An Exhaustive Review of the Top 7 Email Marketing Services

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 sooooo 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’re going to solve this problem.

We’ll never recommend one email service again. There is no one-size-fits-all. Saying that everyone who follows this blog should use X is not true. Not everyone should.

What we’re going to do instead is this…

  1. Spend 2 months reviewing every service.
  2. Show you what’s good and what sucks.
  3. Put all of those findings into a quick service picking tool.

When we’re done, all you’ll have to do is answer 5 questions and we’ll give you our recommendation for what service you should use, based on your type of business, income and stage you are at.

Each week I’ll answer 5 questions about each service:

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?

We’ll be reviewing these 7 services:

1. ConvertKit
2. Drip
3. Active Campaign
4. MailChimp
5. AWeber
6. Infusionsoft
7. GetResponse

Each week I’ll publish a new review and add it to this article.

Lets rollllllllll!

ConvertKit: The Good, the Bad and My Recommendation 

Part 1: What are some of the funnest features of ConvertKit?

Let’s start with the fun stuff. 🙂

We’ll get to the geeky stuff in a minute.

Cool Feature #1: You can personalize an email based on tags.

I first saw Drip doing this a year or so ago. I was blown away by how smart this is and how jealous I was that Infusionsoft (the ESP I use) didn’t do this.

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This is how it works…

Imagine you are sending out a broadcast email to your list announcing your latest blog post.

And at the bottom of the list you wanted to tell everyone in a PS line that you are running a sale on your product.

That might look like this…

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The problem is that all of your existing customers see that same message and it’s a) annoying to them; and b) a waste of space.

With the personalized tag feature, you would be able to show different copy in the same email based on the tag on the user’s account.

Like this…

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Cool, huh!?

Cool Feature #2: Show something else if someone has already filled out my form.

One of the biggest wastes on your website is your forms.

50% of the people who see them have already filled them out. So why keep showing them the same thing?

Answer: Because showing them something else isn’t easy.

ConvertKit has a cool feature built in that allows you to easily swap out your form with something else when people opt in.

Check it…

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Cool Feature #3: Easily re-send broadcast messages to people who didn’t open them the first time.

One of the easiest things you can do to increase traffic and open rates is to re-send your broadcast emails to people who didn’t open them.

Just wait 3 to 5 days and resend.

ConvertKit has a feature built in that makes this super-simple.

Cool Feature #4: Auto double opt-in with lead magnet delivery

Double vs. single opt-in. Everyone argues about it.

Here’s the deal…

If you could make it super simple for EVERYONE on your list to double opt-in, you would. But most ESPs make it hard and complicated and the emails they send to double opt-in are annoying.

ConvertKit has a cool feature that allows someone to double opt-in when they download the lead magnet you send them in their opt-in email.

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Cool Feature #5: Very good model management and design

Almost all major ESPs have some built-in forms you can embed in your site. But almost all of them are ugly. ConvertKit’s are pretty.

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And they have quite a few settings that allow you to customize them.

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For more minimalist or beginner users, this negates the need for something like OptinMonster or SumoMe to handle your pop-ups and models.

Cool Feature #6: Scroll-over dashboard to see where subs are coming from

When you first login to ConvertKit you see this pretty dashboard of your list growth.

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One of the coolest parts of this graph is that you can roll over the bar graph for any specific day and see what forms those users opted in from. This allows you to get a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t.

Cool Feature #7: Form analytics show conversion percentages from each page.

We’ll get to this later, but one thing that ConvertKit isn’t great at is reporting. However, on the primary dashboard it keeps a running list of all the forms (landing pages and models) that you have created.

Along with each form is listed its specific conversion rate and number of opt-ins.

The way it displays this data is especially helpful in that it shows you the the number of times the form has been loaded and the number of conversions.

This helps you get an accurate gauge of how individual pages are performing without looking at Google Analytics or any other platform.

Cool Feature #8: Suggested email sales funnel

Lastly, when you setup a new email sequence (autoresponder) in of ConverKit, it gives you a framework to use.

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This is pretty handy.

However, the way it’s implemented is not ideal. Not every email sequence I create is a sales sequence. It would be nice to have a choice of 5 to 10 different types of sequences and then have ConvertKit pre-populate those with suggested frameworks.

But still, cool feature.

Part 2: How much does ConvertKit cost?

Here is pricing…

 

There is no on-boarding or setup fee for using ConvertKit.

If you have over 10,000 subscribers you’ll get free concierge on-boarding. Which basically means ConvertKit will migrate you from your existing service for free.

Overall, this is decent. Not the cheapest and not the most expensive.

We’ll do more pricing analysis once we’ve completed all 7 reviews.

Part 3: How does it work? Can I get a high-level overview of this thing?

Here is a long-winded demo video they have on their site.

TL;DR

There are 4 building blocks of ConvertKit.

Building Block #1: User records (Subscribers)

Everyone that is added onto your email list has a record. This is where email addresses and other information is stored.

Building Block #2: Forms

To get on your list, someone fills out a form. This can be a modal on your site or a landing page.

When they fill it out, a user record is created and added to your list

Building Block #3: Sequences

Autoresponders, email sequences, whatever you want to call them.

A series of emails that goes out on a pre-defined schedule.

You write a series of emails, put them in a specific order and ConvertKit sends them for you.

Building Block #4: Automations

This is where the magic happens.

Automations allow you to do things without YOU having to do things.

There is a TRIGGERING event and and ACTION.

Here is a picture:

This allows you to set up systems to do things like, “When someone fills out form X, put them in sequence Y.”

Side note: This really isn’t a building block, but the last thing ConvertKit allows you to do is to send and schedule one-time broadcast emails to your subscribers. More on this later.

Part 4: Will it do the things I need it to do or will I have to hack a bunch of stuff together to make it work?

Now let’s talk specific scenarios. All the fancy features we talked about above are nice, but will ConvertKit actually DO the things you need to do in your business?

