Priya Nain
Author: Priya Nain  |  

Product & Email marketer at Mindvalley. Making stuff less boring to read. Infrequent Trekker. Nice girl, rarely mean.


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If your choice of drug is surprise bills, go away. If not, take a seat and let’s read this email marketing pricing guide, top to bottom.

This guide is not about the cheapest services available but about how you can be more informed so you don’t end up with bills you didn’t anticipate. What hurts is the surprise of it.

3 major categories that influence the cost of your email marketing


Email marketing software (ESP)  

Whether you have 10 subscribers or 1million, ESP is the basic infrastructure you need to run your newsletter or campaigns.

The pricing model for ESPs are usually based on one of these factors:

Number of subscribers
Examples - SendX and MailerLite

SendX Pricing
SendX Pricing

The cost of email marketing increases as the number of subscribers in the list increases but you get the same set of features whether you have 10 or 10K subscribers. All plans allow you to send unlimited emails to your list.

No. Of emails sent
Example: SendinBlue

SendinBlue Pricing
SendinBlue Pricing

If you’re not planning to send emails regularly with a cadence, or your email sending volumes change from month to month, then you can go for such a service, usually called ‘pay as you go'.

Features availed
Examples: ActiveCampaign

These are good if your business model is fairly simple, and you won’t require advanced features right now. It’s also great if you plan to scale your model slowly so that you can always have the option to upgrade to a higher-level plan without migrating to any new ESP.

I will take the example of ActiveCampaign pricing to understand this:

ActiveCampaign Pricing


Let’s say you start with a newsletter, so you can go for Lite plan and if you introduce your own products later on and you need to do lead scoring, you can upgrade to Plus plan. Let’s picture your team and business growing after that. Then you can move to the Professional plan.

However, the Pricing Model is just the tip of the iceberg of the cost of an ESP. The whole iceberg includes costs like:

Email Marketing Costs per Email
Some of the email marketing platforms have such tricky UI or tech-savvy ways of sending simple campaigns that you start chatting more with the ESP’s customer support and your coffee barista than your partner or dog.

Then you hire someone, pay for their salary, insurance, laptop, and fruit-infused water. This is a big cost.

If you want to save this money, you can look at SendX. With SendX, you can set up your campaign and launch within minutes. Even then, if you face an issue you can talk to their platform experts on the phone while commuting, or walking to grab your lunch. Check it for free for 14-days first.

You can still hire a dedicated email marketer who can bring in expert knowledge. Apart from handling the platform, this person can also track the email list health and email performance with daily or weekly reporting.

Usually ESPs provide a basic dashboard but someone will need to configure it, monitor, and take actions if metrics are declining. This is a handful of work for one person, so do factor in the cost accordingly when you plan your budget.

Cost of migration
ESPs usually offer a free of cost migration if you have contacts above a certain limit but if you don’t fulfill that criteria, you might have to pay extra for that or do it on your own.

Email Campaign

Your email campaign will always require thoughtful design and well-written copy.

Design
A thoughtful design doesn’t mean hiring expensive designers or getting briefs from design agencies. If it requires such an effort and you have complex requirements, by all means, do so. But then be prepared to allocate a budget for it.

Usually, it is one time cost if you are just publishing a newsletter. But if you are running campaigns or have numerous email journeys based on people’s interaction with your brand, then you will need someone in-house.

Are you already thinking about cutting on your lattes because you see costs of email marketing piling up?

Don’t.

If you choose SendX you will have access to a vast library of templates to choose from. It’s a plug and play system. SendX is constantly adding to this library and you can customize these templates to align with your brand. So you don’t have to worry about running out of ideas or money now. Want to check out the templates? You can try SendX for 14 days for free. No hassle, no credit card.


Content
The content of your email will vary depending on the kind of business and even the scale of it. If we look at broad categorization, emails can be of two types - crafted or curated.

If you want to send original content or written posts (crafted content), you will need someone who can write an email or you will have to hire a team. That will have an additional cost depending on the skills of the writer, length of the email and even the genre.

In terms of cost, hiring freelancers would cost less if your email frequency is not much but yes, look at your business strategy to see if it makes sense to have a full-time employee to handle the content.

On the other hand, if you are collecting links from outside resources and sharing in your email (curated content), it will require less time and effort. And hence, less costly.

Your subscribers

Acquiring subscribers
Email marketing starts even before you even start sending emails. Your subscriber acquisition strategy is also a part of your email marketing strategy. Some ESPs provide opt-in forms or landing pages to help you with this. Else, you will need to host your landing pages on other websites.  

