Best For a Dedicated Marketing Professional
ActiveCampaign is an email marketing powerhouse with impressive automations, strong analytics, and an excellent in-house contact database. That, combined with its cheap starting price, makes it the best value option out of all the email marketing software we’ve tested.
We’ve put ActiveCampaign through its paces in user testing, and left no stone unturned throughout our research process. It scored 4.6 stars out of 5 overall, coming second in our list of the six best email marketing services.
You asked us for help growing your online businesses, and we listened! The first thing we did was go to real businesses, and ask them why they use email marketing software, what’s most important to them, and how they use it.
We took their answers and used them to guide our research methodology. For example, ease of use was highlighted as being very important, so we gave it greater weight in our scoring algorithms.
When testing and researching each email marketing software, we examined:
- Content and functionality tools
- Marketing tools
- Value for money
- Help and support
- Customer score
- Ease of use
We tested ActiveCampaign across all these areas, and got real users to try it out and give us feedback. That means areas such as ease of use and customer scores come directly from actual user testing, rather than being theoretical scores – we’ve created test campaigns with every email marketing tool we review, so you can bet we know them inside and out!
After 160 hours of research, we’re in the perfect position to walk you through ActiveCampaign’s pros, cons, features, pricing, and more. Most importantly, we’ll help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
- Starting price: $9 per month
- Free plan: No, but a 14-day free trial is available
- Number of contacts on cheapest plan: 500
- Number of emails on cheapest plan: Unlimited
Our users said: “For someone who is happy to start from scratch, especially with the design of their campaign.”
ActiveCampaign is high quality email marketing software that we recommend most for dedicated marketing professionals. It’s got a learning curve, so it takes some time to get to grips with, but its automation features and in-house contact database are worth the effort.
ActiveCampaign emerged as the best value email marketing software out of all the ones we tested. Here’s a look at how it scored across all our research areas:
There are two key things to know before getting too excited about ActiveCampaign’s impressive star ratings. Firstly, it doesn’t have a survey builder, so survey based campaigns are a no-go. And secondly, it doesn’t support transactional emails. Overall, though, it’s a powerful marketing tool that’s a good choice for marketers who have a little patience, and who want a lot of value for their money.
- Best value email marketing software around – ActiveCampaign’s plans start at just $9 per month (billed annually) and come packed with features, so you’re guaranteed great value
- Best in-house contact database – you can expect list and subscriber management, contact profiles, task tracking, task automation, lead scoring, and interaction history, all built-in!
- Our users recommend it – they awarded it a 4.2 out of 5 customer score after testing it, making it the people’s favorite (tied at the top with GetResponse!)
- Missing some key features – ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a survey builder, and it doesn’t support transactional emails – which could be a big problem for some!
- Steep learning curve – you need time and patience to get to grips with ActiveCampaign, so it’s unsuitable if you need to create campaigns in a hurry
- Its templates could be better – and there could be more of them! There’s only 36, and they’re pretty barebones, so we recommend starting from scratch rather than using a template
ActiveCampaign scored 4.2 stars out of 5 for ease of use. We calculate ease of use by asking independent users to test ActiveCampaign and complete certain tasks, such as:
- Adding new contacts
- Creating a new email campaign
- Designing and personalizing an email
- Building an automation workflow
Each task is scored for ease, and we also collected comments and feedback from each user on their individual experience. Here’s what they had to say about ActiveCampaign:
“Overall the actual process of creating an email is really easy, with a super clear interface.”
“It’s a platform that you’re going to have to take time to get to learn, rather than something which hands everything to you on a plate.”
The overarching feedback was that specific tasks – such as adding contacts – were really simple, but that ActiveCampaign as a whole took some getting used to. Some tasks were described as overwhelming, and it became apparent that a steep learning curve required some time and patience to overcome.
Behind the Scenes: How Easy Is ActiveCampaign’s Dashboard to Use?
ActiveCampaign won points with our users for its user-friendly onboarding process. It provides helpful “next step” suggestions which nudge you in the right direction, and remind you to complete key tasks. This provides clarity and guidance for beginners getting their bearings.
Users also praised the email builder itself, describing it as “nice, easy, and snappy”, and enjoyed using it to design and create their emails. ActiveCampaign has a clean dashboard design and good UX, which makes it easier to navigate.
