A Definitive Review of the Top 6 Email Marketing Services (2017)

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris /

Every year around Christmas the same things happen…

1. It’s December 12th-ish.
2. I realize I’m supposed to buy my mother-in-law something.
3. I panic.

Then I spend hours over-analyzing what to get.

I wish someone would just tell me what to buy! That would make life so much easier. The problem is that buying good gifts take effort.

Picking an email service provider is the same way.

There are 100s of services you could use. Trying to figure out which one is the best is a gigantic pain in the butt.

What makes it worse is that everyone you follow online is hawking a different service as “the best email system ever made.” And the funny part is, most of them have never used the service they are selling you.

So we’ve solved this problem.

What we’ve done is this:

  1. Spent 2 months reviewing the 6 major email marketing services.
  2. Wrote an extremely detailed review of each service.
  3. Summarized our findings into a short 500-word summary of each service.

Each review includes an answer to these 5 questions:

Question #1: What are some of the funnest features?
Question #2: How much does it cost?
Question #3: How does it work?
Question #4: Will it do the things I need it to do or will I have to hack a bunch of crap together to make it work for me?
Question #5: What does it suck at doing and should I still use it?

Ready to jump in?

All 6 reviews are linked below…

1. ConvertKit Review
2. Drip Review
3. ActiveCampaign Review
4. MailChimp Review
5. AWeber Review
6. Infusionsoft Review

PS: Do you want me to review an email marketing service that isn’t listed above? If so, leave it in the comment section below and in our next update I’ll take a deep dive into your service.

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  • I really like the level of detail here. And this is a much easier way to understand the software than to try it all myself.

    Why no affiliate link in these?

    • Thanks for popping over Andrew!

      re: affiliate link – Goal is to be as unbiased as possible. Once we’re finished with all the reviews we might go back and ad them. But want them to be trustworthy and not skewed by good affiliate programs (or have that perception).

      • My suggestion? Add an optional affiliate link. Like a bar saying “Hey, most links on this page are *not* our affiliate link because we want you to trust this review, but if you’re feeling super generous you can always use our affiliate link by clicking here”

        • That’s a great idea (because their affiliate program is REALLY awesome!) 😉

  • Collin Hinshaw

    Loving this blog series! I’ve done my own exhausting comparison of many ESP’s over the last year and I’ll be curious to see how our notes stack up. (FYI, I’m in the process of migrating from Cordial to Zaius).

  • Daphne Sidor

    Definitely one of the best email platform reviews I’ve seen. Love this format, and excited that Drip is up next. I think you know where to find us if you have any questions or if we can show you anything in greater depth along the way—but do let me know if I can connect you with anyone. 🙂 – Daphne at Drip/Leadpages

  • Overall, solid review! Good recap of the pros & cons of ConvertKit. One correction though, unless you’re referring to the page people go to after they unsubscribe then you can change the unsubscribe text along the bottom of each email. Here’s a screenshot of mine: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/32a2f59f23c620d3115e56392e50c006fcfb035422a83a3b4aae4b5832e77d14.png

    • Interesting. Got a different answer from CK :).

      Where do you change that?

      • Yeah… I do know more about CK than some of their support staff. It’s kind of a hack, but you have full control over the email template in a custom email template section. I actually wrote up instructions on this a while back: Email Templates (ConvertKit)

        • Dominik All-in Harman

          this is one of those things I dont understand. Like, I get why they dont have a visual builder etc, but not being (easily) able to edit a unsibscribe button is a limiing thing ESPECIALLY for begginers (not knowing how to code it etc) + when you are outside english speaking country, it gets kinda weird w/o editing the text.

        • Hahaha, I was pretty upset when I emailed their support staff to ask about why I couldn’t see any data in my Google Analytics saying that users were being referred from my newsletter, and they just said CK didn’t handle that. Nowhere in their documentation or response to my question did they follow that up with, “BUT, you can add the necessary tags to your links on your own! It’s not hard!”. By the time I learned about that a few months later, it was a huge hassle to go back through all my sequences and update the links :

      • You can add custom email templates under Account >> Email Templates. This was huge for me during Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever Launch.

        I was able to have people opt-out of my BYE email campaign (and get tagged), but remain on my list for future promotions and newsletters. Lead to higher open rates and a better customer experience.

    • Yeah, they have a tutorial for doing it as well. It sure would be nice if they’d make it simpler to do that out of the box, but the fact that you CAN do it was one of the things that made me switch to CK (I liked that users could tag themselves with the topics they’re interested in and then I could only send them content on the topics they’re interested in. If at any point they change their mind, it’s easy for them to unsubscribe JUST from those updates, but not necessarily ALL updates!). The problem is that if you have a lot of different tags and sequences and stuff it can get a little confusing (and tedious) to keep your templates up to date. But not impossible, so there’s that!

