The Best Free Email Marketing Automation Tools for Startups

By Daniel Ni
November 2, 2021

Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing tactics available today. According to a report by Litmus, email marketing generates $42 for every $1 spent, making it by far the highest ROI category of marketing spend.


As customer acquisition becomes more and more difficult, successful startups are differentiating themselves in the through solid email marketing strategies. This starts with finding the right tools for the job.


In this guide, we will breakdown the different categories of email marketing tools, including marketing automation, email design tools, email delivery, and list cleaning tools. Additionally, within each category, you’ll get a brief overview of popular solutions on the market, their pricing, and general product highlights.


Hubspot

If you’re looking for brand credibility, HubSpot is the marketing automation platform for you. Founded in 2006 by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot remains one of the world’s quintessential martech companies. Their robust product set expands far beyond email marketing –– they have created a seamless suite of tools across marketing, sales, customer service, and operations.


The HubSpot drag-and-drop email editor eliminates the need for coding. You’ll also get neat features like smart content, form follow-up emails, automation capability, and in-depth email health reporting.


While HubSpot offers a free tier, overall it’s a better option for larger companies and for enterprises. The enterprise-forward nature comes from the high price tag and the expansive functionality of the product. However, HubSpot has proven the value and reliability of its platform, and they are equipped with a large team to assist their clients.


Additionally, the multiple HubSpot product hubs make it possible to centralize your business tools. There are also plenty of integrations you can take advantage of to consolidate even more with HubSpot.


Highlights

• Smart Content For Website & Email - Smart Content displays different content depending on what audience is viewing it so that you can deliver a personalized, targeted experience.


• Email Design Manager - You don’t need coding skills to create beautiful emails. The HubSpot drag-and-drop editor also comes with a library of email templates.


• Email Health Reporting & Insights - Determine the sending health of your emails, plus get data-based recommendations.


• Customizable Visual Workflows - The visual workflow editor makes it easy to create customer paths based on advanced segmentation logic.


Pricing

The HubSpot product you’re interested in and the tier level you sign up for determines what you’ll pay. Because the email automation functionality lives in the Marketing Hub, we’ll focus on that product.


HubSpot offers four pricing tiers:


• Free - Hubspot offers completely free tools with limited feature sets for email marketing for up to 500 emails per day. However, this requires Hubspot branding and doesn't entitle you to support.

• Starter - $45/month with 1,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. You get access to the free email marketing tools, plus you remove the HubSpot branding from forms, landing pages, emails, and your live chat.


• Professional - $800/month with 2,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. This tier includes everything in the Starter tier, plus Smart Content, the design manager, Blog/RSS email, A/B testing, template saving, and time zone sending. It’s in this tier where you can access automation functionality, plus collaboration tools and custom reporting.


• Enterprise - $3,200/month with 10,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. Enterprise customers get everything that comes with the Professional level, plus 20X marketing contact email send limit per calendar month. Enterprise tier also includes multiple CAN-SPAM footers and send frequency caps.


Learn More About HubSpot Pricing


GetResponse

GetResponse comes with unlimited sends included in the free plan. Instead of varying product lines like HubSpot, their focus rests more on marketing automation with some extra revenue-growth tools like the Sales Funnel Creator, the Website Builder, and a Webinar Builder.


They offer email optimization features like their Perfect Timing tool that delivers email at a prospect’s preferred time to help with your open rates. They also include email scheduling, A/B testing, and they have autoresponders that can be created as a series.


The pricing is a great deal, particularly for companies who want to hone and build their email strategy. The price combined with the innovative feature set make GetResponse a flexible option for eCommerce, SaaS companies, and other organizations who seek reliable revenue growth.


Highlights

• Email Autoresponders - Create automated email sequences to reach your audience based on a timeframe, an action or event.


• Automated Customer Journeys - Make relationship maintenance easy and drive conversions by triggering emails to customers based on their behavior.


