ActiveCampaign Review / Demo: Is this marketing automation platform good, bad, or ugly?

ActiveCampaign Review / Demo: Is this marketing automation platform good, bad, or ugly?

After years of research, several years ago
I switched from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. Now why do I love ActiveCampaign so much? I’ve already done a MailChimp versus ActiveCampaign
comparison. Now it’s time to do an ActiveCampaign review. ActiveCampaign was the best choice for me
as an email marketing platform. Now does that make it the best choice for
you, too? Not necessarily. I’ve said in prior reviews, such as my AWeber
review, that choosing the right email marketing platform is a bit like choosing a spouse. There are going to be quirks that you don’t
like, they may even drive you crazy. But you have to decide what you “must have,”
and what you “can’t stand.” There is some choice out there that’s better
for you than all of the others. I’m going to help you find that. If at any point in this ActiveCampaign review
you decide that ActiveCampaign is right for you, I have an ActiveCampaign free trial coupon
for you. At you’ll get a 14-day free
trial to try out all of ActiveCampaign’s features. They’ll even do free migration if you decide
to switch. Now, I’ll earn a commission if you sign
up through my link. It costs you nothing extra. It’s a great way to thank me for the work
that goes into this review, and to make it possible for me to make more email marketing
content like this. As you’ll see, this won’t affect what
I say about ActiveCampaign. I want you to make the right choice for you
and your business. I’m going to tell you about the good and
the bad. Here’s what I love about ActiveCampaign,
along with why that fits my business. I’m going to expand on each of these later: One. You can do just about anything with ActiveCampaign. My personality is such that I want to dream
up the right way to do my email marketing, and then I want to build exactly that. I can always do that with ActiveCampaign. And I personally struggle being limited by
a tool. But some people are good at that. MailChimp was extremely limited. That did not fit me and my business. Two. ActiveCampaign’s automations are easy to
understand and visualize. This is because they have a visual drag-and-drop
editor. They were the first service that I came across
that had a drag-and-drop editor, besides InfusionSoft – which I wanted to avoid because everyone
was calling it “confusionsoft.” The moment that I saw ActiveCampaign’s automation
builder, I was in love. Many other services have visual editors now,
and I’m not sure which ones were simply following ActiveCampaign’s lead. Three. ActiveCampaign has versatile goal tracking. You’re probably doing email marketing because
you have some goal you want to meet with your prospects. With ActiveCampaign, you can track the success
of your efforts with goal tracking. Because you can do just about anything with
ActiveCampaign, your goal can be just about anything – whether that’s registering
for a webinar, or buying a product. Four. ActiveCampaign has tons of integrations. When I started with ActiveCampaign, they were
up and coming. Now they’re one of the top email marketing
platforms, so they have more integrations than ever. And those integrations tend to be rich, giving
lots of control. Five. ActiveCampaign has Message Variables. This is my favorite ActiveCampaign feature. You can create a library of plain text or
HTML snippets that you can then reuse throughout your campaigns. For example, if you want to change a coupon
code in an automation on a regular basis, you can do that. Six. ActiveCampaign has the best deliverability
in the business. This wasn’t readily apparent to me. I do think MailChimp has good deliverability,
and I once had a deliverability issue with ActiveCampaign, which support quickly straightened
out for me. But according to a recent report by Email
Tool Tester, ActiveCampaign leads the industry with a 97% deliverability rate. By contrast, MailChimp and ConvertKit have
about 81% deliverability rates, and AWeber only a 75% deliverability rate. Seven. ActiveCampaign has advanced tiers of service. Switching email marketing platforms is a pain,
so you hate to have to switch simply because your business grows. With ActiveCampaign, you can upgrade to a
“Pro”-level plan, which has additional features such as lead scoring, a CRM, SMS
marketing, and on-site chat. Eight. ActiveCampaign has competitive pricing. I personally would not let a few bucks difference
force me to pick a different email marketing platform, but ActiveCampaign’s pricing happens
to be a great deal. No email marketing platform is perfect. Here are things that have bothered me about
ActiveCampaign: One. Clunky email editing experience. I got spoiled with MailChimp’s email editor. It is the easiest to use. ActiveCampaign’s email editor has some strange
quirks that slow me down a little bit. Two. Cumbersome to edit multiple emails in an automation. Editing emails in an automation is a pain
in ActiveCampaign. ConvertKit is the best at this experience. Three. You have to build everything from scratch. Many email marketing platforms have shortcuts
for doing certain things, such as identifying inactive contacts, adjusting granular subscription
preferences, or delivering lead magnets. But on ActiveCampaign, you have to build all
