The Best Email Marketing Services and Survey Software of 2020

By Kiely Kuligowski,
business.com writer
| Updated
Mar 04, 2020
Image Credit: Dekdoyjaidee / Getty Images

Email marketing has grown exponentially as a service in the last decade. There are dozens upon dozens of providers that offer different combinations of features at varying price points, making it difficult to find the right service for your small business.

To help you find the best solution for your needs, we spent dozens of hours researching and evaluating nearly 90 email marketing services. We scrutinized the features they offer, how easy or complex the platforms are to use, and their costs. Below are our best picks. We selected four services: the best overall email marketing service, the best service for larger businesses, the best free service and the best low-cost service. Read our reviews, then scroll down to read the important features to look for in an email marketing service and see what questions the business.com community has about email marketing services.

Best Picks

Benchmark Email
Benchmark Email
Best Low Cost Email Marketing Service

Find the right email marketing service for your business

Editor's note: Looking for email marketing software for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Reviews

Be sure to read our reviews. Learn more about the costs of each service, the specific features offered, plus what we liked and didn't like so much about each solution.

How Much Will You Spend on an Email Marketing Service?

Most email marketing providers charge a monthly fee based on the number of contacts you have and the number of emails you plan to send. Plans then vary further based on specific features. 

On average, monthly plans range in price from $10 per month for 500 contacts to $4,000 per month for 1 million contacts. Services that have a free option typically provide limited features in the free version and cap the number of emails to 10,000 per month. 

For businesses that only occasionally need an email marketing service, some providers allow per-email or pay-as-you-go pricing. This is a flexible option ‒ you only pay for what you use rather than paying money each month for a subscription that may go to waste. 

Most email marketing services offer a free version of their software or a free 14- or 30-day trial so you can test out the software and see how it works for you. 

We recommend trying as many free trials as you can during your search so you truly get a feel for which email marketing service offers the best solution for your business. Pay attention to how easy it is to design emails, seek out services that offer the marketing automation features you want (e.g. autoresponders, templates, etc.), and see what other applications the software can integrate with.

Negotiation Tips

Most email marketing plans' pricing terms are set in stone, but there is one way to get a discount: If you prepay for a year upfront, you typically receive about 15% off. Most services also offer discounts for qualifying nonprofits.

Email Marketing Services Features

As you compare email marketing services, here are some core features you want to look for.

  • An email creation tool: Most services provide a user-friendly drag-and-drop tool that allows you to customize your emails, or customizable pre-made templates. Some providers have templates that show you how your email will look on multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones. This can help you design a flexible and responsive email. An easy-to-use and responsive email creator is critical. The best email marketing tools also have extensive templates that work on both desktop and mobile devices.

  • Analytics: Once you send an email, you'll want to determine how it's doing. Most services provide a range of data, including how many emails you sent, how many of them landed in inboxes, the bounce rate, who opened your emails, and the number of clicks and opens by location. Click-through and open rates are two basic metrics all email marketing services should provide. Those are important metrics to track for businesses.

  • Marketing automation tools: Marketing automation is the ability to send specific, targeted emails to certain customers when they complete a certain action. For example, if a visitor to your website signs up to receive emails from you, your email marketing provider's marketing automation tool will trigger a welcome email to be sent to that customer's inbox. Marketing automation can be an effective timesaver, and many email marketing services are creating ways to make automated emails more personal, which leads to higher engagement and ROI.

  • Segmentation: This is another helpful way to deliver more relevant messages to your audience by grouping them by things like age, location, gender, industry or interests. Segmentation allows you to send different emails to different groups, rather than sending one mass email that may not be relevant to your entire customer base. Segmentation tools let separate contacts into specific groups to ensure they only receive content that's relevant to them. Creating smaller email lists within your one large email list helps you target groups more effectively.

  • Contact management: Your subscribers are the key to successful email marketing campaigns, so it's important to manage those subscribers efficiently. If your list has duplicate contacts or contacts who have unsubscribed, it hurts you. A contact management tool will help you acquire, sort, and manage your email contacts; it should provide features like automatic deletion of dead or duplicate contacts, importing, exporting, grouping, and integration with other management tools like a CRM or CMS.

  • A/B split testing tools: These tools let you test different variables in your email and then the software selects the better-performing version campaign. While most email marketing services offer this for subject lines, the best programs can test success rates based on multiple variables in your emails.

