When it comes to email marketing software, two of the most popular platforms are MailerLite and ActiveCampaign. Both tools provide small business owners the ability to create professional email campaigns, manage subscriber lists, view analytics, integrate with other software platforms, and grow their customer base through automated and personalized communication.
Choosing the right email marketing solution is crucial for entrepreneurs who want to maximize their marketing ROI and build meaningful relationships with customers. In this comprehensive MailerLite vs ActiveCampaign comparison guide, we evaluate the two platforms across several key criteria to reveal their strengths and weaknesses.
Specifically, we analyze and contrast features and functionality like email creation tools, blog and e-commerce integrations, SEO optimization, third-party app integrations, analytics capabilities, website performance metrics like speed and uptime, the quality of customer support, pricing models, reviews, and reputation, and overall ease-of-use.
Our goal is to provide small business owners with a detailed side-by-side assessment to determine which platform best suits their email marketing needs so they can efficiently grow their business.
1. Understanding the Basics
MailerLite was founded in 2012 by two Lithuanian entrepreneurs, Gediminas and Ignas. It quickly grew in popularity thanks to its generous free plan and easy-to-use editor. As of 2023, MailerLite has over 1 million users and a strong market position as one of the top email service providers for small businesses.
ActiveCampaign was launched in 2003 in Chicago by founders Jason VandeBoom and Bart Bowen. It has over 150,000 customers worldwide across many industries. ActiveCampaign is considered one of the top ESPs thanks to its powerful marketing automation and advanced features.
In terms of broader popularity and market position, ActiveCampaign generally edges out MailerLite. But MailerLite holds its own with a simpler interface many beginners appreciate.
2. Features and Functionality
MailerLite offers a selection of automation tools to help streamline email marketing workflows and supercharge your marketing strategy.
Users can create sequences to automatically send a series of predefined emails when a subscriber takes an action such as signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or opening a previous email. These sequences can be triggered immediately or scheduled to activate after set periods.
The platform also provides other useful email marketing automation features like welcome emails for new subscribers, RSS push email features that pull blog post content, and WYSIWYG editors for crafting emails. Overall, MailerLite automation covers the basics, but power users may want more advanced options.
ActiveCampaign is built around robust automation with over 90 pre-configured automations available. Users can create complex sequences targeting subscriber segments with multiple branching conditional logic. Real-time behavioral targeting based on subscriber actions takes things to an advanced level.
Other notable automation includes site tracking for customized follow-ups, sales funnel construction, social posting, SMS messaging, and integration with webinar platforms. The ability to see an overall automation workflow map allows for an optimized 360-degree view of each sequence. Those with complex needs will appreciate ActiveCampaign’s extensive automation power.
With advanced automation features covering advanced email personalization, segmentation, and customization, ActiveCampaign easily bests MailerLite when it comes to marketing automation capabilities. The depth of sequences and overall workflow functionality make it the obvious choice for power users. For those needing top-tier automation, ActiveCampaign delivers.
MailerLite provides over 700 responsive email templates covering a variety of designs and use cases like welcome emails, product announcements, newsletters, and more. Users can browse by category or use the search bar to find templates that match their needs. The templates are customizable with easy drag-and-drop editing directly in MailerLite.
While the selection covers the fundamentals, some users may want more advanced and niche templates. But beginners will appreciate the pre-designed starting points that only require minor modifications. Overall, the templates are attractive and render well across devices.
ActiveCampaign comes packed with over 100 professional email templates suited for welcome messages, lead nurturing, promotions, holiday campaigns, and other common needs. Users can fully customize templates with the built-in editor that allows full drag-and-drop flexibility over layout and design elements.
Advanced users can take things further by coding their own HTML templates for complete creative control. While the selection is smaller than MailerLite’s library, the templates meet high-quality standards and cover essential bases. Still, those wanting more variety may need to look elsewhere.
With over 600 more responsive email templates spanning a wider range of categories and styles, MailerLite simply provides more pre-designed options saving users time and effort. The templates only require minor editing to achieve professional results. So for those wanting quality templates covering common and niche use cases, MailerLite is the winner.