of these things from scratch, which steepens the learning curve. Four. Occasional slow performance. Now when I first joined ActiveCampaign several
years ago, performance was painfully slow. I think they were experiencing growing pains,
as they have quickly grown to be a dominant email marketing platform. Performance has improved dramatically over
that time, but I still do occasionally experience slow performance. I feel like it’s mostly when I’m viewing
reports. Five. The features can be overwhelming. Because you can do anything with ActiveCampaign,
there are a lot of features to sort through. And this makes the learning curve steep. If you aren’t willing to put in time to
learn the ins and outs of ActiveCampaign, you may be better off with a more simple platform,
such as MailChimp, or even ConvertKit is more simple. Now that I have the basic details out of the
way, let me tell you about my perspective. This will help you see where you and your
business might be different, and where you might have different preferences in your email
marketing platform. I’m an author and podcaster. I build my list with lead magnets and email
courses. I regularly send original content. I never buy nor sell emails. I sell online courses. In addition to my books, I sell online courses
direct to my audience. My payment processor is SendOwl, and ActiveCampaign
integrates with them beautifully. I do webinars. I often sell my courses via live and evergreen
webinars. My webinar platform is WebinarJam, and ActiveCampaign
again integrates with them beautifully. I do occasional affiliate marketing. Some email marketing platforms frown upon
affiliate marketing if you’re doing it really heavily. I do only occasional affiliate marketing,
and I haven’t had any problems with ActiveCampaign in that regard. Now let’s take a look at some of the ways
that I use ActiveCampaign in my business. ActiveCampaign has always been built to have
automations. This is a contrast to some of the original
email marketing platforms that have been around for much longer, such as MailChimp and AWeber. AWeber and MailChimp both have automations,
but they are limited. Limited automations was one of the main reasons
I switched from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. I believe that because ActiveCampaign has
always had automations, that is part of why they are so good at automations. Automations enable you to automatically send
emails to contacts based upon a variety of factors, such as when they signed up, how
much they are interacting with your emails for, example. Let’s take a look at some of the building
blocks of ActiveCampaign’s automations. ActiveCampaign has a library full of pre-built
automations that you can start with, such as prospect follow-ups, automations to increase
referral traffic, sales team automation, and more. But you can also start from scratch. And there are a number of ways you can trigger
an automation, including having a tag added, subscribing to a list or submitting a form,
and there are e-commerce and on-site options in the Pro plan. Or, you can choose no trigger at all, because
there are other ways to add contacts to an automation. You can do it manually, or you can add a contact
to an automation from another automation. From there, you can start building the actions
in your automation. You can send a message or notify a team member. You can also add wait conditions, if/then
conditionals, split traffic for testing, skip to other parts of the automation, track goals,
start or end automations, or post a webhook. Finally, you can subscribe or unsubscribe
to lists, update contact details, add and remove tags, or add a note. Lead scoring, SMS and site messages, and Facebook
Custom Audience management are all Pro features. Contrast with ConvertKit’s Automations,
which are more limited. You can trigger a ConvertKit Automation when
the contact submits a form, makes a purchase, has a tag added, or based upon a custom field. From there, you can create Conditions. You can create Actions such as a delay, adding
a tag, moving the subscriber to another automation, or starting an email sequence. You can also create Events, which are a bit
like ActiveCampaign’s Goals, but without the reporting. You don’t create emails in ConvertKit’s
Automations. Instead, you send your contacts into a Sequence,
which is a series of emails sent according to the schedule and conditions you create. As you can see, you can do just about anything
with ActiveCampaign’s automations. So, where do you begin? Here’s a few ways I use ActiveCampaign’s
automations in my business. The primary way I build my Design for Hackers
list is through an email course. ActiveCampaign makes it easy for me to build
my email course exactly how I’d like to build it. Many marketers build very simple email sequences
for their “email courses.” A contact signs up, and then that contact
immediately starts getting lessons. And I don’t do that method. My email course is manually synced with this
countdown timer on my site. You have to sign up by Friday night, and a
new course begins each Monday morning. When I first tried this methodology, I was
on MailChimp. I had to manually start my email course each
week, because that was the only way to do it the way I wanted at the time. Now here’s how I use ActiveCampaign to build
the welcome sequence of my free email course, Design Pitfalls: There’s a few things going on here:
