The Simple Guide to Understanding Email Marketing Agency Pricing

Melanie Balke
December 14, 2021

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge!

You’ve reviewed all of your business’ needs, browsed through the many benefits of hiring a digital marketing agency, and you’ve learned the hallmarks of an amazing agency.

Now, you’re ready to hire an email marketing agency. It’s an exciting time, and it’s a surefire sign that your business is growing. However, it’s also a stressful process. In addition to making sure that your marketing partner meets your needs, you must also determine what your brand’s budget is, and you need to stick to it. (After all, good advertising means nothing if you can’t afford it!)

This is where things get thorny.

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As much as I love the world of digital marketing, I’ll be one of the first people to admit that email marketing agency pricing is confusing! There are so many different plans, and every agency has its own way of determining how much their services will cost.

Fortunately for you, I love to help people learn about email marketing. I’ve been a client, a strategist, and a writer. All of this experience has taught me plenty of the ins-and-outs of this complex industry, and it’s time for me to pass some of that knowledge on to you!

Today, I’ll be helping you decipher the complex world of email marketing agency pricing. If you’ve been looking at hiring a marketing agency, then this blog post should be one of the first stops on your journey.

So, enough dawdling! Let’s dive into the world of email marketing pricing.

How Email Marketing Agencies Determine Their Prices

I’ll start with the behind-the-scenes basics.

Every business has its own costs involved, and that money must be invested wisely. Your email marketing cost is determined by a complex formula, which must constantly balance affordability with the agency’s expenses and income.

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While this information may not seem very relevant to you, knowing how an email marketing service determines its pricing plans provides insight into its operational structure. This may sound far-fetched, but I promise it will make sense once I explain it a bit more!

Company Size

One of the first things that an agency’s pricing will clue you in on is its size.

Generally, a larger agency will charge more than a smaller one. This will, of course, depend on many other factors, but it’s a good way to figure out how much bandwidth an agency has for your brand.

Think of it this way: a larger brand will generally be able to handle many clients, but its business model will revolve around rapid returns. This may work for you, especially if you’re not asking for much.

However, if your ideal email marketing strategy is more in-depth or requires incredibly specific content, then you might to consider a smaller agency. Many small to mid-size business owners will also find that smaller agencies are more palatable for their marketing budgets.

Which Email Marketing Software Is Used

The second major factor for determining price is the agency’s email marketing software of choice.

There are many different email service providers. From MailChimp to Klaviyo, each of these software packages offer different tools and capabilities. Many agencies will have multiple platforms, but they ultimately have one or two that they will prefer to use.

Some agencies charge less when a client provides their own email marketing software subscription. This is not always true, though, so be sure to discuss this point with the email marketing agency of your choice.

Internal Structure

It may seem odd, but some marketing agencies don’t actually have many proper employees. These companies tend to be on the larger side, and they utilize the services of contractors and freelancers.

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of a Los Angeles beach. The overlaid header reads, “Marketing Cost: Internal Structure.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text. The first paragraph says, “One of the biggest factors at play in pricing plans is the internal structure of an email marketing agency.” The second paragraph reads, “Generally, larger agencies will cost more than smaller firms.”

While this approach may seem like it might be more trouble than it’s worth, it has many benefits for the agency.

First and foremost, using contractors and freelancers (as opposed to full-time employees) is cheaper. These workers are often sought out for their individual strengths, and they bring personal expertise that might otherwise be hard to find within an established team of employees.

For clients, these marketing agencies provide many of the same services as any other, but their lower operational costs allow them to charge less than their competitors.

There are, however, a few disadvantages.

Internal communication is frequently hampered by the many contractors, which means that anyone working with these agencies can expect longer turnaround times. This cost-effective option also presents the possibility for inconsistent quality, as many of these contractors are project-based hires.

Number of Available Email Marketing Services

Keep in mind that larger companies will generally have more services available.

That doesn’t mean that smaller agencies can’t have a variety of services. In fact, well-managed small businesses and agencies can provide their clients with as many tools as a larger competitor. The problem with this is the quality of the results.

