10 stonking email marketing systems reviewed.

February 16, 200935 Comments
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Email marketing should be an integral part of your marketing strategy online. Period. No matter whether you are a big dog, or a little pup, permission based email marketing is powerful, relevant and well worthy of your attention. However it is difficult to create a good campaign which gives your content and message maximum impact without decent software. Enter the web based email marketing systems reviewed below.

Here’s a brief shakedown of some of the best of the best, highlighting the features and costings of each.

Campaign Monitor

URL: http://www.campaignmonitor.com

Special Features: Testing of emails across different platforms. Rebranding and Reselling. Screenshoting available for testing. Full API.

Reporting Features: Complete Google Analytics Integration. Pretty freakin amazing reporting out of the box.

Interface: 9/10 – Many web developers tout the interface as an example to follow.

Pricing: £3 delivery and 0.6 pence/recipient. 1000 subscribers = £9 per campaign.

Free trial? 5 free emails to test features.

Pricing information: Available here.

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

campaign monitor

Campaign Monitor has always marketed itself as THE interface for sending email, targetting web developers primarily. The have shifted from being a hosted anyone-can-signup solution to being more of an application which you can resell to your web design clients. It’s main business avenue now appears to be getting resellers on board. A smart move. You’ll find alot of web developers and designers touting the benefits of campaign monitor.

The’ve made things uber simple to signup with good call to action buttons. (Featured by Lee Munroe), Christopher has ten reasons why Campaign Monitor rocks. And Think Vitamin have given it a resounding thumbs up!

We think its pretty slick too. With a multitude of features, the hype is definitely deserved. It took us all of five minutes to point it at a web page and send our first campaign. And the results were amazing. The reporting features are akin to Google Analytics if not better, plus the user interface feels so smooth and polished, you can almost taste the goodness, right from the minute you click the login button. The screenshot feature is just plain genius for testing your email deliverability across different platforms.  All in all – a must see for any web designer or developer who needs easy to use functionality for their clients.

Signup.to

URL: http://www.signup.to

Special Features: Click through data overlaid on campaigns. Complete API for third party integration. SMS Marketing

Reporting Features: Complete Google Analytics Integration

Interface: 6/10 – I found the interface a little difficult at first to get used to.

Pricing: Price per 1000 contacts:£40 per month

Free trial? Free Trial supports up to 50 contacts. Once you get bigger you have to pay. Even beginner bloggers will probably have around 50 contacts they consider worthy of receiving an email newsletter. So its relatively measely.

Pricing information: Available here.

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1| Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

signup2

Completely different pricing structure.  £40 monthly for 1000 subscribers but you can send as many campaigns as you want. You can also access a brief introductory guide to the system here.

If you consider yourself a heavier / business user then Signup.to might offer better value for money. It offers an API for integration with server side code so you can integrate with an e-commerce site or third party system easily. This sort of flexibiliy may be a necessity for some users but at 4 times the price of some of the other options, you’d need to be a heavy user.

The system is both feature rich and relatively simple to use, with the interfacing needing a little work. However Signup.to do have comprehensive support material available to help you through. The interface from left to right offers a tab based system, with the ability to jump easily between the sections. As for templates, they seem to have around 45 different out of the box templates available, however I don’t personally think many professional web designers would be satisfied with any of them. The designs are all a bit naff. They do however have a couple of features that stand out – including the spam and link checking report which is available before you send. Campaign Monitor currently charges $5 for the priviledge of this. They also have built in SMS marketing – which i’m surprised other offerings don’t pick up on. Email to SMS gateways are readily available to developers, and can prove to be lucrative.

iContact

http://www.icontact.com/

Special Features: SpamCheck – contacts a brief test of how Spammy your mail looks.

Reporting Features: Shiny Graphs. Open / Bounces

Interface: 8/10 – Naturally Guides you through

Pricing: Price per 1000 contacts:£12 per month.

Free trial? 15 day free trial

Pricing information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

icontact-image

iContact is comparable with Campaign Monitor in its simple interface. From left to right you are presented with Contacts, Create, Send and Track. In fact the interface maintains the simplicity from the creation of a list, to the sending of a campaign.

Logical steps from the start to the end of your campaign are presented to the user clearly and concisely. The dashboard when you login for the first time also serves to summarise your activity. As far as the downsides go, iContact has a “catch 22″ in that you can only send 6* your subscriber count per month. i.e. 6000 emails per month for this pricing range.

However iContact ticks all of the boxes from the requirements we set out earlier in the week, and more. You can easily filter your list based on demographics. They offer multiple signup forms with custom fields to get additional data into the system, and the CSV export allows simple importing and exporting.