The automation sends all contacts a “welcome email.” The automation verifies that it’s not Friday. If it’s not Friday, the automation waits
until it is Friday. At 11am, it sends a “pump up” email to
get the students ready for next week’s course, and encourage them to share it with friends. If it is Friday and before 7pm, the automation
skips the “pump up” email. The contact will start getting lessons the
following Monday morning. Now if it is Friday and after 7pm, the contact
missed enrollment for next week’s class. They’ll get the pump up email the following
Friday morning, and lessons the Monday after that. Now it was impossible for me to automate this
with MailChimp. With ActiveCampaign, it’s relatively easy. With automations, you don’t have to treat
all of your contacts the exact same. You can change your messages according to
what they’re interested in, and the level of interest that they show. When I run a webinar, I don’t want to send
the same email to every person on my list. I want to send them the appropriate email
for their level of engagement. And here’s the automation I use to promote
an evergreen webinar: First it verifies that they haven’t already
purchased the product I pitch in the webinar. If they have, they get added to an automation
for a different product. Then it sends a series of emails to get them
interested in the webinar, and to encourage them to sign up. If they sign up, they immediately hit the
“Goal” toward the end of the webinar, and the automation ends. If they don’t sign up, they get added to
an automation promoting a rebroadcast of the webinar. I’m able to tell whether the contact signed
up because ActiveCampaign integrates very well with my webinar platform, WebinarJam. This enables me to customize my messaging
in other automations, based upon the contact’s engagement with the webinar. Here’s the WebinarJam integration panel: I can add tags based upon whether the contact
registered, attended, missed, or based upon how long they stayed in the webinar. These tags can then trigger automations within
ActiveCampaign. If a contact isn’t opening my emails, I
don’t want to be sending them emails. It costs me money, and it makes it more likely
that my emails will go to spam or Gmail’s promotions tab. People who don’t open my emails make it
harder for other emails to get to the people who really want them! The “Pro” plan of ActiveCampaign has lead
scoring built in. But even on the “Lite” plan, you can roll
your own automations to tell how engaged subscribers are. Here’s an automation I got from ActiveCampaign’s
library of automations, which I use to tell which contacts aren’t engaging with my emails. When a contact subscribes, this automation
adds a “0 days” tag. As time passes, it adds new tags for 7 days,
30 days, 60 days, etc Each time they open an email, a separate automation
removes them from this automation, removes all of those tags, and starts this automation
over again. Any time one of these tags is added, I can
use it to trigger a “reactivation” campaign, which I’ll talk about in a bit. This automation can be overwhelming at first,
and this is one of those cases where I wish ActiveCampaign had a more out-of-the-box solution. But, because you can do anything with ActiveCampaign,
sometimes you have to build things from scratch. ActiveCampaign has an option to delete inactive
subscribers, which I don’t recommend. You should at least run a reactivation campaign
first. Some subscribers don’t have tracking turned
on, so their opens aren’t recorded. Others still want to be subscribed but have
been busy. Here’s my reactivation sequence:
I send one email asking if they still want to be subscribed, and I briefly explaining
why I keep my email list clean. In one week, I send them another email. If they already clicked on the confirmation
link in the previous email, they’ve already been removed from the automation – using
a separate automation. And after another week, I send them an email
letting them know that they’ve been unsubscribed, why, and how they can resubscribe in the future. The automation then unsubscribes them. My emails also have a link to a form where
they can enter their email address to let me know that they don’t have tracking enabled. This form adds a tag that I use to filter
those contacts out. I used to add this tag when they clicked on
a link, but when people don’t have tracking on, it makes those links work not so reliably. I send a simple “Do you still want my emails?” confirmation. There are even better ways to run a reactivation
campaign. You can send bonus content. You can try to get the contact more engaged
again. To know how well your automations are converting,
ActiveCampaign has Goal tracking. A common way to measure whether a Goal has
been met is if a tag has been added to the contact. This tag can be added because your payment
processor recorded a sale, or because your webinar platform recorded that your contact
attended a webinar. On the Goal report, you can see what percentage
of contacts complete this goal, based upon the number of contacts who enter that automation. You can also see whether the completion rate
has increased or decreased, how long it takes for contacts to reach that goal, and you can
browse all contacts to see who did and didn’t reach the goal. As I said earlier, ActiveCampaign’s Message
Variables is my favorite feature. It saves me a ton of time and effort, and
