10 Best Email Marketing Software & Email Automation Tools of 2020
You want to grow your business – and need email marketing software that’s easy to use, affordable, and has features to turn your leads into customers – right?
It sounds simple enough, but with an overwhelming 450+ email marketing tools to choose from, in a rapidly-changing market, and with every email marketing company’s website saying the same thing, it’s anything but.
Which is why we created this guide; the only comparison of email marketing software that’s objective, regularly updated, and based on a comprehensive amount of surveys, experience and data – lots of data.
You can access the dataset we use to identify the top 10 email marketing software providers at the end of this guide.
The following top 10 list is the result of hundreds of hours of research, that I hope will assist you in choosing the perfect email marketing software for you.
The 10 Best Email Marketing Software
- ActiveCampaign – best for small businesses & enterprise
- Moosend – best for small agencies & non-profits
- Hubspot – best for B2B service companies
- Omnisend – best for eCommerce
- Rejoiner – best for managed email marketing
- ConvertKit – best for bloggers
- SendinBlue – best for transactional emails
- Autopilot – best for marketing automation
- MailerLite – best for personal projects
- Moonmail – best for developers
Below, we’ve outlined a candid review of each tool’s pros and cons. We then break down the factors that define great email marketing software, with a head-to-head comparison of all ten email marketing tools across all nine factors; from affordability and ease of use to integrations and deliverability.
Best for small businesses & enterprises
Once an underdog, ActiveCampaign is now one of the most popular email marketing tools with over 90,000 small businesses customers.
Impressively, they’ve achieved this organically by building a product that’s both easy to use and one of the most affordable in the email marketing space.
ActiveCampaign pioneered the visual automation builder which, unlike other tools that require expensive consultants and training to use, enables anyone to craft powerful email automation sequences with no prior experience needed.
And despite being so easy to use, ActiveCampaign is rich in revenue-boosting features. From predictive sending and predictive content to triggering SMS messages or site messages on your website, ActiveCampaign provides an exceptional toolkit for small businesses to grow their business.
One of my favorite features in ActiveCampaign is the ability to run A/B split tests inside of automation sequences, enabling you to sit back and let your automation sequences optimize themselves while you focus on more important things.
In 2016, we decided to move all of our ventures’ email marketing onto ActiveCampaign away from a tool called GetResponse (which was becoming outdated and failing to meet our email marketing needs).
Since then, we’ve automated our entire sales process (meaning we haven’t needed to hire any sales staff), virtually all of our lead nurturing, customer onboarding, and even our internal processes like employee onboarding.
ActiveCampaign is an all-in-one sales and marketing tool for small businesses, so it comes with an in-built CRM system to manage your sales, live chat, and of course email marketing automation.
And, incredibly, they’ve done all of this with a price tag that’s literally 1/10th of many email marketing tools featured in this guide.
There aren’t many bad things to say about ActiveCampaign, particularly as they are constantly innovating and improving the product, but one area where I’ve always felt ActiveCampaign is lacking is their reporting.
While it has improved in recent years with the introduction of goal tracking and attribution, ActiveCampaign’s reporting isn’t quite on par with the likes of Hubspot or Autopilot. It’s worth pointing out, though, that they cost significantly more.
For the vast majority of small businesses looking for a great email marketing tool that’s easy to use and affordable, ActiveCampaign is likely the best balance of power, affordability, and ease of use.
And as a little extra, we’ve negotiated on your behalf for Venture Harbour readers to get up to $5,000 in free services, including free implementation and migration, your second month free of charge, free CRM with sales automation, and more.
Important: You’ll need to unlock this offer on this page. As this page doesn’t contain too much information about the ActiveCampaign platform itself, you can see more of that here.
Best for non-profits and small agencies
There are many email marketing tools designed for beginners, but most come at the cost of being over-simplified and lacking in features.
Not so with Moosend.
While you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier-to-use tool than Moosend, their platform offers all of the essentials, from well-designed templates to a visual campaign builder, to some unexpectedly advanced features, like weather-based email triggers and AI cross-selling recommendations.
While Moosend’s feature set is less robust in comparison to ActiveCampaign, you do get access to virtually all features from $10/month.
This makes Moosend a good option for small agencies, where having a tool that doesn’t require much internal or client training is key, yet must also be powerful enough to drive results without breaking the bank.
Moosend also enables agencies to white label the platform and set a markup for clients to earn a small profit from licensing the software to clients.
Moosend offers one of the most generous discounts for non-profits at 25%, making it a great choice for non-profits looking for a simple tool to send newsletters.
On the downside, Moosend is fairly weak on reporting. In contrast to a tool like Hubspot, which I’ll elaborate on next, Moosend’s analytics are limited to basic email insights (like open rates and unsubscribes), whereas many of the tools in this guide focus more on showing email’s impact on sales and revenue.