  • Thanks for putting these together! I’m a current ConvertKit user (previously free Mailchimp) and I like it much better than Mailchimp. However, I’ve gotta agree that their automation is pretty basic. On the plus side, that’s great because the setup experience is easy. On the downside, it means more “advanced” things like sending an email 10 minutes before a webinar or doing an auto-expiring coupon is difficult or impossible. I hope they add to those features this year.

    The other thing that I don’t like (and you mentioned this) is the analytics on signups. I do like the dashboard for an overview. But since the “form” is the most granular type of thing, that means if I use a form on multiple pages, all those stats are combined. I can’t tell whether a form is performing well on a particular page.

    The solution might be to create a new form for each page, but that’s really cumbersome and hard to maintain.

    Cheers on not using affiliate links. “Reviews” with those always seem tainted.

    • Good points Dave. It’s a really interesting position to be in for CK. One of their #1 draws is the simplicity, but the very nature of making a more advanced visual editor (like Drip/AC/IS) is that it gets more complex and harder to use for beginners and minimalist users.

      I have no double Nathan and team will be plugging some of these holes. Will be interesting to see how they tackle these issues without over complicating the app and killing the #1 appeal.

      • Yeah absolutely. I code UIs for a living so I understand the struggle! Nathan is a great designer though, I’m sure they’ll figure out a good balance.

      • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

        With a webinar:
        – Tag everyone who registers with an automation.
        – Add them to a 1-email sequence to send out the registration confirmation immediately.
        – Add them to a post-webinar follow-up sequence, also set to start going out immediately…..but [sneaky trick] uncheck the days it can send, so it wont send anything just yet.
        – Schedule broadcasts to 3 days, 1 day, morning of, 15 mins before webinar, etc…sent only to people who are tagged as registered.
        – After the webinar, allow the follow-up sequence to start by checking all the days it can send.
        – Once the follow-up sequence complete, remove the webinar registration tag…..and to get ready for the next webinar…..duplicate the sequences and broadcasts.and adjust for teh new webinar dates/times and details.

        Would be useful if you could schendule the start date/time of a sequence….or schedule an automation for a future date/time….or once a particular broadcast has been sent.

        [Note ConvertKit use Calendly to handle registration and sending email reminders for their own regular weekly webinars.]

    • Nathan Barry

      This is great feedback Dave. We’ve got some of these more advanced automations in our plans. We’re also working on designing the next version of the dashboard graph.

    • Have you looked at the detailed subscriber analytics within the form itself? You can see the data for individual pages and it has instructions for adding campaign tags (so I can easily tell if I’m getting more conversions when I share my landing page on Facebook vs. Pinterest, for example). They have some interesting features scattered throughout the product that they should do a better job of advertising!

      • Thanks! I have looked at those – they’re nice but don’t work so well on forms that have had lots of visitors/subscribers (verrry slow to load, or says “stats are not available for this form”). But the bigger issue is that they’re not tracking the page that the form appears on, they seem to track the originating referrer. So it tracks that a visitor came from e.g. reddit, rather than tracking the page that visitor landed on on my own site. That’s still useful but I’m more interested in the how well my CTAs are matched to the page they’re installed on.

  • It’s always tough to find unbiased reviews from significant use of a product over time, as most reviews just try to compare based on feature lists and pricing charts that are published on the front end. I like that you’re digging in and showing the behind the scenes, and this is a comprehensive look at a very popular system in ConvertKit.

    Excited about your Drip review coming up – I’m a part of the Leadpages/Drip crew as I know you know, and echo Daphne’s thoughts :). Personally, I was a pretty happy AWeber user for close to a decade, and switched to Drip last October.

    When you’re doing the pricing comparisons for ConvertKit, Drip, and the rest, please do highlight when services charge per subscriber/list as opposed to per contact/email. That’s a big difference in pricing between CK, Drip, Infusionsoft and services like AWeber and Mailchimp.

    • Oh, and I’d agree on the “Website link | My affiliate link if you want to use it” sort of links to include to provide those options.

    • Hey Bob! Good point on pricing breakdown.

      I’ll jump into that. I feel like we need a good grid thingy of some sort to show all this.

      (adds to the list)

      • Indeed. It can be a big deal. I had about 300 lists in AWeber (every webinar, workshop, lead magnet, etc.), so I went from paying $240/month there to a $99/month account at Drip. My own email was on every one of those lists as I was testing things out, so I counted 300 times 🙁

        Maybe also include in pricing whether people who are unsubscribed but not deleted count, or have never confirmed double opt-in, too.