neither MailChimp nor ConvertKit has a comparable feature. AWeber does have something similar with its
Global Text Snippets, but they are very basic. Let’s say you have the first name of only
some of your contacts, which is the case with my list. I usually don’t require a first name to
sign up to my list, but sometimes I get a first name, such as when someone buys a product. So wouldn’t it be nice to greet your contacts
by name, in the cases when you have it? You can do this, but it’s cumbersome. In this text, I’m checking to see whether
the contact has a first name in the database. I’m also filtering for generic terms added
by other systems, such as a dash, or “Guest.” If they have a first name, I say “Hey,”
and then their first name. If they don’t, I just say “Hey there,”. With Message Variables, I don’t have to
type that every single time. I created a variable that’s simply “%greeting-hey%.” If I have the contact’s name, it shows up
in the email. If I don’t have the contact’s name, it
defaults to “Hey, there”. Where Message Variables really save me a lot
of time is by enabling me use the same automation over and over again for my webinars, and I
can quickly change out all of the details. Here’s are variables for a webinar I run
called “Bust Through Creative Blocks.” You can see I have a bunch of different variables
here, such as the date and the time of the webinar, the price of the product, deal terms,
coupon code, and more. Each time I run a new webinar, I can change
each of these variables to match any schedule changes or offer changes. For example, here’s the variable for my
Motion Mail deadline timer. And here it is in an email. I did mention earlier that one of the cons
of ActiveCampaign is their email editing experience. I switched from MailChimp, and MailChimp happens
to have the best email editing experience. I really like to send simple emails. Just basic text like it was an email from
a friend. I’ve found that very hard to do with ActiveCampaign. For a long time, I used ActiveCampaign’s
hybrid HTML WYSIWYG editor, which was triggered by a basic template that I created and uploaded. The interface for the HTML editor looks like
it was pulled from some free open-source project. But, it does enable you to create an email
with as little or as much formatting as you’d like. However, adding images is a bit of a chore. You have to select them from a file browser. There’s no drag and drop option. The alternative to this, if you want to have
control over the HTML, is to edit pure HTML, with a preview on the side. But you can’t manipulate it visually, you
have to strictly write in HTML. And lately I have started using ActiveCampaign’s
rich text editor. They have some nice templates, but I still
want to send the plainest email possible. They do have some plain-looking emails, but
they have some degree of minimal formatting, which you can’t remove. You don’t have access to the underlying
HTML. But with some adjustments, I can make my email
pretty basic. I can make it automatically take up the whole
window, and I can tweak the typography to be slightly larger, and have a little more
leading. The most frustrating part of ActiveCampaign’s
rich text editor is adding images. Imagine you’ve just typed out a great email. Now you want to add one image to that email. You can’t simply add an image to a block
of text. Instead, you have to create two blocks of
text: one for before the image, and one for after the image. If you’ve made any formatting changes, you’ll
have to keep an eye on those to stay consistent. That’s one thing to deal with when you want
to add one image, but when you want to add several, it becomes a big chore. The one saving grace over the visual editor
is that you can drag and drop images into the email. ActiveCampaign even has a basic mage editor
where you can crop the image. Contrast this with the editing experience
of MailChimp. You have access to the underlying code, so
you can create a truly plain email, provided you make a basic template first. They don’t have a full-width option natively,
but you can add an image into the text anywhere you like. MailChimp’s built-in image editor is extremely
powerful. You can resize, crop, and add custom text
to your images. I miss MailChimp’s email-editing experience. It would save me a little time to have that
same experience on ActiveCampaign. But the highly-customizable automations I
can build on ActiveCampaign more than make up for that potential time savings. ConvertKit could be a happy medium. Their templates are limited, which is fine
with me, but their email editing experience is slightly easier in that you can create
inline images, and you can create a totally plain email, and even edit the underlying
HTML. The other ActiveCampaign con is the experience
of editing multiple emails in an automation. If you want to make some quick edits, it takes
some time. Let’s say I’m working on an email course,
and I want to quickly edit the first few lines of each email. I’ll click on an email, and it takes me
to the editor for that email. Note that I can’t Command + Click to open
it in another tab. Whether they meant to or not, ActiveCampaign
has disabled Command + Click from the automation editor. If I wanted to switch back and forth between
various emails, intuitively, I’d be inclined to open the same automation in various tabs,
then open the respective emails from each of those tabs. But, ActiveCampaign does have an easier place
