Email is still one of the best ways to reach your customers, but to do this, finding the right email marketing software is a critical task. There are several factors businesses should consider when choosing email marketing software, including the design and list-building tools, price, and customer service.
Along with highlighting some of the essential features, this guide offers our recommendations for the email marketing software platforms we think are best for different business needs.
Best for Large Businesses
Best Email Marketing for Small Business
Benchmark is the best email marketing software for small businesses. It is easy to use, includes a wide range of design tools and provides excellent customer service, all for a fair price.
With this software, you can create emails using a drag-and-drop editor or, for those with HTML experience, a code editor. It also offers a plain text editor for text-only emails. When using the drag-and-drop editor, you can create your own layout or pick from nearly 200 predesigned templates.
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Below are all of our reviews for email marketing software and related categories. Our coverage includes reviews of the best email marketing software, email marketing services and survey software.
Email Marketing Software: What We Tested, What We Found
To find the best email marketing services, we started with a pool of more than 90 vendors. These included vendors we found through an online search and some we discovered by interviewing small business owners.
We narrowed down our list by eliminating vendors that don't specialize in email marketing campaigns or don't work with small businesses. Next, we researched each provider by investigating its services. We considered pricing when available. After narrowing the list down to seven, we contacted each company's customer service department and posed as small business owners.
During testing, we put ourselves in the mindset of small business owners, gathering information we think is important to that audience. We found information by visiting each company's website, making calls to customer service representatives, and trying out free trials or free versions of the software.
We analyzed each service based on the following tools and factors:
- Price: Most email marketing services have a range of prices and packages based on the number of contacts you have.
- Email creation tools: An easy-to-use and responsive email creator is critical. The best email marketing tools also have extensive templates that work on both desktop and mobile devices.
- Contact management: List hygiene is essential to successful email marketing campaigns. If your list has duplicate contacts or contacts who have unsubscribed, it can hurt your deliverability.
- Segmentation tools: The most successful and professional email marketing campaigns make your customers feel important. To do this, you need to send only applicable content to each individual. With segmentation tools, you can separate your contacts into specific groups to ensure they only receive content that's relevant to them.
- A/B split testing tools: These tools let you test different variables in your email and automatically find the best-performing campaign. While most email marketing services offer this for subject lines, the best programs can test success rates based on multiple variables in your emails.
- Analytics and reporting: Once you send an email, you'll want to determine how it's doing. Most services provide a range of data, including how many emails you sent, how many of them landed in inboxes, the bounce rate, who opened your emails, and the number of clicks and opens by location.
- Inbox previews: Inbox previews allow you to view how your email will look on different devices and desktops before you send.
- Spam filters: It's vital that your emails go to the right place; they aren't doing any good in a spam folder. Thankfully, the best email marketing services have tools in place to ensure your customers see them.
- Automation tools: With automation tools, you can send the right email to the right person at the right time. You just have to set up conditions, then the tools will take care of the entire customer journey.
- Customer service: The best email marketing services provide support through phone, email and live chat. Our best picks also have vast knowledgebases and videos to help you understand every tool and feature.
- Ease of use: It's important to have easy-to-use tools, including email creators, templates, contact management and automation features. You should be able to find the tools you need quickly and use them to create the exact campaign you want without having coding or design experience.
We sent out an actual email marketing campaign with each of our best picks. We designed emails with each service's email editor and uploaded contacts that included both Gmail and Outlook addresses. We rated each software program based on the success rate of its delivery and how easy it was to create the email.
We also considered how easy the programs are to use, whether you create an email campaign from scratch, use a template or import a fully designed email. Our testers, who have limited experience with HTML and design software, used each program's tools to create an email within the software.
It's important to choose an online marketing service that has a clean and intuitive interface so it's easy to find the tools you need. A well-designed platform means you won't waste time trying to find the solution or the support you need. You'll also want the service to have an easy-to-use email editor, contact management tools, and drag-and-drop automation tools.
Once we sent the emails through the programs, we compared them to the original email we sent to make sure they appeared as we intended. We also rated services based on where they ended up. Some emails landed in the spam folder or the Promotions tab in Gmail, which we counted against the software.
Social Media Integration With Email Marketing
While social media is an important part of marketing strategies, email marketing remains a vital method to reach your audience. When you use email marketing services, you can post sign-up forms on your social media platforms to grow your contact list. You can also schedule posts on your social media platforms and track your followers' engagement to determine what's popular.
Your efforts on social media may work one day but not the next for various reasons, such as changes to the site's algorithm. However, once a customer subscribes to your newsletter or emails, you're likely to have a long-term reader. Even if a user doesn't read your email, they'll probably see the subject line, which keeps your business's name fresh in their minds.
Survey Software: Important Considerations
Like email marketing software, your survey software needs to be easy to use for both you and your respondents. If you're just looking at ease, you'll find many survey-creation sites that will fit the bill, but there are other factors you should consider.
Design: Most survey software allows you to arrange your questions and tweak the layout. However, the best survey platforms offer additional tools to make your surveys visually appealing and are designed to promote your brand. Our best pick, SurveyGizmo, offers customizable templates in all its paid plans and individual URLs in the higher-priced plans.
Extra analytics: While most services offer analytic tools, some service provide more amped-up analytical tools.
Question types: The best survey programs have a long list of question types for you to use, from basic to advanced formats. SurveyGizmo has extensive question types, including dropdown menus and slider values.
Publishing options: Great survey software provides multiple ways to promote and publish a survey, such as embedding it on your website, sharing the link via social media or emailing it to your contacts.
What Are the Most Important Features for Survey Software?
Prices for survey software ranges from $20 to $50 a month, but most services have a free plan or trial version. The key to a successful survey maker is how easy it is to create surveys and for customers to take it. How easy it is to take the survey on a mobile device is also important.
Most companies offer tutorials and support for their services. Using the trial version of each program, we evaluated layouts and looked for things that would make the platform user-friendly. For example, are the icons easily identifiable? Is it apparent where to go to begin to build a survey and distribute surveys to users? How easy is it to create or change a survey? We found that the best survey builders allow you to quickly edit questions and rearrange the order of your survey without many additional steps.
Some other features we considered were available add-ons, question types, custom branding tools, data reports, email campaigns, integrations, publishing options, project types, security and survey logic.
Pricing and Cost of Email Marketing Services
While pricing varies by provider, the cost structure is usually the same. Most email marketing providers charge a monthly fee based on contact list size, with a range of packages and plans. With this structure, most providers allow you to send out an unlimited number of emails each month and have enough different plans to fit into the budget of any business.
Monthly costs usually start around $10 per month for 500 contacts, reaching up to $4,000 per month for 1 million contacts. While some email marketing services provide all features to all their users, others offer additional features to those with more contacts.
The most flexible email marketing services offer per-email or pay-as-you-go pricing. While pricing based on your number of contacts is ideal for businesses that regularly send emails, per-email pricing is better for companies that only occasionally send them. Some providers allow you to consult with their email marketing experts for help designing templates and setting strategies for an additional cost.
Most email marketing services offer a free version of their software or at least a 14-day free trial.
Most email marketing plans' pricing terms are set in stone, but there are a few ways to get a discount. If you prepay for a year, you typically receive about 15 percent off. Most services also offer discounts for qualifying nonprofits.
You can also sign up for a free plan or free trial before committing to a service to ensure you're picking the right provider.