Let’s get something straight:

There is no “best” email marketing service, despite what page one of your Google search results might have you believe. The very idea is ludicrous!

What’s best for me isn’t what’s best for you. How can it be? Your business is completely different and unique!

What’s best for many bloggers and influencers seems to be pimping a particular product primarily for the hefty affiliate commission they stand to earn by referring users to it.

Hey, don’t get me wrong; I like affiliate commissions, too. I’ve never earned very much from affiliate marketing but hell, a little coffee money don’t hurt nobody.

BUT I refuse to tell you, for instance, to use ConvertKit just because they have a baller affiliate program (and they do), when I know darn well that ActiveCampaign (for instance) would be a superior solution for your use case, despite their relatively uninspiring affiliate program.

Why is picking an email marketing app so hard?

It’s impossible to know ahead of time how well a given app will fit you and your business.

So the intelligent approach is to take nothing for granted (including the information in this post), trial them, and get a feel for these apps for yourself.

Now, you already know how important it is to build a list, and get your email marketing and automation implemented to a high level. That means you’ll be spending a lot of time working inside your email marketing app. So it’s in your best interest to pick an app that not only does what you need it to do, but one that you also enjoy working with on a daily basis.

At the same time, I know it’s not easy to navigate the jungle of different features, pricing charts, mixed opinions, and sundry considerations. It’s a time consuming and exasperating task. And perhaps the most frustrating part of choosing your email marketing app is what I call the knowledge problem. It means that you don’t know what you don’t know. This is why reading reviews is so helpful. They clue you in to things that you couldn’t possibly know about without having used the app yourself.

But going on reviews alone can do your head in because of reviewer bias (I’m not exempt from this), incomplete information, and the fundamental impossibility of predicting “fit” between your business / personal style and any particular tool.

10 objective criteria to help you pick your email marketing app

To help take this onerous (but important) work out of the realm of voodoo decision-making, here are some useful, objective criteria to consider when picking your email marketing platform (or, when switching from one email app to another):

Functionality – does this tool do everything you need it to do and do it to an acceptable – for your needs – standard? e.g. Automations, tagging, CRM, reporting, etc.

Scalability – will it continue to be able to do the things your business requires as you grow, or will it present a bottleneck at scale? e.g. An app like MailChimp looks attractive when you’re starting out but gets restrictive (and kinda expensive) when you grow your list and start wanting to do some cool ninja shit that competing apps can do but MailChimp cannot.

Price – How much will you pay for your email marketing with 0 subscribers, 100, 1000, 10,000, or more? When your list grows to a respectable size, some of these tools start to get insanely expensive while others become a surprisingly good value.

Support – Does support take 3 days to reply, or are they on top of their game? Does support notify but fail to rectify? Is the knowledgebase easily navigable and the documentation thorough? Are these support and educational resources indexed by Google so you can search for things and find them in one easy step?

Community – Is there a large community of users, ambassadors, contractors, developers, etc., that form an ecosystem you can appeal to for help, learn from, model, etc.? This is more important than you might suspect, as I explain in this post.

Extensibility – Are you able to “extend” the tool via native and 3rd party integrations with other important apps in your stack? Does the tool have a strong API that invites developers to craft solutions to common problems (e.g. membership plugins that work directly with the API and tags system)?

Reliability – Does the service go down often enough that it creates a problem? Is the API reliable? Do automations always run until the end or do they get stuck? Are changes reflected instantly, or is there a delay?

Development – Is the team constantly rolling out new updates, features, and resources that make using their tool easier, more powerful, etc.? Do they listen to their customers, take feature requests and feedback under serious consideration, and actually add them into the product?

Company – Is the company managed well? Do they have a proven track record? Are they funded? Who are the principals involved?

User Experience – Is the product easy to get started with? Is it intuitive and user friendly? Do you find it easy to navigate or do you have to click around forever to find something that should be easy to access? (Granted, there’s a subjective element to this criterion).