      • We’ve got one of those good grid thingys 🙂
        https://www.drip.co/comparison

        That should help – we just published that a couple days ago so it’s current.

  • Dominik All-in Harman

    Great review, Bryan.

    According to BareMetrics, their largest portion of customers is around 1k subscribers. Makes sense, then, that they are ignoring the advanced stuff and focucing on the dead-simple UX while providing at least one level better automation than, say, MailChimp./which they totally do, I switched from MC to CK and am loving it).

    That being said, promises are to be kept. If they say they are powerful as Infusionsoft, they should do so.

    Perhaps the visual editor will be a breakthrough. Looking forward.

    • Nathan made a good point (privately) about the ‘power of Infusionsoft’ line and what that meant to him. I’m sure he’ll pop over at some point to talk about that.

      • Nathan Barry

        Yeah! To me it goes hand in hand with the focus on professional bloggers. Infusionsoft has a ton more power, but most of it is centered around sales deals (which is why if you export contacts from Infusionsoft they have a ton of columns like Spouses Birthday), really complex automation, and stuff that just isn’t that commonly used by bloggers—even advanced bloggers.

        So by offering tagging, automation, click triggers, and great integrations we can get the vast majority of the functionality that would make someone want to upgrade from MailChimp, but without killing them with complexity.

  • I hated convertkit, I switch to drip. Drip’s awesome 😀

    • How hard was it to make the switch? Like did you have a ton of segments/tags and automations set up in CK that you had to move to Drip?

      • it was pretty simple, just had to re-create everything and go over all the details

  • Rosalyn Stewart

    Thanks, Bryan. I really appreciate the thorough review. I too have been looking for an unbiased review. One question I had about CK is how easy it is to create a newsletter template with images (similar to MC). Most times I wouldn’t have all the graphics features but occasionally, I would like to have a “pretty” newsletter. It seems hard to do and that it may require some coding knowledge (which I don’t have). Do you know the answer to that question?

    • Dominik All-in Harman

      without doing a lot of custom coding, you cant really make “MC-like” templates. You can, to some extent, mimic that look using horizontal dividers, different text heights, colors, etc.

      • Rosalyn Stewart

        Thanks Dominik,
        Sounds complicated.

    • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

      CK and Drip don’t have “pretty” newsletter templates for a reason (their core market get better results with lower key, informal-looking emails)….but that being said….

      When you want to create a more graphical/more laid-out email, you could use BEE Free to desgin it and drop it into the HTML view (or create a custom template with it).

      https://beefree.io/ (“Rich email messages made easy”….and it’s free)

  • Michelle Warner

    This CK review feels spot on to me so I’ll be excited to see your Drip review. Switched over from AC a few months ago and I’m completely obsessed. All the features of AC in an easier to use/quicker interface, and none of the (what I think is) ridiculousness of IS.

    • I’m excited to checkout AC and Drip. Have heard good things about both.

  • Melissa Anzman

    Bryan – this is so helpful, thank you! Two things I’ve noticed about ConvertKit as potential issues (and was part of why I didn’t end up going with them now), is unlike IS or others out there, there is no way to “manage your subscription.” For example, if you purchase something and are tagged as such and only want to receive emails about the specific product, there’s no way to opt-out of “all blog” delivery, for example. I’ve noticed this being a hurdle for many – unsure if it’s something CK doesn’t do or it’s so difficult/buried, that the “typical” user hasn’t been able to figure it out. I’ve also heard (first hand), that there have been several issues with pre-scheduled emails not going out or being delivered correctly. I’m sure they’ve worked on fixing that, but it was a pretty recent issue (Q4 2016), and something to keep an eye on.

    • You as the CK owner actually CAN customize those unsubscribe links so that people can opt-out of specific tags/sequences/whatever without completely unsubscribing! It’s in one of their tutorials (but I do think they should make it a more obvious feature and a little easier to do!). But there’s more details higher up in the comments here.

      • Melissa Anzman

        That’s good to know (and nothing was posted about that when I posted my comment) – it definitely is something that should be better highlighted, as literally it’s happened to me, personally, as a buyer, on three different lists. 😉

  • King

    Dude. Nice work on this! I’ve been using Mailchimp for my slingshot implementations & am ready to leave them. This is really well timed. Looking forward to the rest!

  • Tom McNamara

    Bryan this is exactly the kind of ESP review I’ve been looking for — detailed, thoughtful, and unbiased. I’ve narrowed down a few candidates for my small business client base, and you’re work here is incredibly helpful – and a big timesaver, so a huge THANK YOU for doing this. Can’t wait to see the other reviews. On the topic of affiliate links, I perceive them — rightly or wrongly — as a corrosive influence on reviews. That said, after you complete ALL your reviews, adding a list of affiliate links to ALL the ESPs (kind of the way CNET does it) mentioned in your story would be fair compensation of your time and effort. I, for one, would click on one of these links given the critical eye you are putting on each vendor.

