If businesses want to grow, they cannot ignore marketing. Thankfully, there are plenty of email marketing tools available to help even the smallest of small businesses get started. AWeber (which begins at $19 per month) is just such a choice, offering an easy-to-use platform with no hidden surprises. AWeber’s templates simplify the process for creating visually attractive email marketing campaigns and the reporting dashboard tracks the most important basic statistics. It can’t import contacts from Gmail or other third-party address books, nor does it offer Google Analytics integration. For better third-party contacts integration and tracking, you should consider Campaigner$19.95 at Campaignerand MailChimp$10.00 at MailChimp, our two Editors’ Choices for email marketing tools.
How does AWeber compare against the competition? It would cost a small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database $29 per month to get started with AWeber, which is equivalent to what it would cost to use Campaign Monitor$9.00 at Campaign Monitor and iContact$14.00 at iContact. Unlike Campaign Monitor, AWeber doesn’t have any caps on how many messages can be sent in a month.
As of 2016, AWeber offers a 30-day free trial. It requires billing information and you have to send an email to support in order to cancel. When you sign up, AWeber displays the email address you need to use to cancel, which is great since some software makes you jump through hoops in order to find this information.
It’s also expanded its auto-responder options. A feature called Legacy Followup Messages enables you to send a series of messages to all new subscribers. Another feature called Campaigns (currently in beta) offers several ways to send auto-responders: by day and time, and also based on subscriber behavior or if you tag contacts in your database. You can also pause and stop auto-responders at any time. Campaign tracking lets you see how far your subscribers are in your follow up series of emails/campaigns and which caused the most unsubscribes, so you can tweak them as needed.
Pricing and Features
AWeber offers month-to-month, quarterly, and annual plans for each of its tiers. The least-expensive plan, for up to 500 contacts, is $19 per month (or $49 per quarter or $149 per year). AWeber adds $10 to the normal rate to expand the service to 2,500 users and adds $30 to increase the capacity to 5,000 users. AWeber also automatically sets you up for automatic billing. If you change your mind, the company offers a 30-day full refund.
Watch out for the $29 report on how to develop an email marketing strategy. It’s really easy to click on the wrong thing when checking out and wind up with the report in your shopping cart. If do you wind up buying it by mistake or don’t find it useful, AWeber promises to refund your money. There is no free trial or free version to test out the service—but AWeber does let you try out the software for just $1 during the first month. That’s a good deal.
Creating a Subscriber List
AWeber lets you manually add up to 10 contacts—subscribers—via a form. Each record collects the name of the person, email address, ad-tracking value, and the name of the initial email message the person will receive. This can turn into a long and tedious exercise for a long list of names. The import tool is a better choice, as it has a textbox to cut and paste an entire comma-delimited list of email addresses. You can also upload a spreadsheet (XLS and XLSX), text file (CSV, TSV, and TXT). Unlike Campaigner, MailChimp, and GetResponse$15.00 at GetResponse, AWeber doesn’t have Gmail or third-party integration for pulling contacts, which is disappointing. You can, however, export the Gmail contacts to a CSV file and use the import tool.
You have to let AWeber know from where your subscribers came—whether they signed up on a form, bought a product and opted to receive mail, or gave verbal agreement. AWeber also wants to know whether the list is being moved from another mail marketing provider. The goal is to verify you aren’t spamming or buying lists. AWeber auto-creates a confirmation message, which is sent to contacts to verify their subscription. Like GetResponse, AWeber doesn’t allow disposable domains, such as Mailinator addresses. I just wish this had been explicitly communicated. I uploaded a file containing regular addresses as well as Mailinator ones and waited for the import file to be reviewed and confirmed by Aweber. I never saw an error message informing me that the addresses were rejected, making me think the site was just slow. There was nothing in the import history log, either. When I tried the import without Mailinator addresses, it took just a few minutes.
When creating a list, you have the choice of using a pre-generated subject line, such as “Please confirm your request to subscribe” or creating your own. However, creating your own means you have to wait one day for AWeber’s team to verify it as a valid subject line. AWeber also has a wizard to walk you through creating signup forms. I was happy to see I could segment users based on custom fields or profile information.
AWeber says it has auto-responders, but all they really amount to are automatically sending welcome messages to users when they are added to a list. There is no way to send messages based on events, such as their birthday, or location, the way Campaigner and GetResponse do.
Creating a Campaign
AWeber treats emails a little differently from other services. There are different processes for creating Follow-up Series, which are essentially the auto-responders mentioned above, Broadcast messages, and Blog Broadcasts. Follow-up emails are sent automatically every time a new user is added, and Broadcast messages are one-time messages, such as newsletters. Blog Broadcast grabs posts from a blog and compiles them into a newsletter form. You can also create your own mail templates using the Email Template Manager, where you can customize existing templates or write your own using AWeber’s API.
I decided to create a Broadcast message. AWeber opened a message builder where I could drag in elements and change the text. I had become so used to working with email templates that this new builder template threw me for a loop for a bit. But it was still easy to create and test my messages.
Once you’re satisfied with your newsletter, you can send it right away or schedule it for a later time. I couldn’t find an option to send campaigns at a specific local time based on a recipient’s location, as you can with GetResponse.
Customer Support and Bottom Line
AWeber is all about hand-holding. There are numerous video tutorials to help you figure out what to do, and almost every field or option to fill out has a link that opens up the relevant help text. Unfortunately, live help is very limited. Phone and chat support options are only available during business hours. If you want the option to call at any time, you’ll want to choose a service other than AWeber. Campaigner, for example, offers 24/7 phone support.