Which is better, ConvertKit or MailChimp?

There are a lot of articles out there about why ConvertKit is better than MailChimp. And while healthy competition is awesome, those articles are completely wrong in their portrayal of MailChimp.

In the effort of fairness, let me present to you an accurate description of what MailChimp can do, in comparison to ConvertKit.

I use MailChimp  to run my entire company. More than 90% of my revenue is generated directly from my newsletter – three courses, four books, two software products, two digital products, a weekly article newsletter and two podcasts. All fully automated, segmented and running on MailChimp.

I end up making 120x what I spend on MailChimp’s service selling those products, so although the cost of their software is my biggest monthly expense, it’s obviously very worth it for me.

 

Paying double for the same subscriber

This is the biggest gripe I hear about MailChimp — if the same person is on several of your mailing lists, you pay for them twice. So if you have 1,000 people on 5 of your lists, you’re paying 5x more each month.

While this is absolutely true, it doesn’t have to be. If you employ proper list management, you can run one list where subscribers are never duplicated. You just have to know how to properly segment and group them together (similar to how ConvertKit tags subscribers).

For my own list, I group people by what they’ve purchased, what they’ve not purchased, which automations they’ve already received, what pages they’ve visited (or not visited), where they signed up from, if they signed up for a webinar or content upgrade or anything else, and more.

One list – tons of data about each subscriber. That’s pretty much how ConvertKit sets up lists too. I can even “update” subscribers if they’re already on my list but sign up for a content upgrade or a webinar or something new. All done via MailChimp and a single plugin for my WordPress site.

I never pay for the same subscriber to be on multiple lists unless I want to -there are a few occasions when that’s the case, like when I want  a separate list for a monthly paid product. I want that to be a separate list because if someone doesn’t want my weekly emails and unsubscribes, they aren’t dropped from the monthly paid list too.

What’s more, MailChimp lets you create links where subscribers can change the type of emails they get (based on leaving automations, using simple polls baked into MailChimp and other tools). ConvertKit doesn’t let subscribers update their profiles, they’re either IN or OUT.

 

You can’t tag in MailChimp

This is another complaint I often see. Yet tagging in MailChimp is just called something else: groups and merge fields. I use both heavily to make sure I know as much about each subscriber on my list as I can.

If someone buys something from me, they’re placed in a group on MailChimp. If someone signups for a webinar or workshop, they’re placed in a group. When someone signs up for my list, the page they signed up is the value in a hidden merge field on my list.

So you can tag in MailChimp, it’s just called something different.

MailChimp can actually store more user data than ConvertKit when it comes to eCommerce as well. ConvertKit is great for bloggers, but MailChimp is great for people that make money from their list. MailChimp’s eCommerce360 lets me store a metric shit-ton of data on transactions – like what product someone bought, for how much, what coupon they used, the transaction ID, the total number of purchases and the total revenue too.

The main feature-killer that MailChimp has which ConvertKit does not is the ability to track the return on investment of each campaign. Meaning, after I send out a pitch email to my list, I know exactly how well it converted and how much revenue it brought in. I can see how many sales, the total revenue and the conversion rate for each email.

For my software companies I also use MailChimp’s transactional service called Mandrill. I also plugin Mandrill into every WordPress site I have that sends emails to users – like online courses. The reason I do this is because I can verify and authenticate the email domain in Mandrill so emails sent from WordPress are more likely to reach inboxes. There’s no comparable service with ConvertKit for this need.

 

Automations

The second biggest gripe I hear from people about MailChimp is that their automations are subpar. Which is interesting because when everyone someone tells me this directly, I probe a little further and find out they never actually tried automations with MailChimp, or they tried them 5 years ago (when, granted, automations weren’t awesome).

I do some pretty neat things with automations in MailChimp that let me run a very complicated business with several products without the need for staff or virtual assistants. It’s just me.

