Whether it’s thanks to being first to the game, getting the market saturated, or its ad campaigns (such as their now-famous podcast blitz), MailChimp is the leading light of email marketing. Since popularity has a way of screening both good and bad points, it’s doubly important to evaluate their service on its own merits.
Why Use MailChimp?
What can’t be denied is that any enterprise email marketer that intends to compete with MailChimp needs to be better than it in several areas. One is the continuous iteration and customer responsiveness.
For as long as they’ve existed, MailChimp has been committed to building more functions on top of its flagship email marketing service. They’ve recently added a website builder and more customer relationship management functions in order to compete with services like Drip.
More than just token features to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded field, the new CRM and website builder are stellar features in their own right. Importing contacts is a much sleeker process now, and customer support has also improved (though you still can’t reach them by phone outside of a premium plan).
This just makes it clearer than ever that to compete with MailChimp, an enterprise email marketing tool needs to have a competitive, growing library of features.
Then there’s the matter of price. MailChimp was an early leader in the Forever Free subscription movement, and their plan with 2,000 contacts and 10,000 sends was only recently undercut by MailerLite offering unlimited sends at every level.
Their free plan also offers A/B testing and automation, which are almost always premium features for other tools. Other teams are only now beginning to offer better deals.
The deals are being offered, though, and they shouldn’t be missed — because for all MailChimp serves up to email marketers, there are several good reasons to pass on their service.
Why Not Use MailChimp?
One of the main reasons we hear of email marketers wanting to move on from MailChimp is that, beyond their Forever Free plan, the pricing gets annoyingly convoluted.
For some users, MailChimp’s prices won’t end up being that bad, but it’s hard to tell if you’re one of those lucky ones. Scaling up prices based on all contacts and monthly sends almost seems designed so that you trip hidden fees. MailChimp is not for you if you aren’t prepared to pay very close attention to your numbers.
Another reason to pass on MailChimp is that their automation has been leapfrogged by several of their competitors. MailChimp’s autoresponder is perfectly serviceable, but they don’t let you customize your own automation workflows, instead of asking you to choose from a premade list. MailerLite, Drip, Benchmark, and others offer more flexible automation at lower subscription prices.
Finally, MailChimp’s ban on affiliate marketing shuts out a lot of potential customers: while you are allowed to put some affiliate links into your content, you can’t use MailChimp to directly market on behalf of a third party.
We understand that they want users to be on the platform to promote their own content, but this will still leave a sizable portion of the user base looking elsewhere.
Read our review of MailChimp here.
The 7 Best MailChimp Alternatives
So what else is out there? Here are some of the best alternatives to explore — robust marketing platforms with exciting features that are jockeying their way onto MailChimp’s turf.
Founded in 2010, Lithuanian MailerLite is a relative newcomer to email marketing, but they’ve burst onto the scene with a major impact.
This July, they beat longer-established competitors in a deliverability test run by the good folks at Email Tool Tester, with 94.8% of their emails reaching their intended destination. This means 94.8% of MailerLite emails reached their intended destination, instead of hitting a spam filter or not arriving at all.
(Incidentally, the lowest scorer was Benchmark, with a dismal 41.8%. Though this was an outlier, since the next lowest was CleverReach at 79.6%.)
MailerLite focuses on being easy to use and affordable, without sacrificing feature variety. They succeed on the first two counts, though not so well on the third, as we’ll see.
Their main draw, other than the enticing interface in their list manager and editors, is their “Forever Free” plan — a huge boon for smaller senders, who can access a flexible suite of features without paying a cent if their subscriber list stays under 1,000.
Be aware of what you’re getting with MailerLite. This is not the choice for people who need features beyond those that should be present in any widely available email manager.
For example, one of the most complex options in their premium subscription is a click heatmap, which signals that they’re not for users looking to implement a more complex marketing plan — especially one that includes a social media strategy, an area MailerLite doesn’t report on at all right now. Automation options also feel limited, with only very simple email triggers available.
What they do have, though, will keep any small business’s marketing plan in good hands. In addition to tools for designing eye-catching emails and editing templates, you can use another user-friendly editor to build landing pages that keep people’s attention after they click.
Whether you want to capture their information in forms, take them through to your e-commerce store, or find out where they clicked or why they aren’t clicking, MailerLite has you covered.
And of course, there’s the biggest point in MailerLite’s favor, the fact that they can be trusted with the bread and butter of email marketing: making sure your intended recipients actually see your emails.
Who is it for? Marketers who want to save a lot of money and don’t care about having advanced features. It’s also best for people who are highly concerned about deliverability.
