ActiveCampaign is great, feature-wise. Everything worked fine in my tests, and there was very little missing. Of course, every service I review could be a little more complete, but ActiveCampaign only has one major flaw, and a couple of minor ones. I’ll get more into that below. Otherwise, you can expect a smooth, mostly-complete experience, and the platform should be fairly easy to learn. Of course, you’ll need to know the basics of email/online marketing to get the most out of all these features, but that’ll be true no matter which online marketing platform you choose. Put in some time, some research, and you’ll be okay. There’s a huge help center full of guides and tutorials to back you up as well.
Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization
You can, of course, send email campaigns (this would be a much shorter review if you couldn’t). On top of that, you can simultaneously market to people via SMS, though you’ll need to have the Plus plan at least for that. Social media marketing is achievable through the myriad add-on apps available to all ActiveCampaign users.
Email campaigns come in several varieties: First, you’ve got your standard email campaigns. Just design an email and send it out to your contact list. Then, you can create campaigns based on automated processes, create autoresponders, do split (A/B) testing campaigns (sort of), send emails whenever your RSS feed is updated, and create date-based campaigns for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
There are 125+ email templates to choose from, but you can always start from scratch, or use a very minimal template if you like. If you care about making sure the design matches your branding as best you can manage, the near-blank starting points are good.
As for the more “designed” options, all of the options lean towards flat and modernist. They’re really simple designs that won’t get in your way but are unlikely to amaze either. Then again, this is email. You want people to be reading, not staring in awe.
Oh, and all the templates are responsive and mobile-screen-friendly. That’s a definite plus.
That said, if you want to go crazy, you can import or create custom HTML templates. If you really, really care about your style guide, you could pay someone to make a set of email templates just for you.
The actual email builder/editor is a simple drag-and-drop job, with predefined content blocks that can be added in any order you like. Colors are easily customizable, though fonts tend to be restricted, based on the template you’ve chosen. Choose wisely.
You can add text, images, buttons, videos, social links, blocks of HTML code, and even an RSS feed to your email, so you’ve got options. You can also perform simple edits, like cropping, on any images you upload. Some templates come with stock images, but there is no stock image library. It’s best to upload your own images for these things anyway.
Final notes on this: You can set the width of the email preview to see how it looks at different screen sizes. That’s good. However, support for right-to-left (RTL) languages like Hebrew and Arabic is severely limited. It only works in raw HTML blocks, or custom HTML templates, so if you want to use those languages, you’d better know a little bit of code.
That’s not entirely a deal-breaker, but it’s a strong downside for global businesses.
Fun fact: When subscribers click a link in an email, they can have tags added to their contact information, or removed. They can be added to a list or taken off a list. You can also add them to automation workflows (more on that below).
Email content can be personalized to an impressive degree. You can use variables to easily display information relating to the individual user. So instead of, “Hi there, person who signed up for emails,” you can use their real name in your greeting. Or at least the name they gave you.
Other variables you can use include: the contact’s address, phone number, or IP address. Also social media sharing buttons are included in this feature for some reason.
There are also conditional display tags, which allow you to show or hide different blocks of content depending on the person the email is being sent to. You can show or hide content based on tags, deals they might be interested in, when they subscribed, where they are, or what list they’re on.
A/B testing is available, in an extremely limited fashion. Simply put, A/B testing is supposed to let you send one version of an email to half the intended recipients and another version to the other half. Let’s say one has more formal writing, and the other has more bombastic infomercial-style text.
Then, you can check the statistics to see which performed better. It’s easy as pie, or easy as cleaning up pie stains with the Cleaninator 3000. (Now I wonder if there really is a product by that name.)
On ActiveCampaign, A/B testing is basically restricted to the subject lines and preview text of your emails. I wish there was more to it, but there isn’t.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
Importing and managing your contacts is generally pretty simple, but it’s also where we see the first major flaw in ActiveCampaign’s feature set. You can type in contact information manually, collect contact information via forms, copy and paste lots of contacts in or, as you’d expect, import a file full of contacts. That’s all good, and all stuff you’d expect.
