ActiveCampaign is a very popular email automation tool.
But is it right for you?
Let’s find out.
In this ActiveCampaign review, we’ll see just how good this newsletter marketing and email automation software holds up. We’ll look at all the features, ActiveCampaign pricing, Pros and Cons and alternatives.
1. ActiveCampaign most important features
You might be wondering: “What is ActiveCampaign? and what does it do?”
ActiveCampaign is email marketing automation software with added sales CRM. But it does a lot more. When you first log in to ActiveCampaign, and you see all these functions in the dashboard, you will be pleasantly surprised. 😀
Here are the most notable ActiveCampaign features:
- Send email newsletters. ActiveCampaign Email marketing comes with professional-looking templates and a drag and drop builder.
- Create Automated Campaigns. The real strength of ActiveCampaign is the marketing automation builder. It is easy to put together automated campaigns. You can build automations starting with templates and then truly make them your own.
- Close sales with ActiveCampaign CRM called Deals. Use Deals to automate sales follow up and remove much of the manual work in closing deals and sales.
- Get more leads with the ActiveCampaign Landing page builder to convert traffic into signups and customers.
- Add chat to your site. ActiveCampaign Messages brings together your email marketing and chat / on-site messages to create a better overall experience for your visitors.
ActiveCampaign is one of the rare tools that brings a lot of functionality together without overwhelming you. There is a lot more to it that you can find on the AC features page. But it starts with the core, which is email marketing and marketing automation software.
ActiveCampaign pricing is in four plans starting at Lite ($15/month). The starter plan has features like email marketing and marketing automation. Higher plans add features like the ActiveCampaign CRM, landing pages and lead scoring.
You can start for free with the 14-day trial – there are no setup costs.
ActiveCampaign costs are based on the number of contacts and the features you want.
ActiveCampaign offers a 25% discount on a yearly plan. With this, ActiveCampaign costs are very competitive compared to other marketing automation systems.
ActiveCampaign has many features that make marketing easier, faster, and more effective for the end-user. Let’s break them down one by one in our ActiveCampaign review.
Messaging SMS & chat
👉 Pros, Cons and Conclusion
ActiveCampaign Email Marketing
People come for ActiveCampaign’s email marketing and stay for everything else. Email marketing can be individual emails as campaigns and you can choose from six different types namely:
- RSS triggered
- Split testing
- Date based
After choosing the type of email you want to create, you select the right contacts for that email by picking an email list in your account. Beyond lists, ActiveCampaign site tracking and event tracking creates another layer of targeting you can use in individual campaigns.
For example, you may want to send emails to a specific list but only if they’ve visited certain pages or did a specific action on your site. It’s relatively straightforward with ActiveCampaign. I’ll go into more detail about it in discussing the automations feature.
Email templates in ActiveCampaign
In the email creation wizard, you can choose from dozens of email templates. They are labeled based on the use case and they all look professional. When crafting your email, there is a drag-and-drop editor for content blocks. It’s not the slickest editor but it gets the job done.
You can change everything from the fonts, background colors, line height, padding, and more. I use simple looking emails with specific formatting when sending out newsletters. You can save emails as a template and re-use it.
One of the features within the email builder that I love and use all the time are conditional blocks. You can add tags to your subscribers based on their profile or actions like clicks or which list they registered for.
Use the tags (and other criteria) to show or hide content within your email by making it conditional.
We use quizzes to segment people into lists then add tags based on their answers to get granular with their preferences. Then show the right conditional blocks to match someone’s specific situation.
For example: if you’re starting a business and are pre-revenue, there are many things to consider such as the type of business (course sales, eCommerce, affiliate marketing, etc.) The tags allow us to create one email that works with all the different people on one list.
In the email, we get even more interesting with personalization by adding their name, company name, and so many other conditions. I can’t do the email builder experience justice with a few paragraphs, the best option is to take it for a spin yourself.
Every feature is meaningless if the email marketing service isn’t able to deliver your emails to the inbox. ActiveCampaign’s deliverability, from my own experience and through independent tests, scores high across the board so you don’t need to worry about that.
ActiveCampaign Marketing automation
This is why I’ve been using this tool for years. ActiveCampaign marketing automation is second to none in the industry. ActiveCampaign refers to its marketing automations as simply automations. There are three screens you can interact with.
- The main screen is called automations. This is where you see all of your automations in a list and create new ones.
- The manage message screen where you can view, edit, and delete all the messages associated with an automated campaign.
- The final screen is called automations map and it gives you an overview of how each automation interacts with other ones.
When you start to create a new automation, you can start from scratch or pick from dozens of ActiveCampaign automation templates that are designed for a specific outcome. Like:
- Interest targeted follow-up based on-site tracking
- Welcome campaign people get when signing up.
