MailChimp is the perennial email favorite and is the default software integrated with website platforms like Squarespace. In fact, as a Squarespacer myself, I was using MailChimp for years to manage the subscribers for this very site.
But 1 in 5 SMBs have reported making the switch to up-and-coming marketing automation platforms like Drip because of its time-saving and revenue-generating capabilities (with another 1 in 5 saying they plan to make the change in the next year).
I've assembled this hard-hitting head-to-head between MailChimp vs. Drip to help you decide which one will help you earn more money and save more time as an entrepreneur.
You can read our 3,700 word+ comparison or watch the ~10 minute video. Your choice!
Disclaimer: Before you hear what I have to say, you may want to know my background.
I've been a MailChimp customer for nearly ten years and a Drip user for a little over a year. I used to work for the company that makes Drip.
I am now an affiliate for both companies and will be rewarded if you sign up for either service by way of clicking the links in this article.
I hope my experience and dual-incentive will provide you with objectivity and peace of mind.
Drip is for Entrepreneurs & Businesses
Drip is a marketing automation tool meant largely for full-time marketers and entrepreneurs. Its features have slightly steep learning curve to master, but you can dang-near run your business with Drip in addition to sending emails.
If I'm being 100% honest, Drip is probably the most beautiful and fascinating piece of software I've ever used. There's not a lot Drip can't do, and it's getting better every day.
MailChimp is for Hobbyists & Side-Gigs
MailChimp is the beginner's email marketing platform, and they've done a bang-up job at that. I've been a customer of theirs for years. They're reliable and cheap for those who simply want an email list to mail from time to time.
And yet, aside from the convenience of their free plan up to 2,000 contacts, their charm starts to wear off when you want to more advanced marketing.
Overall Winner: Drip
There are a lot of considerations that go into making a technology purchase decision. In this case, we're evaluating which software is going to help make you the most money and grow your business as an entrepreneur.
And if that's the lens we're looking through, Drip is the winner in our comparison, hands-down.
Let's explore some of the different purchase considerations we explored to arrive at our very firm conclusion, starting with the elephant in the room: price.
Summary: Pay More to Get More
Drip starts off free. Paid plans start at 100 contacts for $50/month. From there, you'll need more than 5,000 contacts to pay more than $100/month. Drip is cost-effective given the ROI potential that comes with marketing automation.
Summary: Strictly On a Budget
MailChimp starts off free, too. In fact, MailChimp is free until you get to 2,000 contacts if you want unlimited email sends. You'll always pay a little less for MailChimp than Drip, although you get a lot of functionality for the premium paid for Drip.
Drip Vs. MailChimp Costs
Pricing Winner: It Depends*
*I am a big fan of value-based pricing, which means that a tool should cost as much as the value it creates above and beyond its next worthiest competitor.
That said, Drip costs just a little more than MailChimp at most contact levels.
And yet it also offers far more opportunities to increase your marketing revenue and reduce the amount of time you need to contribute to your marketing efforts.
As an entrepreneur, that means more ROI for you. That's why I'm giving the edge to Drip.
Now, if you just want to send stuff to your list every once in a while or are emailing as a hobby with a list of 100-2,000 people, choose MailChimp.
But if you're building a business and plan/hope/aspire to make money through your marketing efforts, I suggest going with Drip because it will absolutely save you more time and make you more money than MailChimp.
Summary: Function Over Form
Drip doesn't yet have a drag-and-drop visual editor. In fact, if you want any look other than the plain formatting that is Drip's default, you'll have to create or modify an HTML email template.
What Drip lacks in creativity it claims it makes up for in deliverability.
Summary: Make It Look Great
MailChimp has always made it really easy to build visually rich and engaging emails using their built-in email design tools.
If design is a priority for you, MailChimp will be a clear favorite over Drip because of the level of control you can exercise over the design of your emails without having to know HTML.
Email Design Winner: MailChimp
Mailchimp is especially gifted in making several aspects of online marketing (e.g., email marketing, facebook/instagram advertising, etc.) super easy. In comparison, Drip actually requires you to use one of their vanilla templates or get someone to share a designed template with you.