Here are some of the automations I do with MailChimp:

  1. If someone’s interested in a product, they can sign up for a sample, which is delivered and then they receive a series of teaching and pitches. My automation sequences automagically remove people who buy during an automation, so they’re aren’t ever pitched something they already own.
  2. If someone’s in an automation sequence and want out but want to stay on the list, I always include a link for that, which happens automatically.
  3. If someone buys something from me, they receive a series of educational emails aimed to teach them how to get most out of the product. A few weeks in, they’re asked if they like the product they bought (it’s a simple YES or NO set of links). If they answer yes, and I have an affiliate program, the next email they get is telling them about the affiliate program. That email is only sent if they like the product.
  4. If someone’s on my list and I pitch them a product, MailChimp (through Goals) can tell if they’ve visited the checkout page but not purchased. If that’s the case, and they almost checked out but didn’t finish, I send them an automated cart abandon email. ConvertKit can’t do this – there’s no way to track a subscriber that goes to your website with their software.
  5. If someone signs up for a webinar or a content upgrade, even if they’re on my list already, they receive that, and then continue to get my weekly emails.
  6. If someone’s currently in an automation sequence (like free lessons for a course), they don’t get my weekly email until they’re finished with that sequence, so I don’t overload them with emails.

There are lots of bloggers who say that MailChimp doesn’t allow content upgrades or updates to subscribers who are already on your list, but that’s simply not the case. A simple plugin (any will work, I personally like MC4WP) will allow you to do this. Yes, it doesn’t work out of the box, but with a simple 1-minute install of a plugin, it does.

That’s just a handful of targeted automations I use in MailChimp to run my business (even when I’m sleeping or out for vegan tacos). It’s as powerful as any other system I’ve tried, and is more than enough for 90% of people who use targeted email marketing.

 

Affiliate programs

The first thing I have to mention is that ConvertKit has an amazing affiliate program — they pay out 30% commissions, for everyone you refer, forever. This is absolutely amazing, and it’s why people like Pat Flynn (and many others) are earning more than $20,000/mo in affiliate commissions from ConvertKit.

ConvertKit’s own signup page for the affiliate program lists “write an article comparing ConvertKit to X” with an affiliate link as the main way to convert others. It’s 100% smart, and I give them credit for building a strong network of affiliates.

MailChimp’s affiliate program is awful. You get $30, once, for every person you refer to their service (and they get $30 too). There’s no way to ever earn $20,000/mo from that. If you’re looking for newsletter software that will pay you the most for referring others, and that’s your main goal, then ConvertKit is absolutely better than MailChimp.

One other note, while we’re talking about affiliates – a lot of folks will tell you that MailChimp doesn’t allow you to even use affiliate links in your newsletters. This is simply not true (I use affiliate links all the time, I have for years). They just won’t let you use blacklisted scam affiliate URLs, which is a good for both you and your customers.

Testing

I can A/B test a lot of things in MailChimp. From subject lines to “from” names to send times to content – MailChimp lets me enter in 2-3 variants with each test.

A/B testing lets you figure out the best option for getting your list to open and click links. That’s how you make money with your list. ConvertKit doesn’t (currently) have this feature available.

ConvertKit does excel with form stats. You can see the conversion rate of each form right in ConvertKit. MailChimp doesn’t have that feature, so I use Google Analytics to track this (but it does mean switching screens to see these stats).

 

Design

MailChimp lets you easily create pretty templates with their drag and drop feature. I’ve been a designer and programmer for 20 years, and I still use their drag and drop templates because they’re faster and easier than coding something myself, and I know they look stellar across all email clients.

That said, plaintext emails (which ConvertKit really pushes) tend to convert better in terms of clicks and reads to the bottom of each email. But how I do I know this? Because I can split test full design vs. plain-text in MailChimp for my list (otherwise I wouldn’t know this for a fact) – something you can’t do in ConvertKit.

 

Price

While cheaper isn’t always better, there is a free plan with MailChimp where you can test out and grow your list to 2,000 subscribers, with limited features. ConvertKit doesn’t offer a free plan and their pricing is more expensive.

To have a similar plan on ConvertKit would cost me $100/mo more. That said, they do offer free migration services to move your list to them, and MailChimp doesn’t. I chalk that up as a smart move for a newcomer software service (MailChimp has been around since 2001).

 

Summary

I will mention that both companies are run by champs. I’m friends with a lot of folks at both companies, and I hear from lots of people that customer support from both places is top-notch.

I don’t think there’s bad a choice here – pick the newsletter company that best fits how you work and how closely their setup matches your own business. For the majority of people, it comes down to which features mentioned above are the most important to you.

Every article I’ve found so far comparing the two services is just plain wrong and has wrong information in it. So pay attention to what other people are telling you, and why they’re suggesting what they’re suggesting.

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