  • Inbox previews: You can see how your email will look on different devices and desktops before you send them.

  • Spam filters: It's vital that your emails go to the right place; they aren't doing any good in a spam folder. Thankfully, the best email marketing services have tools in place to ensure your customers see them.

  • Social media integration: Most email marketing services will integrate with social media platforms, which allows you to grow your contact list, schedule posts and track your followers' engagement to determine what's popular. Integrating your social media with email marketing will help you make the most of multichannel marketing by providing you with more information about your customers as well as more opportunities for them to see messages from you.

How Will My Business Benefit From Email Marketing?

As a small business, your marketing dollars matter. They have to deliver strong results, but you also can't afford to spend thousands on software when you have bills and employees to pay. Email marketing is an effective, low-cost method of communicating with your customers and building loyalty to your company. Email marketing delivers other benefits as well.

You can easily manage email campaigns.

First and foremost, an email marketing service provides you with one centralized place to create, manage and analyze your email campaigns. The software manages the entire process of creating and sending your email campaigns. It also gives you feedback on how your campaigns are performing.

Email marketing can improve your click-through rates.

A professional-looking email campaign will entice customers to click on the links you include in the email, which means higher click-through rates.  In the end, that results in increased traffic to your website.

You can provide personalized communication to consumers.

Customers in 2020 are expecting to see content that is personally tailored to them, rather than a rote mass email going out to a company's entire customer base. Email marketing services allow you to segment your customers by qualifiers such as age, gender, location and interests to help you customize your messages.

It offers multichannel marketing.

Many email marketing services allow you to embed or link to your social media platforms in your emails, which creates the opportunity for your business to advertise through multiple channels. This helps to increase brand awareness and the likelihood of return customers.

FAQs

Q: What is an email marketing service?

A: Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy where you send emails to customers and prospective customers. When email marketing is leveraged effectively, it can turn a one-time customer into a loyal customer. Email marketing services help you create eye-catching, professional emails, but it doesn't end there. Many services let you create automated responses, such as an email series welcoming a new subscriber who has signed up for your email list or offering a discount on a customer's birthday. This automation is helpful for small businesses – it allows owners to focus on running their business while their marketing strategy runs in the background; small businesses can continually gain new customers and grow. Finally, many services integrate with contact management so your contact data is always synced and up to date. 

Q: Why should I use an email marketing service?

A: While email marketing isn't necessary for every business, it is a good way to reach customers and improve your overall marketing strategy. Email is one of the world's most-used communication channels, which makes it a prime opportunity for businesses to get their message out. Email also has an ROI of 4,400%, according to the Data and Marketing Association, which is three times higher than social media. 

Q: How can I make my email marketing stand out?

A: With so many businesses using email marketing, it's important that your campaigns are relevant to your customers and subscribers. Selecting the email service that best fits your business is the first step in helping your campaigns stand out. After that, you'll want to use tools like list segmentation and automated responses to best cater to the wants and needs of your customer base. 

Q: What are the most important elements of email marketing?

A: Your business should aim to provide a balanced mix of promotional content and organic content. Much like a social media marketing strategy, you need to add value to the inbox or feed of your subscribers. If a customer subscribes to your emails, send them emails that relate to them. This is where segmentation becomes valuable. Writing in a tone that matches your business's brand is also a best practice. If you stick to your brand identity and send emails that add value to your subscribers, you'll be in good shape. 

Q: How can I decide which email marketing service is best for my business?

A: Businesses have different needs, and email marketing services have different strengths. If you're running basic email marketing campaigns, the least-expensive services probably make the most sense. If you're a bigger company sending emails to thousands of people, you need an email service that can easily handle that number of contacts while ensuring maximum deliverability with few errors. 

The most important factor driving your decision will be the number of emails you plan to send each month and how many subscribers you plan to have. This will give you a ballpark price point. Once you know the number of emails and contacts, then you need to determine which features you must have, which ones you'd like to have but are nonessential, and which features you do not need or want. Start with our best picks above, then read our review of the service or services that appeal to you most – we have listed the plans each service provides, the number of emails and contacts each plan supports and the features that come with the service. Be sure to read our pros and cons, too, so you get a sense of whether the software will meet your needs. 

When looking for the best email marketing service for your company, what are your needs? Are you looking to send email newsletters or are you looking to send mostly promotional emails? What metrics are the most important for your business to track? Some business value click-through rates, others value other metrics like the open rate of your emails. 

