October 3rd, 2019 Business

Email is the backbone to your online course business. But with so many options, which do you choose?

I forget where I first heard it, but I remember early on in my online business career hearing that if you don’t have an email list, then you don’t have a business. The single-most important thing you can do is cultivate an email list of current and prospective customers for your online courses.

But it’s not just important for those who are selling courses. Even if your courses are free, you need an effective way to communicate to those who are enrolled. Also, you may change your mind at some point and want to do a launch of a paid offering. If you have an email list already in place, you are just one email away from making money.

Chances are I am telling you something that you already know. What you might not know however is which email marketing service is best for you. Below are the most popular email marketing services available today. For each you will find a list of pros and cons to help you determine which might be the best fit.


MailChimp is one of the largest email platforms, with over 600 million emails sent and received. It has tools and templates for both personal and SMB accounts, including a built-in CRM program which can streamline automation options for marketing and customer service follow-ups.

It’s useful for those who have the need for newsletter integration, as MailChimp interfaces well with Word Press and Zapier. It also has several different ways to execute opt-in lead capture campaigns, like forms, landing pages, and automatic drip campaigns. The automation is difficult to integrate, however, so if you reply on a lot of emails and CRM automation, then setting these features up may be challenging.


  • Thorough reporting of your client list, geo-tracking, social media mentions, and google analytics integration.
  • Extensive options for the free program, including the ability to send up to 10,000 emails to 2,000 different clients as well as access to basic automation programs.
  • Clean template interface with intuitive editing.


  • Expensive subscription service. Once you’ve outgrown the premium service, the rates for additional emails and ability to message to more than 2,000 subscribers climb steeply.
  • Limited automation even with premium services. The auto-replies are comprehensive, but more complicated services are lacking.


The Drip platform allows users to segment their client list, especially helpful for companies that sell or market many different products or services.

It’s tailored for e-commerce businesses and integrates well with Shopify. The platform’s main strengths are the precise nature of the tags, which can send out targeted emails based on user history with the business. There is no free option advertised. The program allows SMS, Facebook, and webinar integrations to capture across several channels. They offer a free plan for only 100 subscribers but it is not overtly advertised.


  • Easy to use and intuitive user interface.
  • Automation is outstanding, with easily created broadcasts that can be reused and edited.
  • Premium subscription is more affordable than other email clients.
  • Several different campaign templates that are easy to load.
  • Drip allows users to create their own custom email templates.


  • Difficult to customize your own HTML email response templates unless you have a programming background.
  • Email templates can look somewhat basic and the library of existing templates is small.
  • The rules, workflows, and tags may take some users longer to learn.


ActiveCampaign is more affordable for small businesses, with easy to use software and a dashboard that makes it easy to get an overview of your different campaigns. That said, the pricing can be a stretch for folks who just need it for email.

It works well when integrated with Zapier and Salesforce, which allow users a greater control over their CRM strategies. It’s also suited well to integrate with major ecommerce sites like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. ActiveCampaign is best for small business owners, as the pricing is very approachable. The super-premium version even offers social media integrations, which is important for small businesses building brand awareness.


  • A well-designed user interface that’s created to be intuitive and easy to learn.
  • The Zapier integration offers over 150 different tools to follow your sales funnel, classify customers into groups, create targeted email campaigns, and track user history. Some of the tools will require a paid Zapier subscription.
  • Very approachable pricing. There is no free version, but the basic version starts at only $9 per month, with the mid-grade and premium versions available for a trial subscription.
  • Workflow pointers help ensure that your custom automations will execute properly. For example, if you forget to define an outcome for a conditional statement while building automation, the software will notify you to ensure your workflow runs smoothly.


  • The CRM and email builders are a bit outdated and the templates aren’t as user-friendly as other aspects of the platform, and the personal information in the CRM function is difficult to read.
  • There are no native integrations with third-party tools. Instead, users need to manually integrate with the third-party applications, which may mean that they incur an extra cost.


ConvertKit is a blogger and email focused email marketing tool, designed to help promote individual brands, versus CRM and sales funnel management for small businesses. Though recently they have been dabbling into the latter with their Automation features.

