ActiveCampaign is an email marketing, CRM, and marketing automation solution that can propel your digital marketing activities to new heights. We really like its In-depth reporting, hyper-personalization of marketing messaging, and extensive third-party integrations that help to make ActiveCampaign one of the best-in-class marketing tools.
This in-depth ActiveCampaign review aims to provide you with the information you’ll need to make a purchasing decision.
This ActiveCampaign review will cover:
- The main features of the tool
- The main pros and cons
- Explain the pricing tiers
- Suggest which types of businesses ActiveCampaign is best suited for
- Recommend some alternatives
Choosing an email autoresponder application is a critical decision for your business. While it is possible to change your autoresponder software, it can be a painful process. It’s much better to get your decision right the first time.
Years ago, email marketing merely involved the construction of simple email sequences. And it frequently meant going back and forth between your existing email automation software and an external CMS – making it difficult to control the sales process.
ActiveCampaign now makes it much easier with its built-in marketing automation CRM to keep everything within the same platform. You can send an email to a contact, and ActiveCampaign will update the record in the CRM, which makes it easy for all departments to track progress from a central location.
So, let’s begin our ActiveCampaign Review and start by looking at some of the features.
What is ActiveCampaign?
ActiveCampaign is an email and marketing automation tool. You can use ActiveCampaign only to send out a newsletter blast, but its strength lies in the complex automation you can create to personalize your prospects' sales journey.
ActiveCampaign helps you manage the complete email marketing process.
As you start, you’ll need a way to capture a prospect's email address. ActiveCampaigns Landing Page and Forms tools enable you to design and deploy these with minimal fuss.
ActiveCampaign then helps you to nurture your email contacts into paying customers using automated email drip sequences. The versatility of automation options available with ActiveCampaign helps to personalize sales messaging – even down to the individual.
Use ActiveCampaign's automation functionality to develop workflows specific to your organization's needs. ActiveCampaign defines automation as ‘a chain of events that runs when triggered by starting conditions you define.'
It could be as straightforward as a welcome sequence of emails or be more involved, like triggering a product's sales process when a contact visits a particular page on your website.
You can even use automation to assign lead scores to your contacts, cutting down administration costs for your sales team in maintaining records.
The ‘Lite’ plan starts at only $9 per month for up to 500 contacts. But to access the inbuilt CRM, you need to take out the ‘Plus’ plan, which at the time of writing is $49 per month.
The ActiveCampaign CRM helps to make the application stand out from the competition. The CRM is not as accomplished as a specialized application like Salesforce; it’s a stripped-back interface, reminiscent of Trello, and might be all you need to manage customer onboarding.
Because you can achieve so much with ActiveCampaign, the dashboard at first glance can seem intimidating.
Fear not; there is plenty of articles and training videos available on Active Campaigns website. And should you need it, personalized one-on-one training is included in the ‘Professional’ plan subscription.
The next section of our ActiveCampaign review takes a look at some of ActiveCampaign’s features.
Ease Of Use
ActiveCampaign has been around since 2003 and has had plenty of time to optimize its usability. The clean, modern interface helps you to navigate the tool using the intuitive menus quickly.
If you like a helping hand when you start, you can attend a weekly ‘getting started’ webinar. There is also an in-depth knowledge-base, containing articles and on-demand videos available on their website.
The resources provided are neatly divided into themes. Once you’ve covered the getting started lessons, you can then go on to comprehensive classes for email marketing, marketing automation, and how to get the most from the CRM.
The tool is controlled from a central dashboard, giving you access to helpful wizards for getting started, creating campaigns, and building automation. You can see at-a-glance the number of contacts, active automations, and current sales pipeline performance.
Email List And Tag Management
To get the most from your email contact list, you need to segment and tag the addresses so you can send more effective personalized messaging. ActiveCampaign gives you two ways.
Firstly, you can quickly create bulk list segments with a few mouse clicks, ‘buying customers’ and ‘non-buying customers’, for example. Secondly, you can further qualify those segments with appropriate tags; say ‘customers with over 50 employees’.
Aside from the manual segmentation and tagging capabilities, ActiveCampaign enables you to assign contacts using automated triggers too.
If you want to know which of your contact has downloaded your white paper or visited a particular page on your website, you can set an automation trigger to assign a tag when this occurs.
Prospects turn into customers, usually after multiple interactions with your marketing message. ActiveCampaign helps to automate these numerous and sometimes small interactions.
It could be an email that’s sent out automatically on a contact’s birthday, or possibly a full cart-abandonment email sequence initiated when a prospect fails to complete checkout.
Numerous marketing processes are available baked-into ActiveCampaign’s automation function, but you can also design and deploy your own.
If you add a short piece of code to your website (like you do for Google analytics), you can design automation that launches when a prospect browses your website. For example, you can email a discount coupon to them related to the product they recently viewed.
No automation software would be complete without the optimization function of A/B testing. A/B Testing is the process of duplicating a campaign, making a slight change to one version, and delivering each campaign to an equal number of contacts.
