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Newsletter Review – Aweber and MailChimp

BRAND

Having a way to capture information about and build relationships with your website visitors, is one of the most critical components of your website. There are so many different newsletter list programs out there that I’m not going to be covering today (Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, to name a few), as the majority of people I work with fall into the “sweet spot” category for Aweber and MailChimp.

Below the overview I will go into more details about what I’m comparing and also how to choose the best option for you!

One big note before I start: neither company is paying me for this write-up and none of the links below are affiliate links. I’m sharing my personal experiences using both products with my own lists and my clients list (so my experiences include small/big and everything-in-between lists).

Overview Comparison:

Aweber

MailChimp

Price per month

$19 Free (up to 2,000 subscribers for 12,000 emails)

User-interface

A bit clunky Extremely user friendly

Web form creation

Very easy to customize if using standard forms; difficult but possible to DIY if wanting it on-brand; very difficult to do without a plug-in or outside help for a horizontal form Plain, basic, and easy to create on-brand, but not having a ton of bells and whistles; although there are plug-ins out there to help you

Newsletter design

Drag and drop, but it’s a total pita at times – formatting is extremely touchy and inconsistent at times Very easy and clear – sometimes it feels like they’ve over-parsed it, but it’s very easy to use and get your elements lined up as needed

RSS delivery of posts

Very easy to set-up, extremely reliable, easy to create the template to your specifications. Pro – it sends when you post. Medium-difficulty to set-up; I haven’t found it to be as stable in general terms, and a bit clunky to enter the fields. Con – you have to “schedule” your RSS feeds for a specific time.

Name/information capture

Reliable Reliable

Metrics and tracking

Provides enough information with details, but interface is a bit awkward Extremely strong metrics, easy to navigate and has a few more options/breakdowns than Aweber

Auto-responder series

Easy to set-up, but extremely annoying to add/subtract/change/edit in the middle of a live series without the series starting over for the list Very easy to set-up, figure out, make changes and does not auto-send to your list with changes

Landing page interface

Somewhat confusing (especially as they keep changing it) and not a “true” dashboard Very user friendly, lots of information included – it’s almost overwhelming

Click-box “options”

This is an available feature – although advanced knowledge required This is an available feature – although it’s a bit confusing with the components (advanced knowledge required)

Opt-in confirmation

Suggested feature – you can turn it off, but not recommended Suggested feature – you can turn it off, but not recommended

Transferring names to a new list (importing contacts)

Available – no real scrub, and sometimes requires people to re-opt in (this may have been fixed with recent changes) Easily done, but sometimes it over-scrubs names; does not require additional opt-in confirmation

Selling products/services

No restrictions/issues if you’re promoting your own things or reliable affiliate/JV programs Very strict conditions – you can (and are encouraged) to sell/promote your own products and services, but they have a very strict third policy or affiliates rule in attempts to stop scammers

Customer service (via chat)

Good service, but sometimes there is an extremely long wait. But I’ve always gotten off the chat with my issue resolved and some new knowledge. Good service – I’ve always had pleasant interactions

“Food chain” perception

There is a feel when you interact with customer service, that you aren’t their “biggest fish in the pond” at times; in that, they have a perceived different level of service for different newsletter lists They treat everyone the same – no question seemed too big/small; felt like service with a smile regardless of who you are

 

Biggest Difference:

In Aweber, you create a specific list that you connect for one functional purpose. I’ll use my own as an example – for my Loosen Your White Collar site, I have one list (LYWC-listA) that captures sign-ups throughout the site. This list is the only one I use for the site at the moment – it has an RSS feed attached to it so all subscribers get my blog posts delivered to their inbox, and I send out newsletters that contain subscriber-only information. My auto-responder series (a set of emails that are programmed to deliver at specific intervals), is set and delivers messages to this list once they subscribe.

