In 2020 it’s predicted that 306 billion emails will get sent every day.
A proportion of those emails will be marketing messages sent to recipients who asked to receive them. Some of those recipients will then go on to buy something as a result of the email.
Email marketing is big business and produces the best ROI for any online marketing channel.
So, if you’re thinking of setting up an email marketing campaign for your business, it’s a smart idea. But, sending thousands of emails isn’t something you can do yourself. You need a tool to manage the process.
Email marketing automation tools have been around for some decades now, and it’s a competitive marketplace. There are dozens of tools to choose from, and while most have similar features, there are some differences.
This post examines two of the more popular ones – ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. We’ll take a look at their strengths and weaknesses to determine which one you should choose to manage your email campaigns.
About Convertkit Vs ActiveCampaign
ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign are both well-respected email marketing services. If you chose either of them to handle your requirements, you would be able to make the tool work for you.
That said, there are subtle differences that you need to be aware of because each tool is better suited for a specific type of business.
Let’s start by looking at the background of both companies.
ConvertKit was created by blogging entrepreneur Nathan Barry after he felt that existing email management systems (EMS) on the market were not suited to his needs.
Barry’s initial aim was to create software that made the process of building landing pages and attracting email subscribers easy. The philosophy for ConvertKit is usability with modern design.
Launched on a bootstrap budget, ConvertKit came to market in 2013. Over the subsequent years, new features were added, like automation and analytics.
And while the design has been refreshed, it stays true to the usability concept, though some argue this comes at a cost to the features.
Today, ConvertKIt has 58 employees, spread across the United States.
For more details read our full ConvertKit review.
ActiveCampaign states its mission is to help growing businesses make more meaningful connections with their customers.
Where ConvertKit looks to simplify the process of email marketing, ActiveCampaign aims to facilitate the personalization of a marketing message down to the individual.
ActiveCampaign claims it’s more than solely email marketing automation, calling its software ‘Customer Experience Automation.’
ActiveCampaign launched in 2003 by founder Jason VandeBoom initially as desktop software. In 2013 ActiveCampaign transitioned to the online SaaS model.
With over 100,000 customers and more than 600 workers wold-wide, ActiveCampaign is a mature software solution capable of serving the largest of customers.
For more details read our ActiveCampaign review.
A Full ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign Comparison
Both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign tick the necessary boxes for the basic features of an EMS.
An in-built ability to organize and manage lists of email contacts and functions to tag and segment them into logical groupings, so you can send more targeted marketing messages.
You also get tools to manage the process of capturing email subscribers via forms, popups, or slide-ins built into the software.
The main benefit of an EMS, though, is the ability to automate your marketing. Here is where the products begin to differ.
While ConvertKit allows you to create sophisticated marketing automation. ActiveCampaign's ambition is to help you personalize the sales funnel down to an individual subscriber.
Fancy sending a prospect a coupon code 30 minutes after they viewed a product on your website but didn’t buy it? You can do that with ActiveCampaign.
Well, we've only just started, and ActiveCampaign seems like the winner. But hold on, marketing hyper-personalization is not for everyone. Some find it creepy, and if you don't have an e-commerce site, would you need it?
On basic features, we call it a draw. Both do the fundamentals as they should, and both do it well. We need to look deeper into the products to assess which one is best for you. Let’s start with pricing.
ConvertKit keeps its pricing model simple. If you are building an email list for the first time, then you can try out their software for up to 1000 subscribers free of charge.
You only get access to reduced functionality, so you won't have the option to send automated sequences or integrate with other online packages. So, in reality, this option is a chance to look inside the software and see if it could be the right one for you.
If you have over 1000 subscribers already, you have to pay for access to the full package – no basic, pro, or enterprise levels here. It's refreshing to see software that doesn't force you up a subscription level to access all of the features.
On the full package, those 1000 subscribers will cost you $29 per month. For 10,000 subscribers, the price is $119, and for 25,000, the amount is $199 per month.
ActiveCampaign also has a free trial for you to take a look at the software. It's limited to 14 days, then you'll have to decide which subscription level is best for you.
The basic subscription package is comparable in price to ConvertKit. It's slightly cheaper for 1,000 subscribers at $17 per month. For 10,000 subscribers, the cost is $111, and for 25,000, the price is $179 per month.
However, those prices are for the ‘lite' account level. If you need your EMS to integrate with other SaaS products, you have to register for a ‘pro' account.
This bumps up the monthly price quite a bit but does get you access to other features not available on ConvertKit, like SMS messaging.
ConvertKit wins this section for a more transparent pricing structure and access to all its functionality without complicated pricing tiers.
For functions that match all of ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign charges more. However, this does get you access to functionality that ConvertKit does not have.
