Email marketing remains one of the most effective digital marketing channels for engaging customers and driving conversions. For small businesses and startups, investing in paid email marketing tools can be prohibitive. Fortunately, there are some excellent free options available.
This article will compare the top free email service providers and make recommendations based on business size and feature needs. We’ll also cover email marketing best practices to get the most out of these free tools.
Email Marketing Basics
Before diving into specific providers, let’s review some email marketing fundamentals.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is the process of capturing email subscribers and building relationships with them through ongoing, permission-based promotional and informational messages. It involves creating, sending, and tracking email campaigns with the goal of driving engagement and sales.
Benefits of Email Marketing
Here are some of the key benefits email marketing offers:
- Cost-effective – Email is much more affordable than other channels like print or online ads. Free tools make it accessible for virtually any budget.
- Measurable results – Detailed analytics allow you to monitor and optimize email performance.
- High ROI – Email consistently provides one of the highest returns on investment across digital marketing channels.
- Engagement – When done correctly, email fosters ongoing connections and interactions with contacts.
- Personalization – Email messages can be tailored to individual subscriber interests and behaviors.
- Automation – From welcome emails to re-engagement flows, email automation saves time while boosting results.
Email Marketing Techniques
Some key techniques and strategies for effective email campaigns include:
- Segmenting your list based on preferences, demographics, behaviors to allow targeted messaging per subgroup.
- Writing compelling subject lines to improve open rates.
- Personalizing email content with merge tags, individual preferences, transactional history, etc.
- Optimizing calls-to-action and emails for mobile responsiveness.
- Leveraging email automation for campaigns like cart abandonment, lead nurturing, and more.
- Integrating email with your CRM and sales processes.
- Testing and optimizing based on open rates, clickthroughs, conversions, and other analytics.
Now let’s explore the top free email service providers for executing these techniques without the high costs.
- Email Marketing Basics
- Top 3 Free Email Marketing Tools and Services
- Evaluating Your Needs
- Optimizing Your Email Marketing
- Conclusion and Next Steps
Top 3 Free Email Marketing Tools and Services
Arguably the most well-known free email marketing platform, Mailchimp offers a generous free plan making it suitable for smaller email lists.
- Founded in 2001, Mailchimp helps over 13 million users send emails and run campaigns.
- Offers a forever-free plan for lists up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Paid plans start at $14 monthly.
- User-friendly drag-and-drop builder to create opt-in forms, emails, automations, and landing pages. 500+ professional templates.
- Email builder with drag-and-drop editor, merge tags, pre-designed templates
- Signup forms to capture new subscribers
- Segmentation and basic automation (ie. welcome emails)
- Reports on opens, clicks, unsubscribes
- Integrations with major CRM, ecommerce, and marketing platforms
- Generous and fully-featured free plan
- Intuitive, beginner friendly interface
- Robust features even on free tier
- Educational resources from emails to courses
- Free plan limits automations
- Need paid plan for advanced features like A/B testing
- Can feel cluttered once you scale up
Sendinblue is a competitive free alternative with great automation capabilities even for free subscribers.
- Founded in 2012, Sendinblue helps 300,000+ businesses manage marketing campaigns and transactions.
- Free plan allows unlimited contacts and 300 emails daily. Paid plans start at $25 monthly.
- User-friendly builder with drag and drop editor. Professional templates.
- Intuitive email builder with responsive editing
- Signup forms and landing pages
- Automation with unlimited sequences
- Reports on opens, clicks, bounce rates
- SMS marketing and Facebook chat integration
- CRM, ecommerce, and marketing platform integrations
- Powerful free plan with automations
- Easy drag and drop builder
- Great features for small business
- Educational blog and guides
- Daily email limits on free plan
- Advanced analytics is paid only
- Interface can feel a bit busy
MailerLite balances ease of use with a quality free plan for smaller email lists and needs.
- Launched in 2010, MailerLite has over 1 million users in 180+ countries.
- Free plan allows 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly. Paid plans from $10/month.
- Simple and intuitive interface for quickly creating campaigns.
- Easy drag and drop builder
- Custom forms for lead capture
- Automations for welcome, re-engage, etc.
