Last Updated: April 10, 2020

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: An Email Marketer’s Take

I’m not a huge fan of how a lot of people to do their head-to-head comparisons. It’s like they do a full review of one platform and then a full review of the other, but you lose a lot of the this-vs-that comparison context because all the information sits apart. I hope you appreciate my direct, head-to-head style comparison of the core features…

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: Segmentation & Personalization

Right off the bat, we have to talk about one of the key differences between Convertkit and Mailchimp: lists vs tags.

Mailchimp is a much older email marketing platform and was built on a foundation of “list” based email marketing.

Convertkit, on the other hand, is a tag-based system.

This is a massively important difference because a subscriber can only exist in one email list in Mailchimp (or should). This means you have one core piece of segmentation info on a subscriber (the list they’re in).

In Convertkit, a subscriber just exists, period, and you can tag them with as many tags as you want to log data about the subscriber.

Why is this important? Because it determines how well you can target specific groups of subscribers (see my email marketing tip on segmentation here).

Marketing is all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. You can only do that if you have a lot of data about your subscribers (via tags) and a system that gives you the power to send emails based on tagging logic (if this, but not that). Convertkit excels in this area.

convertkit segmentation

Now, in all fairness, Mailchimp recognized the error of their ways (it took them a really long time) and they’ve since implemented tags and much more functionality related to segmentation, but Convertkit has been pioneering the segmentation game since they came on the market.

VERDICT

When it comes to flexibility and segmentation power and the ability to send the right emails to the right people at the right time, Convertkit is a clear winner.

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: Email Automation

The next important thing an email marketing service needs to give you is powerful automation tools. This isn’t 1998 – broadcast emails are important, but automation is king.

Let’s say you offer someone a freebie in exchange for their email address and they opt-in in. Now what?

  1. They wait until the next time you decide to send them an email. By the time it arrives, they totally forgot who you are or how they got on your list.
  2. They start to receive a series of automated emails designed to warm them up to you and get them to take another important action.

Which would you prefer?

Now that’s basic sauce. There’s so much more that can be done with automation, provided you have the necessary automation tools at your disposal.

Convertkit and Mailchimp will both provide you with powerful automation tools, but Convertkit is the clear winner in this department. In fact, what Mailchimp offers is more like “sequences” instead of true logic-based automation.

Here’s a look at Mailchimp’s automation setup:

mailchimp email automation

You basically add one email after the other and schedule them.

Here’s a look at Convertkit’s visual automation tool:

convertkit visual automations

As you can see, Convertkit’s automation tool is much more robust. You can have more than one entry point into the automation, multiple logic paths people can go down and everything happening based on different timings, actions, checkpoints, yes/no, if/then, etc. style logic.

While more advanced tools typically mean more complexity, keep in mind that Convertkit is really designed to be beginner-friendly. It’s not really that complicated. Everything is visual, intuitive, and well-explained.

On top of the visual automation tool, Convertkit also gives you additional automation features such as Global Automation Rules, pre-built Automation Templates, traditional Email Sequences (one-after-the-other automated email sequences), and Website Visitor Tracking (the ability to email people based on actions they take on your website).

Where Mailchimp does oddly shine in the automation department is the ability to automate paid advertising campaigns…

mailchimp ad creation

Being able to retarget subscribers based on actions they take through your email marketing service is extremely powerful. That’s an area where Convertkit needs to catch up ASAP.

VERDICT

Hands down, Convertkit is the clear winner when it comes to email marketing automation. Mailchimp is a dinosaur in this regard and hasn’t been able to catch up to more modern tools. The only leg up Mailchimp has in this area is the ability to automate paid advertising through Facebook & Google, but that doesn’t make up for their lack of automation in other areas.

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: List Building Tools

What good is email marketing software if you don’t have anyone to send emails too, right?

Now, I know it’s not the job of your email marketing service to build your list for you, but it’s nice when they give you really powerful tools to make list building easy.

Mailchimp gives you a bunch of options in this area:

mailchimp list building tools

Convertkit also gives you forms and landing pages, but they lack the “website” feature, surveys, and social posts.

To really figure out who the winner is here, we first need to figure out if any of these features aren’t super useful and then dive deeper into the ones that are.

Website: Doesn’t really excite me. Any serious business should already have their own website and I can confidently say that it shouldn’t be built with Mailchimp.

Landing Page: Super useful, but both systems offer it so we’ll dive deeper into the details in a moment.

Surveys: Useful for list segmentation, but not super useful for list building. Mailchimp missed the mark here. They should have prioritized quizzes to help with list building instead of surveys.

Social Posts: Meh. I prefer to post natively on social platforms so this wouldn’t be super useful to me.

Forms: Absolutely important and both offer this so let’s go deeper.

Out of the two really important features that both platforms have, here’s the breakdown:

Forms

Both Convertkit and Mailchimp give you the choice between embedded forms and pop-up forms. Convertkit offers to additional form styles, though: a sticky bar and a slide in modal.

