Welcome back to the Newsletter Series, a group of posts dedicated to the importance of newsletters for boosting patient numbers. Learn why you need an acupuncture newsletter, how to get started, what to write about, and how to write newsletters that are share-worthy. Today is post number two:
A comparison of four of the most common newsletter platforms: Mad Mimi, MailChimp, Constant Contact and AWeber.
So you’ve decided that you’re ready to have an email newsletter for your acupuncture (or chiropractic, or massage) business. Great! If you need a reminder of all the reasons a newsletter is essential, check out the first post in the Newsletter Series, Why You Need an Acupuncture Newsletter. (Note that some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.)
Now that you’ve decided to go for it, you have to decide what’s important to you when choosing an email platform to work with. What are your priorities? ● Price? ● Appearance? ● Ease of use? ● Extra features?
This list was my guide when comparison shopping for a newsletter platform:
- What’s the monthly fee, and what do I get for that fee?
- Is there a free option, and what are the limitations on that free option?
- Is the platform easy to use?
- What will my email newsletter actually look like? Does the look represent my brand?
Sometimes the answers to these questions were not that easy to find on a platform’s website, or the answers were a little unclear. (As counter-intuitive as this sounds for big-name websites that are trying to sell something!)
To save you the trouble of locating answers or clarifying specific questions, I’ve tried to do most of the legwork for you. I’ve done everything from sign up for free (and not free) accounts, to emailing Support Teams, to scouring the corners of websites for important information.
For each newsletter platform, I try to give a screenshot of:
- Pricing per month
- What the newsletter editor looks like when you’re creating your newsletter
- Email templates, if available
- Web form examples or templates, if available
*For those who prefer a quick and dirty overview, I’ve also compiled an Excel spreadsheet (nerds rejoice) with most of these answers on it in condensed form. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom to see it. Click to enlarge it.*
Some brief vocab that will help this discussion make more sense:
(Also called “Automation Workflow” by MailChimp, or “Drip Campaigns.”) An automated series of emails delivered to new email contacts on a scheduled basis.
For example, a new contact signs up for your newsletter list, and that day he automatically receives a “Welcome” email. One week later, he automatically gets a “What Can Acupuncture Treat?” email. Four days after that, your “Acupuncture is Safe and Effective – The Research” email is automatically delivered. You get the picture. It’s a series of emails outside of your monthly newsletter.
The email addresses of the people who sign up to receive your newsletter. Usually the number of contacts is limited for each tier of a paid plan. The word “contacts” is used to prevent confusion with the use of the word “emails.” “Emails” refers to the actual emails that you send out. For example, “September Newsletter” emails.
The ability to send out as many emails each month as you want. This is usually an upgrade. Some starter or intro plans have limits on the total number of emails you can send per month.
(Also called a “Sign-up form.”) A form to collect people’s email information, embedded in your website. Once a person puts in their email address, the address is automatically added to your “Audience” list in whichever newsletter platform you use.
A disclaimer before I start the comparison:
Keep in mind that this info is just the guide I used to choose my own newsletter platform. You should do your own research on the different newsletter platforms you’re interested in.
Things change quickly on the internet and you’ll want to make sure all of this information is correct at the time you’re reading it. Additionally, you business’s needs may not be the same as those I’m considering. I’m comparing these platforms based on a small business with (probably) only 1-2 employees and less than 2500 email contacts.
If you’re a big business with lots of contacts or you need multiple accounts for various employees, this comparison is probably not for you. I don’t have any experience with these platforms’ performance or features at high email volumes.
Let’s talk about Mad Mimi first, because this is the platform that I like best and use right now. And no, this is NOT a sponsored post by Mad Mimi. I just love how easy and beautiful their email newsletters are.
(Side note: In a few posts I’m going to give a step-by-step guide on how to sign up for the Free Plan with Mad Mimi and how to set up your first newsletter.)
Why Do I Recommend Mad Mimi (Pros)?
- Price: The free plan lets you store 2,500 contacts and send up to 12,500 emails per month. And if I want to upgrade later, the pricing is reasonable.
- Ease of use: I think Mad Mimi is the simplest to use of the four choices here. The editor for building your newsletters is very straightforward: just drag-and-drop, without too many customization options to complicate things.
- Design: I like the simple, bright look of Mad Mimi newsletters. I think they’re very professional-looking and easy-to-read. (See example below.)
- Scheduler: Create your newsletter ahead of time and then set the scheduler to send it out at a later time.
- Support: The support team is awesome. I sent a question email at 7:37pm on a Tuesday, and it was answered at 7:44pm. Now that’s service!
The Only Flaw in the Mad Mimi Free Plan That I Can See (Cons):
- There’s no Autoresponder message option.
You have to upgrade for that. Ideally, I’d like to set up a series of emails for an Autoresponder campaign, but for now, it’s not a big issue. The functionality of the free plan is more than enough to accomplish what I want. And it’s good to know that in the future when I’m ready for the Autoresponder option, upgrading is not expensive.
Mad Mimi’s Pricing (Click to enlarge): The free plan isn’t listed on this page, but it is easy to find right from their homepage (www.MadMimi.com). Upgraded pricing is a little confusing so I wanted to point something out:
It looks like you have to jump from the $10 plan to the $42 plan (yikes!). But the section with the arrow points out that there are more options. There’s actually quite a few pricing options between $10 and $42, based on number of contacts.
Mad Mimi Newsletter Editor (click to enlarge):
MadMimi Newsletter Example:
Mad Mimi Web Form Example: (Reminder: Web forms are embedded in your website so patients can sign up for your newsletter.)
Very easy to customize, easy to upload your logo, and love the social media buttons at the bottom.
