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Reviews and expert opinion ActiveCampaign

Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg
Email Marketing Expert

ActiveCampaign bills itself as an automation platform that offers email marketing, CRM, SMS marketing, and much more. To find out whether this platform could optimize my marketing efforts, I signed up for ActiveCampaign’s cheapest plan. Overall, I was impressed by the marketing automations and deliverability but found the reporting dashboard lacking, especially for advanced marketers.

Overview

ActiveCampaign Is an Automation Superpower – but Can It Help Your Business Get Into Customers’ Inboxes?

ActiveCampaign dashboard
ActiveCampaign gives you easy access to all automation and marketing tools from the main dashboard

ActiveCampaign describes itself as a “customer experience automation platform” rather than just an email marketing service, and from the moment I read that, I was ready to sign up for an account. I’d been looking for a tool to automate my agency’s marketing efforts, and ActiveCampaign sounded ideal.

My agency could benefit from more advanced automation tools, but in the past, I found other email marketing services made it too complicated, confusing, or time-consuming to set up these workflows. I was eager to see if I would run into the same issues with ActiveCampaign.

I considered trying out one of the higher-priced ActiveCampaign plans, which also offer SMS marketing, site messaging, and landing pages. These plans offer access to a complete marketing suite for small and mid-size businesses, but were a little feature-heavy for marketers with smaller lists, like me, who want to focus on sending high-performing emails.

Instead, I opted to test ActiveCampaign’s cheapest plan as part of our email marketing service comparison project.

I was also happy to learn it supports over a dozen languages – including French, German, Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

ActiveCampaign also offers a free trial, but at 14 days, it’s relatively short, which only gives you a limited opportunity to try out the service. I tested ActiveCampaign myself to see if its automation features live up to the hype and to find out if it’s worth the investment.

Features

4.5

Can ActiveCampaign Features Satisfy Advanced Email Marketers?

No matter which plan you choose, ActiveCampaign offers unlimited emails and supports at least three team members. It also handles essentials like newsletters and transactional emails beautifully. Yet I wanted to know if it went beyond the basics to offer the features you need to improve productivity and connect reliably with subscribers.

A Curated Collection of Email Templates

ActiveCampaign email templates
The “Inspiration” tab shows default templates with placeholder images, colors, and other design features

I prefer a shortlist of well-designed email templates over hundreds of options I’ll never use. I was happy to find ActiveCampaign had about two dozen premade templates, each one serving a specific purpose. Many were designed for email automations, such as Reengage With an Old Customer or Product Back in Stock. Others were ideal for newsletters, like Weekly Newsletter.

ActiveCampaign drag-and-drop editor
ActiveCampaign’s template editor was super easy to use

I also appreciated that ActiveCampaign offers simpler one-, two-, or three-column layouts that let you build a template from scratch. Using the drag-and-drop editor, you can modify any of the templates or layouts to match your branding or meet your messaging needs.

Straightforward Split Testing

ActiveCampaign split testing
You can preview any version of your A/B test before sending

With ActiveCampaign, setting up a split test was as easy as creating a standard email. I liked that this feature let you test any combination of subject lines, sender details, and email content. Since you can create up to five versions for each A/B test, you have a lot of room for experimentation.

You can send each version to a certain percentage of your list or let ActiveCampaign test both first and then send the winning version to the majority.

Built-in Spam Tester

ActiveCampaign spam check
The spam check helps you get more value out of every email you send

I have a lot of experience writing email subject lines, but I still rely on testing tools to make sure my emails won’t land in the spam folder. I was happy to find that ActiveCampaign had an automated spam check that let me test my subject lines during the setup process.

In addition to a pass/fail notification, the spam tester scored each subject line, making it easy to see whether emails had a good chance of landing in the inbox. Although both versions of my email passed ActiveCampaign’s spam test, I had mixed results getting my emails into the inbox, which I’ll explain below.

Excellent Deliverability

High deliverability rates are essential for marketers. After all, it’s impossible to connect with customers when your emails consistently go to the spam folder. Fortunately, I found ActiveCampaign’s deliverability to be strong.

A few days after sending my first campaign, 100% of my subscribers received the email. However, my email landed in the junk folder for all subscribers using Outlook and Hotmail. I had much better results for subscribers using Gmail. Out of my Gmail subscribers, almost half received my campaign in the primary tab rather than the promotions tab, which I was pleased with.

More Than 100 Premade Automations

I was happy to see that ActiveCampaign had more than 100 premade automation “recipes,” including basic welcome and abandoned cart workflows as well as industry-specific options for health care, real estate, and other fields. I also spotted ActiveCampaign automation options that handily integrate with apps like Salesforce and Facebook.