However, in general, companies with more services will charge more for each offering. This information will often be available on the agency’s website, but this is not always true.

How Your Needs Influence Prices

In addition to the internal factors, there are also external forces at play in agency pricing.

A photo of bank vaults with overlaid header text: “How Your Needs Influence Prices.”

Whether or not these costs will be added to your marketing budget is up to you. You must decide if you need these services or features.

Additional Marketing Services

I’ll go ahead and say what everyone is thinking…

Yes! This is a very obvious point. Nonetheless, it’s worth restating!

Every time you add a feature to your plan, your cost will increase. Most agencies will have a basic plan, which includes a set amount of marketing campaigns and access to your campaign monitor. Many agencies will also provide basic graphic design as part of this entry level package.

If you want to lower the cost of email marketing, then you can always opt out of some services.

For example, a brand may have an in-house designer, which means that it can opt out of the service. Small businesses with a small contact list might choose to opt out of list management services.

Some of the add-ons that a digital marketing agency might offer include:

  • Access to more email templates
  • Additional email automation capabilities
  • Additional reports on data (i.e. email deliverability and on-page analytics)
  • Idea generation for your email marketing plan
  • List maintenance
  • List management
  • More email marketing campaigns

As you go through the available features of each plan, think about your brand’s ability to self manage its marketing.

What is your total revenue, and can those funds support an in-house team for the services you’ll be opting out of?

Sometimes, it’s worth investing in a more expensive plan. While you may have plenty of staff, digital marketing firms are staffed by email experts! These folks know exactly how to generate more sales and boost your profit margin.

Depth of Design

Even simple emails must look appealing.

Customers want to open emails that look good, and that means you’ll need to have someone to provide design services. You want your monthly newsletter to stand out, and you want potential customers to remember your brand’s name.

Now, a cost-effective strategy for early stage small businesses is to stick with plain copywriting. However, as your business grows, your customers’ expectations will evolve. If you want to spread your wings and grow to become a mid-sized business, then well-designed email campaigns are a must!

Most agencies will utilize a variety of email templates for different kinds of campaigns, and they may charge extra for customized campaigns. If your marketing strategy involves complex visuals, then you should be aware that it will ultimate add to your overall cost.

Email Marketing Campaign Frequency

I’ll be upfront here: the more emails you want to send, the more money you’re going to spend.

Email marketing costs money for both parties. You must pay for the agency’s services, and the firm needs to pay its creative team. Every email campaign requires cooperation from copywriters, designers, editors, and implementation teams. That’s a lot of work, and it all adds up.

Of the many deciding factors that influence email marketing agency pricing, this is one of the factors that you can fully control. If you see massive improvements, you can scale up your constant contact campaigns. Conversely, if you experience problems, you can pull back on your email campaigns.

How Many Subscribers You Have

Now, you can’t actually change this number. Theoretically, you can artificially deflate your numbers by booting out your inactive subscribers, but that’s just not worth it!

When you speak with an email marketing agency, they’ll want to know how many subscribers you have. Aside form the subscriber list management aspect of the business deal, your agency will also need to account for the strain it might put on its internal server and email marketing software.

If you have many subscribers, expect a high email marketing cost. Likewise, small businesses with tiny lists will have a much lower bill.

Non-Email Marketing Services

The last of the major factors for email marketing agency pricing is whether or not you stick to emails. If you opt to invest in a full-service digital marketing agency, then you’ll be looking at a significantly higher price.

At these agencies, you’ll get access to email marketers. In addition to this, you will also receive a hodgepodge of different services, such as:

  • Full online marketing strategy plans
  • SMS marketing for mobile devices
  • Sales funnel creation and maintenance
  • Social media marketing
  • Pay-per-click internet marketing
  • Phone services
  • Qualified leads scouting
  • Web design services

Whether or not you invest in these services will depend on your business needs, and it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of hiring a full-service agency over specialized digital marketing firms.