  • Nathan Barry

    Thanks for the review! I’m the founder of ConvertKit and have a couple of clarifications:

    1. You can customize unsubscribe pages and links (though it is an advanced feature: http://help.convertkit.com/article/191-custom-unsubscribe-links).

    2. A/B testing of broadcast subject lines is coming very soon. We’re already testing it with some of our large customers now.

    3. What integrations do you think we’re missing? I’d love to get those added.

    3. With the phrase “The power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than MailChimp” we’re referring to the parts of Infusionsoft that bloggers use. For example many people switch to use because they want tags, purchase tracking, and automations—without having to use everything that is Infusionsoft. So think of it as the 80/20 of automations. 20% of the features that enable 80%+ of the desired functionality. You also save on the complexity and headache from Infusionsoft.

    Finally, I’m happy to answer any questions here in the comments!

    • Thanks for jumping in Nathan!

    • Super cool, Nathan.

      To both you and @bharris007:disqus: I teach workshops at writers conferences and email marketing is always part of my classes. I always refer to ConvertKit as a great step up from MailChimp and Get10KSubs as the course I can’t wait to take to go more indepth. It’s the personal feeling you both give that make it awesome to do business with you. Great post, Bryan, and awesome response to a critiqued review, Nathan. Blessings.

    • Nathan (or Bryan’s team), the URL in the link you provided in clarification #1 has picked up the close-parenthesis, which renders an error page when you click the link. I deleted the ) from the address bar, and the link worked fine. If someone could edit your comment to fix that, maybe a few folks won’t be misdirected and leave. As for the comprehensive review, thanks, Bryan! I’ll be leaving MailChimp for CK this month, and it’s partly this review and partly because of your webinar with Nathan that I watched a few months ago. I really like how you guys keep it casual and personal while still explaining how things work.

      Many thanks. Many, many thanks. I love all the info.

  • Wow, you read my mind. Signed up for Drip a few months ago but could not for the life of my understand their visual logic on tagging. Then went to ConvertKit, but found that whenever I wanted to do something fancy, it was usually a no go. Switched back to Drip and promised myself not to try to do “all the things” at once. Liking Drip so far now that the site is live and folks are signing up, but after reading this, I know your Drip review is going to be my “go to” way to get the most out of Drip. Thank you!

  • I moved over to ConvertKit from Infusionsoft because I was having a hard time with the learning curve, and my list wasn’t ready to maintain the price tag. I’ve found ConvertKit to be a lot easier to use but there are features I miss in Infusionsoft. I thought you handled the review well. Great points.

  • Bryan, this is a great idea…jealous I didn’t think of it 🙂

    I agree with pretty much everything you covered about the good and bad of ConvertKit. Particularly, the lack of real marketing funnels and automation sequences.

    I’m excited to see what you think of Drip as that is the next one I have been looking to kick the tires on.

  • I use Convertkit and wanted to shift to Drip but they don’t want clients who do affiliate marketing promotions they told me and several others so I won’t be moving.Strange for a company owned by Leadpages.

    • @BobTheTeacher:disqus any thoughts on this Bob?

    • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

      Not even for Drip or Leadpages?

      • Only talking about Drip.They send me the following statement:
        “You agree not to send emails with the following content (sorry, it’s due to the abnormally high rates of spam complaints): offers to sell illegal goods, pornography, sexually explicit material, sex advice, drugs or pharmaceutical information or products, adult novelty items, credit repair services or opportunities, dating or escorts, stock trading, day trading or stock market content, gambling products or services, network or multi-level marketing, affiliate marketing, loans, mortgages, nutritional or herbal supplements, make money online and work from home opportunities, or free product or free sample giveaways.”

  • (Question for Bryan or VF staff at the end of this post)

    Here is my biggest issue, struggle with Convert Kit. It’s one I’ve heard heard no one mention in the last few years and I consider it a HUGE drawback for almost any online marketer.

    What is it?

    The complete inability(and the lack of inclination for the CK development team) to simple(SIMPLY!) have a “Last Name” field. CK only allows you to have a field for the prospect/customer/client’s first name.

    Huh?! If we are to relationally connect to our customers, how can we do that if we don’t know who they are?! Their first name and email is just nowhere enough information to properly segment and customize consistently effective campaigns.

    I’ve been selling online full time since 1995 and whether they are old customers or new ones from a few days ago, I want, need and passionately desire to know who they are.

    I asked about this (simple) features when they launched a few years ago, then again a year later —and received a ‘we’re working on it – soon’) so I signed up a year ago to give a proper go around and just siphoned a few launches through it to see how it felt with the short-coming of no last name.