Best for B2B Service Businesses & Large Agencies
Hubspot is world-class in offering businesses an all-in-one sales and marketing platform, that includes CRM, landing pages, email marketing, marketing automation, chat, forms, and everything in between.
While some argue that ‘trying to do everything’ is Hubspot’s downfall, it does enable them to do one thing exceptionally well; Reporting.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”– John Wanamaker
Mr Wanamaker, obviously, didn’t use Hubspot.
By using Hubspot as the backbone of your marketing and sales, you can easily attribute every dollar in revenue back to the marketing campaign, newsletter, or blog post that influenced each sale. In this sense, Hubspot is more of a CRM that offers email marketing and automation, rather than vice versa.
A word of caution about Hubspot’s price-creep.
Hubspot position themselves as an affordable option for small businesses by offering (very limited) free versions of their products – but don’t be fooled by the Hubspot gateway-drug. Their platform becomes exponentially expensive as your list or feature requirements grow.
One business owner I spoke with started on a $50/mo plan, and within a year needed a $2,000/mo plan that had to be paid annually. The only difference was an extra 15,000 contacts and adding marketing automation, yet they jumped from seeing $50 leave the bank to $24,000.
This is where I feel conflicted about Hubspot.
On the one hand, you could get the same functionality for one-tenth of the price using ActiveCampaign, MooSend, or half of the tools in this guide. On the other hand, if the value of knowing what influenced each sale is a problem worth paying a five-figure sum to solve, then Hubspot is a strong contender.
This is why we suggest that Hubspot is an ideal choice for B2B service companies, where the value of winning an extra one or two clients a year would easily cover the cost of Hubspot. This extends to larger, or more sophisticated, agencies that must provide clients with in-depth reports on their marketing funnel.
If you just need email marketing software, Hubspot is probably overkilled. But if your search for email marketing software is part of a wider plan to raise to your marketing game and improve performance across your entire sales and marketing funnel, Hubspot is a strong contender – but don’t expect it to be cheap.
Best for eCommerce
They may be the new kid on the block, but Omnisend is quickly becoming the leading marketing platform for eCommerce.
Designed to help eCommerce brands control their marketing across multiple channels, Omnisend offers automated email, SMS, push notifications, and most impressively, integrations with Google Ads, Instagram, Facebook Ads, Messenger, and Whatsapp – which they claim have 10X higher click-through rates than email.
By focusing purely on eCommerce, Omnisend has built innovative email templates designed to reduce cart abandonment and drive repeat buyers. From ‘wheel of fortune’ offers to virtual scratch cards and birthday discounts, it’s evident that Omnisend’s built by a team intimately aware of what works in eCommerce.
As you’d expect of an eCommerce email marketing tool, Omnisend hooks into most eCommerce platforms, including Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce. Where Omnisend goes one step further is in integrating with review, loyalty and help desk platforms, such as Yotpo, Smile.io, and ReCharge.
This not only enables Omnisend to report on how your campaigns impact sales, but enables you to trigger email, SMS and social campaigns based around your customer behaviour to reduce cart abandonment, increase return buyers, drive more product reviews, and more.
If you want the features that make Omnisend stand out, you’ll need a PRO account which starts at $199/month for up to 10,000 contacts. While not the cheapest, nor the easiest to use, Omnisend is a good option for eCommerce brands that want one multi-channel platform to rule them all.
Another consideration with a tool like Omnisend is the time required to get it up and running as. For larger eCommerce brands, this is no small task and is where our next email marketing software company offers an interesting proposition.
Best for managed email marketing
When I saw Rejoiner appear so high in our ranking, I thought there was a mistake.
For starters, I hadn’t heard of them. Their pricing was off the charts, and yet they had countless glowing reviews from customers. Something wasn’t adding up.
After doing some research and speaking with their CEO, Mike Arsenault, I realised this was, in fact, a very different kind of email marketing company.
Unlike the other self-service email marketing platforms in this guide, Rejoiner offers a managed email marketing platform.
They effectively become your outsourced email marketing department, offering à la carte services on everything from email marketing strategy to the copywriting, design and deliverability testing of email campaigns.
As you’d expect, this comes with a hefty price tag. In fact, Mike told me that a typical client pays $4,000 – $6,000/month for their platform and services, and most clients tend to be eCommerce brands in the $5M – $50M revenue range.
For 99% of our readers, this is definitely not the right tool, but for those where email marketing represents a huge revenue opportunity but don’t want it to use up precious internal resources, it’s a dream come true.
What I most like about Rejoiner is the shared accountability over results. Many brands spend large sums of money on email marketing software, only for the accountability of results to be on their internal team. With Rejoiner, this is flipped on its head, where the company providing the software shares the responsibility for driving incremental revenue.
Best for bloggers
ConvertKit is a relatively simple email marketing tool used almost exclusively by bloggers and online course instructors to develop their personal brands.
