For those interested in online business or for those who simply want to build a like-minded online community, getting a good email service is mission critical. For me, for two months, it was more like mission impossible.
I tried GetResponse, then switched to AWeber, went back to GetResponse, and finally settled on ConvertKit. I'll compare the pros and cons of each below. I tried MailChimp in the past (back when autoresponders were free, unlike now) and haven't used them since so I won't speak to MailChimp, although Nathan Barry (the ConvertKit founder) does here and here.
For context, I was just launching this site and so I had the pleasure of not needing to worry about switching existing email subscribers over from one service to another. I also briefly considered InfusionSoft but ejected them from the pool once I found how incredibly expensive it was.
I started with GetResponse for several reasons:
- It was cheaper (when you go with their annual plan) than AWeber
- They had an event-based autoresponder, unlike AWeber, which seemed really powerful
- They had beautiful templates compared to AWeber—and a lot of them
- They had a landing page maker, which AWeber did not
- Their autoresponder process seemed more graphically appealing and more intuitive to understand
- They had a ton of tutorials to help you get started
From my research, the only advantage for AWeber was that its customer service was known to be top notch. But to me, features and price trumps customer service, so I jumped on GetResponse.
After signing up, I created some opt-in boxes, which were fine. But then I found out about lightbox opt-in forms, where clicking on a link on a web page would bring in a lightbox form that darkens the rest of the screen...and that AWeber could do this while GetResponse could not.
That was a mild disappointment but not a dealbreaker. But then I came across what WAS a dealbreaker: at the time, I was also using S2Member to create a membership system for the site and found that people who registered for the free membership would not be captured by GetResponse. However, S2Member had a built-in integration with AWeber.
Frustrated that people would be slipping through the cracks, I signed up for AWeber roughly a month later.
I redid the forms and replaced the GetResponse forms with the AWeber forms on the site. This consumed a lot of time but I had to compare apples with apples. In the process, I found (after a lot of trial and error) that AWeber's forms could be completely customizable. Combined with AWeber's lightbox form feature for links and registration form integration, I thought AWeber would be easily become my preferred choice and I was ready to drop GetResponse.
But then I came across a problem. I was having multiple forms throughout the site, but if I wanted all subscribers (regardless of which form they signed up from) to go through the same autoresponder series, AWeber—to my shock—did not have an easy way to do that.
I called AWeber's vaunted customer support only to find out they're not as hot as I was led to believe. Different reps told me different things, and none of the things I was told worked. AWeber had a beta feature called "Campaigns" that might do the trick but it was buggy and never worked. When I called customer service back to report the bug, they confirmed on two separate occasions it was a bug and told me both times that developers would be working on it and I would be notified when it was fixed.
Well, that's all well and good but in the meantime, I'm basically stranded since AWeber was completely useless to me without the "Campaigns" feature fixed. And note: even if it were to get fixed, it would still be a workaround hack to the autoresponder solution I wanted and not a true solution.
So I reluctantly went back to GetResponse.
GetResponse, take 2
Back at GetResponse, I decided to ditch S2Member and my plan to use a membership system. Let me be clear: it's a terrible thing if you have to change the vision for your site because of limitations by your email service provider. Further, I had to drop my aspirations to have a lightbox form from links with GetResponse. (I know LeadPages had that lightbox feature but LeadPages was an additional expense that I couldn't afford, and the same thing with OptIn Monster.)
While this was all frustrating, I became even more frustrated when I found out that GetResponse's autoresponder feature also couldn't take all my subscribers from all my various forms through the same autoresponder sequence. GetResponse's customer support invoked an AWeber-like workaround that required a lot of manual effort—which is the opposite effect you want from an, ahem, AUTOresponder.
I was truly in despair about the fact I was wasting so much time trying to get simple things done instead of actually producing content for my site. I thought I was out of options and was going to resign myself to settling for GetResponse. But then I heard from Pat Flynn about ConvertKit on his Smart Passive Income (SPI) podcast. And initially, I didn't consider ConvertKit because while Pat normally does a great job interviewing his guests, on this occasion, I thought Pat did a very poor job in helping get the message out about what ConvertKit can do. For example, Pat asked Nathan Barry what ConvertKit was, and Nathan said it's email marketing for professional bloggers. Well, what the heck does that mean? What constitutes a "professional blogger"? Darren Rowse? I certainly don't consider myself a "professional blogger." So after listening to that episode, I didn't bother checking out ConvertKit.
But on a subsequent SPI episode relating to email, Pat mentioned how he switched to ConvertKit from AWeber and InfusionSoft and the reasons why. NOW I understood what ConvertKit is. So I checked out ConvertKit online and loved what I found. And even though it was a wee bit higher in price than AWeber and GetResponse, I was willing to pay it if it would solve my problems.
Using ConvertKit was generally pretty intuitive. There were some questions I had, and there was some documentation to answer those questions. And I loved that it was both completely customizable and offered lightbox forms for links. But best of all, you can send all your subscribers across all your forms to one specific autoresponder series.
It's not as simple as I hoped (assign from the autoresponder settings) [Edit: It's REALLY simple and intuitive now; props to the ConvertKit dev team for refining it] but it's still MUCH simpler than GetResponse's process. Overall, the autoresponder feature in ConvertKit is pretty cool and lends itself very well to Jeff Walker PLF-style launches, if needed. I was sold on ConvertKit.
I then found that GetResponse does not offer refunds on the unused portion of your annual payment, so thumbs down to GetResponse for that. And thumbs down also to AWeber, which up until the time I cancelled with them STILL had not notified me that their "Campaigns" feature was fixed. So much for that top notch customer service from AWeber.
That's not to say ConvertKit is without warts. There is a known bug that you can't have different opt-in forms on the same page, especially if one of them is a lightbox form, since the CSS for all forms uses the same class names. The customer service is currently email or chat, rather than phone service with an expansive service time...so responses take anywhere from a few hours to a couple days (yes, even for chat). And caching plugins combined with Gravity Forms causes ConvertKit not to retain form info. But none of these is a dealbreaker. The time saved doing my email service with ConvertKit is huge and allows me to get back to actually providing content rather than fighting with my email service provider's software to do what it should simply do.
The bottom line
I'm a very happy ConvertKit customer. The dev team is busy building new features (each month has at least one new feature that is non-integration-related) so ConvertKit should be even better and more stable as it matures. I strongly recommend ConvertKit to anyone who wants to build their online community or online business.
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