We get frequent questions from designers wanting to use HTML email for client projects or their own marketing. Here is our comparison of the four prominent email delivery services on the market today.
Implemented properly, email newsletters are a powerful marketing tool. Financially, they are one of the most cost-effective ways you can keep in front of clients and prospects. We’re seeing more creative studios using email as a core part of their own marketing effort. And we’re seeing a lot of design projects with studios creating email marketing templates for their clients.
Campaign Monitor provides an elegant, uncluttered interface that lets you easily convert web pages into email campaigns. They target web designers, and provide easy project-based tools that allow designers to send and manage email campaigns for a variety of clients as well as themselves.
Link: Campaign Monitor
Pricing: $5 + 1¢ per recipient. For example, sending a campaign to 1,000 recipients would cost $5 for the overall mailing, plus $10 for the 1,000 recipients. A total of $15.
Pros: Campaign Monitor’s single biggest advantage for web developers is the ability to easily create an email campaign from an existing URL. Campaign Monitor is an industry leader in research and reports on effective email marketing standards. Their blog is tremendously valuable, regardless of the email service you use.
Cons: My long-standing gripe with Campaign Monitor is their pricing plan. The lack of a monthly subscription option makes them a poor financial and logistical choice for people (like myself) who send frequent email newsletters. (For example, if CreativeTechs switched to Campaign Monitor for our weekly tips email, we would be paying about 400% what the other services cost, and we’d be faced with the logistical annoyance of either prepaying a huge number of credits, or be perpetually bothered to refill our account.)
Cool Bonus Feature: Check out MailBuild, a sister site, which lets designers create templates for their clients to easily update and send their own email newsletters.
Who Should Use Campaign Monitor: Web Designers who are comfortable coding their own HTML.
MailChimp has been around since the early days of email marketing. They provide a functional online editor for less HTML-savvy users, and a fun, lighthearted website sprinkled with a good sense of humor.
Pricing: Monthly plans ($15 to $150 depending on subscribers); or pay-as-you-go for about 2¢ per email recipient.
Pros: MailChimp provides a great toolchest of email marketing tools, packed into a fun interface. Standout features include an easy online editor for basic email layouts; an ultra-simple Postcard email template; easy A/B split testing; and the ability to easily copy/paste raw HTML into your campaign. They also have a very responsive team, and I’ve seen them quickly implement at least one new feature from my own suggestion emails.
Cons: MailChimp lacks the simple URL-to-Email import of Campaign Monitor. Also in my experience, working with their online email editor makes it hard to avoid inserting a lot of unwanted HTML style information in your email layout.
Who Should Use MailChimp: Web Designers who prefer a monthly pricing option; Or designers creating simple email layouts or postcards with the online design tools.
AWeber has been in business for ten years (a long time in the world of email marketing). They focus more on sales professionals rather than the design community. While their site lacks a designer’s sensibility, they have some powerful marketing and sales tools below the surface.
Link: AWeber Communications
Pricing: Monthly plans ($19 to $149 depending on subscribers).
Pros: One of the big features in AWeber is Autoresponders — the powerful ability to create a sequence of marketing emails that are sent automatically at certain times after a new client signs up. AWeber also has excellent tools for integrating into various ecommerce stores. They have great sales-based reporting of list and subscriber activity. AWeber is driven by a template-based approach to email, and includes a large number of predefined templates you can work with (pasting existing HTML is also an option).
Cons: For designers, the look of the site, and the default templates are clunky. There is no free trial available for AWeber. For web developers, the HTML tools are not as sophisticated as Campaign Monitor or MailChimp.
Cool Bonus Feature: AWeber provides testing tools for various subscriber sign-up forms. Including a hover” popup feature that has been tested to provide significantly higher sign-up results.
Who Should Use Campaign Monitor: Marketing and sales professionals with limited HTML knowledge. Companies with online stores and product-based marketing strategies.
Constant Contact is a template-driven service. They have a growing library of over 300 pre-designed email templates covering a range of topics. You can enter your own HTML code, but doing so is (frankly) a pain compared to the other services we’ve covered. We’ve been using Constant Contact to deliver our own weekly tips email for the last four years — and we plan to move to another service before the end of the year.
Link: Constant Contact
Pricing: Monthly plans ($15 to $150 depending on subscribers).
Pros: If you are looking for pre-designed email templates, Constant Contact is probably the best tool for you. They provide a number of industry-focused templates including layouts for churches, real estate, restaurants, retail, etc. They also have solid reporting formats for ongoing email publishers.
Cons: Constant Contact is a poor choice for web designers who prefer to work with their own HTML. And most graphic designers aren’t going to be happy limiting themselves to someone else’s template designs.
Who Should Use Campaign Monitor: Business owners who want an easy template-driven email service, and who have neither design or HTML skills.
Source: This review inspired by a special seminar I’m leading tonight at Luminous Works in Ballard on HTML Email Newsletters. This is one of my favorite topics. If you are a designer or photographer in Seattle, there are three seats left. Sign up here.