ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign: Which is better for your email marketing?

February 15 2017 – 04:30pm

Choosing the right email marketing platform is critical if you’re running an online business. There’s nothing I spend more money on in my business than sending emails. (There’s also nothing that makes me more money than sending emails.) So I thought I’d do a review comparing ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign.

I spent years evaluating different email service providers before finally switching from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. My needs outgrew MailChimp, and I’m thrilled to be using ActiveCampaign.

Does that mean you should sign up for ActiveCampaign, too? Not at all. Different marketers have different needs, preferences, and budgets.

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Here’s a video comparison, if you prefer.

Note: I’m an affiliate of both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. I earn a small percentage if you sign up with either of them using one of my links (at no cost to you). Please consider using one of these links if you appreciate the care and work that went into writing this article.

Sign up for ConvertKit (with a 30-day moneyback trial) »

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This comparison is written by an author, podcaster, & online course-builder

I’ve tried to write this comparison so it will be useful to many types of people, but it will be colored by my perspective. My business essentially works like this:

An important caveat: ActiveCampaign has three service levels

Keep in mind as you read this that ActiveCampaign has three levels of plans, which affect the features offered.

I use the “Lite” plan, which means I don’t get the CRM, nor the lead scoring, as well as other features. To see the full breakdown, check out ActiveCampaign’s pricing and feature structure.

ConvertKit only has one level of service. I’ll indicate in this article when I’m talking about ActiveCampaign features that require more than a “Lite” plan.

ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign: Which is right for me?

Before I get into too much detail, here’s my quick assessment of who should use ConvertKit, and who should use ActiveCampaign.

The best features of ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign

ConvertKit does these things better than ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign does these things better than ConvertKit.

The biggest complaints about ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign

Let me start this section by reminding you of this important caveat: Email Service Providers are like spouses. No matter what Email Service Provider you choose, there is going to be something about them that drives you up the wall.

They’ll even do quirky things that make no sense. Sometimes, someone will complain that they aren’t getting the emails they signed up for, for example. Things like this will happen no matter what service you use (especially if you have a big list).

You just need to balance the things you’ve gotta have with the things you can’t stand.

ConvertKit complaints

ActiveCampaign Complaints

Understanding ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign

Here’s how ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign think about the various pieces of their service.

How I use ActiveCampaign (& how I would use ConvertKit)

After years of exploring various ESPs, I did end up switching from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. Here’s how I use ActiveCampaign.

Much of what I’ll show you was not possible in ConvertKit when I switched from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. But, in the process of writing this article, I learned that not only is much of this possible, much of it would be drastically easier in ConvertKit than in ActiveCampaign. (Still, probably not enough so for me to go through switching again.)

Email lists on ActiveCampaign vs ConvertKit

ActiveCampaign Lists

My main email list is “01 Design for Hackers” (the “01” is a part of an internal numbering system I use). “02 Summer of Design (trial)” is for contacts on a trial for my Summer of Design email course (when available). Once they have paid for the course, they end up on “02 Summer of Design.”

I won’t go into the other lists (and there are several beyond this screenshot), except for what follows.

On ConvertKit, there’s only one List, so I would use Segments, Tags, and Forms to filter my Subscribers.

Email capture on ActiveCampaign vs. ConvertKit

Sumo ActiveCampaign Automation

My ActiveCampaign Automation for incoming Sumo leads.

I use several of the email collection tools of Sumo. I connect Sumo to its own list, then handle the incoming contacts with the above automation. Adding the “Design Pitfalls” Tag triggers an email course Automation, and I fill my “Referrer” field with the name of the tool.

ConvertKit Email Capture Forms

Form style options on ConvertKit.

On ConvertKit, they have a pop-over option, and easy-to-create lead capture boxes for within layouts. I would probably still use Sumo if I had ConvertKit. It doesn’t appear on ConvertKit that I can have many custom fields for Subscribers (such as “Referrer”), so that would limit data I could collect on how different lead sources lead to sales.

Email courses on ActiveCampaign vs. ConvertKit

My current email course to learn design is Design Pitfalls. I programmed the sign up form into my page, along with this countdown timer to sign up for the course.

design-pitfalls-sign-up

This deadline to sign up for the course – every Friday night –  makes it a collective event. This drives sharing, and helps stress that you’re giving away something valuable. I prefer it to just immediately sending an autoresponder sequence.

As the deadline approaches, I drive sharing by sending out one last email every Friday, reminding subscribers to invite their friends so they don’t miss out on this iteration of the course.

This is the Automation that I use to drive this.

ConvertKit Welcome Automation

Creating email courses is more complicated on Activecampaign vs ConvertKit

The beginning of my email course Automation on ConvertKit.

The email course itself is another Automation. I have to build it piece-by-piece, and it’s cumbersome to create and edit each individual email, as well as build in the time delays.

Creating email courses is easier on ConvertKit vs Activecampaign

Creating an email course on ConvertKit with a Sequence.

