Business owners are constantly trying to improve their marketing efforts. Email marketing remains a powerful marketing tool, with a return on investment of $42 to every $1 spent. In order to harness the power of email marketing, it’s important to choose the right software that can take your marketing to the next level.
Email marketing software is so much more than just a way to send and track emails. Tools to increase your audience, segment your lists, and combine all your marketing channels turn the software into a powerful solution to grow your business and earn more revenue.
We tested the most popular email marketing software on the market and considered price, ease of use, functionality, and more to give you the best options depending on what you need.
The 6 Best Email Marketing Software of 2021
Best Overall: Mailchimp
Mailchimp is the best overall email marketing software because it has the features that most businesses need, without being overly complicated or confusing. Businesses can schedule campaigns, A/B test copy, and get reports that include open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and more. Plus, it has the most generous free-forever plans of the software we tested.
Free-forever plan (up to 2,000 contacts)
Easy to build and customize campaigns
Clear reporting that helps optimize future sends
Integrates with hundreds of software platforms
Pricey for larger contact lists (more than 15k subscribers)
No phone support
Not designed for advanced marketing teams
Mailchimp’s free plan includes up to 2,000 contacts and up to 10,000 monthly email sends. Its platform is one of the easiest to get used to with drag-and-drop features that allow you to stylize your emails.
Aside from its free plan, there are also three paid plans, which vary in cost based on how many subscribers you have (nonprofits receive a 15% discount):
- Essentials: $9.99 to $270 per month
- Standard: $14.99 to $540 per month
- Premium: $299 to $1,190 per month
Mailchimp is the perfect tool for any business looking for a simple way to send emails to their customers. It has an easy-to-use email editor, and once you upgrade to the first paid plan you get access to more advanced tools such as A/B testing and multi-step journeys. Users will enjoy the easy-to-understand reporting that helps them determine what is working and what isn't. Things like open rates and click-throughs are easily identified so business owners know if readers are responding to the content.
Best for Automation: ActiveCampaign
ActiveCampaign is the best email marketing software for automation because it has hundreds of pre-built automations that help you personalize campaigns for each subscriber. There are help guides throughout the platform as you’re getting things set up, plus ActiveCampaign’s customer support is fast and friendly.
Great automation features that simplify customer interactions
Helpful, friendly, and fast customer support
All plan levels include data migration and implementation services
CRM with sales automation included for free (limited time)
Has 300+ integrations with the most popular software
Learning curve can be a challenge
Lite plan is very limited (and includes ActiveCampaign branding)
Plans quickly jump in price with the number of contacts
ActiveCampaign is a customer experience automation (CXA) software with email capabilities. Because it is designed to manage contacts and the sales process, it offers more than 300 integrations.
There’s a 14-day free trial to test the software. After that, you will need to subscribe to one of the four paid plans, which you can pay monthly or annually. The discount for paying annually ranges from 15% to 40% depending on the plan. The cost of each plan also depends on how many contacts you have (nonprofits get 20% off).
- Lite: $15+ per month
- Plus: $70+ per month
- Professional: $159+ per month
- Enterprise: $279+ per month
You can get a plan and adjust it for the number of contacts you have while still getting the basic features of the plan. For example, you can get the Lite plan with 500 contacts but can incrementally increase it to 100,000 contacts for $405 annually. The Plus, Professional, and Enterprise plans increase the customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities of your platform.
ActiveCampaign helps businesses build automations that are customized to increase engagement with subscribers, giving it the edge in this category. The interface is easy to use, intuitive, and includes resources for any questions that come up during the process. It also includes sales automations so your marketing and sales processes can work together to earn more revenue.
Easiest to Use: MailerLite
MailerLite is the easiest email marketing software to use because it has a drag-and-drop interface that makes it fun and intuitive to create the design you want. Simplicity is at the heart of the company’s mission, which is why the software has a clean and streamlined look.
Drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to design emails
Free plan for up to 1,000 contacts
24/7 live chat and email support
Lots of email templates to choose from
Doesn’t include CRM functionalities
Need to provide a lot of company information to get an account set up
MailerLite has designed a superior user-friendly platform, making it the best choice for ease of use. Should users experience any problems, there is a 24/7 live chat available to answer any questions and troubleshoot.
