There’s a TON of options when it comes to email marketing software! It’s not surprising that picking the best email marketing platform for your business can feel like a complicated & overwhelming process.
There’s ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, Constant Contact, AWeber, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, MailerLite, Sendinblue, HubSpot, Klaviyo, Bento… the list goes on and on.
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We’ve spent countless hours testing the leading options and assessing the email marketing tools each of them offers. We’ve even run our entire business on SEVEN of the leading platforms!
After all that testing, we’ve narrowed it down to just THREE standout email marketing services that we now recommend to help you carry out your email marketing strategy.
In this complete review of the best email marketing software in 2023, we’ll share options for beginners, more advanced email marketers and a NEW recommendation for real power users.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Email Marketing Software #1: ConvertKit
- Email Marketing Software #2: ActiveCampaign
- Email Marketing Software #3: Bento
We’ll start with the best email marketing platform for those who are the least technical and move up to the best opinion for the most technical users.
Let’s dive in.
Email Marketing Software #1: ConvertKit
ConvertKit is an awesome and easy to use email marketing tool.
It’s a platform that a beginner could jump into and figure out really quickly. In fact, it’s probably the easiest email marketing services for someone to learn.
The interface is really simple and intuitive. The homepage offers some really helpful analytics at a glance. You can really easily navigate through the different areas and find what you’re looking for quickly.
There’s no drag and drop editor in ConvertKit’s email builder. You will find a handful of email templates but these are quite basic and you can make only minimal customizations to them.
Because there’s not a lot of options available, you can build something out insanely quickly.
So your emails might not be super customized or advanced, but they’ll look pretty good and you won’t have had to spend much time building them out.
It is missing a lot of really cool features and tools that other email marketing software offer. But we’ll cover more on that later.
Instead of needing to send basic and advanced automations from the same automation builder (like in a lot of email marketing platforms), ConvertKit has an incredible sequence builder tool.
This allows you to build out an automated sequence of emails that can be sent to subscribers.
A basic example of this is a Welcome series. When a user subscribes to your list, they’ll receive a sequence of emails spread out over a certain number of days.
You can jump between the emails really quickly and you can even edit the text from directly within the sequence builder which saves you a ton of time navigating to other parts of the platform.
For anything more advanced than that, you’ll want to jump over to the Automation Builder.
When it comes to more advanced marketing automation, ConvertKit has a simple automation builder which supports the basic options that most users will need.
It helps you easily understand what happens as a user moves through a workflow.
You can automate email broadcasts, add delays between emails, add or remove tags, set custom fields, unsubscribe users, and other basic actions like that.
So, it’s definitely not as advanced as the next two options we’ll cover. But if you’re just after some basic automation tools, ConvertKit will get the job done.
There is a built-in landing page feature. Very similar to the email builder, there’s no drag and drop editor, and customization is limited.
Again, because the customization is so limited and there’s no extra features in here, you can get a landing page up and running insanely quickly.
There are a number of landing page templates to choose from so hopefully you’re able to find one that’s close to what you’re looking for.
ConvertKit relies mainly on tags for contact segmentation but you can also utilize segments and custom fields.
We’re generally pretty weary of any platform that leans heavily on tags because it can get really messy, really quickly. You can end up with a ton of tags and it can become hard to track and hard to use.
Of course, this is fine if you’re on the more basic side of things. But your segmentation can get complicated if you end up doing more complex tasks.
A/B testing or split testing is supported but unsurprisingly it’s very basic.
You can test email subject lines but you can only test one variation for each email broadcast.
Custom ratios aren’t supported, so there are predetermined values that you have to stick to. However you can send the best performing subject line to the bulk of your list which is an awesome feature to have built in.
A/B testing can be accessed right at the top of your email. It’s great that you can access this really quickly & easily without having to navigate elsewhere on the platform.
There’s a ton of built-in ecommerce features in ConvertKit that integrate really well with other tools like sales pages, broadcasts and automations.
It’s cool that these are available but keep in mind that you are more restricted when using these built-in tools. A much more powerful alternative would be to use third party ecommerce apps.
ConvertKit’s built-in tools are good for basic digital products, ebooks, free downloads, that type of thing. There are different payment types and some other options you can access as well.
Like in any email marketing software, the pricing really comes down to how many subscribers you have.
We’ll share the pricing for 1000 subscribers to give you an idea of the cost. You can check out the complete pricing information here.