- Forever Free plan
- Highest deliverability rates
- Extensive variety of basic features
- Light on high-level features
- Segmentation terminology is confusing
MailerLite offers both Free and Paid plans at the 1-1,000 subscriber level. Above 1,000 subscribers, the free plan doesn’t apply — you’ll have to pay.
If you have less than 1,000 subscribers, the Free plan grants you unlimited emails per month, access to email tech support, use of the drag-and-drop, rich text, and photo editors, mobile-responsive email design, landing pages with unlimited traffic, forms, and subscriber management and segmentation.
You’ll also have access to automated responses, A/B testing, analytics, and domain registration (though not unlimited domains). Your emails will have the MailerLite logo on them.
- The Paid plan costs $10/month below 1,000 subscribers. If you go for it, you’ll remove the logo, and gain access to unlimited domains, live chat support, pro newsletter templates, and heatmaps to see where your emails got clicked.
- Above 1,000, you’ll get all these features, and the price will scale as your list does.
- Up to 2,500 subscribers costs $15/month, up to 5,000 costs $30/month, up to 10,000 costs $50/month, up to 15,000 costs $75/month, up to 50,000 costs $210/month, and up to 100,000 costs $360/month.
- You can get a 30% discount on any plan by paying annually.
- Free trial? MailerLite does not have a free trial period because of its free plan, although signing up for the free plan includes 14 days of access to premium features.
GetResponse is another of the best-known email automation tools and mailing list managers. Having started there, GetResponse has grown into an all-in-one marketing platform more similar to something like HubSpot — but we’re here to see whether their original email marketing tool deserves its positive reputation.
Their autoresponder is one of the best in the business, easily outstripping MailChimp and keeping pace with leaders like Drip. Automations can be based either on time, such as a subscriber’s birthday coming up or action, such as a link they clicked on and then didn’t follow through.
These can combine into complex, personalized sequences, especially with the use of a new drag-and-drop visual workflow builder that really removes all limits from how deeply you can work to engage a customer. However, higher price tiers are needed to unlock their full potential.
On the visual front, they recently rolled out a series of new beta templates for emails and landing that look amazing. The old ones are perfectly fine too, and there’s a huge selection of them, but we can’t wait until the new ones are ready for wider use.
While you wait, tinkering with the old templates in GetResponse’s editor isn’t hard to do. If you’re planning to do a lot of mobile marketing, you’ll be pleased to know that GetResponse was a leader in responsive template design.
How about mailing list management? Building small subscriber lists can be done through a simple copy-paste, and larger lists through file uploads, including from third-party list managers like Salesforce. Complete segmentation is available once you’ve built your list, and connects directly to automation workflows, for tasks such as sending an email to every customer in a certain region or with confirmed loyalty to a certain product.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to get complete information about any individual contact once they’re in the sales pipeline — GetResponse has some growing to do as a CRM, including saving customer communication histories more effectively and making it easier to add contacts directly into different parts of the sales funnel.
Who is it for? Email marketers who already have some automation experience, and want to apply that knowledge to a more complete suite of marketing features.
- Huge range of automation options
- Easy marketing workflow builder
- Imports contact lists easily from third parties
- Preview how all templates will look on mobile
- Not good at displaying customer histories or closely managing customer relationships
- Complete automation is only available at higher prices
- Old templates are somewhat dull, while new ones can’t be used in the full range of ampaigns yet
Each of these tiers increases price with the size of your mailing list. At 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000, and 100,000 contacts, expect the price to jump.
- Basic (starting at $15/month) includes email marketing, autoresponders, unlimited landing pages, access to all templates, unlimited lead funnels, and Facebook ads.
- Plus (starting at $49/month) includes all Basic features, plus automation workflows, webinars, CRM basics, contact tagging, 3 users, and 5 sales funnels.
- Professional (starting at $99/month) includes all Plus features, plus unlimited sales funnels, automation, and 5 users.
- Enterprise (starting at $1,199/month), includes all Professional features, plus a dedicated account manager and advertising consultant, and your own IP address.
- Free trial? 30 days.
Ontraport is a full CRM that includes visual email marketing automation as its core feature. You can start with several premade campaigns or build your own flowchart, but either way, it’s an incredibly pleasing way to look at how your marketing will go — if you have Ontraport, you can translate a plan directly from your office whiteboard into their system.
Ontraport also understands that no amount of sharp automation can substitute for emails people actually want to read. They use a single block-based editor to build all their emails, landing pages, and capture forms, leading to design that looks a lot like what you’d get on Weebly or Wix. These better-looking, sleeker designs ensure more customers in the sales funnel from day one.
From there, Ontraport branches out into the full suite of what it calls “business automation” to draw attention to its unified marketing-sales platform. The service aims to make personalized content easy by helping you sort your leads into segments based on demographics and engagement. From there you can take that funnel directly to sales without missing a beat. Its CRM also does a good job of keeping a full team organized and in touch.
Its list of integrations is also impressive, including pay gates and e-commerce stores. Neither does Ontraport stop at just hosting other services–if you’re selling online, it’s got features to make that seamless, including order forms and upselling potential.
Who is it for? Businesses looking to use email marketing to grow quickly, whatever size they are now. Also, anybody who was a visual learner in school.
- Content-focused automation pipeline lets you be sure you’re putting your best foot forward for customers
- Sales and marketing on a unified platform
- E-commerce integration
- One easy builder works for all emails, forms, and landing pages
- No setup fees
- No free plan
- Difficult-to-read reporting dashboard
Pricing: Each of these includes unlimited emails.
- The Basic plan ($79/month) allows for 1,000 contacts and 1 user.
- The Plus plan ($147/month) increases the limit to 2,500 contacts and 2 users, and includes personalized help with setup.
- Next is the Pro plan ($297/month), which grants 10,000 contacts, 3 users, and a consultation with Ontraport’s postmaster to help with your deliverability.
- Finally, the Enterprise plan ($497/month) grants 20,000 contacts, 5 users, and your own account manager.
- Free trial? 90 days.
Drip is the high-information, high-analytics choice for email marketing. They want to help you nurture leads into loyal returning customers by giving you complete information on every single action those potential customers take while in your sales funnel.
Want to know what landing pages your leads visit? What emails you sent that made them unsubscribe? Where they hang around in your e-commerce store before buying anything? What links did they scroll past? Drip knows it all.
Drip also helps you act on these reports using the best email automation system in the business. For example, you could have different emails sent at particular trigger times to business owners who clicked through your landing page, individuals who opted into mailings on the first click leads who visit often but don’t buy anything, and so on.
The connection between analytics and automation, and how to build personal customer journeys with it, isn’t the most intuitive method of marketing — you’ll have to really know your way around tabs and autoresponders to get the most out of Drip — but once you understand the visual interface, which is actually pretty easy, there’s no stronger foundation on which to base a marketing strategy.
Drip also offers a wide selection of options for nurturing customer relationships. You’ll be able to tag leads and track interactions across your whole online business, from emails to landing pages to e-commerce, and keep track of it all without trouble thanks to Drip’s user-friendly tag system.
Once you’ve tagged your customers to create a picture of them and their behaviors, you can see every single choice they make on your site, from purchases to address updates.
The key to making this useful is Drip’s wide range of e-commerce integrations that allow you to leverage the data across multiple platforms. Autoresponders are also a key part of each customer’s personal journey. If a customer is showing loyalty to one of your product lines, you can send him emails that heavily feature it. It’s an idea with huge power to take your marketing to the next level.
What’s the catch? Unfortunately, Drip isn’t nearly as focused on branding design as some of its competitors, so you sacrifice a lot of control over templates in exchange for their analytical power. They aren’t nearly as interested in newsletter branding, and so you’re restricted to their approved designs. The form builder has the same problem.
Who is it for? Marketers who love total control, don’t mind learning a lot of functions, and want to structure their campaigns around the most complete information possible.
- Unparalleled analytics
- Combines a complete CRM with the mailing list manager
- Automate responses and workflows
- Limited content design options
- Steep learning curve
- Forever free plan only works until 100 subscribers
Drip’s pricing scales based on the number of subscribers to your email list.
- They offer a Forever Free plan for the first 100 subscribers. Up to 2,500 subscribers costs $49/month, up to 5,000 costs $122/month, up to 10,000 costs $184/month, up to 15,000 costs $246/month, up to 20,000 costs $308/month, up to 25,000 costs $370/month.
- If you plan to have more than 25,000 people on your list, check out the sliding scale on Drip’s own website here.
- Above 150,000 subscribers, you’ll move into an enterprise pricing range, where you’ll negotiate an account with Drip directly.
- Free trial? 14 days.
SendInBlue has two niches: efficient scaling, and SMS marketing. They manage the former in a refreshing way — instead of charging by subscriber growth, they charge based on how many total emails you send per month, and increase the price reasonably at each tier.
SendInBlue has made the combination of email and SMS marketing a key feature, recognizing that hitting users on their smartphones is often a better way to catch their attention than sliding into their inboxes. It can also get quicker responses — people are generally more willing to reply to a text than to sit down and fill out a form.
