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Constant Contact has a lot of potential. All the basic features are there, it’s a pleasure to use, and you can get your first month or two for free (depending on your location). That said, many advanced features are incomplete or just missing, so whether Constant Contact is the right choice for you will ultimately depend on your needs.
Super Simple Email Marketing, or Is It Too Simple?
Constant Contact, like most services in the email marketing space, will tell you that it’s the best. Heck, it’s not just the best; it’s supposed to be the only product you’ll need to market your products or services via email, SMS, and possibly social media.
And with affordable plans that include marketing campaigns, landing pages, and more, how could it go wrong? Well… that’s a bit of a story. It’s a roller coaster ride of features that are great and very easy to use, features that are outright missing, and then there was that time I got my account temporarily banned. And you know what? That was one of the highlights of my experience!
No, really, it was a good thing, and a point in Constant Contact’s favor. I’ll explain everything.
See, I went undercover to determine just how good (or not) the service would turn out to be. If you want to know whether Constant Contact has the exact features you need for your business or if you’d be better off with one of the other top email marketing services, this is the place to find out.
I can’t fault Constant Contact for its general ease of use. I mean, sure, you’ll need to understand the basic concepts of email marketing to get your money’s worth out of the platform, but that’s true for all of them.
But this particular platform stands out by having decent basic tutorials built into the interface, and the interface itself is incredibly snappy. I sometimes get frustrated by page and email builders feeling slow and clunky, even on my gaming rig. Not so here.
When it actually does what you want, Constant Contact is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s just the odd missing thing that’ll throw you off. It’s like a burger that’s absolutely amazing, but where in God’s name are the pickles and the custom automation workflows? That’s what I’d like to know.
Yep, this platform is missing some of the more advanced features we’ve come to expect thanks to the competition. Here’s what I mean:
Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization
Email campaigns are kept relatively simple, and honestly a little bit limited. The Email plan allows you to send emails to up to 10,000 contacts, and the Email Plus plan will let you send emails to 50,000. And there doesn’t seem to be an option for anyone with a bigger contact list.
The Email Plus plan also provides access to things like personalized pop-up forms, RSVP forms, polls, coupons, online donations, personalized email content, and more.
After you send any campaign, sharing that same email/newsletter on social media is just a matter of clicking a button that shows up once you’ve sent the email out normally. You can share your content on Facebook (Business Pages only), Instagram (Businesses only), LinkedIn, and Twitter.
You can also technically send out a campaign via SMS, but those are entirely separate campaigns. And technically, you’d be sending them through a separate service called EZtexting. It seems that Constant Contact has a business deal with EZTexting to handle that side of the service.
The email campaign templates are perfectly respectable. Okay, a few of them feel a teensy bit dated, but they are generally clean, modern, and good-looking. Besides, there are over 300 of them, so you have options. Don’t want to use a pre-built template? There are several that allow you to start from skeleton frameworks, or even entirely from scratch so you can flex your email design skills.
These templates are all searchable and categorized by tags like “Holiday” (e.g. “See Our Christmas Deals”), “Newsletter,” or “ Greeting” (e.g. “Welcome to Our Mailing List”). They’re all mobile-responsive, which is kind of important. A lot more people are using smartphones than any other sort of computing device these days.
And heck, when I’m not working on my desktop, my other desktop, or my laptop, even I’m on my phone. That’s why they get me to write these reviews for a living.
The actual email builder/editor is pretty decent. It’s got all of the basic features you’d want: dragging and dropping, predefined content blocks to help you lay out your text and images, decent font selection, simple color customization, all of that good stuff. You have to upload your own images, though. There’s no stock library to speak of.
Okay, a stock photo library isn’t strictly essential, but it’s a nice-to-have, you know?
RTL language support (for languages like Arabic and Hebrew) would also be nice, but is also lacking.
Speaking of nice-to-haves, you can also throw a bunch of extras into your email layout (on the Email Plus plan), including products from your Shopify or WooCommerce store, events from Eventbrite, the aforementioned polls and RSVP forms, and more.
Now, confession time. I grabbed my next screenshot from the Constant Contact help center, because I managed to screenshot just about every feature except the editor. And I can’t get another one because my account is canceled. [Bad reviewer, bad!]
