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Best Email Marketing Service for Small Business: Benchmark Review

Best Email Marketing Service for Small Business: Benchmark Review

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Benchmark as our 2018 pick for the best email marketing services for small businesses. 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.

Benchmark is our choice for best email marketing service for small businesses because it combines ease of use with a wide variety of design options. It also delivers the best value for the price. The company provides excellent customer service. Benchmark has a free plan, as well as paid plans that start at $14 per month.

Benchmark offers both free and paid plans. Its plans and packages can fit into the budget of almost any small business. All plans, including the free plan, come with its drag-and-drop editor, responsive templates, signup forms, basic drip campaigns, email delivery management, Google Analytics tracking, list management, contact segmentation, and list hygiene.

  • Free plan: With the free account, you can send up to 14,000 emails a month to as many as 2,000 subscribers. The differences between the free and paid accounts is that, with the free plan, the Benchmark logo is included on each email, there are no subaccounts, and you don't have the option of sending targeted emails.
  • Paid plans: If you have 50,000 subscribers or fewer, Benchmark allows you to send unlimited messages each month. There is a cap on messages per month for businesses with contact lists of more than 50,000.

Prices for the unlimited-sending plans are as low as $13.99 for 600 contacts and $21.99 for 1,000 contacts. Prices top off at $239.99 for 45,000 contacts and $254.99 for 50,000. You can view the complete pricing list on the Benchmark website. Larger plans, with caps on the number of emails you can send, range from $286 per month for 55,000 contacts and 770,000 sends to $5,000 per month for 1,215,000 contacts and 17 million sends.

The only potential add-on costs are for list verification, image hosting, a dedicated IP and inbox checkers. You can choose whether to add these features to your plan.

Editor's note: Considering an email marketing service for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to get quotes and information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Benchmark offers all the features you need to create and manage your email marketing campaigns. These are some of the tools it includes:

  • Analytics: You can access statistics on how many of your emails were opened, bounced, unopened, clicked through or forwarded, as well as how many people unsubscribed. Details on how well your campaigns performed on social media are also available.
  • Email editor: Benchmark's email editor is very easy to use. It offers drag-and-drop capabilities that any marketer can use to create a successful email marketing campaign.
  • Responsive design: All the templates and layouts have a responsive design that automatically optimizes them for each device they are opened on.
  • Color scheme palette: You can choose colors individually or pick from nearly 30 preset color combinations that work well together.
  • A/B split testing: You can test out different variables of a campaign, such as subject line, design or delivery time, to see which resonates more with readers.
  • Autoresponders: You can create messages that are automatically sent to contacts based on certain actions. For example, you can create a welcome message that goes out to contacts when they register their email address or a birthday message that goes out on each contact's birthday.
  • List building: An email marketing campaign isn't complete without people to send it to. Benchmark's list-building tools allow you to put popup and embeddable signup forms on your website and social media accounts.
  • Segmentation: You can segment your contacts into lists to send targeted emails to certain demographics among your customers. Segments can be broken down by signup date, ZIP code, interests, purchase history or any other field, or a combination of fields.
Benchmark provides statistics on how many of your emails were opened, bounced, forwarded and clicked through.

Other features Benchmark includes are tools to create polls and surveys, the ability to add videos into email campaigns, and a web form creator that allows you to collect email addresses on your website.

Out of all the services we tested, Benchmark strikes the best balance between producing professional-looking emails and being easy to use, even if you have no prior experience with email marketing.

To create emails, Benchmark offers a drag-and-drop editor for those with no design experience, a code editor for advanced users who have expertise in writing HTML code, and a plain text editor for creating text-only emails.

The drag-and-drop editor is simple to use. It lays out all the steps in a natural way that makes it simple to understand. You start by picking a layout. You can create your own layout from scratch or choose one of the nearly 200 predesigned templates. The templates are categorized by industry and theme.

Benchmark's drag-and-drop editor allows you to add or delete as many content blocks as you like.

Whether you choose your own layout or use a predesigned template, the emails are broken up into various content blocks, such as image, text, boxed text, buttons, social shares and navigation bars, which you can tailor any way you like. You can adjust its size, add in text, and change the font size, alignment and color. You can also choose background colors for not only each box, but the entire message, and add or delete content blocks. The robust photo-editing tool allows you to alter photos by size, brightness, and contrast and to add effects and frames to them.

When you're finished creating an email, you can run several tests to ensure it looks as you intended on mobile devices, won't be flagged as spam and doesn't have any spelling errors. For advanced users writing their own HTML, the software offers a dual-view option that lets you see the design of the email as you input the code.

The last step is to schedule when the email should be sent out. You have the choice of sending it immediately or picking a specific date and time.

Building contact lists is also simple. You can add addresses individually; import them from an XLS, CSV or TXT file; or upload them from various popular applications, including Shopify, Gmail, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce and WordPress.

Once you add an address, you can create a complete profile for that subscriber that includes their name, address, phone number, job title and any other notes.

We were pleased with the customer service we received from Benchmark. To test 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 answered by helpful representatives who spent as much time as we needed answering our questions. Unlike some other providers, who didn't seem interested in taking the time to speak with us, the Benchmark representatives were friendly and willing to make sure we fully understood the service.

Where Benchmark really shines is its live chat tool. We tested this out on several occasions and were thrilled with the response we got each time. Every time we had a question, a Benchmark representative was available to answer our question within seconds, which wasn't the case with many of the other providers we considered.

The live chat support is accessible 24/7. Benchmark also has an impressive help section on its website that features a learning center, FAQs, video tutorials, webinars and an API toolkit.

One drawback is the lack of landing page tools. Most of the other services we evaluated offer the ability to create landing pages. With Benchmark, you don't have this option.

Another potential negative is that you can only receive technical support with Benchmark. If you need design or strategy guidance, you're out of luck. Also, our emails sometimes landed in spam folders. However, we sent emails from a Gmail account, which Benchmark notes hurts delivery rates and encourages users to use a business email account.

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

Additional reporting by Chad Brooks.

Editor's note: Considering an email marketing service for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to get quotes and information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Saige Driver

Saige received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media strategist for Business.com and Business News Daily. She also writes reviews and articles about social media. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.