    I really, really like SO much about CD – really I do. But after 9 months, I could see very clearly I was hog-tied, confused and dis-empowered to do the basic marketing that I need to with my customers and prospects.

    As of a few months ago, they have no plans to add this. This just shocks me to no end. Am I missing something here? (well, always quite possible with my wee, little over-taxed brain!)

    It’s a very important drawback that is continually over-looked by newbies certainly but I’ve yet to hear from experienced marketers as to why they don’t feel this is important for them.

    SOOOO…Bryan or anyone from VF, can you share a quick reason why you might feel this is not an issue(this was not listed in your critique)? What am I missing or off-base about? (THANKS! I really look forward to this series and appreciate all your efforts on behalf of…well, everyone!)

    • You can add custom fields now. Just add it 🙂

      • All those venting words for two sentences! 🙂

        Righteous….danke!

      • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

        Yes…..but you can’t use custom fields in your actual emails.

        Lastname as a standard field would be useful…or automatically splitting name into first and last names…..so 3rd party integrations have somewhere to put lastname.

        If you use 22Social to capture leads, it loads first and last names it gets from Facebook and puts them into the one field…..so you need to flag every new subscriber and then edit them.

        • Nathan Barry

          Yes, you can. There’s a menu in the email editor to add any custom field.

          • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

            Thanks Nathan. When did that sneak out?

          • Nathan Barry

            Maybe 3 months ago? It’s relatively recent. 🙂

  • An excellent review. Lots of detail that I hadn’t delved into yet in ConvertKit. I haven’t tried Drip yet so I’m excited for that review!

  • Alex Vlasceanu

    I’d love to see your review of ActiveCampaign. I use them and I always thought they are an undiscovered gem when it comes to what you can do and the pretty cheap price.
    Thanks for this great series, very good idea!

    • Just published it. Would love to hear your thoughts.

      • Alex Vlasceanu

        Love your review, it’s on the spot. I totally agree with everything you wrote about ActiveCampaign and I think you covered everything (I actually learned some new stuff also). Mu summary is: lots of cool ways to use it for advanced marketing strategies, but frustrating UX.
        Personally, I’m more of a features “want to be able to do everything” geek so I didn’t mind so much the bad UX (although I admit in the beginning it was difficult to learn to use it and clearly it could be greatly improved – it should be the first thing they improve).
        I also discovered something which suprised me: there is a niche of people who are experts in using ActiveCampaign and sell their services to users, basically you outsource everything to somebody. I would say that is a win-win, because you still have all the great possibilities but none of the headaches of setting it up.
        I think they charge a low price for what they offer (especially if you only want the first tier – probably most people only need that), so paying some more for outsourcing the setup seems ok to me.

        I really loved your point about “when you have too many features, you sell less”. Honestly, I don’t know how ActiveCampaign does their marketing, I usually am mostly interested in features and price and also no promotional stuff from them popped up in my daily reading interests (for Drip and ConvertKit it did).
        But if they would focus on big niches, and explain to each niche how they could use their platform (each niche has some specific emails that they send lots of times and could be automated) and intentionally only include their best features for that niche in this presentation, I think they would rock.
        Imagine seeing a case study: “Car rental company decreases workload by 20% and increases profits by 30% by using ActiveCampaign smart email automation” – if I wanted to promote an email platform, I would totally do an article/video like that for each niche and show people exactly how they could use it for better productivity and more sales.

  • Avadhut Chavan

    The exact thing I wanted to know 🙏🏻
    Waiting for all 7 reviews
    Did this got triggered from my email question ?? :p 😘

    • haha! it’s been on the radar to do for some time, you’re note helped make it happen.

  • Mridu

    This was awesome Bryan, thank you! I can’t wait to see your review of Drip. I’ve been torn between ConvertKit and Drip for weeks and I have a feeling your summary will tip the scale for me one way or the other. Thanks again for all the detail and thoughtfulness of this post.

  • hdc77494

    I do have one comment on double opt-in. Recently a spam-bot subscribed me to hundreds of email newsletters from across the globe. A very high percentage were single opt-in. For the first hundred or so, I dutifully unsubscribed. After that, I got tired of searching for tiny or hidden or two step unsubscribe buttons, and began labeling every unwanted subscription email as spam so that Yahoo/Google/Microsoft could both erase them from my inbox, and charge the spam to said newsletters. If you choose to bypass double opt-in, beware the possible consequences.

  • Jonathan Averett

    Came over to CK from the free MC service once I started 10K and for a beginner it’s one of the best investments I’ve made so far. I’m hooked on CK and by the time I need more features hopefully they’ll be there……thanks for the review Bryan!

