Choosing an email service provider is one of the more important decisions in your email marketing journey, and it's one that's often done with haste and without considering all the factors.
We often get asked about the differences between two of the more popular email providers Convertkit and MailChimp.
Let's take a deep dive into a variety of the different factors that you should be considering, how each provider handles those factors, and who we think the overall winner is currently.
- List Management
- Forms and Landing Pages
- Our Final Thoughts
MailChimp, like many of the older email service providers, uses what they call a list-based approach to managing the contacts on your lists.
To get a better understanding of how this works, let's take a look at this example.
If you have a form on the homepage of your website and a form on the contact us page, the same person could fill out both forms and end up on two different lists inside of your MailChimp platform
The benefit of this approach is that you can use the same account across multiple businesses or sites without having to worry about crossover since all lists can be treated independently very easily.
The downside of this approach is that you may end up with the same person across multiple lists as demonstrated by the example above.
The reason this is an issue is that most email marketing software is priced based on the number of contacts that you have.
When using the list-based approach, like MailChimp, having the same person on two different lists can mean that they count as to different people, meaning you're paying twice for the same person.
This same approach however it does make it easier to segment out contacts for specific campaigns without the need for use of something like tags or segments.
In addition to all of the active subscribers on your list, it's important to understand how each platform treats cold or inactive subscribers.
Generally speaking, these are going to be people who have not been engaging with the last few emails that you sent them, typically they haven't opened an email in the last 60 to 90 days.
While MailChimp does have the ability to create a segment that can help you identify the subscribers to reboot or remove them, you would need to create the segment manually and make sure to go in and change the date range each time you wanted to take a look at your cold or inactive subscribers.
They have a fully detailed article in the help documentation explaining exactly how to do this and the process is fairly straightforward.
Once you've created the segment, you then can send remote emails to that segment or you can simply choose to remove them from the database.
The last important factor to consider when it comes to list management is how each platform treats people who unsubscribe.
If you're using MailChimp to send your emails and someone unsubscribes, there are a few interesting things that happen that you may want to be aware of.
First, they're no longer going to receive emails sent to the list that they were a part of.
That being said, because of the list-based approach used by MailChimp, if they joined multiple lists, it's possible they still may receive emails from you resulting in another spam complaint or a nasty reply to one of your emails demanding to be taken off the list.
Second, if you physically remove unsubscribe emails from your MailChimp database, these contacts are still counted towards your contact total that is used to set your price.
Yes, you read that right even if someone unsubscribes from emails, in less you remove them MailChimp will still charge you as if you could email them.
Before you get mad, it's important to understand that many list-based email marketing providers use the same approach and it does make a little bit of sense when you take into consideration that that person could still exist on other lists inside of the software.
Unlike MailChimp, Convertkit uses a contact-based approach.
This means, instead of treating each list inside of the platform independently, one person can fill out as many different forms or join your list in as many different ways as you have available and there still only counted once inside of the database.
While this does not allow for as much flexibility in using a single Convertkit account for a variety of different businesses or websites, it can still be done if that's your goal.
That being said, this model starts to shine through when we look at the other two factors we need to consider cold subscribers and people who have unsubscribed.
As mentioned above, the total number of people on your list is not nearly as relevant as the number of engaged subscribers that you have.
Since the main goal of Convertkit is to ensure the highest deliverability possible of all of your emails, they make it extremely simple to understand who your active and inactive cold subscribers are.
Rather than having to build out a custom segment like you doing Convertkit, you can use a simple toggle in a drop-down menu in your main subscriber's dashboard inside of Convertkit and see exactly who and how many of your subscribers are cold.
To determine who would fall into this category, Convertkit uses two very simple definitions.
- If the subscriber has been active for more than 90 days and has not opened an email in the last 90 days, they are considered to be a cold subscriber.
- If the subscriber has been active for less than 90 days and has not opened an email within the last 30 days, they are also considered to be a cold subscriber.
This automatically created segment is also available inside of either email broadcasts or automated campaigns, which makes running a campaign to re-engage the subscribers a very simple process.
As you would expect, when someone unsubscribes from your Convertkit emails, they no longer will receive any emails from your account.
This does not come with the same caveat as MailChimp, because of the contact-based approach used by Convertkit, once they unsubscribe they stop receiving emails completely.
Just like with MailChimp, they are not removed from your database and you can retain the history of that contact including emails that you have sent them and how they interacted with each.
Unlike with MailChimp however, Convertkit does not charge for any users that have unsubscribed from your emails and they are stored in a separate section of the database and labeled as “canceled.”
One benefit of this approach is if someone unsubscribes to your Convertkit account, you have their entire history to look back on which can be helpful if you're trying to avoid repetitive automation.
While both services do offer every feature that you would want in terms of list management, one of them makes it much easier than the other.
In this case, I need to give the point to Convertkit because of how simple it is to take a look at inactive subscriptions and because they don't charge you for unsubscribed contacts.
Forms and Landing Pages
One of the most important functions of any email service provider is the ability to capture the emails of a prospect through the use of forms and landing pages.
