MessageGears is a hybrid email marketing system that combines the security of an on-premises system with the scalability of the cloud. The service connects directly to any local or remote database, data warehouse, e-commerce system, or content management system. There is no need to extract, transform, or load customer data into the system or to move or replicate data. Features include subject line previews and testing, spam testing, and automation, drip and trigger campaigns.
The first autoresponders were created within mail transfer agents that found they could not deliver an e-mail to a given address. These create bounce messages such as "your e-mail could not be delivered because..." type responses. Today's autoresponders need to be careful to not generate e-mail backscatter, which can result in the autoresponses being considered E-mail spam.
We narrowed down our list by eliminating vendors that don't specialize in email marketing campaigns or that don't work with small businesses. Next, we researched each provider by investigating its services. We considered pricing when available. After narrowing the list down to seven, we contacted each company's customer service department and posed as small business owners. 
* Average click rate is calculated by the total number of clicks in a 5 day period divided by the number of solos sent in that period. There is no guarantee that your solo mailing will receive the current average click rate. Your solo mailing could receive more clicks or less clicks than the current average click rate. The average click rate is provided for informational and comparison purposes only.

Marketing automation tools: With marketing automation tools, you can send the right email to the right person at the right time. You just have to set up conditions, then the tools will take care of the entire customer journey. Considering how busy some small businesses are, finding a service with email marketing automation may be a top priority for some businesses.
Anne: How many "contacts" do you have on your list. Most plans charge by the number of contacts. Some charge by the total number of contacts, some by the contacts per list (which means you pay for duplicates if a single contact is on multiple lists due to your segmentation activities). As both Ray and Gee indicated, most email service providers will meet your functional requirements. I have used MailChimp successfully but switched to ActiveCampaign because of the marketing automation...
Getting started shouldn't be daunting. Generally, you'll know right away whether you like a user interface (UI) or not, and most of the contenders we reviewed offer free trials so you can poke around before dropping any cash. Luckily, most of these services have modern-looking graphics and uncluttered layouts. These are not the complex business software UIs of yesterday. Be careful, though, as some free trials require a credit card. This means you need to be sure to cancel your trial before you're billed if you're not happy with the service.
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