Let me start this review by simply saying, if you aren’t using email automation, you are leaving money on the table. Plain and simple.
Let’s say you have a list of 1000 people and 400 of them are engaged and read your emails. Of that 400, 100 read everything and click on your links.
With AWeber, you don’t know who they are.
With AWeber if they are on 2 or 3 lists, you are paying for 2000 or 3000 subscribers instead of the 1000 you actually have.
With ActiveCampaign, not only do I know which subscribers read everything and click every link, I can segment them off, point score them and send them a loyalty bonus… all on autopilot.
With both Convertkit and ActiveCampaign, I only pay once for each subscriber, no matter how many lists they are on.
I’m reviewing marketing automation companies to highlight how marketers are missing out using old fashioned email service providers.
UPDATE: Following requests, I have created 2 free courses on how to set up your first campaigns in Convertkit and ActiveCampaign. I will add a link to both courses at the bottom of the post.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation actually means different things to different people. For the purposes of this post, it is simply the ability to send emails to a subscriber based on their actions when they receive an email.
This can be as simple as adding a tag if they don’t open an email, or moving them to a new list based on the links they’ve clicked. Marketing automation also handles more complicated tasks. It can unsubscribe users if they fail to open an email for 30, 60 or 90 days, or add them to a deal list and pass them on to a member of your sales staff.
The whole point of automating your marketing efforts is to achieve the results you want without having to monitor everything.
ConvertKit Vs ActiveCampaign Vs ActiveCampaign
Originally I was just going to compare my ConvertKit account with my ActiveCampaign account. However as I am on the Small Business account at AC, I thought it would be fairer if I also added in the most basic ActiveCampaign account: the Lite plan.
If I was just going to base this comparison on price and features, ActiveCampaign would win hands down. There would be no competition. However in real life things aren’t that simple. Sometimes fewer features can be of real benefit and paying slightly more can make your life simpler.
Disclosure: Although I have both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign, AC is my go to marketing automation tool. I love it. I’ve only been testing ConvertKit for a month so I am not as used to its interface.
If I was starting out again and thought I could do with fewer features, I would probably go for ConvertKit. Anyhow, I’ll present the facts as I see them and leave the rest up to you.
I welcome your comments, feedback or even criticism! So let me know what you think below the post. (And, hell yes you can share it!)
Active Campaign Overview
I make no secret of the fact that ActiveCampaign has revolutionized how I do email marketing. The features update constantly and there is a very active community. On several occasions when I’ve had issues, I’ve jumped on a live call and they helped me get the problems resolved quickly.
Despite people having the impression that they are a relatively new company, they’ve been around since 2003. Their growth over the previous years has been phenomenal. A quick look at their staff and jobs available pages shows that this expansion isn’t about to stop anytime soon.
ActiveCampaign actually provides 3 solutions for marketers, they are:
- Email Marketing Service Providers
- Marketing Automation Providers
- CRM and Sales Automation Providers
Depending on what you want, you would choose either the Lite account (Email Marketing & Marketing Automation) or the Small Business Account (Email Marketing, Marketing Automation & CRM/Sales Automation).
Compared to ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit are the new guys on the block. Formed by Nathan Barry a few years ago, ConvertKit began as a way for designers and bloggers to generate leads from people who arrived on their landing pages. Earlier this month, ConvertKit landed $1.8m in investment from a variety of investors, which bodes well for the future.
True to their roots, ConvertKit focuses on providing services aimed squarely at bloggers. This, I believe, is actually a strength of theirs.
I know this will sound weird but in my view, another strength is in their relative lack of features. What they have works well and their email sequence writing system is a joy to behold.
On paper I shouldn’t even need to write this review as AC would appear to hold all the aces. But in real life, what wins on paper isn’t always what you need.
First off let’s get one important thing out of the way, both AC and CK will integrate with almost every service or tool that you use. If there isn’t direct integration available, then integration via html code or even Zapier is possible.
Secondly, unlike AWeber, both services only count a subscriber on multiple lists as one subscriber. This matters incredibly. It still rankles that with 1500 subscribers on AWeber, you could be paying for 2000 or even 3000 subscribers if you have them on multiple lists.
