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As one of the most profitable marketing methods, email marketing is a goldmine for online business owners.
But in order to get the median 122% ROI , you need to roll up your sleeves.
Email marketing can be amazing, but it takes a powerful tool to really see the returns.
In this article, I’m going to take a look at two very popular email marketing services: ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign.
Both of them promise to help you take your email marketing to the next level. Their toolboxes are full of shiny things.
But can those shiny things generate sales?
Before I dive into the specifics of ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign, I want to set a baseline.
What am I going to look for in ConvertKit and Active Campaign?
AKA: everything a budding entrepreneur needs to nurture their leads and turn them into customers.
When someone lands on your website for the first time, they probably won’t convert right away.
If you don’t have an email marketing funnel, they’ll be lost for good.
But with email marketing, you can nurture your leads and convince them that your business meets their needs.
Email lead nurturing is done through drip campaigns.
A drip campaign “spoon feeds” your leads information one bit at a time. It establishes trust and demonstrates your products’ value.
Keep in mind that 63% of consumers expect personalization. Drip campaigns help you tailor your content to leads’ unique interests.
In order to leverage drip campaigns, you need an email marketing tool that:
These are the only two features you really need.
In my honest opinion, everything else is nice to have, but not vital to success. The key is in the follow-up funnels.
So, how do drip funnels work in email marketing?
First, your lead signs up to receive your lead magnet.
For that, they need to enter their personal information (typically their name and their address) in your sign-up form.
If you have multiple lead magnets, you can personalize your email sequences based on that specific lead magnet.
If you only have one, you can ask your leads what their problems/goals are.
Then, it’s time to launch the drip sequence.
After understanding your leads’ interests, you can blast content that matches their needs.
For example, if they want to buy a house, you can send them a how-to guide, or a case study featuring customers like them.
Your options are endless. However, it’s important to pace your drip campaigns and use the right tools.
So how do ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign compare?
ConvertKit is an email marketing service that currently has a 4.8/5 rating on Capterra.
Reviewers love how easy it is to set up and update automations. However, some aspects require more coding (a big no-no in my book).
Its main features are focused on email marketing, but they also have a handy landing page creator and various integrations.
ActiveCampaign, much like its competitor, is one of the most popular email marketing tools today. It currently has a 4.4/5 rating on Capterra.
Reviewers use ActiveCampaign because of its powerful automation features, as well as additional tools such as CRM (customer relationship management).
However, it can be easy to get lost in the sea of options and settings if you’re a beginner.
In addition to email marketing, ActiveCampaign also offers other features like marketing automation, CRM and sales, and even machine learning.
Remember what I said?
You need a good subscription form to generate leads and add them to your marketing funnel.
You can create 4 types of forms with ActiveCampaign: inline forms, floating bar, floating box, and modal (pop-up).
ActiveCampaign pop-up subscription form
In comparison, ConvertKit only offers 3 form types, but they're highly customizable: inline, pop-up, and slide-in.
ConvertKit’s subscription forms
Both tools do a good job with forms, but it’s time for the real test...
Now we’re coming to the real differentiator!
Here’s the deal: no two individuals are alike.
But if you’ve got plenty of leads, you can easily split them into different audience segments based on their shared characteristics.
Let’s say you’re selling beer and wine.
Your beer leads don’t want to see content about wine; that will not convince them to buy beer from you.
But with a powerful audience segmentation tool, you can send email blasts with different content for different audiences.
This makes your marketing more personal and convincing.
ActiveCampaign absolutely kicks a$# at email segmentation!
You can filter by:
ActiveCampaign really keeps the show going.
ConvertKit also offers list segmentation, but it can be tricky.
Multiple conditional segmentation criteria can make your email marketing
For example, not only can you target people who have downloaded your eBook, but you can expand that list to fit people who downloaded your eBook, and purchased a product.
I personally feel that ConvertKit could’ve made list segmentation simpler for regular users, so my vote of confidence in this round goes to ActiveCampaign.