In order to do this, I’m going to run it through a series of 3 test scenarios and see how ConvertKit handles each.

Scenario #1: How easy is it to send broadcast emails?

 

Overall Grade: B

Scenario #2: How does it handle basic automation, like a welcome series or email course?

 

Overall Grade: A-

Scenario #3: How does it handle advanced automation, like a live webinar or personalized launch?

 

Overall Grade: D

 

Part 5: What about all the other stuff? (Like does their support suck, are they weirdos, and can I trust them?)

Item #1: How is their support?

They don’t have live chat, but they do have extremely responsive email support.

Access it any time you’re in the app by clicking the fun little logo thing in the bottom right corner.

I sent in 3 tickets and each one was answered in less than 25 minutes.

Although, to be nit picky, the level of ‘domain knowledge’ was not extremely high.

Overall Grade: A-

Item #2: Do they have an active community?

They do. It’s all in Facebook and people are genuinely helpful there. It’s also manned by a few ConvertKit employees who chime in. From my observations, most questions are answered in no more than 1-2 hours.

Here is a quick example…

This might seem like a minor thing, but having an active community of users around your email service is important. No matter what service you use, you will eventually have issues. And being able to talk to other users to see if anyone else is having similar issues is a big deal.

Also, it shows the company actually cares.

One of the best places to get an idea of what kind of company you’re dealing with is by looking at their community.

Overall Grade: A+

Item #3: Does it have a 3rd party marketplace for add-ons?

Having a 3rd party marketplace is one of my secondary criteria for using any email service.

There are only so many features any service can and should build into their app. But an active marketplace helps bridge the gap between the features in the app and unique one-off features that you need to make your business run.

As an example…

We (currently) use Infusionsoft as our email service. One thing we wanted to be able to do was to collect phone numbers for SMS follow-up. But Infusionsoft doesn’t do that out of the box. So we used their 3rd party marketplace to find the app FixYourFunnel.com to allow us to do that.

Unfortunately ConvertKit is so new that there is no marketplace to speak of yet. Which means any custom non-standard features you want would have to be created from scratch using their API.

Overall Grade: D

Item #4: Does it have a fully functional API that is well documented?

ConvertKit does have an API and it is well documented.

However, I’m not sufficiently equipped to grade the API itself. I’ve heard mixed reports from people who have attempted to develop on it.

But I’m not a developer myself, so I’ll leave it to you to examine the API documentation and make that call yourself.

Overall Grade: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Item #5: Does it have good integrations with 3rd party apps?

Overall – for the age of the app – it’s integration directory is pretty impressive.

Almost every app we use at Videofruit has some form of a ConvertKit integration

Here is a full listing of those integration partners.

Overall Grade: B

Item #6: Can you edit unsubscribe message?

No. You can’t edit the test in or around your unsubscribe message.

Item #7: Can you easily run A/B tests?

No. ConvertKit doesn’t support A/B testing in any way.

Part 6: TL;DR: My take and summary of ConvertKit

Here are the best things about ConvertKit:

  • Simple and easy to use. Clean and quick to understand the interface.
  • Handles content upgrades like a champ. Probably the best on the market.
  • Easy to get data on how different opt-ins are performing.
  • Tag-based system and not list-based (like MailChimp and AWeber)
  • Built-in double opt-in in every lead magnet delivery email
  • No setup or migration fees
  • Great community
  • Fast support response time
  • Automatic-ish list cleaning
  • Concierge on-boarding
  • Basic automations are really fast and easy
  • Great looking stock forms and model features
  • Suggested sales funnel for basic sales sequence
  • Landing page builder built-in
  • Super fast support
  • Young hungry team that listens to you
  • App runs fast and loads well

Here is a list of the not-so-great things about ConvertKit:

  • No visual editor for sequences
  • Complex automations get really cumbersome
  • No HTTP post or in sequence actions
  • Unable to segment based on un-opens for broadcast
  • Unable to run webinars or semi-complex launch sequences with automation
  • Can’t send email based on time zone
    • Makes it hard to do proper deadlines for launches or promotions
    • Can’t optimize for open rate at their time of day
  • Reporting is pretty primitive overall
  • Very hard to create non-plain text emails
  • No A/B testing whatsoever
  • Landing page builder is a little clunky

Summary:

Preamble: I am friends with many people at ConvertKit and love their mission. However, my job is to give you a unfiltered and unbiased review of the service. What follows is my best attempt at that.

ConvertKit uses the tagline “The power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than MailChimp” and “Email marketing for professional bloggers.”

Meh.

Not really.

Not sure if this is marketing speak or maybe they measure “power” differently than I do, but Infusionsoft (which we’ll get to in a couple weeks) is able to run advance automation sequences (like webinars and launch campaigns). ConvertKit can’t do this without decent amounts of hacking stuff together that their automation engine should be able to handle but isn’t capable of.

Love the tag line. But after thoroughly evaluating the app, I don’t find it to be the best representation of what ConvertKit is.

Perhaps the “Email marketing for professional bloggers” piece is true for some bloggers. But if we define “professional” as those that generate significant amounts of money from their blog by selling products or services, this gets harder to see ConvertKit as being a contributing factor due to the limitations of the service at this point.

This isn’t to say some professional bloggers and ex-Infusionsoft users don’t use and love ConvertKit. Some do. But I have a very tough time recommending that more advanced users use the service due to its current limitations.

Of course there are lots of nuances associated with picking an email service, so this isn’t a blanket, “Don’t use ConvertKit” statement but a general observation.

However, ConvertKit excels in other areas.

They have done a really good job of keeping the app easy to use and understand for beginners and more minimalist users.

If you are primarily focused on writing, publishing and using simple approaches to selling your products, ConvertKit is a great fit.

Or if you are just starting out it would be a great fit as well. Most of the bells and whistles of the more advanced services are just distractions in the early stages of growing your list. We actively recommend beginners use ConvertKit to get started and launch your first product. After you’ve past that milestone, it would be wise to re-evaluate your business and email service options.

