The reports of email’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Email isn’t going anywhere. If anything, thanks to mounting trust issues that users have with social media – not to mention crummy engagement rates – establishing an email list is more important than ever before.
I don’t just want to send out a weekly email blast to my list. I want to automate my sales funnel and also have the ability to manually send emails to my audience.
I’ve tested and used most of the leading email service providers (ESPs), including ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, Drip, and Keap (formerly Infusionsoft). Not all of these ESPs have the functionalities I want.
However, I’ve found ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign offer the closest to what I want. In fact, although ConvertKit targets bloggers and ActiveCampaign is aimed at e-commerce sites, both ESPs are very similar.
Let’s put ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign to the test and see how they compare.
ConvertKit’s target market is bloggers, especially personal brands. Although ConvertKit can work with e-commerce sites, it’s really not best suited for that use.
ConvertKit is a relative newcomer to the ESP market. It was founded in 2015 by Nathan Barry. ConvertKit has about 40 employees and more than 14,000 customers.
ActiveCampaign was founded by Jason VandeBoom in 2003. It originally started as software you purchased and installed locally. In 2013, ActiveCampaign changed to a software as a service (SaaS) model. ActiveCampaign has more than 500 employees and more than 80,000 customers.
Let’s take a look at the features of each.
How Are ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign the Same?
Both services have a lot of similar features. Let’s discuss these similarities first.
- Automations — Both services allow you to create complex email marketing funnels based on various triggers.
- Web Forms — You don’t need a third-party service like OptinMonster to get started with signup forms on your blog.
- Tagging — Both allow you to tag your email subscribers.
- Schedule Broadcasts — Create your broadcast and schedule when to send it out.
- Segmentation — Both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign allow you to segment your audience based on tags and other metrics.
- RSS Feed — They both allow you to automatically email your latest WordPress blog post to your audience. However, ActiveCampaign’s setup allows for more customization.
- WordPress Plugins — Both have WordPress plugins to integrate their web forms into your blog.
- Two-Factor Authentication — Both allow for two-factor logins for added security.
- Facebook Custom Audiences — ConvertKit recently introduced this feature, so both services now offer this functionality.
- Free Migrations — Both services will help move your existing setup from another ESP free of charge.
How Are ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign Different?
On the surface, ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign seem similar. Let’s see how they’re different.
- API Functionality — As I write, ConvertKit’s application programming interface (API) seems half-baked. In my opinion, it lacks two necessary features: a way to track email opens and a way to track email clicks. You can get this data within ConvertKit itself, but if you’re linking a third-party tool (as I do), these options are not available with ConvertKit’s API. It is possible to create workarounds for these two features, but that’s a pain to develop.
- Integrations —Out of the box, ConvertKit has fewer options for integration. However, both services work with Zapier, and that should resolve this issue. You should be able to connect to most third-party services.
How Is ConvertKit Unique?
- Landing Pages — ConvertKit allows you to create landing pages as part of its service. This means you won’t have to purchase a third-party service such as ClickFunnels. Landing pages are a critical part of a sales funnel, so I’m not sure why ActiveCampaign doesn’t have this feature yet. However, if you’re really serious about your landing pages, note that ConvertKit’s functionality is limited.
- Link Redirect (New) — What if you’ve already sent out an email campaign but screwed up the link? ConvertKit will allow you to redirect the link to the correct URL. This can be used for expired affiliate promotions in old emails, as well.
How Is ActiveCampaign Unique?
- Custom Email Links — Your email links can include a subdomain (i.e., click.larryludwig.com). Historically, links that are from the sender’s domain are more likely to be opened.
- SMS Messaging — ActiveCampaign allows your users to sign up to your mailing list via SMS. You can also send an SMS text to your subscribers. This is useful for sending out invitations and updates for events such as webinars.
- Multiple Email Lists — ActiveCampaign supports creating separate lists. While you can recreate this with ConvertKit’s tags, ActiveCampaign allows you to define your audiences in more clear-cut ways.
- Lead Scoring — Since ActiveCampaign is geared more toward e-commerce, it has the ability to score subscribers based on the actions they perform. This allows you to send emails to contacts who are “hot” to convert. ConvertKit currently has no option to do this.
- Google Chrome Plugin — Further integrating into your email as a CRM, ActiveCampaign has a Google Chrome plugin that works with your contacts.
- Live Chat and Automated Messaging — The higher-level ActiveCampaign plans offer a feature called “Conversations.” This allows for more unified communication with your audience. Instead of requiring separate email, SMS, and live chat services, with ActiveCampaign you can have them all in one system.
The primary reason to use one of these services over other email service providers is because of their automations. Let’s discuss this in detail.