MailerLite enables users to segment their subscriber list based on categories like email opens/clicks, geographical location, referral source, subscribed date, and other metrics. Custom fields can also be created to track data like customer IDs, birthdays, purchase history, etc. for more advanced grouping.
Once segments are made, users can send targeted emails, create automation, and personalize the content specifically for that audience. Up to 1,000 segments can be made to slice lists for very customized communication. Overall, the segmentation provides the essentials although more technically adept users may want additional options.
ActiveCampaign offers robust segmentation capabilities with over 90 categories for dividing subscriber lists including email engagement, forms submitted, order history, custom field values, and more. An intelligent segment builder makes it easy to create very customized segments with specific parameters.
Once created, segments can be targeted with tailored messaging across email, site popups, SMS, and other channels. The level of personalization takes things to an advanced level great for converting leads. Power users will appreciate the depth of options.
With stronger segmentation tools for creating highly targeted subscriber groups coupled with robust tracking and customization options, ActiveCampaign earns the win for overall segmentation and list-dividing capabilities. The intelligent builder and granular targeting parameters provide the personalization needed for advanced email marketing and conversions.
MailerLite provides basic email analytics allowing users to track opens, clicks, unsubscribes, bounces, social shares, links clicked, and subscriber engagement over time. The metrics are displayed in simple graphs and charts giving a decent overview.
Users can segment analytics based on groups and campaigns for more targeted analysis. However, those wanting more advanced data mining may find the reporting limited. However, the ease of use allows beginners to quickly grasp campaign performance.
ActiveCampaign packs robust, real-time analytics with 90+ pre-configured reports available. Email metrics track opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, social activity, and more with intelligent breakdowns and filtering options. Conversion and ROI reporting take things to an advanced level.
Users get a 360-degree view of subscriber engagement across email, SMS, sites, forms, and other touchpoints all connected within campaign dashboards. For those who want deep data analysis, ActiveCampaign delivers the goods.
With its powerful 360-degree analytics across multiple channels complete with intelligent segmentation and filtering options, ActiveCampaign earns the victory when it comes to tracking campaign performance and subscriber engagement data. The breadth and depth of reporting for determining conversions and ROI simply outclass what MailerLite provides.
One standout MailerLite feature is its generous free plan which provides up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. This allows solopreneurs and early-stage startups to benefit from quality email marketing without a large upfront cost investment.
Other useful features include pop-up sign-up forms for websites, RSS campaign creation from blogs, and an integrated affiliate marketing tracking tool providing payout insights and fraud protection for publishers and brands. The breadth isn’t wide, but the unique tools add value.
ActiveCampaign differentiates itself with a built-in CRM allowing for complete visibility into subscriber and customer journeys from initial contact across sales and ongoing engagement. Contact profiles centralize interactions, timelines, notes, deals in progress, and more.
Other one-of-a-kind features include advanced site tracking with Heat Maps, form building with conditional logic, and Facebook ad management capabilities providing campaign creation, budgeting, and performance data all within ActiveCampaign.
While MailerLite provides a solid free plan option, ActiveCampaign wins when it comes to robust, unique features that add tremendous value through subscriber journey insights, deep website behavioral tracking, and native ad platform integrations you won’t find elsewhere. For those needing more than email marketing, ActiveCampaign delivers on multiple fronts.
3. Ease of Use
MailerLite uses an intuitive drag-and-drop editor that makes creating emails, landing pages, forms, and automations simple even for those without technical skills. The clean interface allows new users to quickly find desired functions thanks to thoughtful menu layouts and prompts guiding initial configuration.
Within minutes you can set up subscriber lists, design professional templates from pre-made options, schedule your first campaign, and track performance with the digestible analytic dashboards. While those wanting maximum customization may find options limited, MailerLite minimizes complexity.
In contrast, ActiveCampaign provides a much steeper learning curve due to the expansive suite packed with hundreds of features spanning email, automation, messaging, CRM, and beyond. While extremely powerful, novices may initially feel overwhelmed navigating the less-intuitive interface.