You can review campaign performance then pick the most effective campaign to further optimize with additional split testing to drive further customer success.
Email Editor and Templates
You will naturally want the emails you send to your contacts to look professional. ActiveCampaign has 25 tried and tested pre-built email templates you can choose from.
Templates are themed around business goals, such as ‘sell a product’ or ‘make an announcement,’ and can be customized to fit your brand styles and color themes.
ActiveCampaign asked their existing users what they wanted most from email templates, which resulted in seven standard layouts. The templates require you only to change text and images using the simple drag-and-drop editor; then it's ready to send out to your contact list.
In the unlikely event, you can’t find a template you’re happy to start from; you can create your own design using the in-built editor.
With ActiveCampaign, you can send out emails in two formats: plain text and HTML. Plain text usually results in higher deliverability rates, but HTML emails give your contacts a richer experience.
Form Design Types
Email capture forms are a critical part of the email marketing process. You need to create a form that attracts attention, is simple to complete, and doesn’t create resistance to leaving contact details. Get this step wrong, and your marketing efforts are hampered from the outset.
ActiveCampaign has four different types of forms for you to choose from;
- The Inline Form
- Floating Box
- Modal Pop-up
- Floating Bar
Once you choose your form style, you can further customize the appearance and add or remove data entry fields. You can also set criteria for data fields to make them required or optional. Additionally, button colors, images, and CTA text can all be customized as you like.
Landing Pages (New)
You might choose to use a landing page for your business for many different reasons: test out a new idea before committing to a website, or provide an uncluttered page to convert paid advertising traffic better, to name just two.
ActiveCampaign’s users had long raised the criticism that ActiveCampaign did not have a landing page feature, so in 2020 ActiveCampaign launched the new landing page tool they call ‘Pages.'
Similar to the form creation tool, the landing page section has an intuitive easy to use drag-and-drop editor to help you build attractive landing pages. There is a library of templates for you to work from, helping to speed up rollout.
Your landing pages can also benefit from ActiveCampaign’s marketing automation technology. If the visitor to your landing page is an existing lead in your contact list, you can customize the page on-the-fly to show different landing page versions for distinct segments.
The Pages tool is a very recent addition to ActiveCampaign and is not included in the 14-day trial. If this feature is important to you, it will be worth you signing up for the Lite package to test its capabilities.
Apps & Integrations
It requires dozens of different applications to operate most businesses nowadays. So the autoresponder you choose must communicate seamlessly with the rest of your software stack.
At the time of writing, ActiveCampaign offers integration with over 310 other common applications.
ActiveCampaign syncs well with the usual suspects like Facebook and Salesforce, plus many more across the following categories.
- Developer Tools
- Event Management
- Lead Generation
- Social Media
ActiveCampaign also permits you to create custom integrations with other packages or sync up with any in-house packages you run with the easy-to-use API.
Email Tracking & Statistics
Open the reporting window in ActiveCampaign, and you’re presented with the usual performance statistics for your marketing activities; email opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and more.
ActiveCampaign, however, can go much deeper than this. It’s perhaps easier to ask: what data points do you NOT want to obtain? You can also sync ActiveCampaign’s reporting function with Google Analytics to deep dive into nearly every element of data you can think of.
Want to know the average time it takes for a sub-segment to respond to an offer? You can do that with ActiveCampaign.
The smorgasbord of statistics available from ActiveCampaign means that some users can find the reporting function over facing. Some users may feel the need to book in a one-on-one training session.
There are also integrations available to produce attractive dashboards to display real-time company analytics to monitor campaign performance.
Despite the potential complexities of ActiveCampaign, the software is rated highly for the support they provide. On the technology review website, G2.com, the real-life users of the software rate customer support 9 out of 10.
ActiveCampaign offers a comprehensive knowledge base and access to recorded and live webinars. From the ‘Professional’ subscription level and upwards, there is also one-on-one training provided as part of the monthly price too.
You can learn from other users on ActiveCampaign’s community forum. Plus, you can live chat with any support questions with ActiveCampaign’s support team. Enterprise-level subscribers also have access to phone support.
Support is provided across ten broad topic areas, including; automation, contact management, and the CRM software.
While pricing is always a concern when choosing software, the potential ROI attainable from email marketing should eclipse the price of ActiveCampaign's subscription for most users. Much better to determine which features you need for your business, then select the most relevant tier.
ActiveCampaign offers four pricing tiers to choose from; Lite, Plus, Professional, and Enterprise. Additionally, each tier's cost increases depending on the number of contacts you have in your marketing database.
The monthly prices mentioned below are based on a maximum of 500 contacts and assume you are paying for 12 months upfront. ActiveCampaign also provides a 14-day free trial for you to review the software yourself.
Lite – $9. The basic package, which may be the start point for many, grants access to basic email marketing capabilities and a chance to kick the software's tires. You’ll probably want to upgrade if ActiveCampaign is right for you. Maximum of 3 users only.
