Best Email Newsletter Tools: Email List, Features, Comparison, Hosting, and Integration
I recently launched my new site, and I was thinking about the best way to engage with my visitors and regular readers. I needed a simple but functional way to build my email list, notify people about new content, updates, and so on.
I was looking for a robust and not expensive solution for my website.
So I searched for existing solutions, available features, and how expensive it can be to run a newsletter.
I decided to share my thoughts on an ideal solution for building email lists, weekly newsletters, automation, and everything I found so far.
- Why build an email list?
- Opt-in Forms.
- Email sequences.
- Call to Action.
- Newsletter Templates.
- Privacy and security.
- Email Marketing Tools Comparison.
- Integration and Self-Hosting.
- Bottom line.
The truth is that social media platforms are made to make money on ads. So even if you have a lot of subscribers on any of the platforms, sooner or later, these companies will find a way to hide your posts and promote their advertisement features instead.
If you want your posts about a product or services to be seen, you need to pay them, and that not guarantee you to get sales instantly, maybe none of them at all.
Companies spend 5 and 6 figures on ads monthly on these platforms, and if you're just starting or running a small business, it's tough to compete with those who spend that much on ads.
Why build an email list?
Building your Email list can be rewarding for your site and business in many ways.
First, you have more power and control over your business and how you communicate with your audience.
You can manage your contacts however you want. Build your audience without limits and restrictions.
Your website plus email list is your platform, and you control all the policies and rules of how people get and see the content you create.
You can easily build relationships with your audience via email.
You can monetize your business using your email list whenever you feel it's the right time to do it.
Features of a Good Newsletter in My Opinion
A simple and minimalistic subscription form is the key here. You really don't need a fancy design. What's important is, so people see it at some point on your site, and it's quite easy to understand why and how to subscribe.
Field validation and spam prevention are important.
If you blog about stuff and want people to subscribe to get notifications about future posts, you might want to have a confirmation email so that you don't have an email list full of fake emails at the end of the day. Also, it's a fair and ethically right way to know your subscribers a little bit better without invasive tracking mechanisms.
And probably, you might want to turn off the confirmation step in case if you send a freebie in return for a subscription. So people who subscribe have enough motivation to use their real email address in order to get the freebie.
Ideally, I'd want that opt-in form and newsletter capabilities to be fully integrated into my blog. I don't know about you, but I don't want to rely on 3rd-party services that can stop working without me even knowing about it.
Appearance and the way it pops-up
You can place the opt-in form in many places on your website. It can be a button or a visible form. It can be placed above the fold, in the middle, or at the bottom of the content.
It's quite often that an opt-in form pops up, closing up all the content to bring all attention to it. Which I think is super invasive and sometimes breaking the User Experience.
The question is what is right in your case and your type of content.
The most common options are:
- On the Home page;
- Below a blog post;
- Inside content;
I think the answer lies somewhere in between "I don't want to repel your visitors" and "I need to build my email list in the most efficient way possible."
You can be more specific in communicating with your audience if you use segmentation. People can subscribe or become a member in different areas of your website. Which means they have different interests and value different things.
It will be wise to manage the content and emails you send to your audience if you know what they value the most.
For example, a part of your community members might subscribe to receiving a newsletter from a specific category of your blog. It's so much better if you can send them only new blog posts from this specific category, related products, and generally speaking, stick to the topic.
Another example is when people left their emails to get a freebie product. Usually, this is a slightly different segment of your audience, and oftentimes you communicate with them slightly in a different way.
It might be a good idea to try a segment based on the location of your opt-in forms. The content you send to them can be the same, but you might get a different response. So you might want to experiment with the way you distribute your content, etc.
It's a specific series of emails automatically sent to a segment of people on your email list.
Here are several examples of email sequences:
- Welcome series
- Follow-up emails
- Relevant content
- Buying a product
- 30 days after a purchase
- Holidays (if relevant)
Approximately 4 out of 5 brands don't have automated flows set up. I assume that impacts engagement and revenue metrics.
