Email marketing is the go-to tactic for every entrepreneur trying to perform well while growing their business and driving more sales. As established entrepreneurs, that includes us as well. We’ve been running email campaigns for ages and that strategy has proved to be a great solution for generating revenue.
In the past, working with many startups and small businesses, we’ve employed the services provided by MailChimp to help them achieve their goals. Soon after its foundation in 2001, MailChimp became a sought-after solution for creating email marketing campaigns, so it eventually caught our attention and we decided to try it out. And in all honesty, for the price we pay, MailChimp offers features many other similar services provide at a much higher cost.
However, MailChimp has its disadvantages as well. We discovered a service that is similarly priced to MailChimp but offers much more. Enter ActiveCampaign – a cloud-based platform for email marketing automation, established in 2003. Significantly less popular than MailChimp, even though it’s not much younger, ActiveCampaign has been steadily gaining momentum in recent years, as they ensure their services are top-notch and competitively priced.
So, we started using ActiveCampaign as well, and now we feel experienced enough to compare it with MailChimp and show you which of the two does a better job.
Read on to discover what these two marketing platforms have to offer.
Why Choose ActiveCampaign or MailChimp?
The reason why we chose both of these platforms is that they are complete solutions for email marketing with competitive prices, suitable for small to medium-sized businesses.
Besides the two, there certainly are dozens of other similar services on the market, but since most of them are usually overpriced and lack the outstanding aptitude that ActiveCampaign and MailChimp come with, we decided to go for the two we had the best experience with.
In this article, you’ll get the chance to learn about the features that make MailChimp and ActiveCampaign well-liked among the companies that heavily rely on marketing to extract the most out of their customers.
MailChimp predominantly caters to businesses that are soft on design and usually deal with a limited number of customers. On the other hand, ActiveCampaign is big on marketing automation and produces more comprehensive deliverables.
Comparing ActiveCampaign and MailChimp
Below, you’ll be able to observe 8 different conditions that are crucial for every marketing tool to fulfill. Both our contenders do a great job in all of the aspects we’ll be discussing here, however, we’ll go beyond the simple presentation of the features they possess and we’ll state our reasons as to why a given tool performs better than its opponent in its respective category.
By the time you’re done reading this article, we’ll declare our winner to wrap things up. We hope you’ll follow our advice and choose what we deem to be the most useful solution to capture more leads and close more deals in the fastest way possible. Nevertheless, whichever service you decide to go for, rest assured that you’re on the path to success.
We based our opinions by evaluating ActiveCampaign and MailChimp through thorough testing and assessing many real users’ reviews. You’ll find our findings below.
The aspects that we’ll use to compare the two platforms side-by-side are as follows:
- User Experience
- Themes & Templates
- Building Lists
- Customer Relationship Management
- Customer Support
- Value for Money
1. User Experience
UX is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a new service. Nobody wants to spend months in training for their newly acquired service – that’s why it’s extremely important that a tool is straightforward and easy to use.
Featuring an email editor that’s quite easy to use, ActiveCampaign boasts a fancy dashboard that contains everything you might need to deliver your marketing strategy. Integrating contacts, list management, creating campaigns, accessing reporting, etc. can all be found in one place.
ActiveCampaign’s drag-and-drop editor looks nicer than MailChimp’s, however, if you plan on creating more professional-looking emails, things can get a little messy if you’re a beginner.
On that note, the further you dig in, like with using the automation feature, for example, the more confused you might get. However, this tiny obstacle can be easily overcome since ActiveCampaign provides a comprehensive training center where you can learn all about the plethora of features they offer.
MailChimp earned its popularity mainly because it excels in this aspect. It was released at the right moment when all the other tools of the kind were enterprise-oriented, expensive, and not suitable for quick marketing management.
Its simple and user-friendly approach attracted millions of users to start using the platform, including us. The service offers an editor that’s intuitive, easy-to-navigate, and clean, yet comprehensive and powerful. A simple email can take seconds to create, as everything you need for the process is within easy reach.
The only downside to MailChimp in terms of UX is that it’s a bit confusing to locate different features for when you need them. For example, forms, landing pages, and automation are all crammed under the “campaigns” tab, which is a bit counter-intuitive.
Both tools are easy-to-navigate and you’ll get used to using them in no time, however, MailChimp has a slightly simpler interface and is easier to pick up. So, we’ll give it our first point.
2. Themes & Templates
It takes time to build trust and keep your subscribers list growing. Sending out professional-looking emails is crucial and MailChimp and ActiveCampaign can be of great assistance in that regard. They offer design templates for any type of email you may need so you can easily impress your leads.
