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When I first signed up for Sendinblue’s cheapest paid plan, I was impressed by the range of features available. It offered much more than a basic email marketing service, and at a great price, too. But as I tested more of its tools and features, I found I’d have to pay extra to unlock many of the more advanced functions.
Sendinblue has earned a reputation as one of the best-value email marketing services out there. A lot of that has to do with a generous free plan and highly scalable pricing.
But good value isn’t just about low prices. It depends on what you get out of a service.
Based in Paris, France, Sendinblue is a global operation, with services available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.
Like a lot of email marketing services known for their attractive pricing, it gets labeled as a risk-free option for novices, bloggers, and startups.
Yes, the free plan gives you unlimited contacts and access to an excellent drag-and-drop content editor. Yes, paying for the number of emails you send rather than the size of your contacts list helps small businesses grow their marketing quickly without costs getting out of control. And yes, Sendinblue’s core features are all easy to use, ideal for beginners.
But Sendinblue also promises plenty of more advanced features aimed at small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) looking to develop their digital marketing beyond email promotions. These include marketing automation, transactional emails, CRM, live chat, landing pages, Facebook Ads, and retargeting.
I’d previously used Sendinblue’s famous Free plan for a personal blog, but I was curious to unlock more of the features and find out what it could do in a professional capacity.
I wanted answers to two key questions. Firstly, is Sendinblue better than its competitors at making advanced features available on lower-tier plans? And secondly, are these tools good enough to support professional email marketing, or are they just for beginners?
To answer these questions and more, I put Sendinblue’s Lite plan through its paces, testing out its tools and features. I even checked how well Sendinblue performs when delivering real-life campaigns.
Read on to discover what I found – and see if you’d get your money’s worth with Sendinblue.
If you think Sendinblue’s attractive pricing means it offers only basic email marketing, you’ll be as surprised as I was by the depth and range of features available, even on the Free plan.
Sendinblue calls its main features “apps”. There are 12 apps available in total, including options for SMS marketing. You’ll find them all on the Apps & Integrations page.
When you first register, there are three apps already installed in the top banner menu:
Campaigns, which is where you build and send your emails
Contacts, which is where you upload and manage your lists
Transactional, which lets you automate non-promotional, one-to-one emails and SMS messages to contacts (see below).
With the Free plan, you can also access Automation, Chat, and Inbox apps. Upgrading to Lite unlocks the Transactional features, plus CRM. Higher-tier plans give you access to Landing Pages, Facebook Ads, and Retargeting Ads. You can add the features you want to use regularly on the top banner menu so they’re accessible from every page.
Taken together, this set of apps means you can do much more than just create and send email campaigns and manage who’s receiving what.
Good Deliverability Rate, but There’s a Catch
Sendinblue doesn’t offer a built-in spam test, but I ran my own trials to see how it performed on deliverability and spam-avoidance. First, I sent out a test campaign to a few dozen known contacts to see how many emails dropped straight into their inbox and how many ended up elsewhere.
Overall deliverability was high, clocking in at just over 98%. The percentage that arrived straight in the recipient’s inbox was lower, at 62%, with the rest going to junk. However, when I dug into these figures a bit deeper, I found 100% of emails sent to Gmail accounts arrived in the inbox fine. All of the junk arrivals were Yahoo! or Outlook accounts.
To look further into this issue, I used the online service mail-tester.com to see if there was anything in the Sendinblue mail server that might be triggering spam filters.
The results of the test were excellent – 9.5 / 10.
When I looked into the details, the 0.5 my campaign was marked down was because mail-tester.com had picked up on an image without an alt attribute. Unfortunately, Sendinblue does not give you the option to add alt tags to images.
The other area marked yellow (not being fully authenticated) was down to not having a DMARC record. When I looked it up in the knowledge base, I saw that Sendinblue claims it does support DMARC, along with SPF and DKIM, two other common email security protocols – but this is something you need a dedicated IP address for (an extra, paid-for service).
However, because mail-tester.com did not mark down the overall score for the lack of a DMARC signature, I assumed the cause of certain emails going to junk folders was the missing alt attribute. To see if this was the case, I set up another delivery test, but this time sent a plain text email so the alt attribute criterion shouldn’t apply.
I sent this test to the same contact list, but the results were the same – all Gmail contacts got the email in their inbox, while it went to spam for all Yahoo! and Outlook users. If you’re considering using Sendinblue, this could be a potential issue.