Overall iContact provides a well rounded feature set for a fair monthly price, and gets my thumb up. Especially for small business owners with lists ranging up to 2,500 contacts.

DotMailer

www.dotmailer.co.uk

Special Features: SalesForce integration / API

Reporting Features:

Interface: 4 / 10

Price per 1000 contacts:£49 per month + setup fee of £295

Free trial? Free trial available if you don’t mind the sales call.

Pricing information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

dotmailerintro

DotMailer is another expensive system in comparison with some others.Unfortunately their pricing structure isn’t terribly flexible, and I did find myself having to jump through hoops to signup. As with some of the others they also present readily available training including pre-recorded webinars.

If your subscriber base grows you are forced into using the next plan – even if you don’t use some of the features within it. There are one or two innovative features for the power users, such as integration with SalesForce and automatically event triggered emails – but unless you are an enterprise emailer, this will mean little or nothing to you. They also allow segmentation of data, including postcode data, which may or not be useful for your needs.

Inside the main interface I was initially presented with an abundance of information including quick start guides. I would have preferred less on the home control panel, with a big fat “Create Campaign” button as it took me a while to find. In addition links at the top of the login to “Survey” or “Site Builder” only added to confuse. Keeping the interface clean, unobtrusive and simple should be the order of the day – with any product.

I also struggled to add a simple “NAME” field within my email. The dynamic button seemed to want me to setup rules, and just confused newbies. I’m a great believer that good software is intuitive and the user doesn’t need training, and I certainly would have needed training on this. I lost patience before even getting a campaign sent, as it kept prompting me to add an unsubscribe link. I can’t help but feel they should have researched the simplicity provided by some of their competitors offerings. That said – some corporates go crazy for the integration with third party tools such as SalesForce, and for that reason it might be a winner for some.

Pure360

www.pure360.com

Special Features: Spam checking. SMS Messaging. Integrate with MS CRM

Reporting Features: Functional out of the box. Integrates with Google Analytics.

Interface: 8/10

Price per 1000 contacts: £50 per month

Free trial? 30 days no obligation

Pricing information: None available – had to email them.

Features: Available here (pdf)

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

pure-image

Ordinarily, if a product fails to provide pricing information clearly I think that,  either they are expensive, or that they have something to hide. It’s a pet peeve of mine. This is 2009 people. Be upfront with pricing! Anyways..onoto the review. Pure360 is relatively feature poor, with the exception of SMS marketing, but that doesn’t stop me absolutely loving it. It’s everything a system should be, simple to use and functional. The navigation of the system is on the left hand side menu, with a minimal 7 options to choose from. Upon selecting these, you are presented with a couple of sub options, which guide you through the system. Overall, if you are looking for a no nonsense option, Pure 360 delivers.

As with iContact, Pure360 breaks the interface down into, creating a list, creating a mailing, and checking delivery statistics, which makes it particularly easy to use even for the non tech savvy user. PureResponse is used by some big names including Emap, The FT, Economist Conferences, Littlewoods, ultimatepoker.com and innocent drinks.

It also touts integration with SalesForce, Microsoft CRM and Google Analytics, and its pricing is obvious geared towards major corporates. Unfortunately the pricing will be out of most people’s range, unless you are a larger corporate organisation, but that said – you most likely will need the ease of use that this represents – especially if your email marketer is less technically savvy.

MailChimp

www.mailchimp.com

Special Features: API / Prompting for “how you subscribed” (CAN SPAM compliance). A/B split testing. Sales Force / Highrise import.

Reporting Features: Google Analytics integration available. Tracking opens and clicks out of the box. Click overlay, Geographic Reporting

Interface: 8/10

Price per 1000 contacts: Pay as you go or Monthly plans. £20 for 1000 subscribers.

Free trial? Use MailChimp free, up to 100 subscribers. Perfect for newbies.

Pricing information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

mailchimp

Mail Chimp – in my opinion, has one of the snazziest websites in town, tis very Web2.0. But then if you are chasing after the design / developer community to get ahead its no surprise. We can be quite harsh on badly designed home pages after all.

You can copy and paste your contacts or upload them from a .csv file directly into MailChimp. List management is relatively easy, and exporting is supported. It can also integrate with e-commerce or third party sites as it has a full API available. There is also good supporting material available when you signu – including snazzy email marketing guides. Very useful.

I’m told however that they don’t support Unicode, which means you may have difficulty copy and pasting from other programs, and getting your email to display consistantly on different machines. One of the neat features it has is prompting for a sentence in your campaigns letting the receiver know where they signed up. Which is quite clever.