I think automation simplifies everything. Especially if you don't have a lot of time on marketing your business, and that's something you can set up once, and it will work for you using machine and algorithm powers.
The question is if there is a right tool for you and it's worth paying for it in your case.
The Most Common Automations
- Newsletter scheduler
- Welcome email
- Freebie sent right after the subscription
Strong Call to Action Elements
As a rule, buttons convert better than links in approximately 50% of cases.
You might want to add dynamic content generated by your site or add it manually. The whole block can be clickable. You can use interactive elements like buttons or countdown timers inside blocks. There is also a trend of adding animated or video blocks into email newsletters.
It's nice to have a library of banners that you can add to different segments and/or create a rotation of banners in weekly or daily newsletters.
One of the main criteria in email templates is responsiveness. Your email should look good on screens of different sizes, whether it's a desktop monitor, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
A fancy email template design won't work if it's broken or not optimized for small screens.
Aim for a simple and minimalistic look. Dark-colored text on a white background works great. It's even better if it supports dark mode, and colors can be easily inverted when opened on a device where a dark mode is turned on.
Add your personal touch by simply changing the color of the call to action elements to one of your brand's colors, of course, if it works well with the light and dark backgrounds.
Add your logo in the header if you can and edit footer information related to your business. Some people add their signatures and photos to make it look like there is a human behind all these email letters.
Of course, content is king, and it matters more than the type of templates you're going to use or using right now.
I know some very successful online businesses that use plain text emails and even advocate this approach as the most genuine. It looks like somebody just opened up email software and wrote a personal letter to you.
It would be best if you had a clear way of how to unsubscribe from your newsletters. Otherwise, more people will mark your emails as spam, which isn't good for your reputation.
Privacy and security
The whole experience for you and your subscribers should be secure. That means the data you get from the people that subscribe to your blog is private and not shared or sold to anyone. Subscriber's data should be stored in a secure way as well.
The Internet is still like a wild west in some sense, and some people do unethically right things, and good honest businesses suffer because of this.
This is also related to how you analyze the performance of your newsletter—things like open rate, clicks, etc.
Email Marketing Tools
Here are several well-known tools that can be useful for building your email list or improving your existing workflow.
MailChimp is a leading email marketing tool. It's easy to start using this tool because the onboard experience is amazing.
I was a fan of this a while ago until they've changed the design and pricing. I'm sure they have legitimate reasons for that, but that's something I can't support on my side.
They still do a great job in terms of design and user experience if compared to other products, and if you have a good budget and are eager to cover email marketing costs, then using MailChimp might be a good idea.
And the good news that you can still try it for free.
This tool combines in itself 3 main features that help users with email marketing, customer relationships, and landing page design.
You can also A/B test your variants and see what performs well and optimize your campaigns.
It lets you customize your emails by name, gender, age, and even a job role using replaceable text fields.
I'd recommend using Flodesk if you want to send beautiful emails. Their main focus is on that.
The email workflow is a nice feature that lets you send a series of emails to your subscribers automatically. You can set up conditions.
Flodesk has segmentation capabilities in case if you have several types of opt-in forms.
Comprehensive email tool that helps you build email campaigns and create responsive landing pages that match each other.
MailerLite is relatively new, and people say it's a lot cheaper than other similar tools.
It's easy and affordable if you have a small business or you want to grow and manage your audience as an independent blogger or creative.
Mailjet provides collaborative tools to help you build email campaigns.
Some people say that they have security issues, and they ban their customers if they can't support that kind of business due to internal policies. For instance, there was a precedent when they'd blocked a political activity, which is cool if you look at it from a different perspective.
But I'm personally not a fan of a product that can ban me one day if I send something they don't like. I understand that companies have policies, but it's quite often that they're not transparent enough.