- Abandoned cart follow-up from your ecommerce system tracking
For the automation builder, you can customize in lots of ways to get it just right. For example, in the image below, many different automations flow into one main one so there’s a lot of conditional logic (if/then statements) to make sure the right people get the messages.
When you’re setting up your automation, you can add emails or conditions by clicking the “+” icon. A menu opens up which divides the options based on sending an email, different conditions (split automation, end automation, goals, etc), contact actions (subscribe to a list, unsubscribe, add a tag, etc.), salesforce, and CX apps.
ActiveCampaign Automation Example
Let’s go through a simple scenario to illustrate what’s possible with ActiveCampaign automations.
- Someone fills out a form and joins your mailing list. They go through the normal welcome sequence but don’t end up buying anything. You send them regular emails updating them about the industry, new features or products, and blog posts.
- They click on one of those emails, visit a blog post, and also visit a services page. Since you have ActiveCampaign site tracking set up, it triggers an email sequence related to that product.
- If they don’t submit a contact form on the services page within one hour, an email is sent out that asks them if they’d like to schedule a call. Depending on their actions, the automation ends and starts a different one and tags the person as interested or it continues by notifying a relevant team member to reach out to the person.
All of the automation happens behind the scenes and can be set up using simple conditional logic. If you’re a more advanced user, you can use ActiveCampaign PRO with event tracking, tagging, scoring, and more to improve the customer experience.
There is an ActiveCampaign sales CRM as well. You can make new contacts and deals by hand or based on specific marketing automations – like submitting a contact form or having a high lead score.
ActiveCampaign lead scoring is useful with marketing automation but it shines with the ActiveCampaign CRM because you can apply scores (manually or automatically), and find out who your best prospects are. From there, the machine learning engine can calculate win probability.
For example, you could set up scoring rules based on email opens, clicks, and form submissions. When someone gets to a certain score, it’ll trigger a notification email to one of your sales reps so they can call or follow-up with the contact personally.
Of course, you can add notes to individual contacts, use third-party apps like Gmail, access sales reports, and assign tasks manually or automatically.
Messaging, SMS and Chat
ActiveCampaign gives you the power to create an omnichannel messaging experience that improves support and conversions. “Messaging” is the umbrella term they use for SMS, On-site chat, and Facebook audiences. Let’s look at them in more detail.
1. Text messages and SMS
Text messages have an open rate well over 50% and are proven to be effective. With ActiveCampaign, contacts can subscribe directly to SMS or from an account (if they give their phone number).
2. On-site chat & Conversations
Chat widgets have become popular over the last few years. ActiveCampaign has a solid chat solution. Of course, you’re able to respond to inbound messages to help customers and prospects. You can also send proactive messages to site visitors and deliver a CTA or company update.
The on-site messages and conversations features are separate, but not stand-alone. You can use ActiveCampaign site tracking and other targeting options to personalize messages and reach specific people based on how they’ve been interacting with your brand.
I’m just scratching the surface of how you can target users with site messages. Play around with different targeting options to see which ones work best for you.
3. Facebook audiences
ActiveCampaign has a deep integration with Facebook Ads to add and remove people from custom audiences. You’re able to align your messages based on the funnel stage, retarget and lead people in the right direction.
SMS can be part of any automation. Use them to advertise flash sales, send coupons, or remind them about appointments or important events.
Machine Learning & AI – the smart stuff
ActiveCampaign’s machine learning pops up across different parts of the software. With CRM, you can use machine learning to get a better understanding of the types of deals that will close so you can focus more time and energy there.
For email marketing and marketing automation, there are two aspects it is useful. First, you’re able to send emails to the right person at the right time with predictive sending.
After turning it on, it’ll analyze each one of your contacts and determine how they interact with your messages and then wait until the optimal time to send.
The second way you’re able to use machine learning is through predictive content. It works similar to multivariate testing but much smarter. You write multiple versions of an email and send it. ActiveCampaign’s machine learning and natural language processing help determine who the best recipient is.
There are a lot of ActiveCampaign integrations and new ones are added daily. With Zapier or the open API you can integrate any (homebrew) software.
Ecommerce software like Shopify, BigCommerce and Woocommerce, are what you’d call deep integrations. This goes beyond the surface and allows you to pull in extra contact data, apply tags, add extra fields to the contact’s record, get purchase history, and more.
A few of the most popular integrations include:
- Shopify, BigCommerce and Woocommerce
- WordPress Plugin
- Google analytics
- SalesForce CRM
- And more
There are over 100 integrations so they’re divided into categories such as online course software, lead generation software, CRMs, and more.