Out of all the systems, Mailchimps importing features seem to be the most comprehensive. They have included options for CSV, copy / paste from Excel, Highrise, and Salesforce importing. As for the signup form customisation – they’ve really nailed that one as well. If you are familiar with WUFoo forms (mentioned on this post) - you can easily use them with MailChimp. Alternatively, you can go for a completely custom form, if you aren’t content with their offering.

One of the nicest features is the ability to choose either a pay as you go or monthly plan. Which will give some users the flexibility they need. Sending a campaign / creating a list took me a bit of time, but their offering overall feels very polished and well worth a look. The wealth of features for the price make it a worthy contender.

ConstantContact

www.ConstantContact.com

Special Features: Massive amount of templates.

Reporting Features:

Interface: 4/10

Price per 1000 contacts: £20 per month

Free trial? 60 day trial

Pricing Information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

constact-contact

Constant contact is an American email offering – and as such I can enjoy the exchange rate, which brings the dollar in at around £20 per month. A free trial is available for 60 days, but it’s a much more substantial subscription form than some of the others mentioned. It’s time some companies realised that less is more! Anyway, considering I’m getting it for free I was happy enough to sign my life away.

If you use Dreamweaver, there is a free plugin for Constant Contact – from the guys at Web Assist. Alternatively you can use either the built in wizard to generate the HTML markup, or work out what variables you need to send in a post request. Any web savvy developer should know how to go about implementing this on a site.

As for editing the actual emails that get sent out, I was slightly disappointed. Whilst Constant Contact comes with a lot of preloaded templates, and Advanced stylesheet editing of these, I wasn’t able to easily see where to upload my own html, and there wasn’t an option for loading in a web page. They appear to be offering an additional service to let them create you a template. So in other words, you aren’t able to generate your own Html to send, because they use this as an additional revenue generation method. If you aren’t comfortable with HTML, and would rather just concentrate on the content, this would be more suitable for you.

The interface, whilst predominantly wizard based forced me into navigating the way THEY wanted me to, not the way I wanted to. This might suit some users, but didn’t appeal to me.

Vertical Response.

http://www.verticalresponse.com/

Special Features: Free 10,000 emails a month for non profits. Google Analytics integration. Opt-in alerts.

Reporting Features:

Interface: 8/10

Price per 1000 contacts: Pay as you go (£10)  Monthly (£19)

Free trial? 30 days free trial.

Pricing information: Available here.

Features: Available here

Screenshots:Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

vertical-response

Vertical Response doesn’t make the same mistake as Constant Contact, and offers a variety of ways of creating a newsletter, depending on skill level.  I couldn’t quite work out why exactly the monthly pricing plan appears to be twice the price of the pay as you go. Maybe someone from Vertical response can give us some clarification on it.

I loved the interface within Vertical Response. It feels polished as an application, and includes important fields such as the address of the sender (to bring you into line with email law).  It also has a hosted version available out of the box, which allows you to send a mailer, and not worry about it being displayed wrong in different browser versions. They have worked hard on building a community of internet marketers who use the product, whom you can join and interact with to learn more about internet marketing, and the product over at the Vertical Response Lounge. I imagine we will see people building this sort of community around a product as the social web develops.

The form creation tools were also easy to use. Vertical Response uses a simple HTML form, which you copy paste into your site. Code Monkey’s will be able to adjust this to their needs, to blend perfectly into a site or blog.

One of the neato features of Vertical Response, was the opt-in alerts, which email you updates when someone subscribes periodically based on settings within the system. For US customers, they also offer a postcard system for direct mailing. Can’t wait until someone creates a similar system over here.

MadMimi

http://madmimi.com/

Special Features: Bit of an API, for adding to your lists.

Reporting Features: Bounces / Opens / Forwards

Interface: 7/10

Price per 1000 contacts: £7 a month WOOP!

Free trial? Free for up to 100 contacts.

Pricing information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

madmimi

Unlike some of the others listed here – this application that allows for a fully customised mailer to go out. Upload your images, place them within the system and away you go. Whilst it is a little feature poor in comparison to some of the others, it kinda makes up for it in the simplicity of the site itself, and the mailing interface. Newbies and tech heads alike will love it. Out of all the email systems I’ve reviewed it was one of the quickest that I found for creating a campaign, literally only taking 5 minutes to get from the initial signup right to the sending of the test mails. Even quicker than campaign monitor. Awesome!

You can see the creation of a campaign is super easy (training video) – although I couldn’t find how to create a completely HTML copy and paste type mailing.

