Constant Contact is an email marketing service available online via subscription. That description hardly does it justice, though–it’s like calling Google “a search engine,” or Disney “a film studio”.
Calling Constant Contact “just a marketing service” misses a lot of layers. For example, it’s important to note that they’ve been around since 1995, a year before Hotmail debuted, in the dark ages when everyone’s email address came directly from their ISP.
Their suite of marketing services has been growing along with email itself for over 20 years now. The role they played in inventing an entirely new world of marketing can’t be overstated.
Another layer of Constant Contact is its expansive marketing platform that goes beyond simple mailing list management or email design. They now boast a website builder that can create professional landing pages where your emails can send potential customers, along with a suite of features to enhance e-commerce.
They’ve got the option to bring in more views through social media ads. They’ve even ventured into automation, in case email marketing is taking up too much of your time.
Yet another layer comes from Constant Contact’s positioning as the email marketer that makes sure your emails are branded–that mysterious marketing alchemy that encompasses design, content, communication style, and product offerings. Branding is the best way to stand out in a field as crowded as web commerce, and Constant Contact aims to help your emails leverage that power.
Constant Contact’s own website claims that all these new features derive directly from their core mission: “to empower small businesses and nonprofits to grow customer relationships and succeed.”
In 2016, they were acquired by fellow Boston company Endurance, the parent of HostGator, BlueHost, and iPage. In spite of having gone corporate, they’ve kept the same goal of leveling the playing field and giving small businesses a fighting chance to catch the average customer’s attention.
Whether or not they succeed is up to you to decide. All we’re here to do is help you figure out whether Constant Contact is the right option for your business. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the services they offer in 2019.
What Can Constant Contact Do For You?
Email is core for keeping a business relevant in a ridiculously crowded marketplace. Each of Constant Contact’s features is designed to help with a different part of the multifaceted marketing process.
This is a simple mailing list of the type you’re likely familiar with from Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, or any number of similar services. Starting your marketing adventure by uploading your whole contacts list into Constant Contact might seem like a waste of time, but a robust contact manager is a gateway to everything else the product offers–can’t send exquisitely crafted email blasts if you don’t have anyone to send them to, after all.
You can import contacts from another app, enter them manually, upload a data file, or copy and paste the info. From there, you’ll have access to a clean UI, complete with info on your contacts, filters, and a search function.
For businesses with rapidly expanding contact lists, CC’s contact manager has the option of tagging contacts and grouping them into categories, enabling different segments to be targeted with personalized campaigns. As another nice perk, the contact manager will automatically sanitize your data, deleting duplicate addresses and contacts that have unsubscribed.
A critical note about the contact manager: the number of contacts stored determines the starting price point for your Constant Contact plan. See the Pricing section below for more about this.
Ever built a website with WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix? Then you’ll be familiar with what a relief it can be to have solid themes and templates to work from. Let’s face it, not a lot of people running small e-commerce businesses have time to brush up their CSS–saving effort is why software-as-a-service is a thing at all.
Constant Contact does exactly the same thing, but with emails instead of static pages. The range of offerings here is impressive. Even with the basic plan, you’ll get access to over 160 templates. They’re all fully customizable, and plenty are mobile-responsive (here are a few examples taken from Constant Contact’s blog).
Another cool feature is the branded template builder, which lets you copy all the branding from your website–logo, design, social media connections–and create an email which matches it as closely as possible. If you’ve already got a great-looking website, this saves you from having to reinvent the wheel with your emails.
Customization happens within a simple WYSIWYG editor that’ll put you even more in mind of Wix and Weebly. Within this editor, you can drag and drop features, change colors and fonts, upload your photos, and share links for customers to buy your products directly. You can save elements like photos and logos in the editor’s media library, or pull from CC’s collection of stock photos.
Reporting and Analytics
Once you’ve scheduled your campaigns to send, either immediately, in the future, or staggered to different segments of your list, Constant Contact keeps the ball rolling by tracking the success of your email blasts. The tracking reports share the rest of the platform’s concern with beautiful UI, and make it easy to understand at a glance what you’re looking at.