ActiveCampaign’s template library consists of about 50 different templates suitable for creating emails and newsletters. This library boasts template types ranging from eCommerce and business to creative and education.
The great thing about these templates is that they are all mobile-friendly and customizable. Creating your own templates with ActiveCampaign is pretty straightforward and will save you lots of time in the long run.
Similar to ActiveCampaign, MailChimp offers beautiful templates to help you create the most successful emails and newsletters for your marketing campaigns. What separates MailChimp from ActiveCampaign in this regard is the volume of templates – MailChimp includes more than 100 different templates in its library.
MailChimp also offers a guide if you wish to customize your templates to further improve their compatibility to suit your requirements. Take note that basic coding knowledge is required for this undertaking.
All of MailChimp’s templates are professional-looking and responsive, and flexible enough if you wish to adjust them with your own buttons, colors, text, and imagery.
MailChimp’s template library is bulkier than ActiveCampaign, so it wins a point for the service again.
It looks like MailChimp is in the lead for now. Still, let’s continue with our assessment because you never know when things might take a turn.
3. Building Lists
Managing your subscriber lists is a core principle of every email marketing strategy. A tool that’s flexible enough to provide you with useful segmentation options for your contacts is usually something that you can heavily rely on.
The platform really goes above and beyond when it comes to building and managing your contacts. It allows you to segment them into lists, tags, and custom fields – a perfect way to zero in on your targeted group.
The segmentation process with ActiveCampaign is extremely flexible – the tool enables you to add the same contacts on different lists, even though you might have assigned them different tags or custom fields (for example: demographics, location, shopping preferences, etc.) Then, you can even send the same campaign to those lists, which isn’t an option with MailChimp.
ActiveCampaign is also big on automation, which helps greatly with adding or removing additional tags and custom fields.
What we really loved about this service is that it offers lead scoring for your contacts. This feature makes it so easy to realize who to follow up with. Assigning scores to your contacts based on the actions they take can show you who interacts with your business the most and how close you are to closing a deal.
While MailChimp offers contacts segmentation, the process doesn’t really flow as smoothly as ActiveCampaign’s approach. You can organize your contacts into lists, groups, tags, and segments, however, this can get frustrating as it’s hard to tell what the difference between these options is.
Alas, MailChimp’s lists don’t mix – they are mutually exclusive, which means you can’t have the same contact on more than one list. This is a bit shady and annoying, since MailChimp charges per subscriber. And who’s willing to pay twice (or more) for the same subscriber?
It’s the first point for ActiveCampaign! They do a great deal better than MailChimp when it comes to list management.
We’re digging deeper into the real power our two contestants possess. Next up is automation – a process that simplifies every workflow, reduces valuable time spent on irksome tasks, and takes loads of stress off your shoulders.
If you’re looking to automate your email marketing campaigns, ActiveCampaign provides an enterprise-level solution, even if you’re on a budget.
With ActiveCampaign, you can combine actions, triggers, and conditions to design the best possible segmentation of your contacts and outline a smooth workflow for scoring more leads and closing more deals.
What’s really great about ActiveCampaign is that its sophisticated automation editor provides a visual workflow. Seamless integration with its built-in CRM tool is also available, so if you own an eCommerce platform, ActiveCampaign makes it very easy to automate sales.
MailChimp has its own positive sides in terms of automation. Some of the great features they offer to enable deft automation are:
- Abandoned cart campaigns
- Clicked triggers
- Not-clicked campaigns
- Purchase confirmations
- Opened email triggers
Unfortunately, there are some negative sides as well. MailChimp’s automation editor is pretty limited and doesn’t visually represent the workflow you wish to create. It also lacks the flexibility to fork options into separate paths.
As you scale your business and grow it to a certain size, you’ll discover how MailChimp fails in regard to automation in delivering your new requirements. On the other hand, ActiveCampaign is perfectly optimized for complete automation of your complex marketing campaigns, so it takes the lead in this category.
5. Customer Relationship Management
The sales department is the last link in the chain of operations of every business journey. Arguably, it’s also the most important one! All the phases of each project development lead to this, and it’s crucial for every company to be prepared and ace this segment.
This platform offers a complete CRM solution to satisfy all of your sales requirements. Every feature that we’ve covered so far is integrated seamlessly into ActiveCampaign’s CRM. So, all of your marketing efforts can be directly linked with the sales processes.
With the ActiveCampaign’s CRM tool, you can create deal records through managing opportunities and deals, and easily associate them with pipelines and stages, and even assign deal owners.
Automating all of the sales and communications activities with this CRM tool can’t get any better, since it includes all of the following:
- Sales funnels
- Sales communications
- Deal records
- Lead prioritization and management
MailChimp markets itself as a CRM tool, although in our experience, that statement’s credibility is pretty shaky. The platform offers much less than ActiveCampaign in this regard, and the features that they do offer to help you manage the relationships you have with your customers aren’t included in one compact dashboard.