SendInBlue also scores high marks in the perpetual contest to be the best companion for a scaling business. While this approach leads them to sacrifice some features that an enterprise-level marketing campaigner might miss, it does leave them exceedingly friendly to lower-budget customers who want to grow and would prefer not to repeatedly find themselves in new tiers they can’t afford.
Then there’s their customer support, which gets consistent praise. Customer service happens through a knowledge center, a ticketing system, and through a weekly blog dealing with common customer issues. They’ve got the best response times in the industry, and strive to be as helpful as possible.
The dark side of this is that documentation is unfortunately light. Tutorials can be insubstantial, and it’s not always clear when important things — like customers interacting with your campaigns — are happening. Because of this, getting your first campaign started presents the biggest hurdle. Once you’ve done that, it’s smoother sailing.
What SendInBlue has worked extremely well. Like with MailerLite, most of our issues with it stem from things that aren’t there. There isn’t an easy-to-use workflow creator for automation, and A/B testing is likewise absent.
However, SendInBlue has shown a great willingness to respond to complaints like these. When customers complained about the limited number of API integrations on the platform, they responded by introducing several more, so it’s not impossible we’ll see the other things we want in the future.
Who is it for? Business owners who want to tap into the power of SMS marketing, and who don’t like being charged for having a big library of contacts.
- Combines email and SMS features
- No charges for unlimited contacts
- Great customer support
- Responsive to customer needs
- Lack of information makes launching your first campaign difficult
- No automation or A/B testing
SendInBlue’s pricing scales based on the number of emails sent per month, with the exception of their free plan, which imposes a daily spending limit. All their plans allow an unlimited number of subscribers.
As long as you send fewer than 300 total emails per day, SendInBlue remains free. After that, new tiers add both features and higher monthly send totals.
- The Lite plan allows 40,000 emails per month, and removes the daily sending limit, for $25/month.
- The Essential plan allows 60,000 emails per month, removes SendInBlue branding from emails, and features advanced analytics, for $39/month.
- The Premium plan allows 120,000 emails per month and includes Facebook ads, landing pages, automation, and multi-user access, for $66/month.
- Finally, the Enterprise plan remains unpriced but includes a dedicated account manager and infrastructure customized to suit your needs. Paying annually grants a 10% discount on any of these plans.
- Free trial? SendInBlue offers a 1-month 99% discount on any premium plan.
6. Constant Contact
On Constant Contact’s website, you’ll find claims that their entire feature library grows directly out of their core mission: “to empower small businesses and nonprofits to grow customer relationships and succeed.”
Having been around since the early days of internet commerce in 1995, they’ve grown into a whole suite of products and played a major role in pioneering email marketing to become what it is today.
Constant Contact’s expansive marketing platform goes beyond simple mailing list management and email design. They boast a website builder that can create professional landing pages where your emails can send potential customers, along with a suite of features to enhance e-commerce.
They’ve got the option to bring in more views through social media ads. They’ve even ventured into automation, in case email marketing is taking up too much of your time.
Their team has done a lot of work to make their service into a one-stop-shop. With the addition of the page builder, the ease of getting native ads onto Facebook and Instagram, and the smart decision to partner with Eventbrite, a single subscription can create a heady buzz around your small business or nonprofit.
Anything you can’t do within the app can be accomplished with one of nearly 500 integrations, though it’s great that options like surveys and coupons are included in the editor so you don’t need to go third-party.
Constant Contact also aims to position themselves as the email marketer that makes sure your emails are branded — a goal that encompasses design, content, style, and product. Branding is the best way to stand out in a crowed e-commerce field. Constant Contact aims to help your emails leverage that power, starting with its huge variety of templates.
They all look good, and it’s great that they’re mobile-responsive — even better that you don’t have to pay extra to use anyone you want. On top of that, they still look good when filled up with your branded content. The library of stock photos is just as extensive.
Finally, getting unlimited emails on all plans is just straight-up great. The freedom and luxury of being able to send any number of emails can’t be overstated, and the fact that it starts at the lowest-tier plan makes perfect sense for a tool trying to be friendly to small businesses. In addition to money, it saves a lot of anxiety — no need to worry that you wasted some of your precious monthly messages on a newsletter that fizzled.
We would, however, be remiss to mention one confusing choice that undermines Constant Contact’s claim to be the most friendly enterprise email marketer for lower-budget customers: There’s no free membership whatsoever.
