Best Free Email Marketing Software 2020 Showdown: Convertkit vs Mailerlite vs Mailchimp

Email marketing is an effective marketing strategy until now.

It’s even more effective than social media marketing. That’s why a lot of marketers included email marketing to get leads and customers. 

Yes, email marketing is effective. But it can take time and a lot of effort to do it. So, you need to get effective email marketing software that will do the job for you. 

When people think about using software, the first thought would be cash. The cost that comes with using new software. 

But the good news is, you don’t have to spend a single penny on software, especially if you’re starting. Because there is an email software that provides free plans. 

In this email software showdown, we’ll look at the top three free email service providers – MailerLite, ConvertKit, and MailChimp. 

Here, we’ll use the basic lead generation funnel as our template to evaluate what you can and can’t do with these different software’s free plans.

Let’s assume that you want to build a landing page. Then, you’ll send out an email as a lead magnet. And you’ll send out follow up sequences that link to our sales or checkout page. 

This is the way we’ll evaluate this three software. 

Landing page

The first thing on our list is the landing page

The good news is that all three of these allow you to build a landing page even with their free plans. However, there’s a huge difference when it comes to functionality. 

So, let’s kick things off with the bad news. 

  • ConvertKit is not all that great when it comes to customizing the landing pages. What you see is what you’re stuck with the ConvertKit templates. 

You can change the text, pictures, and colors. But that’s where the customization ends. 

  • With MailerLite and MailChimp, you have more flexibility. 
  • MailerLite has the best flexibility and customization in terms of landing pages. Although, you end up paying for it. Because you can only have five landing pages with it. 

MailerLite gives you the best experience. But they limit you on the number of landing pages, unlike MailChimp and ConvertKit. 

  • The unlimited landing pages that MailChimp provides does not matter. 
  • ConvertKit offers the best in terms of creating forms. If you have a giant WordPress and you want to do a lot of content upgrades, ConvertKit understands that business model. 

Decision:  When it comes to landing pages, MailerLite is the winner even though you can only have five landing pages. You need to pay $10 to have unlimited landing pages and to get split testing. 

Even if you start paying for these solutions, MailerLite is the only software that allows you to split test your landing pages among the three. 

Lead magnet

The second is when you send out your lead magnet

When someone enters their name and email no matter what landing page it is, you want to be able to automatically send them a lead magnet right after they signed up. 

The good news is that all three of this software allow you to send the first email. 

  • But MailChimp does not allow you to have more than one audience. 

What happens is when someone signs up their name and email on other landing pages, you want to be able to create an audience, tag, or group. 

An audience, tag, or group is when a person comes from a specific landing page and wants a specific lead magnet or offer. 

With MailChimp’s free plan, you can only have one of those.

That’s why it doesn’t matter if you can create unlimited landing pages. Because you have to tag everyone as if they came from the same landing page. 

  • MailerLite and ConvertKit come out on top when it comes to delivering the lead magnet. 
  • MailChimp lags when it comes to tags. It can’t set up segmentation. 

Automation

MailerLite takes a big leap when it comes to automated sequences

When you purchase an email software, you expect that when someone subscribes, you’re able to send emails over a specific period. 

  • With free plans, MailChimp and ConvertKit do not allow you to do email automation. 
  • MailerLite allows you to automatically send emails, a functionality that every email autoresponder must do. 

Broadcast

Moving on, the broadcast is a little different. 

Automation is when you set the system so that it sends out emails automatically. 

Broadcast, on the other hand, you manually go into the software and tell them to send emails to these people at this specific time. 

The good news is all three of this software allow you to do broadcasts. 

  • ConvertKit does not have email templates. You can only send plain text emails. And I don’t think it’s a big deal. 
  • MailerLite and MailChimp do allow you to put a bunch of pictures. They have some fancy designed templates if you need them for your email marketing. 

Now, we’re done with the features and what you can and can’t do. 

We’ll go through limitations and usability. Then, we’ll go through how these software deal with affiliate marketing. 

Limitations

Let’s take a look at the limitations of these free plans. And let’s see how quickly you have to upgrade from a free plan to a paid one. 

So, let’s take a look at the chart here. 

