ActiveCampaign Review 4.8/5
Email marketing software is one of the most important tools in your arsenal.
Some email marketing tools are advanced and come with lots of features, but they are often too complex and expensive for the average business.
Others are simple and easy to use, but they don’t provide enough functionality as your email marketing strategy progresses.
I like to use software which comes with a nice balance of powerful features and affordable pricing. After years of testing, ActiveCampaign is my #1 choice for myself and my clients.
Is Email Marketing Still Effective?
I can tell you from experience that email is still one of the most powerful marketing channels, but let’s pull up some data first:
- Email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800% (Salesforce).
- 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15% would like to get them daily (Marketing Sherpa).
- Email use will grow to 4.1 billion users by 2021 (Statista).
Email is the channel you have the most control over. Yes, Gmail and other ESPs can mess with your deliverability, but email can’t go out of business like a social media platform can. You can lose your followers in an instant, but you own your email list.
Email also offers marketing automation options most other channels do not.
A large portion of your marketing, segmenting, and nurturing can be automated (as long as you incorporate the human aspects of your funnel correctly). And it’s a channel that most prospects check almost daily, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C.
What is ActiveCampaign?
At its core, ActiveCampaign is an email marketing tool. It allows you to organize prospects’ emails into lists and send email marketing campaigns to them.
Once you dive a little deeper, ActiveCampaign offers a lot more, including tons of different marketing automation and segmentation features, lead capture, split testing, event tracking, and even sales and CRM functionality.
Ease of Use
ActiveCampaign is one of the most user-friendly email marketing tools I’ve used. Their interface is intuitive and they have lots of supporting documentation if you get stuck on something.
I’m a big fan of their built-in reporting, and it’s also quick and easy to create aesthetic emails using their templates and the drag-and-drop campaign builder.
In my opinion, ActiveCampaign is the best for the price.
Like many email marketing tools, ActiveCampaign uses tiered pricing based on how many contacts you have. At the time of this writing, it starts at $15/month for the Lite plan if you have less than 500 contacts.
Their pricing is flexible based on your needs and the scale of your business, so you won’t be stuck paying extra for features you’re not using.
Check out their full pricing here.
I’ve contacted AC’s dedicated account customer service a few times to ask technical questions, and they’ve been prompt and helpful. You can contact them through email or live chat. Their supporting documentation is vast and consistently updated for new features.
ActiveCampaign is feature-rich without overwhelming you. Here are the main features most businesses would be interested in:
Note: Availability of some features depends on the package you purchase.
- Unlimited sending of blasts, newsletters, and marketing automation sequences (auto responders)
- Easy to use email templates
- Drag-and-drop email designer
- Import existing contacts, or AC will migrate you from another tool for free
- Segmentation through site tracking, event tracking, tagging, etc
- Marketing automation marketplace full of free and paid automation sequences
- Deal creation and management
- Merge fields for personalization
- Forms to capture emails and lead information on your website
- Integration with lots of other applications, such as Facebook, WordPress, and Zapier
- Built-in CRM
- Contact and lead scoring
- Site messages
- Multiple users on a single account
- SMS marketing subscriptions
- Inbox preview
In general, anything you can do in another email marketing tool can be done in ActiveCampaign, and more.
No tool is perfect. While I believe ActiveCampaign is one of the best email solutions out there, it does have some drawbacks.
First, load times on certain pages are sometimes much higher than average. On the reporting pages, it’s not uncommon to experience 10 to 20-second load times for larger data sets.
Second, while most of the UX is intuitive, some of it isn’t as intuitive as it should be, especially when it comes to some of their pop-up boxes and when moving between different stages of an automation.
Third, you can’t send email blasts based on the prospect’s time zone (you can for automations). For example, if you have an international audience and you want them to receive the email blast at 9am in their time zone, this isn’t possible.
Who Is It Best For?
ActiveCampaign is best for marketers or businesses who want email automation and CRM capability in one package. It’s also a good option for marketers or businesses who want an affordable solution to get started with email marketing automation.
ActiveCampaign has a 14-day free trial here and does not require you to enter payment information.
ActiveCampaign Core Features
1) The Dashboard
ActiveCampaign recently updated their UI and I’m pretty happy with it.
The main dashboard shows some useful widgets for quickly navigating to the most important features and for seeing some quick stats. You can view recent activity (people signing up, clicking on links, etc), your total number of contacts, contact growth, your recent campaigns and automations, your top contacts, and more.
