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What’s the Best Autoresponder/Email Marketing Tool to Use?

Email marketing is the cornerstone of many online businesses. And the tools you use to manage your email marketing can make a huge difference to your bottom line.

It's no wonder, then, that "which autoresponder do you recommend?" is a question I receive quite often.

In today's post, we'll take a look at the two major cateogries of email marketing solutions and I'll tell you which specific service I recommend (and why).​

More...

Choosing the Right Tool for Your Business

Broadly, all email marketing solutions fall into one of two categories that we can bluntly name "smart" and "dumb".

A "smart" solution will allow you to tag your contacts in multiple ways so that, for example, you can keep track of who purchased which product, who opted in for which offer, who clicked on which link etc. Crucially, the smart system will then allow you to act on these insights and send highly targeted messages to segments of your list.

A "dumb" system will simply dump all contacts into different buckets and treat those different buckets as entirely separate lists. Because of that, intelligent follow-up isn't possible in the same way that a smart system allows it.​

What I Recommend

Personally, I'm currently using ActiveCampaign which is a smart (or even very smart)​ email marketing and marketing automation system.

I use it and recommend it not only because it allows for all the intelligent segmentation and follow-up that I want to do​, but also because it's fairly easy to use.

To be clear: email marketing is complex and no solution for it will be smart while also being super easy to use. There's definitely a bit of a learning curve. But I think that ActiveCampaign is intuitive enough so that even beginners can get to grips with it.​

​There are, of course, other smart solutions. In fact, the "smart" way of doing things has become a lot more popular and ubiquitous lately. Some of these solutions include:

Of these, I recommend against using Infusionsoft and Ontraport. Both of these I have used in the past and was disappointed with for various reasons.

As mentioned above, ActiveCampaign is my #1 recommendation and especially if you are switching over from an old-school "dumb" system, using this can make a massive difference to your business.

Now I'd like to hear from you: what other questions do you have about email marketing? What tools have you tried and which are your favorite ones? Let me know by leaving a comment below!​

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Shane
 

I'm Shane Melaugh and I'm the guy writing most of the posts on this blog. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights on how to grow your business by creating compelling offers, driving traffic and increasing conversions.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 46 comments
Neena - June 2, 2016

Hi Shane,
I, too, am a big fan of ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit comes in a close second.

I am now testing out the new service from Rainmaker because my site runs on that platform.

So, many choices – but AC is a good one.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Hello Neena,

    Thanks for your comment! It’s true that marketers these days are spoilt for choice. Just a few years ago, it was a desperate search trying to find a system that wasn’t “dumb”.

    Reply
      Leonardo "List Legend" LaVito - June 4, 2016

      Indeed.

      I still remember that it was just a few years back that the only feasible options were Aweber and Getresponse.

      With all the choices available nowadays, it can really lead to a decision paralysis. But overall, it’s great having options.

      It also pushes everyone to put out their best and step ahead of the game.

      Now if only more software developers would start integrating with some of the newer options out there…

      Sincerely,
      Leonardo “List Legend” LaVito
      (The Last List Building Legend)

      Reply
Chris - June 2, 2016

I was a big time MailChimp user for years until I switched to ActiveCampaign this year. It has been great but with a few hiccups along the way. In my opinion, AC is experiencing growing pains. Chat support is great but email support has been spotty. I know a month or two ago, they had a minimal support staff (chat or email) on the weekends but they were hoping to hire a few more people.

I will say for anyone going from a simple newsletter list to a complex automation system like AC…PLAN AHEAD. Between automations and tagging, you’ll want to have a plan. Otherwise, you’ll just get frustrated. Dig through their blog for a lot of helpful advice on tagging. Oh, and they now offer automation templates so the novice user can quickly get started.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thanks for your comment, Chris! I agree with you about planning ahead. If you use ActiveCampaign or a similar system without a clear idea of what you want your marketing to look like, you won’t get much out of it.

    Reply
Yusuf - June 2, 2016

Shane, what are your thoughts on tools like Hubspot, Pardot, Sharpspring, etc.? Have you used them and how do they compare to ActiveCampaign?

Reply
    Eran - June 3, 2016

    Hi Yusuf.

    I hope you don’t mind me responding to your email in place of Shane?

    Systems like hubspot & Pardot are middle to high end marketing automation platforms typically used by bigger organisations.

    ActiveCampaign still does a fair amount of things that they can do, BUT not all.

    AND, they (HS,P, etc.) are a LOT more expensive.

    At my last job, we evaluated all options on the market and ended up going with Marketo, but price is probably the number one reason most small businesses don’t go with these other solutions.

    AC allows you to get started from US$9/month whereas the above options are typically $100s a month, if not more.

    AC doesn’t do everything they can do, but if you’re looking for a good SOLID email/marketing automation platform, you could do a LOT worse than AC.

    I hope this helps.

    Eran

    Reply
      Shane - June 3, 2016

      Thanks for replying, Eran!

      Reply
      Yusuf - June 3, 2016

      Thanks for answering Eran, I am myself certified and help customers with the more enterprise grade solutions, but I’ve never used Active Campaign so I often wonder what justifies the higher price of the enterprise solutions.

      Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    I don’t know much about Sharpspring, but Hubspot and Pardot are both enterprise level automation suites. I honestly don’t know how much better or different they are from something like AC. I’m not an enterprise customer.

    Reply
Mike Moyer - June 2, 2016

I like Sendy. Not as powerful, but WAY cheaper. It’s self-hosted and uses AWS. Does everything I want and works well with Thrive!

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Hi Mike,

    It’s been a while since I looked at Sendy. Is it still a “dumb” system or are they adding automation and tagging features and such as well?

    Reply
Michael Haskett - June 2, 2016

Hi Shane,

I switched to Active Campaign about 6 months ago from Aweber. I found the transition went reasonably smoothly. I reached out a number of times and had a few 15 minute consultations with the AC support people. That REALLY helped.
I am still learning all of the finer points, but it is a far superior system, and extremely “smart”. And the monthly fee compared to some others is very reasonable.
And just like Thrive Themes, they continually update and add new (usable) features.

Cheers,

Michael

PS. I LOVE Thrive themes and am just heading over now to get Thrive Ultimatum.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thank you for your comment, Michael! Good to see that you are having a good time with ActiveCampaign as well. :)

    Reply
Kevin Polley - June 2, 2016

Hi Shane,

I’m the owner of arpReach so I’m a little bias :)

That being said arpReach is a self-owned autoresponder solution that has no monthly fees, that allows it’s users to be intelligent in the way they segment their subscribers and what actions they want triggered based on a subcribers actions.

One of arpReach’s powers is that actions and triggers can ‘tag’ a subscriber however the user wants and in unlimited ways. The tags can then be stacked to create micro-segments ensuring that the right message gets sent to the right readers.

And what’s even better is arpReach works great with Thrive! Thanks for making that possible Shane.

Reply
Steve - June 2, 2016

Would you put Drip in same category as ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit?

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Hello Steve,

    I think they’re developing in that direction. When I last looked at Drip, their focus was more on triggering emails based on visitor actions on your site. E.g. “if a subscriber has looked at the pricing page 3 times, send this email”. It was a similar thing to Vero or customer.io.

    But I believe they have recently added more features that put them in a similar category to ActiveCampaign.

    Reply
Julia Harris - June 2, 2016

I switched from Aweber to Active Campaign a few months ago and I’m really happy with it. Definetly worth the learning curve!!

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    That’s great to hear, Julia! Thanks for your comment.

    Reply
    Aaron - September 13, 2016

    It definitely is a learning curve to active campaign but, I can already see what a great impact it will have on my business. I switched from aweber not too long ago and am so glad I did.

    Reply
Doug - June 3, 2016

The “Big Three” I usually hear about are AWeber, ActiveCampaign (new kid on the block), and GetRepsonse. And then there’s InfusionSoft (aka “ConfusionSoft”) and Ontraport for moving up to the next level.

Anyway, what’s your take on GetReponse? It looks like they’re currently doing a beta rollout of something they call “marketing automation” that uses a drag ‘n drop interface similar to ActiveCampaign’s.

An interesting possible bonus to GetReponse is that they’re integrating a webinar system into their offering. That alone could be worth $60/month plus if you can use it.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Hi Doug,

    GetResponse have been adding more automation bits and pieces for a long time, but last time I evaluated it, they were still missing the mark.

    I haven’t looked at them in detail in the last 10 months or so, though.

    In general, I think it’s very important to know your requirements before you choose a solution. In my case, I knew exactly what products we were selling and how I wanted to be able to segment and follow up with subscribers and customers. And applying this with GetResponse was not possible at the time (or would have required some major hacks), so I chose ActiveCampaign instead.

    Reply
Martin - June 3, 2016

Deliverability. Mike Dillard as many of us know has built several businesses to the hundreds of millions. He showed how Mailchimp got 100% deliverability. He recommends Mailchimp. Agree with Shane on “smart” yet still wondering about AC and my legitimate double opt-in emails not being received.

Love Thrive Themes. Just set up another funnel that took 9 minutes! Of course most of that time was spent rewriting the headline and content to fit my product.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Hello Martin,

    Thanks for your comment. Do you know how this deliverability rate was tested? Deliverability is always a hot topic when it comes to email marketing, but I’ve found very few reliable sources about it.

    Reply
      Martin - June 3, 2016

      Hello Shane. Yes he uses http://mailmonitor.com/. This is from a webinar he did in February. He showed this and stats from his Mailchimp account.
      Thanks again for all you do!
      Martin

      Reply
Michelle - June 3, 2016

I am in the process of switching from Aweber so this is a timely article. My two choices are Convertkit and Drip, and I have a free trial for both to test out. Now, I may try Active Campaign. As an avid Thrive Themes member and fan, I really listen to Shane’s advice. Just curious to know what everyone thinks of Drip? Thanks for another informative article, Shane!

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thanks for your comment, Michelle!

    All I can say about Drip is that at the time I last evaluated it (about one year ago), it didn’t match the business requirements I had.