ConvertKit is a great blend of features and simplicity without letting you get distracted by things you’re not ready for yet.

Note: One claim of ConvertKit is that they handle delivering emails from large lists (>500k) better than other services. Maybe this is accurate. Maybe not. At this point we’re unable to test this. We haven’t seen consistent reports of this on sub-500,000 subscriber lists.

Short Version:

If you geek out over marketing funnels and automation, don’t use ConvertKit.

If you don’t care about that stuff and want to focus on other things like writing and making product, it’s a good fit.

Drip: The Good, the Bad and My Recommendation 

 

Part 1: What are some of the funnest features of Drip?

Cool Feature #1: Email sequence blueprints

This feature is really cool! It grabbed my attention within 5 minutes of logging into the app.

Every ESP allows you to create email sequences. That’s standard stuff. But Drip goes a step further and gives you 11 different blueprints to chose from when creating your sequences.

This is how it works:

  1. Chose a blueprint.
  2. Press Install.
  3. Drip sets up the email sequence for you.
  4. You tweak the emails.
  5. Done.

This is a great idea and stellar execution.

It takes a formerly frustrating and time-consuming task and makes it brain-dead simple to do.

ConvertKit has a poor-man’s version of this feature, if you’ll remember. The way Drip has built theirs is awesome.

Cool Feature #2: Resend to un-opens with split testing

One basic thing that you can do to increase the number of people who read your emails is to re-send your broadcast email to those who didn’t open. Doing this 3-5 days after your original send date is standard practice.

Drip allows you to do this easier than any ESP I’ve seen.

At the point of sending your broadcast email you see this:

Cool Feature #3: Liquid conditional logic inside emails and workflows

One super-cool thing that Drip pioneered was putting conditional logic inside emails.

They do this by using an open-source programming language called Liquid.

Basically, this gives you the ability to show certain people one thing and others something entirely different based on custom fields in their contact record.

Merge fields are standard in any email service, but conditional logic is a different thing entirely.

Here is what that looks like in Drip.

In this example, you would be able to send ONE email to your list but show customers one message/link/deal and non-customers a completely different message/link/deal.

As we covered last week, ConvertKit has recently adopted a very similar concept in their service.

However, Drip gives you much more flexibility and expands the personalization well beyond tag logic.

To be fair though, Drips implementation of this is not beginner friendly at all (we’ll cover that more in the next section) while ConvertKit’s implementation is super simple.

Here are a few other code’y examples of what you can do with Liquid.

Here is a full list of all the crazy (and complicated things) you can do with Liquid and conditional logic.

You can also use this logic in their visual workflow builder. We’ll cover this in a minute.

Cool Feature #4: Visual Editor

The gold standard of any email service that handles automation and even the slightest bit of advanced email marketing stuff is having a visual editor.

Drip does.

And it’s pretty nice.

Here is what it looks like.

We’ll break down their visual editor in more depth in Part 3 of this review.

Cool Feature #5: Preview as subscribers

This could be classified as a minor feature, but I’ve found it extremely helpful and Drip is the only service I’ve seen to date that has it.

It is the ability to preview your emails through the eyes of specific subscribers on your email list before sending.

Here is what that looks like.

Imagine you’re using a basic merge field or even something more advanced like the conditional logic I showed you earlier. It’s super-simple to screw things up and send out a “Hey FIRSTNAME!” email to your entire list.

You can prevent that by checking your merge fields and conditional logic with this preview field.

This is a great little tweak and extremely helpful for preventing embarrassing mistakes.

Cool Feature #6: Easily track subscribers’ behavior on your website and trigger stuff based on that.

Ok, this part is really the most powerful and unique part of Drip I’ve seen.

Imagine this scenario…

1. Someone comes to your website about dog training.

2. They read 5 articles.

3. You (automatically) know that 4 of those 5 articles were about potty training a puppy.

4. You then (automatically) change up the CTAs on your site to target that specific problem.

5. That person opts in

6. You then (automatically) are able to match up all those pre-opt-in actions to their contact record.

That would be cool, right?

Well, Drip allows you to do that with the Javascript library.

Basically, when you first signup they give you a piece of JavaScript to stick on your site and it allows you to do all kinds of customization and crazy automated things I’ve not seen from any other service.

From that point forward, the user is cookied. Every time they come to your site, you can match up their behavior (email clicks, pages visited, etc.) with their Drip record. This is VERY powerful.

For a full breakdown of this, see Brenna’s article and course here.

Cool Feature #7: Unlimited domains and accounts

Have 3 different blogs or websites you run?

You can run them all on the same Drip account with their “unlimited domains” feature.

This is especially nice for agencies or freelancers who have multiple clients. It gives you the ability run 1 single Drip account for all of your sites or clients.

Drip simply bills you off of total subscribers in all accounts.

They are the only ones I’ve seen that offer this.

Cool Feature #8: Events vs. Tags

Back in the day when MailChimp, AWeber and Constant Contact were the only big players in this space, everyone used a list-based system.

Tags didn’t exist.

Customers got their own list. Blog subscribers got their own list. Content upgrade people got their own list. And the only way to send unique emails was to set up a different list and tie a (logically) dumb autoresponder series to that list.

There are many problems with that approach, not the least of which is you pay for duplicate subscribers and management of those lists is an absolutely nightmare.

Then a few years back, tags came along and made everyone’s lives much easier. Now there is just one record of your email address and as you perform certain actions, tags are applied to your account. Events like email sequences can be triggered when those tags are applied.

Now Drip has introduced a third way to handle list management: events.

Events are like Tags 2.0.

They allow you do a few pivotal things:

1. They store the date the tag was applied.

2. They can be applied multiple times.

3. They can store multiple fields.

So what does that mean?

