ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign vs MailerLite for Knowledge Experts & Creators

ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign vs MailerLite for Knowledge Experts & Creators

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If you are a Knowledge Expert (Coach, Consultant, Speaker, Author) - especially if you offer or want to offer online courses and/or membership sites, my three go-to marketing automation apps are ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign and MailerLite.

I make use of ALL three for various projects, so I've started to nail down how to determine which one is right for YOU and your business.

I don't fall in love with any ONE app.

Because no app is 100% perfect.

You can only choose which one is best for the specific use-case. All three of these apps have their pros and cons.

Keep in mind, if you are in any other kind of business (such as e-commerce), then this method will NOT apply to your business.

Before I dive in, you might be wondering about MailChimp. I have nothing personal against MailChimp except, I always steer people/clients away from MailChimp.

Why?

They have done a great job of promoting themselves and their free tier, which drives all their signups...

...but that's really where the "good" things end. I hate their interface, their functionality sucks, the usability makes me pull my hair out (as I 've had clients who do use them, so we've tried our best to set it up within the constraints of MailChimp's functions, but it's no fun at all).

If all you're looking for is to get started with email marketing for free, then these three apps also offer that to you.  So, there's no real need to choose MailChimp and start on the wrong foot. //End MailChimp rant.

Free, Free, Free!!!

Let's get the big elephant in the room out of the way first, if you're starting out or you don't have a huge budget or consistent sales coming in, then you want to get started for free as much possible.

I get it.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But just keep this mind, if you're in business - you HAVE to account for some investment (both monetary and time). If you want to launch a true business without incurring ANY kinds of costs, then you should just stick to a job.

So, as I mentioned, all three of my go to apps offer a free tier. As of the publishing date of this post, this is what the free tier offers:


ConvertKit

ActiveCampaign

MailerLite

Forever Free?

14-Day Free Trial Only

# of contacts

1,000

N/A

1,000

No credit card signup?

Landing pages & forms

Email broadcast

Unlimited

Limited Sending

12,000/mo

Marketing Automation

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Ease-of-Use

If you're a solopreneur or have a small team with few techie people, you'll most likely be setting up and configuring these apps on your own.

So, easy-of-use plays a big part in long-term use and what you get out of each app.

MailerLite is probably the easiest to setup and get started. Their automations area is also very straight-forward to setup.

ConvertKit probably has the nicest user-interface and overall aesthetic feel to it's interface. I enjoy it the most. The main disadvantage is automations are NOT included in the Free plan for ConvertKit where as MailerLite and ActiveCampaign's free trial does include it.

Whle ActiveCampaign has the most features/funcationality - I've always found their email editor & user navigation to be lacking. It's butt-ugly and clunky. I've submitted my feedback about the email editor for a long time but have yet to see any improvements.


ConvertKit

ActiveCampaign

MailerLite

Email Editor

Automation Builder

Form Editor

General Interface

Landing Page Editor

General Loading Speed

Overall Ease-of-Use Score

Remarks

  • Best overall user-interface
  • Dated looking email & form editors
  • Poor user-navigation (takes too many clicks to get things done)
  • Can be slow at times
  • Segments & lists are not as intuitive (Groups)
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Support

Fortunately, I haven't had a need to really be in touch with support for any of these three apps.

However, that means I can't really comment on it either.

When I initially migrated our Infusionsoft data to ActiveCampaign, they seemed relatively responsive. However, when it comes to feedback for the future direction of the app's features & functionality, I haven't seen or heard from them at all.

I briefly had contact with MailerLite support but not for anything crucial but I did find they responded relatively quickly.

Same with ConvertKit, it was a minor issue and it was resolved within one day.

Premium Plan Pricing

As your list grows, then you will enter paid/premium plan territory, so I'll break-it down by looking at a list size of 2,500:


ConvertKit

ActiveCampaign

MailerLite

Plan

Complete

Lite

Premium

Max. # of contacts

3,000

2,500

2,500

Landing pages & forms

Email broadcasts

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

integrations

Marketing Automation

Monthly Fee

$49/mo

$65/mo

$15/mo

$ per Contact

$0.0163

$0.0260

$0.006

w/ CRM feature

N/A

$169/mo

N/A

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Your Product/Service Offerings

Which marketing automation app you choose will depend on the products & services you plan to offer.

While I understand if you're just starting out, you want to start off without incurring too much costs, but ultimately switching marketing automation apps will lead to delays, potentially higher costs and lost sales due to downtime - so, I generally advise to select wisely from the beginning (it doesn't mean you won't switch at anytime during your business - see "Why we left Infusionsoft after ten years", but you want to minimize this as much as possible - it's a massive  headache).

Below is a matrix of typical knowledge business product & service offerings. What you currently sell and/or plan to sell in the future will play the biggest part in determining what you should choose now.

Update: I just watched an update from Matt Giovanisci of MoneyLab (check out his stuff, it's pretty interesting), and he recently switched from ConvertKit to Active Campaign.

His reasons for switching made me realize I missed this one crucial consideration when I initially wrote this post and it's a very common scenario Knowledge businesses will encounter...

...eventually you may have multiple brands under your one umbrella business. (e.g. Look at Agora Financial, they cross-market their various newsletter brands to their internal lists).

Matt explains pretty clearly how he'd be spending MORE if he had multiple brands/businesses by going with ConvertKit vs Active Campaign. So, that's a great point he made - and I've updated the table below to reflect this consideration as well.

Technically, you can also have multiple domains & brands with MailerLite as well, BUT...

...if you need more complicated/advanced automations, Active Campaign is more suitable in that scenario.

Do you plan to offer:

ConvertKit

ActiveCampaign

MailerLite

Dripped email content

Online courses (more than 1)

Membership site/area

High-Ticket Offer Sold by Sales People

Need to integrate w/ other apps? (e.g. WooCommerce)

Manage & send from multiple "brands" under one account

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By now, you'll start to see - the choice is not so easy nor so clear.

It will depend on what you plan to do/sell with your business.

If I were to summarize the selections:

MailerLite is suitable for simple knowedge expert businesses where your growth is very slow and you only have ONE core product offering.

Both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign are suitable if you have more than one online course offering and/or you want to offer a membership site but do plan to sell any high-ticket offering via sales people.

If you plan to have sales people who sell a high-ticket offering for you, then ActiveCampaign would be my choice. 

Update: as I mentioned above, if you plan to or already have multiple brands under one umbrella business, then Active Campaign may be the better choice for multiple brands under one account. (Note: this is ONLY if they are YOUR internal brands - NOT for clients you are managing, they should be under their own account).

Why?

With sales people, you will need a CRM function and neither ConvertKit nor MailerLite offer this functionality. You would need a separate app which could add costs and complexity to your technology stack. 

I understand sometimes there's no choice but to have a mishmash of apps but ideally you want to keep the number of different apps down.

Simple is always better.

What's Your Choice?

I hope this post has helped you in using a more systematic approach to selecting an appropriate marketing automation app for your business (it's not all price!).

I'm genuinely curious to know if this helps people choose, so if you're willing to share, please share if it's helped you and which choice you made in the comments.

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Further Reading

Want to launch an online course of your own? I do a detailed breakdown of which platforms you can consider that's best for you.

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