When you’re just starting out with email marketing, things can seem confusing. Hey, sometimes email marketing can seem confusing even to those of us who’ve been doing this for a while. So, trust me – I understand exactly how you feel.
Every email marketing service presents an endless list of features on its website. That’s impressive, sure, but how do you know which features you actually need? You don’t want to commit to a long-term plan before you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
In this article, I’ll explain everything clearly. We’ll take a close look at some of the best beginner-friendly email marketing services out there. We’ll see exactly what they offer and exactly how they can help you stay in touch with your customers and drive traffic to your website.
Let’s get started!
Best Email Marketing Services for Beginners: Our Top Picks
- Constant Contact – With a generous free trial, you can test this service before you buy
- AWeber – Everything you need to create professional-looking emails without having to hire a designer
- GetResponse – The easy-to-use autoresponder feature makes it great for e-commerce businesses
- ActiveCampaign – Great for small businesses with big ambitions
- Mailchimp – The forever-free plan offers you basic functionality for a list of up to 2,000 subscribers
1. Constant Contact
Constant Contact is a good option for beginners because it offers a 60-day free trial (for U.S.-based users, but users in other countries get the first month free).
Not only that, but the entry-level plan lets you send unlimited emails and offers customizable templates, an image library, Facebook ads, and integration with Shopify. This makes it a popular choice among users and reviewers.
This set of tools is everything you need to create professional-looking emails and Facebook ads without a designer. In addition, e-commerce stores can add their Shopify customers to their subscriber list, add products to emails, and target specific subscribers with customized offers.
Constant Contact also offers a thorough self-help section you can use to learn about either email marketing tactics, or how to use the platform. There are dozens of video tutorials to answer any question you might have – even the most basic ones.
Constant Contact also holds a unique series of free webinars on email marketing for beginners.
Constant Contact’s biggest problem is that its entry-level “Email” plan costs more than its competitors’. However, the relative price you pay for the functionality and ability to send unlimited emails is low. So, if you’re looking for a very low price point, you’ll need to go elsewhere. But if you’re more focused on value for your money as your list grows, Constant Contact is an attractive option.
One final thing to take into consideration is that A/B testing is offered ONLY for subject-lines. No plan allows you to A/B-test the content of your emails. As you become more fluent in email marketing, you might find this limitation to be overly restrictive.
AWeber is a good option for beginners because its entry-level plan includes 700+ email templates and 6,000+ stock photos to help you create professional-looking emails.
You also get access to templates to create website sign-up forms to grow your subscriber list, and templates to quickly build newsletters to keep in touch with your contacts. Most reviewers agree that with these features, you can create every content asset you need to capture leads and send out emails professionally.
All AWeber plans come with a 30-day free trial.
If you decide to sign up for a paid plan, you should be aware that AWeber uses a unique pricing model. Its entry-level plan offers the same functionality as its highest-tier plan — the monthly price you pay is determined by the number of subscribers in your contact list.
It may seem like there’s no drawback to this, but it’s actually a double-edged sword.
On the positive side, functionally like advanced analytics and segmentation commonly reserved for high-tier plans are available at the entry-level. But on the negative side, the price for just 500 subscribers is more than some competitors will charge for double that amount with a comparable feature list. So, while AWeber can get you access to more features at a lower absolute price point, its relative value as your list grows may decrease.
AWeber offers a lot of video tutorials for beginners, including:
- How to change your list name
- How to add rows and columns to your email template
- How to personalize your emails
- How to add a form to your website
- How to add forms to Facebook
There’s also a knowledge base with over 100 articles, where you can find the answers to more advanced questions, such as:
- How can I change the design of my form?
- How do I get started with campaigns?
- How do I send a split test to a segment?
All in all, if you feel AWeber’s unique pricing model could work for you over the long-term, it’s a good option to consider.
GetResponse makes email marketing easy, and it gets excellent reviews.
For instance, its autoresponder feature gives you a visual representation of when you’ll send out pre-scheduled emails to contacts. This makes it very easy to send out emails on certain days of the week or in the lead to special events.
It’s excellent for businesses that want to easily offer special discounts at certain times (retailers or travel agencies), or interact with subscribers when they achieve certain milestone thresholds (online coaching).
There are also 500+ email design templates and 1,000 free iStock images that beginners can use to create professional emails. Social integrations to share your content on Facebook and Instagram are available, but there’s no ability to create social media ads.
GetResponse offers a 30-day free trial for all plans.
The templates and workflows offered at the entry-level plan provide good value for all kinds of businesses, and at a price comparable to other solutions. However, the price increases are steep as you scale your list.
You should be aware that GetResponse is geared toward large companies and big e-commerce stores. So, you can get functionality like audience segmentation and abandoned cart follow-ups, but you’re going to pay more than you would elsewhere.