In MailChimp, it’s quite different – they have campaigns and lists that you can create. A list is the group of subscribers – the name/email information of the people you are looking to capture. But you can’t really do anything with just a list in MailChimp. Instead, you have to create a campaign and then choose the list you want to communicate to. So for example, if I wanted to send an RSS feed to my audience, I would create a Campaign titled LYWC-RSS and then select the list (LYWC-subscribers) and then the date/time to have the campaign sent. If I wanted to send the same list a newsletter, I would have to create a different Campaign message for the newsletter. It sounds confusing, but it’s really not – just another approach in how to deliver/target your audience.

What’s a…

Web form?

  • It’s the box that captures your subscriber’s information – name, email address, etc. It can be very simple to extravagantly designed, depending upon how much time and effort you want to put into it. You need a web form of some kind, to be able to capture these details – the design aspect though, is optional.

Auto-responder series?

  • It’s a set of messages that delivers to your audience either on a specific date or on a specific time lapse. For example, when you sign-up to a list, you will get an auto-responder message immediately, with the free gift attached. You may then get another message with a bonus gift or insider info on day three, and so on.
  • Why use it? These help keep your audience engaged and get to know you and your brand better. Also, it prevents big gaps of time between their sign-up and your first planned/timed communication.

 Metric?

  • Metrics, tracking and reports are your analytics specific to your subscriber lists and messaging. Having these details helps inform you what your audience is interested in, what’s “converting” into specific actions, and what is a big flop.
  • What to look for? The most important stats that I look at is not the number of subscribers (I know – that’s kinda an ego thing), but the open rates and conversation rates on clicks and/or web form sign-ups. The point of having “a list” is to engage with your audience – so knowing what’s of interest to them and having high open rates and share rates, is what you’re going for.

Click box options?

  • People like having options as to how they want to get your info. Maybe your audience is big into RSS feeds, so they don’t want an email sent to their inbox with your newest post – they already grabbed it off feedly! Or perhaps they want to get everything via email. Either way, click box options are a relatively new feature to incorporate into your list. It’s not for the faint of heart for either provider – but it allows your readers to tell you exactly how much they want to hear from you via email.
  • Why use it? I think that I’d recommend this as an advanced feature only, after your list hits a certain size. People will tell you what works for them and your level of communication by unsubscribing or through surveys. Bottom line – this is a super fun feature, but difficult to set-up and it can be confusing to manage.

Opt-in confirmation?

  • We’ve all seen these before – that email that comes just as you sign-up to a site, to confirm that you actually want to receive messages from that person. It’s annoying and clunky, but it’s a necessity to stave off spammers. I’d recommend keeping your opt-in confirmation, to help prevent any issues down the road.

How to Choose the Best One for You

I think both of these services are stellar – I use both personally, and have used them both with several clients. In other words, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. But you need to start somewhere, so here’s how to determine which one’s the best for you. I do want to caution you – it can be a bit confusing if you ever decide to switch (not impossible), so really figure out what’s best for you in the long-run.

If price is an entry to barrier… I’d start with MailChimp’s free version. It’s a strong interface with just about all of the bells and whistles, without a monthly chunk. Just be aware that there are a few limitations (although probably none that you will stumble across with the free version).

If you want to sell/promote some affiliate products… Aweber is your better choice. I know that there is a bit of a misperception here with MailChimp’s policy, but I do know that there are more rules around that – and they do “blacklist” your account if you step over them.

If you want to use the same list for various different messaging goals/projects… MailChimp is the better option. It’s much easier to keep your messages/campaigns filed, and see everything you need in one place, without toggling back and forth between list names.

If you want to set-up your blog with a direct RSS feed… Aweber is the winner here. It’s so easy to set-up, reliable and you don’t have to be sure your posts are ready at a specific time.

If you foresee many updates, changes, additions, etc. to your auto-responder series… MailChimp is better for you. It’s a lot easier to make changes without them auto-sending to your entire list again.

If you want web forms that are super easy to upload and designed with some consistent features… Aweber is better for you, and overall, their forms are a lot easier to personalize/brand without using a plug-in, than MailChimp.