ConvertKit vs. ActiveCampaign Comparison & Review

In this video, I’ll show you the main differences
between ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. I’m David Kadavy, and I spent several years
evaluating email service providers, before switching from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. To give you an idea of my perspective, I have
a list of about 35,000, and I sell courses on visual design. My sales process is mostly automated. You can sign up for ConvertKit at,
and you can sign up for ActiveCampaign at Those are my affiliate links, so I’ll be rewarded
for the sale if you sign up with either service. It won’t cost you anything extra, and it’s
a good way to thank me for the research and care that I put into this video. To start, my short recommendations on who
should use ConvertKit, and who should use ActiveCampaign: If you’re an author, and you just want quick
and easy email capture, and want to quickly create email courses, I recommend ConvertKit. It’s extremely easy to use, as you’ll see. If you’re an online marketer, and you want
more control and complexity in your automations, I recommend ActiveCampaign. You can geotarget, you can send according
to the user’s local timezone. You can build just about any Automation you
imagine. But, as you’ll see, it’s more complex to work
with. If you have a high-touch sales process, you
may prefer ActiveCampaign. Specifically their Small Business or Enterprise
plans, which both have a CRM for lead scoring, and triggering notifications to your sales
team to follow up on leads. If you just want to send out the occasional
email blast, you don’t care about powerful automations, and/or you are very concerned
about having attractive templates for your emails, I don’t think ConvertKit nor ActiveCampaign
are for you. Instead, I’d recommend MailChimp. ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign are both great
services. It just depends upon your wants and needs. Here’s what’s great about ConvertKit: Built-in lead capture pages. ConvertKit has customizable (and attractive)
landing pages for capturing leads. You can save some money by not having a LeadPages
account. More versatile forms. ConvertKit has more options in their form
builder than ActiveCampaign does. You can even have your forms as pop-overs. You might be able to avoid a Sumo subscription. Built-in email Sequences. To create something like ConvertKit’s Sequences
on ActiveCampaign, you have to manually create an Automation, which is a cumbersome process
compared to ConvertKit’s Sequence builder, which you’ll see in a bit. An easy-to-use editor for simple emails. ConvertKit makes it very easy to compose plain
emails (which is my preference). They have a drag-and-drop interface for adding
and uploading images. They don’t have templates with lots of fancy
design options, though. And here’s what’s great about ActiveCampaign: An extremely powerful Automation builder. It’s drag-and-drop, and you can build about
any automation you can imagine with it. It’s visual, so you can see exactly what you’re
building. It alone is why I chose ActiveCampaign. However, I spend a lot of time thinking of
and building automations. The complex automation builder can be to your
detriment because you can wind up spending too much time building automations. More email templates. I personally prefer to use the plainest email
template possible, but if you want many design options for email templates, ActiveCampaign
does beat ConvertKit. A Gmail Extension. Sometimes people from your list reply to your
emails. With ActiveCampaign’s Gmail extension, you
can view all of that person’s information in your sidebar. On the Small Business and Enterprise plans,
you can update the status of any “deals” associated with that contact (are you still in talks,
did you win the account, did you lose it). A built-in CRM This is just on Small Business
and Enterprise plans. If you do any sort of high-touch sales, ActiveCampaign
is the clear choice. You can bring leads into your email campaigns,
and score those leads based upon links clicked and emails opened. You can then automatically alert your sales
team of the hot lead, and they can call them or email them to close the sale. SMS Marketing This is just on Small Business
and Enterprise plans. If you want to send a discount code to a customer. If you want to alert a sales agent to follow
up on a hot lead. You can do it with SMS marketing. Now, ESPs are a bit like spouses. No matter who you choose, there’s going to
be something that drives you up the wall. It’s good to be aware up-front what those
quirks might be. What’s not so great about ConvertKit? Simplistic Automations. ConvertKit’s automations are very simple. There are triggers and actions to cover most
needs, but nowhere near the customization of ActiveCampaign’s automations. Again, this could be an asset, preventing
you from wasting time building overly-complex automations. Limited Segmentation options. If you plan events, and want to geo-target
your email campaigns, you can’t do that with ConvertKit. You also can’t filter just by link clicks
in past campaigns. You have to have the foresight ahead of time
to set up tracking on any campaigns that you might want to use to build segments later. What’s not so great about ActiveCampaign? A clunky email editor. ActiveCampaign has the worst email editing
experience of any service I’ve tried. So, why do I put up with it? Because their automations are so powerful. It requires some up-front investment, but
I can set it and forget it. A slow interface. ActiveCampaign has the slowest interface of
any service – of any kind – that I’ve ever used. Searching contacts to create segments is incredibly
slow. This makes email creation cumbersome, but
I’m willing to live with it for their automations. Here is how ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign
work. I’ll show you my actual set up in ActiveCampaign,
and I’ll show you what I would do in ConvertKit to try to get similar results. As you can see, I have quite a few lists on
ActiveCampaign. My main list is Design for Hackers. Here’s an Automation I use to capture emails
from Sumo. Sumo integrates with ActiveCampaign. It puts emails into this list, then this Automation
adds some information to let me know where it came from, then adds the contact to my
main Design for Hackers list. That Sumo automation also adds a “Design Pitfalls”
tag, which signs the contact up for my course, Design Pitfalls, which you see here on the
Design for Hackers home page. Notice that there’s a countdown timer to sign
up for the course. That’s because there’s a deadline to sign
up every Friday night. I have a welcome Automation for this course. Every Friday, it sends out one last email
to everyone who is signed up for the course that starts the following Monday. And that email encourages them to share the
course before the deadline. And here is the course itself. You can see I have various emails here, and
