MailChimp vs AWeber (and Why You May Need Both)
UPDATE**: Since writing this post, I've found a service that's even better than AWeber called ActiveCampaign, and it is by FAR the best value for your dollar. Click here to check out ActiveCampaign. The information in this post is still useful, I now just recommend a new tool.
Email is one of the best ways to connect with your readers, with your audience, and with your customers. Social media moves too fast, and trying to work against algorithms is a never-ending battle.
At the end of last year I decided to try AWeber. I've used MailChimp for three years, and I wanted to see what the competition was like.
For the past year, I've been loading templates and sending them by hand as “autoresponders” every week. I've made some goofs, sent the same email twice, and gotten things mixed up. Because my DIY strategy was becoming too complicated to manage, I became interested in the easy autoresponder included with AWeber.
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If you're looking at which of these two email marketing services are right for you and your business, keep reading. I'm going to share first impressions, key features and benefits, and which service I decided to move forward with.
When you log into MailChimp, it's a unique experience. The company's quirky personality shows through in almost everything you see. From the smiling monkey to the high-fives when you schedule a campaign, MailChimp is unique.
Logging into AWeber is a very official-feeling process. It's clear they care about vetting users and security. Their website has a lot to see on it, but it looks a little outdated.
Where MailChimp looks clean and modern, AWeber looks clean and a little sparse. For me, MailChimp was a little easier to navigate as well.
Based on first impressions, I'd have to give the win to MailChimp.
The Getting Started Process
When I started with MailChimp I was fairly green as a blogger and I didn't quite understand the importance of building an email list.
When you sign in to AWeber for the first time, if you have an email list you want to import, BEWARE. If you're not paying close enough attention, AWeber will email every one of your subscribers asking them to re-opt-in, even if they've already opted in via another email service.
Even as I read the confirmation email, I didn't feel it was clear what was about to happen. If I'd known I was about to email hundreds of people, I'd have changed the wording of the email.
The result of this goof on my part was that I had to go back to MailChimp to message my list, again, and tell them what was up. I also asked them to re-opt-in and apologized for the confusion.
Another result is that several people on my list didn't confirm for AWeber though they'd confirmed for MailChimp. Even my wife thought AWeber's email was spam!
Ouch! That hurts.
AWeber also filtered out email addresses that started with “[email protected]”. For example, AWeber removed (aka “scrubbed”) a handful of people who'd signed up, and even provided their name, with an [email protected] address. MailChimp let those emails through.
Here's how to avoid the triple-optin email from AWeber.
First, read this article on AWeber's support site.
Second, contact their support team at https://www.aweber.com/contact-us.htm and ask them to allow you to import your list without sending the confirmation messaging. They'll email you back later, for me it took 24 hours, and ask you to answer some questions.
That email will look like this:
NOTE: I did NOT give them my MailChimp login or password. I think it's ridiculous for them to even ask. But I did offer to set them up with a guest “viewer” account and/or send them screenshots. They didn't ask again, but approved my request anyway.
About 48 hours after my request I was able to upload an Excel spreadsheet with existing subscribers to the lists I requested. The best part – no triple-optin.
A couple other things to notice when you're getting started.
If you want to email your subscribers, MailChimp calls those emails “campaigns.” AWeber calls these emails “broadcasts.” Every new email you send is either a campaign or a broadcast.
When you import to AWeber, even if you have the triple-optin temporarily removed, they still have to approve it. Imports into MailChimp are instantaneous.
Based on the getting started process, I have to give this round to MailChimp.
Adding Subscription Forms
If you're going to start growing your email list, you need a way for people to get on it. Both MailChimp and AWeber have plugins for WordPress that allow for easy integration.
However, if you don't have any of those premium tools yet and want to embed HTML code on a landing page or in a text widget on your sidebar, it gets more complicated. MailChimp seems to be a bit easier, but AWeber's forms have more options.
On one hand, MailChimp has code you can copy and paste with ease. Their form builder is pretty basic and works with a visual editor. Here's how to navigate to the sign-up forms to find the HTML code to paste on your site:
After following those steps, you'll be taken to a page that looks like this:
After you make those changes, copy and paste that entire box of HTML code onto your site and you've got a simple, straight-forward, optin box.
On the other hand, AWeber gives you the option to redirect subscriber to a customized thank you page. They also give you the option to skip subscribers directly to your second autoresponder and bypass the “welcome” email.
