folder or spam.

Simple templates result in even better deliverability.

Pricing

- 30-day free trial.

- $38 per month or $418 per year.

- No charge increase with list growth.

- Free with limited features below 1,000 subscribers.

- After 1,000 subscribers, $10/month or or $84/year.

- Free with limited features below 1000 subscribers.

- $29/mo ($300/yr) for up to 1,000 subscribers with all features 

- $49/mo ($492/yr) for up to 3,000

Cart Abandonment Emails

Simple to connect + automate  with Shopify + Zapier

Simple, in-tool function. However, your customer must be subscribed to your email list and accept to receive email marketing already.

Simple to connect + automate  with any e-commerce platform + Zapier

 

Of course, there are many other options out there like Mailchimp, HubSpot, and Moosend. And if you already have an email marketing tool that you use, you may want to continue with that one. But unless it's meeting your needs according to the criteria above, don’t hesitate to switch. It’s not as hard as it seems -- and it will be so much easier to switch today than it will be to switch a couple of years from now.

One other tool to know about: in some cases, your email marketing tool won’t integrate effortlessly with other tools you use (like your online shop.) In most cases, it’s actually a simple fix to link them up -- and we use a simple, affordable tool called Zapier to do that – who also has great customer services. This article is a good 1-minute intro to what Zapier is. 

Believe me when I tell you – you’re going to invest a lot of time and work into your email marketing and get almost nothing immediate out of it. But hang in there – all of that work will bring you far more results and sales and connections than you could ever expect. In just a few hours of setup time, you can have a lasting and dramatic impact on the growth of your business. 

Ready to jump into email marketing with other creative small business owners and a guide to help you along the way? Apply to One Mill School now and you can sign up for our Using Email to Grow intensive where we’ll help you choose and set up your tool, design custom automations, create email templates, and craft your newsletter.

 

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