• Conversion Funnel - The sales-funnel software provides users with 30+ conversion-optimized scenarios you can work with to build sales funnels.


• Webinar Builder - You can attract leads through live webinars. GetResponse has a webinar builder that allows you open registration, host, and record webinars.


Pricing

GetResponse offers four pricing tiers, plus their Free-Forever plan that gives access to a core set of email marketing features. You can also try the complete marketing software for a free 30-day trial.


• Free-Forever Plan - Includes Email Marketing, Website Builder, Connect a Domain, List for up to 500 contacts, landing pages, signup, and contact forms.


• Basic - $12.30/month with 1,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. It includes email marketing, website builder, autoresponders, signup forms, and landing pages.


• Plus - $40.18/month with 1,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. It includes everything in Basic, plus marketing automation, contact scoring, list segmentation, sales funnels, and the webinar builder.


• Professional - $81.18/month with 1,000 contacts. Additional contacts cost more. It includes everything in the Plus plan, as well as web push notifications, unlimited automations, eCommerce features, and paid webinar capability.


• Max - This is the custom pricing tier. You’ll want to contact sales to get a quote.


Learn More About GetResponse Pricing


Sendinblue

One of the stand-outs of the Sendinblue platform is pricing flexibility. They offer a variety of pricing plans based on email sends and features, plus they provide prepaid send plans in case you need to deal with a large campaign or a spike in communication. For example, nonprofits typically experience the most active giving season during the final months of the year, so prepaid send purchases for the holidays might be a good idea.


Startups who care about developing customer relationships will love Sendinblue’s focus on personalization. You can leverage the CRM to help you segment your email lists and craft messaging that suits your customer.


Sendinblue is a high-performance platform that delivers no-nonsense email automation features with unlimited contact storage. If you have a fluctuating number of subscribers and prefer to run your email strategy without worrying about contact-based pricing, Sendinblue is an excellent option.


Highlights

• SMS Marketing - You can reach your users beyond email. Keep the conversation going through targeted SMS messages.


• Chat - Install Sendinblue Chat on your site to connect with new and returning visitors.


• Automated Workflows - Create basic and advanced workflows that automate segmentation and email sequences.


Pricing

Sendinblue offers unlimited contact storage, so you won’t pay more when you get more customers in your system. There are four plans that are priced based on the feature set and email sends.


• Free - You’ll get access to unlimited contacts, up to 300 email sends per day, and one chat user, along with a handful of the marketing features.


• Lite - $25/month at a 10,000 monthly email volume. Higher volume costs more. There is no daily sending limit, email support, plus add-on feature options.


• Premium - $65/month at a 20,000 monthly email volume. Higher volume costs more. Premium includes more features like marketing automation, landing pages, Facebook ads, and phone support.


• Enterprise - This is the custom pricing tier. You’ll want to contact sales to get a quote.


Learn More About Sendinblue Pricing


Benchmark Email

Benchmark Email is a straightforward yet robust email automation suite trusted by small shops to large enterprises. The core features include email marketing, marketing automation, lead generation, landing pages, and reporting. They offer optimum flexibility with their pricing, and you are encouraged to start for free and take your time to decide what features you like, then you can upgrade when you are ready to do so.


You also have the option to white-label, which is an attractive brand enhancement option for larger startups. The Benchmark Email clientele appreciates the flexibility and enterprise-friendly features –– large businesses like Courtyard Marriott, BBVA, Audi, and Office Depot are customers.


Highlights

• Inbox Checker - View your email in different environments with the inbox checker powered by Litmus.


• Marketing Automation Templates - Use a ready-built automation template including Welcome Subscriber, Convert Lead, and Purchase Confirmation. Or you can also create your own.


• Reporting - Get an in-depth look at your audience with reporting that includes live engagement, heatmap, device reports, and more.


Pricing

Pricing is no-fuss and very flexible. You have the option to do a basic free plan, and after that, there are tiers based on features and the number of contacts. However, there are also per-send models as well. The pricing itself is reasonable, and Benchmark tries to offer something for every budget.