I use ActiveCampaign’s drag-and-drop interface to put in little blocks that control what
days each email is sent on. And, you can see that I have those emails
sent at 9am based upon the contact’s timezone. So, that doesn’t make or break my business,
but it likely results in a slightly higher open rate. ConvertKit only has one list, so I don’t need
to show you that, but here are the landing pages they have available for capturing leads. And you can easily customize them if you like. ConvertKit also has many customizable forms. ActiveCampaign of course has forms, too, but
they aren’t as versatile. You can see with ConvertKit, you can even
create a modal form. If I wanted to recreate my Design Pitfalls
course in a ConvertKit sequence, it would be incredibly easy. I could easily switch between emails in the
sequence. I could drag them around if I wanted. I could set my welcome email to send on any
given day. I could set my sharing email to go out only
on Fridays. Then, I could set my individual lessons to
only go out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I was actually surprised to discover this,
because I swear last time I checked there was no way to make it work. But, apparently, it’s incredibly easy. I
can also set preferences for the Sequence as a whole, restricting day of delivery at
the Sequence level. I can set the time of day. No ability to make it based upon the user’s
timezone, but that probably doesn’t make that big of a difference. I can also change the email template for all
of the emails in the Sequence with a drop-down menu. I certainly can’t do that in ActiveCampaign. Now, when a contact finishes my Design Pitfalls
course, they go to a sales sequence for my D4H Video course. This Automation is triggered when a tag is
added at the end of the course. Once they’re done with that Automation, they
then end up in another Automation. This one sends them some content from my archives. At the end of this Automation, they’re then
added to another Automation that promotes another course of mine, called White Hot Course. And this goes on for awhile, with one Automation
triggering another. Let’s see how this would work in ConvertKit. At the end of my Design Pitfalls course, I
could add a tag to the Subscriber. And adding that tag could then trigger another
automation. I could string together Automations just like
I do in ActiveCampaign. Notice that ConvertKit doesn’t have a visual
drag-and-drop editor for Automations like ActiveCampaign does. For me, the drag-and-drop visualization is
important. I just have a hard time thinking of how my
various sequences work sometimes. In fact, ActiveCampaign’s visual editor is
what made me choose them. I had tangled my brain up trying to figure
out how to get MailChimp’s Automations to work. Now, this is how I keep my email list clean. I don’t want inactive subscribers on my email
list. They’re more likely to report spam. They’ll ruin your email reputation, so you’re
more likely to end up in the spam folder for people who really want your email. This Automation checks periodically to see
if a contact has opened an email recently. If not, it adds a tag that indicates how long
it’s been. If they do open an email, this Automation
removes any relevant tags they might have. Now, if someone hasn’t opened an email for
6 months, they end up in this Automation. This sends a series of emails asking if they
still want my emails. They can click to say yes. Or, they can click another link to let me
know that they don’t use tracking. That will tag them so I don’t bother them
again. If, after a few weeks, they haven’t clicked
on a confirmation link, they get unsubscribed, and I send one last email notifying them. Now, in ConvertKit, they have something called
Cold Subscribers. These are Subscribers who haven’t opened an
email in the past 90 days. If you want to check in with your Cold Subscribers,
you have to manually create a Broadcast email, and the appropriate Automation. If you do some googling, you’ll find details,
if that interests you. So, with ActiveCampaign you have more control
over what you consider an inactive subscriber, and you can automate the process of cleaning
your list. Again, it’s much more complicated than working
with ConvertKit, but it is set-it-and-forget-it. Now to actually create an email. On ActiveCampaign, this is called a Campaign. I name my campaign. Then, I choose my list. Then, I create my Segment, if I want. You can see I have many options for creating
a segment. I can filter by geographic location, or activity
on previous campaigns, just to name a couple. Now, I choose my template. I made my own bare bones template because
I like to send simple emails. And, for this template, I can either code
in HTML, or switch to their visual editor. Which is really a terrible editor. I think it’s pieced together from an open
source project. If I want to add an image, there’s no drag-and-drop. I have to select through the file system. Now, I have a different template that supports
their drag-and-drop editor. And this editor is just as bad. For example, if I want to add an image in
the middle of the text, I can’t do that. Instead, I have to copy some of my text, make
another text box, and then I can drag an image block in between those two text blocks. And, I still have to use the same clunky image
manager I did in the other editor. On ConvertKit, as usual, it’s much simpler. I don’t have many filtering options. I can filter by segment. I can filter by forms, sequences and tags. Getting to start writing the email is quicker. The image support isn’t fantastic, but it
at least supports drag-and-drop. MailChimp, by the way, has the best image
support I’ve seen. I could choose a template different from the
account default if I wanted, but I won’t. I can preview, and send. So, there you have an introduction to the
features of ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. As you can see, ConvertKit is much easier
to use, however, its functionality is limited. ActiveCampaign on the other hand is more customizable,
and more cumbersome. Now, I didn’t get into the features of the
Small Business and Enterprise levels of ActiveCampaign. Features like SMS Marketing, lead scoring,
or the CRM. If you have a business that needs features
like that, or you think that you might need them in the future, then there’s really no
contest, and ActiveCampaign is the choice for you. I won’t get too much into price, as they’re
priced very similarly. Really, price should be way down the list
of what you’re thinking about. You have to pick something that works for
you. If you want to check out the pricing and other
features, you can get a free trial of ActiveCampaign at
You can also sign up for ConvertKit at If you don’t like it, they currently have
a 30-day refund policy. So, my advice if you’re on the fence is to
sign up for both, play around with them a bit, and decide from there. Again, I’m David Kadavy, and I hope you found
this comparison useful.


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