The left sidebar allows you to navigate to the seven main components of ActiveCampaign:
At the bottom of the sidebar, the Apps button takes you to all of the other apps AC integrates with, Settings allows you to adjust your account settings, and Unlock Features is where you go if you wish to upgrade your account.
Automation is ActiveCampaign’s claim to fame. It is their most powerful feature and will probably be the most impactful for your business.
First, what are automations?
Automations are automatic sequences of triggers and actions that allow you to automate parts of your marketing funnel that would be too tedious or impossible for your team to do.
For example, you can set up an automation where someone on your list clicks a link to an article and is then tagged as a specific interest. One day later, the prospect is sent a promotional email for a product that relates to that interest.
Tons of different sequences like this can be created and implemented in the background with no additional human intervention. ActiveCampaign even comes with an automation marketplace:
This marketplace contains both free and paid automations created by experienced marketers. They can be imported directly into your account and customized for your business. This saves a ton of time, especially if you are new to marketing automations and aren’t fully aware of the possibilities.
ActiveCampaign also has some built-in automations you can use as a starting point:
When creating an automation sequence, it starts off by giving you lots of triggers to choose from. (A trigger sparks a specific action in the sequence.)
Here are some of the most important triggers:
- Subscribes to a list
- Unsubscribes from a list
- Submits a form
- Opens/reads an email
- Clicks a link in an email
- Web page is visited
- Event is recorded
And here are some of my other favorites:
- Tag is added
- Conversion occurs
- Makes a purchase
- Abandons cart
As you can see, you can set a trigger for a wide range of events related to website behavior or actions, ecommerce conversions/behavior, email activity, and sales/CRM events.
After setting a trigger to start the automation, you then set an Action. ActiveCampaign has a good variety to choose from.
First are Sending Options, which include sending emails or messages:
Next, there are different conditions, which include waiting a specific amount of time before the next trigger or action, split testing this part of the automation, or starting a new automation sequence:
For example, if I was creating a nurturing sequence by sending some of my best content over several weeks, I would use the Wait condition to put a seven-day break between each email.
I could then split test each email using different subject lines to see which gets a better open rate, or I could start a new sales automation to send them into a promotional sequence when a prospect opens a specific email.
Next, there are contact-based actions:
And CRM-based actions:
Using further triggers and actions, you can gradually build out an automation sequence that passively nurtures prospects, segments them, and converts them into buyers.
You can then drag and drop different parts of the sequence or edit them to make adjustments in the future. You will also see all of your automations in the Automations tab, with access to statistics as well.
Here are a few types of automations you can create:
Welcome Series – A series of emails that welcomes new subscribers, builds trust, and encourages engagement with your brand.
Product Interest Tagging – Tag prospects based on which products they visit on your website. Once tagged, they’re sent a promotional email (or a series of emails) to increase conversion.
Engagement Tagging – Prospects are tagged based on how engaged they are with your website. They are then sent follow-ups based on this engagement.
Abandoned Cart Reminders – Prospects are sent an email after site tracking determines they have left their cart without completing the purchase process.
Automatically Create CRM Tasks – When a prospect replies to your automation email, automatically create a task for your salespeople to respond to them.
Re-engagement Campaign – Automatically send an email to prospects who are tagged as “disengaged.”
Lead & Contact Scoring – Add or deduct points from prospects’ lead scores based on specific actions taken.
Opt-in Incentive Delivery – Deliver lead magnets depending on which form(s) prospects used to sign up.
Retargeting – If a prospect visits a blog post on your website, they can be sent an email that promotes a product related to that article.
Send New Blog Posts – Connect this automation to your RSS feed and it will automatically email new blog posts once they are published.
Winback Series – Invite customers who haven’t bought in a specific time period to return and make a purchase.
List Cleanup – Checks if subscribers have opened any emails in your automation. If not, a few re-engagement emails are sent. If there is no reply, the contact is removed.
Most of these automations have pre-made templates within the automation builder, so you won’t have to make them up from scratch.
In my opinion, this feature alone makes ActiveCampaign worth the money.
Contacts includes your email lists and some segmentations.
Email lists are pretty straightforward. They simply include people who have subscribed to receive information from you.
Scoring is a CRM feature that allows you to assign point values to your subscribers and segment them based on this information.