Quality of subscribers
Since most of the ESPs charge based on the number of contacts in the list, you can do a regular cleanup to remove inactive, bounced contacts.

Some of the ESPs (like Drip, MailerLite) charge for unsubscribers for a certain period of time so take that into account while planning your budget.

Mailchimp pricing has a catch - they charge you per contact instead of per subscriber. So you pay for unsubscribed contacts and those who haven’t confirmed opt-in. This way you will end up paying for contacts that wouldn’t yield any ROI on your efforts.

Any hidden costs?

If reading fine print bores you or makes you question your intelligence, ask for contracts from ESPs you shortlisted and have those contracts reviewed by your legal department or some expert. They might discover some hidden costs you hadn’t considered.

You can also ask current customers of each ESP about their experiences with pricing and any surprises faced.

How to plan and budget better?

Before you invest time, effort and money into email marketing do some homework and be clear about your goals and how they align with your business strategy. This will save you trial and error and keep your faith in email marketing intact. Here is a list of questions you can answer to get some clarity.

  • What kind of emails do you plan to send? - promotional, newsletters, eCommerce?
  • How many emails a month are you planning to send?
  • What’s your subscriber acquisition strategy?
  • How do you see your email list growing in the next 2-3 years?
  • What business goals do you want to accomplish with email marketing?
  • What kind of design and branding do you want your emails to have? Would you require external efforts or do you want to choose an ESP with templates?
  • What are you missing out on if you don’t invest in email marketing?
  • Have you tried some ESPs before going ahead with any one?
  • How much will it cost you if you don’t do it?

According to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook or Twitter. As social media channels get noisy and people become unhappy about privacy being invaded, they are turning to email as the source of information and content.

Email marketing has a 122% ROI. That’s more than any other channel. So if you are in it for the long term, email marketing is an investment rather than just overhead cost.

In the end, I would like you to take away two things from this:

  • Thanks to email marketing software like SendX, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite it’s now possible to access advanced features at affordable prices.
  • You get started with a basic, but totally functional email marketing setup for less than $10 for an entire month if you’re willing to DIY.

There is no magic budget amount to invest in email marketing. You can’t do it right and for free but you can always be smart.

Talking about smart marketing, I would like to remind you again about how SendX can help you launch that newsletter, kickoff that sales campaign and even help you migrate while you focus on your core business. It does all that and much more at a reasonable price. Give it a try for 14-days. No credit card required, no risk taken.  

FAQs

1) How can I be sure that the subscribers are engaged contacts?

By doing a regular cleanup to remove inactive, bounced contacts, you can maintain the quality of contacts, and thereby ensure that when you send repeat emails, they reach the correct audience.

2) I went for an ESP recently but found hidden costs later and am wary about going for one again. How can I avoid the same problem from occurring again?

Always check the package information in detail, and look out for things which would be an area of concern for you. A good way is to have a checklist of what you need from the ESP. For example, Mailchimp pricing has a catch - they charge you per contact instead of per subscriber. So you pay for unsubscribed contacts and those who haven’t confirmed opt-in.

3) With the rise of social media marketing, I am worried that email marketing will not be a worthwhile investment. How can I be sure that email marketing is a better option?

Email marketing continues to be the dominant type of marketing, in spite of the rise of social media marketing. This is because in email marketing, a relationship with the customers already exists - because they have voluntarily subscribed - as opposed to unsolicited social media marketing. The ROI on email marketing is an incredible 4200%, according to DMA.

4) Do I have to pay for contacts even after they have unsubscribed?

Some of the ESPs (like Drip, Mailerlite) charge for unsubscribers for a certain period of time so take that into account while planning your budget. This way you will end up paying for contacts that wouldn’t yield any ROI on your efforts. So the solution is to evaluate carefully before choosing.

5) Is sending quality content via email marketing expensive?

It depends on whether you go for crafted or curated content. If you want to send original content or written posts (crafted content), you will need someone who can write an email or you will have to hire a team. But if you are collecting links from outside resources and sharing in your email (curated content), it will cost much less.

6) What about migration from one ESP to another? Is it even possible, or will I have to start fresh if I switch ESP’s?

ESPs usually offer a free of cost migration if you have contacts above a certain limit but if you don’t fulfill that criteria, you might have to pay extra for that or do it on your own.

7) How much does email marketing cost?

On an average, a mid-size business can expect to spend $9 to $1,000 per month on email marketing if they manage their campaigns themselves (depending on the platform and number of subscribers). Or if they work with an agency, it could cost them $300 to $500 per month.