MailChimp vs. ConvertKit: Email Marketing Software for Bloggers

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Let’s chat about MailChimp vs. ConvertKit for email marketing software, including why you need an email list and the differences in paid and free software.

The big question on everyone’s mind when they are just diving into getting starting with an email list is this:

“If there is a free option, do I really NEED to pay for email software?”

The short answer is no, of course, you don’t, but we are going to tell you why you SHOULD.

Now, this comparison is only of two email marketing services: MailChimp and ConvertKit

In our opinion, these are the two BEST options as far as free and paid options go.

We have tried the following in the last two years: MailChimp, AWeber, Get Response, Active Campaign, and ConvertKit.

ConvertKit is what we now use and recommend after trying all of those, but we did want to give our readers a comparison to the best free option out there: MailChimp.

Before we get into it, let’s give a brief introduction on…

Why You Need an Email List in the First Place

In one word, the reason is TRUST.

You can try linking and selling products directly in your blog posts. It’s certainly the easiest way to do it.

But it’s definitely not the best or the most effective.

And the higher the product price, the less this will work. We know. We’ve tried and tracked the data to prove it.

Linking to products in articles on our health and wellness blog worked better for us because our products ranged from $27-$47. It’s far less effective when your products are selling for hundreds of dollars.

You generally can’t build enough with your audience in the 10 minutes it takes them to read a blog post before you ask them to purchase something.

Now compare that to a 5-7 day sequence of emails in which you can provide valuable content for DAYS before asking for the sale…

You will almost always have higher conversions with an email list, regardless of the product price or what you are selling.

If you need some more help with getting subscribers on your blog, make sure to check out our article on how to build an email list.

FREE vs. Paid Software

Before we get into chatting about email marketing services specifically, let’s chat briefly about the differences between free and paid software.

Spoiler alert: Paid software always comes with more customization and capabilities.

That’s just the way it goes, and it’s something that you need to understand as a blogger.

When you are just starting out, you are likely going to Google whatever you can to find free versions of software for hosting, themes, plugins, email marketing, etc.

That’s fine, and it’s good to test out the waters with free software.

Just go into knowing that the software has limitations and fewer customizations than similar paid software.

And you also need to know WHEN it’s time to upgrade…

If you reach a point where you are FIGHTING with your WordPress theme day in and day out because you can’t get it to do what you want it to do, it’s time to upgrade to a paid theme that will let you design your blog exactly how you want it.

It’s still perfectly fine to start out with free, and that may be all that is in the budget anyway.

Just make sure that you are aware of these limitations and are reflecting on your situation and goals from time to time to make sure that it is still right for you.

One last thing to keep in mind:

Even if you start out with a free email marketing service, you WILL at some point have to pay for it as your list grows.

But if your list is big enough that you are forced to pay, that’s a GOOD THING!

It means that your blog is growing.

For all of you preferred video learners out there, here is a video of this topic (plus some extra tips!) from our YouTube Channel below.

Before we dive into the comparison of the two services, I do want to let you of a huge limitation that might alone make you decide to go with ConvertKit.

Affiliate Marketing

MailChimp does NOT allow affiliate marketing in their emails.

Say whaaaaat!? Seriously…

It’s important to understand the distinction that they make where it concerns affiliate LINKS and affiliate MARKETING.

MailChimp does allow affiliate links in their emails, but they prohibit affiliate marketing.

So, what does this mean?

This means that you should be able to link affiliate products in your emails (unless they are blacklisted) but you can’t actively push or promote an affiliate product (also known as affiliate marketing).

This is a major problem for new bloggers because affiliate marketing is how most new bloggers make their first bit of income and how a lot of bloggers make a majority of their income.

The power is in your email list, but you lose that power if you can’t effectively promote affiliate products to your audience.

The scary thing is that these rules, especially concerning affiliate links, are a bit vague and MailChimp can disable your account if they believe you aren’t following their rules appropriately.

You can read more about the specific terms in MailChimp’s knowledge base.

This is just something that we wanted to bring up first because that alone is a huge reason why a lot of bloggers don’t start out with MailChimp or end up switching anyway when they begin monetizing.

Moving on…

Let’s first look at some basic similarities and differences in what both email marketing services offer in their lowest-priced plans.

MailChimp

  • Cost for the smallest plan: Free
  • Up to 2,000 subscribers
  • Up to 12,000 emails/month
  • Customized email broadcasts and autoresponders
  • Customizable opt-in forms
  • Reports and insights on the emails that you send
  • Several steps to edit and save emails

View MailChimp’s features here.

ConvertKit

  • Cost for the smallest plan: $29/month
  • Up to 1,000 subscribers
  • Unlimited emails/month
  • Customized email broadcasts and autoresponders
  • Customizable opt-in forms
  • Reports and insights on the emails that you send
  • Edit and save emails simultaneously in one step on one screen (our FAVORITE feature)
  • Automated segments and tags (to separate your clients based on who has purchased your products, clicked certain links, etc.)