ActiveCampaign email automations
ActiveCampaign has an automation for virtually every purpose

The email automations I set up tend to be relatively simple. For example, I often automatically tag engaged subscribers and frequent buyers so I can send targeted campaigns later. ActiveCampaign made this easy.

ActiveCampaign - Engagement Tagging automation map
It’s easy to map out and modify default automation recipes on ActiveCampaign

But I think ActiveCampaign’s more complex automations could help generate more leads and sales. For example, you can set up an automated follow-up email for subscribers who expressed interest in certain e-commerce products. You can also create an automated email to upsell recent buyers on related products or services.

ActiveCampaign - Accessory Upsell automation map
You can customize each step or add more automation triggers

In addition to the premade automations, ActiveCampaign lets you create completely custom automations from scratch. There were about two dozen automation triggers to choose from, ranging from opens and link clicks to online purchases and abandoned carts.

ActiveCampaign made it easy to automate tagging within these sequences, which means you can handle subscriber segmentation efficiently.

ActiveCampaign - custom automation start triggers
After selecting a start trigger, you can add conditions and link apps

More Than 300 Marketing Integrations

ActiveCampaign app integrations
ActiveCampaign has all the integrations you need to turn it into a full-featured marketing suite

Whether I’m doing client work or marketing my own agency, I use more than just an email platform. In fact, I use at least a half-dozen tools daily to work as efficiently as possible. That means I need an email marketing service that easily links to the other tools I use.

ActiveCampaign has more than 300 integrations, including Zapier – which allows you to link to countless other apps. You can also use the ActiveCampaign API to streamline app integrations. Some of the most helpful options I noticed:

  • ActiveCampaign social media integrations: Facebook and Twitter
  • ActiveCampaign e-commerce integrations: Bigcommerce, Shopify, Square, and WooCommerce
  • ActiveCampaign lead generation integrations: Deadline Funnels, LeadPages, and ManyChat
  • ActiveCampaign CRM integrations: Salesforce and Zoho

Easy Form Builder

ActiveCampaign form builder
The form builder has a user-friendly, drag-and-drop editor

ActiveCampaign has a form builder, which is a good way to attract more subscribers to your list. I customized a standard subscription form in just a couple of minutes, however, I found the form options for the basic ActiveCampaign plan somewhat limited. If you want popups or other subscription forms, you’ll have to upgrade to a higher-priced plan.

See full list of features

Ease of use

4.0

How User-Friendly Is ActiveCampaign?

Since starting my agency, I’ve tried several email marketing services. I found some overly challenging to navigate and others too time-consuming to use. I was pleased to find that ActiveCampaign was easy to figure out as soon as I logged in to my account.

The main dashboard shows your recent campaigns and automations. From the left menu, you can access your campaigns, lists, forms, and automations with a single click.

Setting up a list and sending out a campaign was remarkably easy. I imported my list, created a newsletter, and scheduled it to send within about 30 minutes.

Naturally, some of the more advanced features had a slight learning curve. But because the ActiveCampaign interface was so user-friendly, it only took me a few minutes to learn things like how to set up an automation.

Save Time and Eliminate Mistakes with Content Blocks

ActiveCampaign content blocks
Saved blocks are always available in the right menu of the drag-and-drop editor

I tend to reuse content blocks and styles throughout my email campaigns, so I liked that ActiveCampaign let me save important content blocks to drop into future campaigns or templates. This option saves time by letting you skip re-entering the same information for each template. It also helps you avoid making mistakes or introducing inconsistencies in your campaigns.

Nurture Leads with Segmentation

ActiveCampaign list segmentation
Tags are essential to a well-oiled email-marketing machine

When it comes to nurturing leads, sending relevant messages to the right subscribers is critical. ActiveCampaign streamlines lead generation and nurturing with easy segmentation. I was able to create multiple tags and add them to groups of subscribers in bulk. ActiveCampaign’s automations also allow you to streamline tagging, so you don’t have to do it manually.

Send Better Emails with Compatibility Checks

ActiveCampaign email compatibility preview
This compatibility preview feature even has multiple Outlook versions

I’ve learned the hard way that my email campaigns don’t always look as great in my subscribers’ inboxes as they do in my email marketing interface. ActiveCampaign offered a compatibility preview that included most major email providers, such as Gmail and Outlook. My basic plan included five compatibility checks, with the option to purchase more for an additional fee.

