I have used a lot of different email list systems over the years. In the last couple of years, I’ve been a huge proponent of digital sovereignty and owning your own platform. For that reason (and the awesome features), I have been using FluentCRM.
So, it is indeed a weird move for me to decide to use BeeHiiv. After all, it is a hosted application and I am paying monthly for it.
Why did I do this?
In this BeeHiiv review, I want to go over why I made the switch to BeeHiiv for my newsletters. I want to address the issue of digital sovereignty while using the platform and I’d also like to address why I chose to use it over Substack.
Let’s dive in…
In This Post…
BeeHiiv: Built For Newsletters
In Issue #435 of my newsletter called My Hobby + A Big Shift In Strategy, I talked about how and why I decided to turn my RV blog into primarily a newsletter. I decided that was the business model I wanted to pursue with that property.
But, to intentionally pursue it as a newsletter, I wanted a platform that was purpose-built for that. I was using FluentCRM for the email list for Happily RV, but FluentCRM is not a newsletter platform. It is built to be a CRM and marketing automation tool and, frankly, using it for newsletters is a bit of a waste. More on that in a bit.
As I said in that issue of the newsletter…
Simply put, BeeHiiv is a platform with tools built into it specific to my purpose. Things such as:
- Ability to publish (to the blog) and send the email simultaneously without having it be two separate actions.
- Built in newsletter referral program. FluentCRM doesn’t have that and I would have needed a third-party tool like Sparkloop.
- Built-in ability to do cross-promotions with other newsletters on the BeeHiiv platform.
- “Magic Links”, which are basically one-click subscription links. Great for promotion in other newsletters. FluentCRM has Smart Links, though, so there are ways to do that.
- Ability to do paid “boosts” on the BeeHiiv network to promote your newsletter.
- Built-in ad network, if I choose to monetize with ads in the newsletter. And I may.
- Built-in ability to run a paid newsletter upgrade and basically run a premium newsletter. And BeeHiiv doesn’t take a cut.
Basically, BeeHiiv is purpose-built for newsletter publishers with features aimed at growth. The platform was literally built by the people who built up the technology for Morning Brew. They know what they’re doing. 🙂
That is the point here. BeeHiiv is built from the ground up for the purpose of running a newsletter. FluentCRM has a different purpose.
And I ended off with this:
I may indeed be moving The Edge over to BeeHiiv as well. At least, I’m strongly considering it.
Well, I didn’t consider it for long. 🤪 In fact, I just went for it. And in fact, The EDGE was re-branded over to The Morning WP, set off as it’s own property so that I can grow it more intentionally as well.
The goal is that each newsletter has the ability to be branded as it’s own media entity and grown independently. Happily RV was young, so easy to transition. But, The Morning WP (formerly The Edge) was buried in a sea of stuff here at the Blog Marketing Academy. By separating it off, I can do what I can to grow it on it’s own. It will obviously always be closely tied with the Blog Marketing Academy, but doesn’t have to be a part of it.
I switched to BeeHiiv because it was built for this purpose. FluentCRM was not.
Newsletters Versus Just A Normal Email List
There’s a difference between a newsletter platform and just an email list.
What’s the difference?
The primary difference is that, with a newsletter platform, the act of publishing means that it is going to your website and to your email subscribers simultaneously.
With both BeeHiiv and Substack, you have a website. You are publishing to that website. But, you are also sending off to all subscribers at the same time. The website and it’s subscribers are all in one. This makes management of the platform much simpler.
With most email platforms, any newsletter you set up is done as an email campaign. It is built completely separately from your website. So, for instance, you might publish an article to WordPress but then you would need to separately build and send an email to your list to send it to subscribers. These are then two separate sets of archives and two separate actions because blog posts and your emails are not inherently linked.
The closest thing that turns WordPress into a true newsletter platform is Newsletter Glue.
