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Free email marketing: Low-cost tactics to get you started

May 15, 2019 | 4 minutes read | Running a business

For small businesses of every stripe, there are a lot of reasons to feel good about starting an email marketing operation.

For one, data from Mckinsey shows the average order value of new orders from email is three times that of orders from social media. Not to mention, 61% of consumers prefer to hear from brands via email over other channels.

Those are compelling reasons to dive into email marketing—but we know it can be hard to invest your limited marketing budget in a new channel when you aren’t guaranteed it will produce results for your business.

That’s why we pulled together three of the best free-to-low-cost email marketing services and 100% free email templates so you can get your program started with no upfront cost and see the results email marketing can drive for you.

Why email marketing makes a difference for small businesses

Let’s take a step back and talk about why email marketing can make such a big difference for businesses large and small. We know email has proven its mettle time and again, but why it is so effective? It comes down to three key points:

  • Low cost, high ROI: As evidenced by the free and low-cost resources we’ll get to next, email is one of the lowest cost marketing channels—even as your operation scales. At the same time, it drives an outsized amount of ROI. Campaign Monitor estimates the average marketer sees $44 in ROI for every $1 invested in email.
  • Email subscribers are engaged leads: Once someone opts into your email list, you know they’re already somewhat interested in your brand or what you offer—they’re a warm lead. That’s why Campaign Monitor found emails are six times more likely to get a click-through than a tweet.
  • You own the connection with consumers: Social media ads and posts can be throttled by big social networks. Search engine results are subject to algorithm changes that can bump you from page 1 to page 100. But you own your email list—and it doesn’t cost anything to connect with your customers there.
  • Versatility: Whether you need to gather feedback, keep customers informed about their order status, or boost revenue with a sale, email can help you do all of that and more. It’s a medium well-suited to a variety of end-goals, so you can learn one new channel (email) and use it to accomplish a lot.

Free email marketing services

Once you decide to launch an email marketing program, the first step is deciding which software tool you’ll use. There are plenty of email marketing services to choose from—but if you want to get started for free, you have to be a little discerning.

Most email platforms offer some kind of free trial, but only a handful have a truly free plan you can run with for a while as your email game grows. These three tools each have free plans with a good runway before you have to switch to a paid plan. Which to choose depends mostly on your business and the amount of time and effort investment you’re willing to make.

Best all-around email marketing software: Mailchimp

Despite their recent attempt at rebranding, when many of us think of free email marketing services, we think about Mailchimp. It’s one of the original email marketing services—and it’s grown to serve the needs of just about any business really well.

Their free plan gives you plenty of leeway to get your program off the ground before you start paying for the service. Plus, Mailchimp has many of the features you’ll want (automation, advanced segmentation, detailed reporting) as your email marketing efforts grow.

How much is really free?

That’s always the million dollar question. There’s a free email marketing plan—but how much is really free? In this case, Mailchimp’s Free plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

Best email marketing platform for ecommerce: Klaviyo

For ecommerce businesses, Klaviyo is the obvious choice. The platform is built, from the ground up, with ecommerce marketers in mind. Klaviyo works seamlessly with most ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Amazon Marketplace.

That means your email platform can pull in data directly from your online store, creating smart email segments based on the behavior of subscribers in your online store.

How much is really free?

Klaviyo’s Free plan includes up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends (total—not each month). You’ll have to upgrade once you pass through either of those thresholds.

Best drag-and-drop editor for beautiful emails in a hurry: Benchmark

While most email marketing platforms utilize a drag-and-drop editor to help you create custom emails or edit existing templates, Benchmark has perfected the drag-and-drop editor.

Benchmark’s interface is intuitive and simple, and it starts with great, clean design—so all you need is to add images and tweak the colors to make the email yours.

How much is really free?

Benchmark’s Free plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and 14,000 email sends per month.

3 places to find free email marketing templates

Choosing which free email marketing service to use is a good place to start your email marketing operation. But the moment you open up that email editor… what do you do with it?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of creating emails and entire campaigns from scratch. Luckily, there are several places you can find 100% free templates for your email marketing. From newsletter to sales announcements, these three resources have all the templates you’ll need to get your email marketing off the ground.

MailBakery

Funny name, great email marketing templates. MailBakery offers dozens of HTML email templates that are completely free to use. They have templates for:

  • General business
  • Ecommerce
  • Food and restaurants
  • Design and photography
  • Travel and leisure

All of which are easy to implement into whichever email marketing service you use.

Our pick: Creative Boost

Litmus

Litmus offers a free download of five tried-and-tested HTML email templates. Their pack of templates is perfect for ecommerce businesses—they’re clean, customizable, and consistent. The free download includes:

  • Newsletter
  • Product update
  • Receipt
  • Simple announcement
  • Stationary

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor’s email template library boasts dozens of completely free templates. They have emails for everything your business needs, including:

  • Announcements
  • Newsletters
  • Deals and offers
  • Feedback
  • Events
  • Holiday
  • Re-engagement

By far the most extensive group of templates on our list, there is one catch: the templates are built to work with Campaign Monitor campaigns.

Our pick: “We miss you” re-engagement template

Get your free email marketing program up and running

A well-executed email marketing program can lead to seriously big things—even when your business is small. By reaching customers via their preferred channel and sending targeted messages, you can grow sales, boost customer loyalty, and so much more.

As we’ve demonstrated with our list of free email marketing services, email is one marketing channel that’s easy to get rolling for little to no upfront cost. You can keep costs low while you learn to send highly effective emails. Plus, as your email marketing strategy improves, you can scale your efforts for less than other marketing channels. And that’s a win-win.

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