It’s a tag-based system that allows owners to manage user interaction. Tags can be applied to users based on which things that they clock on in your emails and website, allowing more specific targeting at a later point. The WordPress integration allows users to connect with users across different platforms and target based on interaction with their blogs.


  • The tag-based subscriber system helps business owners sort clients by profile and purchase history.
  • The automated emails are dynamic and have versatile templates, including merge tags.
  • An alternative rules builder helps users create custom automations and various form types.
  • The landing page template allows you to tell your brand story.
  • Customer support is responsive.
  • Digestible reporting for subscriber acquisition.


  • Limited A/B testing functionality.
  • Customization for some emails and templates can be limited.
  • Reporting data is limited.


The SendInBlue platform was developed for small and medium businesses to allow automated emails sent out on a budget. The comprehensive features include marketing automation, SMS messaging, transactional emails, Facebook ads, and landing pages for an underserved market.

Currently, the platform boasts over 100 million emails sent per day with automation that includes lead scoring and web tracking. It’s best for trigger-based and transactional emails. Campaigns can be developed to be triggered by clicks, website visits, and opening emails.


  • Low-cost plans, which for a small business is eminently approachable. Premium plans are more, although these, too are priced in an accessible range.
  • A fully kitted email automation is work-slow based and is one of the better-automated designers on the market. Campaign actions can be triggered by the user’s email address and past behavior. Users can assign lead scores, send transactional messages, and gather reports on the effectiveness of different email campaigns.
  • The landing age editor has a smooth interface and modern template options. Note that these are only available on the Premium and Enterprise options.
  • SMS marketing tool to allow promotions texts for opt-in users.


  • Integrating with other options is limited, which can be tricky for businesses that have a rich blogging base.
  • The free plan email send limit is 300 emails per day, which is limiting for most ecommerce businesses.


GetResponse is best for newsletters, with a reach of over 1 billion subscribers each month. Features include custom landing pages, A/B testing, video email marketing, and comprehensive design testing. the basic service offers plenty for a small business, but it’s the Pro feature that opens up a lot of extra features.

The landing pages work off of Autofunnel which manages and reports traffic generation and online payment processing. The upper-tier levels offer an inbuilt CRM, which may benefit businesses that don’t currently use CRM software.


  • Intelligent list automation allows users to add many different conditions to lists to sort clients and sort accordingly, in order to create more targeted email blasts.
  • The design and spam testing.
  • Built-in webinar capabilities that connect directly to your lists (very unique)!


  • Plans have limitations on things like Automation sequences which can become quite restricting, forcing you to at least their Professional tier which is when it starts to get pricey.
  • Support has been reported to be less helpful than the other solutions listed.
  • Limited Automation capabilities in comparison to the other solutions listed.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is one of the first popular email marketing platforms, starting back in 1996. Since they have been around for some time, it means their offering is quite stable – albeit perhaps lacking in advanced functionality compared to their peers.

They offer only two plans (which have a sliding scale in pricing like most options). This is a breath of fresh air to some people who get confused at all the various pricing tiers that they are presented with when choosing a email marketing platform.


  • Simple interface is perfect for folks who are just getting started with email marketing.
  • A great solution if you are offering traditional newsletter-type emails to customers and prospects.
  • Integrated tool for creating Google Ads and Facebook Ads.


  • Automation features are limited in scope.
  • Dated email template designs.

Do your research, make a choice, and move forward.

In the end these are all very good providers. Whatever you choose today can be changed at a later date if you like. For example, we first started with Mailchimp but a number of years ago switched to ActiveCampaign. I am not implying that ActiveCampaign is “better” than all of the others. It is just better for our business needs. We may switch from ActiveCampaign at some point as well, time will tell.

So my advice is to figure out what your top two, possibly three, requirements are for your email marketing efforts. For instance, if price is of concern, then choose an option that has generous features for free accounts. By the time you exceed the free limit, you will presumably be making money.

Choose the solution and don’t look back. It’s time to start building that email list.

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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One response

Leave a Comment

Thanks, I use Mailchimp and It was a great tool I ever used. The other is wonderful as well and I’m looking forward to trying them in the future, Cheers!

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