No matter where you are in your business, you know you need to be building an email list. If you’re just starting out though, you may not know how to even begin. There are so many options out there, and they are all going to have their own pros and cons. While I think it’s important that you do your own due diligence, I wanted to pick my top three favorites options to give you an idea of what to look for.
In this order, my top three favorite email marketing platforms to check out are MailerLite, MailChimp, and ConvertKit. (And because I know you’re going to ask, personally, I’m currently using MailerLite.)
When you’re starting out, your funds may be limited and you dread the idea of having to pay for yet another service. Email marketing and list building is so important, that it should be something you would invest in, but the good news is that when you’re just beginning, you don’t have to. There are a lot of free plan options for your small business. As your list grows, you’ll typically have to pay based on that size. So, that’s a good place to start.
How many subscribers does the plan include?
You’ll want to take into account how many subscribers you have to your list already, and if the number is zero, consider how many people (your audience, your customers) will realistically join. While these plans will allowing adding a certain number of people to your list for free, you’ll want to consider the cost of going beyond that number if you think you’ll outgrow it quickly.
MailerLite offers 1,000 subscribers on the free plan, while MailChimp allows 2,000 subscribers. ConvertKit gives you 500 subscribers for free.
How many emails can I send on the plan?
Now, it’s not only about the number of people you can have on your list, but how many emails your plan allows you to send. How many times will you email your list. Ideally, you’ll want to email your list at least once a week, so you’ll send at least 4, maybe 5 emails, per person, every month. This number won’t account for any welcome emails you send, or emails that you may follow up with regarding a lead magnet you’ve sent, or perhaps a sale. For that reason, you’ll want to leave yourself room for more than 5 emails per subscriber, per month.
With MailerLite, you can send 12,000 emails per month on the free plan. Since you get 1,000 subscribers, you’ll be able to send them each 12 emails per month for free. Using MailChimp’s free plan, you’ll get 10,000 emails to send per month. Divide that by your 2,000 free contacts and they can each get 5 emails per month. Now ConvertKit, lets you send an unlimited amount of emails to your 500 subscribers.
What if I have multiple audiences?
If your business has only one customer base and specific product stream, this may not be something you’ll need to consider. Some businesses will have multiple audiences. You might have a blog, and a podcast and want to email people about only one or the other. You might have clients that you work with in person versus clients that you only work with virtually. You might sell products to both men and women, but want to create separate emails targeting them more specifically. Whatever the reason is, you might want to be able to organize your audiences, and therefore organize who your emails go to.
The good news is, all of the three offer segmenting and tagging. MailChimp only offers one main audience for free though, which is something I always found frustrating and limiting. It requires more admin work for you, versus creating automated groups like you can with MailerLite.
Speaking of automation…
The less time we have to spend setting up every new subscriber and every new opt-in list, the better. When you can create an email sequence once, and have it work over and over again, it’s like having a free virtual assistant. With that in mind, ConverKit’s free plan doesn’t offer any automation, and MailChimp allows only for one-step automation. You can still send one welcome email or a cart abandon follow up, but you can’t set a delay to follow up with multiple emails. MailerLite offers fully automated email sequences in the free plan. It’s like that infomercial, “set it and forget it!” Don’t really forget about your email audience, but do let your nurture sequences do the heavily lifting.
For me, automated sequences are a vital part of email marketing, so if you’re looking to get started for free, I feel like I’m really cutting ConvertKit out of the running here. MailChimp can stay, but it’s limping along behind. Though I do appreciate that you can get free, shoppable, one-product landing pages up and running in a matter of minutes. So it can stay. (I won’t go into that today, but let me know in the comments in you want to know more.)
And how about integrations?
As I mentioned, automation can make or break the deal for me. Now, if you’re just getting started and you don’t yet have a website, you may not be ready to hear about how you can tie your email marketing together. That’s okay; you don’t need to. Skip this part. But if you do have a website, or plan to have one soon, make sure you can integrate your email marketing platform with your website. It may depend on which platform you use, like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or any other website provider, but you’ll want to research if it will seamlessly work together. Again, the goal here is to save you time.
If ConvertKit was still in the running, I’d let you know that the free plan offers zero integrations and I’d take it off the table. MailChimp offers over 200+ integrations and easily works with Facebook and Instagram ads. MailerLite doesn’t list the number of integrations it offers, but I’ve been happy with how well it does integrate with my own WordPress site, so I have no complaints. MailChimp can do some slick integrations, but sadly for me, they don’t always works.
When things don’t work, who will help?
We are dealing with technology here, so things are bound to not work sometimes. They may be glitches and integration errors along the way. These things happen. So when something goes wrong, who should you call? Well if you’re working with the free plan on MailChimp or ConvertKit, you may as well call Ghostbusters. The don’t offer support for the free version. But with MailerLite’s free version, you will be able to email support.
The final question is, when you’re list has grown and you’re consistently emailing your subscribers, how much it is going to cost you? The price will continue to increase based on the number of subscribers you have. Each platform will have different features and different pay levels, so it will really be up to you to decide. It’s also possible that you could outgrow these platforms and change to something different. Luckily, these will all allow you to export your contacts and take them with you.
I hope you use the information above to help you start your email list today, if you haven’t already. For me, MailerLite was a clear winner, but you may have different needs that I do, so be sure to sign up for what is right for you and your small business. And if you’re still struggling to make a decision, feel free to reach out and we can figure out what would best suit you.