GetResponse’s support is not geared toward beginners. There are no video tutorials available. The knowledge base offers answers to some basic questions, like how to add contacts to a list or how to create a form. A few guides are available, such as “How to Plan and Send Your First Email Marketing Campaign,” but they assume you have some previous email marketing experience.
ActiveCampaign offers an entry-level plan with three user accounts. This is an excellent feature for small businesses, and this plan definitely won’t break the bank. There’s also a 14-day free trial.
However, ActiveCampaign doesn’t offer some of the basic functionality most beginners want. For example, while the entry-level plan comes with a drag-and-drop email designer, it only has about 25 email templates available.
There’s Facebook integration, but only at the mid-tier plan or higher. And there are no integrations for Shopify or any other e-commerce platforms.
There are a few tutorials geared toward complete beginners, such as how to create an email campaign or a basic form. Most of the content is geared toward advanced users looking to learn more about email marketing strategy, but don’t let that scare you off – this kind of knowledge can be valuable down the line.
One of the reasons ActiveCampaign gets such good reviews is that it offers some standout features you won’t find in many other places, including:
- Machine learning that analyzes every piece of data generated about a customer at every touchpoint — including website interactions, phone calls, and email activity — to answer questions like when you should send emails.
- Win probability scoring that uses data to estimate the chances of converting a lead, so you know where to use your resources
At the end of the day, ActiveCampaign offers the basic functionality that beginners need, but also a lot of advanced functionality that beginners will have no use for. However, if you’re a small business with big ambitions, ActiveCampaign will scale up nicely with your business.
Mailchimp offers a forever-free plan that gives you access to basic functionality for a list of 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month without ever having to pay a dime. If you’re looking for a low-cost option to use while you learn more about email marketing, you can’t beat free.
Some of the features included in the Forever Free plan are:
- Email Campaigns
- Landing Pages
- Pop-up forms
- Google remarketing ads
- Facebook and Instagram Ads
- A/B testing
- Marketing automation
MailChimp has a drag-and-drop email designer that can create professional-looking emails quickly and easily. It offers only 100 email templates, which is fewer than many other alternatives. Beginner e-commerce merchants can also benefit from over 300 integrations, including Magento, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
One standout MailChimp feature is that it’s the only email service provider that offers a WordPress widget to embed popup forms. Unlike extensions, widgets are available on lower-tier WordPress plans. This means you can have a popup form to collect email addresses from your visitors without paying for WordPress’ most expensive plan.
Where beginners will struggle with MailChimp is the user interface. Building emails with the drag-and-drop editor is straightforward, but understanding how to connect landing pages and other conversion assets to your subscriber lists is not intuitive. Most beginners will have to spend time learning the platform before they can get started.
MailChimp’s self-service knowledge base is an excellent resource for beginners. It answers questions about basic functionality, such as:
- How to create a landing page
- How to add a video to an email campaign
- How to create a Facebook or Instagram ad
One final thing beginners should be aware of is that, from a cost perspective, MailChimp doesn’t scale well. You can upgrade from the Forever Free plan to a “Grow” plan that offers a bit more functionality, but whose main benefit is the removal of MailChimp’s logo from your emails. From there, the only other option is the “Pro” plan — which offers a real jump in functionality but costs 20x the “Grow” plan.
In other words, there’s no middle price point. If you decide later on to upgrade to the advanced functionality offered in competitors’ mid-tier plans, you’re going to have to pay a lot more for it here. For more information, don’t miss our in-depth review.
Which Email Marketing Service Is the Best One for You?
Every email marketing service has its strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick comparison table:
|Pros||Industry-standard advanced functionality included in entry-level plan||700+ email templates and 6,000 stock photos available||Visual Autoresponder feature helps you schedule emails in advance||Scales very well as your list and email marketing knowledge grows||Forever-free plan offers good functionality and a decent list size|
|Cons||Entry-level plan costs slightly more than industry average||Cost per subscriber is higher than industry average||Price of scaling features only makes sense for large e-commerce stores||Few email templates available||User interface is not as intuitive as it should be|
|Standout Features for Beginners||Shopify integration||All platform features available with entry-level plan||1,000 free iStock images with entry-level plan||Three user accounts available with entry-level plan||Learn the ropes without paying anything|
|Support Features||Knowledge base includes tutorials on basic email marketing theory||Hundreds of videos answering basic questions available||No videos; geared mostly toward advanced users||Covers more advanced features and email marketing theory||Comprehensive knowledge base to answer the most basic questions|
|Overall Score for Beginner-Friendliness||10/10||8/10||7/10||7/10||8/10|
Whichever email marketing platform you choose, remember that it’s only a tool. The real ROI of email marketing comes from understanding the theory and best practices behind crafting email campaigns that work as part of an overall conversion strategy. Some examples include writing effective subject lines and creating empirically valid and useful A/B tests.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get complacent. Email marketing platforms put you in the driver’s seat — but they won’t drive the car for you.