to manage your automation messages. In the Automations section, there’s a “Manage
Messages” area. From here, you can see all of the messages
in each of your automations. You can edit each one, or you can Command
+ Click to open each in a new tab to more easily edit your entire sequence. Contrast that with ConvertKit’s Sequences,
wherein it’s as intuitive and easy as it could possibly be to edit multiple emails
in your sequence. I can switch from editing one email to the
next, and back, instantly. Again, it would save me a lot of time to have
ConvertKit’s automation email editing experience on ActiveCampaign. But choosing an email marketing platform is
a little bit like choosing a spouse. And ActiveCampaign makes up for it with their
Message Variables, and their more robust automations, and their advanced segmentation. Speaking of segmentation, another reason I
switched from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign was that MailChimp has limited segmentation
options. ActiveCampaign’s, by contrast, are robust. You can combine attributes with an AND/OR
operators, and you can mix and match those groups of traits with another AND/OR operator. With MailChimp, you can only segment by AND/OR,
however, MailChimp’s Pro plan allows more sophisticated segmenting, for an additional
$199 per month. In my search for the perfect email marketing
platform, I saw many others, some of which I’ve already mentioned. Here’s how I compare ActiveCampaign to some
of the leading alternatives. ConvertKit. If I weren’t on ActiveCampaign, I would
probably be using ConvertKit. Their automations are much easier to build,
though they aren’t as versatile as ActiveCampaign’s, and their segmentations options aren’t as
sophisticated either. They also don’t have goal tracking, or Message
Variables. MailChimp. You already know that I switched from MailChimp
to ActiveCampaign. If you primarily want to do basic email blasts,
if really attractive templates are important to you, and you can live with only very basic
automations, you might like MailChimp. MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 contacts,
though if you’re serious I’d strongly caution against locking yourself into an email
marketing platform just because it’s cheaper on the short term. Switching is a pain, and it may cost you more
in the long run. AWeber. AWeber has been around forever, so they integrate
with anything. There’s no one particular thing that is
special about AWeber. It has just-okay email editing experience,
templates, and automations. One edge it has, in my opinion, is Global
Text Snippets. I go more in depth in my AWeber Review. If you’re a small business with 5,000 subscribers
or more, and you don’t need much more than basic broadcasts and automations, AWeber may
be a good choice. Their pricing is very competitive above 5,000
subscribers. Finally, let’s look at pricing. I generally don’t believe pricing should
be a major factor in deciding the right email marketing platform for your business. Having the right features for your marketing
strategy will ultimately make up for whatever price differences you find. But, price is still a factor, so let’s look
at pricing for ActiveCampaign vs. ActiveCampaign’s alternatives. As you can see, if you’re starting out with
500 contacts, ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is cheaper than both AWeber and ConvertKit. ConvertKit is almost double the price of ActiveCampaign
if you’re just starting out. MailChimp, as I’ve mentioned, is free below
2,000 contacts. But, at 5,000 contacts and above, ActiveCampaign
is the most expensive. About 10% more than ConvertKit, and about
50% more than AWeber or MailChimp. As I’ve said, if you’re going to be making
full use of ActiveCampaign’s rich automation features, it’s well worth the price difference. In conclusion, ActiveCampaign is an incredibly
versatile email marketing platform. You can build just about anything with it,
the price is competitive. They have quickly become a dominant email
marketing platform. It is well deserved. If you try out ActiveCampaign, please do me
a favor. Sign up through my affiliate link at
You’ll get a 14-day free trial, and you’ll help me make more videos like this one. By the way, some people who watch my videos
are interested in learning more about how I use email marketing automation in my business. If you’d like a behind-the-scenes peek of
my specific automations, sign up at, and I’ll show you how my automations work. And of course, subscribe to my channel if
you’d like to get updates when I post new videos. I’m David Kadavy, thank you for watching.

One comment

  1. Thanks so much for the great review. I'm exploring AC and Get Response right now with their free trials. I had Aweber for about 3 years and never really wanted to use it because of how it was laid out – it just killed my motivation. I'm looking for a way to host my Free Lead Magnets in whatever Auto Responder. Do you know if this is possible in AC? I know that I could host my lead magnets on my website and link to it or use something like Drop Box or Google Drive but I was hoping to have all of my lead magnets "In House" so to speak in the Auto Responder. If you or anyone else knows how to do this in AC I'd be interested to know more, until then the search continues.

    God Bless,


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