    Like I mentioned in a comment above, I think it’s very important that you have a good idea of what you want to do with your email marketing and then check to make sure that Drip or whatever you end up choosing lets you create the setup you had in mind.

    Reply
    Matt - June 4, 2016

    Without doubt, I would go with Active Campaign.

    I tried ConvertKit and it’s okay, but it’s not nearly as good as Active Campaign, plus it costs more. AC has pricing options that are hard to beat.

    ConvertKit also has a few small quirks that I didn’t like. One such example is the inability to capitalize first names. If someone signs up as sam and you want to address them as Sam, you have to mess around with code.

    It’s very clunky. When I contacted support about this, the response I received (from Nathan Barry) was that Is should go through my list manually and adjust all the sign ups that didn’t have first name capitalized!

    While AC isn’t perfect (no system ever is), I’m really happy with it and recommend it (unless you’re an affiliate marketer, in which case it’s in their T&Cs that you can’t use it for that).

    Reply
Kimberly George - June 3, 2016

Hey there Shane! I first want to start off by saying that I love Everything that you guys are creating over at Thrive. I am actually in the process of switching from Aweber to ActiveCampaign and as you stated AC is an extremely powerful marketing automation system. The one thing that they need to work on is their support. It seems really hit or miss. Or…they need to add more video tutorials for their end users that shows how to do things like tagging and etc.

But overall im excited that Ive made the switch!

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thank you very much, Kimberly!

    So far, I’ve had good experiences with ActiveCampaign support. But it’s one of those things that can definitely suffer if they’ve gotten many new customers, lately.

    Reply
Martin Messier - June 3, 2016

Hey Shane,

I’ve been using GetResponse for 9 years. They have been developing their platform diligently through those years. Have a look at their most recent Marketing Automation update. It’s great. While it’s not quite the same as the tag system that Active Campaign offers, it enables me to craft similar campaigns.

Every time I think of switching, they come up with a great update that makes it worth my while to stay on.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thank you for your comment, Martin!

    I agree that GetResponse have been going at a good pace with developments and updates. Sometimes, I’m not sure if they’re going in the right direction though, with things like the landing pages and webinars…

    Reply
Peter - June 3, 2016

Also, Get Response just got marketing automation added to it’s list of features so it’s on par with Active Campaign.

Reply
    Shane - June 3, 2016

    Thanks for your comment, Peter. Seems like everyone’s finally waking up to smart follow-up marketing. Which is a great thing to see.

    Reply
Leonardo "List Legend" LaVito - June 4, 2016

Apart from the other options above, I’d also add SendLane to the mix.

It offers amazing deliverability, and includes all the features of the others in the list, while delivering a low price tag.

Sincerely,
Leonardo “List Legend” LaVito
(The Last List Building Legend)

Reply
Frank - June 13, 2016

Shane,

This is pretty refreshing. I’ve seen SO many blog posts and emails from big names on why they switched to Convertkit. When I see the money that can be made from Convertkit’s affiliate program I have to wonder if that is playing a big role. It’s nice to see someone recommend something else.

Thanks,
Frank

Reply
Matej - June 19, 2016

I’ve discovered mautic.com and salesmanago.com. The first one is a opensource project and think that is a good starting point. The second one is a full automation system with CRM integrated. Hope will help someone ^_~

Reply
Travis Head - July 26, 2016

Hi Shane,
I am just a good fan of your blog. But I am recently [use a Autores-ponder named Mailerlite. But its sometime send my mail on spam folder. Is Activecampaign work better then Mailerlite.

Please suggest me.

Reply
    Shane - August 13, 2016

    Hello Travis,

    In terms of deliverability, I don’t know if switching to ActiveCampaign would make a difference. Deliverability is one of those things that’s super difficult to test, unfortunately.

    Reply
Tommy - August 2, 2016

Shane,

I’m currently using aweber based on recommendations provided by many online email marketing courses I’ve taken. After a brief comparison of aweber and activecampaign I have to admit you are right yet again…

Very educational and eye opening!

Reply
    Shane - August 13, 2016

    Aweber is an old-school choice at this point. For a long time, they were a good choice. Nothing fancy, but reliable and affordable. They’ve been left in the dust though and are now trying to catch up to the new breed of email marketing software like ActiveCampaign.

    Reply
Thomas - August 7, 2016

Thanks Shane for Thrive Themes. Any idea how about MailPoet fits into all this? They brand it as an email autoresponder which works inside WordPress itself. It is also free for websites with 2000 subscribers and less.

Tom

Reply
    Shane - August 13, 2016

    MailPoet is one of the services that Thrive Themes products integrate with directly (see more here).

    Reply
Ostii - August 9, 2016

Hey Shane, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am curious to know how you get around the merging contacts in Active Campaign.

It was the only thing that put me off it was that I could not merge duplicate contacts.

Reply
    Shane - August 13, 2016

    Hello Ostii,

    I have not had this problem in ActiveCampaign. When importing contacts, you can choose to merge/upgrade existing contacts if the email address is the same.

    Reply

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