Imagine this scenario:

You want to send an email to someone who has attended 3 or more of your webinars but has never bought from you.

With events that is super simple.

Just say, “Send email to anyone who Webinar Attendee > 3”

With tags it would look like an infinite IF/THEN logic tree that you have to constantly update with every new webinar you’ve done to make sure that webinar was counted. It would be all but impossible.

That’s just one scenario where Events make life MUCH easier over tags.

For a full run down of events and tags, read this.

Part 2: What are some of the most annoying parts of Drip?

Bad Part #1: No date timer. Unusable for live events.

I’m shocked that this is missing.

Right now you’re unable to send automated emails out at a specific date and time.

Which means you have to schedule broadcast email for any live events. Or manually manipulate the automated sequence as you go (which defeats the purpose of doing live events).

There are complicated hacks and workarounds, but this is a massive missing feature. (ConvertKit is missing this as well.)

I’ll cover this more in depth in Part 3.

Bad Part #2: Automations are scattered throughout the app and confusing.

Ever heard someone call Infusionsoft confusing to use?

Con-fusionsoft.

The reason for that is Infusionsoft started with a text based sequencing system (like ConvertKit has now). Then they built their visual editor. Then they added landing pages. Then they added e-commerce.

They kept adding stuff and adding stuff and adding stuff.

But they did a poor job of cleaning up the old systems as they went. That has left the app in a weird spot where everything feels bolted on. Many systems are clunky and don’t work together well or at all.

If Infusionsoft is 50 steps down the “BOLTED ON” road, then Drip is 3 steps down the same road.

A perfect example of this is automations.

You can set up automations when you create new forms, when you send broadcast emails, when you use their visual editor and when you use email campaigns.

That junk gets confusing and hard to troubleshoot.

It’s best summed up in this Drip user’s comment:

Things are confusing because Drip was originally built without a visual editor.

In those days the Campaigns section of the app handled email sequences. But after adding the visual editor they kept the visual builder around.

This is really confusing and makes no sense.

Bad Part #3: Not user-friendly for beginners and non-coders.

If you’re not a coder, you’re going to have a tough time with Drip.

Not their basic functionality like sending broadcast emails. But the slightly more advanced functionality is just harder to use.

Quick example: Using conditional logic in an email.

In Drip there are no conditional logic merge tags inside the editor. They just don’t exist in their drop down list.

Which means to even know you can use them, you have to go to a knowledge base article, trudge through lines of code that you most likely don’t understand, and attempt to figure out how to use them.

On the flip side, ConvertKit has a simple drop-down menu where you choose that option.

Took me 15 minutes to figure it out in Drip (and I knew what I was looking for). It took me 5 seconds in ConvertKit.

And in general Drip assumes a much higher level of coding ability off some tasks.

This is best summed up by this comment from a Drip user:

Bad Part #4: The visual editor is lacking.

You can’t drag and drop elements to different spots in your workflow.

You can’t set up date specific timers.

You can’t pull open, unsub or click rates on workflow emails.

You can’t save workflows and share them.

You can’t notate workflows for later debugging.

Overall, it’s good. But several deal-breaking features are non-existent as of now.

Part 3: How much does Drip cost?

Here is the pricing:

Drip has no on-boarding fee, which is really nice.

And they have a FREE account. Woot!

However, I’m somewhat bummed out by the free account and mostly find it useless.

Here is why:

It has a cap of 100 subscribers.

If you have less than 100 subscribers, your sole focus needs to be growing your list, NOT setting up ANY sort of automation or doing anything more than sending basic broadcast emails (if that). Every bell and whistle of Drip is a massive distraction for anyone in the <100 subscriber bucket.

I think Drip’s intentions were good here, but I think they missed the mark while giving up tons of revenue.

My suggestion: Bump the cap on this plan to 2,000 subscribers in order to directly compete with MailChimp’s free plan. But place a limit on those account of 5,000 emails sent per month. This would make the plan useful because it includes the type of people who need to use the more advanced features of Drip, but also puts a cap on server and support costs by allowing only a low number of email sends.

Anyhow, I’ll do more pricing breakdown at the very end of this series once we’ve gone through all the different services.

Part 4: How is Drip laid out?

Drip is made up of 4 basic building blocks

Building Block #1: User records (subscribers)

Everyone who is added onto your email list has a record. This is where email addresses and other information is stored.

There are 4 views inside a contact’s record.

View 1: Activity Timeline

View 2: Subscriptions (the campaigns/workflows they are subscribed to)

View 3: Emails (all emails sent to that user)

View 4: Properties (all the customer fields for that user)

Building Block #2: Forms

To get on your list, someone fills out a form. This can be a modal on your site or a landing page.

When they fill it out, a user record is created and added to your list.

This is what it looks like to create a form in Drip.

Building Block #3: Campaigns 

This is where things get a little weird.

You can create email sequences in two places. You can do it in the campaign editor or the visual editor. The campaign editor is a text-based editor (like ConvertKit’s sequences).

This is what that looks like:

Building Block #4: Visual Workflow

The other place you can build email sequences (and advanced automations) is the visual editor.

Here is what a slightly more complex sequence would look like.

Part 4: How does Drip do the stuff?

After the ConvertKit review, I’ve decided to add in a few more criteria for this section and the next section. Once we’re done with this series, I’ll go back and update the ConvertKit review to reflect several new things I’ve added to this review.

Scenario #1: How easy is it to send broadcast emails?

 

Overall Grade: B-

Scenario #2: How does it handle Level 1 automation?

Level 1 = Welcome series, content upgrades and basic email courses.

 

Overall grade: B+

Scenario #3: How does it handle Level 2 automation?

Level 2 = Live events like webinars and course launches AND automated events like evergreen webinars and drip funnels.

 

Overall Grade for Live Events: D

Overall Grade for Automated Stuff: A+

Scenario #4: How does it handle Level 3 automation?

Level 3 = Really advanced stuff like onsite personalization and CTA customization.

