Email marketing is still one of the most important marketing tools for online course creators.
From a conversion rate point of view, it’s actually the #1 channel for B2C and B2B with 2.8% conversion rate (source: First Page Sage).
For comparison, PR has a 0.4% conversion rate…
But there are so many platforms out there and it’s hard to know which one is best specifically for course creators and membership owners.
Let’s break it down today:
Integrated Or Specialist Email Platform?
The very first thing to understand is why a lot of creators do not use a 3rd party email marketing platform.
Most of the popular online course platforms, needed to host and deliver your programs, are all-in-one platforms.
Meaning that they have a built-in email marketing feature allowing you to combine your marketing efforts and integrate them with your funnels.
It makes a lot of sense for beginners to do so and avoid having to go through the tech setup to integrate a 3rd party platform to their course platform.
The only downside is that of course, a specialist platform will have a lot more bells and whistles for your email marketing efforts…
Here is a rule of thumb to help you decide:
- If you’re a beginner, it’s likely that the built-in email marketing feature of your online course platform is enough for your needs.
- If you have a large list (over 10k) and advanced segmentation or funnel, you might want to consider a specialist platform.
That being said, let’s look at the top email platforms in both of these categories:
Pros of ConvertKit
Cons of ConvertKit
Pricing: from $9/mo
Trial: Free account
ConvertKit is very popular with online course creators, it’s both simple and comprehensive.
It also has a native integration with most online course platforms (Teachable, Kajabi, LearnWorlds, and many more).
There are 2 parts of the platform that are relevant here: Send and Automate.
You’ll be able to send both time-based Broadcast and set up automated sequences.
These are built in the fairly basic email builder.
And although you can setup templates that look somewhat aesthetically pleasing, ConvertKit doesn’t have the best interface here:
That being said it’s very easy to set things up, including building an email sequence with different Rules and conditions.
The visual automation builder will help you keep things tidy as well as creating segments.
You can get started with a free account up to 1,000 subscribers, which is a very generous plan.
That will give you unlimited broadcasts email to your list but no automated sequences.
If you want everything ConvertKit offers, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan:
You will then be charged depending on the size of your list.
But overall, ConvertKit is fairly priced compared to some other competitors.
Pros of Mailerlite
Cons of Mailerlite
Pricing: from $13/mo
Trial: Free account
Mailerlite is also extremely popular among online businesses and a great tool for course creators.
It really has a lot of features but still keeps things simple and intuitive.
On top of your regular email marketing features such as date-based emails and autoresponders, Mailerlite also has a site builder.
This might not be a great fit for everyone but it's good to have!
You can also get a code snippet to have embedded popups or forms on your current funnel platform.
The email visual builder is flexible and an easy drag and drop tool:
The platform user experience itself is also very satisfying.
In terms of pricing, Mailerlite offers a free plan up to 1,000 subscribers with a limit of 12,000 emails per month.
On the paid plans, you’ll be charged based on your list size:
Mailerlite pricing is relatively competitive and very transparent from the start.
It’s a great in-between the advanced platform and the more limited built-in email tools online course platforms offer.
Pros of CoachAccountable
Cons of CoachAccountable
Pricing: from $13/mo
Trial: 14 days
This is the email marketing nerd preferred option!
ActiveCampaign is one of the most advanced email marketing and CRM platforms out there.
Some of the most popular online creators use it for its flexibility and ability for advanced funnel setup.
This includes very advanced triggers in your email sequences, that can be based on a scoring system or reaching a certain goal.
This is great if you’re selling high-ticket online programs to keep track of your hotter leads.
The visual Automations builder looks really good and allows for advanced A/B path and testing:
You’ll also have some niche advanced features such as Time Travel, which will deliver your email specific to when your contact is most likely to open it, based on their past behavior.
ActiveCampaign integrates natively with quite a few online course platforms or via Zapier.
Pricing-wise, you’ll of course pay a premium for such an advanced tool:
Keep in mind too that there is no free plan but only a 14 days free trial which will give you.
You’ll be able to get started at $29/mo with 1,000 contacts on the Lite plan which has most features online course creators should need.
4. Get Response
Pros of Get Response
Cons of Get Response
Pricing: from $15/mo
Trial: Free account
The last email platform we recommend for online course creators is Getresponse and the many possibilities it offers.
It’s a great alternative to ActiveCampaign if you’re not quite ready for the big investment yet.
It still has advanced features and ways to segment your audience and automations.
Triggers for autoresponders are diverse and should give you what you need.
It can get a bit confusing to wrap your head around Automations and Autoresponders as well as managing Automated Messages…
But with a bit of paying around you should pick up on the platform rather easily.