Mad Mimi Summary: Great free plan, inexpensive upgrades, visually appealing and professional, very simple to use AND great support.
- Price: Very reasonable, including a competitive free option that is (nearly) as good as Mad Mimi’s (2500 contacts and 12,000 emails per month).
- Ease of use: Overall, easy enough to use, but not as simple or quick to learn as Mad Mimi. I had a few small complaints – see “Cons” below.
- Design: LOTS of options, many very attractive. Finished newsletter product is professional and fun.
- Support: Quick response, in less than 24 hours.
- Newsletter editor functionality: Not as easy to use as I’d like. To me it feels a little counter-intuitive. You must edit the text on the right side of the screen, and changes show up on the left side. I kept trying to type on the left side, into the email. Also, the text was a little difficult to see on the right while you’re typing because of the dark blue highlighting. (See below.)
- Web form: I was disappointed that I couldn’t figure out how to load my logo into the web form. I’m not sure if it’s possible. So the web form is a little bland. (See below).
MailChimp Newsletter Editor (click to enlarge):
You edit the text on the right side (“Editable Region”), and changes show up on the left side. The editable region on the left can be hard to see because of the dark highlighting.
MailChimp Newsletter Template Examples:
MailChimp Newsletter Example:
MailChimp Web Form Example:
Nothing fancy but gets the job done.
MailChimp Summary: Creates solid newsletters and has a great free plan. The newsletter editor itself is not my favorite, as it’s not as easy to use as it could be. Overall though, for free, there’s not too much to complain about. Gets the job done, and done well.
- Pricing: Free 60-day trial period – plenty of time to decide if you like it. No credit card is needed for the trial period.
- Design: The newsletter editor has TONS of customization options.
- Support: I got an email the day after I signed up for Constant Contact from a real person (yay!) letting me know they’re available if I need help. That was nice.
- Pricing: No completely free plan – you have to pay eventually. And the cost is the highest of these four platforms (presumably because of all the customization options).
- Ease of use: The high level of customization of the newsletter builder might be too much for beginners. It’s not quite as simple as the drag and drop method of the other platforms. The options can be a little overwhelming.
- Design: Less visually appealing than the other platforms. Creates professional newsletters, but a little boring or dry, perhaps.
Constant Contact Pricing (Click to zoom):
Constant Contact Newsletter Editor (left side), and a Newsletter Example (right side):
Constant Contact Sign-up Button Examples:
I personally think these are a little uninspired and outdated-looking, especially compared to some of the other web forms in this post.
Constant Contact Summary: The look is professional, for sure, but maybe a little bland or outdated. It depends on the template you choose. Templates are not as varied or engaging as MailChimp’s or AWeber’s, but are easy enough to use. The price is high, but I imagine this is because there are A LOT of customization options available, for every little facet of your newsletter. I think this level of customization is unnecessary for our purposes, and has the potential to be time-consuming. But others may disagree. Overall, it turns out good-looking, professional newsletters.
I took one for the team and bought the one month for $1 membership so I could really check out AWeber for you guys. Ya’ welcome. I’ll say it was a dollar well spent.
- Ease of use: Very easy to use. Walks you through the whole setup of the account. Also, templates in the newsletter editor are easy to use. The newsletter editor isn’t drag and drop if you use a template, but the templates are easy to fill in.
- Design: The graphic design of the templates is impressive – modern, interesting, and LOTS of options to chose from. There’s even an option to have matching newsletter templates and web form templates, for continuity of your branding.
- Support: I had lots of questions about pricing, and they answered me clearly within 12 hours.
- Pricing: No free option, and a credit card is required for the trial month. (The trial month is $1.) Added to that, it’s relatively expensive after the trial month is over – $19/month minimum, for only 500 contacts or less.
- Clarity of pricing: Pricing was really pretty tricky to figure out from the website. I had to email the Support Staff twice to ask for clarification.
This screenshot is for the $1 trial, which accommodates up to 500 contacts.
Pricing Clarification (Click to enlarge screenshot below):
After the one-month, $1 trial, $19/month is the base fee. If you want to increase your number of contacts over 500, you add the prices below ON TOP OF the $19. Since I had to ask the Support Team to clarify multiple times, here’s a quick explanation:
- 501-2500 contacts = $19 base fee + $10 = $29/month
- 2501-5000 contacts = $19 base fee + $30 = $49/month
- Remember to double check that this pricing schedule is the same when you’re looking.
AWeber Email Template Examples:
AWeber Newsletter Editor:
AWeber Web Form Examples:AWeber Summary: Unfortunately there’s no free option with AWeber, and the fees are relatively high after the $1 trial month. However, AWeber was super easy to use, and the graphic designs are great. The higher price probably results from those reasons – the high level of graphic design, the matching newsletter and web form templates, and the ease of use. AWeber is a little bit fancy, and you pay for quality.
Email Newsletter Comparison Spreadsheet Summary:
For those of you looking for the spreadsheet with the condensed version of (most of) this information, here ya go! Click to enlarge:
You made it to the end! Kudos for sticking it out – I know this is a long post but I wanted to share ALL of the info I uncovered in my research.
To sum everything up, each newsletter platform has it’s strengths and weaknesses. It simply depends on what your priorities are: price, design, ease of use?
Mad Mimi is my personal favorite because it’s easy to use, streamlined, and creates visually appealing emails at a great price. (Free right now!) It meets my needs, and looks like it will continue to do so in the future when I’m ready to upgrade.
I hope this post helps you determine which of these four common newsletter options would work best for you! What email newsletter service do you use, and how do you like it? Let us know in the comments!
Next post – How to set up a Mad Mimi free account and use the newsletter editor to create your first newsletter!
Cover image via Pexels.com