Plenty of Templates to Choose From and Flexible Editing Options
When it comes to creating your emails, Sendinblue gives you three options – a drag-and-drop visual editor, a rich text editor for simpler emails, and, if you have the expertise, the option to import your own HTML code.
You can also choose from one of 140 templates. I found the templates were a good starting point, although some of the designs were a little generic and lacked wow-factor.
I really liked that every template can be customized as much as you like in the drag-and-drop editor – you can change the original design completely. This is made very easy by the element or block-based structure of every template (see Ease of Usesection below).
User-Friendly Automation Workflows
Sendinblue does a great job of combining quality marketing automation tools with a very user-friendly interface – perfect if you are still finding your way with email marketing.
When you click on the Automation tab, the first thing you see is a choice of eight workflow templates, plus a custom workflow builder.
To get started, I found the workflow templates easy to work with – you simply edit the entry point, conditions, and action (e.g., a user is added to your list, wait a length of time, send a welcome message). Sendinblue provides default messages you can use, or you can build your own. After that, you can further customize your workflow in the visual editor.
Access to SMTP for Transactional Emails
Most email marketing services focus on creating email campaigns for promotional purposes, but Sendinblue also provides transactional email and SMS services via its own SMTP server. You’ll even get access to this on the affordable Lite plan.
Unlike sending out newsletters and marketing updates, transactional emails are used to trigger a particular interaction with a contact. Examples include password reset emails, sending email receipts, order confirmation messages, and so on.
These types of emails tend to be sent individually to customers rather than to groups. By using an SMTP server, a special type of electronic communication protocol, Sendinblue can automate these personalized one-to-one messages.
One thing I found slightly confusing is despite them appearing as two separate tools, transactional emails are created and triggered using the Automation tab, as part of workflows. The Transactional tab is only for configuring the SMTP service and accessing logs and statistics for transactional emails.
You also start with an automated limit of just 40 emails per hour to stop SMTP emails from being logged as spam. While this limit goes up as your communications gain trust, it can be frustrating if you don’t need the transactional service, because you can still only send 40 automated emails an hour.
Ultimately, the SMTP service is very much aimed at small businesses and e-commerce operations. If you’re a blogger or don’t have anything to sell, you’re unlikely to need it.
Add Live Chat to Your Communications Mix
Again, the fact that Sendinblue offers a live chat widget as one of its main tools shows how it’s looking beyond traditional email marketing these days. The chat tool is straightforward to set up – you just customize the chatbox and user profile using a visual editor, then copy and paste the generated script into your website.
Turn Contact Management Into Customer Relationship Management
With the CRM (customer relationship management) app, you can go further than simply segmenting your contact lists to determine who does and does not receive your emails.
You can create tasks linked to individuals or groups of contacts, such as follow-up courtesy calls, personalized emails, meetings, and so on. These can be allocated to members of your internal team (multiple users available on Premium plan and above) with due dates and report back dates, and notes can be added to individual contact records providing details of interactions.
My impression using the CRM app was that – on the Lite plan at least – the functionality it offers is pretty basic. I’d have also preferred these tools to sit on the Contacts page, as it seems strange to have to duplicate the same list from one part of the service to another.
You Need to Work with APIs to Expand Integrations
When you go to the Integrations section of the Apps & Integrations page, it only shows 13 options, which is a tiny number compared to other email marketing services.
Some are useful – HubSpot and Pipedrive greatly expand on Sendinblue’s pretty basic set of CRM tools, while the SurveyMonkey integration means you can start sending out professional surveys to your contacts.
In addition to these “native” integrations (which means all the technical side of connecting a third-party service is already done for you), there are close to 50 more options listed under Plugins in your main account menu. This is still not a particularly big number, and you need to know how to add an API key to configure these.
One saving grace is that Sendinblue does offer integration with Zapier. Once that’s set up, you open the door to accessing hundreds of other third-party services.
Clear, User-Friendly Design That Supports You Step by Step
I found Sendinblue straightforward to learn and would rate the ease of use as one of its key strengths. From navigating your way around the site to using some of the more advanced features, everything is clear and well labeled and I always felt there was plenty of on-page support to help me.
This begins from the moment you sign up. To get you started, Sendinblue guides you through a three-step activation process: complete your profile, import your contacts, and schedule your first campaign.
Wherever you are on the site, navigation is easy and intuitive. Basic functions like uploading contacts and creating and scheduling campaigns are very straightforward.
I uploaded my first contact list using the drag-and-drop option with an Excel file, which completed the task in seconds. However, make sure you have the right information and attributes in your original list. When given the option to change fields in my uploaded list, I made a mistake and couldn’t edit it, so I ended up deleting it and starting again.
With more advanced features such as building automated workflows and reporting, I found the pop-up guides that walk you through each step very useful. I only wish these were available on more features, such as CRM, advanced list segmentation, and integrations.
Build a Campaign Step by Step
If you’ve never created an email marketing campaign before, Sendinblue walks you through everything you need to know. Every campaign follows a simple four-step pattern:Setup, Design, Recipients, and Confirmation.
The Setup page lets you give your campaign an internal name for future reference. This is where you add the subject line, and I like the fact that Sendinblue prompts you to add preview text, too, explaining this extra information helps boost open rates in popular email platforms like Gmail and Yahoo.
You can also change the email address the campaign is sent from, and the name of the sender. On higher-tier plans, you have the additional option to set up A/B testing for your campaign.
As discussed earlier, in the Design stage you can choose from three options to create the content for your campaign, and there are plenty of templates to get you started. Once you’re happy with your design, you move on to the Recipients page and choose which contacts to send your email to.
Finally, in the Confirmation stage, you can schedule your email to be sent out immediately or at a time of your choosing. On Premium and Enterprise plans, there’s the extra option of sending it at a “peak time” when open rates are likely to be highest.
Design Pro-Quality Emails in Minutes
If I had to pick one feature to recommend Sendinblue for, it would be its drag-and-drop editor. It’s super easy to use and highly flexible, meaning everyone from complete novices to experienced marketers can create visually appealing emails to suit their brand.
What makes the drag-and-drop editor so user-friendly is the way it divides content into distinct elements. On the left-hand side of the Editor screen, you have a list of all the different elements available: text, images, text-and-image combinations, titles, buttons, headers, footers, social media links, and so on.
If you want to add any of these to your design, you simply drag and drop them into position in the main editor in the center of the window.
Whether you start a design from scratch or choose one of the templates available, each element can be edited, formatted (with borders, background colors, spacing, and hyperlinks), copied, or deleted. You can also upload your own images and drop them into pre-formatted boxes. All of this gives you the freedom to build and customize designs as you please.
It took me no time at all to create an email I was happy with. I also liked that you can preview your design on multiple devices at every stage.
The only drawback I found was that once I started working on a design, I couldn’t immediately find a way to switch to another template from within the main editor. I had to create a ticket to resolve this (see below) as otherwise it meant going back to the beginning and starting all over again.
Advanced reporting and analytics are available on Sendinblue’s Lite plan – but only as an optional paid extra called Lite+. I was a little disappointed by this.
Without paying for Lite+, what you get is no different from the Free plan: a breakdown of open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates, and straightforward download, export, and share options, and little else.
The Lite+ add-on is $12 a month extra. While cheaper than upgrading to a Premium plan, that’s a 50% increase in the cost of a Lite plan for up to 10,000 emails a month.
To me, that’s a mark against Sendinblue’s reputation for being one of the best-value email marketing services around, especially when rivals like AWeber and GetResponse offer advanced reporting on all paid tiers.
I also found some of Sendinblue’s marketing around analytics and reporting features misleading. As you can see on the screenshot below, when you scroll through the features available on each tier, it seems as if geographical, device, and heat map reporting are included in the Lite plan as standard, not as optional extras.
Clear Insight Into All Top Level Facts and Figures
In keeping with the design and layout of the whole site, Sendinblue makes all the information relating to your campaigns clear and accessible. The main campaign dashboard displays a list of your last four campaigns, so you don’t always have to go into the main reporting and analytics page.
It also shows a cumulative total of how many contacts have opened one or more of your emails, how many have clicked a link, and how many have been blacklisted.
The main analytics dashboard is on a page called Statistics. Again, the information available is clear and accessible, but on the Lite plan, it’s all a little basic.
You get the same list of headline figures per campaign as you get on your main account dashboard: number of recipients, openers, clickers, and contacts who unsubscribed after receiving it, plus the number of complaints and bounces.
There’s also a table listing totals for the same stats across all of your campaigns. In the center of the window, you can select a time period using the calendars. Once set, the open rate, click rate, and unsubscription rate are displayed for those days or weeks (the default is the span of all your campaigns).
Individual Campaign Reports Flesh Out the Details
Beyond the top-level information available on the Statistics dashboard, individual campaign reports add details to help you reach a deeper understanding of how successful each campaign has been.
The number of opens and clicks received on each email, for example, is broken down into unique opens/clicks and total opens/clicks, so you can see if high interaction figures actually come from a small number of people revisiting emails and links several times over.
