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GetResponse and MailChimp Reviews: Best Free/Low Cost Email Marketing Software

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend MailChimp and GetResponse as our 2017 picks for the best free and low-cost email marketing services. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of email marketing services on our best picks page.

MailChimp is an excellent email marketing service that is completely free for businesses with fewer than 2,000 contacts. The service includes all the features and tools small businesses needs to run successful email marketing campaigns. Here is a breakdown of why it's one of our best picks.

While nearly all email marketing services allow you to test-drive their software for a month or two, MailChimp was one of only a few to offer free plans that never expire.

MailChimp's Forever Free plan allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends per month. The free option provides access to all of MailChimp's design and list-building tools, automation options, and a host of reports.

Editor's note: Looking for information about email marketing services? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partner will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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If you have more than 2,000 subscribers or want to send more than 12,000 emails a month, then you will have to choose a paid plan to use MailChimp. The paid plans provide some additional features, such as the ability to integrate your account with your CRM service or send emails to various segments of your subscriber list. The cost for these plans ranges from $30 per month for up to 2,500 contacts to $150 per month for between 12,801 and 25,000 contacts. All of MailChimp's paid plans include the option to send an unlimited number of emails each month.

Besides its monthly paid plans, MailChimp offers pay-as-you-go plans. With this option, you purchase emails credits in blocks. The cost per email is 1 to 3 cents. For example, a block of 300 email credits costs $9, while a block of 25,000 costs $25.

MailChimp also offers the Pro Marketer package for an additional $200 per month. This can be added on to any of the paid plans. It includes advanced segmentation, 50 additional merge fields and transactional email capabilities.

Besides being free, part of the appeal of MailChimp is how easy the cloud-based service is to use. When you log in, the dashboard provides easy shortcuts to creating new emails, adding contacts to your subscriber lists, viewing campaign reports and accessing the automation tools.

The dashboard also offers some quick weekly stats on how large your audience has grown, how many customers unsubscribed and how many emails never reached their intended targets.

The MailChimp dashboard includes a variety analytics that provide you a quick overview on your email marketing efforts.

When creating an email, you can choose from nearly 100 predesigned templates for various themes, such as newsletters, holidays and events, or from basic layout designs. You can edit each template any way you want. You can add or remove content blocks, such as text and images, and you have full control over the size, font and colors of the text, and the colors and designs of the backgrounds. In addition, there is a complete photo editor that lets you alter images any way you like.

After creating an email, you can run it through several tests to ensure it will display as you intended. You can see how it looks on computers and mobile devices and make sure all the web links are working properly.

It is also simple to create your contact lists with MailChimp. You can add email addresses in one at a time, or import entire batches via CSV files. Once you've added addresses, you can review how each subscriber reacts to your messages by seeing how many of your emails they open and how many entice them to click through to your website.

MailChimp provides users with nearly 100 pre-designed templates to choose from when creating messages.

While it doesn't have the litany of features some of its more expensive peers do, MailChimp does provide most of those that are important to small businesses. These are some of the more valuable features MailChimp's free plan includes:

  • Responsive design: All of the templates feature a responsive design that ensures the emails display properly on all devices, including smartphones and tablets.
  • Social media ads: You can create Facebook and Instagram ads with MailChimp. The system allows you to build single-image or carousel ads with in-app photo editing tools and targeting options.
  • Sign-up forms: MailChimp's built-in sign-up forms are customizable and can be used to collect subscribers on your website and social networks.
  • Reports: MailChimp provides free plan users with a host of valuable data on your individual campaigns and overall email marketing success. The system offers reports on opens, bounces, unsubscribes and opens by location.
  • Automation: You can access automation tools that allow you to send emails that are timely and relevant to your subscribers. This includes welcome emails when subscribers are added to the list, win-back messages for inactive subscribers, and emails that offer recommendations based on subscribers' e-commerce behavior.

Other features that are available to paid plan users include segmentation options, deeper analytics, transactional email services, a wide range of testing tools and the ability to integrate your account with CRM services.

MailChimp's customer service was hard to judge. The company does not offer phone or live chat support to free plan users. Our only option was to reach out via an online form on its website.