If you are running a smaller community, and don’t want to go all out with crazy analytics etc, MadMimi would defo be one to check. As a plus the guys seem really nice when I contacted them, and their colourful and quirky site perfectly reflects the ethos of the company. Go check Mimi out, she’s pretty hot for a geeky chic.

Interspire / Big Response.

http://www.interspire.com/emailmarketer/

http://www.bigresponse.com

Special Features: Downloadable or Hosted versions. Import from Outlook

Reporting Features: Main Dashboard includes flash graphs.

Interface: 5/10

Price per 1000 contacts: £10 a month (hosted) – or once off fee of £340 (downloadable)

Free trial? 30 day free trial

Pricing information: Available here

Features: Available here

Screenshots: Screenshot1 | Screenshot2 | Screenshot3

big-response

Out of all the solutions offered up here, interspire was the only one that offered both a hosted and downloadable product solution. This is genius. For the people who know how to go about setting up a server, the downloadable one offers major benefits, pay once for life, and never worry about email marketing costs again! You can even pay the guys to set the thing up for you on a server of your choice for an extra fee. Interspire also offer some upport material online, so you can see some of the questions other marketers are asking on the answers WIKI.

If you aren’t however comfortable with setting up a server, or paying for the associated hosting costs, they also offer the same product, as a hosted service. Overall the service seems relatively reliable and easy to use – although features wise it seems a bit weak.

Free / Open Source options

PHP List – Downloaded over 10,000 times each month, PHP list is an active and stable PHP solution for email management. It may not be as polished as some of the above listed options, but can be beneficial to those on a tighter than tight budget.

Open EMM – ASP Newsletter subscription solution.

Sugar CRM – Sugar CRM has built in email marketing.

i386 – open source ASP.NET Newsletter system. - Built in C#, this may be a product the .NET geeks amongst us can get our teeth into.

MailMan – GNU License.

DadaMail – Written in Perl and can be set to use a flat file or a database like MySQL or PostgreSQL.

Sympa – Mailing List Server

Infinite Responder – Hybrid of an Autoresponder script and a newsletter system.

MailSend3r – A French open source mail script

Digger Solutions – open source ASP.net script

Honourable Mention

Here’s a few other sites we didn’t get around to reviewing fully, but maybe will follow up with a post about them later:

Oempro4 – Downloadable product, about £170 with current exchange rates.

Ion Technologies – A local company in Northern Ireland I’ve heard great things about. They have an enterprise product, but no online demo for it as yet, so I couldn’t give it a fully rounded review.

Toddle.com – a web application for creating attractive newsletters, you can then use the generated source for pasting into one of the above applications.

SubScriberMail - who offer a pretty awesome E-book on email marketing for free.

Summary


It’s no wonder  that so many web based email marketing solutions have made their way onto the web. It’s a pretty profitable business model.

Let’s be honest here, email (when its not in Bulk) doesn’t cost the companies concerned anything to send. It’s as simple as performing a few simple steps including setting up the correct SPF records, and hooking a mail server up to your application – whether it be a web or desktop application.

What you are paying for is the maintainance of the servers, and the infrastructure required to send large volumes of mail. The providers above have probably also identified themselves to the major email providers.  More often than not it’s worthwhile investing in a reliable email provider for bulk mailings, rather than the DIY option. It’s also important, that you work out how much mail you actually intend to send – and aren’t spending excessively on your campaigns.

In my opinion if you are newbie, and aren’t comfortable with HTML, your best option would be something like MadMimi or Vertical Response, which has a good selection of templates. If you are a web developer / web designer / internet marketer – you would be best suit with a system that allows for fuller customisation of HTML,  and has well rounded Analytics.  Planning on reselling to a client – go for Campaign Monitor or MailChimp.  If your client is at the higher enterprise size, Signup.To or Pure360 are probably your best bets.

I’m sure you can imagine this took quite a bit of time to compile. I’d love a bit of social media love if you found it useful. You will get your reward in social media heaven.

Filed in: EmailReviews
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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (35)

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  1. Thanks for the great review of Toddle Paul. Nice overview of what is available.

  2. Irina says:

    Nice article. One question still: do you know any tool with Omniture integration?

  3. Brett atkin says:

    Thanks, good list.

    You’re wrong about Constant Contact. You can create custom emails entirely in your tool of choice and create messages based on that HTML. They don’t make it easy to find and the way they track click-thru’s is screwy (it requires special HTML code). It’s an affordable tool to use, but it requires some experience and searching to get custom messages. I use it because I have too. I use Campaign Monitor when I can for clients and for my own messages.

    Brett

  4. Justin Parks says:

    Excellent and very valuable information Paul. Will be bookmarking and saving this for now and definitely a long time reference in the future. Deserves a Digg, a Stumble and a good round of twitter notification.

