Almost since the very beginning of Barn Images, building our email list has played a huge role in our strategy. That’s right, almost from the beginning. We launched the website on a free WordPress theme with nothing but a bunch of photos we decided to give away for free. In fact, there was no strategy at all, no big plans, and definitely no subscription form. We didn’t feel the need to focus on email marketing and collecting emails because we weren’t selling anything. Looking back now, I can confidently call this a big mistake.
A month or two later, after realizing that our website and our photos were bringing true value to people, we got our heads on straight. By that time, we knew that email newsletters can be one of the great ways to connect and keep in touch with our audience.
We implemented subscription forms on the website and started using tools like Sumo to collect emails. A month later, we had built a list of more than 700 people. After one year of existence, there are more than 10,000 subscribers to our Forbes-featured newsletter.
The beginning – MailChimp
To get started with an email newsletter, we set up an account with MailChimp, which seemed a natural and default choice. I had worked a lot with MailChimp as an email marketing platform during my corporate work and knew the system well. MailChimp provides great service that allows you to have as many as 2,000 subscribers and send as many as 12,000 emails every month for free. No expiring trial, contract, or credit card required.
The free version of MailChimp has all you need to create and send beautiful email campaigns and track your subscriber activities, like Open and Click Rates. It has an easy campaign editor, and works well with third-party platforms, like Sumo, for email address collection. It also allows you to create forms and collect subscribers on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. However, it also has some very significant limitations.
If you are familiar with email marketing, you probably know about the power of automation, or autoresponders – a series of pre-written emails that are sent automatically to subscribers after they sign up. Unfortunately, if you are using a free MailChimp version, you don’t have access to automation features. This means that once someone signs up to your list, you can’t send an automated mail instantly or days afterward. And you won’t be able to automatically move subscribers from one list to another based on certain actions.
We quickly reached the 2,000-subscribers mark and had to switch to the paid version of MailChimp. It sounded fine at first – for $25 per month we got all the great MailChimp features, including automation and advanced analytics. But then our email list grew to 2,500 subscribers – and so did the MailChimp monthly cost. We had to pay $30 per month. When we reached 3,000 subscribers, our MailChimp monthly cost was $50. After we reached 5,500 subscribers, they switched us to a $65-per-month rate. As the number of our subscribers grew, we started to clean the list heavily, but later we understood that it would be necessary to look for some kind of MailChimp alternative. As a small team of two photographers, we simply didn’t have such a budget for maintaining an email list.
Mailerlite – a hidden gem of email marketing
There are literally hundreds of email service providers out there, but after spending some time on research and on testing of different MailChimp alternatives, we found the hidden gem in the email marketing world – MailerLite, a service that has become the email marketing platform for Barn Images.
A quick glance at MailerLite’s pricing and features will be enough to see that it is one of the best email marketing software programs out there. It has everything you need to excel when it comes to email marketing. Here’s why it is the best MailChimp alternative:
- A free plan to get started – limited to 1,000 subscribers, not features
- Super-easy and powerful editor
- Beautiful email templates
- Powerful automation, autoresponders, and auto resend features
- RSS-feature to send out your posts automatically
- A/B testing
- Fully customizable web forms, popup forms, and landing pages (!)
- Number of integrations
- Customer support speed is amazing
- Pricing is ridiculously cheap
MailerLite Forever Free Plan has no limitations of features
MailerLite has a free plan that’s even better than that of MailChimp. While MailChimp’s free plan allows you to store 2,000 subscribers, you can’t enjoy all the benefits of that because of the features’ limitations. MailerLite’s free plan allows you to have 1,000 subscribers, but it also provides all the tools you need to succeed with email marketing, and without paying a penny. You can send unlimited emails, use autoresponders, set up as many web forms as you want, and contact support with any questions you might have.
MailerLite paid plans are cheap
We’ve compared a dozen email marketing services, taking into consideration their pricing and our current list size. MailerLite plans are cheap! You pay as little as $10 per month if you have between 1000 and 2500 subscribers. The cost is even less if you decide to pay annually. Remember MailChimp’s $50 per month for the same size email list? Guess what AWeber, Campaign Monitor or GetResponse would cost you? Check it out yourself – MailerLite’s pricing beats all of them.
Ease of use
MailerLite’s easy user interface is probably the first thing you’ll notice after creating a free account. Everything just seems to make sense, and in five minutes you can set up all the necessary settings and get started with your email list.