The basic engagement report charts how many emails you’ve sent versus how many have been opened and how many clicked. In addition to using this report to figure out how changes to your campaigns affect them over time, you can also compare up to five campaigns in parallel, to see which ones are performing best and learn from them how to shore up the weaker ones.
If you like to get really nitty-gritty with your data, Constant Contact now includes a heat map, showing which links within your emails got the most clicks–and then allows you to segment your contacts into different groups based on who was interested in what links.
Constant Contact only launched its website builder this year, so the community is still getting a feel for it. What can be seen so far is mostly promising. Dovetailing with CC’s guiding mission of saving time and money for small business owners who are trying to wear a dozen hats at once, the website builder relies heavily on AI to personalize and optimize your page.
The AI gathers information both from scrubbing your social media business pages and from fields you fill out manually. A real-time preview of the changes these fields create is a very nice touch, as is the freedom to check out your generated page without paying anything or officially signing up for Constant Contact. The AI pulls image content from a ridiculously big library of royalty-free photos, or you can upload your own — though unfortunately, it’s not possible to edit images.
In case you don’t like any of the decisions the AI has made, whether it’s content placement, image choice, or something larger, you’re free to make changes after the fact. The builder is engineered to prevent any choice from “breaking” the site–e.g. making it suddenly look terrible on mobile.
The other side of the coin from personalization is optimization, and features aren’t lacking here, either. Fast load times, powered by Constant Contact’s CDN, are the AI’s prime directive. This also boosts SEO and helps handle the traffic spikes you’re hopefully going to get from your awesome new website and email campaign. Reports and analytics developed for the email campaign side of things also work here, allowing you to find out what’s working and optimize for yourself over time.
E-commerce, of course, is a must, since very few people are going to choose Constant Contact without having something to sell. Everything you’d expect is there: product pages, carts, and payment integrations (currently PayPal, Stripe, and Mollie). The only thing that feels like a bit of an afterthought is the blog, which as of right now consists of a rudimentary text editor that doesn’t handle images well.
A final point here: as you’d expect, Constant Contact’s website builder is fully integrated with its email campaigns. For people pressed for time and prioritizing convenience, this might be enough to edge out the competition all on its own.
Social Share is a tool bundled with Constant Contact’s email campaigns which allows you to share your email blasts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. After sending a campaign email, you can have Social Share post it to any page you administer on those three social networks, either immediately or up to a day later. You’ll be able to manage what gets posted to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn without ever having to leave Constant Contact.
Features also support driving traffic the other direction, from your emails to your social media pages. Adding buttons is as simple as anything else in the drag-and-drop email editor. While you’re at it, you can add sharing buttons for your readers to post your emails themselves. It’s a great way to spread word of mouth and keep the positive feedback loop going.
For those business owners who are ready to go after social media engagement more aggressively, Constant Contact provides an easy way to launch targeted ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.
Designing the substance of your ads is as easy as every other design task in the CC ecosystem, handled with a few clicks, fields, and dropdown menus (but still with the ability to change things without borking the design entirely). Your main decision is what information to collect from people who click, down to as little as their email address–though we recommend asking for names.
After your ad is ready, you’ll be able to choose what audience it’s targeted toward, segmented by age, gender, location, and specific interests (very specific–the blog gives “mindfulness-based stress reduction” as an example tag). You’ll also be prompted to name the duration of your ad campaign and how much you plan to spend on it.
So yes, while you still have to pay Facebook to do this, their direct partnership with CC means you can do that through a simple portal. And five dollars a day, even for a few weeks, is not that much to spend for an ad campaign that might theoretically reach two billion people.
Social media campaigns through the Facebook-CC partnership are also automated: after scheduling and paying for them, you won’t have to personally do anything to get them in front of potential contacts.
Automated email marketing is a relatively recent addition to Constant Contact’s suite of features, but they haven’t ignored this area entirely. Right now, subscribers can expect the power to send automatic welcome emails to new contacts, and automatically segment contacts for further outreach based on how people interact with your emails–such as resending similar campaigns with changed subject lines to people who didn’t open the first one.
