There is no “best” email marketing service, despite what page one of your Google search results might have you believe. The very idea is ludicrous!
What’s best for me isn’t what’s best for you. How can it be? Your business is completely different and unique!
What’s best for many bloggers and influencers seems to be pimping a particular product primarily for the hefty affiliate commission they stand to earn by referring users to it.
Hey, don’t get me wrong; I like affiliate commissions, too. I’ve never earned very much from affiliate marketing but hell, a little coffee money don’t hurt nobody.
BUT I refuse to tell you, for instance, to use ConvertKit just because they have a baller affiliate program (and they do), when I know darn well that ActiveCampaign (for instance) would be a superior solution for your use case, despite their relatively uninspiring affiliate program.
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Why is picking an email marketing app so hard?
It’s impossible to know ahead of time how well a given app will fit you and your business.
So the intelligent approach is to take nothing for granted (including the information in this post), trial them, and get a feel for these apps for yourself.
Now, you already know how important it is to build a list, and get your email marketing and automation implemented to a high level. That means you’ll be spending a lot of time working inside your email marketing app. So it’s in your best interest to pick an app that not only does what you need it to do, but one that you also enjoy working with on a daily basis.
At the same time, I know it’s not easy to navigate the jungle of different features, pricing charts, mixed opinions, and sundry considerations. It’s a time consuming and exasperating task. And perhaps the most frustrating part of choosing your email marketing app is what I call the knowledge problem. It means that you don’t know what you don’t know. This is why reading reviews is so helpful. They clue you in to things that you couldn’t possibly know about without having used the app yourself.
But going on reviews alone can do your head in because of reviewer bias (I’m not exempt from this), incomplete information, and the fundamental impossibility of predicting “fit” between your business / personal style and any particular tool.
10 objective criteria to help you pick your email marketing app
To help take this onerous (but important) work out of the realm of voodoo decision-making, here are some useful, objective criteria to consider when picking your email marketing platform (or, when switching from one email app to another):
Functionality – does this tool do everything you need it to do and do it to an acceptable – for your needs – standard? e.g. Automations, tagging, CRM, reporting, etc.
Scalability – will it continue to be able to do the things your business requires as you grow, or will it present a bottleneck at scale? e.g. An app like MailChimp looks attractive when you’re starting out but gets restrictive (and kinda expensive) when you grow your list and start wanting to do some cool ninja shit that competing apps can do but MailChimp cannot.
Price – How much will you pay for your email marketing with 0 subscribers, 100, 1000, 10,000, or more? When your list grows to a respectable size, some of these tools start to get insanely expensive while others become a surprisingly good value.
Support – Does support take 3 days to reply, or are they on top of their game? Does support notify but fail to rectify? Is the knowledgebase easily navigable and the documentation thorough? Are these support and educational resources indexed by Google so you can search for things and find them in one easy step?
Community – Is there a large community of users, ambassadors, contractors, developers, etc., that form an ecosystem you can appeal to for help, learn from, model, etc.? This is more important than you might suspect, as I explain in this post.
Extensibility – Are you able to “extend” the tool via native and 3rd party integrations with other important apps in your stack? Does the tool have a strong API that invites developers to craft solutions to common problems (e.g. membership plugins that work directly with the API and tags system)?
Reliability – Does the service go down often enough that it creates a problem? Is the API reliable? Do automations always run until the end or do they get stuck? Are changes reflected instantly, or is there a delay?
Development – Is the team constantly rolling out new updates, features, and resources that make using their tool easier, more powerful, etc.? Do they listen to their customers, take feature requests and feedback under serious consideration, and actually add them into the product?
Company – Is the company managed well? Do they have a proven track record? Are they funded? Who are the principals involved?
User Experience – Is the product easy to get started with? Is it intuitive and user friendly? Do you find it easy to navigate or do you have to click around forever to find something that should be easy to access? (Granted, there’s a subjective element to this criterion).
Let’s talk about your feeeelings
While objective criteria collectively form a necessary condition to pick an app (because you can’t work productively with a castrated piece of software, no matter how pretty it looks), they are not a sufficient condition for picking one.
The other major factor is how the app looks & feels to YOU. This is the subjective realm.
In my experience, it’s a big mistake to ignore this aspect, even if you consider yourself a hard-nosed pragmatist in matters of this kind.
Allow me to quote the late, great curmudgeon, Steve Jobs: “Design matters.”
In fact, you could argue that design is no more separate from function than the body is separate from the mind. They are a complex; an integrated system. And a sleek, intuitive design makes the experience of working with an app that much more pleasurable. You’ll notice this especially by way of contrast after years of working with a crap app and switching to something purtier [sic]. 🙂
Yeats wrote: “beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”.
Old Yeats was meditating on a Grecian urn when he wrote these inspired lines. He’d crap his pants (and probably write an ode about it) if he saw the kinds of high-tech shenanigans we’re up to here in 2017. In any case, the man had a point.
To build something of superlative functionality isn’t easy. To build something beautiful is likewise a major undertaking. And to build something highly functional AND at the same time beautiful, is hardest of all.
If you needn’t choose one or the other; if you can have both, you may as well choose both!
Why I like Asian chicks
I don’t know, ok? I just do.
Ever since I was a chubby little boy racing my bike around the cul-de-sacs of Northeast Philly, I thought Asian girls were pretty. This was before puberty hit and started causing all sorts of mischief. (Imagine my delight to find myself living in Southeast Asia some 20 years thence!)
Do I have any particularly defensible reasons for liking Asian chicks more than other kinds of chicks? Not really. But I do, and I’ll backwards-rationalize my preference till I’m blue in the face.
Likewise, in speaking with my customers and friends, I’ve found that there’s a strong emotional component when it comes to their loyalty to a particular app.
Some people absolutely hate InfusionSoft; some people think it’s digital Jesus. Some folks are Drip t-shirt wearing hipster fanboys / fanchicks; others scoff at the entire email marketing landscape and tell anyone who’ll listen about how superior ActiveCampaign is to anything ever made.
People often identify with apps for completely emotional reasons that have little to do with what the app does or doesn’t actually do. Then they go back and rationalize their decisions. Whether or not their rationalizations make any sense is beside the point.
For example, Dripfeels like a scrappy startup even though it’s been acquired by LeadPages and is long past the point of being able to claim legitimate underdog status.
InfusionSoft has a decidedly “masculine” look & feel. Despite its relative clunkiness, it appeals to the pragmatist. MailChimp appeals to folks who are just getting started and looking for something decidedly non-technical.
What does this tell you?
It tells you that a high standard of functionality is simply the minimum necessary requirement (“is she a beautiful girl?”) The rest is personal preference (“I like THIS particular beautiful girl but not THAT particular beautiful girl.”) But in either case, she ought to be beautiful. Because beauty is truth and truth beauty.
So, with this longwinded, affected, Vietnamese coffee-fueled preamble out of the way, allow me to make some practical suggestions about what I consider to be the best email marketing apps in 2017, and into the foreseeable future, and WHY. 🙂
Why I Switched to the Drip Email Marketing & Automation Platform
I started my email marketing journey years ago with Aweber. I then tried InfusionSoft (briefly), and about a year ago I finally settled on Drip.