Best Autoresponders & Email Marketing Software Review 2018
Email marketing is still one of the most powerful sales tactics online and this shows no sign of changing in 2018.
One question new marketers, website owners, and influencers tend to be unsure of is what are the best autoresponders and email marketing services available?
Well after 12 years in the business, I think I have a pretty good idea having tested and used more services than I care to remember, but for you my special people I will at least round up the autoresponder services worth mentioning.
One thing I can say is that email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics available to the digital entrepreneur and is one of the first things I do when setting up a new project or online business idea.
So if you are just starting out you should set one of these up at the same time as building your website, YouTube channel or whatever platform you are using to build a brand and gain influence.
What is an Autoresponder?
The term autoresponder software refers to the tool or service you use to create, sequence and automate targetted email campaigns.
To put it simply an autoresponder a tool that can automatically send emails and manage your email sales funnel, or your weekly newsletters and of course auto responses.
A sales funnel is a sequence of targetted email marketing messages that are automatically sent to subscribers of your email list to warm then up for a sale.
You can choose to send one email when a user subscribes to your email list or you can drip feed a sequence of emails maybe one each day or one every few days for the course of a week or two. This is a great way to build authority and trust with your readers while keeping them engaged with your content.
It also gives you many more opportunities to make a product or affiliate sale or maybe convert a cold lead into a new customer. You can also use your autoresponder software as a bulk email tool for sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter which is another way I often use these services, keeping customers of an eCommerce store up to date with news and product releases is just one example.
Because autoresponder services require single and sometimes double opt-in confirmation you can use them to mass email without falling foul of any spam laws provided you follow the best practices of the platform you choose.
People have said for years that your email list is your most powerful tool and they
weren't aren't wrong.
Having somebody commit to signing up to your email list is a much more serious commitment than just following you on Twitter or Instagram, giving you access to their inbox is like going to second base on the first date.
and once people have subscribed, if you are using your email sequence and funnel effectively, you can consider your autoresponder a "silent sales machine" that never takes a day off and greets your new subscribers with a warm welcome and nuggets of valuable knowledge.
There are many ways to entice people to sign up for your email list that varies from the simple approach of using a CTA (Call to Action) to offer people weekly updates and news when you publish something. Or you could take it a step further and create an email sequence such as a 5 part training guide or giveaway an educational eBook as a PDF download.
My personal favorite is to use it as an opportunity to recycle and deliver my very best content in the more efficient order and frequency, ensuring every new reader, no matter where they signed up gets to see all of my best work and most useful resources. forever!
Email marketing software and autoresponders have come a long way since I first got involved in web design and internet marketing and some have remained simple and straight to the point while others have evolved and merged to become a hybrid of email marketing and CRM software (customer relationship manager) offering even more control and insight into your subscribers.
So now you know what an autoresponder is and what they are used for, let's take a look at the best options.
The Best Autoresponders Compared
We are going to evaluate and compare the best autoresponders based on their target customer from beginner and small business up to much larger organizations, price, functionality, and ease of use. We will disregard services that either isn't up to par or provide too advanced a solution that spans far beyond the realm of autoresponders offering full CRM solutions as that will be better saved for a separate article.
TLDR: Aweber & Mailchimp are ideal if you are on a budget and don't require CRM functionalities or advanced automation and email funnels but if you do need something more intelligent and able to support much larger lists and organizations then opt for GetResponse or try MarketHero.
Founded in 1998 Aweber is now 20 years old and can be considered one of the early movers in the space capitalizing on the first digital rush pre dot-com crash and survived the tell the tale.
I was using their services as early as 2005 and have used them for a number of projects ever since. Their service offers great value for money and the platform is easy to understand for beginners.
Aweber offers a range of email marketing tools for different sizes of business and getting started couldn't be easier. What's even better is that most third-party website software and apps support the Aweber API due to its popularity and network effect.