 

Overall Grade: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Check out Brennan’s course on Level 3 automation with Drip.

Part 5: What about all the other things? Does it do the things!? 

Item #1: How is their support?

Support was great overall.

Drip offers both email support and live chat support in their app.

Live chat was responsive and decently helpful (although they did try to tell me to send an email to support, which seemed weird).

Email support was responsive and answered my question in less than an hour.

Overall Grade: A

Item #2: Do they have an active community?

They do! It is a combo of a Center + LeadPages + Drip community so the questions in the group are wide-ranging.

But overall it’s helpful.

Here is a more complex question that was posted:

And here are some of the responses.

Overall Grade: A+

Item #3: Does it have a 3rd party marketplace for add-ons?

It does not have an official marketplace, no. But due to Drip’s advanced API and Level 3 automation capability, there is a small group of apps and courses starting to sprout up (like Brennan’s) to help you add on to Drip’s stock functionality.

Overall Grade: D+
Item #4: Does it have a fully functional API that is well-documented?

Yes it does. Every programmer and engineer I talked to raved about their API.

I have no way of objectively grading it at this time, but I hear VERY good things.

Item #5: Does it have good integrations with 3rd party apps?

Yes, it does.

Here is a full listing of those integration partners.

Overall Grade: B

Item #6: Can you edit unsubscribe message?

Yes, you can. There is a setting in the Account > Settings tab that lets you add on and phrase your unsubscribe message pretty much any way you want.

Overall Grade: A

Item #7: Can you easily run A/B tests?

Yes and no.

Weirdly enough, you can run A/B tests on automated emails but not on broadcast emails.

Odd.

Overall Grade: B

Item #8: How good is their reporting?

Their broadcast reporting is really good.

Their automated sequence reporting is sub-par (only very basic data. no open/click data on individual emails).

But overall, solid reporting dashboard and insight. Better than average.

Overall Grade: B-

Item #9: Does it have pretty email templates?

No.

This apparently is a conscious decision. They only support plain text emails.

However, you can use a template-building tool to create graphical emails and then copy/paste the HTML into the editor.

Overall Grade: D

Item #10: Is the app pretty bug-free and fast-loading?

Yes, it is.

The only constant for every Drip user we talked to was the stability and overall bug-free-ness of app.

Overall Grade: A

Item #11: How stable is their email editor?

It is good and bug-free. No weird issues, though their image editor is a little less than user-friendly.

Overall Grade: A-

Item #12: What service do they use to send their emails?

Send Grid.

Item #13: Can you get a dedicated sending IP?

Yes, you can.

This is only of concern for people with much bigger lists.

To get it, just email support.

Item #14: Do they auto-upgrade and downgrade your account based on subscriber count?

Yes, they do.

If your list shrinks, your bill automatically shrinks.

If your list grow, it auto-expands.

🙂

Item #15: Can you give subscribers a selective unsubscribe page?

Yes, you can.

There is a simple setting in the app that lets users opt out of specific sequences or your entire list.

This is a a very good thing.

Item #16: Do they charge you for people who are unsubscribed but still in your account?

No.

if people opt out but stay in your Drip account, you are not charged.

Item #17: Can you schedule emails (automated and broadcast) to send based on the subscriber’s time zone?

Yes, you can.

They make it very easy to do this.

Part 6: TL;DR: My take and summary of Drip

Here are the best things about Drip:

  • Very robust. Can do almost anything. Maybe the most powerful ESP I’ve seen.
  • Preview emails through the eyes of specific subscribers
  • Email campaign blueprints for quickly setting up email series
  • Unlimited domains hosted on the same account
  • Events (these are extremely powerful)
  • Website tracking
  • Liquid conditional logic in all emails and workflows
  • Fancy widget that you can put on your site (original functionality of the app)
  • Free plan to get started with
  • Auto-resend of subscribe confirmation emails
  • Really nice broadcast resent feature (best in industry)
  • Visual campaign editor
  • Really good 3rd-party integration base
  • Selective unsubscribe screen
  • Dedicated IPs for advanced users

Here is a list of the not-so-great things about Drip:

  • Overall a slightly more difficult app to use
  • Not tailored for beginners, but more advanced users (not sure this is a negative)
  • Automations are all over the place. Need to kill some of the legacy parts of the app and consolidate things.
  • Visual Editor is only average right now
    • Can’t drag and drop things. This is a giant pain in the butt. Has to be addressed.
    • Can’t copy and paste elements in the visual editor. Another giant pain in the butt.
    • Can’t set date-specific timers. Complete deal-breaker for doing any type of live event (launch, webinar etc.)
    • Very limited analytics on workflows
    • Can’t save workflows as templates or duplicate them easily
    • Inability to put notes in workflows (makes more complicated sequences hard to debug)
  • Free plan is kind of lame in that the people it addresses don’t need that functionality. Strategic error.
  • UX is a bit confusing on basic tasks
  • No graphical email templates

Summary:

After test-driving Drip for a week, talking with many active users and surveying 75+ current and former users, Drip feels like a Ferrari that you need a 6-week driving course to fully use and understand.

If you can’t code or aren’t up for spending time reading documentation, chatting with support and learning some basic programming, Drip will be a Camry for you. Not the Ferrari it could be.

Also, I think Drip needs to be extremely careful. It could easily become a bloated convoluted app like Infusionsoft has become. There are relics of Drip’s past that confuse users and need to be pruned. Their visual editor can be extremely powerful, but it’s not there yet.

One concern with Drip is that it’s built by software engineers and was originally intended to be used by SaaS companies. Now that Drip’s market is expanding to a more non-coder user base, they are going to have to very intentional about making sure people like me and you are able to use the app without getting confused and frustrated.

That being said, I like Drip a lot.

They excel in many areas.

Overall, it can do more than any email service I have seen (save for that stinking date timer issue), and I’m extremely optimistic about their future if they are able to navigate the above issues successfully.

