With studies that show a $38 ROI for each $1 spent on email marketing (source), it’s no surprise that email is a major focus for many businesses, both large and small.
But with email inboxes getting more and more crowded, it’s more important than ever that your emails are highly targeted and that you make the right types of offers to your subscribers.
Research also shows that targeted automated emails are extremely effective. Automated email messages average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages (source).
Automated emails can be more effective because they are sent to the right people at the right time with the right message.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 of the best tools that you can use to automate your email marketing and increase profits.
What is Email Marketing Automation?
When email marketing started to gain popularity many years ago, the typical approach was to grow a list of subscribers and send emails to the entire list at the same time. These emails may be called blasts, broadcasts, or newsletters, but these terms all cover essentially the same thing – emailing the same message to everyone on your list.
Email marketing automation takes a more specialized approach. A series of emails can be set up in advance and they are sent automatically when triggered by a certain event or action. For example, when a customer makes a purchase, an automated sequence of emails may go out at specified intervals. The emails can be customized based on the exact item purchased, making the content of the emails extremely relevant to that customer.
It’s not only purchases that can trigger a series of emails. Things like filling out a form, downloading a file, clicking on a link, abandoning a shopping cart without purchasing, and subscribing to a particular list are all examples of possible triggers.
Email marketing automation is extremely effective because 1) it is set up ahead of time and runs on autopilot, and 2) the emails are highly-targeted, which leads to better results.
Automation is good for both the business and the consumer because it reduces the number of irrelevant emails that are sent.
Businesses that use automation can also send blasts to the entire list, or segments of the list, whenever appropriate, but automation can usually reduce the frequency of the one-off emails.
The Best Tools for Email Marketing Automation
So now that you see the benefits of automation, you may be wondering how it is possible. In this section, we’ll take a look at 10 of the leading tools and resources that make it possible. Of course, there are many others that are not covered here, but this list will cover most of the best options and chances are, you will be able to find what you need here.
When it comes to email marketing automation, Infusionsoft is one of the first names that must be mentioned. It’s been around for 18 years and is well-known as a market leader.
Infusionsoft is extremely powerful and comes with a lot of amazing features, but it does have a few drawbacks that can be pretty significant. First, it’s not cheap. With a starting price of $99 for 500 contacts, it’s one of the more expensive options that you’ll find. Second, Infusionsoft can be complicated to set up. If you talk to Infusionsoft users, one thing you are going to hear repeatedly is that it is difficult to grasp. Many users wind up hiring an expert to help with the setup. For these reasons, Infustionsoft is not an entry-level option.
But despite those drawbacks, Infusionsoft has earned its reputation by helping business owners to drastically improve their marketing process and ultimately to increase profit.
With the help of Infusionsoft, you can easily create effective landing pages using one of their templates, automatically tag leads, send emails based on timed triggers or actions, rank leads based on their engagement, and more.
One way that Infusionsoft differs from some competitors is that it also includes functionality for accepting payments and creating invoices. It will also sync with tools like Quickbooks and Xero to make your bookkeeping and accounting easier.
Infusionsoft may be a bit overkill for those with smaller needs, but if you are looking for a robust email marketing automation tool that can help to grow your business, it’s a fine choice.
Like Infusionsoft, HubSpot is another high-end resource that is extremely feature-rich. HubSpot actually offers a few different tools, but for the purposes of email automation, their Marketing Hub is what we’ll be focused on.
The Marketing Hub is more than just an email automation tool, so it’s not directly comparable to the others that are listed on this page. With it, you can create a website or blog with a drag-and-drop builder, get SEO suggestions to increase exposure for your content, take advantage of functionality that will promote your content through social media, create optin forms, and more.
In terms of email marketing, HubSpot allows you to create drip campaigns that can be sent to your leads at specific intervals, setup sequences based on triggers, setup campaigns for referrals and upsells, and more. You can even run surveys and gather testimonials.
Pricing starts at $50 per month, but that is a limited plan that does not include marketing automation. The automation features are available with the Professional plan, which starts at $800 per month and allows you to manage up to 1,000 contacts. Pricing for HubSpot is high, partly because it includes such a wide range of features, like creating your own website or blog. If you don’t need all of these features, you’re probably better off with a cheaper option.
Ontraport is another feature-rich platform, but it’s priced well below HubSpot and is often considered easier to use than Infusionsoft.
With Ontraport you can create beautiful landing pages, optin forms, and pop-ups to grow your email list. Once subscribers are on your list, you can use automation tools to send the right messages to the right prospects to convert leads into customers.
You’ll also love the features that are available after a purchase, including upsells, onboarding for new customers, and post-purchase surveys. You can also seek referrals from your customers and convert a one-time purchase into a membership with a recurring payment.
In addition to email, Ontraport also makes it possible to send SMS text messages to your leads and customers.
Pricing starts at $79 per month, which allows you to manage up to 1,000 contacts. Prices go up from there based on the number of contacts.
ActiveCampain has developed a reputation for being both very powerful and easy to use. The ease of use and low starting price make it a perfect choice for bloggers, solopreneurs, and other small businesses.
The drag-and-drop automation builder makes it easy to set up advanced automations based on many different possible triggers. You can use lead scoring to find your most engaged followers, create and track goals and conversions so you know what is working, and use the Automations Map to see how automations connect to each other.
ActiveCampaign integrates with more than 250 apps like WordPress, Shopify, Thrive Themes, and many others.
Pricing for ActiveCampaigns starts at just $9 per month, which allows you to manage up to 500 contacts. That plan does include some email marketing automation features, or you can go with the $49 per month plan that includes contact and lead scoring, plus many other features.
ActiveCampaign offers tremendous value, so it’s definitely one that you should consider.
