MailChimp vs Aweber: a breakdown

MailChimp vs Aweber
Q: What is a (mail)chimp’s favorite cookie? A: Chocolate chimp!

[Updated on 6/27/14]

MailChimp vs Aweber — if they were rivals, the former would be a dapper chimp dressed like Robin Hood and the latter would be a robot with a moustache. (Why? No idea.) But seriously, if you do email marketing (and you should be!), you will have heard of these services. I’m going to teach you the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best one for your business needs.

Why am I focusing only on these two providers? Because they are the most popular and, frankly, the most robust. They also integrate with the largest amount of relevant services you’ll probably end up using at some point, like PayPal (so for instance, after people buy something from you, they can be sent an automated email thanking them or sending them more information).

I’ve used both for myself and in this post I’ll break down the differences in pricing, UI (user interface), learning curve, design tools, email tracking, responsive design, and support between the two services. I’ll also briefly discuss what it entails to switch from one service to another (it’s easier than switching from one sexy, handsome boyfriend to another, but not by much!).

MailChimp high five
Who doesn’t love this?

Pricing

Depends on your needs

You might’ve heard that MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails/month (because the best things in life are free. Not really, you have to buy chocolate). However, the autoresponder feature is paid ($15/mo). And once you’re past 2,000 subscribers, Aweber is marginally cheaper. For up to 500 subscribers, Aweber charges $19/month and the price goes up from there. Is email marketing worth $19+/mo for you when you can get it for free? Read on to find out.

MailChimp vs Aweber
MailChimp’s home page

User Interface

+1 for MailChimp

Just log in and see. Actually, you don’t even have to log in to see it. Aweber is boring; MailChimp is clean, pretty, and streamlined. Also, a corporate-looking website using the word “awesome” in bolded caps (Aweber)? Feels scuzzy.

MailChimp vs Aweber
I’m not buying it, Aweber

Learning Curve

+1 for MailChimp

I’m a bright gal (a previous client referred to me as “smarty pants,” true story), but Aweber disoriented me. It was tortuous and torturous (ha!). Every service has a learning curve, and for me MailChimp was easier to figure out. To me, its UI makes a lot more sense. To set up the opt-in confirmation and thank you emails for a list on Aweber, I had to navigate all over a convoluted system, whereas MailChimp simplifies the process. I like ease. I like MailChimp.

Design Tools

Depends on your needs

MailChimp comes with lots of highly attractive email templates to choose from (I just think of when I was in Scandinavia this summer, gawking at 99% of the people walking past me. Daaaayum. It’s like another planet up there!) But seriously, if I were to date an email template, I’d date one from MailChimp. Both platforms have easy drag and drop template makers and ready-made templates, though. It’s not a huge difference.

As far as opt-in templates, if we’re talking opt-in forms that you embed into a website in a box at the end of blog posts (like mine)/in a sidebar/etc., here are two things to consider. 1) Aweber presents you with multiple pre-built options, which I think are ugly and boring (but they’re there and ready to go). MailChimp does not. 2) If you’re going to use a plugin like Magic Action Box to design your opt-ins, it’s all the same whether you use one or the other service.

Email Tracking

They’re even

Both services will tell you exactly who’s opened your emails, when, and what they clicked on. BUT Aweber makes it easier to track how many signups you’re getting from each individual opt-in form. Tracking is very useful to know which opt-ins are converting and which ones need work.

Responsive Design

They’re even (as of Spring 2014)

MailChimp and since recently Aweber are the only ones (versus GetResponse, Constant Contact, Vertical Response and iContact) that send responsive emails. In other words, they’re the only email management systems that will send out your emails so they look smashing in your readers’ phones and tablets in addition to their computer screens. (However, if your emails consist of plain text, it’s all the same.) You read that right: except for MailChimp and Aweber, all email management systems are stuck in the non-mobile-friendly neanderthal stage. One of the instances in which retro isn’t cool.

And kudos to you, MailChimp and Aweber, because I know I read at least 50% of my emails on my phone (and your readers probably do too).

Support

+1 for Aweber

Here’s the thing: if something goes awry or you’re totally lost, you can call Aweber. You can’t call MailChimp. MailChimp will email you and you can chat with them live, but you can’t call them. This is big.

I’ve been with both services, and here’s the experience I’ve had with their support teams:

  • MailChimp: To tell you the truth, I haven’t been able to find all the answers I need in the MailChimp forums; in those cases, I either figured it out on my own or harassed somebody on the live chat, so it worked out. There was one advanced issue they didn’t help me with, because those particular email support people were inept.
  • Aweber: They’re quick with email responses, but the support person disappeared on me for two freakin’ weeks and didn’t respond to me. And for $19/month, that’s unacceptable. When I finally called, they helped right away.

If being able to call is a dealbreaker for you, you’ll want to opt for Aweber.

How easy is it to switch from one to another?

Not that easy. When moving from MailChimp to Aweber, you may need to have everyone on your list confirm that they still wanna be on your list. It is possible to bypass this process — if everyone on your list opted in properly through another email management system. You just have to reach out to Aweber about it. MailChimp doesn’t have this issue.

