MailChimp vs. ConvertKit: Who Should You Choose?

“Should I switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit?” seems to be the question that everyone is asking these days.  The answer is simple yet complicated because it really just depends on what your end-game is.  I have used both platforms and am here today to tell you the pros and cons of each and who these platforms would be the best for.

I started out using MailChimp 7 years ago and learned a lot about how it worked during that time.  It did well for me for those years because I mostly used it to keep customers up to date with new product launches.  I switched over to ConvertKit in July 2016 because my business and blog focus shifted and they seemed to be a better fit for my end goals.  Now I am going to shed some light on both platforms.

 

The awesome things about MailChimp:

1. They are free for up to 2000 subscribers.  This means that if you are strapped for cash, you may want to stick with MailChimp.

2. You can design branded email templates easily- their whole platform is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) meaning drag an element and drop it where you want it to appear.  Because of this there is no coding knowledge required.

3. Email Marketing Automation is free with all plans (including the free plan!).  They have automation templates that you can use to do lots of things such as:

  • Send drip emails/sequences- this is when you have a series of emails that you want to send but you just want to send one email at a time.  So one day you schedule to send the first email in a series then maybe two days later you send another, etc.  This is widely used for sending email courses and creating email sales funnels.
  • Send emails based on user behavior- Follow-up emails to customers based on past purchases, abandoned carts, a welcome series after their first purchase, etc.
  • Send Birthday emails (add a coupon code to make them feel extra special)
  • MUCH more.  For a full list of automation features, visit their site

http://kb.mailchimp.com/automation/automation-types

4. Send RSS feeds- you can send an automatic email whenever you publish a new post to your blog.  This is a convenient way for your readers to stay up to date with your content.  MailChimp provides the ability to customize the email template for your feed to your liking and configure the subject line for each email.  You can also specify if you want to show only excerpts with a read more link or the full post in each email.

5. Add subscribers to groups- you can create and assign members to a specific group.  So, if you want to tag everyone that signs up for a particular freebie that you offered as interested in whatever the freebie topic was, you can add it to the subscriber details.  You can also do this is bulk if you want to add a large number of people at one time.

6. Robust reporting- the reporting is awesome in MailChimp.  You can see how many subscribers opened, clicked and unsubscribed from each campaign that you send.  You can also see how your campaign compared to the industry average of open and click rates.  There is even data tracking that shows where the user is located and the source of their signup.  So if you use Sumome, LeadPages or Opt-In Monster, etc.,  it would show them as the source.  If they used one of the MailChimp forms, it would show “Hosted Form”.  This is great because it will let you know where most of your signups are coming from and you can tweak the forms that aren’t generating as many conversions.

7. Segmentation- you have the ability to send targeted emails to a portion of your list that has a specific interest rather than everyone.  For example, if you are a food blogger, you may only want to send emails to certain people that are interested in a particular type of cuisine.  So if you are going to send an exclusive recipe for a pound cake, using the group feature you can create a group called “Dessert”, that way the people that are in that group are the only ones that will receive your email for the pound cake recipe.  If someone is more interested in healthy eating, they are not going to want a pound cake recipe email, right?  You can also get pretty detailed with segmenting like only send to people that joined your list within a certain timeframe or that live in a certain region of the world.  Segmenting is a very powerful tool.

8. Easily integrates with Squarespace and PLENTY of other apps/website service providers using Zapier and IFTTT.

 

The not-so-great things about MailChimp:

1. Email addresses are counted per email list, so if one person is subscribed to three different lists that you have, they will be counted as 3 people rather than one.  This means that you will reach that 2000 subscriber mark quicker.

2. Adjusting automated emails can be a nightmare...especially when people are already in the midst of an email sequence.  You may want to reorder the sequence emails, but if someone is already in it, they could get another email that they already received.  Totally annoying to them and could cause unsubscribes.  Yikes!

3. Opt-in forms are pretty basic.  There are only three types of opt-in forms in MailChimp:

  • General Form- this is a dedicated page for opting in to your list.  This can also be considered a landing page.
  • Embed form- this is a form that you can get the code for and paste it into your website (within a blog post, in the sidebar, etc.).  You cannot customize it unless you know how to code.
  • Pop-up- this form will appear on your website immediately upon entry, 1 second, 2 seconds or 5 seconds later.  You cannot choose a custom time period.  You can, however, add an image and customize the colors, so that’s a good option.