It is a fitting name because it pretty much “glues” your newsletter to your WordPress posts and allows them to be the same thing. Certainly, something like Newsletter Glue would be a solid option if I wanted to continue to self-host everything. However, you’d lose the growth tools that come with a platform like BeeHiiv.
Publishing a newsletter inherently comes with a different set of needs than a typical email list.
You don’t usually need much marketing automation. You don’t usually need autoresponder sequences, event tracking, and all the bells and whistles of a marketing automation platform.
What you DO need, though, is one seamless publishing experience and growth tools to help you build your subscriber base that are specific to newsletters.
BeeHiiv vs Substack (And Why I Chose BeeHiiv)
When I announced to my subscribers that I was going to switch the newsletter over to BeeHiiv, I had many people ask me why I was choosing it over Substack.
To be clear, even besides the fact that I chose to go with BeeHiiv, that doesn’t mean I think Substack sucks. 😇 In fact, because Substack has been around longer, it is more mature and has more features.
Even though BeeHiiv is younger, there are a couple things that initially got my attention:
- BeeHiiv is specifically tailored to newsletter publishers. In fact, it is literally built by the same folks who built the technology behind Morning Brew. On the other hand, SubStack targets writers. In the real world, doesn’t matter. But, the obvious positioning of BeeHiiv toward newsletter growth called me out over the more generic positioning of being a “creator”. Growth is what I’m interested in here.
- That branding and differentiation also means that BeeHiiv has some fairly large brands and large publications using it. Whereas SubStack is aimed more at solo creators. Again, it just tells me the customer avatar difference between the two companies.
Sending our my newsletter via FluentCRM didn’t exactly suck. The only reason I would ponder shaking things up is if I thought I could GROW the list faster. And BeeHiiv spoke exactly to that goal.
Due to the targeting, I actually don’t view BeeHiiv and Substack as direct competitors. I think BeeHiiv is targeting a different type of consumer. In fact, if anything, I see BeeHiiv and ConvertKit being more direct competitors.
But, let’s dive deeper than just the positioning here.
Things That Make BeeHiiv Better Than Substack
Overall, BeeHiiv seems like it was built by people who understanding email marketing. On the other hand, SubStack seems more geared toward creators.
For instance, BeeHiiv offers custom fields on subscribers. Now, it isn’t as developed as something like FluentCRM. But, it has it. Substack doesn’t.
BeeHiiv offers Automations. In fact, it is a visual automation builder that works a lot like what we have inside of FluentCRM.
To be clear, the automation functionality is still early-phase. It is still quite limited in triggers and the only action is the ability to send an email. However, enhancements are coming. Soon enough, automations will have new triggers as well as new actions, such as modifying custom fields, sending webhooks, etc. I’ve already seen enhancements to their automations just since I began using the platform. For instance:
- Ability to trigger automations based on which specific embed form they came in on
- Ability to automatically do re-engagement (and handle people based on opens and non-opens)
- Ability to do basic conditional logic branches
Substack does not have automations like this. Likely, it never will. Substack just can’t do this because the target market of Substack just wouldn’t think to approach this like an email marketer.
When it comes to writing your newsletters, the writing interface of BeeHiiv is just more geared toward newsletters. In fact, it actually has similarities to the WordPress block builder in how it works. I find it to be more intuitive, personally.
Substack’s writing interface is nice and clean, but it would be more equivalent to the classic editor for WordPress. Toolbar at the top.
This difference is more than just form. For instance, with BeeHiiv you can insert a “Section” and then put anything you want in it. Then, you can put Visibility options on that section to show it only to paid subscribers, hide it from email, hide from subscribers, show only to subscribers, etc. Substack offers nothing like this.
BeeHiiv also does audience segments for email list segmentation. It has more thorough analytics.
And when/if the time comes that I start a premium subscription model, BeeHiiv doesn’t take any revenue. In fact, you literally connect up to your own Stripe account and it charges directly to it. With Substack, they will take 10% of your revenue. Depending on how many subscribers you get, that 10% can be quite a bit more money than the monthly cost of BeeHiiv.