Winner – ActiveCampaign Small Business
The absolute hands down winner here has to be the Small Business account from ActiveCampaign. Not only do you get tagging, and a wide variety of automations, but you also get access to a CRM and the ability to point score your subscriber based on actions.
The point scoring and CRM allow you to add engaged subscribers to various deals and then schedule calls, emails etc. This is Infusionsoft for the masses with less of a learning curve.
With all those features, we come up against one minor gripe with ActiveCampaign, the learning curve. It’s pretty steep, even now 2 years on, it can take me a few minutes to find the relevant section where I can grab the API details or switch a form from single opt in to double opt in.
Second, in the list of features is ActiveCampaign’s Lite Account. This is the entry level account and yet you still get access to the crown jewels of their system the ability to automate almost everything.
You can trigger automations from multiple actions and instigate multiple actions based on what your subscriber does when they get the email. You can use it to schedule emails and move people between lists. Its abilities are almost endless. On top of that, it’s easy to use with an excellent drag and drop interface. Additionally, they have pre completed “recipes,” aka automations, that are set up to do different tasks.
All is not rosy with ActiveCampaign. There are several issues which I find annoying, the worst of which is not being able to schedule resends. It’s great having a one click system to resend an email to people who haven’t opened an email, but not being able to schedule it to go out later is just stupid!
Bringing up the rear is Convertkit. This is mainly because the automation system seems to have been added as an afterthought. You can move people between lists and tag them but apart from that, there is not much more you can do. This might not actually be a negative for some people. If you just want to use basic automations, then ConvertKit is perfect!
ConvertKit’s greatest feature is their email sequence creation feature. It’s awesome, I’d go as far as saying it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Next to it AC’s looks clunky. If I could create my own marketing automation software without a doubt I steal CK’s sequence creation app and ActiveCampaign’s Automation app.
Another thing I like about ConvertKit is that they have a twitter card option where you can grab opt ins directly from twitter. For someone like me with almost 40K followers, that’s very useful!
One thing that initially threw me is that ConvertKit doesn’t have any lists. You can see on the menu below, each form is basically a list. As someone who has been building lists for over 10 years, this was confusing as it goes against everything I’ve done before. Once you get used to the fact that you ‘ll be subscribing people or moving people to a form not a list, it gets less confusing.
Next, we had better have a look at how much these marketing automation platforms will cost you. The good news is that compared to email marketing services like AWeber and GetResponse, their pricing compares very well. Especially when you factor in the higher level of features you get.
AWeber and GetResponse will cost you $49 for up to 5000 subscribers, which is slightly more than ActiveCampaign’s Lite account which has more features.
I don’t really think that the pricing should be a major part of your selection process. No matter which you choose, after a while you should be able to generate well over $1 per subscriber. By the time you are paying for 2000 subscribers, you should be making enough to pay for any supplier you want.
Ease of Use
ConvertKit all the way for ease of use! As I said before, ActiveCampaign is so full featured that it can be initially overwhelming. You’ll soon get used to it, but for setting up simple campaigns, ConvertKit will have you up and running much quicker.
Conclusions – Which Should You Choose?
As you can see, each has its benefits and I think you should choose based on your mid-length business goals. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or established. If you are using inbound marketing, you should choose a marketing automation system rather than email service providers.
If you have a blog or a small business and want to build a list of prospects and enter them into email sequences and promote your products (as I show in my free funnel automation training) then I think ConvertKit is hands down the winner. On the other hand, if you want to add some automation sequences, then ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is probably for you.
If however your business is more advanced, you have multiple funnels and are generating hundreds of leads and segmenting them, then ActiveCampaign’s Small Business plan will be perfect for you.
Personally, (and I know I often do weird things!) I am going to start moving some of my content upgrades (the ones with 7 day free courses) into ConvertKit over the next few months. These are my main engagement sequences and don’t really require much automation. Should subscribers become buyers, they will automatically get moved to AC. At this point, automation becomes much more important as a way of looking after my buyers.
The upside is that I know anyone in ActiveCampaign is genuinely engaged and responsive which should help massively with delivery rates.
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