Bulk Email Marketing Services
Compare bulk email marketing service providers – cost and features
Last Update: February 1, 2020 (MailGun no longer offers free plan)
There are over 300 email marketing service providers listed on leading review platforms like Capterra and Go2Crowd, so choosing the right provider for your business is not an easy task. We put together this guide to hosted solutions covering some niche leaders, and will be expanding and refreshing the data every few weeks. Want to see us add a provider or a feature? Leave us comment at the bottom of the article.
There are many niches in the email marketing industry and most providers focus on one, from small businesses (e.g. MailChimp, VerticalResponse), enterprise (InfusionSoft, HubSpot), and bloggers (ConvertKit), to low cost transactional email (SendGrid and MailGun) and platforms that integrate with 3rd party services (OnGage, BigMailer) behind the scenes. We picked a few niches and their leaders for this comparison article.
Bulk Email Marketing Service Pricing
There are 3 main pricing models used by email marketing service providers:
- Subscriptions based on number of contacts (aka subscribers) stored on the platform. Typically, these type of plans allow for unlimited emails per month, or the monthly sending limit is based on sending 3+ emails per month to the entire list stored.
- Pay-as-you go plans with volume discounts where the customer is charged based on number of emails sent through a provider platform.
- A combination of one of the models above plus overage charges for sending emails above allocated limits. For example, transactional email leader Sendgrid has separate pricing for transactional and marketing campaigns.
Subscriptions is the most common pricing model for bulk email marketing service providers, and pay-as-you-go plans are preferred by providers focusing on transactional email sending (e.g. SendGrid and MailGun). For the purposes of comparison we compared pricing on pay-as-you-go plans based on engagement with a list 2 times per month.
One factor that prospective customers need to be aware is pricing tiers. If the list is fast growing, then future pricing should be considered and estimated. Most providers seem to have their pricing tiers defined based on 5000 contact increments.
Bulk Email Marketing Service Providers for High Volume Senders
Last Updated: February 1 2020 (MailGun no longer offers free plan)
*SendInBlue offers a Lite plan for $25/month, that includes 40,000 emails per month, but on this plan SendInBlue logo isn’t removed and features are very limited and less comparable to other providers.
**Since this post focuses on bulk (aka newsletter or broadcast) email campaigns, we are comparing to SendGrid’s Marketing and not API plans pricing.
***MailGun’s Flex is a pay-as-you-go plan that allows you to send any email frequency, we chose x2 monthly frequency to make comparison more comparable to SendGrid and SendInBlue.
Brand Management and White Labeling
Some providers, for example MailChimp and SendInBlue, allow connecting the same user to multiple accounts, which offers a convenience of not logging in/out of client accounts. However, when you manage multiple brands this way you can’t share creative assets (e.g. email templates, image library) and you can’t automatically leverage volume discounts based on combined usage, they way you would be able to do with a platform like BigMailer. BigMailer is the only platform we know of that has brand management built-into a main dashboard and workflow.
Many providers, for example SendGrid and MailGun, refer to custom tracking (links in the email) domain as white labeling because using a custom tracking domain for links in the emails makes the ESP in use less identifiable to the email recipient. Typically, if the custom domain is configured, the unsubscribe page is also hosted on the custom domain as well.
When we searched for white labeling, we mostly saw either references to custom link domain (see above) or partner (aka reseller) programs. Providers like BigMailer, ActiveCampaign, and SendInBlue offer the option to white label the platform itself, so digital marketing agencies can charge their customer their own fees for use of platform without customer knowing what actual software is being used.
Email Marketing Trends in 2020
There are some major trends that are either re-shaping the email marketing space in 2020 or continue to influence competitive landscape:
- Email marketing platforms are becoming all-in-one marketing platforms with large ecosystems that combine landing pages and widgets, social and ads integration, and messaging services. Platforms like Mailchimp and Hubspot have been leading this trend for a while now.
- Messaging expands outside email into SMS, chat, web notifications, and post cards.
- Rise of low cost providers that leverage 3rd party services. Platforms like BigMailer and EmailOctopus use Amazon SES to power up their email marketing platforms, while OnGage allows you to connect to multiple email services, including a transactional email provider MailGun
- Providers are offering email validation and spam testing services into their platforms, typically at additional cost but sometimes included as limited credits added to account on a monthly basis. Some providers integrate 3rd party services like Litmus, while others develop in-house validation capabilities. However, the definition of email validation and methods vary significantly between providers, so marketers need to pay close attention to what value they are getting.
- Providers are trying to position themselves as deliverability experts and offer their deliverability expertise as a service, typically for customers on higher tier plans
We will be updating the chart above with additional providers and features in the coming weeks. Is there a provider you want us to add or feature to cover? Connect with us via chat on the pricing page.
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