So, why the steep learning curve? Well, ActiveCampaign comes with extensive automation and analytic capabilities, which can be daunting for new users. At times, our users also said that the steps to create a campaign weren’t always in a logical order, and felt confused about how to carry out certain tasks such as A/B testing.
Although certain tasks are easy, the final consensus was that beginners may struggle with ActiveCampaign:
“Using this platform, I felt that it was catered to a more advanced user than myself.”
ActiveCampaign is one of the cheapest email marketing platforms we’ve tested, with prices starting at just $9 per month (paid annually). ActiveCampaign has four price plans, ranging from $9 to $229 per month when paid annually. This price changes depending on how many contacts you have.
ActiveCampaign scored 4.6 stars out of 5 for value for money in our testing, making it the best value email marketing platform!
The $9 per month starting price applies to the Lite plan when you have 500 contacts. As your contact list increases, ActiveCampaign’s prices also increase on a sliding scale. Once you reach 25,000 contacts, you start seeing custom pricing packages to meet more advanced needs.
Even the cheapest plan is packed with features, including:
- Unlimited email sending
- 540+ automation recipes
- Subscription forms
Features that ActiveCampaign’s cheapest plan doesn’t allow include:
- Landing pages
- User levels
- Phone support
- Send time optimization
You’d need to choose a more advanced plan, such as the $49 per month Plus plan, to unlock these features. You can try ActiveCampaign free for 14 days before picking your paid plan.
Which Plan Do We Recommend?
The Lite plan is super affordable at just $9 per month when you choose an annual subscription, and offers great value because of the number of features included.
However, if you want more advanced tools, we recommend the $49 per month Plus plan. This unlocks landing pages, built-in CRM, an automations map, contact and lead scoring, SMS sending, and more.
How Does ActiveCampaign Compare to Competitors?
Here’s a quick comparison between our top three highest rated email marketing platforms. ActiveCampaign is the best value, while Mailchimp comes in at a much lower 3.2 stars out of 5 in this category:
- ActiveCampaign: $9 per month, scored 4.6/5 in our value for money testing
- GetResponse: $12.30 per month, scored 4.0/5 in our value for money testing
- Mailchimp: $9.99 per month, scored 3.2/5 in our value for money testing
As you can see, cheap prices don’t always mean good value. Mailchimp is only 99 cents more per month than ActiveCampaign, yet its value for money score is significantly lower. This is because ActiveCampaign’s cheapest plans have more generous features included.
Design was an area that ActiveCampaign failed to impress in. It scored a low 3.8 stars out of 5 for its email design – our users described its templates as “uninspiring” and “barebones”, which is hardly a glowing review!
There’s also not that many templates to choose from, with just 36 options in total. Customizing your template is enjoyable and easy using the email editor. But while the email builder itself received praise from our users, the templates drew criticism:
“The templates were either too barebones, where it’d take a lot of work to get them to a professional standard, or they’re on the other side of the spectrum, where they’ve been designed for a very specific purpose or business where it’ll take a lot of time to customize them to your own needs.”
You need to spend a lot of time customizing ActiveCampaign’s templates, which is more effort than it should be – especially if you’re creating a lot of campaigns and running a business at the same time.
This is why we recommend ActiveCampaign for marketing professionals who have the time to build their emails from scratch. It’s a more effective approach than relying on one of ActiveCampaign’s premade templates.
So, what customizations and design options does ActiveCampaign give you?
- Drag-and-drop editing
- HTML editing
There are some features missing that you’ll find with other providers – for example, GetResponse has a free image library, while Mailchimp allows for mobile creation. The biggest thing missing, however, is ActiveCampaign’s lack of survey templates, and a total absence of transactional emails.
That said, if you decide to build from scratch, you’ll find the email builder a joy to use:
“I was so jazzed by the actual editor, I really enjoyed creating my email – although I wouldn’t rely on the templates provided.”
You can use drag-and-drop to create your emails, or use HTML if you want a more advanced level of customization.
At the end of the day, if you want stylish templates that you can make a few tweaks to before sending your campaign, ActiveCampaign isn’t for you. If you’re not going to start from scratch, we don’t recommend ActiveCampaign because its template designs may hold you back.
ActiveCampaign may not have scored well in design, but it made up for it with its marketing tools – it scored a very respectable 4.5 stars out of 5 when we tested this area. Mailchimp and MailerLite both scored higher for marketing tools, but ActiveCampaign still ticked a lot of boxes.
Marketing tools help you to create tailored, successful campaigns – you want features such as personalization, automation, analytics, A/B testing, and automation to help you do this.