Lastly, BeeHiiv has an API. This might seem nerdy, but what it means is that there are integrations with BeeHiiv. You can actually make BeeHiiv work with the outside using tools like Zapier or Make.com. This is HUGE. Substack literally has… nothing. No integrations at all.
Overall, I just felt like BeeHiiv was more built toward real email marketing. It was built by people who “get it”. Even the opt-in forms and the landing page designs seem better built for conversions. Growth is the name of the game with BeeHiiv.
Even though there are still features I would like to see BeeHiiv add, I like the direction it is going more than Substack.
Things That Make Substack Better Than BeeHiiv
As I have said, Substack positions itself toward “creators” more than email marketers and newsletter owners. For that reason, you see some things geared more toward people who just think in terms of content creation.
For instance, Substack supports podcasts. BeeHiiv does not.
Also, while BeeHiiv does support multiple publications, they are treated quite separately. Whereas Substack does have the ability to cross-post to multiple publications at the same time. This isn’t something I require, but… cool for people who might need it.
Substack also has more social functionality built-in. For instance, it has a chat function to host chats with subscribers. It also has a “Notes” function which works kind of like a social media newsfeed where you can share things from other “Stacks” you’re reading. Interesting. Overall, Substack is set up to be more like a social network which supports long-form content.
Overall, Substack is also more… minimalist. You either care for that or don’t. Personally, I don’t. However, if the goal is simplicity of interface and, frankly, features… Substack works pretty well.
But, I’ll be clear here…
When it comes to actual marketing, I don’t think there’s much doubt that BeeHiiv is better suited. I tried to find more points that make Substack better than BeeHiiv, but frankly… I have a hard time finding them. 😇
BeeHiiv Vs. ConvertKit
While BeeHiiv and Substack are often through to be the closest competitors, I actually see BeeHiiv and ConvertKit being the closer rivals. Both are going after the same target market and have similar capabilities.
ConvertKit is also positioned at creators (like Substack), but it is much more strongly catering to people who do it for business. ConvertKit has nice visual automation building, it’s own commerce platform, and more. ConvertKit is a really nice platform.
I’m not going to bore you with a full feature-by-feature breakdown here. ConvertKit is well known already. But, here’s how I feel BeeHiiv and ConvertKit compare…
Things ConvertKit Is Better At…
As of now, ConvertKit has more flexibility when it comes to it’s automations. I will also say that I find ConvertKit’s automation builder to be a bit more intuitive than that of BeeHiiv.
ConvertKit supports tagging. This is just a basic function of email lists that enables segmentation in a far more flexible way than BeeHiiv currently does. I expect BeeHiiv to support tagging at some point soon, frankly. It feels like an oversight that it is missing.
ConvertKit does now provide the ability to sell things via their own platform. BeeHiiv does not. If that’s important to you, it may be a big deal for you. For me, however, I would always choose a more direct option anyway. For me, I prefer to use my own platform powered by WooCommerce.
ConvertKit has been around much longer and for that reason has way more integration options. Tons of web-based tools and WordPress plugins integrate with ConvertKit. ConvertKit even has their own WordPress plugin that is quite powerful. For instance, their plugin now even supports member-gated content as well as auto-embed of your newsletter archives right into your site. In essence, this more closely puts ConvertKit into direct competition by having you be able to publish to your site and your email list at the same time.
BeeHiiv is severely lacking in these kinds of third-party integrations at the moment. It’ll get there. But, we’re not there yet with it.
ConvertKit is even busy tackling the growth tools of BeeHiiv. For instance, BeeHiiv has the referral program and the Recommendation Engine where you can not only incentivize people to share your newsletter with perks, but you can also pay per lead within the internal ad network of BeeHiiv to grow your list. These are really awesome features of BeeHiiv. But…
Did you know ConvertKit acquired Sparkloop? Sparkloop is one of the most well known viral promotion platforms for newsletters… and ConvertKit bought it. You can see the writing on the wall for what this means for the platform going forward.
