The 6 best email marketing apps to send drip campaigns in 2021

By Maria Myre - Last updated January 19, 2021 -

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A drip email campaign is a series of automated emails that send to your email list subscribers based on a specified action. An opt-in form submission, for example, could trigger a series of welcome emails over the course of a week. An online course purchase could trigger a separate set of emails that would tell the user how to log in to their account, and then once they did, how to get the most out of their learning experience.

These automated 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 that specified action will get the 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 part of your current email marketing app—you can create brilliantly timed and fully personalized emails.

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.

The best apps for sending email drip campaigns

  • AWeber for a free option
  • Flodesk for large lists and simple drip campaigns
  • ConvertKit for solopreneurs
  • ActiveCampaign for live chat and advanced drip automations
  • HubSpot for personalized follow-ups to drip sales campaigns
  • Kajabi for an all-in-one solution for course and membership creators

How to pick an email marketing app to send drip emails

A quick Google search for email marketing apps opens a full can of worms. But if drip marketing is a priority for you, you'll need to focus in on that. Drip apps come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from tools that just send emails to full-featured CRMs with marketing automation that happen to include drip email features. There are even ways to send drip emails from your favorite email newsletter tool, and tricks for creating your own drip automation with just an email app.

To give you a head start in finding your own best solution, we've spent several days doing research to find the best drip email marketing apps and identify who they might work best for.

All the apps on this list meet at least the following criteria:

  • 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, like abandoned cart sequences, are specifically targeted towards making quick sales.

  • 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 of the apps on this list offer more advanced help 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 number of subscribers.

  • Integrations that allow you to link your drip email app 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 app

AWeber

AWeber screenshot

AWeber has been a big name in the world of email marketing for many years, and they deliver a straightforward product exceptionally well.

While many of the other recommended tools in this article offer free tiers, AWeber is the only one that includes functionality for drip campaigns in the free option. (Although you will have to upgrade to a paid plan if you want to access A/B testing or action-based segmentation.)

To create a time-released drip email sequence, you'll use the campaign builder. Here, you can add emails, time delays, and apply tags (which can be used to trigger events like moving a subscriber from one sequence to another). If you prefer visual emails but struggle to brand them, you can use the Smart Designer, which will pull colors and images from your website URL to create visually attractive emails.

Since AWeber integrates with Zapier, you can really shave off the manual work hours by automating tasks like adding new leads or customers who purchase to your email list.

AWeber price: Free for up to 500 subscribers. Paid plan begins at $14.95/month.

Best drip email app for large lists and simple drip campaigns

Flodesk

Flodesk screenshot

If the thought of complex software interfaces (and correspondingly steep learning curves) makes you cringe, you might fall in love with Flodesk. It's a standout example of an app that was designed for sending simple, beautiful emails with minimal effort.

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.

The biggest perk of Flodesk? 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.

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 Lead Ads leads as subscribers.

Flodesk price: $38/month

Best drip email app for solopreneurs

ConvertKit

ConvertKit screenshot

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 is 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: you can do things like create delays based on date 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.

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) and add SurveyMonkey respondents to your list.

ConvertKit price: Free for up to 1,000 contacts. Paid plans start at $29/month.

Best drip email app for live chat and advanced drip automations

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign screenshot

Drip email tools empower you to target relevant emails to specific groups of people. ActiveCampaign offers incredibly flexible campaigns in their 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 correlate to 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.

ActiveCampaign price: From $9/month for up to 500 contacts

Best drip email app for personalized follow-ups to drip sales campaigns

HubSpot

HubSpot screenshot

Drip emails are only part of the marketing puzzle: you're also writing blog posts, sharing social content, and tweaking your site for your prospective customers. HubSpot lets you combine all of your efforts through automated workflows and other tools to help you manage your contacts and content together.

HubSpot's Professional tier gives you access to more advanced options, like pulling content from your blog posts and sending on a schedule that's tweaked over time based on user behavior. You can even have your site's content change for each type of contact, so a new visitor might see a sales message targeted for cold leads, while engaged subscribers would see headlines and images that are more tailored to their specific interests.

With HubSpot's Zapier integrations, you can further improve your sales process by setting up automations that do things like automatically add new Intercom users to HubSpot or send Slack channel messages for new deals in HubSpot.

HubSpot price: Free for up to 1,000 contacts. Paid plans start at $45/month.

Best all-in-one drip email app for course and membership creators

Kajabi

Kajabi screenshot

There are many platforms that claim to be "all-in-one" solutions for your online business. Few manage to deliver as well as Kajabi. Kajabi is designed specifically for businesses that rely on course and membership revenue streams.

As you build your course offering, you'll find that there's a quick button in every lesson that allows you to trigger new drip sequences, letting you do unique things like send congratulations to users who are completing their materials. This allows you to customize the full experience of your course and membership users without having to jump from one software app to another.

When you get into the drip marketing itself, you'll build out emails in the Email Campaigns tab, where you can set up the content and time-based dripping. Once your emails are set up, you can head into the Automations area, where you can set up mini rules (like every time someone submits a certain form, they receive a corresponding tag). And you can use pipelines for a visual look at linking multiple email sequences together.

Kajabi does not include A/B testing, so you'll have to pay special attention to the metrics indicating which emails are performing, and then do your due diligence to boost it.

With Kajabi's Zapier integration, you can alleviate even more manual work by creating automations like granting new PayPal or SamCart customers access to a Kajabi offer.

Kajabi price: Starts at $119/month for Kajabi Basic, which includes 10,000 contacts and 3 products


Whether you simply want a drip campaign that welcomes new subscribers to your email list, want to automate sales funnels, or have goals of increasing product sales with an abandoned cart automation, 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.

Image credits: Rain picture courtesy 55Laney69 on Flicker

Originally published February 2015 by Matthew Guay. Updated most recently in January 2021.

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