Drip is specifically made with ecommerce businesses in mind. You’ll be able to get detailed insight into your visitors and customers, including what they are viewing and clicking. You can tag and identify a lot of different actions to provide you with valuable insight.
Drip uses visual workflows to make it easy for you to create automations and reach the right prospects at the right time. You’ll get detailed data to show which campaigns and emails are generating sales and profit. Drip also integrates with Instagram and Facebook, and you can use third-party integrations for SMS and even direct mail.
Despite the many advanced features that Drip offers, the pricing is quite affordable, even for small businesses. Pricing starts at $49 per month, which allows you to manage 2,500 active contacts.
The combination of advanced features for ecommerce, ease of use, and great price make Drip an obvious choice for ecommerce businesses.
ConvertKit originally marketed itself to bloggers, but now it seems to billed as being for “creators”, which probably allows them to reach more entrepreneurs in other fields aside from just blogging. Regardless, ConvertKit is an excellent choice for bloggers and other small business owners.
With ConvertKit you will be able to easily create forms and landing pages to grow your email list, set up lead magnets to be delivered to subscribers, tag subscribers, send broadcasts to your entire list or based on tags, and create automated sequences based on different triggers.
The visual builder allows you to easily and quickly set up automations on several triggers, like when a lead subscribes through a specific form, is assigned a tag, or makes a purchase. You’re in full control over the rules related to the sequences that are sent.
Pricing starts at just $29 per month, which allows you to manage up to 1,000 contacts and includes all functionality.
While ConvertKit may not be as feature-rich as some of the pricier options on this list, it has more than enough functionality to meet the needs of most bloggers and entrepreneurs.
Sendinblue is an interesting option because in addition to email marketing and landing pages, it also includes features related to SMS marketing, chat capability at your website, and the ability to create Facebook ads.
In terms of email marketing and automation, of course you’ll be able to create optin forms and design messages, and segment your list. You can create visual workflows to set up automations based on different triggers.
The SMS functionality allows you to send sales and promotions, as well as personalized messages.
You can set up a customized chatbox on your site, install it in seconds, and then communicate with visitors and leads to increase sales.
Sendinblue offers a free plan with very limited features, but it does allow you to start using the platform at no cost. In order to get access to the email automation features, you’ll need to jump up to the Premium plan at $66 per month. That plan provides you with all of the features mentioned here and you can send up to 120,000 emails per month.
AWeber has been one of the leading email marketing providers for a very long time. Their automation features are a little more limited and not as advanced as many of the options listed above, but AWeber is an excellent choice that will meet the needs of many entrepreneurs and small businesses.
They have a drag-and-drop campaign editor that allows you to set up your sequences and marketing funnels easily. You can segment your subscribers, apply tags to trigger automated sequences, and run split tests to maximize the impact of your emails.
Pricing starts at $19 per month, which allows you to manage up to 500 subscribers and send unlimited emails.
While AWeber may not have advanced automation features, it’s a solid option for managing a list and getting started with basic automation, and it’s a company with a proven track record in the industry.
Like AWeber, MailerLite is an excellent option for managing your email list that does include some basic automation features, but nothing advanced.
You’ll be able to grow your list with forms, pop-ups, and landing pages. You can even create surveys with MailerLite. You can send personalized and targeted emails (like welcoming a new subscriber or a happy birthday message), tag subscribers and create segments, and set up automated sequences based on different triggers.
The automation editor allows you to easily create and implement your own custom automations and sequences in just minutes.
One of the best things about MailerLite is their free plan that allows you to manage a list of up to 1,000 contacts. The free plan does have limited features, but surprisingly most of the features are available, including email automation. And if you want to remove those limitations, paid plans start at just $10 per month.
MailerLite is a very attractive option because of the combination of the free plan, low prices on paid places, a very well-designed user interface that makes it easy to use, and a nice offering of features (including automation). It doesn’t offer some of the advanced automation features, but it’s an outstanding value.
Mailchimp is another option that offers a limited free plan. Their free plan allows you to manage a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, but the features are more limited than MailerLite’s free plan. Mailchimp’s free plan does include one-click automations, but to get access to the automation series features, you’ll need to pay at least $14.99 per month (which is still a really great price).
Mailchimp has done some rebranding recently to present themselves as more of a full marketing platform rather than a simple email marketing provider. You can tag subscribers and easily segment your audience, create lookalike audiences for social ads, create landing pages, get valuable insights, and more.
The automation features include date-based automations, order notifications, retargeting emails, product recommendations, abandoned cart emails, customer re-engagement, and more.
Which One Should I Choose?
All of the tools listed here are capable of helping you to manage your email list and set up some basic automations. Some have more advanced features, are created with specific types of users in mind, or offer great pricing. The right choice will depend on your own situations or needs, but here are a few recommendations.
Best for Ecommerce Businesses – Drip
Drip is specifically created with ecommerce businesses in mind, and as a result it offers features and functionality that can help you to make more sales and increase profitability.
Best for Bloggers – ConvertKit
ConvertKit is an excellent choice that is simple enough for most solo bloggers to use, but still powerful enough to get great results.
Best Value – ActiveCampaign
ActiveCampaign is extremely powerful, easy to use, and priced very reasonably. It is neither the most feature-rich nor the cheapest, but it probably represents the best value.
Best Overall – Infusionsoft
It’s hard to deny what Infusionsoft can do for a business. The downside is that it is difficult to manage for most solopreneurs and very small teams, but if you have the resources, it’s a great tool.
Best for Small Budgets – MailerLite
MailerLite‘s free plan is pretty awesome. Even the paid plans are priced very low. Don’t let the prices fool you, MailerLite still has plenty to offer.