The point values are assigned based on specific actions your prospects take, like page visits and purchases. This can then allow you to distinguish between hot and cold prospects and adjust your marketing accordingly.
Scoring is extremely powerful for segmenting your audience within the sales cycle.
Next is tagging. This is one of my favorite features in ActiveCampaign
A tag allows you to segment your audience based on actions they have taken. A simple one is to tag anyone who makes a purchase as a “buyer,” but you can also tag people if they open emails, click on links, etc. This allows you to segment your audience based on what they’re interested in.
You can send these people direct email campaigns or you use these tags to trigger automations and expand your sales funnel. The Contacts tab allows you to manage your tags.
Forms provide a basic function, but they are crucial to building your email list and generating leads. ActiveCampaign allows you to create four different types of forms:
- Inline (embedded within the body of the page)
- Floating bar (floats at the top of the page)
- Floating box (a box in the corner of the page that stays there as the user scrolls)
- Modal (pop-up form)
While you may instead prefer to use a premium opt-in form solution or plugin which integrates with ActiveCampaign, their form builder is a quick way to get some forms up and running and integrated correctly.
The nice thing about using ActiveCampaign’s forms is you can add an action immediately after the user subscribes. For instance, if you have a form on your sales page, you can set it to immediately tag that person as a hot prospect once they submit it.
5) CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
Besides automations and list management, CRM is the tool’s next biggest feature. Being able to efficiently manage lead generation, email automation, and customer relationships with one tool is a god send for marketers.
To start, head over to the Deals tab in the left sidebar. This is where you can create a deal pipeline and manage the CRM workflow.
You can map out each stage in the sales cycle, like so:
For example, this cycle goes from leads who haven’t been contacted all the way to paying customers. This gives you a nice visualization of what your stages are and how many prospects are in each stage.
You can also create multiple pipelines if your business serves distinguishable market segments.
Then, you can use your lead scoring values to automatically place people into each stage.
Your salespeople can also assign tasks to each lead in the pipeline. Tasks allow you to make sure that no lead is left unattended. By clicking the three bars button, you can see how many unfinished tasks are left in each stage.
All in all, ActiveCampaign’s CRM features allow you to map out your sales cycle, automatically segment leads based on quality, assign tasks, and keep track of which leads need attention.
6) Site and Event Tracking
One of the most important features to pay attention to when building out your email marketing and CRM strategy with ActiveCampaign is site and event tracking.
After embedding a snippet of code into your website, the tool can track pages visited, how many times your prospects visited a page, what they clicked on, whether they signed up with a form, watched a video, or downloaded a lead magnet, and much more.
This allows you to create targeted marketing campaigns to reach the people with the highest likelihood to convert based on their behavior.
Other ActiveCampaign Features
You can split test email blasts and automations. This is an excellent way to optimize your funnel after it’s up and running.
For the tech-savvy out there, ActiveCampaign has an API. It looks like there is a lot of supporting documentation so it should be relatively easy to use.
The tool integrates with over 100 3rd party apps and tools. So if you’re using other lead generation, analytics, ecommerce, sales, and social tools or a CMS, ActiveCampaign likely integrates with them.
Reporting is essential for understanding whether your marketing is working. I’ve been impressed with the tool’s reporting compared with similar solutions, but, as mentioned previously, these pages can sometimes take a long time to load.
I am a huge fan of ActiveCampaign’s email templates. I am not a designer and I don’t want to spend a lot of time creating emails. These templates provide a nice starting point. Sometimes, I just leave them as is.
You can also save any emails you design or templates you edit as new templates for future use.
ActiveCampaign isn’t the right solution for every marketer, but I do think it provides the best bang for the buck. At the same time, it is definitely not a low-end solution.
It provides extremely powerful automation capability. The segmenting, conditions, triggers, and actions alone set it apart from the rest. If you can imagine it, you can probably implement it.
And it doesn’t get any easier than having tons of automation sequences already created for you in their Automation Marketplace.
Combining this automation with a CRM component brings ActiveCampaign full circle. The ability to generate and segment leads automatically, then assign tasks and attend to each one’s individual needs, can help your sales team run much more smoothly — all within the same platform.
With tons of support and tutorials out there, you’ll never find yourself stuck not knowing what to do or how to take advantage of the tool.
Have a question about my experience reviewing ActiveCampaign or pricing? Feel free to leave a comment below.
ActiveCampaign Review 4.8/5
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