- Free – Available for up to 1000 subscribers only: Doesn’t include access to features such as the visual automation builder, email sequences and advanced reporting
- Creator – $25/month for 1000 subscribers: Unlocks access to things like the automation builder and email sequence builder
- Creator Pro – $50/month for 1000 subscribers: Unlocks access to advanced reporting, unlimited team members, subscriber scoring and more
If you’re looking for the best free email marketing tools, ConvertKit could be the one for you.
While it’s awesome that there’s a free plan, you might want to jump on a higher plan to unlock some awesome features.
PRO TIP: In all of the email marketing software we cover in this guide, you’ll only ever be charged ONCE per identified user – unlike some other options… we’re looking at you Mailchimp!
Who’s It For?
If you don’t want to get caught up with more complex systems or processes, ConvertKit is right up your alley.
There’s not as many pro-level automations and controls as the other options.
But ConvertKit is very purposeful in what they do – yes there’s less advanced controls but this means there’s a lot less potential overwhelm for users.
It offers some great, basic tools that you and your business can grow into. You don’t need to be super technical to get the most out of it.
Email Marketing Software #2: ActiveCampaign
ActiveCampaign is definitely a step up from ConvertKit in terms of the automations and what you can achieve.
It’s well known for its powerful marketing automation tools and allows you to get really creative and flexible with your workflows.
ActiveCampaign has a really nice, clean interface. You’ll immediately notice that there’s a lot more going on than in ConvertKit. There’s just so many more advanced features and controls, and that’s apparent straight up.
There’s a drag and drop editor that offers a ton of customization while still being easy enough and fairly intuitive to use.
You can get really creative and build out customized, advanced emails.
Although, it’s still definitely not as easy as ConvertKit! And you’ll find that the process to create an email is a lot longer than in ConvertKit as well.
There’s some really cool advanced tools like conditional content, custom merge tags and the ability to hide blocks on mobile.
There’s no sequence builder in ActiveCampaign so you’ll need to build out both basic and advanced automations using the same automation builder.
This can be frustrating as you can’t do something like build out a basic welcome series super simply, but on the other hand it means you always have access to those pro-level tools in any automation.
So this does make the basic automations take a little bit longer, but it has the bonus of the more powerful tools and stuff in there as well.
Advanced marketing automation is where the full power of ActiveCampaign really comes in.
You’ll find everything that’s in ConvertKit plus a whole lot more. You can get FAR more advanced!
There’s a massive range of actions, conditions, triggers, sending options (including SMS marketing) and CRM-based tools you can use within the automation builder.
You can integrate website tracking and event tracking which allows you to track things like button clicks back to individual users. This allows you to get super granular with your workflows!
There’s a built-in landing page builder which is incredibly customizable.
It has a drag and drop editor which is one of the most flexible drag and drop editors we’ve come across! You can build out pretty much anything you like!
But that also means it can take a bit longer to get your landing page up and running. So this is the opposite of ConvertKit’s landing page builder.
There’s a ton of templates but you also have the option to start from scratch. This is awesome as it means you’re not limited to what’s there unless you want a starting point.
You can use lists, tags and custom fields for contact segmentation in ActiveCampaign.
The big difference between ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit’s contact segmentation is that AC relies more on lists where CK relies more on tags.
Relying on lists makes your overall segmenting much cleaner and less clunky.
This flows through into the other processes and automations, making your overall experience more streamlined.
This is another area where ActiveCampaign really shines. The A/B split testing feature allows you to test subject line, sender name, email content and images within your email broadcasts. You can test up to five variables at once!
You can decide whether or not the best performing variable is sent to the remaining contents. Plus you can determine custom sending ratios, meaning you can decide how many of each variable are sent to what percentage of the list.
There’s also the ability to split test different workflows in the automation builder.
This allows you to test a bunch of workflow variables, allowing you to get really creative with your tests and find the workflow that will get the best outcome for your business.
ActiveCampaign doesn’t have built-in ecommerce features like ConvertKit. Instead, its strengths lie in its integrations with other ecommerce platforms as well as the metrics and insights it provides through reporting.
As we mentioned in ConvertKit’s ecommerce section, when you use built-in ecommerce tools you’re generally locked into their billing, subscriptions, etc.
So it’s not really a downside that ActiveCampaign doesn’t have these types of tools built-in.
Because their integrations are so good, you’re able to use other tools that are specifically designed for a particular task. This gives you a lot more flexibility and control.
Another awesome feature in ActiveCampaign is the built-in CRM. This is one of the most advanced customer management tools we’ve seen baked into email marketing software.
It allows you to completely manage your customer data, track their histories, check how they’ve interacted with your content and much more.
