Why I’m Moving To ActiveCampaign And You Should Too (Updated July 2020)

ActiveCampaign Review: Why I'm Moving

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After the popularity of my post about the best email marketing tools for small business, people often contact me asking me about different tools they’re using or have come across.

For the past few years I’ve been using and been very happy with OfficeAutopilot but then they released their new version Ontraport and long story short it left me feeling not as favourable of the software as I once was. (I’ve always steered people clear of Mailchimp but that’s for another post)

**UPDATE Sep 2017** Ontraport has made huge improvements since the original writing of this post – if you want to see what they are you can see my review at “Ontraport Review: What Nobody Tells You About Ontraport

Then someone suggested I check out this tool called ActiveCampaign, I dismissed it at first and didn’t think too much of it until another friend of mine Jake called me up and said “Dude, you’ve got to check out ActiveCampaign its amazing” so I did.

And I’m now moving my done-for-you agency systems over to ActiveCampaign and putting the majority of my clients onto ActiveCampaign as well. (Note: I still use Ontraport for my other businesses)

In this post I review ActiveCampaign and outline whats good about the system and what are the things I don’t quite like so you can get a fair and unbiased review of if the tool will be right for you too.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some links on this page are affiliate links, if you click a link to sign up to a paid plan it won’t cost you any extra or impact you in anyway however they may give me a little thank you for referring you. If for some reason you don’t want that to happen, just google the tool I mention and find the site directly. 

What Is Active Campaign?

ActiveCampain.com Homepage

ActiveCampaign is an Email Marketing Automation & CRM platform that allows you to collect names, emails, addresses etc… and send both broadcast based emails (these those one of marketing emails) as well as automated series emails (also known as autoresponders or email sequences).

The power of a platform like ActiveCampaign is it’s not just about emails, but is really a platform to allow you to grow your business, manage your leads and your clients too.

Review of each feature: what I love and what I’d improve

Contact Management

ActiveCampaign - Contact Overview

What I Love

  • Automatically detects the contacts timezone and location through IP Address when they opt-in, open an email or click a link
  • If the email address has a profile photo attached to it (ie. Gravatar, Social Media Profile etc..) it will add a photo automatically to the contact record
  • View/Add/Remove Tags that the contact is tagged with
  • View/Add/Remove Series (that’s what they call automation sequences) contacts are currently on
  • Can create unlimited custom fields to store additional information about your contact
  • Ability to create segments (called Groups in Ontraport this is essentially a saved search of contacts that meet criteria like has a tag, or a field equals a certain value etc..)

What I’d Improve

  • Hard to read the information when you have more than a few fields on the Contact Overview Screen
  • You have to add custom fields, as the only defaults are Name, Email, Organisation and Phone, so if you want address, state, country, etc.. you’ll have to add them manually as custom fields
  • Tagging is hard to manage and easy to create duplicates because there is no central tag management and there are areas that you set a tag that it doesn’t provide a drop down of existing tags – **Update: Central Tag Management added in February 2015**
  • Explanation of the Use of Lists as a way of segmenting contacts (just confusing compared to OAP or IS that aren’t list based)
  • It doesn’t offer directly any payment processing, however through integrations you can easily do this (Personally I also don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing as I like a tool that focuses on being great at what it does and leave the other stuff to tools that are great at what they do)

CRM Deal/Opportunity Pipeline

ActiveCampaign - Pipeline of CRM Deals

What I Love

  • Easy To Use
  • Simple Drag and Drop to move prospects through stages
  • Completely customise a pipeline with different stages
  • Stage changes, and deal updates can trigger Automations
  • Unlimited Pipelines for different sales funnels
  • Can track tasks, emails, notes on a deal and view it all
  • Can connect up to your email (Gmail, Outlook etc..) and track all back and forth outside of AC inside a deal

What I’d Improve

  • Automations can only run actions on the last created or last updated deal, rather than ensuring that the specific deal the automation is about is being linked to
  • Tasks aren’t obvious when they are outstanding, and don’t allow for task outcomes that can then trigger different automations (this is one area that Ontraport excels)

