Not all email marketing platforms are created equal.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending upon the needs of your business. If you are looking to keep in contact with your customers, or to move prospects along the sales funnel, then ActiveCampaign could potentially be for you.
ActiveCampaign is one of the big players in the marketing automation space with many features and integrations, as well as friendly support.
The automation tools include triggered campaigns, sales follow-ups, automated segmentation, dynamic email content, text messaging, and lots more.
More than this, ActiveCampaign offers an in-built CRM system for managing your sales, and to understand where your prospects are in the sales cycle.
ActiveCampaign was founded in 2003 as a consulting firm helping small and midsize businesses automate marketing tasks and manage contacts. In 2013, they transitioned to a SaaS business focused on marketing and sales automation. As of 2018, the company has over 60,000 active clients and $60 million in revenue.
In this ActiveCampaign review, we’ll look at some of the best features, the pros and cons, and who this tool is best suited to help.
Major pros and cons
- Email Campaigns
- CRM Integration
- Marketing Automation
- Landing Page Integration
- Useful Reporting Tools
- Third-Party Integrations
- Difficult to Learn Initially
- Limited Support Options
- Lower Price Plans exclude some features
ActiveCampaign offers starter options for businesses at $9/month and is an excellent option for bloggers, service providers, and small ecommerce brands. For a low price, you can set up email marketing, and for an increased cost, you get CRM capabilities for handling the sales cycle.
Email Campaigns for Every Type of Business
ActiveCampaign offers all the tools you need to communicate with your customers and to move your leads along the sales funnel. Features include newsletters, SMS, email autoresponders, A/B testing, RSS triggered, birthday emails, and more.
Email layouts are dynamic and work with drag and drop functionality, similar to Mailchimp, Ontraport, and other email marketing tools.
The email automation and follow-up campaigns are all set up via an easy-to-use flowchart-style system. There are also pre-made automation layouts for you to use, or you can start your own automation builder from scratch.
Perhaps the most impressive benefit of ActiveCampaign is that it scores highest for email delivery for most popular email service providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.
A recent report ranked ActiveCampaign at a 97% deliverability rate, compared with MailChimp and ConvertKit have about 81% deliverability rates and AWeber with a 75% deliverability rate.
Email split testing in a marketing automation tool like ActiveCampaign allows split testing emails as part of an automation sequence. Another great feature is the ability to send all of your emails twice to the same segment of people that didn’t open it the first time.
CRM Integration to Keep in Contact
ActiveCampaign tracks your contacts through ”deal” pipelines. Similar to Kanban boards that use horizontal organization to track each section of the sales process, the deal pipeline in ActiveCampaign helps to define your entire sales cycle through a series of steps.
It can be a great tool to help to visualize the stages that your deals must go through to reach completion.
ActiveCampaign also allows you to build multiple deal pipelines so that you can create different pipelines for your various audience segments.
When set up correctly, the ActiveCampaign CRM tools create clarity around which leads your people should focus on, and how well your marketing is nurturing cold leads into warm leads.
You can quickly determine if any leads do not have a task assigned to them. This detail ensures you know when your next follow-up will be with every single lead in your database.
In terms of integration with other platforms, the following can be integrated with ActiveCampaign:
- Salesforce (via Zapier)
- SugarCRM (via Zapier)
- Gmail Extension for Chrome
- Contact & Lead Scoring
- Mobile App
- Salesforce App
Visual Marketing Automation Tools
While email tools like AWeber and MailChimp both have automation, they are limited. ActiveCampaign takes your customer relationship management to the next level.
ActiveCampaign has one of the most visual and intuitive marketing automation builders on the market. You can easily start from scratch or use their automation templates. The pre-made templates offer both short and long-term lead nurturing sequences.
Short-term nurturing sequences are more educational, making leads aware of new blog posts, webinars, offers. You can highly segment these campaigns to make them relevant for the different types of leads.
Long-term nurturing sequences usually include checking in with leads after certain intervals (e.g., 6 or 12 months). They can also be triggered by an action (e.g., if a past customer visits our website).
Texting automation can also be combined with emails through ActiveCampaign.
The automation tool offers if/then logic, which allows you to show customers different content based on certain conditions like interests, links clicked, etc.
There’s no point in creating a bunch of fancy marketing automations if you don’t have any data to review after they run. ActiveCampaign offers several different reporting formats both at the campaign level and also for individual contacts.
The Goal Reporting Dashboard makes it possible to drill down into specific goals for more in-depth insight into your automation’s success.
Another nice feature of the reporting is that you can see how many of your client leads are at each stage of a campaign. This format gives you a real-time visual feel to the email reporting, and lets you know where there might be room for improvement.
The reporting is a great way to build more robust customer profiles off of the data and to target the right segments better and personalize each customer’s experience more closely.
