There’s no place like the inbox. 41% of marketers say that email is their most effective marketing channel, and it kind of leaves other channels in the dust. The runner-up, social media, got just 16% of votes.
Part of the reason marketers love email is the ROI—organizations get an average of $36 back for every $1 invested in email. But what if your email marketing budget is a bit tight this year? We’ll look at the best free email marketing tools to use so you make a big impact without a big invoice.
What To Look For in a Free Email Marketing Tool
Even if free email marketing tools don’t need a dollar investment, getting them set up (and getting your whole team to use them) is a time investment. Here are the features your free tool should have to make it worth your while.
39% of marketers build emails by replacing the text and image coding in a template or previous email, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every. single. time they need to set up a new message.
Look for an email marketing tool that lets you create and store templates for each communication type, including welcome emails, newsletters, and offers.
Your email marketing strategy should be as unique as your audience. So, to learn what works best, you need to A/B test your emails. In fact, 90% of marketers A/B test, with more than a quarter doing so often or always.
The best email marketing tools offer simple A/B testing for variables such as subject line, imagery, send time, and email content.
Easy to use
36% of email teams want to streamline their workflows next year, and tools play a big part in that—just ask anyone who has contemplated throwing their laptop out the window.
Look for features like drag-and-drop email editors, integrations with your other tools, and even AI-supported email suggestions to make your life a little easier. Plus, read reviews on sites like G2 and Capterra to see what users say about the tool’s interface.
Customization is essential for email marketing because it allows you to establish a brand image. So, it’s no surprise that 70% of marketers have email brand guidelines. Ideally, your email marketing tools empower you to choose fonts, styles, and colors that fit your brand.
What’s included in the free plan
Finally, when choosing your email marketing tool, see what the free plan offers, how much it varies from paid plans, and whether you can get by with the potentially limited features.
Email marketing tools often charge based on your number of subscribers and how many emails you send each month.
Why you should use free email marketing tools
Some teams (or solo email marketers!) choose free email marketing tools simply because there isn’t a budget for anything else. But even organizations with a little extra cash can use free tools to:
- Test out companies before fully committing to a pricey contract
- Learn what features are important in their workflow
- Try new templates without investing a bunch of time upfront
- Compare the ease of use between multiple options
Top free email marketing tools
Let’s review some of the top free email marketing tools (in no particular order).
1. HubSpot – Best for an all-in-one marketing solution
HubSpot, the third most common ESP that email teams choose, is an email marketing software focused on inbound marketing strategy. It helps you grow your business by bringing your customers to you. HubSpot’s email marketing software is included in their marketing hub and has a multitude of features packaged in an easy-to-use interface.
Amp up your email marketing strategy right away with HubSpot’s goal-oriented templates. Or create templates explicitly tailored to your brand. You can also personalize your emails to each recipient using data points such as name, location, and sales lifecycle stage.
HubSpot has a user-friendly email builder. Image source
HubSpot key features
- Easily create and personalize messages using drag-and-drop email templates
- Build a library of templates for your marketing and sales team
- Empower your sales team with the Salesforce integration
- Integration with Litmus
HubSpot offers a free email marketing tool plan that includes up to 2,000 email sends per month (with HubSpot branding), one automated email per form, and limited email health reporting. The free plan doesn’t have A/B testing.
If you want to go further with your email marketing strategy, HubSpot’s plans for individuals and small teams start at $18 per user per month.
2. Omnisend – Best for ecommerce
Omnisend empowers ecommerce businesses to send the right information at the right time with personalized messaging and shopping experiences. Omnisend’s pre-built email templates are built with ecommerce consumers in mind.
In addition to Omnisend’s library of templates, you can save multiple templates for several different ecommerce brands to save time. The app also has sign-up forms, pop-up boxes, and landing pages to capture new leads or future customers.
Customize campaigns with audience segmentation on Omnisend. Image source
Omnisend key features
- Easily customize templates with dynamic content blocks
- Sync data from your online store to create segmented email lists
- Optimize your emails with Omnisend’s intuitive Campaign Booster
- Send out the most effective email with A/B testing
- Create coupon codes
- Email automation
- Personalized product recommendations in emails
With Omnisend’s free email marketing tools, you can send up to 500 emails per month to 250 contacts with Omnisend branding intact. You can also measure your sales, sign-up, and campaign performance with the free version of this email marketing software.
Ominsend’s paid tiers start at $16 per month and feature many of the same features but with higher send limits.
3. Constant Contact – Best for small teams
Constant Contact serves businesses, nonprofits, and even individuals. It offers marketing tools centered around email that can expand to other channels for a complete online marketing solution.