MailChimp's embedded forms are easier to create and add to a sidebar text widget. They're also more beginner-friendly. For those reasons, I have to give this round to MailChimp as well. But, only by a little bit.
Based on the ease of adding subscription forms to your site, I give this round to MailChimp.
Sending One-Time Emails
The most important part about an email marketing service is the actual email. You want the emails you send to be opened, read, and clicked on as often as possible.
AWeber claims to be known for “industry-leading deliverability.” If you can get more of your emails in front of more of your readers, you'll get more sales and make better connections.
To create an email to send to your subscribers with AWeber, you'll use the broadcast email templates. You can create your own or use one of theirs. I've found their tool to be a little bit cumbersome and hard to navigate.
If you go to Messages and Broadcasts, choose the “code your own HTML” option to create your emails. You'll get a page that looks like this:
If you chose the plain text emails, you won't get any formatting or tracking of links. By choosing the “code your own HTML” option, which sounds intimidating, you'll get the options and tracking you want.
On the other hand, when you create a campaign in MailChimp you get to choose from a variety of options.
For best open rates, I recommend you choose “Regular ol' Campaign” and choose the “Simple Text” option as shown below.
Simple text emails sent as HTML more closely resemble an email you'd send from your Gmail account or Outlook. HTML allows you to track opens and clicks while still getting your email sent to the inbox instead of the Promotions tab in Gmail or the junk folder.
Emails full of pictures and links are more likely to get filtered into your subscribers' Spam or Promotions folders. Emails in those folders rarely get seen, much less opened and clicked.
When it comes to sending your campaigns in MailChimp, you have two options, send now or schedule for later. If you schedule for later, you can pick a time, but not a timezone. If you choose 8 am where you live, it could be the middle of the night for some of your subscribers.
In AWeber you can send your emails based on the timezone of the reader. This is a great option if you want to target your list in the mornings on Monday instead of the afternoons on Tuesday in Australia.
MailChimp is easier to use, but AWeber may get you into the inbox at a higher rate. Plus, AWeber makes the timezone adjustments.
Based on sending one-time, broadcast emails and newsletters, this round is a tie.
Growing From Blog to Business
There are two main reasons you should consider spending more time and effort (and money) on a premium mail service like AWeber:
- To see if they are better at getting your emails to the inbox of your community. People who sign up with a Gmail address see a terribly low percentage of what I send.
- You want to stay in front of your subscribers with autoresponders.
What is an autoresponder? An autoresponder is an email that gets sent automatically to a new subscriber after a certain number of days.
When you're ready to grow your blog into a business, autoresponders are a great way to do it.
Autoresponders allow you to get valuable information into the inbox of a subscriber without them having to visit your site. You can send exclusive tips, tricks and information to them over an extended period of time.
I send the people on my list blogging tips, tools to help them grow their businesses, and emails to better understand how I can meet their needs. To see how I do it, and get these valuable tools, hop on my list here.
AWeber accomplishes my first goal of getting to the inbox by scrubbing and vetting every email address that I import. By filtering out anonymous “[email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]” email addresses, they create a higher-quality list than MailChimp would.
AWeber accomplishes the second goal because they offer an autoresponder that's relatively easy to use. Since MailChimp does not have an autoresponder in their free version, they can't compete.
NOTE: MailChimp does have premium plans at a very good price. However, I've found their automation workflow to be somewhat difficult to understand. It's not as straightforward to set up as the autoresponder with AWeber.
Because they will help you transform your blog into a business, this round goes to AWeber.
When I started really getting serious about transforming my blog into a business, I realized I want to target subscribers with specific interests. The better you know what your readers need, and what they're looking for, the better you can serve them. The better you serve your audience, the more influence you'll have and the more money you will make.
When it comes to managing your email subscribers, both services have their good and bad points. It's quite frustrating, but neither AWeber nor MailChimp is a complete solution.
MailChimp allows you to freely move subscribers from one list to another. I can copy and paste the email from my “interested in online business” list to my “master list” with relative ease.
Yes, you have to confirm you have permission from the person to add them to your list, but MailChimp won't “triple-optin” you like AWeber would. Since I'm moving people from a targeted list to a broader list, I'm ok with it. AWeber isn't.
What you don't want to do is mix the members of completely separate lists that you manage from the same account. Don't spam your lists!
