ConvertKit vs MailChimp: Which is better for you?
After experimenting with (and paying for) both, I’ll share with you why I ultimately decided to move from MailChimp to ConvertKit. I’ll lay out some pros and cons of both and, if you’re thinking about using either service for your email marketing, I hope it’ll help you make the best decision for your situation.
Before we dive in, you should know that there are affiliate links in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.
My History with MailChimp
I’ve long known that I should be doing more with my email list, but I’ve always been stumped when it comes to exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
Every online marketing guru I know says to BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST. No audience yet? Who cares! Put out an opt-in anyway! build, Build, BUILD!
So, that’s what I’ve attempted to do for 3-4 years with MailChimp (with Genesis Enews Extended for the optin). I don’t remember how I stumbled on it, but I did and I’m glad I did. That little monkey’s been good to me.
I’ve only used MailChimp in the most basic of ways. Until very recently, I haven’t had any opt-in incentives or run any automated campaigns. I’ve never used advanced segmentation or other fancy features for routing subscribers based on link clicks and that sort of stuff.
Ready to step up my game, I was on the cusp of signing up for the Chimp Essentials course by Paul Jarvis, but missed the deadline for registration.
What I love about MailChimp
- Get up and running quickly.
- Free plans for accounts with < 2k subscribers (awesome for small client sites!)
- Email template builder.
- Plethora of merge tags.
- That funny little monkey – Seriously, the brand consistency and humor throughout the process of working in MailChimp is fantastic.
I also like that it’s easy to create groups based on a user’s input in the opt-in. For instance, maybe you want to collect more than just a name and email – maybe you want to know whether someone would like to get emails on Topic A or prefer Topic B (or both).
What I don’t love about MailChimp
- One email address can count as multiple subscribers. This falsely inflates the number of true subscribers you have (and of course can push you into one of the paid plans).
- Clunky and confusing process for creating email automation sequences.
- Limited ways to segment users based on their actions.
- No way to send an email to a “mix and match” group of subscribers on different lists.
Had I made it through Paul’s course (or just taken the time to dig into the “how to’s” a whole lot more), most of what I don’t love about MailChimp could probably be eliminated. It’s a powerful tool and I have a feeling that I used it maybe 10% of its true capacity (kinda like I use my brain).
But frustrations are frustrations and I was primed for change.
My Introduction to ConvertKit
It was exactly the push I needed to start “doing more” with my list. During the webinar I signed up for a free ConvertKit trial and immediately got to work setting up the more robust email list features I’d wanted to try.
What I love about ConvertKit
- One email address equals one subscriber, regardless of how many “lists” they’re on (ConvertKit doesn’t actually use the word “list” – instead, subscribers have assigned tags or groups based on the content you want them to receive).
- The ease of tagging (or grouping) users based on their actions, those actions being highly customize-able. (i.e. if they clicked this particular link in an email, tag them with a particular tag).
- Semi-guided process for creating email automations (i.e. inline documentation at each step, describing what you should be doing).
- When composing an email, if you click over to the HTML view, your cursor is exactly where it was in visual editor, unlike MailChimp which dumps your cursor nowhere near where it was.
- Timely emails from ConvertKit walking me though how to use specific features and encouraging me to try them out.
- In-dashboard chat where you get scheduled messages (i.e. “You’ve been using ConvertKit for two weeks – have any questions?”).
The outreach is phenomenal and has played the largest role in getting me to start doing cooler things with my email list.
What I don’t love about ConvertKit
- No free plan.
- The email templates are pitiful.
- Difficult to create nice, custom templates.
- No available merge tags other than first name and email.
- Can’t use merge tag (i.e. someone’s name) in the subject line of an email.
- No custom inputs on opt-in forms (i.e. would you like emails on Topic A or would you prefer Topic B).
- No feedback on why a user unsubscribed.
Technically you can do that last bullet point, but it requires a fair amount of custom coding. While I’m plenty capable of it, well, ain’t nobody got time for that.
ConvertKit is a much younger service than MailChimp and still has some maturing to do, but they are most definitely on the right track. Although the move to ConvertKit wasn’t without its pain, the things I do love about it are enough to outweigh the things I don’t.
Switching from MailChimp to ConvertKit
The actual process of moving subscribers from MailChimp to ConvertKit was not bad, but keep in mind I wasn’t doing anything “fancy” in terms of segments or groups. I just had lists and one sorta pitiful automation sequence.
Moving my lists
I had 5 lists over on MailChimp, but I’ll walk you through how I migrated my largest one, which is the general subscriber list for this site.
- Created a new Tag on ConvertKit called “carriedils.com subscribers”
- Removed all generic opt-in forms from carriedils.com (I’ll re-add later – I just wanted a temporary STOP on new subscribers)
- Exported my list from MailChimp (.csv format) and uploaded to ConvertKit (simultaneously tagging with “carriedils.com subscribers”)
Cut and dried, right?
But I had an extra complication in the mix. Even though I removed generic opt-in forms to “carriedils.com subscribers” in Step 2, I still had some inline content upgrade opt-ins in multiple posts pointing to my carriedils.com subscriber list in MailChimp.
That means subscribes and unsubscribes are still happening on that list in MailChimp even though I’ve already done my export/import into ConvertKit.
The plugin I’m using for content upgrades currently doesn’t support ConvertKit, so
at the time of this writing, I’m manually subscribing and unsubscribing people from ConvertKit to match behavior in MailChimp. I obviously need to switch SOON because this is ridiculously ineffective I’m using Zapier to automate the process of moving new MailChimp subscribers over to ConvertKit.
The bright side (?!) is that conversion rates on those content upgrades are relatively low.
Moving my automation sequence
This was a completely manual (copy/paste) process. I only had one 7-email series to transfer, so my pain was limited, but if you’ve got a ton of automation sequences, you’re in it for the long-haul. Get a big pot of coffee.
I have no idea if what I did was the best way, but here’s how I transferred the automation sequence:
- Created a new automation sequence in ConvertKit
- Copied all 7 emails in the MailChimp sequence over to the new sequence
- Created a new Tag in ConvertKit (I called it “Freelancer E-Course”, which you’ll be prompted to opt-in to if you hang around long enough on this site) 😉
- Updated my opt-in to point to ConvertKit instead of MailChimp (If you’re curious, I’m using OptinMonster for the popup)
- Waited for everyone that was in the automation queue at MailChimp to make it all the way through the sequence
- Manually removed anyone who unsubscribed during the MailChimp automation from my master subscriber list over at ConvertKit (again, just a Tag).
As you can see, a basic subscriber migration is fairly painless, but if you have a lot of automation workflows in progress, it can be a pain in the arse to move. I suppose you could skip Step 5 and risk sending an email to someone who already unsubscribed, but I don’t advise that. The people pleaser in me hates pissing people off.
The Verdict: ConvertKit vs MailChimp
Which service is better? I truly think the answer depends on your needs. Don’t you hate reading through a 1500+ word ConvertKit review only to discover the answer is MAYBE YOU SHOULD USE IT, MAYBE NOT!
My intention is not to be vague or indecisive, but I can’t categorically say one is better than the other because that’s simply not true. They’re strong in different ways. For me, the combination of hand-holding via encouraging email and a more intuitive user interface made ConvertKit the winner for me.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.