• Free Plan - You get 250 emails/month with this plan, along with lite marketing automation, simple lead gen, and basic reporting.


• Pro Plan - $13/month at the lowest, the price increases with the number of contacts. You get unlimited email sends every month, Pro marketing automation, advanced lead generation, plus more in-depth reporting capabilities.


• Enterprise - This is the custom pricing tier that requires you to contact sales for a quote. You get everything with the Pro plan, plus email white-labeling, a dedicated IP, and priority support.


Learn More About Benchmark Email Pricing


Moosend

Moosend is a European company based in London and Athens that provides all the core marketing automation features startups need, like email campaigns, automation workflow builders, email templates, tracking, reporting, and more.


Beyond the basics, Moosend offers a few impressive extras that can help drive conversions. For example, you can add their countdown timers to your emails to increase the excitement or urgency, or you can leverage the AI-Powered product recommendations for eCommerce.


Additionally, the reporting is notably robust; Moosend offers insights into email heat mapping, geography, device reporting, and even predictive weather analytics. Further, they have custom reporting for their enterprise tier, so you can get detailed looks into specific indicators unique to your business.


Moosend is GDPR compliant, they have more than sufficient resources for large clients, with dedicated account managers, priority support, onboarding and migration services, and delivery & optimization services.


Highlights

• Email Personalization - Moosend lets you connect personally with your email audience with subscriber custom fields, weather-based recommendations, and cart abandonment emails.


• AI-Engine Product Recommendations - The product recommendation tool sends “sell-alike” recommendations to similar audiences, cross-sells other products based on customer history, and triggers restock reminders from previous buyers.


• Real-Time Reporting - Get a birds-eye view of campaign progress and user behavior with Moosend’s reporting insights.


Pricing

Moosend is highly affordable. Like some of the other platforms, they offer tiered pricing based on subscriber count and features. There is also a credit purchase option.


• Free Forever - Unlimited emails, sign-up, and subscription forms, reporting & analytics.


• Pro Plan - $10/month at the lowest monthly plan. They also offer annual billing. Includes landing pages, transactional emails, phone support, SMTP server, plus everything in the free program.


• Enterprise - Custom pricing plan. Along with the full suite of features, you also get custom reporting, a dedicated account manager, SSO & SAML, onboarding and migration, and an SLA.


Learn More About Moosend Pricing


SendPulse

SendPulse, like other competitors, offers flexible pricing options for various company types and sizes. Further, different products have their own pricing, so you can build your own solution to enhance your email marketing efforts.


One of the highlights of SendPulse’s offering is its powerful chatbot functionality. SendPulse helps businesses connect with customers where they are, whether by email, SMS, or social media. The visual chatbot builder creates auto-responders and sales funnels with Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp. The chatbot builder can be a massive differentiator for startups who communicate with large-scale audiences.


Highlights

• Email Verifier - Make sure your email lists are healthy to avoid the spam folder and make sure you maintain a quality sender reputation with the SendPulse email verifier.


• Chatbot Builder - The visual chatbot builder allows you to create auto-reply flows and sales funnels on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Telegram.


• 24/7 Customer Support - SendPulse offers support services at all times and in six languages to assist you whenever the need arises.


Pricing

Although they have varying tiers, Sendpulse offers an a la carte-type pricing structure across different features you can choose to build into your plan.


There are two plan types for email marketing: A subscription model and a pay-as-you-go model, where you pay for email sends.


The subscription-based email tiers include a Free tier, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise plan tiers. Each escalating plan includes expanded feature sets and depends on the number of contacts.


Learn More About SendPulse Pricing


BEE

BEE is a no-code email and landing page design tool. Users access plenty of creative email templates in both the BEE free and BEE PRO tiers. BEE Pro users can use approvals and feedback during email production as well as user roles, permissions and brand styles & colors. The BEE plugin allows you to embed the email, landing page and pop-up builder into your application.