If the look/feel of your emails is one of the most important features to you, you'll love a few MailChimp features that stand out, especially their templates and drag-and-drop email editor.
MailChimp's Email Templates:
MailChimp has some absolutely gorgeous visual email templates for just about every use case. They have a lot of variety both in terms of their layouts as well as the different style themes they offer.
I mean, just look at these beautiful email templates:
Another solid win for MailChimp exists in its drag-and-drop email builder. With Drip, you need to use HTML to program where different blocks and snippets go.
Here again are some of the super cool design tools that MailChimp gives its customers:
Drip Design Basics and Work-Arounds:
With Drip, all you get is a vanilla template for starters. From there, you have to either pay someone to code up an HTML template for you or have someone share an existing Drip email template with you.
There are also popular third-party email design services that work with Drip, such as BEE free.
That said, Drip cofounder Rob Walling has stated multiple times that their lack of design options is a feature, not a bug. He cites that the default plain email template in Drip is part of what helps them deliver at over 99.5%.
At the end of the day, MailChimp is a clear winner in the design category.
Summary: Run Your Entire Business
Drip shines when it comes to contact management. They rely heavily on custom fields, events and tags instead of simple lists like email service providers.
As a result, you can pretty much run your entire business on Drip, leaving you wondering whether it's a marketing automation tool or a CRM, or both.
Summary: Manage Email Lists
MailChimp provides some decent segmentation, grouping and other list management tools. Like Drip, MailChimp also provides tools like notes and activity histories for contacts.
That said, the fragmented list-oriented approach leaves one feeling like MailChimp's contact tools are too disjointed.
Contact Management Winner: Drip
Drip doesn't have the notion of lists. It's just one big pool of subscribers. This approach has tremendous benefits because you can manage your customers centrally through Drip vs. federally (i.e., scattered) across a bunch of disparate lists.
The utility of lists are managed in Drip by the use of tags, which can be applied in a binary fashion to your subscribers.
It may not seem like a big deal, but you go from this view in MailChimp...
...to this view in Drip...
Notice how with Drip each contact isn't tied to a particular list or campaign. As a result, it's much easier to serve people throughout the entire customer journey with Drip than it is with MailChimp.
Comparing Contact History Views
Another example is when it comes to contact activity, which is critical if you want to be able to see the history of a customer at a glance.
Here's what MailChimp offers...
Not bad, right? You get to see the different fields and details for a contact relative to that list. It's pretty cool, but you still manage everything as a function of an email/campaign list, which is limiting.
In contrast, Drip shows the history for subscribers across all of their touch-points with you(including emails, payments, website visits and so much more).
Here's an example of a person who became a lead on my koi fish blog and then proceeded to make a purchase from us:
Just try and tell me this screenshot didn't get your creative and money-making juices flowing. I dare you. I mean, it pretty much tells you every single thing this person engaged with in our marketing over the course of a few months.
Not only does Drip deliver when it comes to their contact management UI choices, but they also boast helpful features like life-time value measurement, lead scoring and list-pruning capabilities.
All told, Drip's contact management tools are head and shoulders ahead of what MailChimp supports, which can mean the difference between using multiple tools (i.g., MailChimp and SalesForce) vs. just relying on Drip to run your business.
Summary: Get Leads In
Drip does a good job getting leads from Facebook, but requires work-arounds to advertise to your subscribers.
Summary: Advertise To Your Contacts
MailChimp excels at integrating the Facebook Advertising process into their platform, but doesn't receive leads through Lead Ads.
Facebook Advertising Winner: It Depends*
*The winner in the Facebook category depends on whether you want to get new leads from Facebook into your email platform or if you're more interested in advertising on Facebook to your existing email list.
MailChimp makes the former super easy by letting you create and launch Facebook ads to the different segments of your contact list right within their platform.
If you've ever felt overwhelmed in Facebook with all the options, you may really enjoy the simplified, yet still effective tools MailChimp provides for advertising to custom and lookalike audiences (i.e., two of the most cost-effective targeting options available in Facebook today).