The Different Types of Email Marketing Agency Pricing

Now that I’ve explained the major factors behind the prices, it’s time to examine how the numbers are presented.

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No two internet marketing firms will use the exact same pricing model. Every company has its own way of charging its clients, and determining the ideal approach is an ongoing process for everyone.

As I review these common agency pricing schemes, keep in mind that these systems are very rarely set in stone. If you already have your own email platform or an in-house team for a service, discuss this with your agency.

Menu Pricing (À la Carte Pricing)

One of the rarest types of pricing plans is known as either menu or à la carte pricing.

In this model, clients are provided a full list of the agency’s services. From this list, a business can pick and choose which services it wants. Each of these additions will add to the cost of email marketing and — at full-service agencies — the overall online marketing budget.

This approach is a good way for businesses to access necessary services without having to invest in unnecessary add-ons. It makes the entire process much easier to understand, and it serves as a fairly cheap way to obtain access to a maintained email platform.

Monthly Retainer Pricing

A more common approach to email marketing pricing is the monthly retainer plan. This option provides clients with a set number of working hours — which will be paid for upfront — for a stable monthly fee. For businesses, this hourly rate option is the perfect way to maintain one or more production accounts without setting aside a massive budget.

Let me illustrate this with an example.

Imagine that there is a company, and this company needs a few different services. Hypothetical Brand needs its email automation and monthly newsletter outsourced, but it can’t afford a huge marketing budget!

A monthly retainer plan will provide Hypothetical Brand with its monthly newsletter and email automation for a fixed hourly rate of x dollars across 42 hours each month. This means that the client — Hypothetical Brand — is guaranteed those 42 hours of email marketing services. This will be paid for on a monthly basis, and Hypothetical Brand can rest assured that it is receiving plenty of lifecycle emails for its money.

Project-Based Pricing

Like à la carte pricing, project-based charges are less common in the industry.

Think of these as grab-and-go agencies. With this price plan, clients commission a singular project. In terms of email services, this is a decent way to obtain cheap email marketing campaigns, but it is not reliable.

As an example, let me bring back Hypothetical Brand.

For one reason or another, Hypothetical Brand needs to realize a project. It does not need ongoing email marketing, so project-based pricing is the perfect solution. When Hypothetical Brand secures a project-based deal, it pays for full service on its project. Once the project is done, the contract is complete, and Hypothetical Brand is free to return to its usual email marketing agency.

Tiered or Packaged Pricing

For a more common approach to determining email marketing agency cost, there’s packaged pricing. This model relied upon bundling different services together and selling these collective offers as a singular service.

As you begin your journey into email campaign creation, this pricing plan is highly appealing. Packages are easy to understand, and upgrading to the next subscription level is (generally) easy. You receive reliable service, and you can subscribe through a one-time fee every year or on a monthly basis.

However, these plans do come with a few hidden drawbacks! Unscrupulous marketing agencies will upsell their services, providing features that your brand doesn’t need and will not use. You will ultimately be stuck paying for these additions. For example, a mid-sized business working within the online footwear industry likely won’t need printed advertisements. With a tiered plan, however, it may end up paying for this useless service.

How Much Does It Cost to Keep People Engaged?

As intriguing as all of this information may be, the end goal is to know how email marketing agency pricing will impact your annual revenue.

How much will it cost for your brand to send out amazing email campaigns? What is the cost of a solid marketing tool, and how much more must you pay to acquire an expert to utilize that gorgeous email template you found?

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This is the numbers game. Buckle up, because we’ll be diving headfirst into the ins and outs of email marketing agency pricing!

(Now, as you work your way through this section, heed my word of caution! These prices are averages. Your price will depend upon many factors, and I can’t possibly know how everything will add up for your brand. What you’re about to see is a list of standard prices. Finding an agency that is above or below this benchmark is not a sign of a bad agency; it’s just a sign that you should closely monitor your money.)

Hourly Rate and Monthly Retainer Pricing

I’ll start with one of the most common email marketing agency pricing plans: monthly retainer prices.