Let’s talk about your feeeelings

While objective criteria collectively form a necessary condition to pick an app (because you can’t work productively with a castrated piece of software, no matter how pretty it looks), they are not a sufficient condition for picking one.

The other major factor is how the app looks & feels to YOU. This is the subjective realm.

In my experience, it’s a big mistake to ignore this aspect, even if you consider yourself a hard-nosed pragmatist in matters of this kind.

Allow me to quote the late, great curmudgeon, Steve Jobs: “Design matters.”

In fact, you could argue that design is no more separate from function than the body is separate from the mind. They are a complex; an integrated system. And a sleek, intuitive design makes the experience of working with an app that much more pleasurable. You’ll notice this especially by way of contrast after years of working with a crap app and switching to something purtier [sic]. 🙂

Yeats wrote: “beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”.

Old Yeats was meditating on a Grecian urn when he wrote these inspired lines. He’d crap his pants (and probably write an ode about it) if he saw the kinds of high-tech shenanigans we’re up to here in 2017. In any case, the man had a point.

To build something of superlative functionality isn’t easy. To build something beautiful is likewise a major undertaking. And to build something highly functional AND at the same time beautiful, is hardest of all.

If you needn’t choose one or the other; if you can have both, you may as well choose both!

Why I like Asian chicks

I don’t know, ok? I just do.

Ever since I was a chubby little boy racing my bike around the cul-de-sacs of Northeast Philly, I thought Asian girls were pretty. This was before puberty hit and started causing all sorts of mischief. (Imagine my delight to find myself living in Southeast Asia some 20 years thence!)

Do I have any particularly defensible reasons for liking Asian chicks more than other kinds of chicks? Not really. But I do, and I’ll backwards-rationalize my preference till I’m blue in the face.

Likewise, in speaking with my customers and friends, I’ve found that there’s a strong emotional component when it comes to their loyalty to a particular app.

Some people absolutely hate InfusionSoft; some people think it’s digital Jesus. Some folks are Drip t-shirt wearing hipster fanboys / fanchicks; others scoff at the entire email marketing landscape and tell anyone who’ll listen about how superior ActiveCampaign is to anything ever made.

People often identify with apps for completely emotional reasons that have little to do with what the app does or doesn’t actually do. Then they go back and rationalize their decisions. Whether or not their rationalizations make any sense is beside the point.

For example, Drip feels like a scrappy startup even though it’s been acquired by LeadPages and is long past the point of being able to claim legitimate underdog status.

InfusionSoft has a decidedly “masculine” look & feel. Despite its relative clunkiness, it appeals to the pragmatist. MailChimp appeals to folks who are just getting started and looking for something decidedly non-technical.

What does this tell you?

It tells you that a high standard of functionality is simply the minimum necessary requirement (“is she a beautiful girl?”) The rest is personal preference (“I like THIS particular beautiful girl but not THAT particular beautiful girl.”) But in either case, she ought to be beautiful. Because beauty is truth and truth beauty.

So, with this longwinded, affected, Vietnamese coffee-fueled preamble out of the way, allow me to make some practical suggestions about what I consider to be the best email marketing apps in 2017, and into the foreseeable future, and WHY. 🙂

Why I Switched to the Drip Email Marketing & Automation Platform

I started my email marketing journey years ago with Aweber. I then tried InfusionSoft (briefly), and about a year ago I finally settled on Drip.

Am I happy with Drip? Very. Is it perfect? Of course not. And neither is ActiveCampaign. And neither is InfusionSoft. And neither is MailChimp. And neither is any tool.

As I said, there ain’t no “perfect” or “best” in this game.

Don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. In fact, thinking of it in those terms is counterproductive. A more useful approach is to think of all apps – not just email marketing tools – in terms of “fit”.

e.g. How well does this app fit your specific business needs? How well does this app jive with your team and their style? How does it feel when you use it? Do you like it, or are you using it because you think it’s the expected next step at this point in your biz? (which is how I wound up with InfusionSoft only to find that it was a poor fit for me).

Why Drip is a good fit for me (and may NOT be a good fit for you)

First off, Drip offers a free plan which makes the barrier to getting started low.