4. It can be difficult to get your emails into Inboxes because of the coding behind the email templates.  It can make you look like spam and your emails may never be seen (may go straight to Spam or the Promotions tab).  Many MailChimp users have problems with email delivery.

5. The MailChimp logo will be included on all of the emails that you send on the free plan.  If you’re really into branding, you may not like that feature.

6. Long opt-in process- it’s smart to have your new members confirm their email before being added to your list, but when you add this option in MailChimp, the signup process is long:

1. Enter info on signup form

2. Redirected to a thank you page

3. Confirmation email is sent

4. Click the confirmation link in the email

5. Redirected to Confirmed page

6. Receive welcome email with freebie link inside

I mean, really...people like convenience and speed, so the more steps you add to the process, the less likely they are to complete the signup process.

Related: If you like the sound of MailChimp and want to learn how to use it the right way along with creating a consistent email strategy, check out my E-course, #EmailParty to lead you in the right direction!

 

ConvertKit...what's up with them?

This is a platform that was made specifically for bloggers that want to make money on their blog...and...well...convert people into customers.  It is a more robust platform and much easier to work with when you want to do certain things (like setting up an email course).  It’s also a very basic platform, but it’s basic because their main objective is to get your emails into the Inbox rather than Promotion tabs or Spam folders.  Because of this, there are no bells and whistles that you can add to your templates.  They have a very basic look, but you can customize the template if you know a little code.  The whole point of the basic email is that email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) will be less likely to categorize your emails as Promo.  The whole point of Email Marketing is to get people to read your emails, so if it’s not making it into their inbox in the first place it defeats the purpose.

 

So here are the awesome things about ConvertKit:

1. Their main purpose is to get your emails into Inboxes rather than Promotion tabs or Spam folders, so they have designed and coded their back end to look “friendly” to email providers.  I know I just said this, but it’s a very important thing to remember.

2. One email address can be a part of multiple lists, but they will only be counted as 1.  This means that you will not reach the 1000 member limit as quickly.

3. Smooth and quick Opt-in process because email confirmation is built in, confirming subscriber emails after signing up is an easy breezy process!  If you are giving away an opt-in freebie to join your list, all you have to do is include the file in the confirmation email and when they click on the link to open the freebie, their email address is also confirmed at the same time automatically.  No more long, tedious opt-in steps that could potentially deter people from completing the signup process!

4. You can view detailed subscriber activity.  You can see every list, sequence, tag and segment that they are a part of all on one page.  You can also see every email that they received and their behavior with the email.  It lets you know when it was delivered, when they opened it, if they clicked on any links and if they unsubscribed.  To sum it up, it’s awesome for geeks that like analytics and tracking behaviors.

5. Setting up email sequences is easy.  You can create email courses, welcome sequences, email funnels, deliver freebies and so much more.  ConvertKit was made for this.  They even help you along the way with tips on what to put in each email if you don’t know how to set up an email marketing funnel.

6. Various types of opt-in forms- You can create the following types of forms with custom behaviors to embed in your website and blog posts:

  • Full form with an image and description.  You can also make this form appear after a specific amount of time has passed or when the visitor scroll a certain percentage down the page.
  • Basic form with only the first name and email address fields.  This is great for embedding within a blog post so that it isn’t too intrusive on the reader experience.
  • Popup modal- appears on the screen and makes the background darker so that the form is the focus.  This can also be set to appear after a certain amount of time on the page or after scrolling a certain percentage down the page.  You can also set it up for exit intent which means that it only appears when it looks like the visitor is getting ready to exit your website.
  • Link Trigger- the form appears only when a link or image is clicked (my favorite type of form by the way!).
  • Landing Page- there is also an option to create an entire landing page for your opt-in.  This could be useful if you want to create a sales page but cannot easily make one in your website.

7. Automation Rules/Link Triggers- this may be my favorite feature of ConvertKit.  A link trigger is an automated action that occurs after a particular link in your email is clicked.  For example, if I send an email out to my list sharing a new freebie for blog organization, I can create a rule specifying that whenever someone clicks the link to download the freebie in the email, a tag will automatically be added to their profile labeling them as interested in blog organization.  This is so powerful because when you get very specific with your tags, you can easily send targeted emails to people that are interested in a specific topic.  Automation is awesomeeeee!!!

8. Integrates with tons of apps/website providers, so you can create various Zapier automation tasks to assist with your marketing efforts.

