Automated email campaigns—AKA drip email campaigns—can save you endless repetitive work and remove the potential for human error. You set it up once, and then any customer who takes a specified action will get a series of emails, in the exact order and cadence you specified. The drip email app does all the work for you.
With the right drip email software—which might just be one of your current email marketing tools—you can create brilliantly timed and fully personalized emails. I've been using email marketing apps for years, so to narrow things down for you, I considered and tested dozens of drip campaign software options to find the best. Here they are.
The best apps for sending email drip campaigns
Mailchimp for free drip email campaign software
Flodesk for large lists and simple drip campaigns
ConvertKit for solopreneurs
ActiveCampaign for live chat and advanced drip automations
Omnisend for eCommerce drip campaigns
Klaviyo for optimizing drip email campaigns through A/B testing
What is a drip campaign?
An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails that sends out to your email list subscribers, based on a specific set of predetermined parameters. These automations can be as simple or complex as you need them to be.
An example of a simpler drip email sequence is a free email course: someone signs up for the course on your website and receives daily emails with the course content written inside.
Other drip automations, like an abandoned email cart sequence that reminds people to come back and complete their purchase, are more complex since they require a few more considerations to run properly. Not only do you have to consider what might incentivize people to return and finish shopping (a picture of the item in the cart? a limited time coupon code?), but you'll also have to include exit goals that will ensure the emails don't continue to send once the order has been placed.
Note: We're partial to the term "drip campaign," but this marketing tactic goes by many names, including automated email campaigns, lifecycle emails, autoresponders, and marketing automation.
How to pick an email marketing app to send drip emails
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I've been using email marketing apps for the past eight years, and it continues to impress me when I see how many great options are available—and accessible—for every type of email marketing need. If you want to use drip marketing automation to optimize your funnels, you'll need to choose between a number of really strong options, from tools that "just" send emails to full-featured CRMs with marketing automation that happen to include drip email features.
To give you a head start in finding the best solution to fit your email marketing needs, I spent several days testing a few of the best drip email marketing apps, many of which I use in my day-to-day work as a content marketer.
I signed up for each drip app, configured an opt-in form, integrated with my website, and started building a test list of subscribers. Then, I created a welcome drip automation that would send out whenever the opt-in form was submitted, which allowed me to not only test the setup features, but also get to see what kind of data and tracking analytics were available.
This research took me down a few rabbit holes and allowed me to identify the strongest standout features of each tool. In addition to those unique aspects, all the apps on this list offer at least the following features:
Email personalization, so you can create a more intimate experience for your list subscribers. ("Hey you" might be a... fine way to begin an email, but using the subscriber's first name is really powerful.)
Segmentation, so the emails are only sent to relevant subscribers. At the most basic level, this might look like a four-email welcome series to new subscribers. More advanced segmentation techniques use tags to identify subsets of subscribers who've purchased a specific product, clicked a link in an email, and so on.
Analytics, so you know what's working and where you can improve. Most of the tools on this list include basic analytics like open rates. Some offer more advanced options, like A/B testing capabilities, email list health, and more.
Affordability, because you don't need to break the bank to get results. All the apps on this list have a reasonable starting price point, and most charge by the number of subscribers. This is where you'll have to do your own research to see if your #1 pick will still make sense financially as you increase your email list size.
Integrations that allow you to link your email drip campaign software with the other tech tools in your stack. This allows you to fine-tune your email sending strategy and reduces the manual work involved.
Best free drip email campaign software
Many email marketing apps offer a free option for small lists, to give you the opportunity to onboard and start building your lists before having to pay. But these free tiers are typically very limited in the number of subscribers you're allowed to have or the number of emails you're allowed to send, as well as the features that you have access to without paying.
This is where Mailchimp stands out, with a free plan that allows up to 2,000 subscribers, with up to 10,000 monthly emails. The number of monthly emails is especially important when you're sending out welcome emails to new subscribers along with frequent newsletters.
Mailchimp has been a big name in the email marketing industry for a while, and it continues to deliver well on its features. You'll find everything from the basic email sending and automations to more unique options like sending out postcards, and the Creative Assistant, which auto-creates branded marketing graphics based on your website's imagery. All these features are starting to cramp Mailchimp's "for beginners" style, but the navigation is still pretty straightforward, so you can quickly jump from reviewing your audience to creating new opt-in forms or landing pages and setting up your drip campaigns.
