5 Top Email Marketing Tools on a Budget

March 31, 2016Diana Lengerson

Whether you’re a small business or just a one-person-show, you probably need an affordable email marketing tool to help you get more organized and professional. There are a lot of great apps out there but not all offer plans for tight budgets, or else their free plans lack functionality.

Before choosing an email marketing solution, determine two important numbers: how many contacts you have, and how many emails you will be sending per month. Most email marketing service plans take those two variables into account to determine the price of your plan or if you qualify for their free plan. You will typically be able to pay monthly or annually, saving significantly if you pay annually upfront. Be careful choosing this option, however, taking into account how your contact list and email needs may expand over 12 long months.

Common features you may need include automation, newsletter builder, statistical reports, integration, and segmentation options. Depending on the nature of your business, some features may be more or less important to you and so different apps have also focused the best of their efforts on certain features. To help you pick the best email marketing tool for your budget, we’ve profiled the top choices:

1. MailRelay


MailRelay beats a path to accessibility with unbeatable features for free plans and extremely affordable prices to grow with your business. You can grab a free account with up to 15,000 subscribers and 75,000 emails per month after signing up and showing them appreciation on social media. It’s as simple as a one-time ‘like’ to gain a high-rate subscription to this powerful email marketing tool.

Even if you don’t want to upgrade your free account, MailRelay email marketing offers a no-commitment free plan for 3,000 subscribers and 15,000 emails a month.

Enjoy features like:

  • Easy-to-use templates for code-free newsletter creation
  • Send emails from MailRelay or your favorite email client while retaining statistics
  • Excellent attention to email delivery, with automatic bounce-back and unsubscribe management
  • Great statistics monitoring everything from the demographics to the click habits of your subscribers
  • Free plans for NGOs

2. TinyLetter


Advanced statistics may not be your thing, and it seems like a waste to spend money on features you don’t really needs. TinyLetter was developed for small businesses and individuals who just need a clean, simple platform to make newsletters and organize their contacts. Best yet, it’s entirely free.

TinyLetter is especially ideal for people with large online followings who want professional and uniform communications with a large subscription base without the necessary intention of selling anything. Keep your followers and fans up-to-date with features like:

  • Up to 5,000 subscribers
  • Embedded subscription codes
  • Customizable subscription landing pages
  • No learning curve, make emails with TinyLetter as simply as a regular email

3. MailChimp


The developers of MailChimp are also responsible for TinyLetter. MailChimp is their business-oriented email marketing service which also offers very simple but helpful features on a free plan.

MailChimp is known very well for its accessibility for small businesses and its playful design scheme. The templates may be predictable but they are well designed and full of bold color to grab your subscribers’ attention. With their somewhat limited free plan, you can send up to 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers. After that, the prices can become a bit steep so be sure to consider your future growth. Some key features include:

  • Excellent form builder designed to get subscribers and more information about your existing client list.
  • Reports and analytics are also pretty good for a free service, enhanced by integration
  • Tools to test the success of your newsletter before it’s sent
  • Mobile app for on-the-go management

4. FreshMail


Perhaps you have a very small subscriber base of less than 500, and you only want to send 2,000 letters a month. FreshMail has a free plan for the true small business who focuses on high-quality, personal and unique emails. FreshMail also offers a good variety of payment options, allowing you to pay based on either number of subscribers OR total emails sent per month, instead of other apps which always consider both.

This gives you great flexibility if you only need the email marketing service for certain times in the year or want to send a large volume of emails. For instance, if you typically only send a few newsletters a month but during the Christmas season send increased promotional and transactional emails, you may be interested in a “pay as you go” plan so you aren’t paying more than you have to.

FreshMail’s features focus on the aesthetic:

  • Import and Export HTML to create unique newsletters
  • Turn-Off safe options to maintain the integrity of your newsletters without images
  • Email Marketing Automation tools to personalize automated emails to individual subscribers
  • Excellent segmentation

5. GetResponse


If you have a small business with a combination of these needs, GetResponse offers affordable rates but is markedly the only app on the list that doesn’t offer a free plan option. Rates start at $15/month for 1,000 subscribers.

For this modest monthly fee, GetResponse offers a great collection of tools useful for any small business. In addition to email automation, GetResponse has webinar tools to keep you in contact with your employees, clients, and maybe even host a live cast for your subscribers. Decidedly balancing form and design, GetResponse’s features include:

  • Extensive A/B testing options
  • Previews to perfect your newsletters for phone, tablet and computer monitor
  • Easy editing tools for templates and images
  • List building tools to help boost your contacts

Final Thoughts

Depending on your budget and needs, any one of these apps could be a fine option for you. Once you’ve decided what your business really needs to grow, you can choose the right client, but be aware that it’s not always easy to transfer your contact lists and analytics from one app to the other. You may be stuck with an email marketing service provider for a long time, so take your time and make a wise decision for the future of your business.

One last thing to consider are the applications and software tools your business is already using. CRMs, PRMs, accounting software and even social media may need to be integrated to get the best use from your email marketing software, so make sure your choice is compatible with the existing apps your company already uses.










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