    Will be very valuable for me recommending the different services to clients with email management requirements and allow me to drill it down to the most effective option.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Jake Holman says:

    Great reviews here Paul, must have taken you some time to get through it all! We would love you to take a look at our solution, if you should do such an informative blog post again.

  6. Great list. I’m using PHPlist for some time now, and I’m happy with it (mostly; main issue is the “powered by” at the bottom of my emails, which breaks the design). I’m testing right now oemPro and Dada, will come back with details.

  7. Andrew says:

    No Cheetahmail? They are a pretty big player–are they too big for this list? What gives?

  8. Paul Anthony says:

    @Andrew –

    I’ve never heard of them, but I did a good there – and they don’t provide an easily accessible demo anyway.

    @Marius – as always, thanks for stopping by, do let me know how you got on, I’ll link to any write up that you do yourself, if that’s of interest. I do like to reward my loyal readers.

    @Irina – Try EmailVision – its a French offering. See this link http://www.dmnews.com/Emailvision-joins-Omniture-Network/article/98430/

    @Brett – I did see it in there literature, but couldn’t find it in the program. Well sussed out there. Thanks.

  9. Hey Paul,

    Well done for putting in the work to write this article, and thanks for the review of Campaign Monitor too. We’re still seeing tons of people signing up to send their own campaigns, but certainly the ‘rebrand and sell as your own product’ side is a big growth area.

  10. Cliff Guy says:

    Hi Paul

    Very interesting reading – it’s always incredibly valuable to get independent user feedback like this. Ease of use is something dotMailer has built its reputation and popularity on, and we are always seeking our clients’ views on how we can help make it even easier to use dotMailer’s growing suite of features. We hold User Group meetings under NDA, where we seek user feedback, and it would be great if you could come along to the next one of these (the last one was held just last Friday). We’re right in the middle of a programme of interface enhancements so your input would be very timely!

  11. Lobotom says:

    Hi,

    MailSend3r seems to be a italian product not a french one, except if french programmers build website in italian !

  12. Michael says:

    What about Emercury.net. We have been using them for 5 years now.

  13. This is certainly a good list, but it’s not always the system that counts! Wouldn’t you ever consider using a local company for your email marketing campaigns?

  14. dixiemarco says:

    Hay Paul,

    Great artical and thanks for putting it together. I’m really glad I came across your post because I’ve been researching email marketing platforms all weekend, so this has really helped…!

    Keep up the good work.

  15. sudhir says:

    Thank you Paul,

    Still at the end confused between, constant contact / verticalresponse / mailchimp / icontact.

    Please suggest.

    Regards,
    Sudhir

  16. Ryan says:

    Why no mention of Aweber ???

  17. Thanks for information about the email marketing software, one of the email marketing softwares that I really like is Omnistar Mailer at http://www.omnistarmailer.com this software is easy to use and you just pay a one time fee.

  18. Dawn Baird says:

    Paul

    I finally adopted MailChimp, and ahve to say, it’s working like a dream. Just enough stats to read in about 5 minutes once a month.

    It also has a great subscribe/unsubscribe function and easy widgets.

    Sorted!

  19. Alex says:

    I use mi|emailer from Montpellier Interactive – 200 free emails, free custom template, no contract or setup costs.

  20. James says:

    Good information but no mention of Traction Platform. Why not? Doing research i found Traction offered a very good all in one process compared to the others.

  21. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi James.

    The reason “Why not” is a combination of things. Firstly – to review every email system on the web would take absolutely forever, this article does not claim to perform this function and is merely a guide based on my existing knowledge of email marketing systems.

    Secondly, the product you have mentioned was not on my radar, as I’d never heard of it. So to fully respond to your query I’d say the reason was that their marketing was not disruptive enough to make its way into my thought processes when I was writing the article.

    Hope that answers your query.

  22. Thank you for this review.

    I’ve used Infusionsoft and supported clients on them since late 2008 and have found it to be a powerful, integrated email marketing platform. They offer a 15-day free trial on their site but they’ve authorized a 30-day free trial through my site TheSalesWhisperer.com for small business owners/entrepreneurs interested in trying it out.

  23. Margot says:

    I’m now using MailChimp and finding it brilliant. It actually provides up to 2000 subscribers with 12,000 emails per month, absolutely free. (rather than the 100 you mention). So great for companies like mine. My boss keeps asking me, “are you sure it’s free? But it’s so good!”

  24. Tom says:

    Hiya! I was wondering if this article has been updated as yet as its a few years old and it would be interesting to see how things have progressed amongst the ESPs?!! :)

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