ActiveCampaign doesn’t support survey builders on any of its plans, while send time optimization is reserved for the Performance and Enterprise plans.
Reporting and Analytics
ActiveCampaign has extensive analytics features to help you track and improve your campaigns, including:
- Campaign analytics
- Subscriber data
- Platform tracking
- Engagement segmentation
The only thing missing that we would’ve liked to see is an email click map, which shows you how and where users are interacting with your emails.
ActiveCampaign impressed us with its automation tools. Firstly, it ticks the key boxes such as custom workflows, behavior-based and date-based automations, and workflow templates. But it goes the extra mile and also offers automation split testing on its Professional and Enterprise plans.
You also get an automations map on the Plus plan. This tool lets you see how automations connect to each other, making it easier to navigate, edit, and analyze your automations and their effectiveness.
Content tools help keep your audience engaged. In this area of testing, we examined app and platform integrations, transactional emails, security, social media, and storage space.
ActiveCampaign scored 3.4 stars out of 5 for its content and functionality tools – making this its lowest scoring area across all our research categories. The reason for ActiveCampaign’s low score is its total lack of transactional email functionality.
Other than this, ActiveCampaign has a decent offering. You can integrate with apps, which is useful for adding extra features such as SMS sends or live chat. Social media and website integrations help streamline your online presence, while its security measures include opt-in and opt-out and CAN-SPAM compliance.
The lack of any transactional emails seriously impacted ActiveCampaign’s star rating. It was the only email software we tested that didn’t provide any transactional functionality.
There’s no ecommerce templates, order notifications, or specific analytics to track email sales. This makes ActiveCampaign unsuitable for ecommerce businesses wanting to sell directly through their emails.
Is this a deal-breaker?
If you need transactional emails to grow your ecommerce business, check out our list of the Best Ecommerce Email Marketing Software
Social Media Integration
ActiveCampaign offers the standard social media integrations, namely:
You can even have a built-in live social media feed in your emails to help engage your audience. However, there’s no social in-text block, which would allow you to add a Facebook post or event into your emails.
One standout feature worth mentioning is that you can create social media posts directly within your ActiveCampaign dashboard, then send them straight to the relevant social platform. This is a neat way of ensuring consistent, aligned branding across all your platforms.
ActiveCampaign offers the following support options on all its price plans:
- Live chat
- Video tutorials
It also provides phone support, but this is only available on its most expensive Enterprise plan, which costs $299 per month. It’s a shame that phone support isn’t offered on its cheaper plans, but this is pretty common across a lot of the email marketing platforms we tested.
The good news is, you can access both email and live chat support no matter your plan. The help center is also always accessible, with plenty of helpful guides and articles for you to browse.
Overall, ActiveCampaign scored 4.4 stars out of 5 for its help and support, making it the second-highest rated platform for customer support. Not too bad!
ActiveCampaign is the best value email marketing platform we tested, and we were impressed by its automation and analytics features. It didn’t score so well in design, while its lack of transactional emails makes it unsuitable for ecommerce businesses.
This is a platform for businesses with a dedicated email marketing team, or an individual who has time to learn their way around the dashboard and build campaigns from scratch.
ActiveCampaign’s incredibly cheap starter plan and feature-rich backend mean you get amazing value for money, and its extensive automations and analytics will help you to test and tailor your campaigns for success.
- GetResponse Review – Our top-rated email marketing platform, GetResponse also scored the best for design – so if ActiveCampaign’s poor designs bother you, this could be a perfect choice!
- Mailchimp Review – The best email marketing platform for ecommerce businesses! If ActiveCampaign’s lack of transactional emails is an issue, Mailchimp has the best range of marketing and content features to suit your needs.
No! You don’t need any coding skills to build awesome emails with ActiveCampaign. It has a drag-and-drop email builder, so whether you use a template or start from scratch, you can simply click and drag to create your email. You can use HTML, but only if you want to.
No, ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a free plan. Instead, it has a 14-day free trial, so you can give it a test drive before committing to a paid plan. All you need is an email and password – no payment details or billing information – to get started.
Yes – but only just! In our testing, ActiveCampaign scored 4.6 stars out of 5, whereas Mailchimp scored 4.5 stars out of 5 overall. Because of this, we recommend choosing based on the features you need. For example, Mailchimp is better for ecommerce businesses, while ActiveCampaign is better value for money.