Drip

I wanted to take my time testing out Drip before committing to a switch from Aweber. Paid trials, like with ActiveCampaign, feel like a race against the clock. You feel pressured to put the app through its paces before your trial expires. But you’re busy, and because of the knowledge problem I discussed above, it’s not always so simple to properly evaluate a complex piece of software within 30 days.

With Drip there’s no rush because you get up to 100 contacts free, for life.

I imagine this was a great business move on Drip’s part. It’s something that I appreciated as a then-prospective customer, and I know I’m not the only one.

If you want to try Drip without investing a single cent, you can sign up for a free plan by clicking HERE.

The free tier allows you to collect up to 100 subscribers, which is a big enough list to liquidate the cost of a paid Drip account if you have any kind of paid offer.

Drip is in good company

Literally.

Drip was acquired by LeadPages in 2016.

From day one of the acquisition they’ve been heavily improving upon the platform.

They’ve rolled out the free tier (which wasn’t available before), doubled the affiliate commission from 15% to 30%, added additional features and functionality at a breakneck pace, have a bunch of cool stuff on the roadmap, and continue to provide the excellent support they’re known for.

One thing that ActiveCampaign has that Drip doesn’t have yet is the ability to save, export, and import automation sequences.

This means you cannot easily share your campaigns with others or copy campaigns into client and friend accounts.

This is irksome but not a deal breaker because it’s not a feature most of us would use very often anyway.

However, the existence of this functionality in ActiveCampaign has spawned an entire marketplace where people create and sell prefab automations to users.

Most of the automations my clients and I create are somewhat customized.

But I admit it would be helpful to work from a proven template rather than building everything from scratch each time.

My good friend and business partner in my hosting company, Lesly is another avid Drip user.

He emailed Drip about this import / export functionality and Drip support told him it’s on their roadmap.

When it will become available is anybody’s guess.

*UPDATE: Drip now gives you the ability to export workflows and automations too! BOOM.

Kick ass affiliate program

One of the reasons I’m so bullish on Drip is because they have a great affiliate program.

This may not seem particularly important to you as a potential user, but let me briefly explain why this could be a great selling point for you.

When you refer somebody to Drip using your affiliate link you receive 30% recurring commissions in perpetuity.

So if one of the individuals whom you referred signs up for the basic plan at $49/month you’ll get $15/month for as long as they’re a member.

If they graduate to the pro plan at $99/month, you’ll get $30/month.

If you can refer just 10 people to the pro plan you’ll have a created a $300 per month passive income stream that is actually likely to grow assuming these people continue growing their lists. If you love Drip as I do, recommending it to people becomes easy because your recommendation is genuine.

Granted, that’s not a huge amount of money depending on where you live and how ballertastically you spend your days.

In Thailand that pays my monthly rent.

Whereas in San Francisco it would barely cover your medical doobie, to say nothing of the insane rental prices.

Let’s take it a step further.

What if over the course of the next year you tell your friends and clients about Drip and you wind up referring 100 pro users?

That translates into a $3k/month income stream that’s completely hands-free and is likely to endure over time because email marketing tools have retention rates that stretch for years.

How would an extra $3000 per month change your life…?

It’s no wonder that my good friend and podcast co-host Richard Patey reckons that promoting software as an affiliate is the best business model to generate recurring income quickly (without subjecting yourself to the tribulations of running a services business, which is arguably the easiest and fastest business model to get started with online but also very labor-intensive).

Furthermore, Drip is incredibly easy to promote for the simple reason that it’s a truly fantastic product.

If you use Drip, you probably love it, which makes your recommendations to others authentic.

They, in turn, sign up and fall in love with it too which makes you look good for recommending it and adds tangible value to their business.

In the words of JV Crum III, it’s a triple win.

If Drip’s affiliate commission fell below the current rate it wouldn’t make sense to promote them.

I think the LeadPages team knew that which is probably why they increased it from 15% to 30% once they’d acquired Drip.

ActiveCampaign only offers 10% which provides very little incentive to get invested with their company to the same degree.

