Should You Try MailChimp for Your Business or Just Head Straight to AWeber?

MailChimp versus AWeber: It’s like the Coke vs Pepsi of email marketing software. The web is literally flooded with posts that put these two in a virtual face-off. Anyone who spends some time reading these posts and the comments that follow, however, may come out thinking that there’s no contest. AWeber definitely has the clear advantage- in several areas. But, are their situations where MailChimp would be the better option for your business?

Some Points to Keep in Mind…

Before I get to the nitty gritty of these two platforms, I want to clarify some confusions that many small business owners have when they start their search for an email marketing solution:

Your email marketing software is a key ingredient in your email marketing success. Choosing a email marketing platform is a big decision. You have to take into account the company’s feature list and performance level, and match them up to your needs. What’s important to you? A high successful delivery rate? Ease of use? Advanced reporting? The look and feel of your newsletters and email blasts? The cost of services? And don’t think that you can so easily go with one platform and just change later because…

Changing platforms is hard! For example, if you switch from Mailchimp to AWeber then all your subscribers will have to opt in again. This could mean loosing several of them. The transfer process is also made more complicated by the simple fact that different email marketing platforms have different setups. Bottlom line: the bigger your list, the more variables and changes (read: headaches) you are going to have to deal with to move it from one provider to another.

You have to think about your long-term business goals. Realize that your business can (and mostly likely will) change over time. As your business grows, develops, and on occasion, changes course outright, your email marketing needs will grow and change with it. Furthermore, keep in mind that even if cost is an issue now, it may become less of an issue in the future.

Take all reviews with a grain of salt. One last thing that I want to point out over here is that AWeber has an extensive affiliate program (that I, myself am a member of), while MailChimp briefly started one, only to significantly retract it later on. Why is this important? Because, the vast majority of the reviews that you’ll see out there are from people who are affiliated with the product. The bigger the name and the bigger their following, the more money they stand to make when people signup from their site. Now, obviously, if they are using AWeber themselves it does say something, but at the same time they are biased. Just keep this in mind…

The Low-Down on the Real Differences Between MailChimp and AWeber

I am currently using both MailChimp and AWeber (for different projects). One thing that I’ve seen, having used both platforms myself and having read many of the reviews, is that there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. Here are some of the big ones:

AWeber is the more robust platform. In terms of both basic and more advanced features such as, setting up autoresponders, segmenting subscribers into multiple lists, creating custom forms for your email list, performance reporting, spam filter testing, and split testing, both platforms are pretty equal for the vast majority of users. Each one has strengths that the other doesn’t, and each one has its limitations.

MailChimp does not allow affiliate links. A lot of the confusion in this area has to do with the unclear wording of their TOS- something that they have openly admitted themselves. The bottom line is that they do allow “thoughtful” and “useful” affiliate links; they just are not catering to the dedicated affiliate marketing crowd. But, as you can imagine, there are a lot of grey areas with affiliate marketing, and trying to draw the line between what is considered ok and what isn’t is in practice challenging. As a result they’ve received a lot of bad press- especially among top bloggers… who happen to also be top affiliate marketers.

MailChimp is the cheaper option. It’s actually not.  Beyond MailChimp’s free plan, it’s significantly more expensive than AWeber. See the pricing lists below:

MailChimp's Price List
MailChimp’s Price List
Aweber pricing
AWeber’s Price List

So where do the real differences lie?

MailChimp in the Blue Corner

The forever free plan. The reason why many people think MailChimp is the cheaper option is due to the fact that it has a forever free plan, which entitles you to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, and 12,000 emails per month. Almost all of the advanced features are included in this plan, with the exception of its autoresponder service and its spam filter checker (which helps you to know before you send out an email if it’s going to be marked as spam or not.) Aweber, on the other hand, technically doesn’t even offer a free trial option.

The cool factor. It’s very clear that MailChimp has spent a great deal of effort on the usability, design and the funness of its platform. MailChimp just looks and feels cool, and that’s definitely something to note. Though both platforms are designed to accomodate non-technical people, my opinion is that Mailchimp is a bit easier to learn and use. It has better online tutorials as well.

Aweber in the Red Corner

Big time endorsements. AWeber has the overwhelming support of many top bloggers and online business owners. This is an obvious plus. If they are all happily using it, then it can’t be bad.

Optin forms. Once you get in the subscriber list game, the ability to create multiple optin forms that look good and can convert your visitors to subscribers is extremely important. Here’s where AWeber and MailChimp diverge. AWeber allows you to both create and embed your form anywhere on your site using a built in form creator and editor. Their templates aren’t the greatest, but some of them are usable. MailChimp, on the other hand, does not allow you to embed your custom signup form on your own website. Instead, to see the form, you have to get your visitors to click a link that takes them to MailChimp’s own site.

If you know html and css, Mailchimp does allow you to embed a generic form on your website that you can then customize. But, if you have to put more than one form on a page, I’ve personally found that it doesn’t work properly. You can get around all this by using a slick app called OptinSkin that does all the work for you (more on this below).

Delivery success rate. AWeber is said to have the best delivery success rate. My personal experience has been that MailChimp has issues with Gmail (some emails are sent to spam, are delayed by several hours, or are not received at all) while Aweber seems to struggle at times with Yahoo accounts.

Better support options. Only AWeber has live chat support as well as a toll-free number you can call to speak with a customer service representative. MailChimp only provides email-based support with an average turn around time of 24 hours. This is a very big downside to using MailChimp, especially if you are a newbie or you are in need of urgent support.

The Take Away: Each Platform is Targeting Different Users… Where Do You Fit?

Email Marketing $19/Month!So, which email marketing platform is right for your business? The truth is that each platform is better suited to different businesses and models. Obviously, if you are into affiliate marketing as a primary income stream or if you know that you’ll often be including affiliate promotions in your mailings, then stay away from MailChimp You may also want to avoid getting started there if you know that you are really going to need that live customer support.

On the other hand, if you are not expecting to grow your subscriber list past 2000 subscribers, and you’re looking to keep your overhead as low as possible, then MailChimp is definitely the way to go. (One tip to keep your subscriber numbers low is to go through your list every 6 months to a year and delete those people who never open your emails.)

I do want to say, however, that you should avoid just signing up for MailChimp’s free program without first considering what your needs are and where you are heading. As I said above, it’s a real pain in the you know where to switch later on.

Whatever the case, if you’ve chosen to work with MailChimp or if you’re using another productivity program that only plays nice with MailChimp (in other words, you’re stuck with it), then I strongly suggest getting that WordPress app called OptinSkin I mentioned above. It will allow you to put multiple, professional-looking optin forms throughout your site, and it offers several customizable templates and reporting features that are by far more superior to anything you’ll get with these email marketing programs. Even if you’re an AWeber customer, you should still get this plugin, and it’s perfect for beginners. Since I started using this plugin, my subscriber opt-in rate has increased 50%.

Another notable plugin that’s been around for a while is OptinCrusher. This a free plugin creates a slick slide-up optin form that displays at the bottom of your site.