ActiveCampaign vs ConvertKit Marketing Email Automation Review

ActiveCampaign vs ConvertKit: The Email Automation Battle

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.

Email service providers like AWeber and Mailchimp are costing you money. The basic features they provide don’t get close to what you should be able to do.

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.

That sucks.

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

activecampaign-logo

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).

ActiveCampaign Pros vs Cons

ConvertKit Overview

convertkit-logo

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.

ConvertKit Pros vs Cons

Features

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.

Feature ComparisonYou 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!

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 14.42.43

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!

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 13.31.19

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.

Love this sequence creation tool!

Love this sequence creation tool!

Pricing

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.

I should mention that ActiveCampaign offers a free trial whereas ConvertKit doesn’t but they do offer a 30-day refund.

Marketing Automation Pricing Comparison

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.

If you decide to purchase ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign and would like to use my affiliate link, I am more than happy to jump on a Skype call to help you get started.

Get ConvertKit

Get ActiveCampaign

FREE Courses:  Learn how to set up your first email campaign in Convertkit or Activecampaign: https://thelifestylemarketer.co/my-courses/

If you like the thought of Marketing Automation then check out my Free Hive Marketing Bootcamp. Hive marketing takes the best aspects of marketing and marketing automation and blends them into a system that generates sales like nothing else. Click below to join the Free Bootcamp

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24 Comments

  1. Carl Picot on July 28, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for this great review Mark !

    I’ve seen many well respected honest marketers (yes! they do actually exist lol) recommending Convert Kit and I was going to try it out.

    Ive got an AC account (lite) and am impressed with its automation features and ability to create cool things based on subscribers actions.

    How would you say that AC compares to Infusionsoft??

    The only thing that I am worried about in AC is the aversion to sending affiliate promos. Has this affected you in any way ?

    Cheers Carl

    • Mark on July 29, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Confusionsoft! Avoid it! AC can do pretty much everything Infusionsoft does and from everything people have told me they do it better.

      If you are sensible then there is no problem sending affiliate promo’s with AC, they welcome people who market responsibly and correctly. I’ve never had a problem with them

  2. Martin Messier on July 29, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Hey Mark,

    Just a heads-up. I don’t know when was the last time you checked out GetResponse…

    I can do all this. GetResponse recently released its updated marketing automation tools, which makes possible the creation of sophisticated email funnels.

    Besides that, I’ve been able to segment by people who click on links and people who don’t for a long time.

    GetResponse definitely not in the same bucket as AWeber or MailChimp…

    Cheers,

    Martin

    • Mark on July 29, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks Martin, I’ve not used Getresponse for about a year, I’ll check them out soon

  3. Jerry Roberts on July 29, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Nice review, Mark.

    If you want another option to compare, you might grab a look at Drip.

    getdrip.com

    They were just acquired by Lead Pages. It might be closer in terms of feature sets.

    • Mark on July 29, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks Gerry, I saw the announcement recently about the acquisition, I’ll let them work on their integration with Leadpages then do a full review of it when they work out what direction they are taking

  4. Bill on August 1, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Have you seen any stats on deliverablity with these two with respect to SPAM blockers? How do they stack up against AWeber, MailChimp and GetResponse?

    I’ve been using AWeber for years and chose it because they were neck and neck with GR for getting through. Making a change would make sense if the rates were comparable.

    • Mark on August 10, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Bill, My deliverability has gone up with both compared to what it was with Aweber. I’ve used active campaign more and I know they take a lot of care with what the sent through their main servers.

  5. Andy on August 2, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Great comparison!

  6. Ray on August 10, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I use AC and just getting my head into to it , but another interesting alternative is mautic https://www.mautic.org/ an opensource automated marketing tool like AC ….

  7. Sam on August 22, 2016 at 11:45 am

    i have to agree with what you said. Convertkit is simple, easy and very straightforward. The only problem is its extremely basic and the automation system is very clunky. The resend option is great though.

    Active campaign has a plethora of features, and I think I’d only like it more if it was easier to use and had a setting where I could tell it to email at 10am every day or whatever.

    I like your idea of ck to ac, but that’s too much headache for me.

    • Mark on August 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Sam,

      You can schedule emails to go out with activecampaign at a set time every day, I do it in my automatons, they go at 7am every day

  8. Mister Brown on September 24, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    I had infusionsoft then Ontraport and now ConvertKit. I’m a speaker and want something that has a CRM and email marketing. I was looking at Less Annoying CRM but it doesn’t connect with ConvertKit.

    Question: Have you used the CRM to schedule calls, track correspondence and add task? Does AC have the ability to add team members that are manage their contacts and assign them task?

    Thanks for the review. You said some insightful things worthy of my clicking you affiliate link.

    • Mark on October 14, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Hi, Sorry for the delay in replying, you ended up in the spam folder..good old askimet! Yes you can add team members and assign them tasks.

  9. Jason on October 14, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for the detailed post! How about GetResponse marketing automation? It’s also one of the options I’m considering. Have you tried it?

    • Mark on October 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      I tried GR a few years ago, i wasn’t too enamoured with them, so i’ve not tested them recently

  10. Patrick Steil on December 2, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    One huge benefit that I see of AC over ConvertKit is that AC has MANY MANY more Triggers and Actions on Zapier than ConvertKit. This is now causing me a problem… I switched from AC to CK and now thinking of going back for this reason! 🙂

    • Mark on December 14, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      True but how many do you actually need to use? I thought I’d miss them but in fact so far I haven’t.

  11. Lotanna @skillstribe on December 26, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Great article. I just signed up for Active Campaign.
    It seems they’ve scraped their $17 option.

    • Mark on December 29, 2016 at 9:44 am

      It’s still there, there is a small link for the “LITE” version under the testimonial on the left . The heading is “Just Getting Started” click that and it appears

  12. Tiffany on December 28, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Curious if you’ve looked at Drip.

    • Mark on December 29, 2016 at 9:40 am

      I looked briefly at it then The guys from leadpages took it over so i wanted to give them 6 months and see what they brought to the table. I’ll probably do a Convertkit VS Drip review In a few weeks time.

  13. Steph on January 8, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Great article! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while as I havne’t had much luck with support for A/C with my virtual assistant. I think the learning curve was too steep. I also use Mailchimp which is great for dead simple automations but Active Campaign is the way to go for all the reasons you mentioned. NOTE: I want to see your tutorial but when I clicked the link I see a big security certificate warning that says hackers may be intercepting the site. If you email me I can send a screenshot.

    • Mark on January 8, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Steph,

      I’ll change the link, that’s some weird error caused by the DNS settings.. you can get access via the courses link at the top of the page that should take you directly to the courses.

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