While AC have a fantastic product the same can’t be said about their affiliate program.

Finally, the fact that Drip pays generous commissions demonstrates that they care about their users, their company, their brand, and the people who risk their reputations to champion a product they believe in.

In short, they care and it shows.

Free and powerful understand trainings

Drip training

Make no mistake, Drip does have a bit of a learning curve.

But what do you expect? It’s an app that does a lot of “stuff”!

Thankfully, the Drip knowledge base and the free training videos and webinars they make available do a great job of succinctly explaining not only HOW to use Drip but WHY you do a given thing.

My business partner Lesly likes to joke that when clients ask for vague things like “make it look good”, he just employs the “Amazing Button” in Photoshop, which automatically makes a graphic look awesome to the client’s eyes.

Well, it doesn’t exist in Photoshop and it doesn’t exist in Drip. You’ve got to do a little cogitation, I’m afraid.

Drip after a year: the results

Last year I went “all in” with Drip and switched all of my email marketing from Aweber over to Drip.

I’m glad I did because I’ve been consistently blown away by this app.

But I know I’m only scratching the surface of what Drip is capable of in terms of understanding my audience better, communicating with them more intimately, and ultimately helping them solve their problems more effectively.

Online marketer Brennan Dunn is a sterling example of someone who has taken advantage of the powerful features Drip has to offer.

By using fairly simple “if, then” personalization in his emails and on his sales pages, Brennan increased sales of his flagship info product by ~2x!

Yet Brennan claims that even HE is still scratching the surface. In recent months Brennan has been slowly launching a beta version of his software that makes it easy to do this kind of personalization without coding. It’s called RightMessage and it looks killer.

(Brennan also sells a video course called Mastering Drip that teaches you how to do all the sneaky ninja shit he used to double his info product sales.)

Is Drip the right email marketing and automation tool for your membership site?

I wrote a comprehensive blog post on the best email marketing tool for membership sites here.

And since then it’s come to my attention that another player in the membership site plugins space, WPFusion, has a solid Drip integration built into their membership plugin that uses “deep integration” based on tags. (However, I recently heard from a customer who switched from WPFusion to ActiveMember360 that WPFusion had constant syncing issues and delays).

At least in theory, this puts Drip on roughly the same level as ActiveCampaign when it comes to ability to deeply integrate with a membership plugin using the API and tags (rather than permissions on the WordPress side).

However, I think the simplest solution is often the best solution.

It’s already well-established that ActiveMember360 works incredibly well, and integrates with ActiveCampaign which you can use at $9/month. So rather than learning the hard way that a given plugin sucks, it’s better to go with something proven. This is exactly why, despite being a Drip user, I run my training portal with ActiveMember360 and ActiveCampaign.

There’s no reason you should feel obligated to use your current toolset when you can easily string together different tools and apps using services like Zapier, Automate.io, and the like. The world is your oyster; remember it!

Automation rules!

The heart of email marketing in 2017 and beyond is automation, personalization and segmentation.

You need to be able to see what your website visitors, email subscribers, and members are all doing. And you then need to be able to trigger automations based on these events and serve highly personalized, relevant messages to them.

For example, when a visitor subscribes to your email list you may use an automation to “segment” them by finding out what they’re interested in and sending them content relevant only to that interest.

You might then give a “lead score” to this subscriber based on his engagement with your content, and once the lead score hits a certain number, trigger an email campaign that pitches them on a paid product.

Let’s say this product is your membership. Your new member engages with your membership site for a few months and then their engagement drops. Based on this behavior you can trigger an email campaign that re-engages the member.

I use automation to do all sorts of neat stuff in my business that I used to do manually. I’d also do it inconsistently because I’d forget to do it. With automation that’s not a problem. Let’s look at some examples:

Customer onboarding

We use Drip and Zapier automations to create onboarding sequences for our MemberFix and SpeedKills.io customers.

These sequences send out requests for information that we need to get started, educate our new customer about how to best use our products, and show them that we care about their success.