Keep in mind that the free version of Mailchimp limits you to a one-step automation. That's great for automating your welcome email and other similar drips, but you'll have to upgrade to a paid plan if you want to take advantage of their full automation builder with multi-step drip campaigns that include time delays, conditionals, and more. When you do decide to upgrade, the cost increases based on the number of subscribers you have. But the other apps on this list that offer a free plan only allow 500 emails/month (Omnisend and Klaviyo) or don't offer drip at all on the free plan (ConvertKit). So while the limitation of one-step automations isn't ideal, it's still much more generous than any other free plan for drip functionality.
Since Mailchimp integrates with Zapier, you can shave off the manual work hours by automating tasks like adding new form submissions or leads to your email list.
Subscribe new Facebook Lead Ad leads to a Mailchimp list
Create Mailchimp subscribers from new Typeform responses
Mailchimp price: Free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 10,000 monthly emails. Paid plans begin at $11/month with 500 contacts.
Best drip email software for large lists and simple drip campaigns
If you have a larger list size or want more than one-step automations, Flodesk is a great Mailchimp alternative. You pay a single monthly fee (currently $38) no matter how many people are on your list or how many emails you send per month. If budget is your primary concern, that's more affordable than scaling with Mailchimp.
Flodesk is a standout example of an app that was designed for sending simple, beautiful emails with minimal effort. There's no complex interface and no steep learning curve. The moment you log in, you're met with a minimalist view and four self-explanatory menu items to choose from: Emails, Forms, Workflows, and Audience. The Emails option is for one-off emails (like a weekly newsletter). All drip campaigns are set up inside the Workflows tab.
Flodesk has a small number of pre-built drip templates for you to choose from, from a welcome sequence to a lead magnet delivery sequence. Or you can start with a blank canvas and create your own campaign from scratch. The minimal interface continues inside the workflow builder, which might be exactly what you're looking for. Fundamental capabilities like time-releasing a drip sequence are totally doable, as is segmenting a subscriber based on whether or not they open and click into your emails.
And, when you integrate Flodesk with Zapier, you can do things like update Flodesk subscribers from WooCommerce orders (if you're using WordPress), or add new Facebook leads as subscribers.
Update contacts in Flodesk from new WooCommerce orders
Add new Facebook Lead Ad leads as Flodesk subscribers
Flodesk price: $38/month
Best drip email software for solopreneurs
Once you dip your feet into the waters of drip campaigns, you may decide that you'd like to have a little more control over what emails are sent (and when). And while "user-friendly" often translates to "not many features," ConvertKit has taken the opposite stance: it's both feature-rich and easy to use.
In their free tier, you can send one-off emails, create landing pages and opt-in forms, and even sell digital products from inside ConvertKit. A paid account unlocks the drip campaign functionality, which ConvertKit calls "sequences." Sequences are simple email campaigns that are released on a schedule. If you want to create more advanced actions (like segmenting subscribers who take action on your email, or removing them from a sales campaign when they purchase), you'll need to build an automation on top of your sequence.
This is where you can really let ConvertKit do the heavy lifting for you, since it allows you to customize your automations with delays based on the date (so emails are never sent on the weekends) or deliver different emails based on the subscriber's location.
When paired with the ability to integrate with Stripe and collect payments, ConvertKit stands out as a great option for solopreneurs who want to deliver exceptional drip campaign experiences without having to patch together a bunch of different tools to run their online business.
For even more functionality, you can integrate ConvertKit with Zapier to do things like automatically tag Calendly or Eventbrite attendees inside ConvertKit (so you can create custom follow-up drip campaigns).
Add tagged subscribers to ConverKit from new Calendly events
ConvertKit price: Free for up to 1,000 contacts but no drip functionality. Paid plans with drip functionality start at $9/month.
Best drip email software for live chat and advanced drip automations
Drip email tools empower you to target relevant emails to specific groups of people. ActiveCampaign stands out as a feature-rich option that gives you a lot of flexibility in your drip campaigns. The sheer number of options available in the sidebar navigation and campaign builder can be overwhelming at first, but this overwhelm fades quickly with repetition and use. As you become familiar with this tool, it starts feeling more like a treasure trove: with every click revealing something even more helpful for building the drip campaign of your dreams.