    • Nathan Barry

      That’s great Jonathan! It’s great to have you.

  • I really want to love CK but when you can’t create a new list/segment based on OPENERS, that’s a huge problem. You can export or segment clickers, but not openers.

    Another problem is that there’s no way to tell which segments or tags you sent a broadcast to AFTER it’s sent. All you get is the raw list of names it was sent to. Another huge oversight.

    Great product but it needs some basic features added ASAP.

    • Nathan Barry

      Hey David, this functionality is coming soon. 🙂

  • Stephen Mayall

    Great review Bryan I think you did a good job it’s nice to see more detail on the non obvious features ConvertKit and Drip are on my list of service to switch to so I’ll be keen to read that next week. I’m going to be starting a new blog soon reviews will be part of that so good to read a review that doesn’t suck or that just covers the same things

    • Nathan Barry

      We’d love to have you on ConvertKit! Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Drip is where its at. Its like if convertkit and Active Campaign had a baby. Great UI/UX for creating campaigns, but all the automation rules/features of active campaign.

  • Awesome review, Bryan! Thanks for all the details. One thing I didn’t see … you mentioned “Great looking stock forms.” Is it possible to customize forms to fit our brand colors?

    • You have the ability to change the colors in a few locations, but there isn’t a TON of customization (I think you can change the button color, background color, and the color around the box, something like that).

      • That’s all I would need to change, so that’s good to know! Thanks for the info, Carolyn.

  • jaredkimball

    Wow Bryan! This is an exhaustive review. You guys really dug into the system and showed all the inner workings.

    When I was playing with CK I had a similar feeling when it came to using the system for advanced marketing funnels.

    I do think it’s a great platform for a beginning blogger.

  • Thanks Bryan. I’ve been wondering where to find a useful comparison between the different ESPs and this first review seems very comprehensive to my entry-level eye. Kudos for sharing your research in public – it’s a really valuable resource for your readers!

  • But the bigger issue is that they’re not tracking the page that the form
    appears on, they seem to track the originating referrer.

  • Alexander Limberg

    Cool review! I’m missing one key metric though: Deliverability. Does a high percentage of emails reach subscribers’ inboxes (high opening rates)?

    I’m still with Aweber and consider changing to Convert Kit. Aweber’s deliverability and support are great, but segmentation, etc… is missing.

  • Great review, Bryan! Appreciate all the detail you put into this. As a Drip user, I agree with everything you wrote. I love Drip but I know at this point I’m driving a Camry and haven’t taken the time to get to the Ferrari.

  • This is such a great review Bryan. I read your review on ConvertKit (which I use) and was waiting for the one on Drip, because I was worried that after seeing what Drip can do, I’d want to move… but no, I don’t want to move to Drip. It’s far too complicated and the coding stuff, yuck. I’d rather stick with ConvertKit because I know how to use it and can use it well and it works for me and my business. Drip, meh. It actually makes my eyes glaze over! 🙂

    • ZoneFitness

      You’re not alone 🙂

  • Adrian B. Dean

    Really want to see your review on GetResponse after you do Active Campaign. I’m looking at Drip and going through Brennan’s course, but I think GetResponse may be who I move to in the end.

  • Love this writeup! Specifically, I love seeing how someone who’s not quite a coder but knows what’s possible reacts to what Drip has to offer.

    10000% agree about the date timers. That needs to happen. Lack of drag-and-drop within Workflows is more of an annoyance than a deal breaker.

    What I think Drip needs to do:
    1) Make Workflows a first class thing. Kill campaigns. Move analytics from campaigns into workflow one-offs. Maybe keep flat automation rules, but at least make workflow triggers and actions 1:1 equivalent of flat rules (right now, there are slight differences, like a trigger not applying to a particular segment.)

    • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

      The Drip logic engine/data store + the Drip snipppet + some form of front end (eg embedded Drip forms or a pagebuilder like Leadpages) are very close to effectively providing a SaaS platform to build systems for delivering customer-focused services.

      One where all the data and state transitions and interactions are all about/with/directed by/for “you”, the subscriber.

      With a few tweaks like 3 and 6 + better forms with the ability to pre-populate/add to/edit the subscriber’s collection of data….and account-level data too….and feels like a possibility.

      • Absolutely. I treat Drip as an accessible datastore that supports complex job queues that can send email (default) or do other stuff (via things like Zapier). Looking at it is just a drip email marketing app is short sighted, IMO.

        • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

          Would be useful if the new drag&drop part of Leadpages integrated with Drip forms rather than campaigns and workflows….that way it could open up the passing of data to pretty much anything (rather than the fixed few fields we have now).

          Maybe that could be 8 on your very good list.

