MailChimp is beautiful, but ConvertKit is a workhorse.

This year I’m relaunching my personal blog, Almost Fearless, as a multi-author site with a print and digital quarterly magazine. It’s a massive undertaking but it has also afforded me the opportunity to start over with all my systems and to look at things with a fresh eye.

I’ve used MailChimp for years and I have always loved their drag and drop interface for designing emails. However, I’ve outgrown their functionalty and it’s become cumbersome to do the things I want to do: from offering opt-in freebies, to scheduling automated email sequences, to controlling email flow across lists.

If you’re not sure which one to choose, a simple test is this: do you plan on selling anything on your blog? Will you ever be doing email opt-in freebies like a pdf or ebook? Then choose ConvertKit. If you’re blogging and feel like you’re a year or more away from doing those things, choose MailChimp. It’s prettier.

Important Differences

If you’re not selling things on your blog and running an opt-in freebie, then it might be hard to wrap your brain around the vast difference between the two systems. Here are some of sticking points most bloggers will hit if they are on MailChimp and trying to grow.

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Multiple List Mayhem– MailChimp makes it extremely challenging to manage your users. Instead of having a single master list, you end up with multiple lists and no way to cross check them.

This is not an issue if you keep it simple with just have one mailing list opt-in. “Sign up for updates!” you might write on your side bar and put a Mailchimp form beneath it. That works fine.

However, as you grow you’ll find you need more. Imagine individual promotions like, “Tell me when your new product is available” or “Sign up to get my ebook” – it’s easy to add different options for people to get notified or to entice them to your list. Over time this becomes a mess with existing newsletter members adding themselves to other lists (will you be sending them multiple emails now?) and little to no way to reconcile. ConvertKit on the other hand uses tagging to denote interest groups and opt-ins so it’s easy to send emails to everyone who signed up for an offer, to exclude those who already got an email from another promotion and so on.

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Lost User DataMailChimp does collect information about what links people clicked in your emails but it’s not specific enough. The information they provide tends to be at the highest levels, so while it’s cool and interesting to know that 60% of people opened your last email, it’s much more useful to know how many people clicked on specific links – and who those people are.

This is an entire world of lost information that becomes super important when you’re growing your list and trying to precisely target segments. For example, if you send out your weekly newsletter with a link to an upcoming photography course (perhaps you put in the bottom as a test) – with Convert Kit you can set it up to track that data and save a tag to the user’s account so you can email them later. Imagine at Christmas time being able to send out targeted emails to your list for the products they are the most interested in – those people interested in photography get an offer to your photography course, those interested in travel get your travel offer and so on. This kind of marketing is important because it increases sales. Professional bloggers are making a full-time living on way less followers than you might think, they are just being smarter about their lists.

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ConvertKit is Integrated– I’ve seen the number of partners only grow with ConvertKit as they move into being the industry standard for the professional blogger. That means if you one day want to do a membership site or ecourse or shop or print-on-demand or webinars or community chats – there are existing integrations for the most popular tools out there. ConvertKit brands itself as a service for professional bloggers, and I think this year they’ve really lived up to that. Mailchimp also integrations but seem to be focused on retail-style shops (e-commerce), which for the majority of bloggers is not the way we monetize our blogs. In fact, it’s a kind of dated way of thinking about online businesses. For most of us we’re in the content business first.

Bottom line: it’s easy to switch, there’s no harm in going with MailChimp for now and upgrading to ConvertKit later, but if you’re building a fully monetized blog, then ConvertKit is the way to go.