Email Newsletter/Broadcasts

ActiveCampaign Review: Newsletter & Email Builder Templates

What I Love

  • Emails Look Great
  • Easy to build nice HTML newsletter style emails (not that I personally recommend you do)
  • Able to create plain text personal emails that look like you sent from your standard email (my preferred style)
  • Conditional Email Content – THIS IS HUGE! – this means you can send one email and have someone with let’s say a tag of Client see one version compared to people who don’t have that tag like Prospects.
  • Merge Field Formatting (eg. %FIRSTNAME|TITLECAPS% which means if the contact put their name as JOHN or john, it will be merged as John. this is a simple but extremely powerful feature when trying to put your marketing on autopilot but keep the feeling of personalised contact)
  • Can track Opens, Clicks and Replys to the email broadcast
  • Able to Split Test Emails to test different designs and see which one gets our desired result better (the best bit, you define the criteria and they’ll choose the winner for you
  • Email Preview tool, to see what your email will look like in various email clients so you can find problems before you send

What I’d Improve

  • Those Merge Field Formatting I talked about aren’t built into the WYSWIG Email Designer, if you don’t know the code to add to format it was you want – you wouldn’t know you can do it.
  • It provides you a spam score at the end and says the lower the better, but you aren’t sure if the score it’s given you is high or low in the grand scheme (Ontraport used to colour its score red for bad, orange for warning and green for ok – this made it easy to know if you needed to go back and edit the email to improve deliverability) – **Update: The New Email Builder Now Has This **

Automations

What I Love

  • The amount you can automate for the price (most of the automations you can do with Ontraport or Infusionsoft can be done with the Series Automations or Date Campaigns in ActiveCampaign)
  • Visual Series builder makes it easy to see the workflow of a series and build it out
  • If/Else branches within a series (in Ontraport I would have to create multiple sequences to handle If/Else type scenarios) but with ActiveCampaign these can all be kept cleanly within the one series
  • Ability to send SMS Text Messages (USA, Canada and Australia)
  • Ability to automatically send a broadcast when your blog is updated
  • Ability to automatically put a notification on Facebook and Twitter when your latest newsletter got sent out

What I’d Improve

  • Advanced Automations aren’t as obvious on how to setup, for example it took me days to figure out how to duplicate the Date Based sequences I used in Ontraport to remind people about my upcoming events in Active Campaign. It was there and can be done it just wasn’t where I would have thought to look or configure a campaign like that.
  • The builder isn’t drag and drop, so you sometimes find you have to recreate a step in the series when you add in If/Else branches or want to move a step higher up **Update: New Drag and Drop Builder Added April 2015**
  • Emails in a series are only accessible from within that series (you can’t edit them or use them in another series) **I’m conflicted on if I think this is a good thing or a bad thing but I’m leaning more towards bad**
  • Allow us Australians to send SMS Text Messages without using a service like Clickatel with a Web Hook **Update: Australians can now send and receive SMS**
  • Give more options to trigger a series, like a field being updated, a webpage being visited (**Update: Now Possible**), a task being completed
  • One thing I always loved about Ontraport is the simplicity of automation of their Active Response sequences where you set a Trigger, set the Conditions like if field = and, then do this Action, which can all be done in ActiveCampaign too however it doesn’t feel anywhere near as obvious or straightforward. I’d prefer a simplified Trigger, Conditions, Action setup.

Integrating With 3rd Party Apps

ActiveCampaign Review: Creating Forms

*Update 29th November 2016* ActiveCampaign no longer provides a free zapier account as part of your subscription. However Zapier itself has a free plan to get you started anyway

One of the coolest things that sets Active Campaign apart is the fact that it comes with a free Zapier Account included with all accounts (including their Free plan). This means you are instantly able to integrate into hundreds of different SAAS products to import contacts and setup some integrations.