With Constant Contact, you can access a comprehensive customer service team and advisors to help you develop your marketing strategy.
Constant Contact automation features vary by plan. Image source
Key Constant Contact features
- Create beautiful designs for desktop and mobile with a drag-and-drop email builder
- Build customizable templates
- Integrated marketing campaign calendar
- Learn more about your customers with surveys and polls
- Integration with Litmus
Constant Contact pricing
Constant Contact doesn’t have a free forever plan, but you can try the platform for free for 60 days and send up to 100 emails without entering a credit card. After your free 60 days, paid plans start at $12 a month for one user.
4. Mailchimp – Best for all-on-one solution for small businesses
19.24% of email teams use Mailchimp, which offers email marketing software for beginners and businesses looking for an all-in-one marketing solution.
Design professional emails with Mailchimp’s drag-and-drop editor, and keep your files handy with its Content Studio. Ensure you send the right information at every customer journey stage with email automation and transactional emails.
While there are many similar tools out there, Mailchimp stands out for several reasons. For one, it offers a rich library of email templates. There are more than 100 ready-to-use, beautifully designed templates that can inspire your next campaign. However, the free plan does limit template access.
Plus, Mailchimp includes automation tools, integration with your online store, and a mobile app that allows you to send email marketing campaigns from anywhere.
Mailchimp is experimenting with AI-powered marketing analysis and recommendations. Image source
Key Mailchimp features
- Customize your audience with segments, tags, and contact profiles
- Streamline the design process with the Mailchimp content studio
- Access an email template library
- Manage social media and website channels
- Get email performance reporting
- Integration with Litmus
Mailchimp’s free plan lets you send up to 1,000 emails per month with a single user per account. The free plan doesn’t have A/B testing function, email scheduling, automated sequences, or the option to remove Mailchimp branding.
If you want to access more customization, automation, and personalization tools, you’ll need to opt for a paid plan starting at $20 per month.
5. Benchmark Email – Best for simple email automation
Benchmark Email offers a simple email platform so you can spend less time on setup and customization and more time nurturing stronger relationships with your contacts. They offer an integrated, automated, and robust feature set built to help companies of any size—with everything from list acquisition to engagement throughout the customer journey.
Something unique about Benchmark Email is that they’re an international company with offices in 15 different countries around the world, supporting nine different languages.
Benchmark Email has built-in and custom automations. Image source
Key Benchmark Email features
- Create sign-up forms to grow your email list
- Segment your audience
- Craft emails with a built-in drag & drop builder, code editor, or RSS feed
- Send automated emails
- Automatically test how your emails look in multiple email clients and devices (Powered by Litmus)
- Send emails at the best time for engagement with Smart Sending
- Write emails faster with AI copywriting tool
- Integration with Litmus
Benchmark Email pricing
Benchmark Email offers a free plan to send up to 3,500 monthly emails to up to 500 contacts. It comes with basic email marketing, email delivery management, basic automated drip campaigns, sign-up forms, basic reporting, and online-only support.
Benchmark Email also offers two premium tiers starting at $13 per month based on your number of contacts: Pro and Enterprise.
6. Sendfox – Best for content creators
Sendfox lets users create and send email newsletters for free and upgrade if they need more bells and whistles. While a fairly new tool, it gained popularity in 2020 thanks to an out-of-the-box, 1-on-1 promotional approach driven by the team at AppSumo, the tool’s creators. Instead of throwing a wide net, the team contacted specific influencers and potential users to get their tool out there.
One of the key differentiators of Sendfox’s email marketing service is its simplicity. For a segment of users, less really is more, and they are happy to adopt a tool that isn’t complex. Plus, it actually helps you focus almost solely on growing and messaging your subscriber list.
Aside from scheduling email newsletters with Sendfox, you can also build landing pages to bring in more subscribers, even if you don’t have a website.
Sendfox’s email marketing metrics let you monitor email list growth and engagement. Image source
Key Sendfox features
- Schedule campaigns
- Automatically pull in recent social and blog content with Smart Campaigns
- Referral widget to reward subscribers who share your newsletter
- Sign up forms
Sendfox offers a free plan for up to 1,000 contacts with throttled sending. The free plan has SendFox branding, no automations, and basic access to their HTML editor.
Sendfox’s Lifetime plan is a one-time payment of $49, which lets you upload up to 5,000 contacts and send unlimited emails per month. If you want to access more features, have a larger list, or want to completely remove SendFox branding, it will set you back $49 for a lifetime payment plus $18 per month.