- Email and landing page templates
- Open and click tracking
- Integrates with leading ecommerce platforms
- Very simple and easy to use
- Solid free plan for small lists
- Quality templates and builder
- Educational blog content
- Light on advanced features
- Free plan limits automations
- Not as feature-rich as some paid platforms
Evaluating Your Needs
With those leading free platforms reviewed, how do you choose the right one for your business? Here are some factors to consider:
Email List Size
If just starting out with under 500 subscribers, any of the free platforms will suffice. Once your list grows to 1,000+ contacts, MailerLite or Sendinblue are better equipped to handle the volume with fewer limits. Lists of 5,000+ will require Mailchimp’s premium free offering.
Review your must-have email marketing functionality like automation workflows, landing pages, advanced analytics etc. Certain platforms like Sendinblue have more capabilities for free users. Know which specific features will be most valuable long-term.
Ease of Use
Especially when getting started, look for a platform with an intuitive interface that allows you to quickly create professional emails without technical skills. MailerLite is arguably the most beginner-friendly option.
Prioritize a solution that aligns with your current list size, features, and skill level. But also allow room to scale up capabilities as your needs grow.
Optimizing Your Email Marketing
Leveraging one of these free platforms is the first step. But you’ll also need to optimize the campaigns you send for maximum effectiveness. Here are some key best practices to follow:
Building Your Email List
Focus first on generating subscriber signups through:
- Website calls to action and popups to convert visitors
- Social media, digital ads, and other channels driving to opt-in forms
- Promotions and lead magnets encouraging signups
- Integrating email capture on ecommerce purchase flows
Quality over quantity is key – target engaged subscribers truly interested in your content.
Email Design and Content
Some tips for creating emails that get opened and clicked:
- Compelling subject lines – Get creative, personalized, and irresistible
- Preheaders to provide a content preview
- Clear calls to action – Don’t let emails languish without a specific CTA
- Mobile optimization for responsive design
- Quality content – Inform, entertain, engage – don’t overtly pitch
- Personalization and segmentation to send tailored messages
Analytics and Optimization
Leverage data to continually improve performance:
- Use open and click-through rates to refine message effectiveness
- Review unsubscribe feedback for content suggestions
- Implement A/B testing to experiment with subjects, designs, content
- Monitor conversions from emails back to site
- Integrate analytics with your CRM to track subscriber activity
Continual optimization and testing will elevate engagement over time as you learn what resonates with your audience.
What are the limitations of free email marketing platforms?
Free plans often limit the number of contacts, emails sent per month, and available features. However, they provide enough capacity for smaller businesses to get started. As your needs grow, you can upgrade to paid plans.
Are free email marketing platforms still reliable?
Yes, leading free providers like Mailchimp and Sendinblue offer robust infrastructure and deliverability even on free plans. You’ll still get professional, high-quality services.
How much do paid email marketing platforms cost?
Paid plans often start around $10 – $30 per month and increase based on number of contacts, emails sent, and added features. Many have discounted annual plans as well.
Should I build my own email list or buy one?
Building your own permission-based list over time is best for engagement and deliverability. Purchasing email lists tends to have low response rates, spam complaints, and high unsubscribe levels.
How quickly will my emails get delivered?
Most reputable providers deliver emails within minutes or less. Delivery speed depends on list size, sending reputation, and spam filtering which improves over time as you gain trust.
Can I integrate email marketing with my CRM or ecommerce platform?
Yes, most providers integrate with popular CRM, marketing automation, ecommerce and other platforms via APIs or connectors. This allows segments and workflows to sync.
How do I migrate to a new email service provider?
Most platforms make it easy to import your contacts and past campaign history to switch providers. Some even migrate on your behalf with no downtime in sending.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Adding email marketing capabilities doesn’t require big budgets. Platforms like Mailchimp, Sendinblue, and MailerLite offer robust free plans to get started. Identify the solution that aligns with your current list size, feature needs and ease of use.
Then optimize subscriber acquisition, email design, and analytics tracking to make the most of your chosen platform. With the right email nurturing and automation, you can turn new contacts into loyal, high-lifetime-value customers.
What free email marketing platform will you try first? Let us know in the comments!