  • Ian Moncrieff MacMillan

    Drip’s built-in forms are very functional, but don’t look great if you want more tahn a simple pop-up. Using something like Leadpages to provide the landing pages or leadbox popups is therefore useful/needed.
    And although Drip is now a Leadpages company, the Drip/Leadpages integration supports only a very small number of preset fields…..so asking a subscriber for info like “Do you have a dog? Y/N”, “…and if so, what’s your dog’s name?” etc is not possible.

  • Hi Bryan, well that was super weird seeing my support request in your Drip review 🙂 Anyway, thanks to Brennan and Drip support, i got a solution to my workflow.

  • Bryan,
    Fantastic in-depth content review with very thoughtful feature reviews.
    The other two areas that closely tie into automated marketing are the CRM element with deal funnels and Helpdesk for servicing leads and prospects. Its getting to a a hot market with lots of options.

    It might also be worth adding http://www.agilecrm.com into your review queue… You’ll prob get a lot of suggestions for review but this one is really worth it for the price users pay.

  • Thanks Bryan for the detailed review – I’ve been waiting to see something like this. I’m a fan of Active Campaign, so I’m looking forward to see how AC stands against the other service providers.

  • Nicole Haschke

    What a terrific first couple of reviews. I’m really excited to read more. Is there a way to subscribe to your blog so I don’t miss subsequent reviews?

  • Thanks for another great overview, Bryan. So far it feels like Drip is the “sweet spot” in terms of features + ease of use… looking forward to more!

  • Jessica Bowers Hopson

    Bryan, Yes to everything you said about AC! I get so frustrated when I can’t find where or how to something inside the segments or lists. Yes, the tool is powerful, but I feel like they hide the power in obscure places! So (unnecessarily) time consuming. I’d love to know how you figured out how to send at a certain time within an automation. Thanks for this article!

  • Thank you so much for this! I now have a really great article to refer people to when they try to convince me to work with active campaign. Worked with it once for a client and it just wasn’t worth it, especially for newbies who just want to get their list started and don’t have anything super complicated in mind. Thank you!

  • Tony

    Really enjoying these reviews. Will be curious where you end up and if you can give a solid recommendation when you are through them all. One other tool to throw into the mix is a FREE tool called Mautic. https://www.mautic.org/

    • I’m curious to see it as well 🙂

      I’ll add Mautic to the list.

  • Cristin Downs

    Really excellent review and insight! Thank you for doing this.

  • Just a heads up: “For a full breakdown of this, see Brenna’s article and course here.” > “Brennan”

  • Mark

    @bharris007:disqus
    Bryan: I’m loving these reviews, their depth is fantastic. I really appreciate that you’re taking the time to do such a thorough job of creating what will end up being the definitive comparison once complete.

    It’s also timely as I’ve just broken the 100 subs mark and have set my sights on 1K, so will need to consider these options some time soon. Thanks again 🙂

  • Torben Ni

    I’m always fascinated what other people find counter intuitive what I find intuitive.
    For e.g. the date thing. Just four AND Conditions seems pretty obvious (year, month, day, hour).

    Onsite Personalization and CTA customizations:
    This is possible, but pretty techy.
    The short version is that you
    1) need to identify the users e-mail (fills form out, comes from a AC-Campaign, has an cookie with his e-mail, IP matches an E-Mail).
    2) Then make a API Request to get the user data and safe it in a Cookie/Session
    3) Use the Cookie/Session Data to show him different things with PHP/Javascript.
    This works not only with AC but with every e-mail Service, who has a good API.

    Webinar with different Campaigns based on Registration Date
    1) Start when Tag “RegisteredForWebinarXYZ”
    2) Use IF/THEN with Current Date to put the Contact to the right Start Position.
    2a) Use the GOTO Action to put the Contact to the right position in the E-Mail
    2b) Create for each IF/THEN a different FollowUp Line (if the contact still should get all the e-mails but only with 1 day wait timers)

  • I like these reviews Bryan! You go deep. Very cool.

  • Love how in-depth you’re going with these reviews. I guess you had to stop somewhere, but a pity it will only be 7! But there are so many others out there, like Autopilot which has just recently caught my eye.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Kelsey Marksteiner, RD

    I’d love a review of Simplero. I’m currently with Active Campaign, but Simplero is an all-in-one system (theoretically) that could manage who buys my products etc.

  • Gina Stringer

    As someone who used MailChimp and ConvertKit — which is known for their user-friendliness, and switched to Active Campaign, I 100% agree with you about the loading screens. I sure hope they’re in the middle of huge change right now because it does seem very outdated. The UI isn’t bad in my opinion, as in technically it’s not hard to find stuff, but the loadings make me super lazy to actually find the stuff even if I know where it is.