This means if you use WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace or some other popular website or eCommerce platform to run your business, integrating with Aweber will be a matter of a few clicks and connecting your API keys.
Aweber includes a good range of ready-designed email templates that you can use straight away or customize to fine tune with your branding and approach to email marketing. You can build multiple email lists as well as segment them into various groups to remarket to accordingly, create email funnels, track email opens, clicks and various other email analytics.
Given their time in the market they have had the chance to master the support side of the business, something many SaaS companies fail to deliver on. Aweber has live chat on their website, phone support, email support and live educational webinars to help you grow your list and make the most of your autoresponder software.
They also include a large knowledge base of tutorials and user guides however you can also find a plethora of step by step guides on various aspects of using Aweber by searching around google.
Aweber has a few social media integrations such as Facebook Lead Ads, Facebook Connect, AutoShare and Webforms, however, some of these services require you using third-party tools like Zapier.
One drawback which is shared with some other services is that when Aweber charge you based on a per subscriber basis, 1 email address in two of your lists actually equals 2 subscribers, so you are billed twice if you have subscribers go into different lists as part of your email funnel setup.
One workaround is to segment using groups or segments instead but this is a deal breaker for some with large lists where subscribers appear in multiple lists.
There is a free 30 day trial with the basic packages starting at $19 per month thereafter, the price goes up based on the size of your email list as with most providers in this space.
MailChimp is the ultimate choice for absolute beginners with no budget for the foreseeable future. I say that because Mailchimp offers a completely free package for users with lists under 2000 users. This means while you are building up your following and influence you can practice and learn with no risk aside from your time setting up funnels and email templates etc.
The user interface is very simple and easy to use however the free accounts don't benefit from the fantastic support you can get from upgrading so I know people who have upgraded before they reached the 2000 user limit because they wanted to the additional benefits of having support, as well as other pro user, features such as automation.
Much like Aweber Mailchimp is widely adopted and as a result compatible with most third-party programs and tools that allow you to connect an Autoresponder. WooCommerce and WordPress are ideal examples where you might want to connect your Mailchimp API keys so you can automate the collection of email from customers or use form builder software to make attractive landing pages.
MailChimp makes it very easy to use their template builder and provides a good amount of pre-created designs for you to choose from. Within templates, you have access to merge tags and tracking features.
It's fairly easy to set up an email sequence in MailChimp, however, the interface is not as advanced as some more complex email funnel builders like MarketHero and Drip.
Live chat, email support are included for paying customers though there is no phone support, however, they make up for it with a large database of tutorials, videos, and other explainer articles to help you navigate your way through the platform and make the most of the features. If there's something you can't find out then there is a good chance a search on YouTube will reveal the answer.
The only negative I hear about MailChimp is that they aren't big fans of affiliate marketers and internet marketing which is quite iron since that's one of the main purposes of an autoresponder and definitely rules it out from winning the gold in our race to be the best autoresponder software.
Another benefit is they have features that allow you to create Facebook and Instagram Ad campaigns and have recently added a new native landing pages feature like ClickFunnels have.
Mailchimps paid plans start at the very cheap price of $10 per month with packages ranging up to $199 for pro marketers will intensive requirements.
MailChimp is another service that counts one email address in two separate lists as two subscribers, which is not ideal but when you are using their free service and just one list this doesn't matter until later.
In summary, MailChimp is a great option if you are on a very tight budget but does lack some features other autoresponders offer but use it wisely or you may be asked to move to another provider if you fall foul of their strict TOS.
Keeping it simple is the name of the game, manage your email lists, your contacts and your different templates with less confusion and head scratching is what they have achieved with many people opting for this service when more complex features aren't required.
As with the other platforms you can also track opens and clicks as well as reporting on your email campaign performance.
Live chat, email, and a community forum are available for support along with an in-depth knowledge base.
Constant Contact also often hold webinars and training sessions to help small and medium businesses get started using their list.