You can also (and we’re still on on the Email Plus plan here) customize your emails to individual contacts with variables. For example, the subject and greeting can say, “Dear Darla” instead of, “Hello there valued customer. So valued. Much value indeed.”
You can also use these variables to put in any of the customer’s information, like their address, phone number, birthday, or anything else you can think of. Lastly, there are variables for your account, such as your own name, address, websites, email, and so on. It’s all pretty useful for automated campaigns, and for doing things like confirming a customer’s contact info.
What you can’t do, and this is a pretty big oversight, is “dynamic content display” based on customer info. For example, if you wanted to show a special message to one set of users (e.g. all the Steves), and a different message to another set (e.g. all the Darlas) in the same email, some platforms will let you do that. On Constant Contact, you’d have to create entirely separate lists of all the Steves and all the Darlas, and send each list a different email.
Another feature that’s incomplete is A/B testing. Now what’s that? Well, let’s say you want to send an email campaign to all of your contacts, but you want to send two different versions to see which one performs better.
Let’s say you’re trying out a “Buy Now” button that’s big and blue, and another that’s small and red. A/B testing would allow you to send the design with the big blue button to half your users, and the red to the other half. Then, your analytics and stats would tell you how many more people clicked one button design over the other.
Now, Constant Contact does have A/B testing, but it’s very limited. All you can do is test subject lines against each other. But if you wanted to test two different versions of emails, either in terms of content or design, that’s not an option.
A/B testing is one of the big ways that companies measure the effectiveness of design and wording changes in email marketing, so to (mostly) not have the option is frustrating, and it’s downright odd for any major email marketing platform to limit your testing options in this way. Just about all the top email marketing services give you more flexibility.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
Thankfully, creating and managing your mailing lists is fairly simple on Constant Contact. You can create web forms that are easily embeddable in any web page to collect email addresses. If you already have a bunch of emails to work with, you can import them by copying and pasting them, or uploading a file. Lastly, you can manually enter contacts yourself.
Note: supported files include Microsoft Excel files (.xls, .xlsx), .csv files, .vcf, and even comma-separated text files.
My experience was smooth and simple. If you have the information available, you can also easily import full names, addresses, age, gender, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.
You can search and sort through your contacts by email, status (subscribed or not), source, date added, job title, company name, and location. If you need to find contacts by more advanced criteria, there is an advanced search feature to help you out. You can even tag contacts to make them easier to find in the search.
Now let’s say you’ve done an advanced search for all of your contacts who have clicked on a link in your emails in the past 6 months, are subscribed to your “fancy kilts” mailing list, and live outside of Scotland. What if you could have a dynamically updated list of those specific people to follow up on, so you don’t have to do a new search every time?
Well, you can. That’s called segmentation, and it’s the backbone of many advertising campaigns. Good news – segmentation is present and pretty effective in Constant Contact. You can create a filter based on what you know about your subscribers, and go.
I want to specify that you can also segment your contacts by engagement. That is, you can sort contacts by the people who have engaged with your emails a lot, only a little, or not at all. THis helps you to identify those potential customers who have the most promise.
There are no suppression lists; the feature is just missing. This is sad, and Constant Contact should have them.
See, suppression lists are a useful little thing. They’re lists of people that you do not, under any circumstances, want to send email to. The most common usage for these lists is to keep you from accidentally sending more mail to people who have already unsubscribed. In some countries, that’s a matter of law, so it’s worth paying attention to.
Thankfully, Constant Contact has a manual block list you can use to block people forever. You absolutely do need that, and it’s there.
Landing pages are fantastic for when you want to really sell someone on a specific product or service in one go.
Constant Contact’s landing page is decent, but like the automation, it’s somewhat incomplete. Let’s see, how do I put this? There were 5 templates. Yep, only 5. There are no zeroes missing from that number.
That said, the templates are responsive, and of comparable quality to the email templates. The landing page editor is comparable as well. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same, minus the Shopify integration and whatnot.
It’s not a bad feature, as such. If you have all of your content ready to go, there’s no reason you couldn’t get a page up and running in 10 minutes or less. But it needs more work, and more templates to start people off with. The drop from 300+ templates to a whopping 5 is rather steep.
It also needs support for custom domains (e.g. yourwebsite.com). Yeah, your landing pages won’t even show up under your website’s domain, and that can be a real hit to your SEO. Also your email’s deliverability, as it;s better if links in your emails go back to your own domain.