However, the only file format you can import is CSV, which is a good and common format, but it’s not enough. Nearly all online marketing services let you import contacts from a variety of formats. In addition to CSV files, every service like this should be able to import XLSX (Microsoft Excel) files, which are pretty darned standard in the industry.
Contact lists are easy enough to create, manage, and customize. You can use them to separate your contacts into easily targetable groups and keep track of who wants which kinds of emails. These lists can also display and sort contacts by their names, emails, phone numbers, business accounts they might be attached to, and more.
You can also create custom fields to store any kind of information you want about a contact
Next up, let’s have a look at segmentation. Essentially, segmentation allows you to create lists of contacts that dynamically update themselves as conditions change. For example, if you have location information about your contacts, you could make a list of every contact in Germany who has interacted with your emails in the past year. Then, when someone new from Germany signs up and clicks a link, that list gets updated.
Well, segmentation is here, and it’s built into the advanced search function. You can just assemble an advanced search with all of the parameters you want, and save that search so you can access it whenever you want.
And you can search your contacts by anything (or at least any information you have on them): names, tags, whether they’re on a specific list, if they’ve opened an email in the last week/month/year, or clicked on a specific link. Mix and match those parameters as you will to find the contacts you want to follow up on or track.
There is a landing page builder, and I found it to be pretty good. Unfortunately, landing pages are only available on the Plus plan and up, though you can try them out during your free trial of ActiveCampaign.
There are over 40 landing page templates, and they’re all pretty good-looking. Some are minimalist, while others are far more vibrant and fancy. Truth be told, I think the landing page templates are more compelling than the email templates.
ActiveCampaign Has Pretty Detailed Statistics and Reports
Statistics are one of the cornerstones of marketing. The others are, presumably, a general knowledge of things people want to buy, the ability to write in plain English (or whatever language you’re using), and an array of acronyms that only insiders understand.
But now, we need to look at the numbers. The best email analytics will help you figure out who is responding best to your email campaigns, and how you can repeat your successes. They also help you figure out what isn’t working, so you can try something else.
Simply put, you need the numbers. The more detailed, the better.
Well, ActiveCampaign generates reports on email campaigns, automation workflows, contacts, and even self-defined goals. That’s right, you can set goals in the admin interface, and get reports on whether or not you’ve met them.
The email campaign reports will tell you not only how many people opened your emails and clicked links in them, but how many forwarded your emails on, unsubscribed, or whatever else. And, most importantly, they’ll tell you who opened your emails, and who clicked the links, and so on.
That’s the kind of information you need to draw insights and create a strategy.
The Prices Could Be Cheaper, but They Aren’t Bad Either
There are a variety of plans, that vary based on how many contacts you want to send email to. The plans start at 500 contacts (for $9 per month if you pay annually, or $15 if you pay monthly) and go up to 100,000 contacts (for a whole lot more).
ActiveCampaign’s cheapest plans are quite cheap, and good value for the features you can get – we’ve done a whole deep dive into ActiveCampaign’s pricing if you’re really interested. However, once your contact list begins to expand, you’d better be making money off your email campaigns, because those higher-tier plans are pricey indeed. In fact, on the more expensive plans, the website may not even show you prices. You’ll be expected to talk directly to sales about spending that kind of money.
That said, there is a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. You can evaluate most of the features at your leisure, so long as your leisure only lasts about two weeks.
At the end of the day, there are no refunds.
You can pay monthly via MasterCard, Visa, or American Express. If you pay the yearly price, you can also pay by PayPal, wire transfer, or check.
ActiveCampaign’s feature-packed plans could be a solid choice for your email marketing needs. There are only one or two flaws I’d classify as “glaring,” and if you want a service you can integrate into almost any tool chain, ActiveCampaign has few equals.
However, this decent feature set could potentially be let down by the rather high prices on more expensive plans. Locking dedicated IPs away from people who don’t have 100,000+ contacts seems silly, and it really needs to be able to import Excel files.
All that said, most people will get just a little more for their money over at Sendinblue (which also has a free plan) or GetResponse. But if you feel like ActiveCampaign’s precise set of features works for you, go for it. I certainly won’t judge you.