I’ll be honest: both systems don’t impress me with their form builders. In fact, I’ve still yet to find email marketing software that offers really impressive form functionality. That’s why I nominated Convertbox (no affiliation with Convertkit) has the #1 list building tool on the market.

Landing Pages

While both systems offer landing pages, this is another area where I can’t really declare a winner. I’m not super impressed with either system’s landing page functionality. They’re super basic, difficult to customize, and have some weird design quirks.

Mailchimp’s system is especially ridiculous in that it won’t let you ask for someone’s name before their email address. It forces you to get the email first. Weird.

VERDICT

This is an area where both services really need to improve. I’m gonna go rogue here and say: neither of these systems win in the list building department. If you a real list building tool, you should be using Convertbox.

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: Broadcast Emails

Now it’s time to assess the most basic of all email marketing features: the humble Broadcast Email.

A broadcast email is an email that you sit down and write and then send to your list (or a segment of your list). You might send it right away or you might schedule for a day and time in the future. Point is, it’s not automated. It’s a manual email campaign.

There are two main types of broadcast emails: text-based emails and visual emails.

I prefer text-based emails, but visual emails have their place (e-commerce, for example).

Convertkit and Mailchimp both let you send both types of emails, so it really comes down to how easy it is to send a visual email (if those are important to you).

Remember, Convertkit gives you far more control over *who* you’re emailing based on its fundamental use of subscriber tags, so they still win hands down in that department.

Mailchimp offers an array of visual email templates with many different types of layouts:

mailchimp email templates

Converkit offers, well, not much:

convertkit email templates

If you’re good at HTML (or find someone who is), you can build and send whatever you want with Convertkit but this is an area where they really don’t excel at all.

VERDICT

If sending visual emails is REALLY important to you (and you know why you need to be sending them), the lack of a true visual email editor in Convertkit might be a deal breaker for you. Mailchimp wins this one, hands down (though in this contest, I’d recommend something like Drip instead).

Convertkit vs Mailchimp: Custom Fields

Aside from tags, which are hugely powerful, it’s important that your email marketing system have custom fields as well.

Custom Fields allow you to collect custom information that’s not gathered by default. Let’s say you have a dog training site and you want to know if someone is a pet owner or a fellow dog trainer.

This is a situation where someone is really one or the other. Yes, the might be a dog trainer AND a pet owner, but really what matters is identifying them as a fellow dog trainer.

This is a situation where the information is binary and it’s far better to use custom fields than tags (because with tags they might accidentally end up with both tags at some point and then you have no idea which is which).

Even better, custom fields give you the ability to recall information inside an email. You can use a merge tag to insert the data from someone’s custom field right into an email to help personalize it.

Convertkit makes it super easy to add new custom fields from any subscriber’s profile (exactly where you’d expect to find it).

With Mailchimp, it took me a while to figure it out. In fact, I had to look up one of their help articles. However, there might be a twist in outcome here. I was really impressed to see that Mailchimp offers many different types of custom fields:

mailchimp custom fields

That’s super useful! The only concern I have is how 3rd party tools handle integrating with these advanced types of custom fields. While it’s a great concept, I’d need to do some real-world testing before giving a final verdict.

VERDICT

I don’t really know who wins here. Both systems offer custom fields. Convertkit is “keep it simple stupid” and Mailchimp is advanced. All I know is what I know, which is that Convertkit’s custom fields work flawlessly with 3rd party integrations. Mailchimp’s functionality is an unknown for me. If Mailchimp’s custom fields cause problems with 3rd party integrations, they’re basically useless, so that could definitely be a deal breaker.

Convertkit vs MailChimp: Plans & Pricing

Both services offer a free starter account, but what I recommend when it comes to plans and pricing is figuring out how much the service is going to cost at a modest level of use. Let’s say, 3500 subscribers with the full feature set.

At 3500 subscribers and a full feature set, Mailchimp comes in between $75/mo and $299/mo.

At 3500 subscribers and a full feature set, Convertkit comes in at $79/mo.

That’s surprising to most people because Mailchimp was once seen as the super affordable option. Lately, though, they’ve been increasing their plans and pricing are now much more competitive with the advanced tools.

For me, this really isn’t a contest at this point. For about the same price, you’re getting a far more powerful platform in Convertkit.

Conclusion

The last thing I want to speak on is the simplicity and ease of use. Convertkit is built for bloggers and creators, so it’s really designed for the solopreneur type who is doing their own email marketing. It’s powerful while still being really simple and easy to use.

Mailchimp was built for small businesses and brick and mortars. It’s very simple and easy to use, but it also feels super clunky and slow.

Honestly, when a client tells me they’re using Mailchimp and asks me to do something for them, I instantly get a headache. I wish it wasn’t the case because I really like Mailchimp as a company. I just can’t get on board with the software.

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