ActiveCampaign Review: Marketing Automation On Steroids (2018)

For a long time, the only email service providers that provided automation capabilities were hugely expensive products like InfusionSoft and Ontraport. This put the power that automation out of the reach of many small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Why is email automation so critical?

ActiveCampaign Review

Last updated: May 1, 2018
First Published on: Dec 16, 2015

tl;dr Summary
ActiveCampaign is an affordable email service provider that also includes some impressive email marketing automation features. This makes it one of the best choices for power email marketers.

By automating your email workflow, you can unlock the true potential of your email list.

It will help you turn your leads into customers. It will make your subscribers more engaged. And if you set it up right, all this will happen with a minimum amount of intervention on your part.

Fortunately for us, the landscape for email automation is quickly changing for the better.

For example, ConvertKit and GetResponse are both affordable autoresponders that offer automation capabilities.

And today, I’m going to review ActiveCampaign, which offers some even more automations capabilities than the two above. It’s also more affordable than Infusionsoft and it has become the autoresponder of choice for some very smart marketers that I respect.

What is ActiveCampaign?

ActiveCampaign is not just your standard email service provider. It’s a complete email marketing automation and CRM platform.

ActiveCampaign Front

If you have used Aweber for example, you will be familiar with core features like sending broadcast emails (called campaigns) and creating web forms. What ActiveCampaign’s CRM features give you (Plus plan only) is greater control over your contacts than you are probably used to.

But where ActiveCampaign really stands out are its impressive automation features. It includes a powerful visual automation editor that allows you to build some amazing email workflows that few other email service providers can match.

ActiveCampaign has the concepts of tags, which you will be using frequently to segment your lists. Email segmenting is super important because it allows you to send highly targeted emails. The more focused your emails are, the more responsive your subscribers will be.

Think of tags as attributes that you define for the people on your list. You could have tags for particular interests like email marketing, SEO etc. Or you could create tags for buyers and non-buyers. It’s up to you to decide what kind of tags to use.

Let continue with this review by taking a look at my ActiveCampaign account.

Dashboard

The dashboard gives you a birds-eye view of your ActiveCampaign account. It consists of different widgets, which you can customize and move around as you like.

ActiveCampaign Dashboard

The first widget you will notice displays all the contacts you have in your account. It can be toggled to see your active contacts, which is the number of people who actually open your emails and haven’t unsubscribed.

One nice thing about ActiveCampaign is that your unsubscribed contacts don’t count against towards your paid subscriber limit. Many other email service providers charge you for unsubscribes, which I’ve always found annoying.

For quick navigation, you can also see links to your most recent campaigns and most recent automations.

The Top Contacts widget is also quite interesting. You can see the contacts that have been interacting the most with your email marketing. These are usually your best customers or hot prospects and you might want to give them some extra attention and keep them happy.

Contacts Screen

Here is where you can access all the contacts in your account. Contacts can be conveniently filtered by tags or list.

ActiveCampaign Contacts Page

One nice feature is you can multi-select contacts and perform actions on them like adding them all to a list, or giving them a specific tag.

From here, you can also import and export contacts. For example, you could export your buyer lists and import them into your Facebook Ads account and create a custom audience. This is great for creating highly targeted ads.

If you are migrating from another email service provider, you can easily do this from the import screen. ActiveCampaign supports a number of 3rd party apps including Basecamp, Stripe, and Zapier.

Or you can import a straight CSV export file that you would get from a service like Aweber or GetResponse.

Drilling down into a specific contact allows you to see more info about them. Once you add a contact, ActiveCampaign will go out and pull additional info about them including their picture and social media profiles from various sources.

ActiveCampaign contact proffile

I personally like the contact’s activity stream where you can easily see how they are interacting with your list. If you have site tracking enabled, you can even see every single page your contact has visited on your site.

ActiveCampaign Automations

Automations allow you to create a workflow of actions that are triggered based on specific criteria.

If your goal is to build a passive, automated business then automations are really where it’s at.

According to HubSpot, marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales by an average of 10%.

Fortunately, ActiveCampaign makes creating workflow automations simple.

When you create an automation, you are first asked how you want to trigger the automation:

 

ActiveCampaign Triggers

As you can see, some of the more useful triggers include:

  • Clicking a link in an email
  • A page on your site is visited
  • When an event is recorded, like someone purchasing your product.
  • Whenever a tag is added

Once you’ve added a trigger, ActiveCampaign gives you a variety of actions you can perform. For example, you can:

  • Send an email or SMS
  • Add or remove a tag
  • Create a conditional if/then branch
  • Wait for x number of days

ActiveCampaign-Actions

Building up your automation workflow is then just a matter of clicking and adding new Actions until you’re done. You can even create more complex automations by composing them of other smaller automations. You can use the automation quick links to easily navigate between nested automations.