You may also want to look at features like opt-in forms, which help you legally obtain the email addresses of subscribers. 

Finally, choose a service that offers has a clean and intuitive interface so it's easy to find the tools you need. You'll also want the service to have an easy-to-use email editor, contact management tools, and drag-and-drop automation tools.

State of the Industry

Email marketing is in a good place in 2020. Businesses use it frequently as part of their overall marketing strategy and companies are getting $44 per every dollar spent on email marketing, according to a recent report from Campaign Monitor. Email marketing is a popular marketing channel.

Automation is an emerging trend in the email marketing space. The ability to send pre-written emails to customers once they trigger a cue is a great marketing tool. For example, a clothing store might send a special discount coupon to a customer on their birthday. This email can be identical for each customer, aside from their name, and the email can be scheduled to send every time someone's birthday comes. Marketing automation allows you to reach customers without having to put together a unique email every time an event occurs. Depending on the size of your business, automated emails can save tremendous amounts of time.

Monitoring the popularity and usefulness of email tools is important. As the industry changes and different trends emerge, you want to stay on top of what your customers want. If you run an extremely small business with a subscriber list of 200 people, automation might not be for you. You might benefit more from very personal email campaigns that engage those people, while larger businesses with thousands of subscribers might see better results from automated emails. As the industry changes, it's important to understand how your business works and that some tools might not make sense for your business. Don't jump on every email marketing trend.

The email marketing industry also has a lot of different companies in the space. This can make it difficult to sort through all the various offerings, but it also leads to more specialized offerings. Businesses of any size should be able to find an email marketing service that suits their business needs and improves their overall marketing strategy. To find the right service, it requires thorough research and comparisons between software you think might work best. Take advantage of the free trials that many companies offer.

What to Expect in 2020

Despite predictions that email marketing will become obsolete, it's still widely used and will remain so through 2020. 

While it's true that text message marketing has grown, consumers use email daily, which means there are daily opportunities for businesses to connect with their customers. 

Email marketing will become more technologically advanced in 2020, adopting and integrating more use of artificial intelligence into its capabilities. AI's primary function in email marketing will be to gather and analyze data to deliver better and more targeted experiences to customers, like specific subject lines or personalized email bodies. AI will also make emails more interactive by allowing customers to purchase products directly from the email, streamlining the buying journey. 

Additionally, we anticipate email marketing will become more personal as companies get more adept at obtaining and using personal data. Marketers will be able to pinpoint their customers' locations from wearable and mobile devices more accurately. They will then use that data to send targeted emails and personalized automated emails based on behavior, location and other personal information, and automatically reformat emails depending on what kind of device the recipient is reading the email on, like a smartwatch or tablet. 

Integration with smart devices like Alexa, Google Home, Cortana and Siri is also expected. Consumers are more comfortable talking to smart devices and having them talk back, so they should soon be able to have their emails read to them in addition to things like hearing the news or setting reminders.

Our Methodology

To find the best email marketing services, we started with nearly 90 email marketing vendors. We researched each provider thoroughly by investigating its services and reviewing features we deemed key, including pricing, ease of use, the platform's creation tools, contact management tools, segmentation tools, A/B split-testing features, analytics, deliverability and the company's customer service. 

We then narrowed down the list by eliminating vendors that don't specialize in email marketing campaigns, are not based in the United States, do not have enough information available online or don't work with small businesses. We also eliminated vendors that did not have a good online reputation as determined by online reviews and the Better Business Bureau. 

This brought our list down to 60. We then grouped contenders into each of our best pick categories – best overall email marketing service, the best service for larger business, the best free service and the best low-cost service. 

We took advantage of free trials or free versions, where possible. We uploaded contacts that included both Gmail and Outlook addresses, and designed and sent an email using the platform of each of our best picks. 

We rated each software program based on how easy it was to create the email and whether our email succeeded in landing in the inbox of our Gmail and Outlook addresses. Some emails landed in the spam folder or the promotions tab in Gmail, which we counted against the software. It's critical that businesses have their email campaigns delivered to a person's inbox. We compared the sent version of the email to the original email to make sure there were no wild, unpleasant discrepancies. As part of our evaluation, we also considered how easy the programs are to use, whether you can create email campaigns from scratch, use a template or import a fully designed email. 