Plus – $49. The Plus tier includes everything from Lite and adds in the CRM function, landing pages, SMS marketing, integrations, and contact scoring. This tier is the starting point for you to realize the software's full potential—up to 25 users.
Professional – $129. Includes everything on the Plus tier and now allows you to leverage machine learning to deploy predictive content and sending. Up to 50 users, plus three one-on-one training sessions per month.
Enterprise – $229. Has everything on the Professional plan and is designed primarily for large organizations. Comes with a dedicated account representative and unlimited users – for big players only.
ActiveCampaign Pros and Cons
No tool is perfect, so let’s consider the pros and cons of ActiveCampaign.
- Powerful Marketing Automation. Deploy flexible automation to squeeze more revenue out of your prospects and customers.
- Class-Leading Deliverability. ActiveCampaign is consistently rated highly in email deliverability tests. You want to ensure that your emails hit your targets’ inboxes, rather than the dreaded junk folder. ActiveCampaign’s deliverability stats are up there with the best of them.
- Free Account Migration. If you have an existing email marketing list with another Email Serice Provider, ActiveCampaign provides a free migration service.
- Comprehensive Reporting. ActiveCampaign has thorough reporting capabilities. If you can conceive a reporting metric, ActiveCampaign can probably deliver it.
- Learning Curve. The depth of features provided by ActiveCampaign means that, at first glance, you can feel overwhelmed by the application. Main dashboard struggles with striking a balance between providing the essential data and looking uncluttered.
- Short Trial Period. Most of ActiveCampaigns competitors have a 30-day trial period. With ActiveCampaign only providing 14 days, you have less time to explore the product fully. This appears counterproductive when you consider the potential complexities of ActiveCampaign, and we'd like to see Active Campaign increase the length to 30 days.
- Active Campaign Price. Priced higher than many competitors, ActiveCampaign can be an expensive tool if you aren't making full use of all the functionality. The lowest pricing tier is not the best value for only 500 contacts.
Is ActiveCampaign the Right Email Marketing Service for You?
Your business’s marketing resources are finite. Make the most of the resources you have by automating some of the routine marketing activities.
Use the lead and customer scoring features plus the in-built CRM to get a holistic overview of your selling activities.
ActiveCampaign is not only for email marketing. SMS, Facebook Ads, and website messaging can be controlled from one central application.
Not Recommended If:
ActiveCampaign is serious about email deliverability. Spam complaints about emails sent from their servers can harm this metric. So ActiveCampaign has taken a proactive approach and banned the use of affiliate links in marketing emails to protect their reputation.
ActiveCampaign is an advanced tool. If you are only looking to conduct some basic email marketing campaigns, there are cheaper, more appropriate applications you can use instead (see alternatives section below).
ActiveCampaigns’ strength is in its ability to create powerful and flexible marketing automations. To make the most of it, you'll need to commit time to learn all the features. If you don’t have the time to learn, ActiveCampaign might not be for you.
ActiveCampaign is a market-leading solution in the email marketing class of products. But, ActiveCampaign is so much more than merely an email marketing tool.
With best-in-class automation capabilities combined with an in-built CRM, ActiveCampaign can be your all-in-one solution for your multi-channel marketing efforts.
Additionally, the flexibility and granularity of the reporting function mean you know exactly how well your campaigns are performing; and where further optimization is desirable.
The advanced capabilities of the application demand some initial commitment to learning the package. But there are plenty of resources provided in the knowledge-base and via the support channels to help you along – in 6 months' time, we're sure you won't regret it.
ActiveCampaign isn’t the cheapest on the market, so if you are looking only to send out a monthly newsletter, or create a few e-commerce email flows, then there are more suitable options available at a lower price.
To make up your mind on the software, you can review it yourself; take advantage of their 14-day free trial and see what you think.
There are hundreds of email automation tools available on the market. So picking the one that’s right for your needs can prove to be a thorny issue.
If you’ve determined that ActiveCampaign is possibly more software than you’ll need, we recommend you look at one of these four alternatives.
Get Response is a more reasonably priced alternative to ActiveCampaign. While the overall capabilities aren’t as advanced as ActiveCampaign, it does permit you to score leads and design basic marketing automation. Get Response is the application to choose if you want to host webinars.
ConverKit is the email autoresponder explicitly designed for bloggers, other creatives, and is affiliate-friendly. Designed for individuals rather than businesses, ConvertKit is the application to choose if you want to build an audience for your chosen niche.
Related: ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign
MailerLite is the email autoresponder package for the budget-conscious. It has the expected functions like landing page and forms builder, plus even has a free plan if you have under 1,000 subscribers.
Sendinblue is another budget option, which charges based on the number of emails sent rather than your contact list's size. They even provide SMS messaging and an in-built CRM, so it can be considered a low-cost alternative to ActiveCampaign. There are no marketing automation features, however.