BEE’s expert teams provide design services like customized email design, conversion with existing ESP templates, and automated email series design sequences.


Highlights

• QR Code - Quickly view an email or a landing page on mobile by scanning a QR code.


• Mobile Design Mode - Easily view your design in mobile rendering without leaving the BEE app.


• GIFS, Videos & Stickers - The BEE Pro allows you to include stand-out elements to engage recipients.


• BEE Plugin - An embeddable version of the editor for developers and SaaS companies.


Pricing

BEE Pro is divided into several tiers:


• Free - Includes lite editor, single-user access, free template access, and export HTML and images.


• Freelancer - $15/month. Includes the full-featured editor, all available templates unlocked, more saved messages, plus the free plan features.


• Team - $30/month. Includes everything in the Freelancer plan plus previous design restoration, commenting availability, user roles and permissions management, content availability, collaboration and approval tools, custom merge tags and special links, and exports to your email sending platform.


• Agency - Includes everything in the Team plan, plus separate brands, brand-specific permissions, and other client-friendly features.


There is also an option to create an Enterprise plan that includes onboarding, training, and priority support.


Learn More About BEE Pricing


Chamaileon

Chamaileon includes all the email design musts in their basic pricing tiers, but it’s up to you to build your own unique plan with the available add-on offerings. They have beautiful templates, a solid email editor, and streamlined approvals and workflows.


The impressive security and support add-ons are available for purchase or within a custom plan, including a dedicated AM that comes with the custom plan.


Finally, Chamaileon has a notably altruistic touch ––noprofits get a 25% discount.


Highlights

• 1,000+ Email Blocks and Templates - Save time and execute beautiful emails with pre-designed templates and email blocks.


• Import Function - Import your favorite email templates without a hassle.


• White Label - As part of the add-on features, you can white-label shared previews with your own domain, colors, and logo.


• Real-Time Collaboration - The email editor comes with real-time collaboration tools, so your whole team can stay on task.


Pricing

Chamaileon offers a free 14-day trial, with no credit card required. They have both monthly and annual pricing models, and you save a bit if you choose an annual contract.


• Standard Plan - $125/month annually or $150/month monthly includes 5 users and 5 integrations with real-time collaboration and an organized email asset library.


• Premium Plan - $208/month annually or $250/month monthly gets you everything in the Standard plan but with more advanced user permissions and access controls.


They also have a custom price tier for an Enterprise level. Add-ons are priced separately.


Learn More About Chamaileon Pricing


Stripo Email

Variety is something that Stripo does well –– you can choose from hundreds of email templates broken down by industry and category. Stripo integrates with email clients, and ESPs, so you can still trigger automations from your other software platforms.


Startups can use AMP to add gamified, interactive elements to their email through Stripo. They have a drag-and-drop email editor plugin available for SaaS apps, with pricing plans for startups, SMBs, and enterprises.


An impressive collection of high-profile brands use Stripo, including Uber, Airbnb, The New York Times, Netflix, Lyft, and Burger King.


Highlights

• Producing AMP-powered Content - Build stunning, interactive emails with no coding skills.


• Data Service/Source - Collect user feedback through email surveys and use real-time dynamic content in your emails.


• Custom Fonts - You can upload brand-specific custom fonts directly into Stripo.


Pricing

Stripo has a free tier that includes their free drag-and-drop editor and other market-standard features that they encourage users to try.


They also have monthly or annual plans, and the paid tiers are priced as follows:


• Free - Free for 1 user and 1 project with 2 templates and 5 exports per month.


• Business - $12.50/month or $125/year for 1 user and 1 project with 15 templates and 300 exports per month.


• Agency Tier - $40/month billed monthly or $400/year billed annually for 5 users and unlimited projects, templates, and exports.


You save 20% with an annual plan.


The main difference betwen tiers are the variance in access levels, users, test emails, and more.