You can put Constant Contact through its paces for a 60-day free trial, but once that’s over, you have to cough up. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that the price point compares poorly to alternative email marketing programs–especially Constant Contact’s top competitors, like MailChimp and MailerLite, that does include free membership. These other tools’ price tiers rise much less steeply than Constant Contact’s at higher subscriber numbers.
Read our Constant Contact review.
Who is it for? New business owners who want to grow their lists.
- Unlimited emails on all plans
- Large variety of templates
- Wide range of features
- No free membership
- Lackluster automation
- Limited control over templates
Constant Contact offers two plans: Email and Email Plus. The price of each scales based on the number of contacts in your manager.
Both plans offer unlimited emails, access to full tech support, the entire library of templates and stock photos, all integrations except Eventbrite, all analytics, and the mobile app.
- The basic Email plan starts at $20 a month and allows one user and 1GB of file storage. The price scales to $45/month at 500 subscribers, $65/month at 2,500 subscribers, and $95/month at 5,000 subscribers.
- The Email plus plan starts at $45 a month, and allows ten users and 2GB of storage, making it the better choice for larger marketing teams. It also adds email automation, event management, and the ability to include coupons and surveys in emails. Price scales to $65/month at 500 subscribers, $95/month at 2,500 subscribers, and $125/month at 5,000 subscribers.
- Starting at 10,000 subscribers, both plans cost the same: $195/month up to 15,000, $225/month up to 25,000, and $335/month up to 50,000. On either plan, you can save 10% with a 6-month deal, and 15% with a 12-month deal.
- Free trial? 60 days.
ConvertKit is the mailing list manager for bloggers and content creators. As a newcomer, they’ve worked to stand out in two ways: orienting themselves specifically toward the blogging market, and making the bold claim that they’re easier to use than MailChimp. It’s true that ConvertKit leans hard toward simplicity, and succeeds, but at the expense of certain features. Let’s dive into what they do offer.
Their tag-based list organization system functions very intuitively. Tag a subscriber when you see that they’ve taken an action, and you’ll be able to identify them later as the person who took that action. This makes for extremely simple segmentation and more effective targeted campaigns.
Their WordPress integration makes this especially enticing for bloggers since you can tag users based on actions taken on your blog.
Excellent visual design is the best evidence for ConvertKit’s claim that they’re easier to use than MailChimp. The automation sequence builder and landing page editor both offer highly appealing UIs. Automation, in particular, is handled by a graphical editor that’s leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
There aren’t many templates, and all of them are text-based, befitting ConvertKit’s focused on the blog market. Some might consider the small library a feature rather than a bug — not everybody likes the analysis paralysis that comes from having to sift through an enormous library. However, it still would have been great to have a few more templates, and be able to do more with them. Forms are similarly limited.
Who is it for? Content creators who already have a following.
- Excellent UI design
- Easily understandable tagging
- Few templates, with little graphic design
- No parallel testing
ConvertKit’s prices scale based solely on your number of subscribers — nearly all their plans have exactly the same features outside of the subscriber limit. The only other change between the tiers comes when you hit 5K subscribers, whereupon you earn the use of their migration concierge to get help importing your large list into their manager.
- ConvertKit costs $29/month for your first 1,000 subscribers, $49/month up to 3,000 subscribers, and $79/month up to 5,000 subscribers.
- Anything above that requires a private quote. If you purchase an annual plan for any level, you’ll save the cost of two months.
- Free trial? Offered on every tier.
Which one should I choose?
Now that you’ve seen some of the best-known tools on the market, how should you decide which one is right for you? You’ve got a good grasp now of what population segments each one is targeting, but we’ll run through it one more time in an easy-to-reference list.
If you want an email marketer that ties in other customer relationship management features, go with Constant Contact.
Ontraport is the best choice if you want to control the details of your branding.
For the automation connoisseur, GetResponse can’t be beaten. Their workflows are the most detailed of any service.
If you’re the data-geek sort of marketer, go with Drip. Their detailed reports will tell you everything you need to know to carefully calibrate your marketing plan to the individual customer.
If you don’t have much money in your budget for email marketing, pick MailerLite. Their free plan beats out MailChimp’s in almost every area, and their feature selection is as strong as many other tools’ premium plans.
If you’re a small business trying to scale, SendInBlue is the best option. As your business grows and you no longer qualify for free plans, their pricing scheme is by far the friendliest.
If you’re a content creator who already has a following, ConvertKit is the way to go. You’ll be able to stay engaged with the people who love your work, and the price will be a much more justifiable expense.
Tags: Marketing Automation, Reviews, Software
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