Automation is an awesome feature that Constant Contact only sort of has. See, automation is awesome for designing processes like, “If a customer signs up for deals, send them a welcome email. Wait six months, then send them a survey to ask if they like our deals. Wait a year, then ask if they’d recommend us to a friend.”
It’s a useful feature to many, and plenty of email marketing platforms will give you a way to interweave marketing campaigns and user interaction to make a system that you barely have to keep an eye on.
However, Constant Contact does not allow you to design your own automation workflows. It just gives you three main options:
An automatic welcome email (for when users sign up)
Anniversary emails. No, not the customer’s anniversary with their spouse, partner, or small pet. Their anniversary of signing up for your marketing emails. Because that’s a thing.
Now technically, you can also send “Why don’t you come back and buy stuff?” emails if someone leaves the shopping cart on your site abandoned, but that feature only seems to be available if you’re using Shopify, or if you use Constant Contact’s own online store builder.
Oh, and there’s no autoresponder option for people who send emails to you, either. In short, automation is present, but it’s very limited. I’m glad it’s there, but I wish to [insert deity here] that there was more.
On top of everything else, Constant Contact has its own site builder, and an online store builder as well. I didn’t look too closely at these features, as they’re far beyond the scope of this review, but it should be noted that they exist.
You get unlimited file storage (within reason), website analytics, blogging features, and more on the site builder. The store builder offers unlimited product sales, support for both digital and physical products, inventory and tax management, coupons and discounts…. The usual features you’d need.
Constant Contact has an event management tool, which allows you to keep track of user registration for online events. We’re talking about things like webinars, classes, workshops, product demonstrations, and more.
You can, of course, set up a landing page for event registration, collect data on your guests, and keep track of who has coupon codes. Everything. You can even accept payments right there on the sign-up page, if you want it to be that kind of event.
Lastly, Constant Contact can integrate itself with a ton of other services, not just Shopify, WooCommerce, or eBay. You can use almost any analytics platform, the DonorPerfect fundraising software, BigCommerce, and a whole lot more. Plus, you can use Zapier to connect Constant Contact to just about anything on the Internet, for a whopping 3300+ total third-party integrations.
That number is actually kind of nuts.
All in all, the features that Constant Contact does have are great, and a pleasure to use in general. But there’s just so much that’s basically missing, I was a bit disappointed.
Constant Contact Takes Spam Pretty Seriously, but Is Still Missing Some Important Features
So here’s the deal. You want your emails to go through to your contacts’ email servers, and hopefully not get marked as spam, right? This is the ideal outcome for your business, and hopefully ideal for your happy customers as well.
There are services out there that will test an email marketing service and say that its deliverability score is, let’s say, 90%. Well, the problem is that those numbers are highly unreliable, because there are simply too many factors involved. You can’t easily test for everything that might affect an email’s delivery, unless you have admin-level access to the server that’s sending it, the server that’s receiving it, and possibly every other server along the way.
In short, what we do is just this: we test what we can. We look at a few simple factors that make a big difference in your email’s deliverability, and make the best judgement we can based on the information available.
First up is DKIM, which is basically an authentication system that uses encryption to tell email providers, “this email came straight from the original server, and was not tampered with in any way.” Naturally, email services all over the world are more likely to trust messages that have DKIM authentication enabled.
Constant Contact has DKIM authentication, and has a simple guide you can follow to get it set up, as (partially) seen here:
Next, we look at the spam policy. Constant Contact’s policy is actually rather strict. If more than 0.1% of your emails get marked as spam, your contact lists and your whole account can come under review. The anti-spam crew is pretty hands-on about this whole thing.
Very hands-on, in fact. One of the tests I run involves uploading the email addresses of known spammers, to see if they’ll get flagged. The ideal result is that these spammy email addresses simply don’t get imported, and you (the user) get an error message to that effect.
Constant Contact did not prevent import of spammy addresses, but about half an hour later, my account came under review. I was sent an email telling me my account was more or less in trouble, and I had to call tech support to get everything straightened out.
So I called, and it turns out that suspicious email addresses do get immediately shadow-banned. As in, they get flagged, and you don’t find out about it until your account gets reviewed. They do this to make people call in, because plenty of their users tend to upload these email addresses from lists they bought, and they don’t necessarily know any better.