7. MailerLite – Best for startups
MailerLite provides email marketing software to more than one million businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. They focus on offering a robust solution without unnecessary complications.
With MailerLite, you can create beautiful emails with a drag-and-drop editor, rich text editor, or HTML.
Optimize your content with email automation and audience segmentation. In addition to email tools, MailerLite includes lead generation features that help you grow your subscriber base.
MailerLite’s email designer lets anyone customize their email layout easily. Image source
Key MailerLite features
- Design emails with a drag-and-drop editor
- Build and manage email campaigns
- Create a website
- Set up email automation
- Segment your audience with lists and interest tags
- Test emails with A/B split testing
- Preview engagement with email click maps
MailerLite’s free plan allows you to upload up to 1,000 contacts and send 12,000 emails per month with a single user per account. Compared to some other free email marketing tools, there are more features available, like unlimited segmentation and multiple analytics options.
If you want unlimited sending, pricing starts at $10 per month and increases depending on your number of subscribers.
8. SendX – Best for affordable unlimited sending
SendX offers email marketing software focused on helping businesses increase their bottom line through conversions and revenue generation.
Build captivating emails with the SendX drag-and-drop email design editor. You can access their library of templates and personalize your emails.
SendX also offers heatmap data for your emails to give you insight into which elements your readers engage with most. You also have access to a library of 500,0000+ stock photos and a free migration service.
The SendX dashboard lets you review key metrics quickly. Image source
Key SendX features
- Send unlimited emails
- Access a library of email templates
- Perform A/B testing
- Use list segmentation
- Create pop-up forms and landing pages
SendX doesn’t have a free plan, but you can get a 14-day free trial without entering credit card information. After that, the plans start at $7.49 per month for up to 1,000 subscribers. Pricing increases based on subscriber count but includes all features and unlimited sending.
9. ActiveCampaign – Best for customer success-based businesses
ActiveCampaign helps businesses of all sizes win customers by optimizing the customer experience throughout your emails, including broadcast, scheduled sends, and autoresponders.
With ActiveCampaign’s drag-and-drop builder, you can create functional emails in minutes. Use their automation creator to follow your customer’s journey and create that personal touch.
Increase your email engagement with split testing that can be done solo or inside an automation.
If you’re already using several other marketing tools, ActiveCampaign integrates with over 900 applications.
ActiveCampaign offers custom automations. Image source
Key ActiveCampaign features
- Drag-and-drop email builder
- Split test campaigns
- Create list segmentation
- Automate marketing
- Set up autoresponders
- Use the ActiveCampaign CRM
- Monitor progress with campaign reports, website tracking, and event tracking
- Integration with Litmus
ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a free plan, but you can try a limited set of tools for free without a credit card for 14 days. After that, plans start at $29 per month, with send limits set at ten times your contact list per month.
How to make the most of your free email marketing tools
You can still run an effective email program using a free email marketing tool with a potentially limited set of features. Here’s how to optimize your emails:
- Segment your audience to send relevant content
- Optimize for mobile
- Create compelling content
- Test different elements, like plain text vs. templated designs
- Maintain a consistent schedule
- Monitor analytics to ensure email delivery
- Leverage automation (if your plan allows!)
- Grow your list organically—never buy an email list
- Prioritize email accessibility in your email design
When it’s time to upgrade your email marketing toolkit
As wonderful as free is, sometimes your team has to make an upgrade. You might need to increase your plan or switch your ESP if:
- Your list size and/or send volume increase are over the limit (even with list cleaning). A little list maintenance is good for everyone, but you might find your subscriber list size or send volume is about to go past the bounds of a free account.
- You need to add more users. 48% of email teams have 1-5 users in the ESP, but many free accounts have only one seat.
- You want more integrations. Integrations were the biggest spending priority this year for email marketing teams, so you might be among those who want more (or easier to use) integrations.
- You feel limited. Free email marketing tools don’t always have the most advanced personalization tools or wide-reaching automations.
Maximize the impact of your email marketing tools
While all of these email marketing solutions offer different options for optimizing your campaigns, Litmus gives you everything you need to build, test, and trust every email and make every send count. When you use Litmus alongside your ESP, you can:
- Test and preview in 100+ clients before you send
- Build emails that convert with easy personalization & cutting-edge AI
- Protect against unexpected errors with unlimited, 24/7 email monitoring
- Ensure every campaign is better than the last with advanced analytics and insights
- Shave hours off your review and approvals process with one centralized place for collaboration
Give it a spin—start your free trial now.
Steph Knapp is a Freelance Content Writer for SaaS and B2B companies