On the other hand, some people will be more comfortable or even prefer using Facebook's advertising tools directly to get more control and options.
For those folks, and for folks that want to get leads from Facebook into their emai/automation platform, Drip offers a pretty compelling option in its native Lead Ads support.
Facebook's Lead Ads allow you to collect leads directly from your Facebook Ad as long as you're able to connect the CTA button in Facebook to a supported platform.
Luckily, Drip is a supported platform. You just create a form in Drip and then follow the steps in your Lead Ad creation process to connect your Drip account and hook up the new form you created.
From there, you can initiate any workflow, rule or action for new leads you get through Facebook advertising by creating a trigger in Drip.
It should be mentioned that it is possible to get Lead Ads into MailChimp through a third-party tools like Zapier.
It's also possible too replicate the MailChimp feature of creating your email list as custom and lookalike audiences through the help of a third-party tools like PlusThis.
Both of these workarounds require additional software subscription fees, but it should be pointed out that you can pay extra to fill the gaps MailChimp and Drip have between each other in this category.
Ultimately, you may have a feature that appeals to you more here, which may tip the scales in your mind. That's totally OK.
Summary: Automate Anything
Drip is the easiest and most powerful marketing automation platform I've ever used.
Their ease and power both stem from their visual workflows. For my money, Drip boasts the most flexible and intuitive workflow canvases in the industry.
They continue to gain steam in the usability department with a recent visual touch-up of the workflow styles (<3 Brian).
Summary: Automate a Few Cool Things
I love how scrappy MailChimp is. They've done a good job of taking a few disparate things like email, paid advertising and marketing automation and simplifying them.
But my needs aren't simple.
Your needs probably aren't that simple. At some point soon into the process, MailChimp's marketing automation features start to break down and struggle to scale.
Marketing Automation Winner: Drip
Marketing automation is a relative term these days.
On one end of the spectrum, automation can mean making it easier or removing steps from some of the most common marketing ops tasks, like sending a welcome email. Here's an example of the most common use cases, according to MailChimp:
These automated emails are nice, but they are incredibly novel.
Real marketing automation is less about sending emails to someone at simple checkpoints and more about using logic and technology to customize the path to more customers and greater revenue.
With Drip, you can create dynamic customer journeys by combining six basic marketing automation building blocks together in unique combinations and sequences.
You assemble all of these steps together on a visual canvas called a workflow.
Workflows are triggered by any action you can think of and you can make people enter them or exit them at any point. It kind of ends up feeling like playing Chutes and Ladders with your subscribers.
Take a look here at the workflow I created for a beta program for a marketing software company:
As you can see, Drip gives me multiple ways to engage subscribers as they advance through my workflow, while MailChimp is kind of a scripted automation tool that doesn't often adjust to make the changes necessary to deliver excellent marketing.
Summary: Personalize Everything
Drip allows you to personalize many aspects of your marketing.
Workflows with decisions and triggering/exit logic ensure that each person receives marketing specific to their behavior. Add on top of that the support of the Liquid dynamic markup language and it's no wonder when Drip is a winner in this category, too.
Summary: Personalize a Few Things
MailChimp has a few legitimate personalization features like merge tags, and event-triggered email campains.
They've also done a great job of taking a few key use cases such as product fulfillment, recommendations and customer segmentation, and positioned them as personalization features.
Personalization Winner: Drip
MailChimp is trying. I'll give credit. For starting off as an email tool, they are making a lot of super smart choices about what they can tackle in terms of personalization features. Here are a few really interesting and useful features:
- Making product recommendations
- Sending cart abandonment emails
- Fulfilling e-commerce orders
- Tracking website behavior
- Event-based emails and triggers
- Merge tags and dynamic content
When it comes to merge tags, which is the term used to describe dynamically replacing content in an email with data you have stored about a subscriber. Inserting someone's first name into an email greeting is the most basic example of this type of personalization.
And for as cool as these features are, they really don't compare to the personalization capabilities of Drip for three main reasons.