Learn More About Stripo Email Pricing


MailTrap

MailTrap is a flexible email sandbox and secure testing that offers an API to connect and integrate with your application. You’ll be able to analyze your email content for the SPAM score and test in a secure environment and automate various test email flows and scenarios.


Highlights

• Well-Documented API - The well-documented Mailtrap API lets you verify hundreds of variables simultaneously, run automated daily checks, and test any environment.


• Fake SMTP Server - Low-maintenance, easy setup to test emails securely with no risk of spamming real email users.


Pricing

Pricing depends on test email numbers, sending rate limits, email sizes, and a handful of premium feature inclusions.


They have six tiers based on these varying factors:


• Free - $0/month for 500 test emails per month and 1 inbox.


• Individual - $9.99/month for 5,000 emails per month and 5 inboxes.


• Team - $24.99/month for 15,000 emails per month and 15 inboxes.


• Business - $49.99/month for 50,000 emails per month and 40 inboxes.


• Premium - $99.99/month for 100,000 emails per month and 80 inboxes.


• Enterprise - $299/month for 10 million emails per month and 300 inboxes.


Learn More About MailTrap Pricing


SendForensics

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive deliverability tool, you may find a match with SendForensics. It’s a robust platform that prioritizes email health, security, and optimal performance. SendForensics offer AI-powered features, in-depth analytics and top-level security protection.


The SendForensics platform is perfect for a company of any size, but especially for startups serving the enterprise that need additional services levels and security.


Highlights

• Predictive Deliverability Metrics - SendForensics automatically analyzes massive data sets to show areas to improve.


• Inbox Placement Testing - Send to inboxes at various ISPs so you can find out how your email performs with multiple providers.


• Advanced Blacklist/Whitelist Reputation Monitoring - SendForensics goes beyond basic IP blacklist monitoring. The platform analyzes and reports on all places in the sending infrastructure so you can protect your reputation before you send.


• Enterprise Security - SendForensics Brand Impersonation Protection reaches out beyond your network to stop brand-phishing emails.


Pricing

SendForensics Offers Monthly, Annual, and Semi-Annual Plans. The plans are based on feature inclusions.


• Free Testing - $0 for a single sending domain and single user.


• Brand - $49/month, $43/month billed semiannually or $39/month billed annually up to 1 user and 2 sending domains with ISP Reputation analysis, advanced black/white-list monitoring, ESP engagement analysis, email client previews, and more.


• Company - $79/month billed monthly, $70/month billed semiannually or $60/month billed annually up to 3 users and 5 sending domains.


• Agency - $199/month billed monthly, $175/month billed semiannually or $159/month billed annually, up to 5 users and 15 sending domains.


Learn More About Send Forensics Pricing


Glock Apps

Glock Apps provides affordability as well as essential security features, like the DMARC analyzer, uptime monitor, and blacklist notification.


Additionally, Glock Apps offers helpful services like email deliverability services or email consulting if you need more assistance.


Highlights

• Inbox Insight - Get detailed testing and data on your sends, including a spam score checker, content, and HTML optimization. And email deliverability tracking.


• DMARC Analyzer - Protect your brand from spoofing & phishing attacks.


• Uptime Monitor - Monitor SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records health, ensure your website is up, and get notified if you’re blacklisted.


Pricing

You can choose individual product lines (Inbox Insight, DMARC Analytics, Uptime Monitor), or you can bundle them. Below are the bundle prices based on the volume of spam tests, uptime monitors, users and a few premium feature inclusions.


• Personal - The free personal plan gives you 3 email spam tests per month.


• Basic - $59/month gets you 3,600 email spam tests, 1.2 million DMARC messages, 20 uptime monitors, 20 IP reputation monitors and 1 user.


• Business - $99/month gets you 8,400 email spam tests, 1.2 million DMARC messages, 40 uptime monitors, 40 IP reputation monitors, and 5 users.


• Custom - The offer custom ala carte pricing for all features.