Forms and Landing Pages
To capture email addresses and grow your subscriber list, you need to deploy forms and landing pages on your website.
Both ConvertKIt and ActiveCampaign offer the same kinds of signup forms; inline, modal, slide-in, and bars.
Both have options to customize forms further by adding extra data fields. So if a geographical location is essential to you for example, you can add this field to a form.
You can also add in CAPTCHAs to validate signups and keep your list free of bots and spammers.
You will likely also want to customize colors and styles to match your website, and both programs can do this.
You can customize using the inbuilt tools or by using CSS. ConvertKit has the ability for one-click color matching, but with ActiveCampaign, you'll need to dig out the HEX codes.
For landing pages, ConvertKIt offers 41 templates for you to customize from across a variety of content types.
As with the forms, each can be edited to your requirements, and if you use WordPress, quickly deployed using the ConvertKIt plugin.
At the time of writing, ActiveCampaign's landing page tool is undergoing a refresh, and the new offering is currently in the BETA phase.
To access this, you have to request BETA access, so it is not guaranteed that you would be able to use this function. It's worth checking on the current status before you sign up.
However, it appears that ActiveCampaign aims to offer an unrivaled personalization level to landing pages for each individual.
And with personalization, a significant factor in achieving sales online – watch this space.
With little to choose between the forms features, we have to award the win to ConvertKIt, as their forms and landing page features are fully operational.
This could easily change to ActiveCampaign once the new landing page tool comes out of BETA testing, though, as it claims a deeper level of visitor personalization.
Tagging & Segmentation
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to email marketing. The automated email sequences you send are more effective when you divide your subscribers into more coherent groupings.
You will, at the very least, want to send different messages to subscribers if they have made a purchase from you than those who are yet to buy. This is made possible by tagging and segmentation, so you'll need to be sure that the EMS you choose has the functionality you need.
Tags are assigned to a subscriber based on their actions, like opening an email or making a purchase. Segments are the groupings you can assign to tags to organize the subscribers.
ActiveCampaign is far more capable than ConvertKit at assigning the tags used to create segments. Both have the ability to manually add tags and create segments. But the real benefit of using an EMS is the ability to automate the process.
With ConvertKit, you can assign a tag automatically if a subscriber clicks a link in an email. But with ActiveCampaign, you can automatically assign tags based on several engagement factors. Like when a subscriber opens an email or visits one of your webpages.
The winner is ActiveCampaign. If your online business sells more than a few categories of products, then to squeeze the most value from your list requires a comprehensive tag and segment strategy.
This is ActiveCampaigns specialty, and it is the option you should choose.
This is the reason why you would want to invest in an EMS in the first place. A method to automate those welcome emails and nurture sequences that transform interested prospects into paying customers.
The automation tools supplied in ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign work on the principals of logic using IF, ELSE, THEN type statements.
But to save you constructing lengthy logical coding statements, both packages have visual editors to facilitate the process.
ConvertKit prides itself on simplicity and offers a visual designer that is simple to use, and perhaps the best choice for someone new to email marketing.
The editor comes supplied with templates a beginner might need, like launching a product or delivering a newsletter. Though it is also possible to design your own automation from scratch.
ConvertKit also has an intuitive email editor that enables access to all the individual emails in the automation from a single screen.
ActiveCampign's automation offering is much more comprehensive. While it still uses the same kind of visual editor as ConvertKit, the automation possibilities, combined with the engagement triggers available, make this a much more advanced tool.
ActiveCampaign calls their automation templates ‘recipes' and has over 70 to choose from. Recipes can be simple or sophisticated.
You can also use other recipes users have designed, which are published in ActiveCampaigns Recipies Marketplace.
ActiveCampaign is the winner. Although the automation designer is more complicated than ConvertKit's, it's advanced functionality means you can achieve so much more.
A/B Testing and Email Analytics
Once you start sending out automated emails, you will then want to optimize the content.
Standard practice is to send out two versions of an email to an equal number of subscribers, then examine your analytics to see which version performed best. This is known as A/B testing.
ConvertKit has limited functionality for A/B testing and not a great amount of analytics about sent emails either. ConvertKit lets you A/B test your email subject line, and that's the extent of the functionality offered.
While the subject line is one of the most critical factors in whether a recipient opens the email or not, it would be nice to see the option for testing content variations too.
ConvertKits’s analytics is similarly basic too. With a handful of analytics available on broad indicators like subscribers and click rates.
Though it is possible to connect ConvertKit to Google Analytics for more comprehensive information on your email performance.
With ActiveCampaign, you can A/B test most elements of your email marketing. From an email's subject line to complete automation or test which email-from address performs best. ActiveCampaign allows you to A/B test email content as well.
