Constant Contact Email Marketing Review
This is my (Nathan Hammond) personal review of the Constant Contact email marketing platform. I’ve test-driven Constant Contact many times over many years. I recently (December 2016) went through and test-drove Constant Contact one more time, in order to make sure that all my information is correct and that they haven’t released new features or changed features around.
My Experience As An Email Marketer
Although I’m primarily an SEO, I’ve got impressive marketing experience all across the board. I’ve ran the direct mail department on behalf of my families print shop and implemented a whitelabeled email marketing solution on their behalf.
As a marketer (now 100% digital) I have to have an understanding of what is possible and all the different solutions available. Although email is not my primary focus, it is definitely something that I have to be aware about, and I do frequently collaborate on email marketing campaigns on behalf of clients.
My main focus is drip campaigns. This is primarily due to the effectiveness of them, as well as the fact that after being built they basically run themselves. You can build one amazing drip campaign that will have top percentile open and click rates and that campaign will run itself. Better conversions and frees up your time equity…Once you’ve got it built, of course. The campaigns can always be modified / amended to stay relevant.
I’m not too fond of sending out newsletters. Okay, I’ve got no problem sending them, I’m just not the biggest designer in the world, so it’s primarily the visual assets that bug me. Much prefer to save all that for a designer.
Constant Contact Review
And here’s my review on Constant Contact. I’m not going to score it on criteria or anything like that. I’m just going to separate it into different sections and discuss what I like and don’t like about the platform.
Visual Email Designer (Good!)
I do really like Constant Contact’s visual email designer. They were one of the first companies to implement the modulized designer and it works great. Especially with people that aren’t great with more basic WYSIWYG or coding.
I know how to code, so I personally don’t doing a lot of design in code view. In fact, a lot of time I prefer code view because I can do things easier than trying to manipulate the WYSIWYG / modulized designers to make it work the way I want.
Most people aren’t very code savvy though. If they’re rocking the email marketing, they’ll definitely appreciate a very easy to use designer. Especially one that allows you to easily add multimedia and other functionality.
Campaign Automation (Horrible)
Okay, so they offer autoresponders, so you got to give them some credit for that. But autoresponders only work with date-based triggers, which is insanely limiting. I would honestly never go with an email marketing platform that didn’t support full-on drip campaigns.
The difference between drip campaigns and autoresponders is that drip-campaigns offer a wide range of campaign automations. The autoresponders only allow you to use date-based triggers. There’s a lot more that you can do with drip campaigns, especially when using campaign-based triggers.
For example, you can setup an if/then statement on email clicks on an initial welcoming email. If you have any specific products or services listed in that email, and the recipient clicks on one of those links, you can set an automation that will trigger another email tailored to the product or service that the recipient showed interest in.
The real robust email marketing automation suites will even come with their own web-based analytical suites. This will allow you to use website goals as automation triggers. This brings your email marketing campaigns to a whole other level.
So, I really don’t see autoresponders as a major selling point anymore. Everyone offers autoresponders. Autoresponders are easy. Many of the companies are realizing that drip-campaigns are mandatory to stay competitive, so you’re seeing many entry-level suites offering more robust automated campaigns.
Constant Contact hasn’t jumped on that trend yet. Many of their competitors have, and it’ll be interesting to see when they upgrade to full-blown marketing automation. Until then, I can’t really say great things about their automations. If autoresponders are fine for you, great. As mentioned in my intro, the only type of campaigns I’m very passionate about are highly converting drip campaigns.
Template Library (Good)
This is something that isn’t the most important to me, but could be important to a lot of people. Constant Contact has a very impressive template library. This includes tons of different templates for different kinds of emails; newsletters, coupons, ect. As well as templates for specific events, such as birthdays or Christmas.
Just going through the template library could be enough to give you some inspiration on different campaigns you might not have thought of. That right there is pretty awesome.
Personally, I’ve noticed that most companies like to go with a single design for their newsletter. They might change it up with different campaigns outside of their generic time-based newsletter, but everything generally seems to be pretty templated out.
Therefore, designing a template from scratch (or highly modifying an existing one) isn’t the biggest deal in the world, as once you get it perfect, it’s available for future use. Sure, it might be a little time consuming initially if you don’t find the perfect template right away, but future campaigns will be just as fast as the template’s already designed.