So I had to explain myself a bit, but everything worked out in the end. Although it’s not the way I prefer to do things (which would frankly involve less human interaction), I have to give the support team points for taking on an educational role.
Next, we examine affiliate marketing. If you use your emails to promote affiliate programs, is Constant Contact going to allow that? Short answer? No. Reports from other users say their accounts get flagged when they try to engage in any affiliate marketing via email campaigns, or even recruit affiliates for their own campaigns.
Now, if you’re not an affiliate marketer yourself, this can be a good thing. It means that spammy affiliate marketing emails won’t be associated with Constant Contact, and thus your emails on the service are more likely to be trusted.
Next, you might want to get a dedicated IP address for your emails. Simply put, if your email comes from the same IP address as a spammer, the whole IP address could get flagged for Spam. That would keep your emails from going through too.
Buuut you can’t get it here. While Constant Contact does have its own known and trusted IP addresses, you cannot buy one for your email campaigns specifically. It’s not a complete deal breaker, but it is a shame. Every company should ideally have an IP address for its own emails, at some point. It can be kind of expensive though, so it;s not a total deal-breaker.
In the tests I ran, I never had a problem with my emails getting through.
Analytics are, like A/B testing, the way marketers know if they’re doing everything (or anything) right. You need to have at least a general idea of which emails get opened, by whom, when, and whether they’re clicking links. You need to know what works for you.
That information is the backbone of any online marketing strategy, along with human intuition, and a whole lot of trial and error. That’s why you can and should expect detailed statistics and analysis from your email marketing platform, to help you make the right decisions, and sell your services or products as best you can.
Constant Contact seems to have gone in a different direction. Oh sure, it has statistics. THey are present. But the insights you’ll get from these statistics are functionally useless.
All you get is a basic breakdown of how many people opened your emails, and how many clicked on the links inside. Oh, and you get to know whether those people were on a desktop, tablet, or phone. This information is useful, but provides little context.
You don’t get any breakdown of which regions of the world are engaging more, what times of day your readers prefer, or any of the more useful little details will help you to tell a story about what your users do or don’t want. You don’t even know if these users are Microsoft Office or Gmail users, unless you go to your contact list and check the email addresses for yourself (which may not be accurate anyway — custom domains are a thing).
Sure, you could theoretically derive further insights from the segmentation feature by creating lots of custom contact lists, but you shouldn’t have to. An analytics page should be telling you what kinds of contacts are responding the best to your marketing efforts.
There are three primary ways to contact support, and a couple of extra support channels to try if those don’t work. The “big three” would be phone support, live chat, and good old email (submitted via a form on the website).
Users who want to take their issues public can always tweet at the Constant Contact Twitter account (Yes, that’s a listed support channel on the website), and there’s a community forum. A whole-assed, fairly lively community forum. Man, that feels like a blast from the past.
Lastly, there’s also a fairly extensive knowledge base, which has a ton of tutorials covering every major feature. Okay, I didn’t find everything I needed in there, but I found most of it. Honestly, always check the knowledge base first. It saves time for everyone.
For the talking-to-people support, I stuck to the main support channels for the sake of simplicity, and here’s how it went: Pretty well.
I asked if there was any way to A/B test actual email content and designs. I got an immediate response, and well. You know. You can’t. Still, the actual interaction was fast and gave me the answer I needed, which is what the support team gets graded on.
Next, I contacted phone support, and asked if I could blast out my email campaigns via SMS and social media at the same time as email goes out. I got in touch with a knowledgeable, pleasant representative immediately, and got my answer. It was quick and painless, as far as phone calls go.
I don’t much like calling customer service.
The answer: Like I said quite far above, social media takes an extra button click once your main email campaign is sent. And SMS campaigns have to be done separately.
The email support was a little disappointing, to be honest. Specifically, I asked about support for right-to-left languages like Arabic and so on. Well, I had to find the information elsewhere, because the tech agent in this case completely misinterpreted my question. Oh, and I had to wait nearly 20 hours to get a response.
You Could Get More for Your Dollar Elsewhere
Constant Contact’s prices are by no means outrageous, but they don’t exactly inspire me either. Don’t get me wrong: in terms of sheer numbers, Constant Contact has pretty darned decent plans. The cheapest plan, Email, offers a mailing list size of 10,000 for $20.00 per month, and that’s not at all bad.
