Best web based email marketing services for B2B small businesses

ActiveCampaign is our recommended web based email marketing solution for B2B small businesses (2018)

Best B@B Email Marketing Solution For Small Business

Is it right for you?  Take a FREE 14 day trial to find out.

Our recommendation for web based email marketing for B2B small businesses and startups is ActiveCampaign.

  • check
    Powerful automations that can be created in a visual workflow interface. It's marketing automations made easy.
  • check
    Website integrations that can trigger emails based on visitor actions, for example if a visitor goes to a landing page but doesn't convert. 
  • check
    Out of the box capabilities such as CRM and lead scoring makes this a future proof email marketing solution that can grow with your business needs.

I compared the most popular email marketing services providers to find the right one for your B2B small business

Your B2B business needs to send emails to prospects and customers. These could be one-off emails (for example support) or email marketing activity. Email marketing includes bulk email marketing campaigns (a broadcast) or trigger based email (marketing automation). For any form of email marketing activity, you shouldn't be using Outlook. If you are STOP! You need to provide unsubscribe options and maintain privacy, these are just the basic legal requirements of email marketing.  Web based email marketing services are cost-effective and designed for email marketing. We’ll help you explore the email marketing services you should consider.

How can email marketing help my business?

Email marketing is often the unfashionable choice when selling a marketing tactic. However, email marketing is as valuable as it has ever been,  59% of B2B marketers report it’s their most effective channel for revenue generation. As B2B businesses we need to build relationships with our audience and support a long sales journey. Once the sales is made we need to use email to support the customer increase life-time value and plan for the renewal. In the age of increasing email regulation (GDPR),  stringent spam filters and the busy inbox, choosing the right web based email marketing service for your B2B small business has never been more important.

59%
Most effective channel

Popular email marketing service providers

Based on the number of website integrations (Source:BuiltWith), the most popular web based email marketing solutions suitable for small business are:

Name

Active Sites

Cost*

Avg User Ratings

Trial Period

Active Campaign

33,195

$49

Aweber

109,001

$29

Campaign Monitor

25,637

$29

Constand Contact

115,594

$45

ConvertKit

8,000

$49

Drip

41,000

$49

Get Response

39,000

$25

MailChimp

996,000

$30

*Cost for the email service provider is based on 2500 contacts. 

From this list I have excluded web based email marketing services I would consider being more appropriate for larger business than small or startup. These are Eloqua, HubSpot and Marketo. This categorization is based on not being able to sign up for trials or see pricing on the vendor website. 

7 reasons why you should use web based email marketing services in your business

Email marketing isn’t optional, and the last thing any small business or startup owner wants to do is to spend hours on end managing their email marketing.  Here are just a few of the benefits of email marketing for the small business.

  1. Email marketing can help businesses build a rapport with their prospects. Give value to your audience so they look forward to receiving your emails.
  2. Small businesses can use email to engage the right contact, at the right time, with the right message. For example, send trigger based emails when a prospect visits your website.
  3. Small businesses can use email marketing to build awareness. The more your prospects see your brand and your messages, the greater your brand awareness.
  4. Email marketing is cost effective. It’s cheap for businesses to contact their database and email marketing has a high ROI.
  5. Email is a convenient means of communication for your prospect and customers.
  6. Email marketing messages can be personalized, so every message you send to your contacts feels individual.

Email marketing solutions offer built-in analytics and it’s easy to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Small businesses can realize significant rewards by being on top of their email marketing strategy. B2B small businesses and startups are no exception and have more to gain. Email is the established form of communication between businesses. Contacts in a business environment spend much more time in their inbox and emails can nurture B2B buyers through the customer journey. Selecting the right email marketing software could get your next email in your prospects inbox, ready for next time they login.

Bulk email marketing campaign vs trigger based emails

There are broadly two types of email marketing activity, these are bulk email marketing campaigns (broadcasts) and triggered emails.