There’s no free plan available for ActiveCampaign but this isn’t surprising given what you get access to.
We’ll share the pricing for 1000 subscribers to give you an idea of the cost. You can check out the complete pricing information here.
These are the four pricing plans:
- Lite – $29/month for 1000 subscribers: This gives you access to email marketing, automations and event tracking
- Plus – $49/month for 1000 subscribers: You’ll unlock access to landing pages, lead scoring, conditional content and some ecommerce integrations
- Professional – $149/month for 1000 subscribers: This unlocks split automations, site messages and tracking conversions
- Enterprise – custom pricing: Here you get access to custom reporting, single sign on and some other advanced features
It’s also important to note that ActiveCampaign recently changed their pricing structure. Where previously these plans would get you access to all types of tools, AC has been split into two different suites – Email & Marketing Automation and CRM & Sales Engagement.
So if you want access to the CRM features we mentioned, you’ll need to jump on an additional Sales plan or you can select a bundle with both suites.
Who’s It For?
There’s a huge level of depth in ActiveCampaign. If you want to take the time to learn how to use it, this email marketing platform can help you achieve great results.
It’s definitely harder to jump into than something like ConvertKit, especially if you’re a beginner. But it gives you so much room to grow which is awesome if you want to be able to build out some of those advanced workflows and automations.
Email Marketing Software #3: Bento
Bento is the new kid on the block so you may not have heard of it yet… But it’s hands down the most powerful email marketing automation platform we’ve come across.
ConvertKit & ActiveCampaign have been our top picks for a while but now Bento is an option we highly recommend as well.
It has a very specific audience though. If you’re someone who wants to get sophisticated with their email marketing, this could be for you.
Bento takes a very technical approach to email and there’s some super advanced stuff, so it would suit someone who’s very tech savvy!
Like the other options, Bento’s interface is intuitive and easy to use. One of the first things you’ll notice is just how FAST the load times are. You can jump between different pages and sections of the platform insanely quickly.
This really gets highlighted if you’re coming from something like ActiveCampaign where the load times can be soooo slow. You’re constantly seeing that little spinning circle!
This is just one area where Bento looks at things differently. Instead of adding a bunch of their own templates and building out their own custom email builder, they’ve integrated a builder by Stripo.
Stripo has an awesome email builder that’s far better than pretty much any other email marketing service we’ve used.
There are over 1000 free templates available on the Stripo website that you can import to Bento. So there is an added step of having to import your own templates, but it means you have so many more options and more flexibility.
The email builder offers the same advanced tools as something like ActiveCampaign but it’s also much less clunky and it makes email creation more… fun!
Other Advanced Email Tools
Bento is a fundamental rethink of how email should be delivered. For example, they know that sending bulk emails can trigger spam filters which can massively impact your deliverability.
So there’s this amazing feature called Batching that lets you send out an email campaign in smaller batches of emails over X amount of hours.
This way it’s much less likely to look like a bulk email send, meaning it’s less likely to trigger any overzealous spam filters.
Another awesome tool is the built-in email filtering.
Every time someone opts-in to your email list, Bento runs a search to find out if that email address is included in any honeypots, spam lists or if there’s anything incorrect with the email address BEFORE it’s added to your list.
By filtering for this stuff upfront, you’re saved from getting flagged or picked up as spam and having your deliverability be affected down the track.
Like ConvertKit, Bento has a built-in sequence builder for those basic automations.
It’s so awesome to see this tool in here – it can save you a ton of time.
You can even duplicate your sequences into broadcasts for repeat things such as a product launch.
You literally just hit a button and it will go through and schedule all of your emails based on the previously specified time periods between each email.
There are so many random features like this in Bento that make life so much easier.
Bento takes advanced marketing automation to a whole new level. Fair warning – this is not for beginners.
While other email marketing software give you pre-selected options that you can choose from (such as triggers and events), Bento has stripped out a lot of those UI elements.
This completely opens it up and allows users to create their own entirely custom events and criteria for those events. This means you can create pretty much any event trigger and perform almost any event that you want inside a workflow.
This might sound complex and a little scary, but it is something you can definitely get your head around.
The upside is you get a ton of flexibility and you can get really granular with the way that you’re building out email marketing campaigns and a particular customer journey.
But one of the downsides is that you might look at the interface and not know where to start because you’ve got an empty canvas.
Overall, you can build out really, really powerful automations without a lot of the limitations and frustrations that you would have in other tools.
