2023 was not a good year for ActiveCampaign, or their users.
Substantial price hikes arrived at just the same time as the customer service was going down the pan, and a fair few niggles with the product arose as well.
My take on this, as a user who's been with them since about 2014, was that the price hikes were overdue.
The product is unimaginably more complex than it was back then and yet the pricing had barely shifted.
Almost all the loudest complainers were the same type of customer.
Middle aged solo-preneurs, struggling with the tech, running ActiveCampaign because their favourite guru had told them to, and not because they needed it, or could actually use it.
These people could have run any platform and got the same from it.
First, the simple alternative:
My own preference for super-simple projects would be MailerLite. These guys have done a sterling job of the thing that matters most – getting your email delivered.
They do the things you really need when you're starting out. A welcome series and good deliverability on your daily / weekly emails.
I'm not that wild about how you embed forms in your website with them, bit they have a nice landing page tool that will get you started. The whole website thing is a bit of a distraction though and I'd still pick WordPress for that, but if you want everything under one roof, it's ok.
So, who is ActiveCampaign for now?
There's three things that you get in ActiveCampaign that you don't get in other platforms without spending some significant money.
The set of rules you get to trigger campaigns, and the things you can react to are unmatched until you're into enterprise tools that you'll be spending 4 figures a month on.
Over 3-5 years every email tool stuck the “automation” label on their product, but when you dig into exactly what you can automate, most of them aren't much more than a welcome series.
Here's a quick test. If you can't STOP an email series when someone actually buys from you, that's really bad, but it cuts out most of the tools claiming automation as a feature.
Holding your sales data together with your email data means you can target based off what people bought, which is the strongest data of all.
You can do a clunky version using tags, but it won't tell you what people spent, and when. Spotting the data that shows you someone is a high value customer, and knowing things like what first purchase is most likely to result in a second purchase is the gateway to 7 figure information businesses.
An easy-to use CRM is the first tool I spent money on.
If you're selling products of $2k or more, which usually means getting on the phone at some point, it's an absolute must.
If you're selling into businesses where more than on person is involved in the decision, you're definitely going to drop the ball without it.
Now, you can run these as separate systems. I know a fair few people running the free CRM from Hubspot, and an email strategy with something else, but when you want to go back and work out where your best customers came from, that leaves a massive hole in your data.
The alternatives that hold all this under one roof include Keap (formerly `Infusionsoft') which had such a bad reputation they had to change name. It includes Hubspot, who need a 12 month contract for a few thousand pounds a year to do the same email marketing as ActiveCampaign (although the CRM is a lot stronger), and Salesforce / Pardot who will charge you through the nose and don't even tie together that well.
The other tool I need to give a mention to is Convertkit.
Convertkit has been growing fast and is pushing the newsletter model as an obvious add on to people who already blog a lot. It makes a lot of sense for small creators to use it. I'd look at it as a MailerLite alternative if you could actually do anything useful on the free beginner plan, and if deliverability wasn't so consistently bad every time I tried it.
It was a thumbs down from Adrian Savage, my deliverability advisor that put the seal on this one, and seeing the aggressive list building tactics for the newsletter bubble isn't convincing me it'll get better.
Gradually the customer service is picking up and thankfully AC seems to be spending some time fixing the reliability issues ahead of launching new features.
It's not perfect, but if you've spent any time with their competitors, you know that none of them are. The grass is never greener, but ActiveCampaign have been in the game and had enough funding that they're not about to just collapse.
It's not for everyone, but if you're selling an online product like a course, especially if you have a few of them at different price points, then the automations and ecommerce data will definitely be a plus.
If you have ambitions for this to be more than a sideline, it's definitely worth a look. I couldn't have pushed projects like SuperLearner into multiple 7 figures without it.
If you have a mix of online sales and 1:1 sales like coaching or consulting, then the CRM definitely helps you move people up from one level to the next, and for a productized service it's definitely a good move.
Ultimately though, the best way to decide if it's what you need is to give it a go.
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