While many companies get trouble with customer support as they grow bigger, it seems ActiveCampaign has only gotten better. Previously, it only had email support if you wanted to contact a human and a knowledge base to solve problems on your own.
Today, you also get free onboarding/training webinars, live chat, and multiple tutorial videos on YouTube. The tutorials are short but clear, and the reps are knowledgeable and empathetic. From the personal encounters I’ve had with them I’d give ActiveCampaign an 8 on support
ActiveCampaign Pros & Cons
Pros (what we like about them)
- Great email deliverability right out the gate
- Wide range of features for advanced users
- Machine learning to improve your marketing results over time
- The email builder, though not the slickest, is powerful and gives you a lot of versatility
- The CRM is seamlessly integrated with the automations to improve efficiencies in your organization
- The conversations (on-site chat) feature is an add-on and not included in the standard plan.
- It takes some time to wrap your head around the advanced features if you’re new to email marketing automation.
- The app has been slow at times (at least that is what we see everyone say, not our own experience lately).
Our review of ActiveCampaign: Conclusion
ActiveCampaign is a powerful email and marketing automation tool for businesses across industries, B2C, and B2B.
We recommend ActiveCampaign for:
Companies with a bit of experience with email marketing or those ready to take their efforts to the next level and start with marketing automation. You don’t need to be an expert – beginners should follow the onboarding video’s and you are set.
We don’t recommend ActiveCampaign for:
Marketers who only want to send simple newsletters. It’s too powerful and you’ll likely be not using all the features available. In that case, I’d check out MailerLite or other (and cheaper) MailChimp alternatives. Likewise, if you have huuuge email list, or heavy enterprise requirements, better to work them out first
At just $15/m for 500 contacts (full pricing overview here). it’s affordable for any small business and you have access to the features that’ll give you an almost instant boost in your email marketing and automation results.
My Scorecard for ActiveCampaign:
Ease of Use: 8 / 10
Value for Money: 9 / 10
Editor and templates: 8 / 10
Functionalities: 9 / 10
Email Automation: 9,5 / 10
Customer service: 8 / 10
Total score 9 / 10
Looking at value for money with all the ActiveCampaign automation and email marketing, CRM and more features, my verdict is that you can’t go wrong with ActiveCampaign.
6 best ActiveCampaign alternatives
Seeing as ActiveCampaign isn’t for everyone, here are a few alternatives that have many of the key features you’d need to do email marketing successfully.
Mailchimp Vs. Activecampaign
Mailchimp is the multibillion-dollar elephant in the email marketing space and has evolved into an all-in-one business toolkit. While it may not do certain things as well as ActiveCampaign, it makes up for it by being simpler and free for small lists.
- Free plan for less than 1,000 contacts
- Landing pages
- Facebook Ads management
- Postcards to engage customers
Sendinblue vs. Activecampaign
Sendinblue is a great choice if you’re most interested in sending email newsletters and don’t need the advanced features that come with ActiveCampaign. Though they do it, it’s not as elaborate compared to ActiveCampaign (read full review here). When I think of Sendinblue, I think of newsletters and transactional emails which it excels at.
- Very easy to use email newsletter builder
- Basic CRM
- Great tool for transactional emails
- SMS marketing
ConvertKit Vs. ActiveCampaign
ConvertKit is primarily focused on creators and its automation features wouldn’t be ideal for eCommerce companies. It makes up for it by adding additional features training and content to help creators start out.
- Landing pages
- Free plan
- Decent form builder
- Clear and useful reporting
GetResponse vs ActiveCampaign
GetResponse started as a simple autoresponder and newsletter tool but has grown to be a complete online marketing toolset. It has a handy funnel marketing function with webinars, landing pages, Facebook Ads integrations, Stipe integrations, an online storefront, and more.
- Control all your marketing from one place
- Inexpensive entry-level plan
- Prebuilt templates for most features
- Tools to create Facebook ads
- Clear reporting across the entire funnel
Keap vs ActiveCampaign
Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is a combination email marketing tool and CRM. In addition to that, it handles your affiliate marketing program, landing pages, and even checkout. Though it has the chops, it’s quite complicated and will take a considerable amount of time to master.
- Invoices and payments
- Sales CRM
- Appointment booking
- Marketing automation
- Business line and text messages
Hubspot vs. Activecampaign
Now let’s compare ActiveCampaign to HubSpot. HubSpot goes beyond ActiveCampaign when it comes to inbound marketing. It has an entire suite of tools that help you optimize your organic traffic and conversions.
In my opinion, ActiveCampaign is a better email marketing and automation tool but Hubspot is just bigger, more functionality and considerably more expensive.
- Free CRM
- Live chat
- Build websites (CMS)
- Marketing automation
- Landing pages