To create drip emails, head to the automations builder, where you can automate A/B testing in your emails, sync contact data with other apps via webhook, and even include SMS messages that match your drip emails.
While many options on this list either integrate with a chat app or include their own, ActiveCampaign really stood out with its native live chat feature that plugs into your website or Facebook Messenger, and even allows you to send emails to a subscriber from inside the chat app. It's a great way to encourage your visitors to connect, build trust, and build your email list, since you can automate email opt-ins through the chat app.
ActiveCampaign also integrates with Zapier, allowing you to do things like turn Typeform form entries into email list subscribers and add Shopify customers to your ActiveCampaign list.
Create ActiveCampaign subscribers from new Typeform form entries
ActiveCampaign price: From $9/month for up to 500 contacts
Best drip email app for eCommerce stores
With so much noise, distraction, and competition online, it's far too easy for a consumer to close out of a website before they bother completing an order. Recouping even a small portion of those abandoned carts on your own site can make an enormous difference in your overall revenue. Although many drip email tools do allow you to create basic abandoned cart follow-up campaigns, Omnisend really stands out in its innovative, streamlined approach.
Every part of Omnisend is structured around the overall revenue generated through your email marketing efforts. A prominent sales dashboard is front and center inside your Omnisend account, with tabs that break down the information into Live View (who's currently visiting your website), and Advanced Reporting for Campaigns and Workflows. From there, the tools to help your eCommerce business only get cooler.
Every online user is inundated with opt-in forms, which can make it difficult for an eCommerce store to stand out and earn new subscribers. Omnisend not only includes the basic static signup boxes but also dynamic "wheel of fortune" pop-ups that deliver unique coupon codes and discounts to your website visitors.
As you're building out your email content within the easy-to-use automation builder, you can insert dynamic product content directly from your eCommerce store. So instead of having to upload product images, copy/paste the description, and manually link the images and buttons to lead back to your products, you can simply browse your own site and tell Omnisend which products you'd like to have added to your email content. All you need to do is add a simple line of pre-written code to your website for this feature to work.
With Omnisend's Zapier integrations, you can further improve your sales process by setting up automations that do things like automatically adding new leads to an email list, or creating Omnisend subscribers from new form submissions.
Create or update Omnisend subscribers from new Leadpages submissions
Omnisend price: Free for up to 500 emails/month (unlimited list size). Paid plans start at $16/month.
Best drip email software for optimizing email marketing with A/B testing
Once you start automating your email marketing, you have time to step back and really consider what's working—and what needs to be improved. The problem is that improving your email marketing requires answers to a lot of unknowns. Would changing a subject line increase open rates? Would a different messaging angle result in more sales?
If you want more data to inform your email optimization goals, you might gravitate toward a tool like Klaviyo, which goes above and beyond in helping you see exactly how your emails are performing.
Klaviyo has been a popular option among email marketers for many years, and a quick glimpse inside the tool quickly indicates why. The interface is both clean and functional, with the primary dashboard full of customizable analytics that you can use to monitor your email effectiveness. A sidebar gives you quick access to the various areas within Klaviyo, each one filled with a powerful feature set.
Inside the automation builder, you can opt to view the overall open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates to monitor the performance of your drip campaigns. But you can also dial in a lot deeper. If you integrate Klaviyo with your website, you can also see data points like where a subscriber went on your site after clicking the link. Yes, you could cobble together the same insights by using various tracking tools and aggregating the information, but it's a huge time-saver to have Klaviyo do it for you, in a way that's contextually appropriate for your email marketing efforts.
Overall, Klaviyo is a strong tool that can help you better understand your subscribers and tailor your marketing and sales copy to better fit their preferences.
With Klaviyo's Zapier integrations, you can alleviate even more manual work by creating automations like adding new Klaviyo subscribers from your QuickBooks contacts or ShipStation orders.
Klaviyo price: Free for up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends/month. Paid plans start at $20/month.
Which drip email software should you use?
Whether you simply want a drip campaign that welcomes new subscribers to your email list, or you're looking for a way to optimize your funnels with personalized automations, there's a tool for you to get started with drip email marketing.
That tool might be part of the email newsletter app you've already been using, or it might be worth switching to a new platform for more features (and better pricing). Either way, there's a world of opportunity for you to start upleveling the email side of your business.
This article was originally published in February 2015 by Matthew Guay.