Improve Productivity With Template and Automation Migration

ActiveCampaign automation migration
If you don’t mind the wait time, this free migration service saves a lot of hassle

Although I had no problem importing my subscriber list, ActiveCampaign also offers free automation and template migration — even on the cheapest plan. Since it can be tricky to adapt templates and automations from one email platform to another, this service is a great way to work more efficiently while avoiding costly mistakes.

See if ActiveCampaign is Right for You

Analytics & Reporting

Do ActiveCampaign Reports Give You the Data You Need?

ActiveCampaign analytics dashboard
Toggle the upper-right menu to review analytics for different split-test versions

The main ActiveCampaign analytics dashboard shows all the basic data the average email marketer needs. I liked being able to get a quick snapshot of opens and clicks for my emails, and ActiveCampaign helped visualize this data when you select a campaign.

Are ActiveCampaign Analytics Advanced Enough for Experienced Marketers?

ActiveCampaign open rate report
You can find in-depth data as long as you know which left menu option to click

When I send an email campaign for my clients, I need to track more than open rates or click-through data. Thankfully, ActiveCampaign offers in-depth analytics.

For example, I could see the number of clicks for each URL in my campaign to help gauge my audience’s interest levels. I could also see which email clients had the most clicks, which helps design future campaigns for the most popular platforms.

Do ActiveCampaign Reports Work for Teams?

ActiveCampaign report sharing
This report-sharing option is ideal for proving results to clients

I often need to share analytics with team members and clients. With ActiveCampaign, I could export each report with one click and quickly send a link to colleagues with the Share feature. However, I couldn’t export or share the campaign report overview. Instead, I’d have had to export or share each section of the report individually or compile them manually.

In addition, I’d need to upgrade to an Enterprise plan to customize the reports.

What Can You Do With the Data from ActiveCampaign Analytics?

ActiveCampaign analytics - best time to email
These reports can help improve engagement for future email campaigns

It’s possible to glean a lot of helpful information from ActiveCampaign reports. For example, you can easily see the best time to email your list to schedule campaigns for optimal times going forward.

You can also use the Clicks report to track the type of content the audience prefers in order to keep engagement rates high for future campaigns.

But I had to do some of the most important analysis manually. For example, if I wanted to see which version of my split-test performed better, I had to click back and forth between the reports to get the data.

Ideally, I’d prefer for my email marketing service to handle this kind of data analysis for me so I can make decisions and improve my marketing strategy more efficiently.

See All Reporting Features

Support

5.0

ActiveCampaign Offers Excellent Email and Chat Support — But No Phone Support

When I started using ActiveCampaign, one of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to access support. The help button is in the bottom right of every screen, so you never have to search for it.

The self-service support option was very helpful, and I used it to answer some basic questions. For example, I’d heard that the ActiveCampaign Chrome extension would let me add Gmail contacts to my list and I found step-by-step instructions on how to do this from the FAQs.

With the lowest-priced plan, ActiveCampaign offers chat and email support but no phone support. Live chat hours are somewhat limited — it’s available Sundays from 4 pm to 11 pm CST, Monday through Thursday from 8 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 11 pm CST, and Friday from 8 am to 2 pm CST. But how does ActiveCampaign support work in reality?

I was very happy with the live chat support. Once I entered my support request, I could immediately see how many people were ahead of me. After about 15 minutes, I connected with a support technician. They answered my question, complete with a link to more information, within about five minutes.

ActiveCampaign support - live chat
ActiveCampaign live chat support was prompt and friendly

Even better, right after my chat ended, I received an email transcript of the conversation. It gave me the option to reply in case I had a follow-up question.

ActiveCampaign support - live chat transcription
I wasn’t expecting this live chat transcription, but it was a nice perk

I also tried to access live support at 7:30 am EST, but the chat option wasn’t available. Instead, I entered a support ticket and got a response in about six hours. The response somewhat answered my question about importing contacts from a Word document. If I were less tech-savvy, however, I’d have needed to ask a follow-up question about converting a Word document to a .CSV file.

ActiveCampaign support - ticket
This support response raised more questions than it answered

When I requested email support, I promptly received a message with my case number. The message told me to expect a response within 24 hours — but it warned me that the support team was busier than usual and might need more time.

ActiveCampaign support - email
ActiveCampaign has tons of deliverability resources in the FAQs

In the end, it took over 28 hours to receive a response to my question about ensuring high deliverability rates. Although the wait time was longer than the standard 24 hours, the email answered my question and provided multiple links to help me resolve my issue. Next time, I’d search through the FAQs more carefully before requesting email support.

Pricing

4.5

Does ActiveCampaign Offer Cost-Effective Plans?