Now sadly it isn’t a fully functional Zapier account, its limited to only allowing you to integrate things into ActiveCampaign so you can’t link for example Xero with Aweber, it would need to be linking Xero with ActiveCampaign and Aweber with ActiveCampaign.

If you want all the full functionality then you still have to sign up to Zapier for a paid account just like everyone else.

Another great integration tool is from my friend Jake over at FuzedApp, he’s made it completely integrate with ActiveCampaign allowing you to connect Membermouse, GotoWebinar, Google Calendar and Wistia into it with all the great goodies of Fuzed.

If you’re a technical person, or have some custom built software then you’ll also be pleased to know ActiveCampaign have an API for custom development too.

Website Forms

ActiveCampaign Review: Creating Forms

What I Love

  • Customise the Double Opt In Confirmation Email per form (love this)

What I’d Improve

  • No way to make it Double Opt-In Optional where it opts them in but also sends them the email to get them to double opt in if they want – they only offer Double Opt-In on or off
  • If you do make your form Double Opt-In and someone who’s already on your database fills in the form, it won’t know they are already opted in and will still send them the email confirmation email before any automated series begin.
  • Thank You Pages and Email Confirmation Pages are set per list, not by the form. So if you want a form to go to a specific page. For example a download page for an opt-in you must create a new list for that offer to set those pages – **Update: Thanks You Pages now set per form since March 2015 **
  • Unable to copy an existing form and rebuild from that
  • Limited design options for the smart forms from within their builder

Import/Export

What I Love

  • Don’t have to be double opted in when you import a list form another system (unlike Aweber)
  • Easily import from existing tools with the built-in free Zapier Integrations
  • Manually add people one at a time, or import from a CSV option too
  • They offer to help you migrate over from another tool (haven’t used their service to do this so can’t comment on how good it is)

What I’d Improve

  • I haven’t really spent enough time exploring this functionality to find out what I don’t like yet

Behaviour Tracking

What I Love

  • You can track when people click, open, REPLY to emails (these can all trigger automations)
  • You can trigger a new automated series off of an email click, open or reply
  • You can tag a contact based on clicks, opens, replys
  • Simple tracking code to add to website to track webpage visits and activity
  • All activity displayed in order on the contact page of website activity, email opens and replys etc
  • Customised Lead Scoring that you can set the values of and what causes the score updates (very powerful)

What I’d Improve

  • Be able to trigger a new automated series off of a website or webpage visit (you can wait for this and then do something from within an existing series but not start a brand new series from the event) **Update: This is now possible as of September 2014**

Deliverability

The all important deliverability. I mean features are great but it’s worthless for your business if the emails aren’t making it into the inbox.

Now I’m no expert in email delivery and all the mechanics that are involved to ensure it gets into someones inbox but so far I’ve not found any issues with people not receiving emails, in fact emails are often in someone inbox within seconds rather than the minutes I’ve experienced on other more established systems.

Support

What I Love

  • Really pro-active, and fast even if you’re on the free plan
  • Offer 1 on 1 training sessions to help get you up to speed with the system
  • Live Chat Available
  • Email Support
  • Help Documents Searchable
  • Regular Software Updates! They seem to be on a major update drive at the moment with major updates coming out monthly (not sure if it will continue but it’s been great so far and if they keep it up will make for an even more incredible piece of software)

What I’d Improve

  • Don’t have anyone on the ground in Australia or compatible timezone so you deal with UK and US timezones for support (Honestly this hasn’t really been much of an issue for me – they have always been fast at responding)
  • Making the help documents more accessible from within ActiveCampaign itself, would have saved me some support tickets and wasted time

Price

Compared to other tools with comparable features that start from $199/m to $297/m it’s hard to believe that prices start from $9/m or $49/m if you want the CRM functionality

In fact there is even a FREE account! **Update: Now only a free trial**

If you’re a business you’d be better to go on a paid plan to remove the ActiveCampaign Logo from the bottom of all your emails – much more professional and will help with keeping your spam scores low. Plus allow you to set double-opt in optional on forms, and a slew of extra features only available on non free ActiveCampaign accounts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns ActiveCampaign?

