The email tool I'd use if I was starting again
👉 is surprisingly enough, the one I'm using today
Over the years I’ve used pretty much every major email marketing system.
From basic systems like Aweber, Mailchimp and Getresponse up to Active Campaign, Ontraport and Infusionsoft. With a bit of fiddling about with Convertkit and Drip too.
But if I was starting again from scratch I would go for the tool I’m using right now: Substack.
It’s not that Substack is better. In many ways it’s not.
You can’t do automations. You can’t manage engagement all that well. The formatting is limited. You can’t do welcome sequences other than a single email. You can’t integrate with pretty much anything and you can’t do any segmentation.
But it’s simple. And that’s the key.
In the past I’ve always gone for what I thought was the very best approach, even if that meant investing a lot more time to get it running.
I’d try to squeeze out extra drops of sales through complex automations. I’d tweak the formatting of my emails for hours until they were just right.
And that worked for me for a long time because I had a business based around online courses I’d already created - leaving me plenty of time to fiddle with marketing to my heart’s content.
Frankly, I enjoy that kind of technical stuff.
But when my wife Kathy’s business took off in the pandemic we decided I would spend more time working on marketing for her. And over time we’ve been reducing our working week to get more free time.
The end result is that my marketing is now much more like a "normal” business. Something I have to compress into a few hours a week rather than something I can spend days on.
That means the tools I use have to be super simple, intuitive and quick.
That’s where Substack shines. The fact it’s restricted in many ways means I simply can’t do any of the fancy stuff that took so much of my time.
But it does the basics fast and well. And free (they make money by taking a cut from paid newsletters - they let you run a free one of any size for zero cost).
Because it automatically creates a blog post of every email I write, I don’t have to do that manually either (in truth, even when I had much more time available that was something I never managed to get around to - much to the frustration of people who wanted to share my emails).
And because Substack is positioning itself as a destination site for reading newsletters, you end up getting new subscribers who found you via the site rather than having to find them yourself.
Not tons. I’ve got a hundred or so in the last 6 months. But it’s significant and tends to get bigger the more you publish.
So my advice is that if you’re just starting or re-starting with newsletters and you’ve got limited time available - stick with the simplest possible solution.
In my case the simplest one I could find was Substack.
There are others of course. Beehiiv, for example, has the combined blogging/newsletter functionality of Substack with more advanced features too. But with that comes more complexity and a steeper learning curve. And it doesn’t have the visibility of Substack for getting new subscribers.
And I think there’s a more important point that’s applicable across a lot of business.
Complex is slow.
It may be better, but it takes way longer to set up and get running with. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen buy Infusionsoft/Keap because “it’s the best” only to never get it up and running or get beyond basic emailing because it’s so complex.
And if you’re just testing something out, speed is vital.
Most everyone “gets” that email marketing works and is possibly the highest ROI marketing you can do.
But what matters is whether it will work for you. Whether you’ll be able to get into the habit of emailing regularly and building your skills to get results.
It’s hard enough to come up with ideas for emails and write them well without getting stuck trying to get the tech to work.
And if it takes you a week to set the tech up, most people will just give up.
With simple systems like Substack you can be up and publishing within the hour. Often much less.
That means you’ll actually do it.
And as I’ve discovered recently, half-decent marketing you do is infinitely better than brilliant marketing you can’t find the time for.
PS - another brilliant timesaver for newsletters and emails is to use templates as starting points. My Monthly Email Template packs will allow you to inject your own stories and experience into proven frameworks so you can write powerful emails fast.