One of the most common questions I get from readers is something along the lines of, “what's the difference between Aweber and Mailchimp, and which one should I choose?”
Before you can even begin growing an email list, you will need to open and setup an account with one of the many email list providers that are out there.
The goal of this article is to help narrow the choices for you, and help you come to a decision. Despite the fact that there are probably a hundred mailing list providers out there, the three most overwhelmingly popular ones you'll see for online businesses are Aweber, Mailchimp, and Infusionsoft.
I'm not going to even go into Infusionsoft in this article because it starts at $199 per month and goes way beyond just a mailing list in what it provides.
What to Look For in a Technology Platform
So, let's get to it. Whenever I evaluate a technology platform, I'm looking for three things:
- Does it meet your needs?
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it worth the cost?
*Disclosure: This issue of Aweber and Mailchimp has passionate users on both sides. Anywhere you look you will find people who are satisfied (and not satisfied) with both platforms.
A Note on the Weight of Your Decision
Mailing list providers are much like other technology platforms: it's extremely easy to get started on one, but not so easy to switch later once you're established. And the larger your email list gets (and hopefully it will get large), the more risk there is in switching providers and potentially losing some of those subscribers.
What are your needs?
Don't forget, your needs will change as your business grows. When you first launch and have 6 subscribers, 4 of which are your grandparents, you're probably looking for something that is low cost (or free).
As your business progresses through the business lifecycle, your needs will grow and change. Cost will become less of an issue, but you're probably going to value things like setting up autoresponders, segmenting subscribers into multiple lists, and creating custom forms for your email list.
The basic functions of an email list are to give your readers/customers/fans a safe way to subscribe and unsubscribe from mailings that you send them, in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Looking at Aweber and Mailchimp through this lens, they are both equal. Sure, their user interfaces look a bit different from one another, but they both can do these things.
The next thing that you're looking for in a provider is to give you with analytics (data) about your emails. How many people read or opened them? Did anyone mark you as spam? How many people are unsubscribing? Both Aweber and Mailchimp provides this type of data. So again, they are equal.
If you go to your three favorite blogs, I'll bet I can tell you the one thing they all have in common: They all have a form in the top-right corner where they want you to subscribe to their email list, or otherwise put in your email address to receive some free thing in return.
This is no accident- This is one of the best and most prominent places to put this type of form. So, your ability to create a form that looks good and attracts the attention (and signups) of your visitors is therefore important.
Let me say that again: you will need to put one or more of these such forms on your website, and you want them to look nice.
Here's where Aweber and Mailchimp get very different. While both providers allow you to create these forms, Mailchimp does not allow you to embed your custom on your own website. In English, this means that you can't just place the form you created in Mailchimp on your website*. You have to get people to click a link to go to Mailchimp's website to see the form.
*Mailchimp does allow you to embed a generic form on your website. It looks like this, and if you know html and have graphic design capabilities, you can customize it to look however you want.
On the other hand, Aweber allows you to both create and embed your form using a built in form creator/editor. A lot of their designs are really cheesy and lame, but there are a handful that are good. Most importantly, you can customize them using a visual editor and then embed the form you've just created onto your website.
The 3rd Party Option
If you want an even more powerful way to create and embed forms, the WordPress plugin OptinSkin is an amazing solution. It integrates with both Mailchimp and Aweber, so if you're hell-bent (or stuck with) Mailchimp and you need to give your forms a face lift, OptinSkin pretty much rocks. It does come at a cost ($47).
There are lots of other 3rd party plugins and providers that can integrate with MailChimp and Aweber:
–Pippity creates tasteful popups that can be set up to only display once per visitor forever (or until they clear their cache). I don't use it on this website, but have been quite happy with it on my tiny house blog.
–OptinCrusher is a free plugin that creates a slide-up opt in form that displays at the bottom of your site. It's free, and I have not tried it (yet).
I'm sure there are more such plugins! Is there one that you like and use? Leave a comment and tell us which one you like!
An auto responder does what it sounds like: Automatically sends a prescribed email or emails over a defined period of time. Have you ever signed up for an email course where you get the next edition of your course a few days after the previous one? This is most likely set up through an auto responder.
Both Aweber and Mailchimp has this feature.
Is it Easy to Use?
As with any new technology, there is a learning curve when it comes to email list providers. I would say that most of the knowledge is universal to email lists, and the provider makes less of a difference.
Sure, both Mailchimp and Aweber have their quirks, but if you take some time to learn about the ins and outs of running a successful email list, you'll be able to make your way through either platform.
Let me put it this way:
Only Aweber has live chat support AND a toll-free number you can call to speak with a person.
So, if you're the kind of person who likes to be able to call someone for help, Aweber is a great choice.
The Message Editor
The Message Editor is the place where you go to write and customize your emails, decide who to send them to and when, and ultimately schedule your emails. If I had written this article last year, I might have complained about Aweber's lackluster message editor. Mailchimp used to have a huge leg up in this department.
However, Aweber recently did a complete overhaul on their message editor, and I'm happy to report that it works really really well. So, I'd say the two platforms are a tie in this department.
Usability and Design
Just looking at the Mailchimp website, it's clear that the company focuses more on the usability and design of their product. Mailchimp just looks cool, and there's something to be said about that. I do think Mailchimp is a bit easier to learn and use (in the beginning), but both platforms are designed to be used by non-technical people.
Is it Worth the Cost?
Here's where we get down to brass tax. Dollars and cents.
Has a forever free plan, which entitles you to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, and 12,000 emails per month.
2000 subscribers sounds like a whole lot. And it certainly won't happen over night. But if you are really dedicated to this whole online business thing, you better hope your list will eventually be bigger than 2,000 subscribers. At that point, you'll need to upgrade to a $30 per month plan.
Has a $1 one-month trial. But let's be honest: If you build your email list for one month on Aweber, you're not going to just quit and ditch whatever subscribers you got that month and switch to something else. After your first $1 month, you're looking at $19 per month after that up to 500 subscribers, and a total of $29 per month for up to 2500 subscribers.
Considering that your email list is the core of your business, $19 per month is not much to pay to maintain a list of customers who you are free to contact at any time.
My Official Recommendation
If you can afford to carry the $19.99 per month for Aweber, do it. Soon your list will be paying for itself.
If you absolutely must go with something free, then Mailchimp will do what you need it to do. If you do decide on Mailchimp, you're going to have to do something about the email opt-in forms, because the default form from Mailchimp is just not going to cut it in the looks department for your site.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you check out my free 4-module course on how to set up a profitable and responsive email list. It's created as a platform-neutral training and has helped close to 700 businesses set up email lists of their own. Get free, instant access here.
Leave a Comment
Whichever platform you go with, it's important that you choose one and stick with it. Building your list is SO important.
I think now is a good time to tell you that I use Aweber, and am quite happy with it. Has that biased my review? Quite possibly. But I also work with a lot of clients and help them set up their own email lists, so I've worked with both platforms.
Any Mailchimp lovers out there?
I want to hear from you! Tell me I'm wrong! Tell me why it's your platform of choice!