Email Software: a Side-by-Side Comparison

If that headline actually sounds boring as hell to you, answer me this: how come one of the first questions I get from people who are starting to think more seriously about email marketing is “Which email service provider should I use?”

Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions.

This question comes up when people are first digging into email marketing because they hope against hope that choosing the right ESP is the key to making money from email. It’s not. It’s a bit like worrying about whether you should be on Facebook or Instagram, or whether your website should be on WordPress or Squarespace.

It also comes up when people are starting to grow their list or starting to send more emails. Many people start out by using Mailchimp. But they wonder things like:

  • Why is it free when the others aren’t?

  • Am I missing out on some feature that could be making me more money?

  • How hard is it to switch from Mailchimp to a different ESP if I finally figure all this out later?

They see their biz buddies using Convertkit, ActiveCampaign, or Infusionsoft (now Keap). What do those do?

Well, you can view my side-by-side comparison of email service providers here. Here are some important highlights to look out for as you review:

  • Convertkit, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, Drip,, and a few others offer Visual Automations. These are drag and drop systems that make it easier to zoom out to see the whole email journey for your customers. You can visualize how they go from sequence to sequence. Mailchimp doesn’t provide visual automation. You can automate but it’s harder to see the big picture.

    • This means that if you’re introducing automated email sequence (like a welcome sequence or an evergreen sequence that sells an online product), you might find it easier to keep track of what you’re doing. Visual Automations are also “drag-and-drop.” You drag your email in, then you drag a “wait a day” icon, then your next email. So they are really easy to understand.

    • Convertkit’s Visual Automations are especially useful because you can see all of them on one screen at the same time, which can help you understand how they relate to each other.

  • Systems like Infusionsoft and Ontraport offer a lot more than email. They have built-in CRMs, which means a customer’s entry can be automatically updated based on where she is in her email journey. This also makes them really complicated to learn how to use on your own.

  • One system in particular, Klayvio, concentrates on tying email to revenue, which is really important for online sellers, particularly e-commerce businesses with loads of products.

  • They all offer different levels of customer service.

*Note: I included Klayvio and on this list even though I’ve never used them because I’ve heard special things about them: they have features that the others don’t have. Any time I really couldn’t compare because I hadn’t used that feature, I wrote in “n/a.”

Check out my side-by-side comparison:

If you want to hear more straight forward takes on how to use email that aren’t all tech geek or all web writing geek, join my list. I share tips every week.

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