This ability to re-use automations across multiple lists is very powerful and will save you a lot of time if you use automations a lot.  You can also share automations which other people which is also super useful!

ActiveCampaign is also the only ESP I know that allows you to split test automations. This allows you to do things like split test the time of day each of your automated emails goes out.

So what kind of automations can you build?

Almost anything really. You are pretty much only limited by your own creativity.

A key to many automations is ActiveCampaign’s site tracking feature which is just some javascript code that you need to put on your site.

This allows you to see which pages your subscribers are visiting and more importantly, provides a useful trigger for many of these automations.

To get your juices flowing, here are some 6 ideas for automations that you can implement using ActiveCampaign.

1. Product interest tagging

As your contacts visit specific product pages on your site, you can give them a tag. This allows you to better segment and send targeted offers.

2. Create a custom welcome sequence

Perhaps you have been implementing content upgrades on several pages of your site. Then the ideal thing to do is send a custom welcome sequence that revolves around the lead magnet your contact subscribed for.

With a service like MailChimp, you would have to create a new list for every lead magnet. In ActiveCampaign, each sequence would simply be its own automation and you can use tags to make sure a contact does not enter your welcome sequence more than once.

3. Perform periodic list cleanup

The key to email marketing is not to have the largest list. It’s to have the most responsive list. Every 60 days (or whatever number you specify), this automation can check if a subscriber has opened any emails in your sequence.

If they haven’t, it will send out a couple of emails to check their responsiveness. If a contact still does not reply, then remove them from your list.

Weeding out unresponsive subscribers is very important to ensure high deliverability of all your emails.

4. Cart abandonment automation

Let’s say you are selling a product on your site.

If a contact visits your checkout page but does not buy your product within one hour, this automation can send them an email asking if they have any questions and remind them to complete their purchase.

This is called a cart abandonment workflow, and you can read our blog post on how you can implement this in ActiveCampaign.

5. Email retargeting

Have you noticed when you visit a particular website, that you will often start seeing ads for that website on other site’s you visit? That’s called ad retargeting.

You can do this a similar thing with emails.

Let’s say you have a blog post on your site that talks about the benefits of list building. When a contact visits this page, an automation can be triggered to send them an email promoting Leadpages and how it is the perfect solution for building an email list.

6. Rank your best and worst leads

This automation idea comes courtesy of Justin Brooke, and it takes advantage of ActiveCampaign’s lead scoring feature, which is available to Plus members.

Give 5 points to anyone who opens an email and 10 points if they click a link. Now create an automation that starts when anyone subscribes to one of your lists. After 30 days have a check to see what their lead score is and anyone with 50 or more points is tagged as a VIP.

Resend Your Campaigns

Another unique feature of ActiveCampaign is the ability to resend your campaigns.

Let’s say you have a campaign that really worked well. However in the 3 months, since you sent it out, you may have added another thousand new subscribers to your list.

Well, ActiveCampaign gives you an option to resend this campaign again, to just the new contacts that have joined since your original broadcast. Your contacts who saw your campaign already will not receive it again.

ActiveCampaign-ResendCampaign

ActiveCampaign also gives you the ability to send broadcast emails to contacts who did not open your original email blast. The trick here is to resend your campaign but use a different subject line. Since they didn’t open your email in the first place, they never saw the content and you can keep it the same.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone may not have opened your email previously, and this resend option gives you the ability to extend your reach by targeting these people.

Reports

Once sending emails becomes an integral part of your business, the reports screen is where you will be spending a lot of time. It allows you to easily see what’s working and not working with your email marketing.

In the overview report and you will see a graph of your daily open rates. What I found most useful to me are the summary stats. Here you can see your open rate, click rate, unsubscribes and bounces.

ActiveCampaign Example Report

The Email clients report is also quite useful. You can see which email clients are the most popular and change your strategy accordingly.

For example, if the majority of your subscribers are using Gmail, then you might want to pay more attention to making sure your emails get into Gmail’s primary tab.

If your subscribers are mostly using mobile mail clients then you better make sure to test that your emails look good on the small screen.

Pricing

With all these features that ActiveCampaign offers, you would think that it would be in the upper tier in terms of pricing.  But at least the Lite plan is quite reasonable.

There are 4 tiers with ActiveCampaign – Lite, Plus, Professional, and Enterprise.

The main difference is that Pro includes CRM and Lead Scoring features. Professional adds Site Messaging, Attribution and support for 50 users.