Things BeeHiiv Is Better At…
BeeHiiv is much earlier in it’s product cycle than ConvertKit. Part of that means less features and less integrations, which is natural for this stage of the cycle. However, it also means that they are rapidly developing.
In the short time that I have been a customer of BeeHiiv, I have witnessed almost weekly release of new features into the platform. And these aren’t puny little features… but big features that are quite important. Their speed of development at this point has been impressive.
I also very much appreciate how responsive they are. In fact, one of their product announcements about some design enhancements to the web design features actually contained a small problem with the content width. I simply replied to that email to tell them. I quickly got a reply directly from the CEO:
That same day, the issue was fixed.
Few days later, I gave them another suggestion…
Sure enough, in a bit over a week of that exchange, the ability to trigger automations based on the embed form used was added to the system.
That kind of responsiveness and direct involvement of the team is something I really appreciate.
Another major point of differentiation here is the price. Both platforms offer free plans, however the BeeHiiv free plan offers more capability and more subscribers (2,500 vs 1,000) than ConvertKit.
Once you go to paid plans, the pricing of BeeHiiv is also FAR more favorable. ConvertKit seems cheaper at first glance because their pricing page shows lower numbers, however the subscriber limits are FAR lower and your price quickly increases as your list grows.
With BeeHiiv, your first level paid plan starts at $42/mo (paid annually), however you can have up to 10,000 subscribers. That same size list is going to run you $100/month with ConvertKit.
If you upgrade to the “Scale” plan with BeeHiiv (their best plan and the one I personally use), you can grow your list up to 100,000. A list of that size would run you $566/month with ConvertKit. If you want their referral network, too, that puts you at the $733/month plan. That’s if you pay annually, too. With BeeHiiv, you can get all that for just $84/month if you pay annually.
BeeHiiv is in a completely different league when it comes to pricing (in a good way).
Will BeeHiiv eventually increase prices? They might as time goes on. But, I’m guessing people like myself who are already in will be locked-in. We’ll see how things proceed.
Things I Would Like BeeHiiv To Add
One of the things you definitely need to keep in mind is that BeeHiiv is relatively young. They do seem to evolve rather quickly and make new product announcements somewhat often, but there are some basic features I really wish they had that I need to just wait for.
One is that they need to have a setting on subscription forms where I could select an automation to run right at the form level. That would be AWESOME for so many reasons. As of now, subscription forms look OK, but there’s very little settings for them to aid in segmentation.
It would be nice to have tagging at the subscriber level. This would be powerful.
I think webhooks should be part of automations to make built-in automations easier and reduce reliance on outside tools like Zapier.
There are also some minor administrative interface changes that would be handy. For instance:
- Ability to bulk edit/remove subscribers.
- Ability to bulk edit posts (for instance, to tag a bunch of them at the same time)
- Having a few basic fields as standard on subscribers (like the name)
- Some more customization options for the website (such as more flexible color choices, headline control, etc.)
So, yeah… there are some shortcomings. Things I hope they do with it in the near future. BeeHiiv is pretty good, but it isn’t perfect and certainly not nearly as developed as something like FluentCRM or any other real CRM product.
It probably never will be, either. As I said, the purpose is different so it wouldn’t much a lot of sense for BeeHiiv to become a full marketing automation platform. I guess you never know, though. 😉
How I Use BeeHiiv And FluentCRM At The Same Time
I had one subscriber email me with disappointment… because he thought I was switching to BeeHiiv and abandoning my recommendation and usage of FluentCRM.
Not. At. All.
For one, BeeHiiv is pretty cool, but it is not even close to a full CRM. I’d be quite screwed if I didn’t have an in-house email list. 😀
FluentCRM absolutely remains at the core of my business.