    But I still like it because the automation is so powerful with that price. I believe Active Campaign is the cheapest option if you want the same level of automation you can get in Drip and ConvertKit, it’s even cheaper than MailChimp for certain number of subscribers.

  • Hi. Looking forward to Infusionsoft review. Any ETA on its release / addition to this article?

  • Ben Dangel

    What would you recommend for a beginner just starting to grow their list?

  • Andy D’Silva

    Looking forward to the MailChimp review and how it stacks up against ConvertKit. Read this article today from Paul Jarvis with a apples-to-apples comparison of MailChimp vs Convertkit ( https://medium.pjrvs.com/which-is-better-convertkit-or-mailchimp-f7252289166e#.vzatgbo3j )
    It debunks some of the common myths going around the internet. Excited to see the Videofruit flavour of this analysis as I’m nearly at the stage in 10KSubs where I need to invest in an email service.

  • Dominik All-in Harman

    I think MailerLite deserves a review. They have 200k+ customers. I recently did a freelance work for a client who uses MailerLite and was kinda surprised. It´s cheaper than MailChimp and has a conditional logic+visual auomation editor.. pretty impressive.

  • Alia

    Thank you for all these great reviews! I appreciate the amount of effort it takes to give this level of examination, and I love how informative and unbiased they are. Still, I was looking forward to the GetResponse review. Has that been cancelled?

    • Hey Alia! It has for this round. Planning to add it into the next update.

      • Alia

        Thank you, Bryan! I can see its been a LOT of time and effort to get all this done.

  • bmfarr

    Wow, what an awesome set of reviews. Thanks for taking the time to provide unbiased and real reviews for real marketers.

  • Gil Herrera

    Which one do you use Bryan? Thank you very much for the article.

  • Boyan Moskov

    Hey Bryan, why you dropped GetResponse from the list? The headline still says Top 7, but they are only 6.

  • Bryan B

    Hey Bryan! Thanks for this, this is so helpful!
    I wonder if you’ve heard of Sendlane? Any thoughts on it?
    https://sendlane.com/

  • A review of Campaign Monitor would be interesting!

  • Mailerlite

  • Eve Tokens

    Hey Bryan, amazing work on these reviews. I would love to see a review of MailerLite if possible? It’s an ESP that has been mentioned a lot on different forums, and I’m curious about how they compare to some of the ESPs you’ve already reviewed! Best, Eve

  • Dainis

    Bryan, hi folk! First of all thanks for great, REAL and humanish reviews! I loved your 20 clicks for Active Campaign – that’s really insane!! I am excited if you are planning to evaluate Mailerlite https://www.mailerlite.com/ – that’s kinda new in ESPs, so would be great to receive live feedback. Looking forward to your new posts!

  • Bayorh Ojo

    This is an insightful Review of the Top 6 Email Marketing Services which really good, I’ve tested http://www.emailForest.com, they are good. I am expecting an expert review about it from you. It’s fast, easy, safe, user-friendly, affordable and comes with speedy inbox delivery. They have free plans with all features of a priced plan so that you can test your email marketing campaign to see how it works.

  • Bridgett

    Do you have info on Madmimi?

  • Hey Bryan! Out of curiosity here where did HubSpot fall in your review? I do email marketing education for HubSpot and wondering where it fell on this list?

    Thanks!

    Courtney

  • Hey Bryan

    Very interesting stuff.

    You may be interested in participating in the contest on my website, as I’m looking for people who write an in-depth review about (and for) Mailigen (which is an email marketing provider). The most valuable reviews will get a reward.

    If you’re interested, you can check it out here: http://revarder.com/mailigen-2nd-contest/

    Best,
    Gabor

    p.s. you could be interested in the huge email marketing provider comparison table we created, too (over 100 providers and over 20 filters): http://revarder.com/email-provider-comparison/

  • I would like you to review RD Station

  • apoggio

    I’d love to see a review of http://myemma.com/ ! Thanks for putting this together.

  • Would love to see how Ontraport stacks up. 🙂

  • Alex Via

    Are you familiar with Bronto?

  • boron

    Great reviews! In-depth and very useful.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on Autopilot. And Ontraport.

    And, over in left field, on ExactTarget.

  • Miandra Barbosa

    Yes its important to get good email marketing service. My friend suggested me to use Fresh Email Daily in very affordable price. Thanks for providing the best email marketing services with us.

  • Luz

    I would like a comparison between Drip and Activecampaign, showing in which scenarios/for which people one is better than the other. I read both reviews (which are so great and thorough!) but I’m still a bit puzzled as there’s just a lot of con’s an pro’s to each of them and I’m not sure what, in the end, would be the best option for me 🙁