God I wish I could just use MailChimp.
That’s what I’ve been thinking all day, dreading the time when I’d get home and have to do research on other email marketing software that I can use.
After my nuisance with WordPress, however (I’m still bitter BUT I think I found a solution and will be writing about that soon), I was determined to find a homegrown solution for my email subscription list.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Canada has a few chips in this game – with some solid options that show up in normal Google searches (unlike our website builder friends).
Let’s dig into some of the findings. Remember, I need:
- CASL compliant email system
- Free/cheap subscriptions that let me build up a base without paying
- A simple sign-up (HTML form that I can embed in my website at the very least, if not formal integrations)
- Some analytics (not expecting much in free version besides open rate and click rate)
Without further ado, here’s what I’m finding.
I put out a call on Twitter, too, which unfortunately did not yield too much
Bloomtools is an all-in-one, website and marketing growth agency. From CMS, to website building, to email marketing – these folks are talented.
Ultimately, though, their calls to action are about connecting and getting a free assessment – they are not playing in my space of a young company that just needs a functional out-of-the-box solution.
I wonder how many large enterprises also want a functional out of the box solution, with customizations on top of it?
A Quebec-based startup, Cakemail has a high quality website and impressive features. Their segmentation abilities are really cool, and the ability to make custom templates “in a few clicks” makes them a really attractive alternative to MailChimp.
Pricing, though, is an issue for a small business/upstart. I’m extremely price sensitive in this area, and their base package for up to 500 subscribers is $8 USD per month (which could be God knows how much in CAD, depending on the exchange rate that day).
I also see nothing on the website about putting a signup form on your website, which makes me think this is less of an email growth tool and more of a manage-and-optimize what you have tool, pulling in leads from either marketing automation or from other signup forms.
I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. CyberImpact seems to be the closest thing to a MailChimp in Canada (“proudly built in Canada for Canadian SMBs”) when it comes to features and how the website is laid out.
Funny how the design of a website instills confidence, or in the case of VIPlus below, fear and second thoughts. It really does make a difference.
I’m a tad bummed, though, at pricing (I’m sensing a trend). It’s only free for the first 250 subscribers then jumps to $10 per month. Not bad, but not good either. MailChimp is free for the first 2,000.
They also talk about being able to put a signup form on your own website, which none of the others explicitly called out.
Not ideal because money, but keeping this one in my back pocket.
Right off the bat, I’m not sure this is the system for me. It is heavily enterprise focused, with a huge angle on CASL compliance (a need for me, but the messaging sounds more like they are aiming to save large enterprise from huge fees and a PR nightmare).
Their calls to action are “Book a Demo,” not “Sign Up,” which makes me definitely feel like they are focused on the enterprise.
A quick look at their pricing confirms this hunch. They charge by a credit system for email sends – definitely made for high volume senders with so many subscribers (i.e. millions of customers) that a per-subscriber fee model like MailChimp would be too costly.
It’s not a fit – their branding is entirely enterprise focused. But I had to include it for the name.
You go, Glen Coco.
VIPlus is a Canadian email marketing software. In case its inclusion in this list didn’t make that clear. I’m a little bit scared of their landing page and overall website, as it lacks professionalism, in my opinion, instead going for that nostalgic, early 2000’s style.
See and judge for yourself.
It’s cutsie, right? But cutesie isn’t always the best emotion to evoke when trying to sell to SMBs.
It is in my space, though, so it’s worth considering. Only challenge – pricing. VIPlus only allows 200 subscribers on their free plan, then they start charging. I don’t fashion myself an instant celebrity, but I definitely hope to hit over 200 subscribers in the lifetime of my mailing list and I don’t want to have to start paying.
Oh, and their base price – for up to 500 subscribers – is $13 per month, which is on the high end of all SMB-focused email marketing plans I’ve seen. They are decent at scale, though, with up to 20k subscribers for just over $100 per month.
If I had to use it, I don’t think it would be bad. But I’m not sold on the value.
So what’s next?
There seem to be a lot of email marketing technologies and agencies targeting enterprise accounts – there were a couple more that didn’t make this list, even – and not many that are looking at solid, out-of-the-box-but-scalable solutions for SMBs.
Maybe they are scared of MailChimp. Maybe they don’t think they can compete? Cakemail and CyberImpact have done the best job so far, but financially I’m not sure it makes sense for a small-timer such as myself.
It seems like the solutions are intended for more traditional SMBs who are already established and are now trying to get into email marketing, not startups and bloggers aiming to build a large community.
Here’s a quick costs chart I drew up for comparison – the money adds up over a pretty short period of time.
|251-500||$8 USD/month||$10 CAD/month||Free|
|501-1,000||$14 USD/month||$15 CAD/month||Free|
|1,001-1,500||$14 USD/month||$20 CAD/month||Free|
|1,501-2,000||$14 USD/month||$25 CAD/Month||Free|
|2,001-2,500||$14 USD/month||$30 CAD/month||$30 USD/month|
|2,501-3,000||$24 USD/month||$35 CAD/month||~$40 USD/month|
If it takes you six months to hit 2,000 subscribers, you’ll be spending an average $64 USD (around $100 CAD) on Cakemail and about $90 CAD on CyberImpact. You’d spend $0 on MailChimp.
These costs increase over time, too – if it takes longer to reach 2,000, MailChimp is still free while these other options are charging you each month. A really hard sell when your primary goal is building a community and you’re not charging people to follow along in your journey.
Is this a tax on being Canadian? I’m not sure, but I’m not happy.
I have to be honest with you – I’m concerned about incurring monthly costs before hitting 2,000 subscribers. It bugs me that Canada is so unable to compete in this space.
Getting entrepreneurs going is the hallmark of any SMB software, and you often give a lot for free to the little guys in the hope that when they grow, they will love your platform and be willing to pay for it. So far, in the email marketing world, Canada is pay to play.
Which will I ultimately choose? Stay tuned.