  • MailChimp allows for 2,000 contacts and up to 10,000 email sends per month. 
  • MailerLite can accommodate up to 1,000 contacts. But you can send unlimited emails. Because you’re able to set up automation. 
  • ConvertKit also allows you to have 1,000 contacts with unlimited emails as well. 

Usability 

Before we declare who the winner is, there are some issues with usability that you should be aware of with each of these platforms. And some restrictions that you might encounter in the future as your business grows. 

We’ll start things off with the big downside of MailerLite. 

  • MailerLite has the most features on this list. But is the most restrictive when it comes to applying for an account. There is an application process. 

They will manually review your application. Because they allow you to do automation on their free plan. 

They have to protect their IP address to make sure that spammers will not hurt their server’s reputation. 

You need to have a website set up and an online or business presence that you’re a real person or is selling a real product or service. 

  • MailChimp and ConvertKit will just let you in with a little asterisk. 

The next thing that we’ll talk about its usability. 

  • Once you upgrade to the paid plan, ConvertKit has the best user experience in general. 
  • MailerLite can get slow and clunky at times. 
  • Though MailerLite has a visual builder for automation, ConvertKit’s automation and visual builder is more powerful once you get their paid plan. 
  • ConvertKit works well with Teachable and Thinkific if you plan or sell digital courses or membership subscriptions. 
  • MailChimp only works with the Teachable platform. 
  • MailerLite does not have direct integration with either Teachable or Thinkific. 

The final thing that you need to note here is affiliate marketing. 

This can be a little confusing, but you need to get this. 

  • NONE of this three software likes affiliate marketing. 

This is different from having affiliate links. 

When you have affiliate links, it means that you’re an influencer, coach, or consultant. But your primary business is selling your products or services. 

Then, once in a while, you promote a certain product that is great. This is an affiliate link. You put your face, name, or brand behind this promotion. 

This is okay with all of these solutions. 

For affiliate marketing, you need to check the terms of services of MailerLite and MailChimp. You don’t have any products or services at all. 

All you do is pitch other affiliate offers and you’re not using your name or brand to promote your affiliates. 

These software companies do not want this type of business. 

So, if you want to go 100% affiliate marketing, MailChimp and MailerLite are not for you. 

ConvertKit doesn’t have anything specific in their terms of service that affiliate marketing is okay. But whether it’s affiliate marketing or not, you need to make sure that you have good open and deliverability rates. 

Of course, you should not just take emails that you didn’t collect or have no permission to send emails to. 

Don’t be scared that MailerLite and MailChimp do not want to do affiliate promotions. Their primary concern is affiliate marketers because most of them don’t care about their subscribers and just spam. 

So, that’s all for features, usability, and restrictions with the free account. 

Winner 

Now, we can crown the winner. 

You can create a landing page, deliver your lead magnets, and do email automation with their free plan.  You can also set up tags, groups, audiences, and triggers 

As long as you have an online presence and your account gets approved. 

They’re the only software on this list that does not explicitly say that they don’t want to have affiliate marketing. 

They are more open to a lot of affiliate links and affiliate marketing compared to the other two that make sure that you have a primary business. 

ConvertKit is the only one on this list that directly integrates with Teachable and Thinkific. You can use other tools like Zapier or automate.io if you want other software. But you probably don’t want to add those extra steps in the future. 

Conclusions

Everyone loves free stuff. And it includes free email marketing software. 

We have ConvertKit, MailChimp, and MailerLite on this list. 

But free does not mean that it is fit for your business. You still need to weigh and evaluate the pros and cons of using the software. 

So, you need to consider the kind of business that you’re in before deciding what software to use. Because it’s a waste of time to be changing from one software to the other. Plus, the stress and the headache that it gives you. 

ConvertKit is the overall winner in this match if you’re into affiliate marketing and course creation. But MailerLite wins in terms of features and usability for free plans. 

I hope that you find it clear which of the solutions is good for your business. 

If you’re interested in learning more about landing page software, then this link is for you. 

Until the next, keep building the business you love. 

Jason Whaling
 

Jason Whaling is an online marketing expert, consultant, author, and a lifelong entrepreneur. Combining a mix of dynamic business strategy, consumer psychology, and social media marketing, Jason works with people like you to build their personal brands and business.