  • Bulk email campaigns (broadcasts) are the one-off emails you sent to your audience. You may send a series of these bulk emails as a campaign. These are referred to as ‘broadcasts’ by email marketing tools. In the early days of digital marketing, this is all we could send. Craft your email, select your audience, schedule and sent. The email marketing tool then works through your segment of contacts sending the same email.  
  • Trigger-based emails are those that are activated based on an action and sent to one email contact at a time. Trigger-based emails are used for automatic transactional emails (confirmations) or marketing automation activity. For example, you may use triggered emails to confirm a purchase and then trigger an onboarding email sequence.

Broadcast email marketing campaigns and triggered emails both have their place in an email marketing campaign. Many B2B email marketing campaigns start with a bulk email, driving sending to a landing page. This landing page is the entry point into a triggered email campaign and marketing automation. All web based email marketing tools we are looking at in this article support both forms of email marketing.

Why do I need a web based email marketing solution?

Email marketing software is what you would use to send out emails once you have the contact information of a prospect, and the permission to send them marketing messages.  Gone are the days of self-hosted solutions, now almost every email marketing tool is SaaS (Software as a Service) based. By SaaS, we mean that the email tools are cloud-based. The tool is accessed via the web, your contacts are hosted by the tool on the cloud, and emails are sent from their servers. A SaaS solution removes a large amount of the technical burden from the business but not all. The business is still responsible for integrations with the rest of their marketing toolkit and their CRM. Marketers are also responsible for selecting their segmentation, sequences and the actual email.  It's clear web based services have massive advantages and when selecting your tool it's important to understand you are investing in the technology platform on the back-end, as much as the functionality you see and use on the front end.

What should I look for when selecting a web based email marketing service for my business?

Email is a very important way of keeping in touch with your audience.  It’s important to select the best email marketing service you can, particularly in B2B markets where email plays a vital role.  Here are considerations to make when selecting a web based email marketing service:

Integrations:  Email marketing tools need to work well with a wide variety of other marketing tools and platforms. For example, you need a way of capturing email addresses, this is integration with your website, landing pages or CRM.

Ease-of-use:  Businesses will use their email marketing tool to manage your contacts, create emails and in more advanced scenarios set up nurture flows.  Email marketing is one of the most complex parts of the digital marketing puzzle,  you need to simplify it as much as possible with an easy-to-use tool.

Support:  Even the email marketing experts among us will need support when using an email marketing tool. Setting up templates, nurture flows and integrations are prone to error. There could also be technical issues out of your control. A good email solution provider will support with both user error and system errors.

Deliverability: When you send an email from your tool, you need to have confidence it will be received by your audience. Deliverability is all about how likely the email you send will hit the inbox.  If the email service provider also sends questionable emails from other users, it will impact deliverability on your emails. All leading web based email solution providers have very stringent terms of use to protect all users.

Contact management:  It’s unlikely you will want to send the same email to everybody (you shouldn’t), so the email marketing solution you select for your business needs to make it easy to segment visitors based on criteria you choose.  Segmentation could be based on campaigns, location, industry, anything you hold about the contact in your email marketing database.

What is email marketing automation? 

As a busy small business whether you have a dedicated marketing team or not you don’t want to be spending all your time managing email marketing, and it’s quite possible that you could without any marketing automation systems in place. Email marketing automation is all about creating emails and email sequences that you can use multiple times over, automatically, without manual intervention.  For example if someone signs up for an e-book you may then want to add them to a sequence where they get a case study, followed by a white paper as you nurtured them through the buying journey. This sequence of emails should be automated and an increasing number of tools support it. Some tools allow the user to visually set up email sequences and others require a manual set of rules to be added.

What are the typical features of a web-based email marketing service?

When selecting you email service provider you need to think about the future state of your business, not just today. Investing in the cheapest tool make make sense now, but in a few months when your needs increase, you don't want the challenge of moving to a new service provider. Here are some of the features and functionality you need to look for in your email marketing tool:

  • Broadcast emails: Ability to send a single email to your audience, for example sending a press release.
  • Scheduled emails: Schedule one-off emails to be sent at a later date,  for example, a webinar reminder.
  • Campaign: Create a series of emails that are sent to your contacts in order, for example, an onboarding email campaign.
  • Email Marketing Automation: sending emails based on rules, for example sending follow up emails based on link clicks.
  • Text or HTML emails: Ability to create text-only emails or emails that are more visual.
  • Email builder: A visual interface for building emails.
  • Email templates: Ability to create reusable layouts.
  • Split testing of emails: Create different versions of emails for testing with a smaller subset of your audience.
  • Dynamic email content: Capability to dynamically select content to populate parts of your email, for example, send a feature case study to visitors who like case studies and whitepapers to others.
  • Email analytics: Report on who opened, clicked and more.
  • Opt-in forms: Capture leads from your website and add them to your email list.

Which web-based email marketing platform should I choose for my startup/small business?

There are dozens of web-based email marketing service providers you could choose from when selecting a long-term email marketing solution for your business. Many of them have a common set of features ranging from the basic function of sending emails through to more advanced automation. The email marketing vendors listed on this page all support thousands of businesses, have high deliverability and good support. Where they differ is in usability and price. Regardless of how many bells and whistles any tool has, you need to be able to easily send out emails. Before taking the plunge on any tool you should use a free trial to explore the interface and features to ensure it fits your business.  

ActiveCampaign is our recommended web based email marketing solution for B2B small businesses (2018)

Best B@B Email Marketing Solution For Small Business

Is it right for you?  Take a FREE 14 day trial to find out.

Our recommendation for web based email marketing for B2B small businesses and startups is ActiveCampaign.

  • check
    Powerful automations that can be created in a visual workflow interface. It's marketing automations made easy.
  • check
    Website integrations that can trigger emails based on visitor actions, for example if a visitor goes to a landing page but doesn't convert. 
  • check
    Out of the box capabilities such as CRM and lead scoring makes this a future proof email marketing solution that can grow with your business needs.

Options for web based email service providers

Active Campaign

ActiveCampaign Web Based Email Marketing Tool

"Integrated email marketing, marketing automation, and small business CRM."

Founded 2003 and based in the US

Rated 4.6/5 (500 reviews) on G2
Rated 4.5/5 (109 reviews) on Capterra

Used on 33K active sites

$49/mo for 2,500 contacts (Lite)

Good Points

  • Advanced automations are perfect for a B2B business looking to setup marketing automation sequences. 
  • CRM and lead scoring at higher price points are especially valuable for B2B.
  • List Element

Bad Points

  • Usability of features such as automation could be improved. 
  • Branding of forms on the Lite plan. There are workarounds but at $49 there should be no branding. 
  • Limited and poor selection of templates although there is a builder included.

Active Campaign Overview

A huge number of features and positive reviews make this a great choice. However there is a learning curve that needs to be mastered to get the most out of the tool. The user interface could be improved to make it easier to use. 

Pricing for 2,500 contacts would start at $49 per month, however their cheapest plan is $15 per month. Active Campaign does have lead scoring capability in their Plus plan which makes it a simpler alternative to Enterprise tools such as Eloqua.

AWeber

AWeber email marketing solution

"Launch and sell your next big thing with email marketing."

Founded 1998 and based in the US

Rated 4.3/5 (297 reviews) on G2
Rated 4/5 (40 reviews) on Capterra

Used on 109K active sites

$29 per month for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • An extensive set of email templates and landing pages but designs need to be updated.
  • No visual workflow for automations making them more of a challenge to setup.
  • Limited reporting around automations and poor presentation. 

Bad Points

  • Automation features are weak. 
  • No testing options for emails. 
  • Contacts are counted multiple times if they exist in multiple lists, so you're paying for the same contact multiple times over. 

Aweber Overview

Aweber is the grandaddy of web based email service providers for bloggers and online businesses, and it feels like a grandad too. It's easy to use and has built a strong following over the years. However it may have failed to keep pace with other players in the market and it's no longer the automatic first choice. 

Pricing for 2,500 contacts would start at $29 per month, with the cheapest plan starting at $19 per month for 500 contacts. Users get access to all functionality from day one including automation. 

Campaign Monitor

AWeber email marketing solution

"Easy-to-use, professional-grade email marketing and automation for today’s fast-growing businesses."

Founded 2004 and based in Australia

Rated 4.3/5 (279 reviews) on G2
Rated 5/5 (262 reviews) on Capterra

Used on 25K active sites

$29/mo 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • Great set of responsive email templates.
  • Ability to collect emails offline and upload when online. This is great for events. 
  • Strong client list and used by agencies. This is a scalable solution. 

Bad Points

  • Serious automation features aren't available at the cheaper price points, neither is spam testing.
  • Pricing gets very expensive as your contacts list grows,
  • It's not really aimed at the startup or small business. 

Campaign Monitor Overview

Campaign Monitor is one of the cheapest options when getting started unless you are looking for advanced automation which pushed the price up to a starting price of $49 at which point tools like ConvertKit are more attractive.  Campaign Monitor boasts an impressive range of customers such as Adidas.

Pricing for 2,500 contacts would start at $29 per month. Advanced automation such as branching isn't included at this level.  User report difficulties in creating email templates and managing lists. 

Constant Contact

Constant Contact Web Based Email Service Provider

"With Constant Contact, you can create effective email marketing and other online marketing campaigns to meet your business goals."

Founded 1995 and based in the US

Rated 3.8/5 (1879 reviews) on G2
Rated 4/5 (262 reviews) on Capterra

Used on 115K active sites

$45/mo for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • Good email builder feature.
  • Extensive number of integrations.
  • Good support options

Bad Points

  • No automation on the standard plan. Even when available, automations are limited.
  • Creating basic sequences is challenging and error prone.
  • A/B testing is limited to subject lines.

ConvertKit

Constant Contact Web Based Email Service Provider

"Get the automations and email marketing tools you need to grow your blog and business."

Founded 2003

Rated 4.4/5 (41 reviews) on G2
Not rated on Capterra

Used on 8K active sites

$49/mo for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • Ability to tag users based on their actions and segment based on tags.
  • WordPress plugin to tag contacts based on website actions.
  • Fast visual automations builder, but number of triggers are limited.

Bad Points

  • Very limited and basic set of out of the box templates. Creating new ones isn't easy.
  • Simpler to use but not as powerful as ActiveCampaign.
  • Limited split testing testing and only on subject lines. 

ConvertKit Overview

ConvertKit opens the door to automations for beginners. It has a very clean and responsive interface. To maintain that ease of use ConvertKit has sacrificed the more powerful featureset of ActiveCampaign. ConvertKit is the perfect web based email marketing service provider for those just starting out, but you may outgrow it.   

Pricing for 2,500 contacts would start at $49 per month. This I think is the snag with ConvertKit. The tool caters for the new email marketer with it's ease of use, but the price point feels too high for these exact same users. 

For your small business ConvertKit is great if you as the owner/operator will be doing email marketing on top of all your other roles. However if you plan to grow then the limitations of ConvertKit will become apparent. 

Drip

Email marketing with drip

"Drip is the first ECRM–an Ecommerce CRM designed for building personal and profitable relationships with your customers at scale."

Founded 2013

Rated 4.4/5 (38 reviews) on G2
Rated 4.5/5 (20 Reviews) on Capterra

Used on 41K active sites

$49/mo for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • Easily  tag contacts with automations. Tag contacts based on page visits. 
  • Has concept of events. This means you can capture how many times the contact has done something (visited a page)
  • Visual workflows for automations

Bad Points

  • Limited email split testing capabilities
  • A growing focus on ecommerce could leave other use cases behind
  • thumbs-down
    One of the more expensive tools on the market. 

