Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing tools online, but another email service provider (ESP) might be a better fit for your goals.
With over 9 million users, Mailchimp is an influential presence in email marketing culture. Founded in 2001, the company made waves last year when then-CEO Ben Chestnut sent the company (yes, the entire company) a 1,400-word email calling sharing preferred pronouns a practice that “does more harm than good,” per reporting from Platformer. A month later, Chestnut stepped down.
Even if you prefer not to mix business and politics, Mailchimp falls short on several features, and there are other email marketing platform options available at a similar or lower cost.
If you’re shopping around for an alternative to Mailchimp, here’s what features you should look out for, along with Mailchimp alternatives for 2023 to consider.
Table of Contents
Why Care About Email Marketing?
Email marketing continues to be one of the best ways to keep in touch with followers, leads, and existing customers. Many email marketing software tools, like ConvertKit, are “freemium,” meaning they have a free plan you can sign up for to learn the ropes. You can then upgrade to a paid plan later.
Most tools usually require you to upgrade your free plan once your list has reached a certain size; 1,000 subscribers is a common threshold.
Mailchimp spends heavily on marketing and advertising, and as a result they have a lot of visibility. But the software has its drawbacks. For example, if a user signs up twice, that counts as two contacts toward your free plan limit. Most email marketing tools tier their pricing based on your list size, so this isn’t a great setup.
You can, however, send unlimited emails.
Why Care About Marketing Automation?
Email marketing automation is truly the crown jewel of digital marketing. For ecommerce stores and service providers alike, you need customized communication so that you can send your readers the right message at the right time.
Email automation often gets clumped into advanced features, but it’s more common than you might think. When you sign up for a newsletter to get a freebie, that’s a marketing automation. When Starbucks sends you a coupon on your birthday, that’s also a marketing automation.
You can also create a more advanced automation down the line to save yourself time and energy, or you can keep things simple—it’s up to you. Keep your focus on building your list.
Ecommerce email marketing is the most crucial, but anyone who wants to conduct business online should look at how to incorporate marketing automation workflows into the email marketing efforts.
Mailchimp Alternatives: Other Email Marketing Software Options to Consider
ActiveCampaign vs. Mailchimp
ActiveCampaign is a robust email service provider that doubles as a customer resource management (CRM) tool. I use ActiveCampaign and love it, but it does require that you choose one of its paid plans from the start after your 14-day free trial expires.
What makes ActiveCampaign a great Mailchimp alternative is the platform’s more advanced features. ActiveCampaign is unmatched as a marketing automation platform, and has pre-built recipes for automation workflows to power your sales funnel.
The software is favored by online stores and ecommerce platforms for its customization potential, but if you’re just dipping your roe into email marketing, it may not be the best option for you.
ActiveCampaign’s features include email templates, landing pages, signup forms, and a recently redesigned drag and drop email builder. If you need all the features, ActiveCampaign gets you there.
➡️ Read a more features-focused review of ActiveCampaign here.
ConvertKit vs. Mailchimp
ConvertKit is another incredibly popular email marketing platform, and is one of the best Mailchimp alternatives to consider. ConvertKit doesn’t have quite as much automation potential as ActiveCampaign, but is still widely used and effective.
I recommend both. A good way to compare is to think of ActiveCampaign as being more for companies and organizations, and ConvertKit as being better for solopreneurs and creators.
ConvertKit’s free plan lets you have up to 300 subscribers, with landing pages, forms, and unlimited emails, for free. A free plan is a great way to work out the kinks of your email marketing strategy before making a financial commitment.
ConvertKit is probably the best Mailchimp alternative, and the platform most similar to Mailchimp. The landing page builder is simple and effective, and your price increases based on the number of subscribers you have.
Flodesk vs. Mailchimp
If you have a lot of subscribers, and are looking for a really cost-effective Mailchimp alternative, look no further than Flodesk.
At $39/month for unlimited contacts, Flodesk is hard to beat. The platform is also woman-owned. It was founded in 2019 in response to other email marketing software platforms being bloated and expensive. Did I mention you can have unlimited contacts?
Where Flodesk falls short is in its automation tools. Flodesk doesn’t have the same sales pipeline features or advanced analytics that other email marketing services are able to tout. But perhaps you don’t need those features. If you’re looking for alternatives to Mailchimp that don’t break the bank, Flodesk would be an excellent choice.
Constant Contact vs. Mailchimp
Constant Contact is an email marketing solution that is particularly popular with health and fitness studios, thanks to its longstanding integration with Mindbody. The platform is not as popular as other Mailchimp alternatives, but if you work in health and fitness and use Mindbody, it’s one of the better solutions.
That’s because Mindbody is notorious for its lack of integrations with other marketing tools. Rather than try to stick everything together with duct tape, look for an email platform that will integrate seamlessly with your existing tech stack.