Add on 3 user accounts (so your marketing team can work together), and a whole bunch of features (like the site builder) for which other platforms would make you pay extra, and you have a sweet deal on paper. The Email Plus plan isn’t that much more expensive either.
But when I make these calculations, I am forced to weigh the inclusion of tons of features against the quality of those same features. While some are quite good, others are (as mentioned above) missing or incomplete. So while you might pay more elsewhere for those same features, the features will… you know… be there.
That said, if Constant Contact retains its pricing plan while working to improve the actual features, it will be one of the biggest names in email marketing. Someday.
For now, I’d strongly recommend that – before you commit to anything – you take advantage of the company’s first month free policy. And if you do spend money, well, there is also a 30-day money back guarantee.
That guarantee doesn’t cover services like custom design, marketing managers, Facebook Lead ads… basically anything that’s not directly tied to email marketing.
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June 12, 2018
Constant contact fit that bill
I'm the office manager for a small business, and I was tasked with coming up with an email marketing solution that wouldn't kill our budget. Constant contact fit that bill. It has a ton of great features such as email scheduling, real-time reporting, and tracking options. I was able to manage multiple contact lists and was able to remove duplicate contacts automatically. The best part is that you don't need to be a design or tech wizard to use this product. It's perfect for any small business in my opinion.
this service is only for those with little or no email marketing experience
Personally, I feel that this service is only for those with little or no email marketing experience. I have run campaigns for multiple companies and found this software lacking for those wanting mid-range or enterprise-level features. If you're new to email marketing or you are a small business with a tight budget, this may work, but if you are looking for something more robust, then you may feel that you've overpaid using this product.
I really like the interface and setting up contacts is fast and easy
I really like the interface and setting up contacts is fast and easy. One of the best features was the ability to reuse emails formats for various campaigns. I had an ongoing email campaign and rather than having to set up each separate message, I could simply modify the original template and continue. It's great for anything from one-time emails to long-term campaigns. It has saved me a ton of time, and ultimately money
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Constant Contact REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE
Constant Contact has its basic features locked down, but man there are so many advanced features that are incomplete or just missing. This is too bad, because the UI is easy to use, and my whole user experience experience was snappy and fast. The support was mostly fantastic as well.
Beginners would find most of what they need on this platform, but may quickly outgrow the limits of the current feature set.
I would say that Constant Contact is one to keep your eye on. There’s a lot of potential here, but until this company gets its features in order, potential won’t pay the bills. You’ll get more advanced features for the money from either Sendinblue or GetResponse.
What is Constant Contact?Constant Contact is a top email marketing service designed for small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. In addition to email marketing, it offers tools for website building, e-commerce, social media, and more – all of which are included in every plan. Take a look at our list of the top email marketing services to see our recommendations.Does Constant Contact offer a free version?No, but there’s a 60-day Constant Contact free trial if you’re in the US, and a 30-day trial for everywhere else. You’ll get access to all the features of the basic Email plan, but if you’re not in the US, you’ll have to enter your payment information to start the trial (and you’ll be charged automatically when it ends – unless you cancel first).How much does Constant Contact cost?The basic Email plan starts at $20.00 per month, and the Email Plus plan starts at $45.00. Constant Contact prices increase based on the number of subscribers, but discounts are available for longer commitments and non-profit organizations, and you can always save money with our Constant Contact coupons.What are the benefits of Constant Contact?It’s an easy-to-use tool for beginners and anyone without a lot of time on their hands. Features like website building and online stores are included within the same platform, making it an all-in-one tool for digital marketing. You’ll also get access to dozens of great email templates and efficient customer support.Is Constant Contact better than Mailchimp?Constant Contact is the superior service for beginners and small business owners, with more – and better – templates and a more user-friendly editing tool. Mailchimp may have superior analytics and A/B testing, but its basic features can’t compete with Constant Contact.
Ezequiel Bruni is biologically Canadian, legally Mexican, and self identifies as a total nerd. He’s been a web and experience designer off and on since he was a teenager, and loves sharing the kind of beginner’s advice he really wishes he’d had when he first started. He also loves video games, tacos, open source software, video games, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms, and video games. He does not love writing in the third person.