A 60 day no questions asked trial is available with their basic package starting at $20 per month after that. A good option but for the price I personally prefer Aweber at this level of functionality.
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Drip is one of the email marketing companies pioneering what they call 'intelligent marketing automation' with more of a focus on creating email funnels and sequences that lead your subscribers down different user journeys that are more likely to lead to them taking action.
Tight integration with Facebook ads and retargeting you can really go into detail with how you are personalizing the experience for each and every person on your list.
Knowing your list is aware of which products your subscribers have purchased in the past is an extremely powerful way to help you predict what they might want to buy next and everybody knows that your best sales opportunities are your existing customers.
Despite all of the powerful functionalities Drip remains user-friendly and is still ideal for beginners, especially if you know from the start that you need to be using state of the art intelligence in your email marketing strategy.
As it has become popular more and more third-party tools have integrated with Drip including BeaverBuilder, WooCommerce, Shopify, e-Junkie, Paypal, Zapier, 1ShoppingCart and more, the list is one of the largest I have seen.
Drip was acquired by the folks behind LeadPages to become the AutoResponder to compliment their landing pages services they already offer.
Being able to segment your audience based on such an array of criteria really makes Drip stand out, there, however, a drawback is that they don't have an email template library like many of the alternatives provide to make it easier for beginners to create attractive emails.
Support is available in the form of live chat, regular webinars free guides, a course and a plenty of docs.
You can try Drip absolutely free but only up to 100 subscribers however it is still a great way to get a taste with a small sample of existing subscribers or if you are starting out and starting from the ground up. Their basic package comes in at $41 per month after you reach 100 subscribers which is a little more expensive than Aweber but does pack a punch at the same time.
Another popular option though one I have had limited experience testing and using for clients is GetResponse. A well-known name in the autoresponder space that has been on the market for a number of years.
GetResponse features high-quality marketing automation and smart campaigns, a drag and drop builder and the ability to segment your list into groups for more targetted campaigns.
GetResponse has its own form builder which some tools lack, A/B testing and supports a number of third-party services like SalesForce and Google Docs.
One perk of GetResponse is they do offer phone support in addition to live chat and email which is handy those that prefer to speak to someone, though in my opinion, I prefer live chat for simplicity.
You can take a 30-day free trial with their pricing starting at $15 per month, a pretty affordable option but maybe not with the might and power of a couple of the other options.
ActiveCampaign is seen as one of the most comprehensive email marketing tools because it goes beyond offering just an autoresponder service and a few other typical bells and whistles.
Founded in 2003, so a well-established provider ActiveCampaigns success has been largely driven by their advanced CRM functionalities and intelligent marketing funnels.
Manage subscribers with lists or tags (similar to groups with MailChimp) benefit from advanced A/B split testing and some of the best tracking and reporting tools available.
You can integrate ActiveCampaigns with pretty much anything thanks to services like Zapier which offer full support for various actions and triggers.
Support is available in the form of live chat, forums, and an online knowledge base.
The form builder functionality is one of their best assets on the higher plans that unfortunately is let down a little by limited functionality for basic users and a small library of form templates that are pre-built for you.
This only matters if you rely on using the form builder provided by your autoresponder of course. Many don't!
The form builder functionality is lacking unless you are willing to upgrade to a more premium plan which for some will come as a disappointment. This may be because a lot of customers use third-party tools for their forms anyway and then simply connect them to the API.
ConvertKit includes signup forms, ability to send drip fed email sequences and many other useful facilities. List segmentation is also available giving you the ability to refine your follow up emails based on various criteria like who opened and clicked links in previous emails and so on.
Support is available via email only though they also have a large collection of documentation.
One benefit mentioned by Brian Gardner (of Studiopress fame) when he recently switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit was due to Mailchimp and other providers counting one email subscriber as two subscribers if they appear on two separate lists, which can easily skew the cost comparison.