Beginner tasks like broadcast emails and basic email sequences are easy to execute. The app itself is very stable and bug-free. Support is very good and they have a great team that listens and is very interested in building a world-class product.

Short Version:

If you are a beginner marketer with a small list and just getting started, don’t use Drip.

If you do open/close course launches or slightly advanced live events, don’t use Drip (until they fix this timer issue).

If you are more advanced and digging into a little code doesn’t scare you, it’s a good fit.

ActiveCampaign: The Good, the Bad and My Recommendation 

Part 1: What are some of the funnest features of ActiveCampaign?

Cool Feature #1: Split testing in automations 

This is huge! No other email service that I’ve evaluated or used has this feature and ActiveCampaign has executed it brilliantly.

It’s the ability to split test nearly anything inside an automated sequence.

This allows you to do things like:

1. Split test the subject lines of emails in your launch sequence.

2. Split test the time of day that you are sending out your automated emails.

3. Split test entirely different sequences against each other.

And on and on.

You would think this type of thing would be super-common nowadays, but it isn’t. Drip doesn’t have it, ConvertKit doesn’t have it. Infusionsoft doesn’t have it. And of course MailChimp and AWeber don’t either.

To my knowledge ActiveCampaign is the only ESP that has this. And it’s a game changer. Especially if you are generating >$100k a year from automated sequences (like live webinars, launches, ppc funnels, etc.)

They’ve done a great job of building the feature too.

For example…

You can filter down the people who go into the test by almost any conceivable parameter, set the test’s duration and its winning conditions.

Major kudos to ActiveCampaign for doing so well on this.

Cool Feature #2: Automation Marketplace 

What if you could use the same automated sequences that the best marketers use?

Like, copy and paste it into your email service?

ActiveCampaign gives you the ability to do this. They’ve setup an automations marketplace where other users can give away or sell their automations.

And it’s pretty awesome!

Go browse around and check them out.

These are like the pre-built email campaigns that Drip has, but even better because they’re fully built-out automated sequences.

Pretty baller.

Cool Feature #3: Segment builders everywhere

In nearly every piece of the app, you have the ability to heavily segment your contacts and target only the specific ones you want to talk to.

This seems basic, but the layering of these conditions and the depth of these conditions in ActiveCampaign is very good.

Cool Feature #4: Reply tracking and automations for broadcasts

The point of automating is to scale normal human activity.

One of the most common calls to action in an email is to “hit reply and share X.” I personally use this all the time.

However, automating actions based on that reply is very hard. It generally requires duct taping multiple solutions together or just manually replying to everyone who sends in an email (a viable but time-consuming solution).

ActiveCampaign has a great solution for this: reply tracking.

You can do this in a broadcast campaign or an automated sequence. You can then trigger a series of actions that happen when someone responds.

This is a really nice niche feature.

It allows you to do things like:

  • Immediately apply a discount to the account of anyone who responds.
  • Immediately trigger an email back to someone who responds.
  • Deliver a bonus to anyone who responds.

Cool Feature #5: Tons of automation triggers

One of the things I was most impressed with was the number of automation triggers that ActiveCampaign has.

Of the software I’ve used and evaluated so far, this is the most unique and flexible group of automation triggers I’ve come across to date

Part 2: What are some of the most annoying parts of ActiveCampaign?

Bad Part #1: The UX can be really confusing and annoying.

This is by far my biggest issue with ActiveCampaign.

The UX is a nightmare in many spots. It feels like they’ve spent so much time building features that they forgot to make the app easy to use.

Time after time I ran into usability issues, not being able to find things that should have been obvious, not knowing which buttons to click, and on and on.

By the end of my first major session with the app, I wanted to pound my head against my desk.

As a comparison, a few months back I used Instapage for the first time and was blown away by how incredibly easy and awesome the app was to use.

ActiveCampaign is the polar opposite of that.

A few examples of what I mean…

Example #1: Automation Marketplace

One of the best features in the app is their automation marketplace.

But the experience of installing an app is a nightmare.

Watch this…

 

Example #2: Visual email editor

This is just UX 101. Doing basic things like font changes and settings tweaks were frustrating due to poor UX design.

Example #3: Visual editor notifications

Visual editors are hard to design and implement well.

But it became really hard to do anything because there was so much going on. The notifications can’t be closed and come back to later, and when you try to address them there is no obvious way to.

There is just so much going on in this one screen that it’s easy to get lost and annoyed.

Example #4: Setting up an absolute date timer

After spending an hour trying to see if I could set up an absolute date timer for an automated sequence (ex: do X action on Feb. 28th @ 9 AM CT), I finally pinged support to ask for help.

They responded back quickly with this tutorial video.

After watching the video, I didn’t feel badly that I couldn’t figure it out. It feels like they tried to design that process in the most complicated way possible.

It takes 20 click to tell ActiveCampaign to send an email on February 28th at 9 AM.

TWENTY!

That’s insanity.

Alternatively, this is how Infusionsoft accomplishes the exact same task with 5 clicks and a much better UX.

Example #5: Sending a broadcast email

This is the screen you see to start creating a broadcast message.

Why does this screen exist at all? 5 of the 6 options in this screen belong somewhere else.

Automated, Autoresponder (a word used no where else in the app), RSS and Date triggered aren’t even broadcast message options. They redirect to different portions of the app.

And split testing: While I love being able to split test a broadcast email, why is it on this screen at all? Shouldn’t that be an option at the end before I send?

It’s all really confusing. It’s like no one has sat down in recent months/years and looked at the app objectively to think through how everything flows together.

There’s more, but I’ll stop there.

Bad Part #2: Overall app performance 

My experience with ActiveCampaign’s overall app performance was sub-optimal.

Specifically I’m speaking of the app’s load times.

On many occasions I encountered this screen for 20+ seconds.

Trying to send a broadcast email, trying to select segments and trying to review reports.