It's good that they have the Email API tho. That means you can integrate it into your systems. Let's say you want to build an integration into your CRM. You can do that using Mailjet.
This email marketing tool helps you automate repetitive tasks. The segmentation feature helps you to send accurate emails to each recipient in your email list.
As far as I know, they have pretty much all the needed features to cover marketing needs—also, lots of templates, including Landing page templates.
However, I'm not sure I would want to do all of it. I'd rather have a focused approach on a specific flow like creating content and building my email list along the way.
Integration and Self-Hosting
Own your audience
A good thing about building your audience using email lists is that you control almost everything in this process.
Most people check emails daily or at least every week.
You can expect an influx of traffic almost immediately when you send your newsletter. The more control you have in the process of sharing new content and notifying your subscribers, the better for your business and your community.
Host your community on your site
There are many stories where people use 3rd-party services, and they were banned or had difficulties managing their subscribers because of a company policy.
The best-case scenario is that you host and store all the content, subscribers database, and everything related to your site on your own. You don't have to build your server, but you can rent online from a hosting company and run your site with everything that you need without limitations.
Of course, the data about your subscribers should be stored in a secure way.
Build your platform
Building your site and host everything on your own could be a challenging task. Thankfully, there are solutions that you can start using in minutes right of the package. And the good news is that solutions like these can be customized in a way you want to set your things up.
Using 3rd-party online services is easy, and all you need is to sign up to start using your account and get a working link, but, as a rule, you'll stumble upon huge limitations and expenses later on.
Building your platform, on the other hand, makes things easier and transparent later on. Also, you can be more creative with your business and the projects you're working on. It's good for you and good for your community.
As soon as you figure out what package solution you want to use or even if you want to build your own platform from scratch and host it, then the rest is easy.
Automation and cool features
Automated processes like scheduled tasks, auto-publishing, opt-in forms, email sequencing, comment moderation always make your life easier.
With good automation features, you can set things up once and focus on creative tasks like content creation, tweaks and updates if necessary. The rest should run without your presence.
You should be able to send automated emails to people without even touching your keyboard.
The same goes for new visitors. Ideally, your site should be optimized right from the very beginning without the necessity of installing any plug-ins and filling up a bunch of forms.
A combination of blogging and email tools covers pretty much all about content creation and distribution. I believe these two should be tightly integrated into your site so you can easily achieve your goals with minimum distractions on plug-ins and moving things back and forth between different platforms.
It took me a while to figure out what am I actually need. And I've checked quite a lot of solutions.
Honestly, it became a paradox of choice for me. It can be quite overwhelming comparing different features, and pricing tables then see that one tool has a feature that I need and it works exactly how I need it to work, but then the price isn't within my range or it lacks other features that other tools have.
I realized that I don't really need advanced email marketing software. Maybe a nice and minimal or a custom solution would be nice.
So I decided to build my own and automate all the workflows as much as I can. Because I really don't have that much time for deep analysis or for manually creating campaigns and moving my content in between different software tools each week, plus adapt things to a different format, etc. I believe it's something that's done by teams, but definitely not by one person who runs a creative business. I simply have no time for tasks that should be automated anyway.
Ideally, I want to write a blog post, publish it, and from this moment, everything else will be taken care of by my site. My content can be found online because it has a good SEO. People subscribe because the content is good, and the opt-in form works properly. Subscribers would get weekly emails with the new content if any were posted on that week. That's it.
I want it to be integrated into my blog and not serve as a 3rd-party solution. Also, it should be affordable for people. Yeah, I'm going to build it in Spry, a platform that actually powers this site. And you can already see the opt-in form below and the working email newsletter.
You can try it yourself, of course, if you're interested in receiving emails from me, ha-ha. I'll be sharing more updates and other content about blogging and related topics. So you're welcome to join my email list ;)
Otherwise, I hope you found something useful and got an idea of how you can build your email list or improve your existing workflow with other tools on the market. Feel free to say hi and share your experience!