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Let’s compare email marketing services, shall we?

apples to applesHaving worked with a number of email marketing solutions, we thought it appropriate to put together an informal email marketing service roundup.

Let’s start with the bottom line: at Clever Zebo, we’re all about MailChimp as the easiest, most user-friendly email marketing tool when comparing apples to apples.


Constant Contact review

A classic, well-known email marketing solution, Constant Contact is very friendly to business owners but leaves something to be desired if you’re a veteran email marketer. Still, I’d rate it well overall and would recommend it to an email marketing novice because of its easy setup and modest pricing — you can always                                                  graduate to a more complex email marketing solution.

What we love:

  • Easy to navigate, upload lists and craft emails
  • Free trial with no credit card required
  • Decent number of templates to choose from
  • Solid customer support
  • The email creation interface’s draggable, editable windows are a nice touch.

What we don’t love:

  • Free trial only allows you 100 contacts, so you can’t gather any meaningful data from a test email campaign
  • No good built-in mechanism for A/B testing
  • Editing and formatting is finicky
  • We should be able to copy and past editing WYSIWIG windows among different emails.


iContact review

iContact is, for the most part, painful to use. The user interface is clunky, very basic functionality, and preview doesn’t work correctly. We don’t recommend it.


MaxMail review

MaxMail is a decent tool, though there are some kinks to work out when it comes to the editing tools. What’s nice about it is the ability to do more than just send email blasts; you can create landing page lead forms, integrate with your social presence, etc.

We also love companies whose messaging is clear, sharp, gimmick-free and full of personality — and MaxMail does a nice job of talking to customers like they’re smart and capable.

What we love:

  • Friendly messaging
  • Sharp user-interface
  • Because they’re a Canadian company (not covered by CAN-SPAM), less stringent list restrictions allow for more prospecting freedom
  • Email automation functionality based on user behavior
  • By hour granular open/click reporting
  • Ambitious, passionate management team

What we don’t love:

  • Buggy editing tools make designing emails difficult
  • Only 4 pre-designed templates
  • Less-stringent list restrictions put their shared servers at much higher risk of deliverability issues
  • Pulling visual assets form a web page is not intuitive and the help functionality went to Not Found pages
  • No A/B testing function
  • 500 emails in the free trial is too few to get a good taste


MailChimp review

Mail Chimp is a winning email marketing solution. At the end of the day, their attention to excellent user experience, and maybe even more importantly, their avoidance of common UX pitfalls, make the application a pleasure to work with.

What we love:

  • Incredibly easy and user-friendly
  • Humor is part of the MailChimp experience
  • The free trial, which allows you up to 12,000 emails per month, allows for a truly valuable experience with the tool and inspires confidence in the offering
  • Analytics and tracking are integrated
  • Reports are simple, easy to read, and don’t require download
  • They have easy-to-use A/B testing

What we don’t love:

  • We’re all about clean email lists, but their super-stringent deliverability policies are a little too aggressive for businesses in the process of vetting a list
  • They’re not big on phone support, so you better be comfortable with email, chat, and Forums


ExactTarget review

Exact Target is an expert email platform for large-volume senders. You pay a premium for incredible deliverability and reputation, but it’s ultimately worth it.

What we love:

  • Designed for large-volume senders
  • Straight-forward interface provides you with the essentials but also allows for expansion such as API integration, automation rules, etc.
  • Incredible deliverability on shared servers
  • Knowledgeable, helpful deliverability team has the relationships and know-how to clean up snafus
  • A human being picks up the customer service line
  • Conversion tracking built in to reporting
  • Send metering
  • Extremely stable platform

What we don’t love:

  • No automated A/B testing functionality
  • Specialists are helpful when they get on the phone, but it’s a big company, and they can be hard to track down
  • While they are trying to build out a lot of advanced functionality, the platform wasn’t designed to encompass the full suite of marketing automation, so they’re somewhere in the middle.


Marketo review

Generally, Marketo is labeled as a marketing automation solution, but email is a core component. As we have a bunch of experience with Marketo, we felt it was important to write up.

What we love:

  • Awesome email automation functionality made simple by an intuitive user interface
  • Super-deep reporting
  • Full integration with SFDC
  • Solid customer support
  • A engaged user community helps drive product development and keep Marketo on its toes

What we don’t love:

  • The platform is made for tens not hundreds of thousands of database records. If you have a million people in your database, expect load wait times.
  • Marketo doesn’t fully support Salesforce.com custom objects, so beware.
  • It’s really expensive as an email solution unless you’re a high-volume sender.
  • They’re a fast-growing startup, and we encountered some technical issues. There are more stable email solution platforms out there, such as Exact Target.

Do you have experience with the email marketing solutions we mentioned, or comments on email tools we didn’t cover? Please tell us in the comments.