Think of it this way: you’re indirectly hiring your agents.

While the marketing agency will be covering most of the cost, you will have to supplement that pay. You’re paying for the work of one or more marketers, and those individuals will be in charge of your email marketing plan.

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of calendar pages. The overlaid header text reads, “Tips From a Pro: Monthly Retainers.” Beneath this are two paragraphs. The first paragraph reads, “Monthly retainers can get expensive.” The second paragraph reads, “You can always negotiate with the agency! Discuss your goals, and the best marketing agencies will work with you to create a plan that you can afford.”

The average cost of email marketing with a monthly hourly rate or retainer plan is $100–$300. Spread across the average working week of 170 hours, you can ultimately expect to pay $17,000–$51,000 each month. The overall average is closer to $20,000.

Keep in mind that you can always negotiate! If your brand cannot afford (or simply doesn’t need) that much marketing, then discuss this with the agency. Together, you can create a cost-effective plan that works for everyone.

Project-Based Standards

I know that it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to shell out $20,000 or more every month for email marketing. Many small business owners simply don’t have the budget or bandwidth to justify this much work. For these folks, finding an email marketing service will often boil down to locating a great project-based agency.

This is a bit of a tricky area to predict, because many project-dependent prices will be determined with a mix of factors. Some agencies charge an hourly rate, and others will charge an upfront fee.

If you’re planning on securing some email marketing services through single project plans, then my biggest tip is to keep track of your spending. Event the top email marketing agency can fall behind, and projects may take a backseat when things get rough.

Tiered Pricing With an Email Marketing Agency

At this point, I need to branch off a bit.

There are many different ways to approach email marketing. Some brands will opt to use a full-service agency, and others will opt for an email marketing tool.

I’ll start with the first option.

Obviously, you’ll pay more for an agency than you would for a tool. You are, after all, paying the salaries of the many hardworking marketers! In return, you receive dedicated services and plenty of support for your email marketing campaign creation.

Basic email marketing agency pricing begins at $300, and it goes up from there.

It may seem like a surprising figure, but the simple fact is that many agencies are extremely flexible! They’ll work with you to create a plan you can afford, and those same email marketing agencies will be more than happy to customize your services.

Tiered Pricing With a Marketing Tool

The second option is to invest in a toolkit, such as Klaviyo or MailChimp.

Now, when you take this approach, you do not get a dedicated email marketing team. Instead, you gain access to a wide array of marketing tools, which can be used to create email campaigns.

This is one of the cheapest ways to obtain email marketing services.

You can learn the ropes on your own, or you can find and hire a skilled marketer for in-house work. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll ultimately be in charge of every aspect of email campaign creation. You will have to write, implement, and segment your email marketing campaigns.

At the end of the day, this may not be the most cost-effective approach. As you grow, your small in-house team will also become overwhelmed. However, if you’re just starting, this is a good way to grow and nurture your burgeoning contact list.

You can expect to pay $9–$1,000 or more per month for a good marketing toolkit.

(Remember: this is an average. Tiered tool prices will depend on the amount of services you need and how extensive your contact list is.)

What’s the Final Verdict on Email Marketing Services?

So, what does all of this mean for you?

When you’re just starting a business, email marketing is essential. Event the most barebones email marketing services can bolster your business’ earning potential, and an amazing marketing campaign can dramatically change your brand’s trajectory.

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With the help of a good agency, you can create an email marketing campaign plan that takes full advantage of every service available to you. You can use these messages to reach out to existing customers and build hype, which will help you on your business journey.

If you’re ready to see your business boom, then it’s time to make some phone calls and scope out a few agencies.

There are plenty of email marketing firms you can work with, but you’ll always want to check and double-check each brand’s credentials. However, one of my favorites is The Email Marketers.

Want to see what The Email Marketers can do for you?

Go ahead and contact me! We can discuss the different that The Email Marketers will make for your business. And, while you’re waiting, be sure to check out all of the other amazing guides and tips on my blog!