Retention

I noticed in our MemberFix business that sometimes customers would submit a lot of tasks / fixes, and other times they’d go for a long while without submitting anything.

The problem there is that the customer is paying us and not making use of our services. I don’t want anybody’s money if I’m not earning it. And moreover, I want the value that a customer receives to be not less than an order of magnitude greater than what they’ve paid me (aka The Dorfman Guarantee).

The way I began solving this problem was manually reaching out to solicit our hibernating customers for tasks, suggesting a quick call to understand where they’re at in their business, and recommend some tasks and fixes for them so we can keep them moving forward, and keep them as happy paying customers.

The need for some automation around this situation hit me pretty hard the last time we had massive churn from MemberFix. We lost about half of our customers in the span of 30 days basically all because they weren’t using our product enough to justify the cost.

So I created an automation that sends out an email to a customer if he hasn’t submitted any MemberFixes in 5 days. It asks them what’s up, how I can help, and suggests a call to get clear and come up with some high-leverage tasks for us to do for them.

This approach works extremely well in preventing churn. And now that it’s automated I don’t have to worry that I’ll forget to follow up with a customer who is worth thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to our business, just because of negligence or forgetfulness.

If you’re busy, you need to use automation. There’s no other way to intelligently clone yourself. At least for the time being…

Welcome my email subscribers

I use Zapier to send a welcome email to all new subscribers of my email list.

The welcome email comes from my Gmail account and it’s written in such a casual way that it looks like I personally wrote it, as opposed to a generic welcome email coming from Drip.

My subscribers love this because they reply and share with me the frustrations they’re experiencing in their business. It gets them engaged, and helps me help them. If you want to implement this strategy (I recommend it), here’s how you can do it:

(Or you can sign up for MemberFix and I’ll do it for you!)

Personalization

One of the things that makes Drip so unique and powerful is the ability you have to personalize the bejesus out of your content and offers, and not just in your emails but on your actual website!

This has a direct effect on your engagement and sales metrics.

And that’s not really surprising because everybody wants to feel that you’re speaking directly to them and not sending out a spammy blanket message that reads “hey friend!”

“Friend”… yea right.

UNSUBSCRIBE!

By identifying the demographic and psychographic “buckets” that members of your audience fall into you can tailor your message directly to their particular pain points.

For instance, if you’re selling a course on freelancing you might find that your audience is roughly divided into Graphic Designers, Developers, Web Designers, and VAs.

How cool would it be if you email an offer to your subscribers that, depending on which of these groups they belonged to, contained the exact copy relevant to their specific frustrations in their specific industry?

And what if the copy on your sales page dynamically changed depending on which of these groups the visitor to that page belongs to?

Well…that’s exactly what Drip lets you do.

It takes a bit of doing but this kind of ninja shit(™) can be a huge competitive advantage *precisely because* the effort required will deter your lazier competitors from implementing it.

When Snurpus – a web developer – arrives at your freelancing course sales page, he’s excited to learn that your course addresses common issues for freelance developers like project roadmaps, expectation management, scope creep, pricing, milestones, and more.

When Snurpus’ good friend Ponsheekwa – a fabulous graphic designer – visits this very same sales page, she’s elated to discover that the freelancing course will solve HER biggest frustrations; things like endless revision requests, customer expectations vs her professional opinion, branding, communicating effectively with customers, pricing, timelines, etc.

Both Ponsheekwa and Snurpus visited the same exact sales page.

But because Snurpus had the tag “developer” in his Drip contact record, and Ponsheekwa had the tag “graphic designer” in her contact record, they were each served unique sales copy that applied to their particular situations.

This is the future of online marketing, and it’s already here. In fact, Brennan Dunn’s new app RightMessage.io makes this kind of intensive personalization and segmentation a drag-and-drop affair.

I have to say I’m very stoked about RightMessage. And you should be too, especially if you’ve got significant traffic numbers and if you’re doing paid advertisement. The potential to electrify your business with existing traffic by using this personalized and segmented approach is astounding.