Both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign describe email marketing automation as “building a path for your subscribers.”
ActiveCampaign’s approach to email marketing automation ties in with its tags.
You can automatically add tags whenever your subscriber acts. Then, you can utilize the dynamic content feature to automatically adapt content for different tags.
How does that work in practice?
This is really as simple as it gets, and I love it.
ConvertKit excels at email automation, as well!
It has a visual automation flow builder.
The approach is more intuitive than ActiveCampaign’s.
You can create entire funnels your subscribers can follow towards conversion. Simply add more defining events until you’ve reached your target goal: conversion.
You can also create simple automation rules.
My vote in this round goes to ConvertKit.
Their automation builder is definitely simpler than ActiveCampaign’s, so it’s a better fit for new business owners who want to supercharge their growth.
Both of these tools have similar core features.
However, there are a few extra goodies to keep an eye on:
ConvertKit has one thing that ActiveCampaign doesn’t have: a landing page builder.
Instead of wasting hours on coding, you can choose a high-converting landing page template from ConvertKit’s gallery.
(If this is an important feature for you, make sure you scroll down and check out ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign alternatives.)
You can easily customize the templates to fit your style.
Now, this is where things get interesting!
If you’re running a subscription service, you automatically charge customers. But what happens if it bounces?
If you use ThriveCart, the system tries to charge your customers again. This is called dunning.
Dunning is incredibly important, as it allows you to retain the revenue you expected.
Otherwise, you’d have to manually check which payments went through, and try to charge your customers again.
ActiveCampaign offers more bang for your buck.
In addition to the basic email marketing features, you can also:
Honestly, the list is pretty long.
Honestly, the number one problem with ActiveCampaignis that it can be a little overwhelming for beginners.
However, you can always start off slow and easy, and upgrade as you scale.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Your price changes depending on the number of your subscribers, so buckle up!
ConvertKit has a free plan for up to 500 subscribers.
However, you won’t be able to build automations or email sequences, which practically renders this plan useless for serious business owners.
The other, paid, plan starts at $29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers.
However, your price changes depending on the number of your subscribers.
For example, if you have 10,000 subscribers, you’ll pay $119/month.
$119/mo honestly seems like too much for a tool like ConvertKit.
I’ve previously discussed whether ConvertKit is worth it in this article, so make sure you check it out.
ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a free plan, but it does have a cheap $9/mo plan for up to 500 contacts.
This plan includes unlimited sending, email marketing, subscription forms, and email automations.
If you want to use dynamic content personalization, integrations and advanced features like SMS marketing, you’ll have to upgrade to the Plus plan - $49/mo for up to 1,000 contacts.
The final price ultimately depends on the number of your subscribers.
My vote goes to ActiveCampaign.
But if you’re not convinced, let me show you a few great alternatives!
First of all, I’ll show you two types of alternatives: tools for email marketing only, and all-in-one marketing tools.
If you’re already an email marketing pro, go with email marketing tools.
But if you want to create a seamless user experience, reduce your costs, and increase your conversions, take a peek at all-in-one marketing tools.
MailChimp is perfect if you want to test the waters of email marketing.
However, if you have more than 1,000 subscribers and you’re ready to boost conversions, skip ahead to...
While MailChimp still likes to pretend that it can be an all-in-one platform, Aweber has no such pretenses.
Instead, it does what it’s good at: supercharges email marketing.
Starting a business is tough; you’ve got a lot to juggle. Streamlining your marketing with all-in-one platforms is the best bet.
ClickFunnels offers everything you need to build a high-converting sales funnel.
Email marketing included!
I wrote an in-depth review of ClickFunnels here, so make sure you check it out.
Systeme.io is really one of the handiest, and most affordable all-in-one marketing platforms.
Systeme.io’s features include:
All in all, Systeme.io has everything that ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit have, but it goes the extra mile necessary to grow your business.
You don’t have to pay for separate tools; everything you need is in Systeme.io.