Unfortunately, there's limited A/B split testing functionality as well as a lack of reporting tools and data but for most users, ConvertKit is definitely a great option.
ConvertKit while having a simple and easy to use automation tool, does lack in some departments since you can't create new automations based on site tracking.
The price starts at $29 per month for up to 1000 subscribers with no free trials though they offer a short demo and there is a 30-day refund policy.
A relative newcomer on the scene MarketHero has the simplicity of aweber with the functions of activecampaign without the steep learning curve. MarketHero is the brainchild of multi-millionaire internet marketer Alex Becker who wanted to develop a piece of email marketing software around his own needs and knowing how to create good products he also ensured the graphical user interface was just beautiful.
Benefits include advanced link tracking, allowing you to easily track sales on platforms like Shopify and tie them to email clicks so you can see how much you have generated from each subscriber. The attractive dashboard also features return on investment calculation on the fly with numerous filters so you can analyze what is working and what's not.
Integrates with Click Funnels, Shopify, PayKickStart, Zapier, Demio, Leadpages, Warrior Plus, JVZoo, SamCart to name a handful of popular tools.
They also have live chat and email support and monthly training webinars to help you get the most out of the service where you get to sit in with some of the most renowned digital marketing gurus as they dissect the process from beginning to end showing you how to build your list and then how to effectively deliver value with carefully targetted sales pitches or advertisements.
Now this is maybe not a tool for the absolute beginner starting out as it starts at $99 per month which allows you up to 7500 subscribers, however, if you already have a following and want to perfect email marketing through advanced and intelligent funnels that are still extremely easy to setup then look no further than this autoresponder.
In my opinion, all of the autoresponder services mentioned above are a bargain if you already have a list of email subscribers and you are looking to build more trust, create a better service and seek opportunities to market products to your existing followers.
Two tools that also feature fantastic autoresponder tools but maybe a little overkill for this list are InfusionSoft and ActiveCampaign. Both of these services could also be considered CRMs and as such involve a steeper learning curve for someone new to email marketing and looking for something a little less intensive to get used to.
and the winner is...
In conclusion, autoresponders are still one of the most vital tools in the internet marketers toolkit and if you are looking for something on the simpler end to start out with that has a proven track record then I highly recommend Aweber which comes with a free trial and is a low monthly cost thereafter as long as you have a small list.
If you want something that's still user-friendly but also want to tap into smart email marketing intelligence tools and other integrations then maybe Drip is the Autoresponder for you, at least you can't lose with the free trial for the first 100 subscribers.
If you are just starting out then you can't go wrong with Mailchimp while you work on building your first thousand subscribers and refine your process of turning that into an income stream for your online business before committing to monthly payments.
Benefits of Email Marketing & Autoresponders
Still not convinced on email marketing?
Let's look at some of the benefits.
Ownership - When you build social media subscribers on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or other social media platforms you are at the mercy of their algorithms that are constantly evolving and changing to make more advertising revenue, usually at the expense of your organic visibility.
Also contrary to what most people think, you don't own your subscriber lists on these social platforms because if they decided to sell up or close down tomorrow you have very little say in the matter. With an email list, its completely yours and you can do with it as you please taking it from one email marketing provider to another when you want.
Relationship building & Trust - There's no better way to gradually build trust with your audience than dropping them an occasional email delivering lots of value. If a prospect is tempted but not convinced, this is one of your best chances to seal that deal and let them know you really are an authority worth listening to.
Automation - Being able to greet all of your new subscribers with personalized messages and then engage them with a pre-designed and tested series of emails is extremely powerful marketing and works for you 247, 365 days of the year, when you are sleeping or tucking into your dinner, your autoresponder is communicating with your followers.
Ready to take the next step? Sign up with the provider above that best suits your needs and move onto building out your email marketing strategy.
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Web Designer, Digital Marketer & Entrepreneur with over a decades worth of experience helping small and medium sized businesses evolve and adapt to the modern digital marketplace.