It was EXTREMELY frustrating.

I tried multiple ActiveCampaign accounts and experienced this load-time delay on all of them.

If it takes me 2 minutes of waiting for screens to load in order to send a broadcast email, someone in produce development has lost their way.

Bad Part #3: Why on earth do they still use lists?

The most perplexing part of ActiveCampaign is that they are a CRM and tag-based email service, but they insist that you use lists to send broadcast messages.

It’s weird and frustrating.

If you want to be a list system, great do that.

If you want to be a CRM system, do that.

But don’t MAKE ME create a list in order to send a stinking email. It makes no sense. When I explained this to them, they didn’t seem to get how odd this was either.

Here is a video walk-through so you know exactly what I’m talking about.

 

Bad Part #4: Feature creep

Feature creep is something that every product has to work against. We talked about this some in the Drip review, but It feels like ActiveCampaign is even further down that road.

Two examples:

Example #1: They built a project management system into the app.

If I want a good PM tool, I’ll go buy one. Focus on improving your UX and load times and getting rid of the archaic list requirements and not building random modules in the app like this.

Example #2: Ability to pay $ to preview emails in certain email clients.

This is an interesting niche feature that could have a place at some point, but instead of building something like this that almost no one is going to use, why not spend time building the ability to send broadcast emails based on the subscriber’s time zone (a core feature every ESP has except ActiveCampaign)?

Part 3: How much does ActiveCampaign cost?

Here is the pricing:

There is no on-boarding or setup fee for using ActiveCampaign.

They do offer a free 1:1 on boarding call with all new users. This is pretty awesome.

Overall, this is decent. Not the cheapest and not the most expensive.

We’ll do more pricing analysis once we’ve completed all 7 reviews.

Part 4: How is ActiveCampaign laid out?

Here is a series of tutorials they have on their site: http://www.activecampaign.com/training.

TL;DR

There are 4 building blocks of ActiveCampaign.

Building Block #1: Contacts

Any time someone subscribes, they become a contact in your ActiveCampaign account.

Building Block #2: Forms

 

To become a subscriber, someone has to fill out a form and give you their email address.

That is done in a form.

This is what ActiveCampaign’s form-builder looks like.

Screen 1: Initial set-up

Screen 2: Visual form builder (very nice!)

Building Block #3: Campaigns 

Campaigns = Broadcast emails.

We’ll cover these more in depth in the next section.

This is what the broadcast email builder looks like.

Building Block #4: Automations

This is the visual workflow builder.

It’s powerful. A tad clunky to use at times, but really good overall.

This is what it looks like.

Part 5: How does ActiveCampaign do the stuff?

Scenario #1: How easy is it to send broadcast emails?

 

Overall Grade: C

Scenario #2: How does it handle Level 1 automation?

Level 1 = Welcome series, content upgrades and basic email courses

 

Overall grade: B

Scenario #3: How does it handle Level 2 automation?

Level 2 = Live events like webinars and course launches AND automated events like evergreen webinars and drip funnels

 

Overall Grade for Live Events: B+

Overall Grade for Automated Stuff: A-

Scenario #4: How does it handle Level 3 automation?

Level 3 = Really advanced stuff like onsite personalization and CTA customizations

It appears to handle on-site tracking very similarly to Drip, in that it allows you many advanced customization options.

However, as of this review, I’m ill-equipped to fully evaluate this portion of the app.

I’ll update in the future with more information.

Overall Grade: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Part 6: What about all the other things? Does it do the things!? 

Item #1: How is their support?

Their support is really good.

They have both live chat support and email support.

The live chat support was really quick and helpful. Overall domain knowledge was high and they went out of their way to answer a few of my more advanced questions. They even created a personalized video showing me how to do the thing I was asking about.

Super cool!

Email support was equally responsive and helpful.

Overall Grade: A+

Item #2: Do they have an active community?

Sorta.

No Facebook group and no Slack group.

But they do have an internal forum thing. You can access it at https://community.activecampaign.com/.

It’s interesting: After evaluating two other services that have active Facebook groups, being forced to use an old-school forum felt weird and surprisingly impersonal.

I didn’t like it at all. And based on the lack of new threads and activity in that forum, customers don’t either.

With Facebook or Slack there is a certain immediacy and normalcy to the platforms. Forums just don’t have that. If you’re going to use a forum, do your best to make it a vibrant community.

Overall Grade: C+

Item #3: Does it have a 3rd-party marketplace for add-ons?

Sorta.

ActiveCampaign has a fairly large group of people who have built 3rd-party plugins. But it doesn’t have a central repository for that directory.

You’re going to have to hunt them down individually. I don’t understand why more services don’t create an internal 3rd-party marketplace directory.

Overall Grade: C+

Item #4: Does it have a fully functional API that is well-documented?

It does have what appears to be a solid API that is documented.

At this time I don’t posses the skills to fully evaluate it. However, I hope to develop criteria to do this in future updates to this review series.

You can find their API at http://www.activecampaign.com/api/

Item #5: Does it have good integrations with 3rd-party apps?

Yes! It integrated with every major app we use in our business.

Here is a full listing of all 100+ integrations.

Overall Grade: A

Item #6: Can you edit unsubscribe messages?

Yes. Everything except the word “unsubscribe” is editable.

Item #7: Can you easily run A/B tests?

You can run A/B tests in both broadcast and automation sequences.

 

Unfortunately I would not classify many features in ActiveCampaign as “easy to use.”

Overall Grade: B+

Item #8: How good is their reporting?

Their reporting is solid overall. All of the basic numbers are available for both broadcasts and automated sequences.

At times, the reports do take an eternity to load, sometimes up to 30 seconds for some of the more basic screens to show up. This can be pretty frustrating and it can mean slow progress overall.

Get used to seeing this if you rely on ActiveCampaign reports:

Overall Grade: B-

Item #9: Does it have pretty email templates?