The ActiveCampaign pricing structure has good options for small and mid-size businesses. The price of the basic plan is on par with many other email marketing services, starting at $15.00 per month (billed yearly), and it offers must-have features like automated emails, unlimited sending, and up to three team members.

Plans with higher price points include more features, like landing pages, lead scoring, and SMS marketing. They also come with ActiveCampaign machine-learning features, such as dynamic and predictive content. You pay based on the size of your list, so you can expect to pay much more for 25,000 contacts than 500 subscribers.

The one drawback to the ActiveCampaign pricing structure is its lack of a free plan, something that services like Sendinblue and AWeber offer. ActiveCampaign does offer a free, 14-day trial. Once that expires, you have to pay, even if you want the most basic plan.

ActiveCampaign accepts major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. You can also use PayPal to pay for an annual plan.

It’s also worth noting that you’ll save a considerable amount if you sign up and pay annually, as opposed to monthly.

 # of emails per month# of subscribersMulti-user accountsAutomationSegmentationAnalyticsPrice (billed yearly)
LiteUnlimited500Yes (3)YesYesYes$15.00/month
PlusUnlimited500Yes (25)YesYesYes$70.00/month
ProfessionalUnlimited500Yes (50)YesYesYes$159.00/month
EnterpriseUnlimited500Yes (Unlimited)YesYesYes$229/month

What Is ActiveCampaign’s Cancellation and Refund Policy?

ActiveCampaign has a no-refund policy, so I didn’t expect to get my money back when I canceled my plan. Fortunately, I opted to pay monthly rather than purchasing an annual plan, so my early cancellation wasn’t overly expensive.

Yet when I tried to cancel my account, I couldn’t find where to do it. There’s no cancellation button or link on the standard account or settings pages. So I used the ActiveCampaign support portal to search the FAQs. Once I found the cancellation option on the billing page, the process was smooth.

ActiveCampaign billing
Scroll to the bottom of the billing page to find the cancellation link

The system prompted me to provide a reason for my cancellation and asked if I’d like to set up a call with the support team to resolve any issues. It also gave me the option to have ActiveCampaign retain my data for a year in case I decided to reopen my account. Once I completed the cancellation, I received confirmation I’d have access to my account and data through the end of the month.

ActiveCampaign cancellation
I didn’t receive an email about my cancellation, so this was my only confirmation

User reviews

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Comparison

How does ActiveCampaign match up to the competition?

GetResponseCompare 4.9 Compare
Constant ContactCompare 4.8 Compare
ActiveCampaignCompare 4.7 Compare
StreamSendCompare 3.9 Compare

Bottom line on ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is a user-friendly email marketing tool offering advanced automation options and hundreds of app integrations. The deliverability is strong, the features are excellent, and the support is good and there’s even a free trial available. Even though I’d prefer more comprehensive reports, I would absolutely recommend ActiveCampaign to fellow marketers and small or mid-size business owners.

What is ActiveCampaign?
ActiveCampaign is a customer experience automation platform designed for small and medium businesses. It’s known for its email marketing services, machine learning capabilities, and advanced marketing automations.
What is ActiveCampaign good for?
ActiveCampaign is ideal for email newsletters and marketing automations. With mid-tier plans, it also offers a CRM system, SMS marketing, landing pages, and site messaging. The more advanced plans are great for teams wanting a single tool to handle a wide range of marketing and sales tasks.
Is ActiveCampaign a CRM platform?
Yes, a CRM platform is one of the many features ActiveCampaign offers. The ActiveCampaign CRM is called Deals and is available with Plus and higher-priced plans.
Is ActiveCampaign free?
Although the platform offers a free 14-day trial, there’s no ActiveCampaign free plan. If you want to use this service for your business or your clients, you have to sign up for a paid plan. Make sure you check out our ActiveCampaign coupons before you sign up though, so you can save yourself some money. If you need a free email marketing account, consider another service, like Sendinblue’s free plan, for example.
Which is better: ActiveCampaign or MailChimp?
ActiveCampaign is better than MailChimp. ActiveCampaign offers more professional-looking email newsletters, more advanced marketing automation, and unlimited sending with it’s Lite Plan. With its Plus and higher plans, ActiveCampaign offers a wider range of features, such as SMS marketing, landing pages, and lead scoring. If you’re still not sure which to go for, check out our list of the top email marketing services in 2020 first.

Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg is a digital agency owner who specializes in email marketing, content strategy, and social media management. For over 6 years, she has run Sonnenberg Media, a digital micro agency that works with small businesses in the CPG, SaaS, marketing, and health & wellness industries.

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