Landing Pages For All
Most savvy marketers will use landing pages to better convert visitors into leads. Using ActiveCampaign alongside landing page opt-in tools is quite simple. It can be used to import emails from landing pages, so the prospect receives an automated welcome email after entering their information.
Landing pages that are integrated into ActiveCampaign can:
- Add subscribers to an email newsletter
- Give out a discount code or coupon
- Boost attendance for a webinar
- Encourage sign up for a free trial
- Book a consultation or demo
There are several behaviors and actions that you can choose from for your opt-ins. These behaviors can be triggered by new email signups, which then adds the email uses into the automation sequence.
There are several apps you can integrate with it like ConvertFlow, Instapage, Clickfunnels, Unbounce, KickOff Labs, and more. It also integrates nicely with blogging apps; you can integrate with it like WordPress, Squarespace, Kajabi, etc. if you want to use lead capture and signup forms on your website.
Streamlined Integration Tools
ActiveCampaign has several applications that can be integrated, such as Zapier, Integromat, PieSync, and more. These include integrations for Ecommerce sites such as Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Square. CRM tools like Formstack, Salesforce, Batchbook, Zoho, Google contacts, and more.
ActiveCampaign is an advanced email and marketing tool, and it takes some time to familiarize yourself with all the tools. It also requires ongoing maintenance to set up, monitor, and optimize your email campaigns. Let’sLet’s look at some of the cons of using ActiveCampaign compared to other marketing software.
No Social Media Posting Tools
Unfortunately, ActiveCampaign does not offer the ability to post content to social media and to work within the tool to perform search marketing research.
This means that even though you can add contacts into ActiveCampaign from Facebook lead forms and Google contacts, you cannot use this data to target those same people again on the platforms.
Difficult For Beginners
Like any software tool that has a lot of features, ActiveCampaign is a little challenging to learn. A lot of the features can discourage beginners, especially if they have come from programs like Mailchimp, which only do basic automation or emails.
The onboarding process is time-consuming. At times the UI in ActiveCampaign feels hard to navigate. Some of the features are buried in menu options that don’t make a lot of sense, especially if you are new to terms like ”Deals” and ”Conversations”.
There are a lot of visual articles offering support, but they are somewhat confusing to follow, and it feels like some simple video tutorials would have been a better option.
Similarly, if you don’t have any HTML coding skills, your emails will all look similar because you’re limited to using the email templates they provide.
Limited Help Options
On every screen, you’ll see a button with a question mark on it with links to the knowledge base, training resources, and live chat with support.
The knowledge base that ActiveCampaign offers includes videos and articles on all the features, but these are time-consuming to watch when you’re ready to get started. The chat bar reference is a nice touch, but some of the articles feel a bit overwhelming to read in that format.
You can schedule a 30-minute customer support phone call to get a detailed walkthrough of the service. The company also runs training webinars, usually once a week. Surprisingly, there’s no direct phone support available except for the sales team.
Plans & Pricing
ActiveCampaign offers marketing automation at the lowest entry point price on the market. You can start with as little as $9/month for up to 500 contacts) and grow from there.
One nice feature of all plans is the ability to send unlimited amounts of emails. Some email marketing tools will cap the volume, and this can be a limiting factor. ActiveCampaign solves this issue even for the Lite plan users.
Because of this pricing model, it’s easy to see why ActiveCampaign is a great tool for small businesses, as it revolves around email marketing, CRM capabilities, and handling sales.
The Lite plan only allows three users to login, which can be frustrating. However, for a small business, it’s easy enough to share logins for the software. The plan also misses a few of the essential tools that make ActiveCampaign standout.
Moving up to the Plus, Professional, or Enterprise will see a dramatic increase in fees and some increased functionality. Most significant is the full suite of CRM tools, integrations, and SMS messaging.
Do we Recommend?
If all you need is an email marketing platform, ActiveCampaign might be a bit of overkill. You can think of it as a hybrid of a sales CRM and your email marketing software. It’s great if you want to start using multiple campaigns or splitting contacts into various lists.
At the Lite plan price, ActiveCampaign has no rivals. You can handle everything from basic automated email marketing to advanced marketing automation, custom behavioral automations, audience tagging and segmentation, and more. If you upgrade to the more advanced packages to introduce a CRM, it becomes much more useful for sales teams.
To get these same CRM and sales tracking features, you typically need to sign up with a more expensive platform.
Keep in mind that ActiveCampaign does have a steep learning curve if you are new to marketing campaigns. You have to be willing to put in the time to learn the features of ActiveCampaign, or you may be better off with a simpler platform, such as MailChimp, or ConvertKit, to simply send emails.
Overall, ActiveCampaign is a great entry point into the marketing automation world for those who need more than email marketing software.