Finding the right tool for email marketing is complicated and could be an expensive venture. There are many good options on the market, but which of them are good in the long run? And which are the good email marketing starter tools?

The problem with MailChimp

MailChimp is the first tool most of the businesses turn to when they are just getting started.

The main problem with MailChimp according to me is that it’s just not flexible enough. I shared recently with Amanda from Spiderworking that it teaches people to think the wrong way. This can cause many issues once your list and business grows and you want to take advantage of it.

The solutions we offer below are actually more advanced than MailChimp Free – they offer a better contact management, more automation and features. We’ve decided to compare it to three other platforms. All of them provide great features and will fit most businesses with a small list.

The tools we recommend

We have experience with a lot of email marketing solutions, and we test new ones constantly. Our goal is to find the right software for our current and future clients so we can serve them best. In the past months we’ve identified and used 3 tools that offer great value for their price and are better than MailChimp Free.

All three tools are different from MailChimp on many levels. But the most important thing you need to know is that in MailChimp a single subscriber can be counted as 3 if you have 3 lists and they signed up for all of them. That inflates your numbers and causes you to pay bigger fees. That is because MailChimp is a list-based tool, while the others have a database for your contacts and you label them with tags to create smaller groups of contacts called segments.

The shortlisted candidates are Drip by Leadpages, ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit. We categorize them as starter automation tools. If you’re planning to do more than just send out newsletters, that’s what you need. A transition to an advanced automation tool in the future would be painless or at least less confusing.

The Basic Comparison

Mailchimp ActiveCampaign Drip ConvertKit
Number of contacts Free for 2000 From $9/mo for 500 Free for 100 contacts, then from $49 for 2500 $29 for up to 1000
Limit for mailing 12 000 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Automation No Yes Yes Yes
Drag and Drop Email Templates Yes Yes No No
Visual campaign builder No Yes Yes No
Sign Up forms Yes Yes Yes Yes
Landing pages No No No Yes
WooCommerce integration No Yes Yes, paid Yes
Shopify integration No No Yes Yes
Zapier Integration No Yes Yes Yes

How to decide

Choosing the right tool is never easy. You will ask for recommendations and most people will suggest the one they are currently using. But what you need to focus on is your business needs and marketing plans. Don’t make your goals fit your tool – make the tool fit your needs. Here is a simple plan for you to follow:

  1. Business goals and marketing plans – I suggest you start by identifying all the tools you’re using at the moment and how you’d like them to connect to your email marketing software. Make a list and compare features and integrations. What do you want to do with this tool – send newsletters, accept payments, build landing pages? What campaigns do you have planned – talk to a consultant to help you understand what you’ll need, if you’re not sure.
  2. Make a list of non-negotiables. If you’re website is built on WordPress with WooCommerce and you don’t plan to change that – find a tool that can easily track your customers and do cart abandonment.
  3. Book a demo – contact each tool provider through their main page and sign up for a free demo. Demos are more powerful than trials, as the team on the call will answer your questions and show you how things are done.
  4. Start a free trial and play around with the tool – Once you’ve identified which tool fits your needs, try it. If you’re not happy with the results, try another one. Don’t give up if you can’t find how to do one thing – check forums and knowledge databases. But make sure you like the tool enough.

Over the next weeks we’ll be reviewing Drip, ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit in depth. With all the Pros and Cons, important features and hidden traps or riches.

In the meantime, you can sign up to test them for free following the links below:

Drip Free for up to 100 contacts

ActiveCampaign 14-day trial

ConvertKit 1-month trial

Ontraport Free 14-day Trial

Let me know in the comments below what you’re searching for in a tool? Have you tested these 3 tools or are you still confident that MailChimp is the best choice?