Choosing the right email marketing platform is crucial for business owners seeking to drive growth through targeted email campaigns.
ExactTarget and MailChimp are two of the most widely used platforms. ExactTarget, owned by Salesforce, and MailChimp, owned by Intuit, have become leaders in the email marketing space. Both platforms enable you to easily create email campaigns, landing pages, and sign-up forms to turn your contacts into customers.
However, they differ in their specific features, integrations, pricing models, and ideal customer size. In this comprehensive ExactTarget vs Mailchimp comparison, we evaluate both platforms across key criteria to help you determine the best option.
1. Understanding the Basics
ExactTarget was founded in 2000 by Scott Dorsey and is based in Indianapolis. The company was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion in 2013 and now operates within the Salesforce Marketing Cloud division. Over 50,000 global customers like Coca-Cola, Gap, and Nike currently use ExactTarget for their email marketing needs.
The platform also has an active social media presence, including the ExactTarget Facebook Groupcommunity.
United States-founded MailChimp has been in operation since 2001. What started as an email marketing service for small businesses now caters to over 14 million users across companies of all sizes.
MailChimp sends over a trillion emails every year. Well-known MailChimp customers include Amazon, Starbucks, and Target. Like ExactTarget, MailChimp also has a vibrant community on Facebook and other social platforms.
2. Features and Functionality
ExactTarget offers robust email marketing automation through its Journey Builder tool. Marketers can create triggered email workflows based on user actions and engagement. Workflows involve a drag-and-drop builder to arrange triggered emails, with options to personalize messaging.
The marketing automation platform provides real-time behavioral tracking of email opens, clicks, and site visits. This allows further customization of journeys and automation rules. Moreover, integration with Salesforce data enables advanced lead-scoring models and segmentation.
With Journey Builder, businesses can automate multi-channel experiences beyond email including SMS, mobile push, direct mail, and landing pages. ExactTarget also enables A/B testing of campaigns.
MailChimp’s automation features are powered by its Workflow builder. Users can create sequences and trigger-based interactions spanning email, postcards, and ads. Workflows involve a drag-and-drop interface to map user journeys step-by-step.
MailChimp captures subscriber activity relating to opens, clicks, purchases, and form submissions. This data can segment subscribers for more tailored communications. Time-based triggers and AI-powered recommendations further refine journeys.
While the software lacks native CRM or SMS capabilities, over 700 third-party integrations help augment customer experiences. Users can also A/B test email subjects, from names and send times to optimize deliverability.
With its native integration with Salesforce CRM and broader omnichannel options through Journey Builder, ExactTarget takes the win for marketing automation.
While MailChimp does enable robust email workflows and personalization, ExactTarget’s tight CRM alignment and digital channel support give it greater versatility. This makes Journey Builder better equipped for executing sophisticated lead nurturing and retention programs, making this one of the best alternatives to Mailchimp.
ExactTarget provides hundreds of professionally designed email templates that marketers can customize for their brand. Templates are organized by industry and campaign type, spanning welcome series, product announcements, events, and more.
Users can edit templates directly within ExactTarget, with a drag-and-drop editor to modify layouts, images, and text. Dynamic content blocks allow personalization using Salesforce data. Templates are mobile responsive, ensuring consistency across devices.
The Template Editor enables further customization for building new templates from scratch. Developers can leverage the Email HTML API for coding customized templates.
MailChimp offers over 700 free and premium email templates suitable for every business. Like ExactTarget, templates are categorized based on industries and campaign goals to streamline selection.
An intuitive drag-and-drop Template Editor allows easy changes to layout, fonts, colors, and images without any coding. Content blocks facilitate personalization with subscriber data. Templates are optimized for mobile devices.
For further customization, the Email Blueprint tool provides code access for developers to build tailored templates. Users can also submit custom HTML templates for testing and deployment.
The Mailchimp Salesforce Marketing Cloud comparison of each platform’s templates ends in a tie. With their vast galleries of professionally designed templates and intuitive drag-and-drop editors for personalization, both ExactTarget and MailChimp provide excellent options for creating on-brand, engaging emails. With both platforms offering developer tools for advanced customization, ExcelTarget, and MailChimp are tied when it comes to email templates.
ExactTarget enables dynamic email content personalization through integration with Salesforce data. Marketers can create highly targeted segments and groups based on CRM insights like demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.
The platform makes it easy to visualize and manage segments with drag-and-drop workflow and content builder tools. Once created, segments can trigger customized messaging across channels.