Is Drip a good email service provider for startups and small businesses? 

Drip is a new comer to the email service provider (ESP) market and it feels like a modern tool. The automations are fast and easy to setup and there is plenty of advanced functionality in there to keep B2B marketers happy.  In terms of pricing there is a free tier for upto 100 contacts, but any more than that and it jumps to $49 as their cheapest paid option. It's one of the more expensive options for startups and small businesses.  My main concern is the branding move towards being an ecommerce CRM. These may leave some of us B2B marketers out in the cold in the long term. However as it stands today, Drip is a great option for small businesses, especially those in a B2B sector and need to share lots of valuable content via email. 

GetResponse

GetResponse response a good web based email service provider for B2B?

"GetResponse is an email marketing platform which features drag-and-drop email, landing page creator, advanced email analytics and more." (Crunchbase)

Founded 1997

Rated 4.2/5 (388 reviews) on G2
Rated 4/5 (68 Reviews) on Capterra

Used on 39K active sites

$25/mo for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • thumbs-up
    Run webinars from GetResponse.
  • Website event tagging. Market to your contacts based on what pages they visit. 
  • Visual workflow for building email automations 
  • Great email split testing capabilities including the ability to test times, content and the send field. 

Bad Points

  • Reporting interface is dated and reporting is not as detailed as other tools. 
  • A growing focus on ecommerce could leave other use cases behind
  • thumbs-down
    One of the more expensive tools on the market. 

Is GetResponse a good email service provider for startups and small businesses? 

GetResponse is one of the cheapest options available. The cheapest package "Email" is missing some valuable features such as website event tracking, automation segmentation and only has basic landing pages.  So to have a more fully featured tool you need to be on at least the pro plan which starts at $49. If cost is your main consideration then there are other, cheaper options available. A great feature on the Pro plan is the ability to promote and run webinars from within get response, great for B2B marketers since that is a bread and butter lead gen tactic for us. 

MailChimp

GetResponse response a good web based email service provider for B2B?

"MailChimp provides marketing automation for e-commerce businesses." (Crunchbase)

Founded 2001

Rated 4.3/5 (5459 reviews) on G2
Rated 4.5/5 (2906 Reviews) on Capterra

Used on 996K active sites

$30/mo for 2,500 contacts

Good Points

  • thumbs-up
    Amazing free plan for 2,000 contacts. 
  • Great for starting out in email marketing but limited in complex automations. 
  • Usability is a clear focus and it is very easy to use if you understand the basic concepts. 

Bad Points

  • Contacts are counted multiple times in different groups. 
  • Difficult to segment if your emails contain multiple calls to action. 
  • thumbs-down
    No site tagging, which is really valuable for automations. 

Is MailChimp a good email service provider for startups and small businesses? 

If you are just getting started in email marketing then MailChimp is a good option, especially since its free for upto 2K contacts. However, emails in the free plan are branded. Not a good impression to make as a B2B business trying to establish yourself. There is no arguing MailChimp is the best value tool on the market, however my suspicion is you will quickly outgrow it. Then comes the headache of trying to switch to another email service provider. So is MailChimp a good option for the B2B small business? Yes, if you plan to sticking to very basic email marketing activity. 

How can I help you find the web based email marketing tool? 

Selecting the right web based email marketing tool for your business isn't easy. There are lots of options, different price levels and plenty you don't know until you start using the tool. At Digitally.co we recommend ActiveCampaign for email marketing. It give businesses the right balance between price, performance and future proofing. You have a small B2B business now. In five years when you need capability such as lead scoring, ActiveCampaign will still fit your needs. 

If I want to discuss email marketing drop me a note Hello@Digitally.co

Kaya - B2B Digital Coach