For small business owners, email marketing is a must-have. And while there are many good email marketing service options available, sorting through all the slightly different features and tools can be overwhelming. That’s why we did the research for you to come up with five great email marketing options for your small business.

Essential Email Marketing Service Features

Email helps you connect to current, past, and future customers and create the kind of engagement that inspires people to buy. But to do email marketing well, you need to choose a great email marketing tool. How’d we pick our favorites? We made sure they had the “essential” features we’d expect from a great email marketing service, and then we looked at the special extras that made them stand out. 

Look for email marketing services that…

  • Keep your emails out of people’s spam folders, so they actually get read
  • Help you manage your email contacts effectively and connect to your CRM system
  • Let you segment your audience based on different variables, so you can send more personalized messages
  • Make it easy to customize campaigns with drag and drop editors or ready-made email templates
  • Let you run A/B tests to figure out which version of your message works best
  • Allow you to set up automated email campaigns tailored to your audience
  • Track and analyze your campaign performance so you know what works and what doesn’t
  • Provide ample support via live chat, email, tutorials, how-to videos, and other resources

Five Email Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

1. MailChimp

As the world’s largest marketing automation service, MailChimp presents an impressive suite of features. A few of the ones we love most include:

  • A great template library built around your campaign goals. Just select a pre-designed theme or template to share big news, showcase a product, or send a tailored follow-up email. You can also custom code your own templates if you prefer.
  • Timewarp email campaigns that magically calculate time zone differences and send everyone the same email at the same time—just on their local time.
  • Free landing pages for when you want to spotlight a special product, event, giveaway, or sale. Just choose one of their landing page templates and drag and drop the elements you need.
  • Custom sign-up forms to attract subscribers from your website. You can even set them to pop up based on specific behaviors, like when a person’s scrolling away to leave the site.
  • Ad channels that expand your reach via Facebook, Instagram, and Google re-marketing. Quickly put together Facebook and Instagram ads (at the same time, too!) and even target new people similar to those already on your subscriber list. Google re-marketing, meanwhile, brings back people who’ve strayed from your site with targeted ads across Google’s Display Network. The best part? You don’t pay anything extra above what you’d normally pay for Google, Facebook, or Instagram ad placement.
  • Subscriber profiles that have the look and feel of a simple CRM system (though you can integrate with existing CRM services like Salesforce and Sugar). Use it to view each subscriber’s purchase history, email interactions, add special notes, and even send personal emails from the profile itself. MailChimp can also pull information from your subscriber’s public social media feeds.

2. Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor is a simple yet powerful email marketing tool geared towards small and medium-sized B2C companies. It boasts an extensive array of features, but here are the ones that grabbed our attention.

  • Easy to use drag-and-drop builder that lets users of any skill level create personalized, well-designed emails in a matter of minutes. The builder’s interface is also user-friendly and highly intuitive.

Users can choose from hundreds of prebuilt and professionally designed templates to create emails for announcements, newsletters, deals and offers, events, and other cases. Since templates are already mobile-optimized right off the bat, users don’t have to spend extra effort in making them work for mobile devices.

  • Robust reporting and analytics capabilities, so that users can easily take a look at how their emails are performing, from a comprehensive view of all their marketing efforts right down to a more granular view of a single campaign.

By launching a report called Worldview, users can see in real time which subscribers from which regions are opening an email and how they are engaging with the email.

Through Snapshot, users can get a report of various email marketing KPIs like unique opens, bounces, clickthroughs, and even the top countries where an email was opened.

They can analyze the data in these reports to set the right benchmarks and improve their next campaigns.

  • Marketing automation to help users design personalized customer journeys for their subscribers in order to drive engagement and revenue.

Campaign Monitor’s visual journey designer gives users the ability to create automated campaigns, define a range of rules and triggers, and create the content for a wide variety of journeys that include welcome emails, birthday deals and offers, reminders, and re-engagement messages.

  • App integrations that allow extensive customization to fit various business needs. Users can seamlessly connect the email service to hundreds of apps such as e-commerce platforms, CRM software, and even websites.

3. Emma

Emma stood out to us, in part, because of its notable customer base: Girl Scouts of the USA, National Public Radio, the YMCA, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and Charity: Water. It delivers a lot of the marketing power of MailChimp and GetResponse (below), all in a friendly package. Here’s what makes Emma stand out:

  • A click-based heat map that shows you exactly where people are clicking within your email: the more clicks, the larger the heat circle.
  • A mailing score metric that sums up how well your emails are performing and benchmarks them against past campaigns.
  • Dynamic content that creates a unique experience for each subscriber, all based on a single email. If you run a pet-sitting service, for example, you can send the same email to everyone, but make it so that the dog-lovers on your list see a picture of a pup while the cat-lovers see a kitten.
  • The Metric mobile map that makes it fun to track clicks and opens as they come in and even features a campaign leaderboard.

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4. GetResponse

GetResponse is a complete marketing platform that bundles email marketing, landing pages, webinars, marketing automation, and CRM. In this way, it overlaps with MailChimp and Emma, and is a good choice for business owners who want a full suite of options. In addition to any feature you could ever want, you’ll also find marketing automation goals that let you measure your growth over time and nudge you to improve.

5. ConvertKit

ConvertKit is geared towards online creators like bloggers, course designers, musicians, freelancers, makers and coaches. Even though it doesn’t offer the full suite of “essentials” we listed earlier, that’s actually its biggest selling point: in fact, it pulls this off so well that we thought it deserved a mention here. Here’s what makes it so interesting:

  • Text-only emails that challenge the “beautiful template” trend. ConvertKit leaves “fancy email templates” out on purpose, because it believes “multi-column layouts, background images, logos, and all other nonsense” don’t deliver as well as content—plain and simple, in plain text format.
  • Visual automations that let you design a “subscriber journey” based on a variety of events, actions, or conditions. Think of it as a sort of branching mind map for your automation funnel: you can easily see what needs to happen next in a customer’s journey, every step of the way.
  • RSS feeds that send blog posts to your subscriber list as soon as they’re published or later, as a digest email.

6. Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a well-established email marketing service that’s been around for over 20 years (hey, that’s almost as old as the world wide web!). While it reserves essentials like email automation and subject line A/B testing for only the highest-paying plans, it is a solid choice if you’re looking for a powerful but simple email marketing option. Some notable features include:

  • A marketing calendar that lets you plan out your campaigns month by month.
  • Event marketing features that let you create invites and track event RSVPs.
  • Online donation tools that let you send fundraising requests and collect online donations.

Now that you have a good overview of the best email marketing services for your small business, learn how to use your payment data to create better email marketing campaigns.