Expect a time investment upfront in mastering core functions like list building, template editing, and creating basic sequences. And tackling advanced tools like journey building requires significant ramp-up education. But for those willing to climb hurdles, immense marketing power awaits.
With its clean dashboard guiding users into essential functions using an easy drag-and-drop approach requiring no technical expertise, MailerLite wins for overall ease of use and faster mastery, especially for email marketing beginners. ActiveCampaign undisputedly delivers vastly greater depth but demands much more upfront learning and time commitment.
4. Email Deliverability
MailerLite focuses heavily on maximizing email deliverability through advanced verification and sender reputation monitoring. All outgoing emails are authenticated using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to ensure high inbox placement rates across all major ISPs.
The platform offers deliverability tips during campaign creation and lets users preview inbox rendering. Granular browsing, device, and email client analytics allow ongoing optimization. Overall open and click rates typically reach industry standards.
Similarly, ActiveCampaign utilizes email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC for strong deliverability. A dedicated deliverability team works continuously behind the scenes, monitoring ISP feedback and managing the sender’s reputation.
The platform also provides inbox placement tests for further optimization and offers deliverability consulting services. Open and click rates meet or exceed benchmarks. Additional IP addresses can be purchased for more aggressive email-sending strategies.
Both MailerLite and ActiveCampaign focus heavily on maximizing email deliverability through sender reputation monitoring, inbox placement previews/testing, and email authentication protocols. Their core deliverability capabilities result in industry-standard open and click rates. For most use cases, users can feel confident in strong inbox placement and engagement.
5. Customer Support and Community
MailerLite provides email-based customer support with fairly quick response times during business hours. They also offer an online knowledge base with articles, guides, and videos to address common questions around email creation, list management, troubleshooting issues, and more.
For community support, users rely heavily on the active MailerLite Facebook group with over 25,000 members. The forum allows customers to get advice and best practices from peers handling similar email campaigns and challenges.
ActiveCampaign provides 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support so customers can get immediate answers any time day or night. Response times are prompt and the customer service team is very knowledgeable. They also maintain an extensive help desk documentation hub with tutorials, videos, webinars, and more.
In terms of community, the ActiveCampaign Facebook group has close to 50,000 users networking, collaborating sharing ideas, and assisting each other in managing campaigns across email, automation, CRM, and other product features.
With round-the-clock instant access to support reps plus a robust self-help content hub, ActiveCampaign edges out MailerLite for an overall customer support experience. While both platforms have wonderful community forums, the heightened activity within the ActiveCampaign group highlights its role as the strongest ecosystem.
MailerLite connects with over 700+ third-party applications via Zapier for building automated workflows between the email platform and tools like WordPress, Google Analytics, Stripe, Facebook, and more. Users can also embed forms or integrate e-commerce data from outlets like Shopify.
However, the integrations focus exclusively on function and do not offer the deep level of data syncing available in other solutions. However, common needs like list growth, campaign analysis, and order notifications can be achieved without advanced coding skills.
ActiveCampaign truly stands out with its 500+ native integrations with leading applications in CRM, e-commerce, payments, webinar software, chat platforms, and popular SMB tools. Real-time data syncing allows users to capture subscriber interactions across channels for complete journey mapping.
Zapier is also available to connect additional apps, further expanding options for comprehensive tracking, segmentation, and engagement both online and off. Those wanting holistic visibility into subscriber lifecycles will find tremendous value.
While MailerLite covers basic function connections, ActiveCampaign’s unparalleled depth of natively integrated platforms provides complete subscriber insights and harmonized experiences across sales, email, messaging, ads, and more. The breadth and real-time data sync power targeted segmentation and behavior-based automation vital for conversions.
One of MailerLite’s biggest advantages is its free forever plan that allows up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. This covers the needs of most solopreneurs and early-stage startups. Features included in the free plan are full access to email creation tools, a drag-and-drop editor, ready-made templates, automation with triggers, basic analytics, pop-up forms, and integrations.
The only major restriction is the lack of grouping options and access to one-on-one customer support. But for fledgling businesses wanting professional email capabilities without hurting cash flow, it’s an incredible offer.
