Which Email Marketing Platform Is Right For Your Business?

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How to choose the right email marketing program for your business:

Email is, by far, one of the most powerfully effective digital marketing channels around. It’s not only great for nurturing new leads through to becoming customers, but well-timed automated emails are also awesome for nurturing existing customers and enticing them back to purchase again.

In previous articles, I've explored four ways that email marketing can help you boost your profits with minimal ongoing cost and effort, and why I believe a smart email marketing strategy is a must for every small business. But as with any marketing strategy, you will need the right tools to do it well, and that means finding and implementing the right email marketing platform for your business.

Later in this article, I'll reveal the top 5 email marketing platforms for small businesses.

But, before you'll be able to know which email system will suit your business best, there are several questions you should first ask yourself:

  • How much is email marketing worth to your business?
  • What features do you need, to help you get the maximum return on your investment?
  • Do you have the skills to implement email marketing by yourself, or will you need some support? 
  • What do you want or need that support to look like?

Let's explore these in more detail, so that you're in a position to understand which email program to choose:

By the way, some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means we might earn a small commission if you choose to purchase from the companies we recommend. We only recommend tools we’ve used ourselves and love.

How much is email marketing worth to your business?

In case you haven't previously been convinced of its value, email marketing can be a game changer for your business! But exactly how much of one?

Here are some other ways well-timed emails can help you boost your bottom line:

  • Follow-up emails sent to a customer an hour after they abandon their shopping cart have a 6.33% conversion rate. Imagine if you could turn 6.33% of your abandoned carts into actual sales? 
  • The average newsletter open rate is between 18-26%. However, Lead Magnet welcome emails have an impressive open rate of 82%, giving you a powerful way of following up with new prospects!
    Imagine if you could carry on the conversation and sell to website visitors that would otherwise have just clicked away never to be seen again?
  • Email is 40 times more effective than social media for acquiring new customers. That sounds like considerably less effort...
  • The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success of selling to a new customer is 5-20%. Imagine if using email marketing could help you quickly increase the lifetime value and purchase frequency of your existing customers? That could lead to a huge boost in profit...

I could carry on with the statistics, but my main point is to get you to think about the value of email marketing to your business... 

What could it mean financially to your business, if some of these strategies could help you boost your sales and key customer value metrics?

When we approach it from this angle, it helps us see email marketing less as an "overhead" to our business, and more as an investment. And that can help us answer the next question:

How can we afford to pay for an email marketing program?

Let’s talk budget. 

If you are a small business, your marketing budget is potentially quite humble. Luckily, one of the biggest appeals of email marketing is its affordability and how much potential it has to help you grow sales.

Marketing platforms can range in price from $0 per month, to thousands of dollars a month. The cost varies depending on how many active subscribers you have and the system features on offer...

Some of the platforms I list further down, will allow you to start building using them for free, up until your email list reaches a certain size. That can be a tempting offer to go for when starting out. That's why they do it right - a free trial is their version of a Lead Magnet.

While your ongoing monthly subscription cost is a natural consideration, rather than opting for a free platform straight away, I recommend staying future focused, and first checking whether some of the advanced features I'll explain shortly, will have an increased ability to help you improve sales.

Because it's the return on investment, rather than the simple cost that matters the most.

You should also think about how likely you are to use the features though. Because all the bells and whistles won't help your returns, if they're not set up properly to serve you.

What features does your business need or want, to help you get the maximum return from your email marketing program?

With a wide range of email marketing systems available, you also get a wide range of functions and features to choose from. 

Before you get carried away by all the bells and whistles that you may or may not need, ask yourself: what do I actually need my email marketing system to do?

Here are 8 common email marketing features to consider if, and to what extent you'll need:

1. Customer support -

When things go wrong, or you get stuck using the system, you need responsive, helpful customer support. Find out whether your chosen platform provides phone, email, chat, or social media support.

Another great option to look at, is whether there are any support partners in your area.

2. Integrations -

Email marketing doesn’t work in a vacuum. You will undoubtedly need to integrate other tools and applications such as your website, CRM, shopping cart or other point of sale system. So check which systems integrate with those you already use.

