Knockout Email Marketing: which Software Packs the Most Punch for small businesses?


To be an entrepreneur is to be an expert in your product or service. It also means being good at all aspects of running your business. As more customers turn to the internet for purchases, one of the skills you need to master to increase awareness of your brand and boost sales is email marketing.

With several email marketing software available in the market, any business can create a successful email campaign. To help with your search for the right tool, let’s put MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and Infusionsoft into the ring to see how each stands up to the needs of your business.

List building

Effective campaigns start with a highly organised and targeted email list. This means the most relevant content are sent to the people who most need or want it. All three email marketing software provides you with the option to create segments that group your subscribers based on categories that you set.

While MailChimp’s segmentation feature is fairly simple, it does not allow you to add tags for better accuracy. ActiveCampaign tagging feature allows you to add what content they have received or product link they’ve clicked as part of the contact’s information. Infusionsoft takes it a step further by allowing you to group tags into categories.

Round 1 goes to: Infusionsoft

Creating and editing emails

Once you’ve got your contact list settled, the next step is to create beautiful and engaging emails to send to your subscribers. An intuitive drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor is a lifesaver if you have little to no background in design.

Active Campaign’s design tool can be a little bare, while Infusionsoft requires a steeper learning curve. MailChimp takes the cake for having a clean and user-friendly interface that allows you to upload and edit images through a file manager that can be accessed from the email designer, templates dashboard, and code editor. It also allows you to optimise and test your emails for mobile.

Round 2 goes to: MailChimp

Automation

The beauty of using an email marketing software is that you can consistently and automatically send emails to your subscribers based on an interaction with your initial email or a specific time. You can trigger a welcome email when someone subscribes, send a related e-book when they click a product link, or a follow-up email after a purchase.

All three are toe-to-toe when it comes to their automation feature. But keep in mind that for MailChimp, this feature is only available for paid accounts. Infusionsoft earns points for having a drag and drop interface for plotting your automations. ActiveCampaign edges out the competition by having an easy to navigate and intuitive interface that combines simplicity and flexibility through additional and/or conditions.

Round 3 goes to: ActiveCampaign

Integration with other apps

As fairly popular email software providers, ActiveCampaign and MailChimp easily integrate with other applications, compared to Infusionsoft. However, the latter makes up for its few integrations by creating a strong built-in CRM and an e-commerce platform which is useful for businesses who want everything under a single system.

Round 4: Three-way tie

Pricing and plans

To work with a small business budget, it’s best to look at their bottom-tier plans side by side. ActiveCampaign offers a free 14-day trial, with their plans starting at $9 per month for 500 contacts and unlimited emails. Infusionsoft provides a free demo, but can be pricey with packages starting at $199 per month and a mandatory $1,999 training fee.

Of the three, MailChimp offers the most flexibility with a basic forever free plan they call Freemium which supports 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. They also offer a monthly and pay as you go option that works well for small businesses that don’t need all pro features but require some.

Round 5 goes to: Whatever works with your budget

The winner

In general, speed and ease are of higher value for small businesses. If you’re looking for a free way to send basic yet beautiful emails, MailChimp will be easy to adapt and implement. For sophisticated automation on a budget, ActiveCampaign is the way to go. If you have more money and time to spare learning a more advanced tool, Infusionsoft is recommended.

Email marketing is all about trial and error—you’re going to have to take some punches before you find your footing. Don’t be afraid to practice, test, and call for support when necessary. By keeping a steady eye on your goals for email marketing, your business will win customers over with your knockout campaigns.


About the author

Pia Rios is head of marketing for Alltel Australia. Her expertise in digital marketing, brand, and business communications has been key in helping businesses achieve their marketing goals and bottom line.