But it can be a hassle, especially if you’ve got an autoresponder series going, because you’ll have to set them all up again. Yuck.

MailChimp vs Aweber: Conclusion

This is one of those annoying conclusions in which I will advise that you consider everything above instead of just recommending you a service. Do you want a free service? > MailChimp. Do you want pre-built opt-in forms for your website? > Aweber. Do you need autoresponders? > Either. Do you want a high-five when you’ve set up a campaign? > MailChimp.

In the end, it’s not such a big deal what service you use. You’ll learn it and adapt. And if you want it to be totally stress-free and leave it to someone else, you know where to find your Website Superhero.

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20 Responses to MailChimp vs Aweber: a breakdown

  1. When I first began to set up my site, I wanted to work with someone who was lesser known but still pretty (since I like responsive design and love how colorful Mailchimp is and when I sign up for newsletters, the Mailchimp ones are always the best). I went with Mad Mimi which is a very colorful and lovely service – except no one’s heard of them. It was difficult trying to find support for the service outside of the customer service response. I already had a MailChimp so I went back to them and just love having them in general.

    I work with a client for Aweber and… it’s a pain. :/

    • You know, I thought of going with Mad Mimi because their templates are very pretty, but decided against them precisely because they don’t integrate with as many services compared to MailChimp and Aweber. Also, you know who uses them? Mayi Carles from heartmadeblog.com. And she’s awesome so I figured Mad Mimi was worth a shot. But now we know better. Oh wellz. Go MailChimp ;)

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for this! I’ve been with Mailchimp since I started, but always got the impression that Mailchimp was maybe the “newbie” service, and once I started getting more subscribers, I’d HAVE to change over. I’m glad to hear what you think of both – and that I’m not mad for wanting to stick to Mailchimp!

  3. I thought about going with Mailchimp because they are free, however they have so many limitations on what you are allowed to market via your emails! They do not allow anything related to affiliate marketing, work from home opportunities, etc…as well as a huge list of other forbidden niches. This obviously will not matter to everyone, however it’s really important to know what they allow and don’t allow before signing up!

  4. This was a great post. I’m starting a new business and everyone I listen to says use Aweber. It was nice to hear another opinion and it gave me a lot to think about. I appreciate the time you gave to this.

    • Glad this was helpful, Maryanne! I definitely like to consider as many options as possible, but still somehow keep it simple. Tricky!

  5. I am so glad I found your website – although I was looking for information comparing the two email services (which I got) I LOVED your humor!

    You had me at “smarty pants”

  6. Well written article. I come from a background in affiliate marketing and used GVO for a while. Im doing something totally different now(not affiliate marketing) and really just need something that will easily incorporate into my wordpress website. Do you have any input on how mail chimp incorporates into WordPress? Do they have a plugin?

    Thanks!
    Sean

    • Hey Sean! MailChimp plays beautifully with WordPress. All you need is a plugin like Magic Action Box to style the forms, unless you want to add some inline CSS to the code MailChimp gives you to style it yourself ;)

      • Awesome! Just created my account. Already getting it rolling. I really like the UI so far and mobile ability is going to be a huge plus. Thanks much. Have a great week!

        • Fantastic! Leave the button and input field widths blank so it’s responsive ;) You’re very welcome and I hope you have a rad week also!

  7. If you import contacts from gmail, AWeber requires that all contacts be sent an opt in letter. It seems like Mailchimp and Constant Contact allow you to use your contact list without an opt-in letter. I have been experimenting with both before I send out my first newsletter. Getting a subscriber list from my website may take awhile as we are a small business, but being able to import the contacts to the subscriber list seems like a real advantage. What are your thoughts about this?

    • Hi Sharon!

      I know that MailChimp doesn’t require the confirmation email, that’s true (not sure about Constant Contact). Now… my thoughts on importing email contacts to your mailing list are that you shouldn’t do it because some people may get pissed off and opt out, telling MailChimp your emails are spam. And that is bad news bears. When it comes to importing email contacts, I do think a confirmation email that lets them opt into your list is the best way to go. What do you think?

      • I agree that it is the best practice approach to send an opt in email. But with Aweber, the confirmation letter that arrives from Aweber triggers an email reponse that says “does not recognize this server, do you want to open anyway?” With all the attention to internet security, I wonder how many will not open the opt in note? My clients are not all internet savvy.

        • Ouch. That sounds bad and definitely like a deterrent for some people.
          Is that the one you’re getting when you test it?

  8. Nat- I gotta say I really love your site and the way you keep it real and light! With regards to the context of this page, I notice that my e-mails from you come via aweber. So is it safe to say you ultimately went that route despite me thinking you lean towards Mail Chimp based on the pros and cons of this comparison?

    • Thank you, Darren! And yes, I did eventually switch to Aweber, but it also has its flaws. I go back and forth between wanting to stay and move back to MailChimp!

      MC has a more robust autoresponder function and it’s more comfortable to see who clicked/didn’t/bounced after you send an email, but I’ve stayed on Aweber so far because I care more about tracking where my signups are coming from, and that’s easier and clearer with AW. But I’m still not 100% committed to either service. Does that help?

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