 

Now, here are the drawbacks of ConvertKit:

1. They aren’t free.  Their lowest plan is $29 per month for up to 1000 subscribers.

2. Very basic templates.  They have a few that aren’t text only, but if you want to adjust anything on them you have to have a little bit of coding knowledge.

3. RSS feed emails aren’t that great.  They offer two options:

  • Single- Every time a new posts is published an email is sent.  Unfortunately you cannot specify showing the excerpt with a Read More link or the full post, so if you have a long, meaty post, the whole thing will appear in the email.  Also, the subject of Single emails is the post title and there is currently no way to change it.

  • Digest- You choose a particular day (or days) that you will send a roundup of posts.  So if you posted on Monday and Tuesday and have the setting to send Digests every Thursday, the two posts from the week will appear in one email on Thursday.  If you post on Friday and the following Monday, those emails will appear in the Digest email that is sent on Thursdays.  The Digest is the only place that recognizes excerpts, so if you use excerpts the entire post will not appear in the email; you will be able to click a link that will redirect to your website to read the rest.  Also, the subject line is set to whatever your blog description is in your website's backend setup.  You cannot change the subject line here either (I have spoken with ConvertKit about this and they confirmed it), so every Digest email sent will have the same subject every time.

4. Campaign reporting is very basic- your campaign stats only show how many people received the email, opened it, clicked links and unsubscribed (if applicable).  There are no pretty graphs and no comparison to industry averages.  Just very basic info.

 

So what is my opinion?

Well...I actively use both platforms! All of my email blasts, email courses and email funnels are managed in ConvertKit and my blog signups and RSS feed are handled in MailChimp :)  I’ve basically determined which platform features are the best from MailChimp and ConvertKit for my processes and created a strategy around both of them.  I like them both for different reasons, but I found that I still needed MailChimp even after switching to ConvertKit.  Luckily they integrate with each other in Zapier, so I can adjust list activity from one platform to another seamlessly.

 

"Okay, so who should I pick?"

As I mentioned earlier, it just depends on your end goals.  Here are a few scenarios.  Hopefully you fall into one of these situations and can make a decision based on my recommendation.

  • If you are a blogger and do not plan to monetize your blog, go with MailChimp.  You’re not concerned about tracking people’s interests because you ultimately don’t want to sell anything to them.  You don’t care about creating email courses because you just want to keep your audience informed on your blog happenings.

  • If you are a blogger, do plan to monetize your blog, and have $29 a month to spare, go with ConvertKit.  This is because they are built for bloggers that want to monetize.  They have everything laid out for you when it comes to sales funnels, offering freebies easily and adding/removing tags based on interests and behaviors.  This is huge when you want to make moola.

  • If you are a blogger, plan to monetize but are strapped for cash, go with MailChimp with the intent to switch to ConvertKit in the future.  At least you can tag and segment, but there are just more manual processes in MailChimp.  Also, switching to ConvertKit can be a nightmare if you have people active in email sequences already and you want to add them to the sequence in ConvertKit.  Just know that it can get messy, long and tedious depending on what kind of information you are tracking in MailChimp.

  • If you are a business owner and want to keep up with your customers by sending them coupon codes, exclusive info and behind the scenes sneak peeks, stick with MailChimp.  Your main focus is engaging with your customers and selling to them every now and then.  MailChimp can totally work for you.

  • If you sell online courses through Teachable, use ConvertKit.  They integrate directly with ConvertKit and if you set specific automations up, you can remove students that purchase your courses from email funnels related to the course that they already purchased.  Trying to keep up with that manually in MailChimp can be a nightmare if you have lots of students.

  • If you sell digital products and have a blog, go with ConvertKit because if you are going to upsell products in your emails, you want to make sure that they have a higher chance of making it to the inbox!  Also, you can include a link trigger for product links, so if someone clicks on your product to view the details but doesn't buy it, you can still tag them as Interested in your product so that you can possibly sell to them in the future.

  • If you just want to send an RSS email to people that signed up for your blog, go with MailChimp.  They are the masters at this from my experience.

 

I hope this post helped shed some light for you.  Ultimately, you have to think of your end game and determine what platform performs better, faster and with more ease to accomplish your goals.  Here's a handy comparison guide that summarizes the features of both platforms if you're more of a visual person :) 

What email marketing platform do you use and why?


MailChimp vs ConvertKit