Drip Versus The World

It would take forever to provide a play by play breakdown of how Drip stacks up to all of the other popular apps in the marketplace. However, a high-level overview might be useful. So let’s do it.

Drip vs MailChimp

MailChimp have done a fairly good job of innovating.

They’ve continued to introduce new features into their platform, including some basic automation rules.

However, MailChimp lacks several crucial features that immediately disqualify it as a legitimate alternative to Drip.

Namely, there’s no:

  • Visual workflow builder
  • Advanced automation rules (only more simple stuff)
  • Tagging
  • Automatic retry of unopened emails
  • Integration with RightMessage.io

Frankly, for the price you pay for MailChimp once you get past a certain number of contacts, it just doesn’t make much sense to use them. They’re too expensive for what you actually get.

Drip vs Aweber

AWeber is livin’ in the past, man…

Email marketing in Aweber revolves around lists.

There is no tagging, no rules, no automations, no workflows. It’s the same basic, one-to-many email marketing platform that it was back in 2012.

If your goal is to collect emails and plonk them onto a list, Aweber will do the trick. But if you plan to engage with your subscribers and actually try to sell them something, Aweber – it must be said – is a rather primitive solution.

Of course, there are plenty of people who still use Aweber and who sell a ton of stuff.

But simply put: it isn’t optimal.

Drip vs InfusionSoft

There’s a special place in hell in my heart for InfusionSoft.

What kinds of adjectives come to mind when we talk about InfusionSoft…? Expensive, clunky, cumbersome, unintuitive, glitchy, bureaucratic, bloated.

Ok – to be fair, InfusionSoft isn’t solely an email marketing tool; it’s an entire CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.

It CAN do a lot of cool stuff. And once you get past a certain number of subscribers, InfusionSoft actually becomes one of the best values in town. My good friend Josh Denning runs a digital agency called AuthorityFactory and had some very positive things to say about InfusionSoft:

But even the customers I work with whose businesses are advanced enough to make use of its breadth of features tend to find it accursedly complex and unwieldy.

In my experience, InfusionSoft is most suitable for businesses who have a dedicated sales team and/or use a mix of online and offline marketing.

Setting up automations in the InfusionSoft Campaign Builder (their clunky-ass visual editor) is a royal pain in the gluteus. (Mark every element as “ready”…really?)

InfusionSoft has spawned an entire INDUSTRY of InfusionSoft consultants who charge insane hourly rates to accomplish what should be fairly simple things for you to do in your InfusionSoft app.

If that doesn’t speak to its confounding level of complexity, I don’t know what does!

Many business owners are even migrating OFF of InfusionSoft despite its powerful feature set.

In fact, it’s becoming increasingly popular to “unbundle” from one big tool that tries to do everything well (and winds up doing some things well and many others poorly) and using a collection of separate, dedicated tools that do each respective thing extremely well (Drip for email; ThriveCart for a shopping cart, ActiveMember360 for membership sites, Divi for funnel pages, etc.)

I, myself, was an InfusionSoft customer for several months. I signed up after attending a Frank Kern seminar in San Diego because Frank and his team seemed so in love with it and highly recommended I sign up.

But even though my account rep waived the setup fee, the setup process was too laborious, the learning curve too substantial, and the feature set too broad for where I was in my business at the time.

It just didn’t make sense for me to spend hundreds of dollars per month on InfusionSoft when I could accomplish a lot of the same functionality for a fraction of the cost and with fewer headaches.

I felt vindicated in my decision to cancel my account when I was informed that I’d have to *request* a cancellation. I had to speak with my account representative and explain why I wanted to cancel. I doubt InfusionSoft actually prohibits anybody from cancelling; it’s just a way to save the sale.

But I feel it’s in poor taste.

They frame the dynamic as of them granting you permission IF you’ve given them a reason they deem sufficient.

My position on this is simple: If I don’t want to use your overblown, piece-of-tin software, and you try to employ fear or coercion to prevent me from leaving, I’ll simply take it up with my bank, will never patronize your company again; and to top it off, I’ll write about it for all the world to see the manner in which you do business.