Paid tiers scale up to 25,000 subscribers priced very competitively from $10 – $50 monthly when billed annually. Again, core features around analytics, automation, etc remain consistent making the free and paid plans equally robust.
ActiveCampaign takes a much more traditional approach requiring payment upfront for access to most features. The Lite plan at $29 monthly allows just 500 subscribers with email and forms. But you need the Plus tier ($49) to unlock automation, and Professional ($149+) for grouping/segmentation.
This means small businesses have to immediately invest real budget if they want beyond basic email blasts. However, custom enterprise pricing is available for massive subscriber lists above 100,000 where costs per subscriber drop dramatically making it more affordable at large scale. But again, smaller users pay a premium comparatively.
Given its rare free forever plan with full professional email marketing capabilities and a few premium features, MailerLite beats ActiveCampaign when it comes to catering to small businesses, startups, and solopreneurs working with very limited budgets. The ability to access premium tools for free makes it a no-brainer for early-stage needs.
8. Reviews and Reputation
MailerLite earns positive reviews from users, experts, and industry analysts thanks to its simple email editor, quality templates, automation features, and generous free plan. Users highlight the intuitive interface making onboarding easy for beginners not needing advanced functionality.
Some negatives cited are occasional deliverability hiccups, lack of advanced analytics, and more limited grouping options. But most agree that MailerLite excels for anyone wanting an affordable starter email marketing platform.
ActiveCampaign garners excellent reviews as a leader in email marketing automation with consistent praise for the wide array of built-in CRM, sales, and marketing tools driving complete customer journeys from first contact across channels to closed deals. Users highlight robust segmentation capabilities and insightful analytics revealing campaign ROI.
Drawbacks mentioned include the steeper learning curve, higher pricing, and an occasionally overwhelmed interface. But for growing businesses wanting extensive functionality beyond basic email, most deem ActiveCampaign as the premier one-stop powerhouse.
Both platforms earn outstanding feedback for aligning with the needs of their respective target users. MailerLite caters better to beginners wanting simplicity, while ActiveCampaign wins on advanced functionality for sophisticated marketing automation. Ultimately both achieve their core goals for successful marketing campaigns very well resulting in a tie.
- What is the monthly email send limit on the free plan?
The free plan allows 12,000 emails per month, which suits the needs of small businesses and early-stage startups.
- Can I remove the MailerLite branding from emails and landing pages?
Yes, paid subscribers can remove MailerLite branding, but free users will continue seeing the subtle branding.
- Is there a way to track subscriber engagement across channels?
Beyond basic email open and click tracking, MailerLite does not track cross-channel subscriber behavior for advanced automation.
- Is training or professional services included?
Yes, ActiveCampaign offers onboarding training along with additional one-on-one expert coaching options for purchase to maximize the use of its robust feature suite.
- How does the CRM and marketing automation sync together?
Contact data, interactions, deal status, and subscriber engagement signals are captured in real-time across email, text, website, and sales channels for complete journey visibility.
- What happens after I exceed the 500 subscriber limit on the $29 Lite plan?
If you exceed the limits before upgrading, existing contacts remain in your account but prevent sending more emails. You simply upgrade and continue where you left off.
Choose MailerLite if…
You’re a startup, bootstrapped operation, or solopreneur needing to build a mailing list and send professional emails on an extremely limited budget. The forever-free offering provides all the basics even small businesses need including automation and templates. The simple interface also allows beginners to access quality features without complicated onboarding.
Choose ActiveCampaign if…
You’re an established, fast-growing business ready to graduate beyond basic email into advanced automation, subscriber journey orchestration, and deep multi-channel integration under one roof. The robust ecosystem centralizes CRM, email, SMS, and ad platforms with hundreds of native integrations to exponentially uplevel sophisticated marketing.
Selecting the right email marketing platform tailored to your budget, skill level, and business lifecycle stage is crucial for maximizing value. We urge you to thoroughly assess your specific needs and compare solution capabilities to find the best fit before investing.
Please ask any outstanding questions in the comments below or reach out, and we’re happy to offer personalized guidance on getting your email marketing off the ground successfully.