With time-based triggers, marketers can also define user groups based on behaviors over custom timeframes. Predictive intelligence capabilities provide segment ideas based on statistical analysis.
MailChimp’s segmentation tools allow dividing subscribers into groups to deliver tailored messaging. Users can create segments based on profile attributes, purchase history, activity metrics, and more.
The platform uses an intuitive segment builder workflow for managing subscriber groups. MailChimp also enables time-based segmentation based on previous engagement over flexible date ranges.
While MailChimp lacks native CRM connectivity, users can import external data sources for advanced segmentation via the API or integrations. Zapier also provides options for segment building using third-party apps making it the best fit for an organization of any kind.
With its embedded CRM data and predictive analytics capabilities, ExactTarget has more advanced options for subscriber segmentation versus MailChimp. Tight Salesforce integration gives marketers a 360-degree customer view of the market and audience for hyper-personalization.
While MailChimp does provide robust targeting based on subscriber behaviors, ExactTarget’s holistic profiling and AI-based recommendations make its segmentation stand out.
ExactTarget vs Mailchimp: Analytics
ExactTarget provides robust email campaign analytics through its Marketing Cloud Dashboard. Users get real-time visibility into opens, clicks, shares, unsubscribed, and more. The platform offers tracking across channels including email, mobile, social, landing pages, and websites.
Insights are presented visually with graphs and charts for engagement rates, subscriber activity trends, revenue impact, and ROI reporting. ExactTarget also has predictive analytics capabilities to optimize sending cadence and content. With Journey Builder, marketers can analyze performance by segment cohorts.
As ExactTarget is natively integrated with Salesforce, marketers also gain end-to-end visibility tying campaigns to deals, accounts, and opportunities. This closed-loop attribution helps quantify email’s impact.
MailChimp’s analytics features center around its Reports dashboard containing pre-built and customizable reports. Users can track campaign metrics relating to opens, clicks, dwell time, social sharing, revenue, and more. Granular segmentation provides visibility into how campaigns perform across subscriber groups.
MailChimp provides insight into subscriber engagement trends over custom time frames. However, its analysis lacks predictive or multichannel capabilities seen in ExactTarget. While campaign performance analytics are robust, MailChimp does not natively connect campaign data to CRM or sales systems.
With its integrated marketing and sales data views, AI-powered predictive analytics, and cross-channel campaign tracking, ExactTarget has superior email analytics and reporting functionality compared to MailChimp.
Marketers gain complete visibility not only into email performance, but clear attribution showing business impact – an area where MailChimp lacks insights.
As part of the Salesforce ecosystem, ExactTarget provides seamless integration with Salesforce CRM and marketing tools. This gives marketers a single unified dashboard to manage campaigns, contacts, content, and other initiatives.
Key benefits include:
- Unified customer data and insights between marketing and sales teams
- Ability to trigger cross-channel campaigns from CRM workflows
- Out-of-the-box integration with Salesforce sites, forms, and digital ads
These capabilities create an end-to-end owned marketing platform for brands leveraging Salesforce.
A unique MailChimp capability is its Instagram integration which helps brands optimize their Instagram bio links. Users simply redirect their Instagram link to a MailChimp landing page that prompts email sign-ups.
Key features include:
- Design customizable Instagram-optimized landing pages
- Use MailChimp forms to capture visitor data from Instagram traffic
- View analytics on conversions from the Instagram channel
This creates a new channel to convert Instagram audiences into email subscribers.
With its seamless interconnectivity with the Salesforce universe for unified insights, workflows, and content, ExactTarget stands out for its native CRM integration versus MailChimp. While MailChimp offers innovative ways to build subscribers from social channels, ExactTarget’s holistic view of contacts and closed-loop analysis gives it a unique advantage.
3. Ease of Use
ExactTarget provides an intuitive and user-friendly drag-and-drop interface for building emails, landing pages, forms, and customer journeys. The visual editor makes it easy for beginners to create professional messaging quickly.
Though extensive help documentation exists, the platform is straightforward enough for new users to navigate. The learning curve is modest for leveraging core email functionality. However, unlocking more advanced automation and customization capabilities may require some ramp-up time.
Overall, ExactTarget delivers a polished user experience for email marketers through its interactive workspace and workflow builder. Tight integration with Salesforce does require some crossover training for leveraging combined CRM insights.