Both have beautiful flowchart representations of your email automation. ConvertKit’s visualization and editing are slightly more intuitive then ActiveCampaign’s. Overall, ActiveCampaign is more complex to manage.
With both services’ automations, an email subscriber triggers an event that the ESPs can respond to. What matters then is the options that ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign offer. Based on the list, it’s clear ActiveCampaign has more available options.
Note that with ConvertKit there’s currently no way to create automations without a trigger. However, a service like ThriveCart has the option to fire automations in ActiveCampaign. So this is a useful feature currently missing from ConvertKit. A possible workaround would be to create a signup form that isn’t used.
After an event occurs, what actions can you perform? This is where ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign have similar functionalities.
It should be noted that webhooks to external systems are available within ConvertKit but can be created only via the service’s API. You cannot create webhooks via ConvertKit’s dashboard at the moment.
When it comes to adding someone to an automation, ConvertKit has only these possible conditions:
- Tag added
- Custom field
ActiveCampaign has many more advanced options for your visitor, including:
- Date created
- Tag added
- Tag removed
- Has clicked on a link
- Has opened an email
- Geography based on IP address
- Visited a webpage
- Total site visits
- Visitor’s time zone
To a degree, this is good. But it can also be overwhelming for most users.
ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign both have built-in templates to help you create your automations.
ConvertKit’s pre-built templates revolve around bloggers. On the other hand, ActiveCampaign has more templates prebuilt both by itself and third-parties. For example, while ConvertKit doesn’t have an abandoned cart sequence, ActiveCampaign has several available.
- ConvertKit — 70
- ActiveCampaign — 270+
Obviously ActiveCampaign integrates directly with more services. But that’s not as important as it previously was. Both services have API options and integrate well with Zapier.
It should be said that ConverKit’s API lacks some functionality. As we’ve mentioned, currently, ConvertKit does not support API information for email opens and email link clicks. This makes its API much more limited. We’ve also said, although webhooks are available with ConvertKit, they’re available only via its API. Currently, you cannot create webhooks in the dashboard.
All of these whizbang features don’t matter if your subscribers never get your email.
Which service has better email deliverability? Both use third-party services to deliver email. What matters is how well they manage their customer base. For example, how many spammers does each service allow into its network?
For the past few years, ActiveCampaign has been judged the best provider for email delivery.
However, I believe ConvertKit’s emails have a more personal feel that make them more suitable for personal brands like mine. ConvertKit’s emails are almost indistinguishable from personal emails.
With ActiveCampaign, it’s nearly impossible to create emails that don’t look like they are coming from a mailing list.
With mass emails, you’re required by law (the CAN-SPAM Act) to include an option for unsubscribing. ConvertKit allows you to customize your email footer, so you can do this in an elegant fashion. Unless you’re paying for the most expensive plan, with ActiveCampaign, you’re stuck with a standard footer.
In my experience with Google, I’ve noticed that using an ESP’s standard footer tends to push your email into the Promotional or Updates tab. From my testing, the open rate decreased 10% when my email moved from the inbox to these tabs. You should always try to land in the Gmail inbox. With ActiveCampaign, this is impossible unless you opt for the most expensive plan.
ConvertKit’s pricing strategy is simple. If you want more subscribers, you pay more. On the other hand, ActiveCampaign’s pricing is tiered. You can pay more for more subscribers, but there are also higher-level plans that have more functionalities.
The pricing comparison above uses ActiveCampain’s “Lite” plan paid yearly.
Overall, ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is the cheaper option. However, keep in mind that if you want some of ActiveCampaign’s features, you must get the Plus, Professional, or Enterprise plan.
Personally, I’m on the “Plus” plan from ActiveCampaign.
Email Analytics and Reporting
ActiveCampaign has many more reporting features than ConvertKit. Unfortunately, you can’t extend the reporting functions that ConvertKit does offer – even with third-party tools –because of the service’s lackluster API features. I need the reporting, so this is a deal-breaker for me.
I use the Woopra analytics tool to track visitors. Not only does ActiveCampaign have direct integration with Woopra, but it can also report email opens and link clicks to that tool.
On the other hand, ConvertKit doesn’t integrate with Woopra, and it lacks the ability to send email opens and link clicks to any third-party service.
ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign Feature Comparison
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Which Is Better: ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign?
Best Overall: ActiveCampaign
I personally prefer ActiveCampaign. Not only did I use it for my previous blog, Investor Junkie, but it’s what I currently use on this site too.
ActiveCampaign really gives you the most “bang for your buck.” And it has more options for you to grow into.
However, ConvertKit has its place. If you want an easy-to-use interface and emails that look like they were personally written by you, then ConvertKit is your best option.