If you’re an email marketer that will benefit from a huge template library, Constant Contact definitely has that for you.
Personalization / Mail Merge / Conditional Content (Bad)
Personalization is another thing that I find very important. And when I say personalization, I’m not talking about a first name mail merge in the title. I’m looking for full-blown conditional content.
Conditional content is where you’re able to setup if/then statements to display different content to different recipients, all within the same email. If you’ve got gender information, you can display different content blocks to male or females.
This can also be done based on age, purchase history, interactions with past campaigns and pretty much anything else you can figure out with if/then statements. Keep in mind that you’ve got to have the correct data in order to make conditional content work optimally. But then again, the same things required to make mail merges work correctly as well.
If personalization is something that’s important to you, there’s way better platforms out there. If you don’t plan on using any personalization, or if mail merges is sufficient for what you’re trying to do, this won’t be much of an issue.
Analytics and Campaign Reports (Whatever)
I’m not going to call Constant Contact’s reporting amazing, but I’m not going to say it’s bad. Their reporting is on-par with a lot of the other platforms. You can manage the opens, clicks, bounces, complaints and all that other fun stuff. Nothing incredibly robust, like reverse-ip look up returning geographical metrics, but it’s on-par with all the entry level email marketing platforms.
Surveys, Coupons and Event Registration Emails (Great)
I would probably never use these features, or at least not very frequently. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be useful for another email marketer. Constant Contact did a great job putting those different email types together.
All the emails are extremely intuitive to build. The campaign builder will walk you through the different steps. The campaigns are built with fields where you enter all the information needed to create that specific type of campaign. Once you’ve entered all the information, simply send.
Constant Contact will also send back the data from those emails, which is awesome.
Although I’d probably never personally use these features, I still think they’re well put together and will provide value to someone.
In all honesty, all the different email marketing platforms will have comparable deliverability. In fact, depending on what IP is being used for your account might have a greater impact on deliverability than the actual platform itself. All ESPs use shared IPs for sending. Some IP addresses have better reputation than others, that’s just like. All ESPs spend a lot of time and effort working on the deliverability for all their clients, however.
There’s also tons of other elements that impact deliverability that have nothing to do with the ESP; spammy keywords, photo to text ratio, domain reputation, the list goes on. Therefore, there’s plenty of deliverability concerns outside of the ISP as well.
Constant Contact Pricing (Bad)
Okay, so Constant Contact is priced competitively when you look at the pack of the email platforms with the email platforms with bloated marketing budgets and insane name recognition. So I guess it’s not that bad in that sense. You can get email marketing automation suites for under half the price though. When you consider that, all of a sudden the pricing kind of sucks.
My Final Review of Constant Contact
Constant Contact does it’s job as an email marketing platform. In my opinion, it’s by no means the best, but not awful either. It’s intuitive and easy to use. Especially with the drag-and-drop website builder. Anyone should be able to pick up the platform and easily figure out how to use it.
If you’re looking for advanced functionality, especially when it comes to automations and personalization, Constant Contact definitely isn’t the platform for you. There’s platforms out there way more advanced. These platforms also have all the same bells and whistles that you’d find with Constant Contact, with the addition of a few others.
I’d never personally recommend Constant Contact to anyone. (If you want to know my personal recommendation, it’s at the bottom of this review). But I’d also not make fun of you for using Constant Contact. They do alright.
Constant Contact Features and Free Trial
But don’t take my word for it, try out Constant Contact yourself. Constant Contact offers a 60 day trial, which is more than enough time to test out the platform. Check out Constant Contact for yourself and form your own decision.
My Suggestion: Constant Contact Alternative
If you’re wondering what the email platform I personally use and recommend is, it’s ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign is a very robust email marketing platform. ActiveCampaign allows for all the variable data and campaign automation that I’ve mentioned in this review. Best of all, it starts at $9 per month and is more affordable than Constant Contact at every subscriber-level.
I’ve implemented ActiveCampaign on behalf of many clients and have worked with them to design email marketing templates, build high converting full automated drip-campaigns and get them rolling on the platform.
There are tons of platforms that have released their own drip-campaigns as well. I’m looking forward to test driving all the other platforms that have added these new features and see how they compare. It’s great to see the rest of the industry embracing the more advanced functionality, and hopefully soon Constant Contact will get there, too.