3. Sending and subscriber limits - 

While you may be happy to start with a 500 subscriber cap, there shall come a time (if you are growing your business well) when you need more. Figure out how many emails you will be sending a month to your subscribers, and try to predict how quickly you'll need to upgrade to the next subscriber limit, then check your options for increasing your limits meet your requirements.

4. Automated sequences - 

Automated email sequences are ones which are triggered by something happening, and sent automatically without your involvement. They are a huge time saver, and very helpful, and I would recommend them as one of the most basic features you need!

But not all programs are created equal. Some will give you unlimited automation options in your subscription, and some will limit you to one or less, unless you upgrade. 

5. Segmentation - 

(aka splitting your email list into smaller subsets with things in common) is a crucial part of email marketing. When you use segmentation, it allows you to deliver more relevant email marketing, based on the segment’s main interests. This boosts how many people open your email (your open rate) and how many people click through to your website (your click through rate).

If you want to take advantage of this brilliance, you will need a platform that allows you to segment your audience in various ways. While you may start with baby steps, as you build your skills and become more adept at segmentation, you will appreciate more advanced segmentation tools, such as advanced tagging capabilities (we’ll explain advanced tagging in more detail in a moment).

6. Multi-language or personalised time-zone functionality -

Do you want to be able to send messages in more than one language, or at a specific time of day on the receiver's own timezone? Then these are additional features to look for.

7. Reporting -

How will you measure the success of your email marketing campaigns? Many platforms have reporting capabilities allowing you to review key metrics such as open rate, click-through rate and unsubscribe rate. These are the bare minimums you should be tracking. 

But, not all platforms are created equal. Some have very limited reporting options for e-commerce sales from automations, and can be very frustrating, while others have extremely powerful sales tracking ability. So, ensure you make sure you choose one which will suit your needs.

8. Advanced tagging -

The beauty of email marketing is that you can go as deep as you like into targeting groups or individuals on your email lists. Advanced tagging is a very helpful feature for those businesses who will go to the effort of using it!


A tag is a label you can apply to one of your email subscribers to provide specific information. It allows you to track the behaviour and actions of that individual in a range of ways.
Benefits of advanced tagging:

Tagging your customers based on their actions, and triggering automations, can lead to better open rates, sales and other email marketing outcomes.

For example:

  • Any time someone clicks a link in one of your emails, you can tag them to indicate they are interested in the topic featured in that link. Then you can send them personalised offers based on that interest.
  • You can tag people based on the products they have bought from you, what programs they’ve joined, how they joined your list, or which pages of your website they have visited.

All this helpful information enables you to create highly targeted messages based on the particular interests and behaviours of each member of your audience.

Now that we've explored 8 of the different features, and you've hopefully ticked the most relevant ones on the list, it's time to consider which system is best for you...

There are dozens of email marketing tools to choose from – a quick google search reveals many great ones to choose from. Rather than spending hours trawling them all, here are the programs we, and our clients, like best.

The 5 most common email marketing platforms for small businesses:

I've put Active Campaign first, because it's my favourite, and it's the one we use ourselves at The Helpful Academy.

Pros of Active Campaign:
  • It can be used as a customer relationship / sales tool, as well as an email program. This gives service based businesses the opportunity to track their email leads through their entire sales process.
  • Product-based businesses will love the integration with Woo Commerce and Shopify, so that they can see their customer's purchases inside their contact information. This makes it easier to trigger timely reorder emails based on product's purchased, or other product interest strategies.
  • In my opinion, it's the easiest to use of all the advanced email programs
  • It has all the advanced features you could really ever need/want including chat bots, time zone specific sending, advanced tagging automations and more.
Cons of Active Campaign
  • Because of all the features, it's not the cheapest option.
  • There's no free subscriber limit option to use on an ongoing basis, although you can trial it for 14 days before committing.
  • It is overcomplicated for some businesses, who only have simple needs.

Learn more about ActiveCampaign here.

Mailerlite is my recommendation for those starting on their email marketing journey who need something free, or have simple needs. 

Mailerlite pros:
  • You can try Mailerlite for free if your list has less than 1000 subscribers.
  • The best part about MailerLite is that it's super quick and easy to get started
  • Automations are easy and straightforward to set up
Mailerlite Cons:
  • If you want features like advanced tagging and e-commerce triggered automations, then it's likely Mailerlite won't do what you need it to do
  • The reporting is fairly basic

Learn more about MailerLite here.