MailChimp offers a wide variety of form and landing page options that can be customized using their drag-and-drop editor.
They offer everything from basic templates to completely themed templates that can be customized to your liking.
Their drag-and-drop editor makes it extremely simple to edit and move elements around.
They've also recently launched the ability to take payments through many of their different landing page templates to sell digital or physical products without the need for a third-party shopping cart.
Currently, Convertkit has over 50 different landing page templates that you can choose from and offers a variety of different forms that come in four different styles (inline, pop up, slide in, and sticky bar).
Each of these different forms and landing pages can be customized about 90% of the way.
While you can change all of the important things to make it your own, like colors and text) you don't have the ability to completely customize the landing pages or forms to give you the look and feel and there's currently no ability to edit any code.
While this may be a negative if you want something to look exactly the way that you wanted and need the ability to be able to move around elements or edit HTML, this is actually positive for most users because it gives them fewer things to mess up.
I include myself in that category by the way.
Like with most Convertkit features, their forms and landing pages are designed for ease of use by the end-user and aren't designed for someone who has a full web team to build out their every desire.
In addition to their basic landing page features, Convertkit is also recently launched Convertkit commerce which allows you to build and sell digital or physical products directly through the platform without needing a third-party shopping cart.
If you are looking for as much customizability as possible, MailChimp would be the winner here.
On the other hand, if you're looking for something ready to go out of the box with a slightly better editing experience, Convertkit would be the winner here.
At the end of the day, neither of these tools are really appropriate for people who have a full marketing team or want to build a fully custom landing page or form from the ground up.
That being said, both of these email service providers will integrate with most form or landing page builders, if you choose to use a third-party solution or decide to custom code the form or landing page you want to build.
Advantage: Toss Up
Sending an email is only half of the story.
Knowing whether or not people have opened our email, click on our email, and a variety of other things are extremely important to know if our email has been effective.
Let's take a few minutes to dive in and look at the report porting capabilities of both pieces of software.
MailChimp's campaign reporting includes access to 28 individual metrics that you can use to gauge the performance of each and every email.
In addition to the basic reports you expect to find, like open rate, click-through rate, MailChimp gives a variety of other interesting metrics, such as social performance, the number of forwards, and detailed geographic reporting.
While they have an extremely robust reporting capability, most of the metrics are not necessary to understand the performance of an email and the reporting interface could use updates.
It's not nearly as user-friendly as it could be and often requires a few clicks for you to be able to see and understand the metrics that you're looking for.
In typical Convertkit fashion, their email reporting is designed with user experience in mind.
All the important metrics, including the industry standards like open click-through rate, are offered directly inside of your broadcast dashboard and each broadcast can be clicked on to get a deeper understanding of each metric and what it means for individual emails.
Unlike MailChimp, they've opted for mostly industry-standard metrics, and all offer some of the bells and whistles, like social sharing forwards, that you could find in something like MailChimp.
Choosing a winner in the reporting category is difficult if not impossible.
On one hand, you have a better user experience and an easier-to-access set of metrics from Convertkit, while MailChimp offers a deeper understanding of how each email is performing if you're willing to do a bit of digging.
At the end of the day, if you're looking for extremely detailed metrics to show off in your next market report, MailChimp may be the way to go.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a quick snapshot to get a good gauge of how it's performing and your preference is user experience Convertkit would be the winner here.
Advantage: Toss Up
In addition to their ability to deliver emails extremely fast (MailChimp claims that sending emails to your list takes about 45 minutes), they place a big emphasis on deliverability.
According to the statistics that they published, depending on the server your email is being sent from, you can typically expect between a 96% and 99% rate of delivery.
In our personal experience, MailChimp does a much better job than a variety of other providers and 96 to 99% is more than an acceptable number, especially when you consider the size of some of the lists that people have on the MailChimp platform.
One of the things I absolutely love about Convertkit is its emphasis on making sure your emails are delivered.
They do a variety of things with their platform to help ensure that they have the highest deliverability rate possible, and it all starts when you first sign up.
Convertkit unlike most other email marketing platforms has a screening process for whom they allow to join the platform.
As part of their ongoing process, they want to know if you have an email list, how often you email that list, and how you acquired all of these email addresses.
This helps them screen out anybody that may have a low-quality list or is just looking to use the platform for spam.
While other platforms, like MailChimp, do a little bit of upfront screening no one does as thorough a job as Convertkit.
This effort reflects in their deliverability rates. Throughout our time with Convertkit, our deliverability has almost always averaged above 99%.
In addition to our personal experience, Convertkit publishes a monthly blog post showing exactly what their email deliverability was for the previous month.
If you're interested in checking that out you can find their post from May 2021 here (if you just want to see the number, it was 99.72%).
While both MailChimp and Convertkit are well-known for having good deliverability, transparency is the name of the game here.
While MailChimp's deliverability is extremely respectable and averages somewhere between 96 and 99%, Convertkit is almost always above 99%.
Additionally, Convertkit publishes a monthly deliverability report and is extremely transparent about how its messages are delivered.
Many of the things Convertkit does both behind the scenes and in front of are directly designed to make sure everyone using a platform has the highest email deliverability possible.