You can also click on each type of action and see exactly who has interacted with your content that way.
If you send campaigns out to more than one list at a time, these details are also broken down by list at the bottom of each report.
One of the things I liked about the campaign reports was the Summary tab, which explains what all the different data tells you. This appears each time you open a report until you switch it off, letting you learn at your own pace. It’s supported by permanent information tabs next to the data points in the main Open and Click Rate section.
Not Enough Tools to Help Turn Data Into Intelligence
The percentage targets and visual progress guides for open and click rates are useful for beginners as they provide some measure to gauge performance against. As you move forward, however, it would be useful if these could be customized and set to progressively higher targets.
While you can’t set up the proper conversion monitoring available on higher tiers, the click-to-open rate is a useful guide to how well you are “converting” opens into click-throughs. A visual guide for this would also be useful.
Overall, however, a lot of manual work is needed to process the information contained in each report into useful insight. Without upgrading, you cannot, for example, sort contacts by the number of opens and clicks, and use this to segment lists.
Nor can you compare average “time-to-open” and “time-to-click” across campaigns, and therefore get an idea of the best time to send a campaign, without going through each report one by one.
I was slightly surprised to find that Sendinblue does not offer telephone support on the Lite plan. I was even more surprised there’s no live chat support either.
This isn’t advertised, but despite there being a prominent Help button on every page, the only options I found on my tier were leaving a message (i.e., emailing/creating a ticket) or searching the online knowledge base. That means you have to pay for a Premium account before you get live, in-person support.
On the positive side, the quality and depth of Sendinblue’s online self-help resources are impressive. There’s a Help button on every page with context-relevant suggestions and search options, and a Support and Tickets page with more detailed options. This page also lists all of your previous and ongoing tickets, with a reminder of their status.
I found what I was looking for on the knowledge base about 50% of the time. For example, when I wanted to know how to stop my emails from going to subscribers’ spam or promotional folders, I found a topic on Deliverability in the main list on the Support and Tickets page.
When I couldn’t find a relevant answer in the knowledge base, I found the email/ticketing system straightforward and prompt.
For example, when I wanted to know if there was any way to upload a contact list from a Word document, I got a reply to my query within five minutes acknowledging receipt and an answer in 30 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by this, as the acknowledgment email stated Sendinblue aimed to answer all queries within 24 hours.
The response was professional and polite, but nothing that couldn’t have been answered in another FAQ or other digital resource. In summary: I couldn’t upload a list from a Word document. I’d have to either convert it to an Excel spreadsheet or manually add each contact into Sendinblue.
This first request was during office hours. Sendinblue is based in Paris, France, and so I created another ticket at 10:25 pm Paris time asking if it was possible to change the template I was editing without having to delete my work and start again.
Again, acknowledgment came within five minutes. This time, I had a response in an hour and a half, suggesting Sendinblue still staff their support desk outside normal office hours (there are no hours specified on the site).
On this occasion however, I didn’t particularly feel the response answered my question. I couldn’t find the pathway suggested, eventually discovering that on the drag-and-drop editor page, there was an option under Save & Quit > Choose another template.
Sendinblue is well known for being a great value service. A lot of this has to do with the Free plan and the excellent access to features you get with it. But what about the paid tiers?
One of the ways Sendinblue stands out from most other email marketing services is that it charges for the number of emails sent rather than the number of contacts. Even on the Free plan, you can have an unlimited number of contacts; you’re just restricted to 300 emails a day. On the cheapest Lite plan, you get up to 10,000 emails a month.
For growing businesses, this strikes me as a more attractive way to price an email marketing service than charging by the number of contacts, as it lets you grow your lists without restriction. Pricing is highly scalable – you can pay more to increase the number of emails you can send monthly, rather than having to move up a tier to unlock features you might not want.
There are also various paid extras you can choose to boost your service. As mentioned, these include the Lite+upgrade to add advanced reporting to your Lite plan. There’s also the option to buy pre-paid email and SMS credits, which means you can top up your monthly plan limits on a one-off basis. This is available on the Free tier, too.
Other paid options include purchasing a dedicated IP address for your campaigns, which helps to stop your emails from getting classified as spam.
Sendinblue accepts all major credit cards, plus debit cards in Europe when payment is made in European currencies. You can also pay with PayPal, which activates one-click payment, allowing you to cancel or modify payments without re-entering your details.
In keeping with the rest of the service, I found the cancellation process for Sendinblue very straightforward. I looked up how to do it using the Help button that appears on the bottom right of every page, and was directed to the My Plan page.