We sent some of our questions via the form and were pleasantly surprised to get a thorough response just a few hours later. While we would have preferred to speak to someone over the phone, or at least by live chat, getting a detailed reply so quickly did provide us with some assurance that users can get help when they need it.

Where MailChimp's support shines is with its online knowledge base. It has detailed articles and numerous videos on how to use the system, create messages, build lists, etc. We like how it provides both written documentation and step-by-step videos. It makes learning how to use the service an easy process.

The biggest drawback to MailChimp's free plan is the customer service. All support for MailChimp, even those on the paid plans, is over email or live chat. Phone support isn't available to anyone. Free plan users only have access to the 24/7 email support for the first 30 days. After that, they must rely on MailChimp's knowledge base to answer their questions. Paid plan users always have 24/7 email support available to them, as well as live chat support Monday through Friday. If you are think you will need more support, you might want to consider one of MailChimp's paid plans or GetResponse, our pick for the best low-cost email marketing service. You can read more about GetResponse below.

While MailChimp is an excellent free option for businesses with fewer than 2,000 contacts, GetResponse is a bit more affordable for businesses with longer lists. GetResponse combines ease of use, rich design tools and outstanding customer service for a low monthly cost. Here's a breakdown of why it's one of our best picks.

GetResponse's pricing is based on list size. The company offers four different plans, which differ in features, minimum starting list size and how many users can access the service at one time. These are the different plans:

Email

  • Features: Autoresponders and basic landing pages
  • Marketing automation: Workflows and tags
  • Users: 1
  • Starting list size: Up to 1,000
  • Cost: Ranges from $15 per month for up to 1,000 subscribers to $450 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers

Pro

  • Features: Autoresponders, advanced landing pages and webinars for up to 100 attendees
  • Marketing automation: Workflows, tags, cart abandonment scoring, web event tracking and automation segmentation
  • Users: 3
    Starting list size: Up to 5,000
  • Cost: Ranges from $49 per month for up to 5,000 subscribers to $490 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers

Max

  • Features: All Pro features, plus custom domain, campaign consulting, webinars for up to 500 attendees and Salesforce integration
  • Marketing automation: Workflows, tags, cart abandonment scoring, web event tracking and automation segmentation
  • Users: 5
  • Starting list size: Up to 10,000
  • Cost: Ranges from $165 per month for up to 10,000 subscribers to $580 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers

GetResponse also offers an enterprise plan for large businesses. This plan has starting list sizes of up to 100,000, with pricing starting at $799 per month. You can find details on pricing for your specific list size on the GetResponse website.

Discounted pricing is available on all plans if you prepay for one or two years of service. There is an 18 percent discount for prepaying for one year and a 30 percent discount if you prepay for two. GetResponse also offers a 30-day free trial.

GetResponse is a cloud-based system that is easy to use. Unlike some of the other services, which cram too much information into their login pages, GetResponse presents everything in a way that's easy to digest. The dashboard has three main options: Add Contacts, Create Web Form and Create Newsletter. In addition, there is a brief snapshot of how many subscribers you have and some basic statistics on the status of your most recent campaign.

There are several different ways to build your contact list. You can add email addresses into the system one by one, or you can import them in one batch using file formats, like CSV, TXT, VCF, XLS, XLSX and ODS. The software also gives you the option of importing addresses from several outside programs, such as Google Docs, Google Contacts, Salesforce, Zendesk, Highrise, Magneto, Formstack, FreshBooks or Batchbook.

To help you build up your contacts, the software lets you create custom-designed web forms for your site that customers can use to add in their email addresses themselves.

When creating a new email message, you have the option of using the software's drag-and-drop email creator tool or an HTML source editor. You can choose from more than 500 predesigned templates, or create custom templates from scratch by choosing the type of layout you want to work with.

You then customize each template for your needs. Each section of the template is divided into blocks, such as text only, image only, or image and text, which you can tailor any way you like. You can edit each block's size, text, text color, background color, etc. You can also add or remove blocks.

With GetResponse, you can choose any layout style you like. You also have the option of choosing a predesigned template.