This is valuable; an email's performance can be significantly improved with simple changes, like changing the color of a CTA button or the first line of text.
If you want to optimize your campaigns so that you squeeze every last cent of revenue from your email list, ActiveCampaign offers better functionality.
ActiveCampaign also realizes that sophisticated email automation needs comprehensive analytics to understand and improve performance.
The inbuilt reporting function has much of the information you will need. You can also seek a more in-depth understanding by integrating many of the popular third-party analytics tools available with ActiveCampaign.
ActiveCampaign wins this section easily. ActiveCampaign gives you a complete overview of your campaign's performance, with the ability to A/B test and optimize all aspects of your automation.
Ease of Use
How easy to use an EMS is should be a key metric for you – there is no point in selecting a tool that you struggle to operate.
Thankfully both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign have a free account or trial option for you to try out basic features and get a feel for the platform.
ConvertKit is designed with non-technical users in mind. Aimed at bloggers and other creatives, ConvertKit envisioned a platform that would be quick to learn and simple to use.
After you signup, you have access to in-depth help articles and the occasional overview video for each section of the software.
ConvertKit's stripped-back functionality, by default, makes it software that is easy to learn and operate.
ActiveCampaign has many more functions to learn and master than those offered by ConvertKit. So for an individual who isn't instinctively tech orientated may find the learning curve steeper with ActiveCampaign.
Thankfully ActiveCampign also has an in-depth education center to guide you through the process. The ‘professional' subscription plan level includes personalized one-on-one training sessions too.
ConvertKit is the winner. The founder Nathan Barry set out to create an EMS that delivered the core functionality of the software class, which was also easy to use.
That's not to say that ActiveCampaign is clunky. It just requires a higher standard of technical ability and perseverance to get the most from it.
An email deliverability score rates the chances that your marketing email will arrive safely in the subscribers' inbox. But deliverability is also an outcome made up of many different elements.
Some of those elements are within your control; the words used in email content, the design of your email templates, and how quickly you ramp up your email send volume.
Some elements are under the control of your ESP, such as the reputation of the domain the emails are sent from.
You would be disappointed if half of your emails never reached your subscriber's inbox, so both of the tools on review here work hard on email deliverability.
ConvertKit publishes a monthly report on deliverability, and they regularly claim an excellent rate of 99%.
While ActiveCampaign does not publish a similar report, independent tests regularly rate ActiveCampaign as one of the best in the business for email deliverability.
It is worth noting that this may be partly due to their refusal to permit affiliate links in sent emails.
Some affiliate marketers are known to be less than trustworthy, so by removing the likelihood of emails sent from their servers being marked as spam, ActiveCampaign actively seeks out a high reputation for their servers, which in theory will improve deliverability.
ActiveCampaign wins this round. Both platforms have a high score for email deliverability. But, ActiveCampigns's affiliate link ban provides peace of mind that they take domain reputation extremely seriously.
You always want to know that there is a good standard of customer support when taking on a complex product like an EMS. And the support provided by ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign differs slightly, perhaps reflecting the size of the businesses.
Now it’s a given that both offer free training courses for you to orient yourself with the product – no successful SaaS product can be without them.
The real measure is what assistance is available to you when you get stuck and need help with a problem.
ConvertKit uses a help ticketing system. So if you have a problem, you may have to wait for someone to get back to you.
ActiveCampaign improves on this by offering live chat support, so you can hopefully resolve any issues in a timely fashion.
While neither offers phone support directly, if you have the ‘professional' subscription with ActiveCampaign, you can book one-to-one help.
The popular SaaS review website G2 rates ConvertKit 8.6 and ActiveCampaign 8.9 for the quality of customer support.
While both offer a good standard of customer support, Active Campaign edges this section with the availability of live-chat support.
ConvertKit Vs ActiveCampaign – Which Email Service Should You Choose?
ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign are both excellent email marketing services. They either offer a free account or trial so you can try before you commit.
They are both priced closely to each other. You also get a good level of customization for forms and landing pages, plus a broad selection of templates to choose from.
Which one you choose may be more dependent on the kind of online business you have.
Choose ConvertKit If…
You're not an online store and want a simple tool that easily handles all the essential tasks you'd expect from an EMS.
While it may lack in some areas like analytics and A/B testing, you can design and deploy effective email automations, which would serve most small online operators well.
The perfect choice for bloggers and others in creative fields.
Choose ActiveCampaign If…
You need a comprehensive tool to manage email marketing campaigns with a high level of personalization of messaging.
ActiveCampaign aims to be more than just an EMS.
With built-in contact management, lead scoring, and tools to trigger emails based on website interaction, it’s the one to choose if your business is in e-commerce and traditional brick and mortar businesses