However, MailChimp does offer some CRM-like options that are actually great and useful to sales teams. Among them are revenue reports, audience targeting, contact data, and eCommerce integration.
We believe it’s safe to declare ActiveCampaign as the winner in this category. Its CRM tool is a state-of-the-art product that every serious entrepreneur should consider acquiring.
It’s a known fact that your business will get nowhere if you don’t pay attention to how you perform. Analyzing the data you receive from your campaigns and customers’ behavior is key to successful growth and establishing a solid future for your company.
Our first contestant does an excellent job when it comes to reporting. The tool can be used to set goals that customers accomplish through their experience. For example, a clicked link, a visit to the pricing page, or a sign-up for a newsletter can be translated into a satisfied goal criterion. Then, the aggregated data received from these goals is transformed into an informative concise report that provides all the details that you’ll need for your future campaigns.
These report can come in various shapes based on what you’re interested to analyze:
- Deal reports (summary of all the deals from the CMR);
- Email performance
- Social performance
- Clicked links
- Automation reports.
When you combine your gathered data with A/B testing, you can substantially increase your sales and revenue, and all of that is possible with ActiveCampaign.
With MailChimp, analytics is quite a simple but very informative process. The tool offers interactive graphics, an explanatory dashboard, and a comparison of parameters of your choice.
The platform includes all the reports that come with ActiveCampaign, except for the report on deals and deal owners.
However, to compensate for the lack of deal reports, MailChimp offers analytical features that are of most use to eCommerce stores.
In addition, MailChimp allows users to compare themselves with other MailChimp users in the same industry. This can provide invaluable insight into how you stand against your competitors and what you can do to overtake them.
Both platforms are exceptionally good in their own regard when it comes to providing their users with a robust view of their performance. So, in this category, we’re declaring a draw.
7. Customer Support
Everyone starts somewhere and we’re all beginners at one point. For all those moments when we can’t figure out things on our own, it’s always useful to have someone to guide us and deal with some fixes when we’re too busy to do so ourselves.
If you find that your issue isn’t addressed in the support center, you can always hit the live chat and ask for guidance right there.
ActiveCampaign also offers personalized one-on-one training and consulting for every business that deals with more complex operations.
Just like ActiveCampaign, MailChimp provides customer support through email, chat, and a support center. There’s also a training center where you can learn all about MailChimp’s features in detail.
One drawback to MailChimp is that you get to access their email support after you comb through their knowledge base. Additionally, their phone support is available only with the premium plan.
We’ll go ahead and safely declare ActiveCampaign as the winner here since it’s a pet peeve for us to not have help accessible in less than two clicks at any given time.
9. Value for Money
As we’re slowly reaching the end here, let’s compare the ActiveCampaign and MailChimp pricing options for one final showdown.
The platform offers four pricing options that scale according to how many contacts you wish to target. For example, if you plan to target 10,000 contacts, the “Lite” plan costs $125/month, the “Plus” plan costs $199/month, the “Professional” plan costs $279/month, and the “Enterprise” plan costs $399/month.
Note that these rates are only available if you opt in for the annual billing option.
Similarly to ActiveCampaign, MailChimp offers scalable pricing plans. However, they also include a free plan for every business that’s just starting out and targets up to 2,000 contacts.
Since the free plan is extremely limited, you’ll probably decide to go for one of their paid plans, and their prices for up to 10,000 contacts are as follows:
- The “Essentials” plan costs $78.99/month;
- The “Standard” plan costs $105/month;
- The “Premium” plan costs $299/month.
At a first glance, MailChimp seems like a much more affordable option. However, as you grow (and you will do so pretty fast), both platforms’ prices start to even out. As a matter of fact, ActiveCampaign even becomes cheaper than MailChimp as you reach above 50,000 contacts.
Ultimately, in the previous categories, we witnessed how ActiveCampaign offers much more than MailChimp for practically the same price, so once again our vote goes to ActiveCampaign.
To wrap things up, let’s quickly summarize who won in the above categories:
- MailChimp took the gold in the User Experience and the Themes & Templates categories;
- ActiveCampaign was crowned champion in the Building Lists, Automation, CRM, Customer Support, and the Value for Money categories;
So that’s a 5:2 for ActiveCampaign!
When you think about the long-term success of your business, it is obvious that ActiveCampaign is the superior of the two platforms and should be your primary choice.
If you still want to just try things out, target a smaller audience, and give preference to user-friendliness, feel free to try out MailChimp’s services.