Learn More About Glock Apps Pricing


NeverBounce

NeverBounce offers compelling selling points –– Higher accuracy, faster turnaround time, and lower pricing. They have a 20-step proprietary list cleaning process that is entirely unique.


The NeverBounce team offers robust support, and they guarantee up to 99.9% delivery. In addition, if you bounce more than 3% they will refund you.


Highlights

• Bulk Email List Cleaning - Protect your sender reputation with thorough list cleaning.


• Human QA - When a list has a high number of unknowns, the NeverBounce team members review it personally to ensure high quality.


• Free Instant Bounce Analysis - When you test, NeverBounce will report back whether your email list is OK to send or needs to be cleaned.


Pricing

NeverBounce offers free credits to anyone who books a demo with their sales team. The free credits are available for use with Clean, Verify and through the API.

NeverBounce offers “pay-as-you-go” plans based on the number of emails priced at a specific rate per email, starting at $0.008 per email and going down to $0.003 per email for larger plans.


For automated list cleaning plans (ones that connect directly to your email marketing service), they have pricing based on number of emails, starting at $10/month for up to 1000 emails all the way up to $999/month for up to 1 million emails.


• Enterprise - For over 1,000,000 emails, you can contact them for custom pricing.


Learn More About NeverBounce Pricing


ZeroBounce

ZeroBounce prioritizes security and flexibility. They offer military-grade protection and a 98% delivery guarantee. The feature set includes a free email verifier, an AI-powered Catch-All email validator, an inbox placement test, and more.


They serve over 100,000 customers, including Linkedin, Airbnb, Intel, and TripAdvisor.


Highlights

• ZeroBounceScore - Assess how your subscribers interact with your emails with the AI-powered scoring system.


• Email Verifier - Check bounces, detect spam, toxic domains, and more with comprehensive validation tools.


• Activity Data - Target your most active subscribers based on collected data.


Pricing

ZeroBounce offers pay-as-you-go or monthly pricing based on email sends.


They offer pay as you go rates ranging from free up to 100 emails up to $0.001525 per email for 2 million emails.


They also offer monthly rates ranging from $0.0075 per email up to 2,000 emails per month to $0.00138 per email for 2 million emails per month.


• Enterprise - Above 2 million emails per month, you can contact them for custom pricing.


Learn More About ZeroBounce Pricing


DeBounce

DeBounce is a big believer in only paying for what you use, and they deliver on that philosophy with their pricing. There are no locked-in tiers since the cost is based on verification volume, and you have access to all the features.


DeBounce helps you drive revenue through their data enrichment feature, which can organize more information about your customers through enhanced targeting. Plus, their lead finder tool helps you build your list safely without the risk of hitting spam traps.


Highlights

• Detailed Reporting - Get insight on unique mailboxes, temporary emails, spam traps, catch-all emails, and more with detailed reporting.


• Data Appending & Enrichment - DeBounce will match names and photos to your email list.


• Lead Finder - A tool that creates possible email addresses and validates them, checks if the domain is accept-all or not so you can grow your list with reliable emails.


Pricing

Pricing is based on a per-verification basis. No credit card is required, the credits never expire, and you can try the platform with 100 free credits when you sign up. There are no tiered features; every single customer has access to all the available offerings.


Price start from $0.002 per verification for 5,000 verifications down to $0.0003 per verification for 5 million verifications.


Learn More About Debounce Pricing


Optimizing your startup's email marketing is a necessity in today’s competitive environment.


Email marketing gives you a scalable method to win new customers, retain your existing customers, and reduce churn rates. As marketing automation has grown more advanced, the right suite of tools can keep your relationship-building running smoothly without manual effort.


Dan Ni
About the Author

I am the founder and CEO of Messaged, the email marketing automation platform built for SaaS companies. In my spare time, I run TLDR, a daily tech newsletter with over 160,000 subscribers.

My email is [email protected] and I am @tldrdan on Twitter; if you have specific feedback or questions related to this guide, I would love to hear from you!

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