Once the design stage is finished, you can run several tests to see how the message looks in various email clients, such as Gmail, AOL and Outlook, and if anything in the message will flag it as being spam.

When it comes to features and tools, few offer more than GetResponse. These are some of the included features:

  • Responsive design: Each template has a responsive design that automatically converts messages to a mobile-optimized version if the customer opens it on a smartphone or tablet. While editing the template, you are shown an image of a smartphone that displays exactly how the message will look on a mobile device.
  • Email analytics: The email analytics tools provide a wide variety of statistics on each email campaign. Besides such basic information as how many people opened the email, how many immediately deleted it and how many clicked through to the website, the software also shows the times and days of the week people opened the emails, how successful the campaigns were on social media, on which email clients the messages were most read, and how one campaign compared to another.
  • Mobile app: There is a mobile app for both iPhone and Android phones that lets you create and send out messages, check a campaign's analytics, manage contact lists, and add new subscribers.
  • Autoresponder: The autoresponder tool lets you create messages that are automatically sent to subscribers based on certain actions, such as when they sign up to start receiving emails, open an email or click through to the website.
  • Image library: The image library is one feature that many of the other services we examined don't offer. With this, you can choose from more than 1,000 professional photos to add to your emails.
GetResponse has a mobile preview built right into its email creator that shows you exactly how your email will look on a smartphone as its being designed.

Other features that GetResponse offers are A/B testing, the ability to add videos to emails, the option to create surveys and QR codes, and a variety of social sharing tools that allow you to take advantage of your social media following.

We were pleased with the level of customer service GetResponse provided. To gauge what customers can expect from the support team, we called the company multiple times posing as a new business owner interested in the service.

Each of our calls were handled by pleasant representatives who thoroughly answered all our questions. Some of the other providers we spoke with gave one-word answers that didn't leave us with a clear understanding of their services. We didn't experience that with GetResponse.

We also tested the live chat tool. We were just as impressed by the support we received there. Our questions were answered within seconds of us asking them and with just as much detail as we got over the phone.

Phone support is available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday, with the live chat service available 24/7. In addition, the GetResponse website has a comprehensive learning center that includes video tutorials, FAQs, webinars, user manuals and white papers.

One drawback to GetResponse is that some of the templates we worked with weren't as sophisticated as some we tested on other services. However, with more than 500 templates, there are plenty to choose from that will likely meet the standards you need.

Another potential downside is that you don't get a dedicated account manager to help with any problems you have. Although they were certainly more expensive, a few of the other services we considered provided one specific person to turn to for any technical issues.

Small Business
Benchmark
Read Review
  • Design Editor
    Drag and Drop/HTML Code
  • Starting Monthly Cost
    $11.95 for 600 contacts
  • Free Trial
    Forever free for 2,000 contacts
  • Transactional Emails
    No
  • Mobile App
    iOS and Android
Small Business
iContact
Read Review
  • Design Editor
    Drag and Drop
  • Starting Monthly Cost
    $14 for 500 Contacts
  • Free Trial
    30 Days
  • Transactional Emails
    No
  • Mobile App
    No
Free Service
MailChimp
Read Review
  • Design Editor
    Drag and Drop/HTML Code
  • Starting Monthly Cost
    $10 for 500 Contacts
  • Free Trial
    Forever Free for 2,000 Contacts
  • Transaction Emails
    Yes Via Mandrill Add-On
  • Mobile App
    iOS and Android
Low Cost Service
GetResponse
Read Review
  • Design Editor
    Drag and Drop/HTML Code
  • Starting Monthly Cost
    $15 for 1,000 contacts
  • Free Trial
    30 Days
  • Transactional Emails
    No
  • Mobile App
    iOS and Android
E-Commerce
SendinBlue
Read Review
  • Design Editor
    Drag and Drop/HTML Code
  • Starting Monthly Cost
    $7.37 for 40,000 emails
  • Free Trial
    Free for 9,000 email per month
  • Transactional Emails
    Yes
  • Mobile App
    iOS and Android

Want to learn more about email marketing services? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information about email marketing services? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partner will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.