From here, it’s simply a case of scrolling down to find the Cancel My Subscription option. You’re given the option to pause your subscription instead, which simply means you don’t have to pay any more until you decide to start up again. If you continue with cancellation, you’re asked to give a reason, confirm, and it’s done.
Sendinblue does not offer refunds unless there’s a technical error or you’re unable to send campaigns from their shared IP addresses. This means your service always runs up until your next invoice date. For example, I canceled my account in the first week of the month, but it remained active up until my next invoice date a couple of weeks later, meaning I could get full use of what I’d already paid for.
I paid for 10,000 emails and 500 were sent in the first campaign. 0 sent to the second campaign. In the third campaign 1 sent. Not worth the money, very weak I do not recommend Sendinblue, if you have a problem you receive evasive answers. Very dissatisfied
Thank you for your feedback. My name is Dulé and I work at Sendinblue. We would love to get in touch with you to better follow up with your case. Based on your feedback, I know you’ve already had a frustrating experience, for which I sincerely apologize. ...if you're up for it, you can write an email to [email protected]
The best email marketing service I have used so far
Sendinblue service is amazing and provides everything we need for creating responsive email campaigns. The reporting and analytical tools are awesome and this will help us to provide a better service to our clients and gain more business for our company.
I did a lot of research before moving my email list. I send one email a month- that's 12 emails in a year, so low cost is my priority. Sendinblue did a great job reaching out at set up to make sure I got going, but imagine my surprise when I found out I can send only 300 emails in a day! That means it will take me a whole week (300 each day) to send out a monthly email to my list of 1600. What a hassle!
Sendinblue is a real winner if you’re looking for an introduction to email marketing that can take you deeper than the cheapest, most basic services. For ease of use, it’s second to none, it’s packed full of features, and I think it’s great value (especially on the Free plan).
But is Sendinblue right for you?
If you’re a small business owner looking to build your digital marketing skills from a low base, then yes, Sendinblue is ideal. It provides support at every step, scalable pricing that allows you to grow at your own pace, and features like transactional emails, SMS, and live chat, which let you manage more of your customer communications from the same place.
However, if you’re more of an established business looking to take your digital marketing to the next level, you may find Sendinblue’s cheaper plans limited, while jumping straight into a Premium plan is a risk. While there is the option of the Lite+ add-on, other services, which you can see on our list of the best email marketing providers, provide more comprehensive professional packages at low-end prices.
With GetResponse, for example, you get advanced reporting tools, A/B and spam testing, sophisticated conversion-led automation, and the option to build landing pages and sign-up forms on every paid plan – although you pay for the number of contacts you have.
Is Sendinblue the best email marketing service?
For my money, Sendinblue is probably the best around for small businesses, particularly start-ups or anyone new to email marketing. The combination of an excellent free plan to get started with, unlimited contacts on all tiers, excellent usability and a decent range of features makes it straightforward enough for anyone to get started with, but it also offers room to develop your marketing strategies as you grow.
However, we do recommend researching as many services as possible to make sure you get the right one for your needs. If you think you might want more advanced tools in areas like analytics and marketing automation, check out our list of the best email marketing services for 2021.
Which is better: Mailchimp or Sendinblue?
Sendinblue gets my vote every time. Not only is the pricing by the number of emails you send rather than the size of your contact list much better value for a growing business, Sendinblue offers more sophisticated automations, a far superior email editor with much more room for customizing templates, and better customer support – and you can’t get better than a free plan.
Is Sendinblue free?
Sendinblue offers an excellent free plan which lets you do all the main things you want from an email marketing service, including building and analyzing campaigns. Unlike a free trial, you can use the free tier for as long as you wish. It also lets you have an unlimited number of contacts, with the main restriction being you can send a maximum of 300 emails per day.
Is Sendinblue a CRM?
Sendinblue includes a CRM ‘app’ as one of its main features. On lower tier plans, it functions more as an extension to the contact management tools rather than a fully fledged CRM, allowing you to track a broader range of interactions beyond the kind of email analytics you would use to segment your campaigns. You can also allocate follow-up tasks for groups or individual contacts to different members of your team, although this only becomes relevant on the Premium plan when you can have multiple users per account.
Paul is a Technical and Business Blogger based in the UK. His professional interests include digital marketing, content production, and business journalism. Away from his laptop, he leads a hectic double life as a father, husband, musician, sports team captain, forager, gardener, vegan cook, and book nerd.