However, the Lite plan still gives you all the core email autoresponder and marketing automation features.  And for most businesses, that’s more than enough.

Just to try things out, you can get started using the Basic plan with 500 contacts for just $15/mo. And here is how things break down as your number of contacts scale up.

Subscribers 1,000 2.500 5,000 10,000 25,000
ActiveCampaign (Lite) $29 $49 $89 $139 $225
ActiveCampaign (Plus) $70 $125 $169 $249 $399
Aweber $29 $29 $69 $149 Call
ConvertKit $29 $49 $79 $119 $199
MailChimp $29 $50 $50 $75 150

As you can see, this pricing structure compares very favorably to the competition.  And while I don’t see many ActiveCampaign discounts around, if you opt to pay yearly you can save quite a bit more.

And as mentioned above, ActiveCampaign does not charge you for unsubscribed contacts, and a single contact on multiple lists is only counted as a single subscriber.

ActiveCampaign vs the Competition

When deciding on an email service provider to go with, you will have a lot of choices. So how does ActiveCampaign compare with some of the other popular autoresponders out there?

Based on my experience, very well actually.

With its marketing automation capabilities, it’s hands down the most powerful email service provider I’ve tried.

Aweber, which is still a very popular email service provider for bloggers and marketers currently has very simplistic automation support.

ConvertKit has a really good automation editor, and in some ways is nicer to use than ActiveCampaign’s.  However, one limiting thing I found with ConvertKit’s automations is that it’s missing some of the list cleanup actions I want to be able to perform.

Still, it’s not a bad choice either. ConvertKit lets you do some cool things with its automations as well, and the learning curve is shorter compared to ActiveCampaign. Depending on your requirements, it may provide everything you need in a very polished package.

However, for pure power and flexibility, ActiveCampaign really shines. That’s why Lindsay, from Pinch of Yum and Shane Melaugh of ActiveGrowth, have both made the switch over to ActiveCampaign.

And then there’s the price. ActiveCampaign is actually one of the most affordable email service providers on the marketer. It’s cheaper than Aweber and even cheaper than MailChimp at most levels.

You even get a free 14-day trial to give it a test run, without having to hand over your credit card.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with ActiveCampaign so far. It really hits on all the capabilities you’d want as an active email marketer, and it does so at an affordable price point.

Spend some time mastering the power of their automations and you can really take your email marketing to the next level. It takes a little creativity, but you can pretty much implement any type of automation you can think of.

If email segmentation is something you have been looking for then take advantage of ActiveCampaign’s free trial offer and give them a try. I think you will like what they offer.

Try ActiveCampaign Today

ActiveCampaign Pros

  • Extremely powerful visual automation editor.
  • Ability to split test everything inside your automations.
  • Great segmenting options.
  • Trigger actions based on replies.
  • Easy to share automations & automation marketplace.
  • Handles advanced automations like live events/webinars well.
  • Lite plan is quite powerful, yet affordable.

ActiveCampaign Cons

  • Packed with features which make for a large learning curve.
  • UI can be a little confusing in places.
  • List based ESP. Need to create a list to send a broadcast email.
  • Lead scoring and new features like attributions and site messages are being added to Plus plans and above.
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you liked my ActiveCampaign review. Please note that some of the links inside this article may be affiliate links to ActiveCampaign. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, I may be compensated for it. If you do happen to click, I really appreciate it! Any money we make keeps this site running smoothly and allows us to keep writing these high-quality reviews.
  • Thanks for the review. I’m currently evaluating ActiveCampaign vs. ConvertKit for the business I am still in the process of building. Question – I’ve seen a lot of ConvertKit fans say they’ve seen their open rates improve just by switching to ConvertKit (presumably due to the simpler email design). Any experience to relate with regards to open rates on Active Campaign vs. ConvertKit?

    • Kinley McFadden says:

      Hi Valerie, thanks for stopping by.

      In my experience, open rates are affected largely by your email subject lines and your subscriber’s feeling towards you, as the sender. So switching to ConvertKit by itself is not going to improve your open rates.

      Where ConvertKit is going to help, is by helping you to better segment your list. By doing this, you can start sending out more targeted emails to your subscribers, which increases the relevance to them, and hopefully improves their perception of you as well. This should make your open rates go up.

      ActiveCampaign has even more powerful ways to segment your list than ConvertKit, so you should be able to bump up your open rates quite easily using it.

  • Great review here. Thanks for being so detailed.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m also considering GetResponse as a possible choice for marketing automation. There’s a lot of things to take into consideration before taking the final decision.

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