How to Choose The Best Email Marketing Service For Your Business When You’re Just Starting Your Email List
You pour so much time and effort into inviting people over to your online home - you write blog posts, pin them on Pinterest, talk about them on your Instagram stories, share them in Facebook groups...
And finally, the woman you want to serve is on your website and she loves it!
And then what?
She can’t be your guest forever, so how do you stay in touch with her?
How do you turn her from a visitor into a reader, a customer and a friend?
Here’s where email marketing and newsletters are invaluable for your business. If you don’t think this is for you, read this article on what is an email list and why you need one to start your business.
OK, now you’re convinced you do need an email list, but how do you go about starting one?
The first thing you need to do is to choose a suitable email marketing service that does the job for you right now.
Remember, don’t pick a tool just because your favorite blogger is using it. Think of your business goals, budget, skill level and the time you have to learn and implement this new tool.
Where to start?
There are many email marketing services you could use. Each platform offers different features, so it’s a good idea to take a look at as many of them as you can while doing your research.
You don’t need to spend hours on each page, just browse around and look at the available options.
These here are some of the more popular services I’ve come across:
Each one of these services have pros and cons and it’s up to you to find the best one for you.
You and your business are unique and you need to make a decision based on your past experience, current situation and future goals. Only you, the business owner, know what’s best for your business.
However, I can help you make an informed choice by giving you five questions to guide you when picking your email marketing platform.
5 questions to ask when choosing an email marketing service
1. “Who is my ideal customer?”
Do you have one group of people you want to serve or more? Do you have different offerings that help different people?
For example, a yoga teacher, that offers vinyasa classes, meditation retreats and reiki sessions might need three separate lists right from the start. On the other hand a nutritionist who offers tips on a whole food plant-based diet might only ever need one.
Think of your ideal customer and then research each service and find out how they save contacts to your list and how they allow you to segment your list.
2. “How simple can I start?”
Most platforms offer an abundance of features that you might not use right away (or ever). More isn’t always better. Sometimes more features just add confusion and take precious time to navigate through.
Compare several services and decide how simple you can start and what you’ll need in the first few months of your business.
3. “What is my budget?”
If you’re starting your business on a tiny budget it’s a good idea to look for a service that offers a free plan. Not many email marketing services do that, but most services have affordable first tier option.
Compare several services and pick the one that is within your budget right now. Don’t make a choice just based on price, though. Make sure you’re comfortable with your platform.
Chances are, you won’t send regular emails to your audience if you don’t enjoy the process.
4. “How tech-savvy am I really?”
If sending newsletters sounds like performing brain surgery to you, it might be a good idea to pick a service that offers fewer customization options and that gives you tips along the way.
Browse the websites of several services, watch a “How to set up” tutorials and ask yourself: “Does it feel scary but doable?”
Remember, you must pick one in the end, if you don’t know how to choose, get the one you feel most comfortable with right now.
5. “How much time do I have?”
You can spend days, weeks, even months, setting up your email marketing service.
But think about it like this, the sooner you start sending emails to your subscribers, the sooner you’ll be able to focus on the first of the three essential Cs of running a small business - Connect, Create, Charge.
So if you want to start quickly, look for a service that will make it easy for you to create a list, a few forms to add to your website and an email campaign to send.
What to look for when choosing a platform?
The forms are the name and email fields on your website that people use to give you their information in exchange for a freebie and regular emails from you.
As the name suggests, these are pages where people land when they click a link on your Instagram profile for example. These pages are often used as sales pages for products or coming soon pages for new offerings.
Your contacts are stored in lists. Each platform handle lists differently, so make sure you do your research before you pick a service.
This is how you send welcome emails to your new subscribers and how you set up free email courses to be delivered automatically.
If you are just starting out, look for a free option or an affordable first tier option. Test a platform before committing to a paid plan, if you can.
Most email marketing services have support if you need it. Look through their “Help” page and see if there are enough tutorials you can use to do things yourself. Asking for help is always OK, especially if something’s broken, but you want to be able to do most things yourself and quickly.
You know me, I’m a sucker for simplicity. Just like with web design, I’m always looking for something that won’t take me all my working time to maintain and that will give me enough freedom to put my own spin on it.
Now, just because I’ve chosen something, doesn’t mean you have to choose the same thing. Your business, your customers, your needs are different from mine and you need to do your own research.
However, I’ve used three services through the years and I’d like to tell you about their pros and cons. If you’ve narrowed down your choice to MailChimp, ConvertKit and MailerLite, read on.
MailChimp vs ConvertKit vs MailerLite
First I want to be perfectly clear:
At the end of the day, all three platforms are good and will do the job for you. Don’t spend weeks trying to decide. Pick one, start collecting emails and talking to people.
Each platform has pros and cons and there’s no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to running a tiny business.
However, I’ve used all three platforms and here’s my experience with them:
This was the first service I used when I started my business. It’s super easy to set up, it’s free until you reach 2000 subscribers and it’s fully integrated with Squarespace.
However, this is the most confusing of all three platforms if you want anything beyond the basics.
Easy to start, set up and use “as is”.
Free plan (up to 2000 subscribers).
Fully integrated with Squarespace.
Confusing if you want to create courses, split your subscriber list or create automations.
Duplicates subscribers if you have more than one list.
It was great to start with but as my email list grew I wanted to do more. I couldn’t figure out how to send email courses or how to split my list without duplicating subscribers and being charged double.
So I moved to ConvertKit.
This platform is easy enough to setup and you can send automated courses and email sequences. But if you’d like to tweak the look of your subscription forms beyond the colors you’ll have to get your hands dirty with HTML and CSS.
Easy to set up.
Easy to create email courses, sequences and automations.
No free plan
Not very flexible design options for forms or emails without coding.
Not integrated with Squarespace.
For some reason, this platform got very popular among the “girlboss” entrepreneurs. It’s a good service, there’s no doubt about that, but please don’t pick it just because your favorite blogger is using it. Think of your needs and pick what’s best for you right now.
I liked ConvertKit well enough for a while, but they lost my respect after they tried (and failed) to rename their business form “ConvertKit” to “Seva” which is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service (what were they thinking?!)
That stunt, combined with my constant struggle with HTML and CSS required to make my forms look simple and ‘on brand’, made me look for another service.
So I moved to MailerLite.
After a week of exhaustive research, I picked MailerLite for a new home to my email list and I’m very happy with my choice so far.
Free plan (up to 1000 subscribers).
More design flexibility without coding.
Easy to create email courses, sequences and automations.
More affordable paid plans.
The MailerLite team is transparent about their online business model and their values.
You need to have your own website and an email address with your domain name to verify your account.
Not integrated with Squarespace.
Can you choose one service now and move later?
Yes! Keep in mind that if one service doesn’t work for you, you can move.
It’s pretty straight forward but it takes time and effort so I don’t recommend doing it often.
But the option is there for you and it should give you enough margin for error and safety in choosing to get you started right now.
Open a new text document and list all the services you’d like to check out.
Do your research and narrow down your choices to 2-3 based on the five questions above.
Pick one email marketing service, set up your account, create a list, add sign up forms to your website and set up a welcome email.
Which email marketing service do you use?
What do you like about it? And if you don’t have an email list just yet, why is that? Let me know in the comments below.