“Kindness. The only possible method when dealing with a living creature. You’ll get nowhere with an animal if you use terror, no matter what its level of development may be. That I have maintained, do maintain and always will maintain. People who think you can use terror are quite wrong. No, no, terror is useless, whatever its colour – white, red or even brown! Terror completely paralyses the nervous system.”

― Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog

Drip vs GetResponse

GetResponse is a fairly advanced email marketing platform.

They were one of the first autoresponders to give you the option of disabling confirmed opt-in (aka double optin).

This was especially important back before Aweber let you disable confirmed optin.

Lack of this feature meant that a lot of your paying customers (buyers) wound up never confirming their email addresses and you lost the ability to market to your most highly qualified and most valuable prospects.

These days GetResponse is less impressive because of the advent of so many competitive alternatives (like Drip).

Drip vs ActiveCampaign

In my opinion ActiveCampaign is the best alternative to Drip.

In fact, it’s superior to Drip in certain areas.

Let’s take a look.

Built-in CRM

Unlike Drip, ActiveCampaign has a built-in CRM (Customer Relationships Management system).

The CRM is fairly standard.

It includes a pipeline view for your deals, lead scoring, progressive profiling of your prospects’ demographic data, activity tracking, and of course, integration with the email marketing module in ActiveCampaign.

I can’t speak to how good the CRM is or isn’t because I haven’t used it extensively enough to compare it to other platforms like PipeDrive, FreshSales, Streak (a free Gmail-based CRM), or any of the zillion other CRMs on the market.

The chief approach in my businesses has always been to drive customer acquisition through epic content and glowing referrals.

I just never cared much for sales, especially outbound sales, because my strength lay in inbound activities like writing and marketing. I also hate trying to convince somebody that they need what I’ve got.

I prefer to educate them through content, add value, provide proof of our undeniable awesomeness through testimonials, and let folks make the decision of their own volition.

Just like in the world of romantic relations, the leverage and positioning you have when prospects come to YOU is markedly different from the situation where you seek them out, chase them down, and constantly pester them until they finally break and become a customer.

But let me be clear, I’m not by any means contemptuous of outbound methods.

I myself used Trello as a slapdash CRM to manage the pipeline for my services businesses back when I was running cold email campaigns and making sales calls. I’ve also used InfusionSoft’s CRM, PipeDrive, and a few others (I liked Trello best).

For all of the effort that I put into outbound marketing I never got a single customer as a result. So I decided to hang it up and play to my strengths.

In stark contrast to my marketing-oriented approach, my good friend Josh Denning built his digital agency AuthorityFactory almost entirely through a combination of strong prospecting and outbound sales, managed via InfusionSoft.

So there’s no “right” way to acquires customers.

Given these facts, I feel ActiveCampaign’s CRM functionality is a selling point primarily for businesses who take outbound marketing seriously.

I’ve heard grumblings on the interwebs directed at ActiveCampaign’s CRM. I honestly don’t see how it’s that much different from other CRMs. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it somehow falls short because platforms that try to do too many things well inevitably end up doing some of the poorly.

One thing that ActiveCampaign has that Drip doesn’t have yet is the ability to save, export, and import automation sequences. This means you cannot easily share your campaigns with others or copy campaigns into client and friend accounts. This is irksome but not a deal breaker because it’s not a feature most of us would use very often anyway.

However, the existence of this functionality in ActiveCampaign has spawned an entire marketplace where people create and sell prefab automations to users. Most of the automations my clients and I create are somewhat customized. But I admit it would be helpful to work from a proven template rather than building everything from scratch each time.

My good friend and business partner in my hosting company, Lesly is another avid Drip user. He emailed Drip about this import / export functionality and Drip support told him it’s on their roadmap.

EDIT: Import / export of automations is now available in Drip.

Drip vs Godzilla

Drip isn’t for everybody. And no app will have everything you want and nothing you don’t. At some point you’ve just got to stop the pussyfooting and make a decision!

The best email marketing tool is the one that does what you need, is easy to work with, and one that you actually make full use of!