It offers a free-forever plan that includes 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends. If you need more bandwidth or want more advanced features (like the ability to remove MailerLite branding), there is a paid plan. Cost depends on how many subscribers you have. You can pay monthly or annually, but with an annual plan, you get a 30% discount. Nonprofits also receive a 30% discount. Here’s a breakdown of the cost:
- Up to 1,000 contacts: $10 per month
- 1,001 to 2,500 contacts: $15 per month
- 2,501 to 5,000 contacts: $30 per month
- 5,001 to 10,000 contacts: $50 per month
MailerLite includes all of the essentials for email marketing, without cluttering their system with advanced features. This makes it the perfect fit for businesses looking for a straightforward approach to email marketing that they can master in days, not months.
Best All-in-One Marketing Suite: Hubspot
Hubspot is the best all-in-one marketing suite because it has great tools and reporting for all of your marketing campaigns across various channels (website, social, email marketing, and more). You can store all contact information with Hubspot’s CRM and attract an audience through lead forms, live chat, and online ads.
Full marketing suite with CRM, social media, blogging, as well as email marketing capabilities
Email health tab helps keep deliverability rates on track
Only pay for the contacts you are marketing to
Track leads throughout their buying journey
Helpful online training resources
Does not have a free-forever plan or a low-cost plan
Not for businesses strictly looking for email marketing tools
Difficult to integrate a separate CRM, like Salesforce or Pipedrive
Steep learning curve to fully unlock the marketing potential
Hubspot is a leader in CRM services that include email marketing. The platform can handle everything from emails, social media posts, and blog publishing, making it the top platform for an all-in-one marketing solution.
There’s a 14-day free trial, and then you’ll have to subscribe to one of their three paid plans. While it’s free to store unlimited contacts, once the number you email surpasses the included amount, you will have to pay an additional fee. Save 10% on the first two plans if you pay annually (the Enterprise plan must be paid annually).
- Starter (up to 1,000 contacts): $50 per month
- Professional (up to 2,000 contacts): $890 per month
- Enterprise (up to 10,000 contacts): $3,200 per month
Hubspot combines all of your marketing activities in one place so you can have a centralized view of how contacts interact with your website, Google ads, social media, and email marketing. It provides insights into the buyer's journey, helping business owners better tailor their marketing efforts for success. The platform includes a robust training platform that not only reviews how to use the system but also highlights the best practices for successful marketing campaigns.
Best Affordable Option: Moosend
Moosend is the best affordable option not only because its paid plans cost less than most on the market, but also because you can pay either by the number of subscribers or by the number of emails sent, depending on which option is cheapest for you. Plus, its tools are user friendly and make it easy to get attractive and timely emails out to your audience.
Lowest plan costs
Option to pay only when you send emails
Includes phone support
Easy to customize templates or use one from the template library
Can’t send emails from a Gmail or Hotmail address
Less-sophisticated user interface
Moosend is a cost-effective platform that gives users the choice of how to get billed: by subscribers or by email. Phone support is included that can help if you have trouble customizing one of the numerous templates provided.
Moosend’s Free Forever plan includes 1,000 subscribers, plus there's a Pro Plan and an Enterprise plan with tiered pricing. You’ll need to contact Moosend for Enterprise plan pricing. The Pro Plan is priced based on the number of subscribers. Below is the cost if you pay monthly, but you’ll receive a 20% discount for annual billing. You’ll also receive a 25% discount if you’re a nonprofit.
- Up to 2,000 subscribers: $10 per month
- 2,001 to 2,500 subscribers: $20 per month
- 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $30 per month
- 5,001 to 8,000 subscribers: $40 per month
You can opt to pay for the number of emails sent (includes unlimited subscribers), which Moosend calls credits. For $1, you get 1,000 credits, which is equal to 1,000 email sends. With this option, you get the same features that are included in the Pro Plan, such as landing pages, transactional emails, and phone support.
