Last week, I wrote about why you should be collecting email addresses. This week, I’ll be covering the top five tools for sending emails to your email list.
Email addresses are a simple way to communicate with people. Ultimately, you want to send messages to your community, and you want those messages to land in their email inboxes (not their spam folders). But when you start to send email in bulk, accomplishing this task is not always simple.
Email Client Limitations
When you’re just starting out, you will probably use your standard email client to send email updates. For instance, you might be using Gmail to send messages to your list, and that’s fine for individual emails or small email lists. (Hint: always BCC when sending out bulk emails like this.)
However, if you’re diligent about growing your email list, it will probably expand faster than you expect. These days, it isn’t too difficult to quickly accumulate a list of over 100, and small businesses often have thousands of email addresses on their list.
Gmail and most other email clients aren’t intended to send bulk email. With Gmail, you can send up to 500 emails per day, so if you have an email list of over 500, you will exceed that limit with only one message. However, even if your list is below 500, a basic email client still might not be an ideal way of sending a newsletter to your community.
Email Clients vs Platforms
As your email list grows, you will need to choose an email platform to use. In fact, you may want to use an email platform from the very beginning.
Unlike an email client, an email platform is completely focused on sending bulk email. There are countless options out there, but most platforms have features like email templates, autoresponders, list management, testing services, and reports, all packaged into a nice user interface.
Here are some examples of email platforms:
So which should you use? Ultimately, it depends on your needs, your technical abilities, and how much email you think you’ll send. Although there are many more platforms to choose from, I’d recommend using one of the five above, which I’ll describe in more detail below.
MailChimp is the king of email platforms. It is the most popular for good reason: it is easy to use, has a very nice design and user experience, and has a wide array of features. Best of all? It’s free as long as your email list is under 2,000, so it’s a great starter platform.
So there must be a catch, right? Yup, there is. Once you get over 2,000 subscribers, MailChimp starts to get expensive. You might think that it will be a long time before you’ll reach 2,000 email addresses, but if you do a good job at communicating and building momentum in your business, that 2K subscriber base will come sooner than you think. However, it is possible to move from MailChimp to another platform, if necessary (it’s not always easy, though).
Another downside of MailChimp is that they don’t offer phone support… all customer support requests go through email.
And the final catch with MailChimp’s greatness is that their autoresponder functionality isn’t available on the free plan. You might not use an autoresponder when you’re just starting out, but it is a really powerful feature that can save you a lot of time and improve the experience for your recipients. For instance, if you want to automatically send a welcome email when someone signs up for your list, you would need to use an autoresponder.
Overall, MailChimp would be my top recommendation to most people starting an email list.
If MailChimp is the king, then AWeber is the queen. AWeber also has a great set of features and an easy-to-use interface that will likely meet all of your needs and more. They also have fantastic customer support (including phone) — probably the best in the industry.
Like MailChimp, AWeber is also expensive, and their free trial only lasts for one month. In fact, that is the only major downside I can think of for AWeber.
AWeber is used and promoted by some massive email marketers who send millions of emails per month, and some people have reported that AWeber is a little more reliable when it comes to delivering emails.
If you do a little research on email platforms, you will likely find many people promoting AWeber and saying that it’s the best. However, AWeber is paying them to say it, since they have a great affiliate program that pays 30% commissions for any referral sales. MailChimp, on the other hand, has a poor affiliate program, but the truth is that I’d recommend MailChimp over AWeber for most cottage food operations, and I personally think that MailChimp is nicer overall.
If you are planning to do some serious email marketing or you want great customer service, AWeber might be the best choice of all. If you do choose to use AWeber, you can help me out by using my referral link to sign up.
MailChimp, AWeber, and SendinBlue are all similar. They are all feature-rich online email platforms that offer great user experiences. Of the three, SendinBlue would likely be the least expensive for you in the long run.
If I were to use one of these three, I’d probably use SendinBlue, since the others are just too expensive for my needs. SendinBlue doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles that the top two offer, but I don’t typically need those. Also, this service isn’t quite as user-friendly, but I’m a bit more tech savvy and willing to spend the time to figure out their system.
The reason SendinBlue isn’t as expensive is because they only charge based on how many emails you send, whereas MailChimp and AWeber charge you based on how many people are on your list. If you have a list of 10,000 email addresses, MailChimp will charge you $75 every month and AWeber will charge you $69, and that’s regardless of whether you send any emails. However, if you send an email to your list every single day, SendinBlue will likely be more expensive.
Overall, I think SendinBlue is a great solution, and it’s probably best-suited for someone who wants an intuitive and economical system that will grow with the business over the long term without breaking the bank.
Sendy is a lot different than the above options, but it’s way less expensive than everything else. The downside is that it requires quite a bit more technical expertise. In short, you purchase the Sendy software for $59 (one-time), install it on your hosting service (your server), connect it to AmazonSES, and then use the software on your website to send emails. To use Sendy, you need to have your own domain name (like http://forrager.com) and a web hosting service (like Bluehost or GoDaddy).
Because Sendy uses AmazonSES to send emails, it ends up being really inexpensive to do so. After paying the flat-rate for Sendy’s software, you will only pay Amazon for however many emails you send. Here are some comparison rates for sending 10,000 emails:
- MailChimp = $200 (cheaper when paid monthly)
- SendinBlue = $47 (cheaper when paid monthly)
- AmazonSES = $1
Literally. And if you only send 1,000 emails in a month? That will cost $0.10 with AmazonSES. With Sendy, you can add unlimited people to your list, and with sending rates like that, you don’t have to think twice about how much email you’re sending.
Sendy’s user experience is a lot more basic than the others, but it still has a lot of features and gets the job done. If Sendy is right for you, then I trust you’ll have the technical knowhow to figure out the rest from here.
Finally, I have to recommend MyMail for one simple reason: it’s the system I use. But I’ll start by saying that it won’t be a good fit for most people.
For one, MyMail is a WordPress plugin, meaning you need to have a self-hosted WordPress website to use it. Self-hosted means that, like Sendy, you need to have your own domain name and web hosting service.
MyMail can also leverage AmazonSES, so I’m able to get the dangerously cheap sending rates that Amazon offers. MyMail itself only costs $40 (one-time).
Although it’s probably easier to setup than Sendy, MyMail still isn’t particularly easy to configure. I chose MyMail because everything I do on this site is based in WordPress, and it allows for nice integrations with WordPress users and posts.
You can figure out if MyMail is right for you by trying the demo on their website.
Which One Should You Use?
Assuming you’re not part of the 1% who would use Sendy or MyMail, and assuming you are just starting out with a small to non-existent email list, I would recommend MailChimp. It will be free for you to use for awhile, and it will give you a good feel for what a great email system can offer. It will do a lot of things for you, like create nice-looking and mobile-friendly emails, weed out bad email addresses automatically, and add email footers that meet legal requirements. Since it is the most popular email platform, there are a lot of online resources and how-to tutorials for using MailChimp effectively.
However, everyone’s needs are different, and all of the email platforms I’ve described on this page are extremely good. If none of them look appealing to you, I can also suggest GetResponse and Mad Mimi as honorable mentions. But in general, it’s hard to go wrong with MailChimp when you’re getting your email list off the ground.