Substack vs. Mailchimp
Substack is a popular email newsletters startup that lets you get an email list up and running quickly. It’s touted as one of the best Mailchimp alternatives, but I would disagree with this assertion.
Although Substack does have a forever free plan, which is great for getting in front of lots of people, there are several important features missing from it that are necessary for email marketing automation. There are no automation workflows, and there is no way to tag or segment your subscribers. Your only option is to email everyone at once, with the same message, manually.
Marketing automation features are important if you are a business owner or creator who needs to save time. If you know you want to pursue a more creator-esque strategy with email, however, Substack will let you do this without having to sign up for a premium plan. Substack also recently reached a feature, Notes, that may be of interest.
Email Marketing Features to Know
Email service providers do way more than just send emails. Here’s a rundown of what features you can expect when choosing an email marketing software.
Drag and Drop Email Newsletter Builder
Nearly all ESPs make it easy to create beautiful emails, even if you are allergic to tech. The way they do this is with a drag and drop email builder.
A drag and drop editor is exactly what it sounds like: you can drag different content blocks into the interface. There are typically blocks for text, images, buttons, and embed code.
Most providers come with a variety of email templates. But you can also design your own emails from scratch in a drag and drop editor, then save your creations as email templates of their own for future reference.
Just did a whole section on this! But different email marketing platforms will have different levels of automation. ActiveCampaign takes the cake here, but if you’re just getting started, you may not need a lot of automation for your email marketing campaigns.
SMS marketing refers to text-based marketing, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with leads. If your email software has SMS messages enabled, you’ll be able to send text marketing, which historically has a very high open rate.
Small businesses need multiple ways to get in front of potential new customers. Rather than blow your budget on social media ads or other forms of advertising, rev up your middle-of-funnel marketing and get in front of users who already know who you are more frequently.
Some email marketing tools double as a customer resource management tool, and act as a source of truth for your client records. When you use a quality email marketing platform, you’ll be able to track contact activity automatically.
This can come in handy when you need to look at contact information later, or when you want to build a new marketing automation only for your most engaged readers.
Landing Page Builder
Landing pages are a secret weapon for growing your email list more quickly, and a good landing page builder will be your best friend in this industry. LeadPages is a fantastic landing page builder that is also good for sales pages, and I’ve used them since 2016. But since then, many email marketing platforms have released landing page builders of their own as one of their more advanced features.
A landing page acts as a forcing mechanism—readers either sign up or leave. When presented with this simple binary decision, more users are inclined to actually make a decision in the first place. Since Mailchimp themselves have a built-in landing page builder, the best Mailchimp alternatives—ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Flodesk—have them, too.
I encourage you to think about customer support when choosing an email marketing tool. Is there phone support? Is there a chat function? When things go wrong or you have a question, you want to receive service quickly. Keep this in mind before making your decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Best Free Mailchimp Alternatives?
The best alternatives to Mailchimp include ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Flodesk. All of these tools have similar features to Mailchimp, including signup forms, transactional emails, a smooth email builder, and email templates.
Do I Need a Premium Plan to Do Email Marketing?
It depends on the platform you’re using. Some tools, such as ConvertKit, have a free plan up to a certain number of subscribers. Take advantage of these tools to learn the ropes of email marketing before making a financial commitment.
Can You Send Unlimited Emails with Mailchimp?
With both Mailchimp and Mailchimp competitors, you can send unlimited emails on any tier of service. Where you’re typically limited is in the number of contacts you have in your account before paid plans are required.
Is There a Free Email Marketing Service?
The best free Mailchimp alternative is either ConvertKit’s free tier or Substack. You can always migrate your list to another platform down the line. If you want advanced automation, however, consider using a tool like ActiveCampaign from the start.
Who Are the Biggest Mailchimp Competitors?
For basic marketing automation, the main competitors to Mailchimp are ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Flodesk. Although Mailchimp and ConvertKit have a free plan, an email marketing service that includes automation might be a higher priority.
Upgrade Your Email Marketing Tool Today
Your email marketing tool is one of your most important battle axes in this online game. Choose a platform and learn it well so you can bring your publishing goals to fruition. ◆
Thanks For Reading 🙏🏼
Keep up the momentum with one or more of these next steps:
📣 Share this post with your network or a friend. Sharing helps spread the word, and posts are formatted to be both easy to read and easy to curate – you'll look savvy and informed.
📲 Hang out with me on another platform. I'm active on Medium, Instagram, and LinkedIn – if you're on any of those, say hello.
📬 Sign up for my free email list. This is where my best, most exclusive and most valuable content gets published. Use any of the signup boxes on the site.
🏕 Up your writing game: Camp Wordsmith® is a content marketing strategy program for small business owners, service providers, and online professionals. Learn more here.
📊 Hire me for consulting. I provide 1-on-1 consultations through my company, Hefty Media Group. We're a certified diversity supplier with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Learn more here.