Moosend is one of the cheapest email marketing tools on the market, but it’s robust enough to satisfy most email marketing campaigns for small businesses, winning our spot for the most affordable option. It allows you to pay either by the number of subscribers or by the number of emails sent, so you can choose which option is most cost-effective for your business.
Best for E-commerce: Drip
Drip is the best email marketing software for e-commerce businesses because of it’s sophisticated workflows combined with advanced list segmentation. This combination means that subscribers receive personalized emails triggered by their shopping behaviors on your site and receive timely follow-ups based on how they interact with your emails.
Simple yet powerful drip campaigns
Easy to set up and use
Excellent customer support
Sophisticated contact list segmentation
Lacks a few key integrations
No drag-and-drop functionality for designing templates
Support only available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST
Designed to improve the online user experience for shoppers, Drip is the best email marketing software for e-commerce companies. Its user support is available to help with issues setting up and using the service. We especially like how you can segment your lists so users get the best possible experience from your website and email alerts.
Drip has a 14-day free trial and has one plan that ranges from $19 to $1,599 per month depending on how many contacts are in your account. Here are a few of the price points:
- Up to 500 contacts: $19 per month
- 501 to 2,000 contacts: $29 per month
- 2,001 to 2,500 contacts: $39 per month
- 2,501 to 3,000 contacts: $49 per month
For costs above this number of contacts, it's best to get details directly from the website. The tiered scale goes up to 140,000 contacts for $1,599 before you need to contact them for custom enterprise pricing.
Drip is built for e-commerce, which means its workflows, email templates, and lead generation forms are designed with e-commerce best practices in mind. It includes advanced segmentation and customization that allows you to hyper-target your campaigns in order to increase user engagement.
What Is Email Marketing Software?
Email marketing software enables users to create, send, and track emails to their list of subscribers. Using software makes it easier to create well-designed emails, and also allows you to see key metrics such as open rates and click-through rates. Advanced platforms allow you to automate sends based on user behavior, which increases the likelihood of engagement since the email is more personalized to their interests.
Email marketing is an effective marketing tool for almost any industry. For example, an e-commerce store can automate a follow-up email if a user leaves an item in their cart, reminding them to make the purchase. A SaaS product can encourage users to demo a product and decide how persistently to follow up based on whether the lead takes them up on their offer. While email marketing is not by any means a new technique, it has proven its effectiveness year after year in industry reports.
What Does Email Marketing Software Cost?
Email marketing software typically has variations of plans based on the number of contacts you have. The cost of the lowest-priced plan typically ranges from free to $50 per month. The cost of the highest-priced plan can be thousands of dollars per month. Most plans have at least a two-week free trial and offer discounts to users that pay annually.
How much you pay really depends on how many features you need and how actively you engage in email marketing. This is because most software charges either by the number of emails in the database or by the number of emails you send out. Therefore, it’s important to keep a close eye on your activity in order to monitor whether your monthly costs are increasing.
Does CRM Software Include Email Marketing?
Some CRM software does give you the functionality to email contacts within the database. However, it does not have the robust set of features that software dedicated to email marketing will have. The email marketing tool in a CRM is really for people that just need to send the occasional email and don’t need a design or automated campaigns.
If you want to increase engagement with your subscribers through automations or get more advanced reporting, then it makes sense to get a separate email marketing software from your CRM.
What Does Email Marketing Software Typically Include?
Almost all email marketing software allows you to design emails, upload contacts, schedule email campaigns, and see data on how your emails are performing. Advanced software lets you A/B split test aspects of the email, segment your contact list based on interests, and automate emails based on how contacts interact with any of your marketing channels. There are also typically lead generation capabilities such as putting lead forms on your site and creating landing pages to get more subscribers into the database.
How We Chose the Best Email Marketing Software
We looked at 12 email marketing software platforms before deciding on the top six. We considered price, ease of use, and functionality when determining the best options. We also aimed to get a range of options that work for different industries and business sizes, as every company will have different needs and use cases. In our review, we favored companies that offered a free-forever plan or a free trial so you can test the product's effectiveness before committing.
Litmus. "The ROI of Email Marketing." Accessed October 29, 2020.