  • Jason VandeBoom is the Founder & CEO of ActiveCampaign

What is ActiveCampaign?

  • ActiveCampaign is a CRM tool that helps to manage your email, automation, and marketing to assist with growing your business. It is built to help small businesses have a large impact and be used to save time and connect with your customers easily.

What does ActiveCampaign do?

  • ActiveCampaign can assist in

How does ActiveCampaign work?

  • ActiveCampaign is what’s known as a Software As A Service (SaaS), it means there is nothing to install, you simply sign up and account and can start using it.
    If you’re interested in signing up, click here.

How to integrate ActiveCampaign with ClickFunnels?

  • ActiveCampaign can be integrated into ClickFunnels by adding your ActiveCampaign API Credentials into your ClickFunnels account.

How to cancel ActiveCampaign

  • ActiveCampaign may not be the right fit for you and your business and if that turns out to be the case they make it super simple to cancel.
    Visit your billing & upgrade page within your ActiveCampaign account, you’ll see a cancel link inside of the payment box. Simple as that.
    If you’re looking for a different CRM that is better suited to your needs, could be worth considering Ontraport. Check out my Ontraport Review to see if it might be right for you.

How to setup ActiveCampaign

  • After signing up with ActiveCampaign, you can schedule a one-on-one training session to assist with your account setup. ActiveCampaign also offers training webinars and walkthrough videos to provide you with tools and education in using their software.
    Or if you’d rather not do it yourself, you can work with my personal Marketing Team that are trained and certified in ActiveCampaign.

How to integrate ActiveCampaign into WordPress

  • By installing the ActiveCampaign plugin (link to Plugin in WordPress Repository) on your WordPress site, you’re able to easily embed subscription forms into your posts and pages, and setup site tracking for advanced segmenting without playing around with code.
    This is also something my Marketing Team could do for you too.

How to integrate ActiveCampaign with LeadPages

  • ActiveCampaign can be integrated with LeadPages in two ways. You can send your leads to ActiveCampaign via the API once they’ve submitted their information on a Leadpage or a Leadbox.
    Or you can add your ActiveCampaign form code into your Leadpage or Leadbox.
    I generally recommend using the Form Code for LeadPages, to avoid any issues if the API goes down.LeadPages & ActiveCampaign are both platforms my team are experts in.

How to integrate ActiveCampaign with Shopify

  • ActiveCampaign can be integrated with Shopify in three ways.
    A deep data integration allows your purchase and cart data to be sent to an ActiveCampaign account and this data can be used to send follow-up emails that are customized to the client’s experience.
    By integrating Zapier, you can use your ActiveCampaign account to Shopify in order to add all customers to your contact list.
    Or for an additional fee, Revenue Conduit can be added to integrate sophisticated marketing automation for ecommerce.

Overall Summary

Compared to other tools like Infusionsoft and Ontraport which start from $199/m for comparable features ActiveCampaign is an incredible tool.

You should sign up if you’re…

  • A Small Service Based Business
  • Looking for a tool that can give you more power than Aweber or Mailchimp without the price tag of the more commonly known tools like Ontraport and Infusionsoft
  • You’re using Ontraport or Infusionsoft and feel its overkill for what you need

Don’t if you’re…

  • After a complete all in one system to take care of payments, memberships, landing pages etc.. (use Ontraport or Infusionsoft instead)
  • Looking for a complex and detailed CRM tool (you’re better to look at a tool like Salesforce, SugarCRM or Zoho CRM)
  • You’re planning on just doing Affiliate Marketing – Active Campaign don’t like you if all you do is send Affiliate emails (use Aweber, Ontraport, or Infusionsoft instead)

Try it out: Is ActiveCampaign right for you?

Let ActiveCampaign know I referred you by clicking this link to get a 14 day free trial

It won’t cost you any extra but I’ll get a thank you for helping you decide to give them a try 🙂