There’s no landing page builder in Bento. However, this isn’t too surprising given that Bento really centers everything around flexibility – they wouldn’t want to introduce a built-in feature that hinders that flexibility.
Instead, Bento offers great site tracking tools. So you can go ahead and build out your own landing pages in WordPress or Webflow and have that full integration for tracking with Bento.
You can see again here that Bento’s audience is people who are more advanced with this stuff. People who want to run a custom website, not just an off-the-shelf template based one.
There’s also a really awesome drag and drop form builder that’s unlike any other email marketing form builder we’ve seen. It’s similar to something like Typeform with customizable logic that you can build out without needing another SaaS tool to do it.
You can use tags, custom fields, segments or even events as a way of segmenting your audience.
As we mentioned earlier, we’re pretty weary of any software that doesn’t use lists as it can result in needing to rely on tags. But Bento doesn’t rely on tags.
It might be one of the only email marketing platforms where you don’t need to rely on lists or tags. You’ve actually got a variety of options.
You might trigger an event to store an update inside a custom event, building out your workflow that way.
So this is a much neater way to segment your contacts.
You can do A/B testing in Bento but it’s more of a DIY option. It currently feels like a V1 of this tool that will likely be built out over time.
So at this point, ActiveCampaign’s A/B testing features are much more powerful out-of-the-box.
Both ActiveCampaign and Bento take a similar approach when it comes to ecommerce.
Instead of having their own built-in ecommerce stores and functionalities, they have some really powerful tools and integrations that allow you to automate, analyze and grow your ecommerce business.
This means you’re not locked into one ecosystem. You have the ability to find exactly what you want in each ecommerce tool.
Again, this is where Bento is targeting users who are more on the technical side of things. People who don’t want one off-the-shelf solution.
Unsurprisingly, Bento also takes a different approach to customer support. It’s all run through a Discord server which also doubles as an awesome community of Bento users.
You have easy access to all the questions and responses from other users. You’re constantly getting updates of new features that have been shipped and new things to try.
Plus you can literally jump in and chat to the founder, Jesse, who usually responds to any queries within a matter of hours (if not much sooner!).
We’ve made several feature suggestions in the Discord and have had multiple of them shipped within a day.
In contrast, we’ve previously had issues with ActiveCampaign during a launch where we’ve had to wait the regular seven day turnaround for them to get things sorted – which is the last thing you want during something time critical like a product launch!
You won’t find multiple pricing plans with different gated features in Bento. In fact, Bento doesn’t restrict or gate any features! No matter how big your list is or how much you’re paying, you’ll have access to everything.
For 1,000 identified users, you’ll be charged $30 per month.
You can check out the complete pricing information here.
Who’s It For?
If you’re someone who geeks on this stuff and wants maximum power & flexibility – Bento’s for you.
It suits someone who is technically minded and who doesn’t want to be limited when it comes to building out complex workflows and automations.
So if you’ve hit limitations in other email marketing software, this really innovative approach to email marketing would definitely appeal to you. Honestly, we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of features in Bento. It’s a powerful option for large and small businesses.
Best Email Marketing Software?
So, which is the best email marketing software for you?
Do you want an email marketing platform that…
- Will just get the job done
- Doesn’t have anything overly complex
- Has a very little learning curve
- Is something you can dive into and get up to scratch as a beginner
Then ConvertKit is likely going to be the best option for you.
If you’re looking for email marketing software that…
- Has a ton of customization options
- Some really advanced automations and workflows
- Gives you plenty of room to grow and scale
- You’re happy to spend some time learning the ropes in
ActiveCampaign is probably right up your alley.
Or maybe you really want an email marketing service that:
- Has heaps of new, innovative features
- Doesn’t lock you in or have many limitations
- Is suited to someone who isn’t afraid to get technical
- Requires some time to get the ropes but will result in incredibly streamlined processes
Then Bento could be the one for you.
Regardless of which email marketing tool you pick, if you want to learn how to build an email list completely organically off the back of your YouTube channel, then check out Free Email List Growth Workshop.
Which email marketing software is the best?
If you’re a beginner or looking for basic email marketing tools, ConvertKit is an amazing option. ActiveCampaign is an awesome tool for anyone looking to get more advanced while still being fairly easy to learn. Bento is the best option for more technical users who have felt limited by other software in the past.
What is the best email marketing software which is free to use?
If you’re looking for the best free email marketing software, check out ConvertKit. ConvertKit offers a free plan for up to 1000 subscribers.
What is the best email marketing service for small businesses?
Any of the three options mentioned above (ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign and Bento) are suitable for small businesses and large businesses alike.