P.S. ConvertKit actually does now offer a free plan. It was designed for new creators looking to create landing pages and collect subscribers for free. You can send one-time broadcasts with the free plan, but you can’t set up sequences.

We still recommend starting with the full ConvertKit plan, which comes with your first month free so you can start building out your automated email sequences from Day 1.

View ConvertKit’s features here.

So let’s dive a little deeper into some of these points.

We won’t go over the features that are the same because I don’t feel that one is far superior to the other.

Cost and Subscribers

MailChimp is, of course, free up to 2,000 subscribers, and you get 12,000 emails with that.

So if you have a list of 1,000 people, you can send 12 emails per month for free. That’s 3 emails per week.

This is okay at the beginning if you are only emailing out about new blog posts, but things will get sticky real fast if you are creating any kind of automated email funnel that has several days of emails in it (like our free courses at Create and Go).

You will hit that limit very quickly.

ConvertKit offers 1,000 subscribers on the basic plan of $29/month (the next tier up is $49/month for up to 3,000 subscribers), BUT you get unlimited emails with that.

So you can create whatever sales funnels, courses, or other automations without worrying about hitting an email limit. This provides you with a lot more flexibility.

One more thing to keep in mind when doing this comparison:

If your list and business continue to grow, you WILL likely need a more robust email marketing service with advanced features at some point.

That means that you will have to transfer your list over to another service at some point anyway, and that can be a pain in the ass. Trust us. We have done it several times.

On this note, remember that ConvertKit does actually have a free plan that allows you to create unlimited landing pages and start collecting subscribers and sending broadcasts for free.

BUT we still recommend signing up for the paid plan so that you can start building out your automated email sequences right away. If you choose this option, you can get your first month FREE, which is only available through our affiliate link.

Creating, Editing, and Saving Emails

I mentioned it once already, but this is our FAVORITE feature of ConvertKit.

No other email marketing service that we have used, including MailChimp, compares when it comes to the email editor.

Alex showed this to me, I was sold IMMEDIATELY, and we made the move from Active Campaign that day.

Here is the deal with all of the other email marketing services that we have used.

Let’s say that you have 10 emails in a sequence or sales funnel.

Anytime you want to edit or view the content in any of those emails, you have to click on the email, click next through a couple of options (“YES, I WANT TO EDIT THE EMAIL! JUST LET ME IN!”), then you make your changes, and then you go to another screen or two to actually save the email.

HEADACHE CENTRAL! Why did that take me so long!? 

Half the time I go through this process, I realize that I forgot to add one small detail or have to check something else, and then I have to go through the entire process again. [insert rolling eyes emoji]

Compare this to the seamless editing software that comes with ConvertKit… It’s ALL on one screen, y’all.

You can switch through to any of your emails in the sequence, make any changes you want, and save ALL changes in ONE SCREEN!

ConvertKit email sequence

This has saved us SO many hours and SO many headaches.

Over the course of months and years of blogging, that time saved REALLY adds up!

Automated Segments and Tags

This is a feature that both MailChimp and ConvertKit have but ConvertKit’s is easier to use and has more capabilities.

Creating segments allows you to separate your list into groups based on actions they take so you can make sure the people are getting the most relevant emails to meet their particular needs.

For example…

When someone signed up for our weight loss email list (indoctrination sequence) on our health and wellness blog, they were taken through a sales funnel that was designed to sell them on our weight loss program.

If they purchased this product at any point in time, we had automatic rules set up to remove that person from our weight loss indoctrination sequence so they wouldn’t receive any more emails trying to sell them the product they just bought.

This automatic rule also placed them in a NEW sequence just for buyers!

The very next email they received says ‘THANK YOU for purchasing our product, here are your downloads, here are some additional resources to help you, etc’.

This helps to build trust even AFTER the purchase, and we can also continue to market other products to them.

You can also simply set a “tag” on the customer to label them as a buyer.

Why does this matter so much?

Tagging buyers in your list purchase ensures that you won’t continue to promote a product to someone who has already purchased it.

This keeps the buyer happy and the relationship between seller and buyer a positive one.

It is ESPECIALLY important if you ever plan on running discounts on your products.

Nothing creates resentment faster than offering a discount to a customer that has just purchased at full price.

This will cause broken relationships and lots of partial refunds.

Which email marketing software should I choose?

We’ve just given you a lot to think about, and I know the decision isn’t always an easy one.

If a paid software isn’t in your budget, we totally understand and encourage you to take a look at MailChimp.

BUT if you want to make the first (and probably best) investment into the growth of your blog, ConvertKit is the way to go. You can also get try it out and get your first month free here.

But the choice is yours, and you should think about your current situation as a blogger to make that decision.

We just wanted to provide you with some additional insight to help you make the decision because we do get a LOT of questions about this.

If you have any more questions about using MailChimp vs ConvertKit for email marketing software, please feel free to leave us a comment or question below!