Known for its simplicity, MailChimp offers beginner-friendly tools for designing campaign content. Its highly visual drag-and-drop editor enables the easy creation of emails, landing pages, postcards, and more. Minimal training is needed to compose nice-looking messages.
For more advanced options, MailChimp does present a steeper learning curve. Marketers may need to invest effort when diving into automation features, custom coding templates from scratch, or leveraging sophisticated integrations.
Generally, MailChimp strikes the right balance between simplicity and customization for an enjoyable user experience catering to all skill levels. The intuitive workflow provides a gentle onboarding path even for total email novices.
While both platforms offer drag-and-drop simplicity for core email campaign building, MailChimp’s exceptionally shallow learning curve gives it an advantage for non-technical users. The gradual onboarding journey and step-by-step guidance structures make it more accessible for complete beginners compared to ExactTarget’s visual but more sophisticated interface.
4. Email Deliverability
As part of the Salesforce ecosystem, ExactTarget customers gain access to extensive support resources online or over the phone/chat. Resources include step-by-step help articles, training videos, admin guides, and troubleshooting.
Users can also leverage the broader Salesforce community of over 2 million members to ask questions and collaborate. For email marketing-specific discussions, members actively contribute to the ExactTarget Community Forum [link] and ExactTarget Facebook Group [link].
MailChimp prioritizes customer support through its online knowledge base, email/chat options, and phone assistance. DIY resources provide guidance on launching first campaigns to optimize deliverability.
Users can also engage MailChimp’s community of over 100,000 members for troubleshooting via the platform’s official Facebook Group [link] and exclusive events. An Experts Marketplace lets users hire certified MailChimp pros for hands-on assistance.
With access to Salesforce’s extensive help articles and large external communities supplementing its owned resources, ExactTarget edges out MailChimp for customer support scope. MailChimp does have comparable 1:1 assistance and strong proprietary community engagement.
However, the breadth of Salesforce’s established external community gives ExactTarget users more venues for troubleshooting education beyond official channels.
5. Customer Support and Community
ExactTarget provides email-based customer support as their primary channel for getting assistance with platform issues or questions. Users can email the support team and typically receive fairly quick responses during normal business hours.
The platform also offers documentation and social media communities where people can meet like-minded users, find apps, connect with experts, and learn new skills.
Mailchimp offers three different 24/7 customer support options via live chat, email, and phone support. This enables users to get real-time assistance any time of day rather than waiting prolonged periods for email replies.
Mailchimp also provides an expansive self-help resource through their Searchable Help Center, which contains walkthroughs for every platform feature plus troubleshooting guides to help users find answers quickly without contacting a support rep.
6. Email Marketing Integrations
As part of the Salesforce ecosystem, ExactTarget delivers deep native integration, enabling a unified platform across CRM and marketing functionality. Users can connect Salesforce’s sales, service, marketing and more for consolidated customer data flows directly into ExactTarget email campaigns and journeys.
ExactTarget also connects with calendar apps such as Outlook and G Suite to trigger campaign sends based on events. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter help capture leads into subscriber lists for future messaging.
For users with e-commerce sites, platforms such as Shopify and Magento integrate to track online behaviors and automate transactional email triggers. ExactTarget also provides an open API for building any other custom app integrations as required.
MailChimp integrates with over 700 applications, providing connectivity to major categories like CRM, e-commerce, social media, web analytics, and payment platforms. For CRM, MailChimp partners with Salesforce, Zoho, HubSpot, and others for shared contact databases between sales and email marketing efforts.
E-commerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce integrate to enable capabilities like cart abandonment emails and order confirmation messages. Advertising channels like Facebook and Google Ads help retarget website traffic directly into new email subscriber lists.
For advanced custom integrations, MailChimp offers developer tools such as Zapier and the MailChimp API.
Both ExactTarget and MailChimp provide extensive out-of-the-box integrations to complement first-party data flows, as well as custom integration options through their respective APIs. While ExactTarget prioritizes Salesforce application connectivity, MailChimp counterbalances with 700+ third-party platform integrations. Ultimately both deliver abundant connectivity to the martech ecosystem.
ExactTarget pricing is bundled into Salesforce Marketing Cloud plans, which start at $1,250/month for up to 10,000 contacts. Higher tiers provide more contacts, data storage, and Marketing Cloud capabilities.