I want to use the BeeHiiv platform for it’s strengths, but not be 100% reliant on it. One key requirement for that is that all of my newsletter subscribers must also be on my local email list inside of FluentCRM.
So, how do I pull that off?
BeeHiiv is still early enough in it’s life cycle where they don’t have a lot of official integrations yet. It makes things a little bit more difficult.
BeeHiiv does give opt-in forms that you can embed on your own website, but they are not very flexible and they pull in using an IFRAME. For that reason, you’re quite limited in what you can do with those opt-in forms. Plus, it would send all new leads from your website into BeeHiiv only.
One option is that you can periodically export leads out of BeeHiiv and manually import them into your local email list. Certainly doable, but you’d need to remember to do it.
Another option is to use a third-party connector to put all new BeeHiiv leads into your local email list. Make.com has an integration with BeeHiiv, so you could make it work. It looks like Zapier now has an integration with BeeHiiv as well and many people are used to using Zapier.
BeeHiiv also has an API. It takes a bit of coding experience, what I ended up doing was creating my own script to send new leads into BeeHiiv using the API. Then, I can send webhooks to my own script from anyplace I want. I have successfully integrated BeeHiiv into both ConvertBox as well as my own forms using Fluent Forms. When people opt in from this site, they are put into FluentCRM and BeeHiiv simultaneously.
Stay tuned because I will put together a write-up on how I built that so you can duplicate it yourself. 🙂
I’ve also put the bug into the ear of the developers of Fluent Forms giving them the idea of building an official integration with BeeHiiv. If (or when) they build that, I believe they will be the first forms plugin for WordPress with a native integration with BeeHiiv. I expect others to follow and, eventually, we’ll have far more options to play with. We’re still in the early days with BeeHiiv.
Final Thoughts On This BeeHiiv Review (Should You Use It?)
I like BeeHiiv quite a lot. Enough where I decided to switch my own newsletters over to the platform despite my personal preference for digital sovereignty and owning my own platform.
Simply put, for the newsletter publishing model specifically, I saw enough value in their platform to warrant the change.
Keep in mind, I do not use BeeHiiv as my exclusive email list. I use BeeHiiv for what it is good at, but I intentionally have things set up so that I also keep my list “in house” inside of FluentCRM.
If you use BeeHiiv, I suggest you do the same. It is just a good insurance policy, for one. But, having a full-featured marketing automation platform for your list will be of high use (FluentCRM is a full marketing automation platform and BeeHiiv is not and likely never will be).
So, the question is…. should YOU use BeeHiiv?
In my opinion, if you are using Substack right now, I’d definitely consider switching to BeeHiiv. It will simply be more business-friendly. It is targeting different capabilities and different needs. Plus, BeeHiiv even has import tools for Substack, so the switch should be pretty straightforward.
If you are on ConvertKit now, I’d probably stay put unless you have a big email list and are therefore being fleeced with their high monthly bill. You will not (yet) have every feature of ConvertKit with BeeHiiv, but they are iterating quickly. There’s also a pretty good chance you’re not even using some of those fancier functions of ConvertKit and you don’t even need them. For that reason, BeeHiiv could easily be a much better and more affordable fit.
Lastly, if you plan to be very intentional about growing a newsletter, I think BeeHiiv is THE platform to consider and keep and eye on for you.
If you use BeeHiiv with eyes wide open about what it is designed to be, it is one of the best games in town right now. This is the platform to watch.
BeeHiiv offers a 14-day trial on their paid plans. It is worth checking out for yourself. And if you end up not sticking with the paid plan, you’ll find the free account to be quite feature rich.
NOTE: Yes, I am indeed an affiliate for BeeHiiv and will earn a commission from them if you choose to upgrade to a paid account. Clearly, though, I only recommend what I use personally and I am a paying Scale customer of BeeHiiv.
Got A Question? Need Some Assistance?
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