1) Drip Supports Infinite Email Customization with Liquid
The first reason Drip wins in personalization is because of their support of the Liquid markup language. Imagine if a programming language and merge tags had a kid. That kid's name would be Liquid.
Not only can you insert subscriber fields into your emails, you can also use Liquid's "programming language" to evaluate a subscriber's attributes and dynamically serve them content specifically crafted for each and every person.
Here's an idea for what Drip's support of Liquid looks like in action:
Two things are happening in this example:
- The subscriber's first name is being inserted into the email greeting if it's known, otherwise a generic greeting is used
- We're checking to see if a subscriber has a specific tag applied to them, which will determine which opening paragraph they see; search marketers and brand marketers get a completely different experience
This type of flexibility demonstrates only a small glimpse into why Drip's email personalization capabilities are dialed up to eleven.
2) Personalization Through Drip Workflows
The next area where Drip really shines in personalization is through its workflows.
We already covered workflows a little bit, but let's zoom into a mind-blowing example of how personal you can get with someone.
This segment of a workflow manages the setting of a renewal date for a membership platform.
The widest two blue boxes are using Liquid to a) check the current time and then b) add a year's worth of seconds to the current time and set the sum as the subscriber's renewal date.
Again, just a tiny fraction of what you can with Drip's automation and personalization capabilities.
3) Drip's Website Personalization Capabilities
Lastly, Drip supports full website personalization through use of its robust API.
If you have access to a developer, you can customize any element of any web page for visitors provided you know something about them in Drip.
Don't have a developer? Tools like RightMessage.com are building right on top of Drip, making it possible for us little guys to have the type of personalization as do the Fortune 500 companies.
In the end, MailChimp offers some pretty compelling personalization features, but they can't help but appear a little simple in comparison to the full bredth of Drip's email, workflow and website personalization capabilities.
Drip lets you create split tests and swap out different email elements such as the subject line, the "from" name and delivery time.
You can also change the content of the email through Liquid and test that too.
MailChimp, like Drip, allows you to test out the different elements of an email.
MailChimp's means of testing content works differently than Drip, but it's essentially the same in my experience.
A/B Testing Winner: Draw
Summary: Something for Everyone
Summary: Why API When You Integrate?
MailChimp integrates with just about every marketing and business tool that matters, (e.g., Salesforce, which is a huge deal-breaker for a lot of businesses). MailChimp also has a healthy REST API but can't match the full breadth and support of Drip's API tools.
API/Integrations/Forms Winner: Draw
Summary: Drip Dominates Delivery
Drip prides itself on email deliverability rates of 99.5%. Even a half a percentage point can be meaningful as your list size increases.
Summary: MailChimp is Good Too
MailChimp claims to have between 96-99% deliverability rates, which is good, but doesn't quite compare to Drip's 99.5%.
Deliverability Winner: Drip
MailChimp Vs. Drip: In Conclusion
I love what MailChimp has done for me for years when this blog was a hobby and side project for me. It really helped me get started and learn the basics of email marketing due to its incredibly generous pricing model and its visually pleasing email editing tools.
But now that I'm fully committed to making a living as an entrepreneur through this blog and other business ventures online, I have to use Drip if I'm going to get the kind of ROI I want while scaling my own efforts by automating things I don't have to do manually anymore.
In the end, think of it this way...
Get MailChimp if...
- You use email marketing as a hobby
- Email design is really important to you
- You like simple tools that do a little bit of everything well
- Price is a major factor (i.e., you plan to earn less than $50/month with your marketing)
Get Drip If...
- You rely on email marketing and automation as a part of your business
- Deliverability, automation, personalization, and contact management are important to you
- You want a best-in-class marketing automation tool that is easy to use
- You're OK with spending a modest amount per month more in exchange for more revenue-producing marketing opportunities than you can shake a stick at
Ultimately, my advice is this: Drip is for business; MailChimp is for hobbies.
I'd love to answer your specific questions and learn from your own experiences. Please leave a comment below with your favorite Drip vs. MailChimp feature, though, question, or idea.