AWeber approaches user management in a different way. While they don't give you as much freedom to move users yourself, they do allow you to subscribe users to multiple lists at once. Just create automation rules under the List Options tab and you're all set. The process looks like this:
I've set up an automation rule that subscribes every new person to my “master” list whenever they subscribe to any targeted list. By doing this, I can send a broadcast email to everyone in the community one week, and an email targeting subscribers with specific interests the next.
The problem with AWeber's solution is you can't move people from one list to another or “tag” them with their interests after they sign up. You either have to move the subscriber by hand and send the triple-optin, or make a request through AWeber support like you were importing a list (see above).
Even if you tagged every subscriber with their interests in a “custom field,” ie “Met at NMX”, there's no way to target users with that interest when you send a new broadcast email. Notice the lack of targeting options below. Yes, I can include or exclude based on the list the subscriber is on, but not by the interests I've tagged them with.
If AWeber won't allow me to move people freely from one list to another after they've opted in, what's the point of including or excluding by list?
Kinda pointless, if you ask me.
MailChimp makes moving people from one list to another easy. After testing, my recommendation is that you choose the “combine list” option and further segment by groups.
Combining a segmented list with the master list, and adding users to an interest group looks like this:
Just note, that once you combine lists, the users are removed from the first list, and moved (not copied) to the list you combine it with. In the image above, the users will no longer be on the “Multimedia: Podcast in a Bag Checklist” list. After combining the lists, users will only be on the “EW Subscribers – Each Post” list.
MailChimp makes it easy to move users, combine lists, keep interest tags, and segment by sub-group. But, AWeber makes copying people from one list to another (at the time of optin) extremely easy. I like easy and automated.
Based on easy (and automated) Subscriber Management, this round is a tie.
MailChimp is one of my favorite tools for bloggers, business owners and entrepreneurs. They allow beginners to do just that, begin. By having a free option, MailChimp removes any barrier to you and I getting started.
When you're in the beginning stages of building your online business, you don't know what you don't know. Don't spend money on a tool you haven't grown into yet.
MailChimp is the perfect tool for beginners.
As your online business grows, you'll quickly learn the value of building an email list. One of the best ways to connect with your followers is to email them directly.
While AWeber isn't the only game in town when it comes to autoresponders, they're definitely one of the most popular. If you want a straight-forward email marketing tool that gives you autoresponder functionality, AWeber is a solid choice.
At $20 a month, AWeber won't break the bank, and it will be a great investment as you transition from intermediate blogger to internet business.
AWeber vs MailChimp: Why You May Need Both
If you have an email course like mine, one where you want everyone to start receiving emails on the same day, you're out of luck with AWeber.
Since I'm not free to move people from a “wait list” to an “active student” list within AWeber, which would allow me to then use an autoresponder series, I have to use MailChimp to send my lessons.
Within MailChimp, I can send Lesson 1 just to people who joined the list since the previous class closed and before the next class opened. I can group those students by not only time, but by activity as well. Here's how my list looks in MailChimp:
If I wanted to start everyone on their own schedule, based on date of registration, AWeber would meet my needs with their autoresponders. Since I'm starting everyone at the same time, like a real class, I have to manually schedule my lessons with MailChimp.
MailChimp vs AWeber: Final Verdict
If I were starting my online business again, today, I'd start with MailChimp. There is no reason you need to pay $20 a month for AWeber when you're just starting.
While AWeber does have the autoresponder, beginners likely won't have enough content to create one.
It makes no difference to your subscribers which email marketing service you use. So, go with the simplest option.
MailChimp allows you to have up to 2,000 subscribers before they charge you; AWeber starts at $20 per month for up to 500.
However, when you're ready to grow your blog and transform it into a business, take a look at AWeber. Largely because of their autoresponder, they're a great choice for when you get serious.
The Bottom Line?
Grow into AWeber and use MailChimp as long as possible.
If you're ready to test automation and autoresponders, try MailChimp's solution and you can pay around $.03 per email. I spent $9 and got 300 credits under their “Pay As You Go” plan. That's a great way to test the waters and see if you're ready to jump in all the way.
I hope you've found this analysis valuable! If you have, you can get more great tools inside my entrepreneur training site, PLUS the how-to videos to make it all work. Enroll now, and start building your online business within minutes!
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Question: What email marketing service do you use and why?