Best FREE email marketing systems – Mailchimp vs MailerLite
(Pssst… a version of this post originally appeared as a Guest Post on Get it Done Mum Biz School Blog, one of my favourite Biz Communities for Female Entrepreneurs.)
I’ve been a user of MailChimp almost as long as I’ve been a blogger. Shortly after I started blogging in 2010 and started developing an email list, MailChimp was the only free option I could readily find so, it wasn’t rocket science to forge ahead as an avid MailChimp user. I have been using MailChimp on my own, and clients’ businesses ever since.
Cut to 2018, and there is now an abundance of free email-list-building options in the online market. From what I read in Facebook groups (the ones I hang out in any way) Mailerlite seems to be snapping at MailChimp’s heels to rival the most-recommended free email building platform.
This made me curious to know – which IS better these days for growing and maintaining an email list?
Enter the Mailerlite vs Mailchimp test…
When I put systems up against each other, or consider them for my own or a client’s business, I like to use the SMART acronym to help decide whether a system will add the right value. You can read more about implementing SMART systems here. In this case, SMART stands for:
So let’s look at who wins the SMART test when it comes to Mailchimp vs Mailerlite
How big can it get?
Both MailChimp and Mailerlite are very scalable. Unless you plan to grow your email list to be an uber large account of over 50,000 (in which case I suspect you’d be better off to have an all-in-one marketing system) then both options provide the ability to scale.
However, the pricing is not created equal – see below under ‘affordable’ for the full price comparison if cost is an issue for you.
Scalability Winner: Both tools offer scalability (although not at an equal future cost)
Who has the simplest and most responsive automation?
To answer this, I set up a simple automation in both MailChimp and Mailerlite. I instantly delivered a lead magnet from a website opt-in, then I set up a series of follow up emails to be sent at intervals after the initial lead magnet was delivered.
This was something that I was eager to test because I have personally found in the past (for myself and clients) that the MailChimp automation is lacking in speed. It works, but it’s clunky, and there is a large delay between someone subscribing and receiving the lead magnet.
In my experience, people are impatient and want instant results (ME – ha!). I feel like overnight (or random) delivery windows like MailChimp’s are no good. So, I was excited to put the Mailerlite automation service to the test.
I am happy to report that Mailerlite’s automation was not only extremely quick to set up but it was also instant for delivery.
As an added bonus, Mailerlite also offers landing pages so you don’t even need an external website or landing page account to get started adding people to your email list in a professional way.
This is fantastic value if you are just starting out in business because websites and landing pages can be expensive to set up (not to mention the time it takes to learn how to use them).
In this test, I was able to build a stand-alone landing page in Mailerlite in minutes, and it worked seamlessly to collect test email addresses and deliver the lead magnet email sequence.
Automation Winner: Mailerlite is the clear winner when it comes to basic automation. Especially as it offers the ability to have a stand-alone landing page, without needing your own website.
Which has the most integrations available?
Beginners often overlook this question altogether because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ when you are starting out and unless somebody tells you to think about it, it’s easy to miss. Basically, with integrations, we’re talking about making sure that the different systems you end up using in your business all work well together.
This may seem simple, but as you grow it can be incredibly frustrating to realise that an important tool you’d like to use doesn’t ‘talk’ to your existing systems!
Initially, I phrased the question above as “who has the better integration options?” But then I realized that was an incredibly difficult question to answer, because what is “better”?
Better for one business is different to another, because everyone uses different systems and the best choice for you is one that integrates with the systems you need it to.
If you don’t have any systems in place yet i.e you really are just starting out then you are probably ok with either of these providers. You can choose your email marketing tool, then double check that new tools or systems you add to your business over are time are compatible as you go.
However, if you have an existing website, website plugins, CRM or shopping carts then you really should double check that they work well alongside these email services first, before you sign up for them!
Both Mailerlite and MailChimp integrate with a wide variety of other systems. I would suggest that MailChimp probably has the lead in this area, but you can see the full list of systems each integrates with here to double check what is going to work best for you.
I would suspect that whichever shopping cart and CRM you have chosen to use for your business will dictate your option for integrations here.
Integrations Winner: totally depends on your own unique business needs
Who has the best reports?
This is close because the reports seem pretty similar. Both will do the job. I like how Mailerlite has a click map which visually shows in the email you sent who clicked through where. That’s a cool feature which I think gives Mailerlite the edge.
Reporting Winner: Mailerlite by a hair, but they are both pretty equal here
Which one has the quickest and most reliable delivery?
Based on automation testing I would say Mailerlite does. But, it should be noted I have not used Mailerlite extensively to send emails to my list, so I’m not sure what the delivery rates are compared to MailChimp (which has a tendency to end up in spam folders). If you have a paid MailChimp account, you can batch send your emails to reduce this. I couldn’t see that the same option was available in Mailerlite.
Automation Delivery Winner = Mailerlite
Overall Delivery Winner = unclear leader. More testing required on this one to be conclusive. We’d love to know your feedback on this in the comments if you use Mailerlite already!
Who has the sharpest price after the free version?
Both Mailerlite and Mailchimp and priced according to how many subscribers you have on your list. However, they are priced very differently to each other after you exhaust the free subscriber limit.
Here is a price comparison table:
In summary, MailChimp gives you the most subscribers for free (2000 free subscribers vs Mailerlite’s 1000).
If you have a list under 2,000, MailChimp will be the lowest in price for you.
MailChimp also raises its prices differently, which is more flexible – after 2,500 you can pay per extra 100. Whereas Mailerlite has larger less expensive bands – e.g. 2,501-5,000. Despite the larger bands, Mailerlite still offers the best value in my opinion.
Affordability Winner: MailChimp for under 2,000 subscribers. Mailerlite for over 2,000 subscribers.
Which one is easier to setup from scratch – import/export lists?
I was able to set up both by importing my list by CSV, within minutes. Although, it did take me a while to figure out how to setup different lists in Mailerlite because the terminology is different – most other programs refer to them as “lists”, not groups. That was a little confusing at first, but once I figured it out it made sense.
Both are equally as easy to export contacts out of, although I prefer how Mailerlite makes it available to download rather than how Mailchimp emails you when it’s done. It’s nice to stay in the same window for the whole process.
Easiest Setup Winner: Mailerlite, but a small fussy margin. Really, both are very adequate.
Which one made it easier to use the templates and build emails?
To be perfectly honest, both are almost identical. I think I like the Mailerlite layout slightly better, but it could be that I’m just so used to the Mailchimp look that it’s nice to have something fresh.
Which has more training available?
Because MailChimp has been popular for so long, Youtube is full of training videos of how to setup and use the system. MailChimp also has a blog full of learning resources for you to use.
However, Mailerlite has a whole section of easy-to-find (in a few clicks), easy-to-follow video tutorials which is what most of us are looking for these days right?
Teachable Winner: technically both have a ton of training available, but I am awarding this one to Mailerlite simply because the library of video tutorials are easy to find with a few clicks and should be sufficient for most topics.
I feel like both systems are good systems and I don’t believe you can go too wrong with either system.
However, I will tell you that unless (in the rare event) integrations are a make or break item for my clients, I will be recommending Mailerlite going forward. I think it’s an awesome system, and for most businesses cost will win over integrations every time!