I’ve spent way too much time testing different email services. There are just so many to choose from and until you really get under the hood, it’s hard to know if they deliver on all of their marketing messages.
So I signed up for several and put them through the paces. I took the time to hand-enter and import addresses to test the features, browsed their various templates, and experimented with their template editing tools.
None of them got a perfect score. Big surprise, right? But I did find a few that are well worth the monthly subscription cost and I have included a breakdown here to help you choose the best service for your needs, depending on whether you send lost of messages, or just a few.
Comparison Chart: View this table to compare the features of the most popular email services: MailChimp, AWeber, BenchMark, ConstantContact, iContact, Streamsend
Among the things you should consider when selecting an email service
- Do they charge by the number of email messages sent or the number of contacts stored in their system? The price difference can be significant depending on whether you send lots of messages to a few people or only a few messages to a long mailing list (or many lists).
- Do you like their templates? This is subjective, and you shouldn’t be too harsh. Remember that it is essential to keep things simple in email; none of the collections of templates on these services is likely to win any web design awards. That said, some of them offer very few templates designs.
- Can you edit the templates? Most services let you create your own templates or use theirs, but not all of them let you edit the templates they offer and some have very limited editing tools.
- How well do their contact management features work? Can you manage more than one email list? Do they make sure that people who are on multiple lists don’t receive duplicate emails?
- Can you import your contacts easily? Once I’d set up the first one, it was relatively easy to export out of my mail program and then import the same list of names into each of the others. All seem to accept .csv (a common file type for mailing lists) but not all except Excel files or other import options, and you may have to edit your list before it meets the requirements of the service. If you already have a long mailing list, make sure that the service you choose will let you import your addresses.
- If you do enter names manually, do you find their data entry interface easy to use? This is subjective, and I thought all of them could do better with editing and organizing tools for mailing lists.
- Is it easy to create a form that you can add to your own Web pages for people to sign up for your list? Can you edit the form? Can you edit the auto-responder messages, thank you pages, etc. that go with all of the steps to signing up for your newsletter?