Their platform has no bells or whistles. It doesn’t even have email templates, as ConvertKit encourages its users to send plain-text emails to increase engagement. As most of its users are individuals trying to build a personal brand this makes sense, but it does make ConvertKit a poor-fit for other use cases.
If you’re a creator that just needs a simple tool to serve your audience with regular content, there’s no better tool.
If you’re just starting out, ConvertKit has kindly offered our readers the ability to open a free account with the ability to send emails to up to 100 contacts (their free plan doesn’t normally offer email sending).
Best for transactional email
SendinBlue is best-known as one of the leading transactional email services. Building on this reputation they built an email marketing automation product.
We use SendinBlue to send transactional emails for two of our ventures (Leadformly and Serene), as they’re one of the few email marketing providers with servers in the European Union (which helps with our GDPR compliance) and they have good deliverability rates (we’re currently at 98%).
While I can’t comment on their marketing automation features from first-hand experience, it’s evident from our customer surveys that it’s good, but perhaps not as powerful as some of the other tools we’ve featured here.
If you need an email marketing tool with a solid API to get your emails into the inboxes with a good deliverability rate, SendinBlue is an excellent choice.
Best for marketing automation
Gone are the days where email marketing is about sending bulk newsletters.
In today’s digital landscape, it’s essential for email marketing to be smart; sending the right messages to the right leads at the right time, automatically.
That’s why all of our top ten email marketing providers provide marketing automation. As the name would suggest, this is Autopilot’s forte. To boot, they have one of the best-designed canvases for building email automation sequences.
Anyone who has ever built an email automation sequence knows how quickly they can become confusing. Autopilot solves this in a rather quirky way, allowing you to annotate your automation sequences with emojis, stickers, and explanations, making it easy for teams to collaborate on building sequences.
Yes, it can get messy – but I’d rather that and be able to understand what’s going on, than having beautiful automation sequences that take half an hour to interpret.
Another feature I love about Autopilot is its ability to trigger actions in your other tools inside Autopilot. This saves having to configure integrations using a tool like Zapier and makes your sequences much easier to understand.
Autopilot’s reporting is also excellent, though, I’ll go into this in more detail in our section on reporting and analytics below.
Starting at $49/month for 2,000 contacts, Autopilot is far from the cheapest option, particularly considering that Autopilot does not offer an in-built CRM. However, Autopilot is extremely intuitive and great for teams that need to collaborate on powerful email automation sequences. If we had to move from ActiveCampaign, this is likely where we’d go.
Best for personal projects
At the opposite end of the price spectrum, we have MailerLite, which is among the best email marketing tools for value for money (it’s free for sending up to 12,000 emails/month to less than 1,000 contacts).
Unlike the other beginner email marketing tools out there, MailerLite is a universally good tool irrespective of industry. Whether you’re growing a small charity, a side-hustle, or are a freelancer starting out, MailerLite offers everything you need to send bulk email marketing campaigns.
If you’re a small business, I’d suggest that a tool like ActiveCampaign may be a better fit, as they offer an in-built CRM and more advanced marketing features for roughly the same price.
For beginners and personal projects, where you just need to send beautiful email campaigns to engage your audience, MailerLite is ideal.
If you want to give MailerLite a spin, the folks there have kindly offered Venture Harbour readers an extended 30-day trial (instead of 14 days) via this link.
Best for developers
I’ll warn you now, it’s about to get technical.
If you’re not a developer, jump ahead to this next section on how to pick the best email marketing software for your business, as MoonMail is definitely not going to be the right tool.
But if you know what a GraphQL API is, then you’re going to love this one.
The benefits of Amazon SES, without the drawbacks
Amazon’s Simple Email Service (SES) is unbeatable from a cost perspective, and the deliverability is world-class. But it creates a huge bottleneck if used to send your marketing campaigns.
Every campaign, typo fix, and email sequence must be briefed as a development task, diverting scarce design and development resources to something that, frankly, is a flagrant waste of developer time.
MoonMail closes this gap. Built on the back of Amazon SES and Lambda, MoonMail gives you the infrastructure benefits of AWS, while enabling you to build your email campaigns in a friendly UI.
And yes, it’s an open-source project. Yes, you can upload the software into your AWS instance. Yes, the API is good.
Another upside of using MoonMail is that they do accept clients working in some of the more contentious industries, such as those in the crypto & ICO industry (most email marketing services blacklist these companies).
The main downside of MoonMail is its simplicity. Good luck updating your CRM, running A/B tests, or triggering emails when someone visits your pricing page. While these things are technically possible, it’ll take 10X as long achieving them in MoonMail compared to doing the same thing in any of the tools above.
MoonMail would be perfect for a small technical startup, where everyone on the team is fluent in AWS and needs the flexibility and power of SES without the creation of the emails themselves needing to be coded.
Having covered the pros and cons of our top ten email marketing tools, we’ll now compare them head-to-head in nine areas that define a great email marketing tool.