The dashboard is the first screen you see after you log in to your MailerLite account. Here, you get a quick overview of the most important stuff: last-sent campaign stats, number of unique subscribers, your plan, subscriber growth, monthly campaign stats, automation activity and web forms.
If you don’t have an email list yet, the first thing you want to do is create the signup forms to implement on your website.
Signup forms, popup forms, landing pages
To create your first form, navigate to Webforms in the top menu and click “Add new Webform” button. Give your form a name, and click “Save and Continue”.
After that, you can choose the type of your Webform. There are four types of Webforms in MailerLite: Popup Form, Landing Page, Embed Form, and Subscribe Button. Let’s take a quick look at all of them.
The Subscribe button is a simple button that you can place anywhere on your website. It is great for content upgrades in your blog posts. When your visitor clicks the button, a popup subscribe form is shown.
Choose this option to build a simple subscribe form and embed it in your website. We have such a form embedded in the sidebar and in the footer of our website.
This is an amazing new feature by MailerLite. You don’t need to use paid services like LeadPages or InstaPage anymore, and you don’t have to install complicated WordPress plugins. The landing page editor comes at no extra cost and is even included in the MailerLite Forever Free plan.
A landing page can work as a small website, or it can be implemented inside your website and attached to your domain. You can create a high-performing landing page without any coding knowledge. It works the same as the MailerLite standard drag-and-drop editor for email campaigns – simply drag blocks to create your landing page content.
Notice that you can set up two different pages in the editor – a Landing Page and a Success Page. The Success Page is the page your viewers will see after signing up. You can welcome your subscribers and thank them for signing up.
The MailerLite landing pages are fully responsive – you can click on the mobile icon to see what it will look like on mobile devices. Once you’re done with the design, click Done Editing.
After you are finished creating a design for your Landing Page, you can choice a URL for it on MailerLite’s hosting, or host the landing page on your own domain.
This is another new feature of MailerLite. Popup forms are considered the most effective way to convert your website visitors to subscribers, and there are a bunch of great tools to build and manage popup forms. Some of these tools are Sumo and AddThis. However, you don’t have to think about any of these tools anymore because you can build great-looking popups directly with MailerLite – at no additional cost, too.
MailerLite has many beautifully designed templates for your campaigns. These templates can be easily adapted and changed to match your brand.
With the automation features, you can build and schedule automated emails like welcome messages, reminders, birthday greetings, and other date-based campaigns. You can send single emails or entire sequences over time. The automation features in MailerLite are not as flexible as those in MailChimp, as only a limited number of triggers is available right now. However, there is everything you’ll need to get started right away, and the automation features are available even in MailerLite’s free plan.
Auto Resend feature
There could be many reasons why one of your subscribers doesn’t open your newsletter – maybe he spends most of the working day on business meetings, or maybe he is just on a holiday. Whatever the case might be, the Auto Resend feature gives your subscriber a second chance to open the newsletter. This is a really powerful feature and has great potential to increase sales. People who didn’t see the first promotional email you sent could see it again. However, use this feature modestly and try not to be annoying to your subscribers – it’s good to use it for important campaigns that just can’t pass unnoticed by your readers.
This is an amazing feature for bloggers. With the MailerLite RSS feed automation, you can publish your blog post and it will be automatically sent to your subscribers. There is a special type for such campaigns – simply create a new campaign and select RSS Campaign. The first thing you’ll have to provide is your RSS feed URL. This is normally yoursite.com/feed. If your URL is different, an easy way to find it is to view the source code of your blog and search for “RSS”. There is also a Lookup button to verify if the URL you entered is correct.
These are just some of my favorite features of MailerLite. However, although the system works and delivers emails well and has some incredible features, there is still room for improvement. For example, I’d love to see more flexibility in Autoresponder settings, and more ways to segment my subscribers. After using MailerLite for more than four months now, I can see that the team is doing a great job and new features are rolling out all the time.
I really encourage you to check out MailerLite – our referral link is here. I’m extremely happy with the results so far and am confident in my recommendation. If you are focused on email marketing as a way to better understand your audience, you can achieve those goals through MailerLite. If you have any questions about the service, address them directly to the super-friendly support team via chat, or post them in the comments section here, and we’ll try our best to answer them promptly.
What is your favorite platform for email marketing? Let us know about your experiences with MailChimp, MailerLite, or other services!
We’ll keep you posted about other email-marketing-related topics, and will certainly update this post if there are any developments along the way. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch!