Constant Contact is a pretty reliable email marketing service provider. My experience has been good so far. But what really makes the best email newsletter service? I'd say deliverability first. Frankly I don't care much about template designs or pricing structures (well, as long as reasonable...) If you're using a particular email service just because it's free or easy to use, check how many of your subscribers actually open your emails. No point if they don't get to receive them. Open rate is all it matters, and it needs to be fixed if it seems to be low, first and foremost! In this Constant Contact review I'll reveal some findings.
Constant Contact (CC) allows you to send unlimited number of emails, the price starts from $20 per month (up to 500 subscribers), and the main features include;
When I signed up and my first impression was - dull. Maybe it's my personal taste in design or color combination. But if you feel the same way, don't be fooled by it, the look of the dashboard is nothing to do with the usability. In fact I soon discovered that the navigation menu was the most comprehensive one, out of other major email marketing services; AWeber, GetRespnse, or Mailchimp.
CC provides two sets of pricing structure; "Email" option that's suitable for a basic individual user, and the other one "Email Plus" option for a syndicate up to 10 users.
On checking other reviews of Constant Contact, the pricing plan doesn't seem to be favored by many. Perhaps the most disappointing part is that the basic option doesn't include autoresponder. Though it allows you to schedule-post, and make a duplicate copy of your previous mail at a click of a button.
If you want the autoresponder feature, you need to go for Email Plus option which will be pricier up to 10,000 subscribers. But if you have 10,001+ subscribers, both options offer the same prices.
Email Plus Option
As well as autoresponder, with Email Plus option you can also have some extra features;
- Event Marketing
- Online Donations
- Surveys & Polls
- Subject Line A/B Testing
10% discount is offered if you pay 6 months in advance, 15% discount is offered if you pay 12 months in advance, and 30% discount applies if you are a non-profit organization.
If you have just under 10,000 subscribers and pay for 12 months in advance, 12 x $95 x 85% = $969 (works out as $80.75 per month).
1 -month Free Trial
CC offers a month free trial, but you need to provide your credit card (or PayPal) detail, so if you're not happy with it, make sure to cancel your account before expiry!
BUT... (On Thing I Really Don't Like!)
There's one thing I was disappointed to discover upon writing this Constant Contact review... If you want to cancel your account - WHEN you want to cancel your account - you will leave at some point in the future, you have to speak to their representative on the phone. You can't close your account from your settings menu.
It's an online service and it (obviously) allows you to join online. But it doesn't allow you to leave online. You need to have a telephone conversation with them. I think that's wrong, don't you? Though it says "don't worry, they won't try to keep you in", whatever the reason behind it, I don't like that.
Who Is Constant Contact For?
CC prohibits certain niches to promote via their services, listed below. Also from the fact that the autoresponder is not available for those on a budget... It's clear that CC's target customers are primarily hybrid users and corporate businesses.
If you are an individual marketer who wish to promote evergreen products, it may not be for you. More specifically, if you are an AWeber user (who can use autoresponder for $19 per month up to 2,500 subscribers), CC is not your ideal alternative.
This email marketing service is definitely ideal for any retail businesses including e-commerce, catering businesses, government bodies, non-profit organizations for discounted rates.
Contents that are not permitted to promote by CC's policy are;
Check the prohibited content by Constant Contact from here.
Totally understandable. Because these categories are often associated with spam, CC deliberately tries to avoid people like niche affiliate marketers in order to maintain their own reputation, their existing customers' reputation, and protect the subscribers from spams.
In terms of "work-at-home" niche, I've had a discussion with the support desk to clarify further (for the sake of it because I'm in that niche!). They say you're allowed to promote ways to build a business and make your own successful career. But depending on the context and the product you promote, it's easy to mislead your subscribers, so they're reluctant to allow you to place an affiliate link to any "make money" products.
There's a very thin line between the two statements "you can make money online" and "you can make money online easy". The latter is definitely spammy. As for affiliate links, even if your intention is genuinely to help your subscribers (to build a career), there may be a misleading content in the destination page.
For most of niche affiliate marketers, it's essential to be able to use an autoresponder in order to promote the same products to any subscribers as they sign up. If I were to continue to use CC, I'd have to go for "Email Plus" option and only promote some useful online tools, I wouldn't any of the promote "start an online business" products.
Solo ad vendors - stick to your AWeber account! ...Or account(s)!
Sign Up Forms
The form templates are very easy to customize, allowing you to publish on your site within minutes. I like the fact that it's not equipped with fancy patterned variations like "Classic Office" "Ocean Breeze" and stuff like that. Simple. You can change the color of text and background. No more. There are more fields you can add; first name, last name, phone number, address, birthday, anniversary, job title, etc.
Inline form is size responsive, so you don't have to worry about setting the width. But on the other hand, because all you have to do is to simply embed the code in your webspace, if you embed it in the middle of an article you'll end up having a full-length form. If you wanted to set the form width, you'd have to insert a column in WordPress for example, or Thrive Architect users can insert a content box and set the box width accordingly.
It has over 100 ready-made templates as well as variety of blank templates (1 column, 2 columns with a main image on top, etc, etc.) And the drag & drop editor allows you to delete any elements in the template, ad new elements, add your own image, change background and change the font size/style.
You can save your images in the Library section - there's more than enough storage space. 1Gb for a basic user or 2Gb for an Email Plus user.
Email Plus option can get you to do much more, such as;
- Shopify Block - Insert your Shopify product and pricing information to promote your products or services.
- Event Block / RSVP Block - Your subscribers can respond by clicking directly in your email, so you can get an accurate headcount for an upcoming event.
- Poll Block - Add questions or prompts for your subscribers. They can directly click on your email.
- Donation Block - Subscribers can donate by clicking directly in your email, so you'll collect and review donations easily.
- Coupon Block - To offer special discounts/savings to your customers. Again they can respond by clicking directly in your email.
- Instantly access your Facebook and Instagram images.
You can send it out either immediately or schedule it for any time later on.
There's another extra option available for Email Plus users - subject line A/B testing. Test two subject lines on a % of your target audience in order to maximize your open rate. This is definitely useful if you have more than tens of thousands of users and send similar newsletters periodically.
Obviously, your new subscribers will be automatically added to the list of your contacts as they sign up via the form. You can also add contacts manually, or by uploading a list from elsewhere, import from Gmail, Outlook or other apps. You need to confirm that you have a permission from the subscribers that you're importing.
The Contact section doesn't retain any other information other than what you collected, and the time of subscription. It means if your signup form only has an email field, it only shows the email address and the date/time of subscription of each subscriber. It doesn't detect their IP address or country.
For instance, if you are planning to run country-specific campaigns, you do have to ask for their country of residence in your signup form.
Another example is where the same person signs up multiple times using different email addresses with malicious intent (i.e. harassing your business), if you knew the person's IP address you'd be able to block them (considering they're not using VPN). You can't do that with Constant Contact. Though if you're get into such trouble you can always ask the support desk to help.
Segmenting the list of subscribers is the way to keep engaging with your subscribers, and avoid losing them. By sending generic messages to all of them, some will simply lose interest and unsubscribe.
You want to offer discounts only to people who didn't click your last email, for example, in order to keep them in.
I've seen quite a few list segmentation tools that are so overcomplicated and hard to set, but Constant Contact has a really comprehensive, straightforward one. It allows you to segment your list by multiple criteria, name it and save it. Then that list can also be segmented further at a later date.
The best reason I think you should go for Constant Contact is its excellent deliverability. No matter how good your copywriting skill is, if a quarter of your subscribers don't get to see your newsletter because their mail boxes are treating it as spam, if will be a wasteful campaign. Your hard work will end up in despair.
According to email deliverability tests carried out by EmailToolTester.com in the past 1.5 years, CC has proven to deliver the 2nd best rate on average, next to ActiveCampaign. At January test, it came to the 3rd, beaten by MailerLite.
MailerLite is another one that offers a service for affordable price, but I cancelled my membership only a few months ago because of the low deliverability rate that I was experiencing. Perhaps this is another one that I'll keep an eye out for.
To make sure CC is delivering good rates, I carried out my own tests too. I first subscribed 4 times using different email addresses (Gmail, iCloud, Hotmail and Mail.com). Then I created a spammy email, inserted some typical spam words both in the subject line and in the body. (NB: not swearing words! Words including a large sum of money, words related to debt collection, etc.)
Amazingly, all 4 of my mailboxes safely received this email in inbox. Perhaps because it was just a list of 4 subscribers, but this has convinced me. (I'm not doing this again, I'll get told off otherwise!)
Help and Support
Knowledge Base has plenty of Quick Start guides and video tutorials, but you could spend hours learning how-to's. I suggest that you play around with it and if you have any question, search by keyword or "ask the community". If you have a problem, contact their Twitter support. That's the best option. Don't bother sending emails - their email support doesn't work/respond!
You can also ask for support directly by;
- Phone support - I find them very friendly and helpful. Open internationally (US & Canada, Australia, France, Germany, India, Spain, UK and Mexico) But only open between Monday - Saturday. Longer than office hours up to 14 hours, depending on the day.
- Live chat - I find them also very friendly, but they have a limited knowledge. If you need something technical, they'll ask you to use the phone support.
- Ask the community - there's a vast amount of threads but you can search by keyword and learn how people have solved the problems in the past.
- Twitter support - my personal favorite. They'll direct you to the best solution within a few hours.
- Email support - does not work (according to Twitter support). I did send a question and received an acknowledgement by email saying it would get back within 1 working day. I never received a response!
Constant Contact Pros and Cons
Constant Contact Review - Final Verdict
Finding Constant Contact extremely easy to navigate was a pleasant surprise for me. As well as the usability (but much more importantly) for the trustworthiness, I would recommend CC to any organizations who wish to expand the customer base through email marketing. The price range is not the lowest in the market, not designed for internet business newbies. But if you are looking for a safe email marketing experience, it may be worth trying.