Klaviyo was initially built for eCommerce stores, so this is where its strengths lie.

Klaviyo's Pros -
  • Pricing tiers start with a free plan covering up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. 
  • Klaviyo provides great features like automated emails, reporting, email templates, and one-click integrations. 
  • Segmentation is handled well with Klaviyo, with a range of list-building options and advanced targeting capabilities, including tags.
  • It also has impressive reporting and analytics functions.
Klaviyo's Cons - 
  • On the free plan, you will have to accept the Klaviyo logo stamped all over your emails, which isn't great for branding.
  • This is a high-powered platform with a high price tag to match, so it is one of the more expensive options

Learn more about Klaviyo here. 

ConvertKit is especially popular with many course and digital product creators. While it's not my favourite of the programs, much of that really comes down to personal preference.

ConvertKit Pros - 
  • You can use ConvertKit free for up to 300 subscribers
  • It is an affordable option if you want tag-based automations and segmentation
  • The automation builder is easy to use

Although this system doesn’t include a drag and drop editor tool or a massive selection of templates, it does get the job done and is still navigable for beginners. 

ConvertKit Cons -
  • ConvertKit uses different terminology to the rest of the systems
  • Last time I used it, ConvertKit's drag and drop email editor was very basic compared to many of the other systems
  • I found ConvertKit more complicated to set up than many of the other systems, due to having multiple moving parts to your automations.

Learn more about ConvertKit here. 

When people think email marketing, many of them think 'MailChimp', which illustrates the power of being early to the market and having a very strong, memorable brand.

Like most people who've been using email since it became a thing, MailChimp was the first email system I ever used, and I used it for a long time. Many of my clients still use MailChimp. But, overtime I found other systems which I found easier, and these days MailChimp is at the bottom of my preferred systems.

Even so, many people love the MailChimp, and it's still extremely popular!

MailChimp Pros -
  • You can use MailChimp for free for up to 500 contacts and 1000 monthly email sends. 
  • Because of its long history, you'll find MailChimp integrates with just about everything
  • MailChimp does allow for segmentation
MailChimp Cons - 
  • For a long time MailChimp was free up to 2500 contacts and unlimited monthly sends, but now the free price is very limited. I feel that the Mailerlite free plan is better value.
  • I find the reporting offered is very basic. Frustratingly so if you're trying to work out how many sales you've make in a month from your Lead Magnet automations

Learn more about MailChimp here.

Do you have the skills to implement email marketing by yourself, or will you need some support? 

Now that you've hopefully figured out which platform you like the look of, and decided how you want to use it in your business, it's time to implement it. Because, as with any good system, your results will only ever be as good as your action.

This is where many small business owners get overwhelmed and freeze, because the possibilities for how to use the new system are endless.

It's important to figure out if you have the skills to DIY it and do it justice, or whether you'll need some support, and what you want or need that support to look like...

There are many ways to get support to implement your new email marketing system.

When it comes to working out your email marketing strategy, you could:
When it comes to the implementation and set up of your new program, you could:
  • Follow the setup training and do it yourself
  • Get an experienced team member to do it for you
  • Hire a virtual assistant
  • Hire a marketing company 
  • Many of the systems have certified local Partners that you can find and use

Then the real challenge comes - using it consistently.

To be honest, I don't even use mine consistently... At times, I too can get so busy that I suck at sending regular campaigns. But, that's the beauty of building automations - they create the consistency for you. 

In Summary:

Email Marketing can be a huge asset to your business if you set it up to support your Customer Pathway.

It takes some work to set up, but it's worth it for the financial reward that it can provide.

My advice is to not overthink which system to use. Just pick one and start taking action! 

Because it's easy to switch between systems later on if you change your mind. (I've moved systems at least 3 times since I've been in business.) But, the sooner you make a start, the sooner you can start experiencing the boost to your business.

If you'd like help with your email and/or other marketing, reach out and let's have a chat...

About the author:

Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.

Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).

If you’d like individualised help with growing your business, check out our services.


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