Key pricing highlights:
- Cost based on the number of contacts and data storage
- Volume discounts available for annual subscriptions and higher tiers
- The 30-day free trial provides access to core features
As pricing is customized per customer, final costs will vary based on usage, integrations, and bolt-on tools. Overall costs run higher than competitors.
Mailchimp has a free plan and 3 paid tiers: Essentials at $13/month, Standard at $20/month, and Premium at $350/month billed annually.
Lower tiers are suitable for small businesses. The Premium plan adds powerful enterprise features like journey builder, workflow automation, and advanced analytics.
Mailchimp’s free plan lets you send 1,000 emails per month with basic automation for your email marketing campaigns. Overall, Mailchimp offers cost-effective plans ideal for budget-conscious users.
While ExactTarget provides premium capabilities, MailChimp’s free forever and affordable paid plans make it far more budget-friendly for SMBs. MailChimp’s pricing scales competitively with features and contacts, while ExactTarget’s Salesforce-bundled plans run higher at a minimum of $1,000/month. MailChimp clearly wins in the pricing category.
8. Reviews and Reputation
ExactTarget earns a 4/5 rating on G2based on 500+ user reviews highlighting its advanced email personalization and automation aligned to Salesforce data. Users praise the segmentation functionality, campaign performance, and integrated CRM insights.
The downsides mentioned include a steep learning curve for new users, high pricing, and occasional issues with complex workflows. Overall, ExactTarget suits larger teams willing to invest in an enterprise-grade email platform with the resources to support it.
With over 43,000 reviews on G2, MailChimp maintains an impressive 4.5/5 rating for its simplicity, affordability, and customer support. Users highlight the intuitive drag-and-drop builder needing minimal training, generous free and paid pricing tiers scalable for any size business, and responsive assistance from customer service.
Some limitations noted include missing advanced features like predictive analytics, slower load times compared to simpler platforms, and some reliability issues with transactional emails. But for most small business owners, MailChimp provides an easy, budget-friendly entry point for email marketing.
While both platforms are positively reviewed, MailChimp’s high marks highlight its winning ability to cater to easy usability, value, and education for SMB email marketers. More mixed user feedback on ExactTarget’s pricing and capability gaps position it as better suited for large teams willing to invest in a customized enterprise email platform. Ultimately MailChimp satisfies the widest user base.
- What kind of training or skills are needed to use ExactTarget effectively?
ExactTarget does require some technical skills or getting ramped up on advanced features like Journey Builder. For basic email campaign creation, the drag-and-drop editor is simple enough for beginners. However, marketers will achieve more value by learning automation tools, reporting, and Salesforce integrations.
- Does ExactTarget offer any free trial or freemium version?
Yes, ExactTarget offers a 30-day free trial providing access to core features. However, it does not have an ongoing free version, with paid plans starting at $1,250/month.
- What additional costs are involved with ExactTarget?
The minimum $1,250 monthly plan only covers up to 10,000 contacts and basic support. Additional costs accrue for more contacts, higher tiers of customer service, and integrated apps/services like Social Studio advertising capabilities. So final pricing is customized and volumes-based.
- What is the main limitation of Mailchimp’s free forever plan?
The free plan only allows up to 2,000 contacts and basic features, without advanced options like predictive analytics or multi-channel campaigns. Accessing more robust capabilities and larger audience volumes requires upgrading to at least the minimum paid plan.
- Does Mailchimp integrate easily with payment processors?
Yes, MailChimp smoothly integrates with leading payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, and Authorize.net. This allows easy configuration of automated promotional and transaction emails.
- Is it difficult to create a good-looking, branded email template in Mailchimp?
It’s very simple via MailChimp’s drag-and-drop editor – no coding skills required. There are also numerous customizable template options already professionally designed to match company branding needs out of the box. So most users can quickly build nice-looking on-brand emails without trouble.
You desire an enterprise-level email marketing platform tightly integrated with Salesforce. ExactTarget’s advanced segmentation, personalization, and automation capabilities powered by a unified CRM view make it ideal for larger teams. Those who already use Salesforce and have complex lead nurturing needs will benefit most from ExactTarget’s Journey Builder and Einstein AI features.
Choose Mailchimp if…
You want an easy, affordable platform for getting started with email marketing. MailChimp’s simple drag-and-drop builder, generous free tier, and excellent education support empower SMBs and individuals to create professional campaigns without expertise. Those focused purely on core email don’t require the complex automation or analytics that ExactTarget offers.
You may also be interested in checking out some Mailchimp alternatives to help with the evaluation process.