Finally, we evaluated the support you'll receive from these email marketing services. We visited websites and assessed the number and quality of help resources available to clients, such as webinars, guides, and tutorials. As a busy entrepreneur, you need access to resources (often during evening hours or weekends when you have time) to quickly find answers to your most pressing questions and concerns. We also wanted to evaluate the personal touch these companies offer with their customer service. We contacted each company and posed as small business owners asking questions about the pricing and features. We evaluated how quickly we received a response to our questions and the quality of the support we received from the company. 

Be sure to check out our guides and white papers below, as well as questions posed by members of the business.com community. If you're not yet a member of our community, we highly encourage you to join and post your email marketing questions on our advice page.

Downloadable Guides

Email Marketing Guide
Email Marketing Guide

Download

The Comprehensive Email Marketing Guide is a free ebook that will walk you through all the crucial steps of creating a successful email strategy and plan that works.

Download it now to learn tips on: 

Goal setting
Email analytics
Creating a Strategy 
What to look for in an ESP
The anatomy of the perfect email
And more!

Step It Up!
Step It Up!

12 Tests to Optimize Email Performance

Download Now

You businesses should make sure that every email is earning its keep, and the best way to do that is through testing.

There is a multitude of factors that can influence email marketing performance rates. These 12 tests will take you to the next level in truly optimizing your email performance.

6 Email Marketing Challenges
6 Email Marketing Challenges

And How To Overcome Them

Get Your Guide

The good news is that there’s always a solution to these email marketing challenges. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest issues plaguing marketers and the solutions for each.

Why You Should Outsource Your Email Marketing
Why You Should Outsource Your Email Marketing

And How to Find the Right Consultant within 72 Hours

DOWNLOAD

Email marketing is a proven and cost-effective way to drive revenue and stay top-of-mind with prospects and customers.

eBook Download
eBook Download

Highly Effective Email Marketing

DOWNLOAD

As new marketing techniques and strategies pop up almost daily, email marketing has truly evolved to keep pace with flashy new technology and capture the attention of customers. A great email helps you engage your customer and deliver your message, which can make a difference between a click-through and a direct route to your website or losing a customer’s interest and being sent to the spam folder. 

Modern marketers need a combination of eye-catching design, clever text, and attention-grabbing headlines to engage today’s consumers. That’s why we have compiled a collection of our favorite emails.

Have a question related to email marketing?

Have an email marketing question of your own?

Your goals and objectives need to be different for whether it's an eblast (promotional email) or regular enewsletter. Eblasts are great for getting quick leads/sales, while enewsletters are better for staying top of mind, educating customers on new offerings, or providing helpful industry updates. I have found them to be very successful, but what works and what doesn't requires testing (of both the subject line and creative) and varies per business. Best practices for both types include have...

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The email software can be learned and used to benefit your business. But the time it takes to learn how to use it and the best way to use it can be time consuming and a lot of trial and error. Although a email marketing service can get that out their for you, the cost can be overwhelming. So, you are going to want someone that also does your social media work as well in order to know your product and get the message out that you want. There are companies out there that can do both and...

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I agree with David. Testing is important. Each demographic is going to work differently, so it honestly depends on who you're trying to reach. With health and wellness, you're looking at probably 58% male and 42% female audience between the ages of 18-35. Test through email and social to determine when your audience is most frequently online. Send out newsletters weekly on different days and different times of the day and see who is viewing the email and what % of success you have with each...

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Hi Lexi! Email marketing metrics can differ based on industry. Often times email marketing can be another way to stay in touch with the customer and remind them of your great service. I would evaluate your current emails and see if there is too much content in a monthly newsletter. Are people clicking? Are they even opening? Sometimes increasing emails to two a month with one featuring an employee or client testimonial which the other gives customers an offer such as a discount can increase...

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Anne: How many "contacts" do you have on your list. Most plans charge by the number of contacts. Some charge by the total number of contacts, some by the contacts per list (which means you pay for duplicates if a single contact is on multiple lists due to your segmentation activities). As both Ray and Gee indicated, most email service providers will meet your functional requirements. I have used MailChimp successfully but switched to ActiveCampaign because of the marketing automation...

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Email marketing effectiveness is largely determined by your relationship to the subscriber list. Below are some common list relationships, that largely determine how successful you will be. Email Marketing With No Prior Relationship Mostly Dead. While the FDA does allow you to send emails to recipients who you have no prior relationship with, or consent to mail to, nearly every email platform will not allow you to send to subscribers who have not given you permission first....

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