You can get started on a free account that has a 500 contacts and 2500 emails per month limit.
You’ll need to upgrade to the Marketing & Automation plan to get the full suite of tools GetResponse offers - which will cost around $69/mo for 5000 contacts.
You can see exactly how much you will be charged for your list size before getting started.
Pros of Kajabi
Cons of Kajabi
Pricing: from $119/mo
Trial: 30 Days
Kajabi is probably the most popular all-in-one online course platform, and provides an integrated email marketing system.
Of course this is just one of the many tools they offer!
You can send unlimited emails on any plans and you have a 10,000 contact limit on Basic plan, which is enough for most creators.
Create as many email templates as you want to re-use for your Email Campaigns, these can be built using the drag and drop editor.
You can also create simple Email Sequences based on a range of triggers.
One of the big upsides here being that these automations are integrated with the rest of the platforms: things like course completion or purchase behavior.
You also have a dedicated tab to manage your list with extensive contact profiles and timelines.
The main limitations you’ll encounter will be with advanced automation to pause sequences, or fancy segmentation.
But 90% of course creators should be just fine with these features.
Kajabi’s pricing is based on the full suite of features it offers:
You can get started on a 30 days free trial and go from there.
Overall, of course this is not a specialist tool for email marketing and won’t do as much but the upside of having everything integrated together could make it worth it for you.
Pros of Systeme.io
Cons of Systeme.io
Pricing: from $27/mo
Trial: Free Plan
Systeme is a very affordable all-in-one platform for course creators and online businesses in general.
It covers everything from funnel building, blog, course hosting and of course email marketing.
That part of the platform is very simple: Newsletter and Campaign building, using the visual editor:
The automated Campaigns look very similar to ConvertKit, nothing fancy but it does a good job.
The Triggers are somewhat limited if you compare them to a specialist platform but should be enough for most course creators:
-Trigger on tag adding or removing
-Trigger on form submission
-Trigger on sale
-Trigger on page visited
-Trigger on email click
Unfortunately, there is no way to do split A/B testing with your emails.
The other features Systeme offers are very comprehensive and come with a very fair price tag.
The platform offers one of the best free plans in the industry with unlimited emails and up to 2000 contacts.
But also access to most of the platform’s feature:
This is a great option if you don’t want to break the bank with an all-in-one solution but still want all the features you need to offer your product.
Pros of Kartra
Cons of Kartra
Pricing: from $99/mo
Trial: 30 Days
Kartra is one of the most matured all-in-one platforms in the online course industry.
It offers a very large list of features and tools:
- Course hosting and design
- Advanced Emails/Automations
- Calendar capabilities
- Advanced Cart + Affiliate Program
- Advanced Page/Funnel Builder
- A/B Testing
- CRM: Help Desk, ticket system, live chat, lead points
- File hosting
- Code access
Including as you can see Advanced Emails and Automations.
These visual workflows are close to what you would find in a specialist platform like Active Campaign.
That also means very advanced triggers for your email sequences such as: page view, video played, video complete, course progress, and affiliate behaviors.
Kartra also has a fully fledged CRM and lead tracking system and support with canned responses, a ticketing system,etc.
One of the main limitations we’ve outlined about Kartra is the lack of customization of the design of the online cours area.
But it definitely makes up for it everywhere else.
Kartra is relatively on par with other all-in-one platform pricing wise:
You can start on a 30 day free trial with access to all features.
Pros of HighLevel
Cons of HighLevel
Pricing: from $97/mo
Trial: 14 Days
HighLevel is primarily made for agencies and managing multiple client’s accounts and websites.
It's an incredible platform with a plethora of features and the good news is that individual course creators can also use it easily.
Looking at a highlight of these tools:
- Advanced Funnel & Site Building
- Advanced Emails, Text & Automations
- Unlimited File Hosting
- Online Course Builder
- Community Feature
- Payment, Invoicing & Tax
- CRM & Pipelines Management
- Scheduler & Appointment Booking
- Reputation Management
- White Label mobile app (extra cost)
You notice that HighLevel also offers an integration with Twilio (that you will have to pay for) to send SMS texts.
The automation system is a great looking visual builder with advanced triggers:
You can do split testing and also lead point tracking!
It’s a very advanced CRM system that has very little to envy a specialist platform.
Do note however that in order to use the email marketing tools you’ll either have to use the native SMTP which is limited to 10,000 emails or pay extra for the difference.
But this can still be sensible knowing that HighLevel pricing is very straightforward:
On the $97/month plan you’ll get everything you need.