This seems to be an area where Activ Campaign really cares about aesthetics.

They have 27 different templates and a drag-and-drop visual editor that lets you create pretty much any design you want.

The drag-and-drop builder isn’t my preference. I find most of these visual editors a bit clunky and limiting. Theirs has its own quirks and nuances, but overall it’s solid.

Overall Grade: B

Item #10: Is the app pretty bug-free and fast-loading?

I didn’t encounter many reports or any personal occurrences of straight-up bugs in the app.

But the app itself has some severe performance issues.

The most simple of screens can take 5-10 seconds to load at times. Others can take up to 30-45 seconds to load. On one occasion I was trying to send a simple broadcast email and I encountered 3 different loading screens that took 25+ seconds each to load.

This is just nuts.

The first 2 hours of me using the app were extremely painful. After I got used to sitting around waiting for screens to load, I wanted to hurt myself slightly less. They have to address this.

Overall Grade: D+

Item #11: How stable is their email editor?

The email editor is pretty solid.

I didn’t encounter any major issues here. However, any time you go to a visual builder like they have, you definitely open up Pandora’s box of potential issues.

I would much prefer that each ESP give you an option of a visual builder (like ActiveCampaign) or plain text builder (like Drip and ConvertKit use) or just stick to plain text.

It’s a tricky thing to navigate, because many marketers are all wrapped up in these graphic email formats, but they typically don’t perform as well and they open up a myriad of deliverability and IP reputation issues

But overall, their email editor is good.

Overall Grade: B+

Item #12: What service do they use to send their emails?

None. They send their emails via their own servers.

Item #13: Can you get a dedicated sending IP?

Yes, you can.

Item #14: Do they auto-upgrade and downgrade your account based on subscriber count?

No, they don’t.

If you used to have 10,000 subscribers on your list, and you did a list purge and now have 5,000, you will have to manually ping support to downgrade you.

This is kinda lame. It would take less than a day to write the code that would do this.

There is no reason not to do it. Services that don’t lose 5% respect from me.

Item #15: Can you give subscribers a selective unsubscribe page?

No.

If people unsubscribe from the list they are unsubscribed. They have no ability to selectively unsubscribe from certain sequences.

Item #16: Do they charge you for people who are unsubscribed but still in your account?

No. If people unsubscribe, you are not billed for them, even if you keep them in your ActiveCampaign account

Item #17: Can you schedule emails (automated and broadcast) to send based on the subscriber’s time zone?

Yes and no.

You can do it in automated sequences but not broadcasts.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If this seems odd to you, you’re not alone.

Part 6: TL;DR: My take and summary of ActiveCampaign

Here are the best things about ActiveCampaign:

  • Split testing automation sequences
  • Very powerful automation engine. Will do nearly anything you can think of
  • Unlimited custom fields
  • Auto-detect time zone of subscribers based on IP address
  • Can share automations
  • Can install other people’s automations
  • Nice dashboard that shows you important numbers
  • Native and easy to use SMS integration
  • Good form modal options
  • Solid visual form builder
  • Solid visual email builder
  • Solid visual automation editor
  • Very good conditional logic in emails
  • Tons of automation triggers and actions (best in class)
  • Replay tracking

Here is a list of the not-so-great things about ActiveCampaign:

  • The most frustrating UX I’ve encountered to date (consider this a roll-up of all 28 frustrating UX things I found along the way)
  • Requiring lists to send broadcast emails
  • Insanely slow load times of many screens
  • Beginning stage of feature creep

Summary:

After spending 1 week using ActiveCampaign, talking to 23 different users, surveying 50+ users, chatting with their team and writing this review, I’ve come to appreciate and love several aspects of the app.

However, it is the most frustrating piece of software I’ve used in recent memory.

Slow load times aren’t a deal breaker on their own, but add to that a UX that feels like it was cobbled together in a rush with no foresight or review process and it’s mind-numbingly frustrating.

Things that should be simple and take seconds, like sending a simple broadcast email, are hard and complex.

Things that could be accomplished in 5 clicks, like setting a date-specific timer, take 20.

Things that are meant to be helpful, like notifications in the visual editor to set your “from” name in emails, are frustrating.

Drip and ConvertKit get a pass on some of their issues because they are less than 5 years old and have small teams. But ActiveCampaign doesn’t get a pass. They have a team of 100 people, have been around for over 13 years, and have raised over $30,000,000 in funding.

Use $150,000 of that to hire a UX person to fix these issues.

Use another $500,000 of that to optimize the app for speed, so that pulling a basic report doesn’t take 2 minutes to load.

Do those two things and it may just be the best app on the market. Without it, it’ll make you bang your head against the wall.

There are many things that ActiveCampaign is good at.

It isn’t all doom and gloom. Once you get past the rough edges, ActiveCampaign is a nice app. With marketing automation second to none and a remarkable integration directory and feature set, it’s flexible enough to do almost anything you can dream up.

Their conditional email logic is great.

Their automation split testing is the only one on the market, to my knowledge.

And their team is extremely responsive and wants to build an amazing app.

Short Version:

If you are a beginner or efficiency is something you value, ActiveCampaign will make you want to physically harm yourself.

If you need extremely powerful automation and can tolerate a slow app with some clunky UX, ActiveCampaign is a really good option

Coming next week…

Next week I’ll be doing an exhaustive review of MailChimp.

I used MailChimp when I first started Videofruit. But it’s been 3+ years since I’ve been in the app. I know they’ve added a lot since then, so I’m excited to dig in.

Also, if you would, please let me know in the comment section what I missed on the ConvertKit, Drip and ActiveCampaign reviews. I’ve never done reviews before so I’m confident these first ones probably sucked or I glossed over major elements I should have spent more time on. Let me know what those things are.

Each week as we review these services, I’ll be going back to past reviews to add in commentary and thoughts for comparison sake.

As I evaluate each service, more information is generated that can add context to each service and feature

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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.

  • 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?