Both of these software's are excellent for their intended purpose, collecting email addresses and following up with customers and prospects.
Being said, even with some attempts by both programs to be more of an all-in-one solution, they will never be able to do everything that we need from a marketing perspective.
That's where integrations with other software come in.
Let's take a look at how well MailChimp and Convertkit play with other software that we may need to use as online marketers.
MailChimp has been in the email marketing game since 2001 and over that time it could develop deep integrations with a variety of different software platforms.
As of the time of writing this article, they currently have direct integration with 293 other pieces of software in virtually every category from billing and subscription to things like Adobe Photoshop (to help make building fence emails just that much easier).
Additionally, they have very deep integration with a variety of platforms like superior, which are designed to allow you to integrate with pain programs that they don't currently have a direct integration with.
Unlike MailChimp, which has been around long enough to vote in the next presidential election, Convertkit is a newer player to the email marketing game.
While they officially launched in 2013, they are just now becoming a popular platform of choice for many different types of digital marketers.
Despite being slightly newer, the Convertkit team has managed to develop 110 direct integrations as of the time of writing this article.
Additionally, just like MailChimp, you're able to use platforms like Xavier to integrate with many different pieces of software that may not currently have a direct integration.
Given that Convertkit is a newer player to the email marketing game, it makes sense that they have fewer direct integrations.
Since both platforms integrate with Zapier and Integromat the overall number of integrations doesn't make a difference, as you're able to use either of these two platforms to integrate with virtually any piece of software you can imagine.
However, integrations are almost always the easiest when they're done directly through the platform you are familiar with, giving MailChimp a leg up in this category.
While there isn't anything you can't integrate with by using Convertkit and Zapier or Integromat, the biggest downside to their current integration setup is the lack of the ability to directly integrate with Facebook ads on their regular price plan.
Although this feature is directly available on their pro plans, it's rather annoying to have to pay a little bit extra for a feature that is extremely useful and almost necessary in 2021.
One of the main reasons people often ask my opinion on MailChimp is that they have a free plan that allows up to 2000 subscribers, which is a great incentive to use our platform when you're just getting started.
Below you'll find a chart of how much you can expect MailChimp to cost you at a few different price points from 1000 subscribers up to 100,000 subscribers.
Looking at it this way allows us to more accurately compare the two platforms and give us a better idea of how much it might cost as we scale our email lists.
|Number Of Contacts||MailChimp Monthly||MailChimp Annual|
As you expect, MailChimp pricing scales pretty regularly with the number of contacts that you have in your database.
There are two important things you may want to keep in mind when looking at their pricing.
First, MailChimp does not offer any sort of annual discount, meeting the price you see is the price you pay and there's not an easy way to reduce the monthly expense as you may find on other platforms.
The second caveat to their pricing structure is something we talked about above.
Because of the list-based approach to contact management used by MailChimp, you may end up paying for a tear or two higher than you need, if the same contact exists across multiple lists inside of your MailChimp account.
Unlike MailChimp, Convertkit does not have a free plan that allows for up to 2000 subscribers.
Although, they have recently introduced what they call their free forever plan, which allows you access to most of the features of the platform (everything you need to get started) and allows for you to house up to 1000 email contacts.
If you already have an email list or you're curious to see how much it would be after you have 1000 emails, you can use the chart below for reference.
|Number Of Contacts||Convertkit Monthly||Convertkit Annual|
Just like with MailChimp, there are two important factors that you need to keep in mind when it comes to understanding the Convertkit price chart.
First, because of the contact-based management approach used by Convertkit, the size of the plan you need to purchase is directly related to the total number of unique subscribers that you have.
It doesn't matter how many different forms of yours they have filled out or how many times you have tagged them or added them to other segments inside of your account, your charge only once for each subscriber.
Additionally, you're able to reduce the cost of your Convertkit plan by switching to annual billing.
This will save you roughly 2 months of the monthly cost of each plan and can bring the price of Convertkit down to even cheaper than what you would see on MailChimp across most of the price points we took a look at.
If pricing is your only consideration (and you don't pay us annually), MailChimp may seem on the surface like a better option.
Keep in mind however that at almost every level, Convertkit pricing ends up being cheaper on the annual plan and what you would pay to MailChimp.
Additionally, because MailChimp limits the ability to send emails on the standard plan (what we used for pricing), you may end up paying more than the prices shown above, for the crime of being in regular contact with your list.
For these two reasons, we have to give the advantage to Convertkit for pricing.
Our Final Thoughts
After taking a look at the different features that you want to compare between these two platforms, for 90+ percent of people, Convertkit is the clear winner in the solution that we would suggest.
We've tested a wide variety of platforms from free service providers the whole way up to enterprise-level solutions like Marketo and for us, Convertkit almost always wins because of their user-focused experience.
There's virtually nothing you can't do within the platform, that you can do on any other platform and for us knowing that our emails are going to be delivered, that the reporting is going to be easy to understand at a glance, and that they've made list management snap, is more than enough for us to give a full recommendation to using Convertkit.