On ConvertKit, creating an email course – or a Sequence – is incredibly easy. It’s much easier to create an email course on ConvertKit vs Activecampaign. I can quickly switch between emails to compose or edit.

Email sequences of any kind are easier to set up on ConvertKit vs Activecampaign

ConvertKit Sequence Settings.

I can also set preferences, such as the template or send time, for all emails in the Sequence at once.

I can choose which days the emails send at the Sequence level, or at the individual email level.

Overall, Sequences are far easier on ConvertKit vs Activecampaign, and you can handle most situations, but it doesn’t give you nearly complete control like ActiveCampaign does. After playing with ConvertKit’s Sequence builder, it looks like I could, in fact, have a Friday night deadline, and send my lessons only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. So, ConvertKit would fit my needs in this case.

Sales funnels on ActiveCampaign vs. ConvertKit

Once students have finished my free course, I promote my D4H Video course with a week-long build-up, followed by a week-long offer.

I build this sequence as an Automation.

d4h-video-sales-activecampaign-automation

Beginning of ActiveCampaign Automation for D4H Video sales.

Once the offer expires, they go into another Automation, which introduces them to archives of my content, followed by another Automation promoting White Hot Course.

article-archives-activecampaign-automation

On ConvertKit, I could build these in Sequences, and as contacts finished each Sequence, I could set up Automations to take them into the next Sequence. I could filter Subscribers who are already customers, to prevent them from ending up in a sales Sequence. However, I’m not sure whether Subscribers who convert into customers would be removed, once already in a Sequence.

automation-builder-convertkit

I’m not sure how I would be able to track conversion rates of Sequences within ConvertKit. In ActiveCampaign, you can create “Goals” to track what percentage of contacts convert, however, I prefer to end each Automation with a “wait until has Tag” condition to get exact numbers, which I can then review in Reports. (If a contact has “completed” an automation, in which case they’ve been Tagged as customer, that means they bought.)

Pruning inactive subscribers on ActiveCampaign vs. ConvertKit

I spend a lot of money sending people emails. I only want to send emails to people who want them. So, I actively get rid of people who aren’t reading my emails.

Anecdotally, this keeps my open rates high, which gives my emails a lower chance of ending up in the spam folder. I could be leaving money on the table, but I don’t want to be sending free content to people who aren’t paying attention.

open-recency-activecampaign-automation

This Automation checks periodically to see if a contact has opened any emails. It adds a tag based on the number of days it’s been since they opened an email, removing the previous Tag in the process. (I got this automation from this blog post by ActiveCampaign, about subscriber engagement.)

My Reactivation campaign, for pruning inactive subscribers.

My Reactivation campaign, for pruning inactive subscribers.

Once a contact hasn’t opened an email in 6 months, I send them to my “Reactivation” Automation. This gives them the option of clicking to confirm they still want my emails, clicking to tell me they don’t have tracking on (this adds a Tag to keep me from bugging them again), or they can unsubscribe. I email them a few times, and eventually unsubscribe them if I get no response.

I couldn’t build Automations like these in ConvertKit. But, ConvertKit does count subscribers as “Cold,” if they haven’t opened or clicked in the past 90 days, and they’ve been on the List for at least 30 days. This is outlined in this blog post by ConvertKit, which explains a manual method of running a reactivation campaign.

So, with ConvertKit, they set the parameters for deciding who is “Cold,” and I would have to manually prune inactive subscribers.

ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign Pricing

I’m talking about price last because I believe it should be the least important factor in choosing an Email Service Provider. What’s more important is that you have features that fit your email marketing strategy, and interaction that fits your workflow.

As you can see, ConvertKit is consistently a little more expensive than ActiveCampaign’s “Lite” plan. However, ActiveCampaign’s “Small Business” plan is more expensive than ConvertKit.

# of SubscribersConvertKitActiveCampaign (Lite)ActiveCampaign (Plus)ActiveCampaign (Professional)ActiveCampaign (Enterprise)
All prices on per month basis.
1,000$29$23$55$129$229
5,000$79$69$135$199$359
10,000$119$111$199$279$399
25,000$199$179$319$479Get Pricing »
Learn more »Learn more »Learn more »Learn more »

Try ConvertKit AND ActiveCampaign

I’m at nearly 3,000 words now comparing ConvertKit with ActiveCampaign. There’s probably some aspect of your unique email marketing needs that I didn’t cover.

There’s no substitute for just trying out several ESPs. It gives you an opportunity to really see how things work, and do some dry runs of various marketing scenarios you imagine.

I really recommend signing up for both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign will give you a 14-day free trial, and ConvertKit will give you your money back within 30 days of sign up (check on their website, under Pricing > FAQ before signing up).

Sign up for ConvertKit (with a 30-day moneyback trial) »

Get a 14-day free trial of ActiveCampaign »

I hope I’ve covered this all in a useful way, and you can make an informed decision about choosing ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Want to 4x your creative output? Click here for my free toolkit »

This post is filed under Business.