That’s about it so far. If it seems simplistic, it’s because this is a big area where Constant Contact has sacrificed depth for ease of use. Dynamic workflows are palpably absent: you can set an email to go out to a contact on their birthday, say, or their anniversary of signing up for your list, but you can’t have the autoresponder decide what sort of follow-up someone gets based on where they click or how long they spend reading. That information is available, but you have to act on it manually. It’s a pretty glaring omission compared to CC’s direct competitors.
On the other hand, here we’ve got a feature that puts Constant Contact ahead of the game, though it’s exclusive to higher-level plans. If you’re using an email campaign to advertise an event, you can manage registration and ticketing for that event within the campaigns feature, instead of having to offload to a third-party platform.
It’s not a completely native feature–event management is fueled by integration with Eventbrite–but like the Facebook partnership, it’s tight enough that it might as well be native. After a one-step integration, Eventbrite buttons will appear alongside the usual content in your email editor. From there, once you’ve got your event set up in Eventbrite, you can have your emails link back to it, allowing potential guests to RSVP right from the invitation.
Reporting carries over to event management, too. Using the full Constant Contact analytics suite, you can determine how well your invitations are creating buzz using charts and heat maps. Again, you’ll have to act on this information manually, but the segmentation tools in the contact manager at least give you as many options for targeting event ads as they do for general email campaigns.
Other than Eventbrite and Facebook, Constant Contact syncs with about 470 other apps, many of them in the same niches it fills. If you need a deeper e-commerce experience than CC provides, you can knit it seamlessly to Shopify. If you’d rather have more control over your blog, run it in WordPress and add a Constant Contact capture form.
Other than the integrations themselves, the best thing offered here is a searchable integration database, where you can browse all your options and sort them by function, price, age, or industry they’re tailored toward.
What features are available to help you work through snags and get the most out of your Constant Contact subscription? One of them is the Knowledge Base, which I’ve already linked to a few times. It’s basically a browser-based manual that aims to be a comprehensive resource on any problems you might run into, from onboarding to troubleshooting bugs.
If reading the manual doesn’t solve your problem, hop over to the Help Center, where you can connect with a professional by phone, chat, or tweet, access video tutorials, ask other members of the community about your weird never-before-seen glitch, or hire professional help with either the technical or marketing side of things.
So that’s the suite of features that make up the Constant Contact ecosystem. Before we get into the good and bad points and give our overall verdict, though, let’s talk about what features are available with what plans, and how pricing works.
How Much Does Constant Contact Cost?
Constant Contact offers two plans: Email and Email Plus. The price of each scales based on the number of contacts in your manager.
Both plans offer unlimited emails, access to full tech support, the entire library of templates and stock photos, all integrations except Eventbrite, all analytics, and the mobile app.
- The basic Email plan starts at $20 a month, and allows one user and 1GB of file storage. The price scales to $45/month at 500 subscribers, $65/month at 2,500 subscribers, and $95/month at 5,000 subscribers.
- The Email plus plan starts at $45 a month, and allows ten users and 2GB of storage, making it the better choice for larger marketing teams. It also adds email automations, event management, and the ability to include coupons and surveys in emails. Price scales to $65/month at 500 subscribers, $95/month at 2,500 subscribers, and $125/month at 5,000 subscribers.
Starting at 10,000 subscribers, both plans cost the same: $195/month up to 15,000, $225/month up to 25,000, and $335/month up to 50,000. On either plan, you can save 10% with a 6-month deal, and 15% with a 12-month deal.
The Pros of Constant Contact
Unlimited Emails On All Plans
This is just straight-up nice. The freedom and luxury of being able to send any number of emails can’t be overstated, and the fact that it starts even at the lowest-tier plan makes perfect sense for a service trying to position itself as friendly to small business. In addition to money, it saves a lot of anxiety–no need to worry that you wasted some of your precious monthly messages on a newsletter that fizzled.
Focus On Simplicity
The other most obvious fruit of Constant Contact’s orientation toward small businesses is the whole platform’s focus on being as easy as possible to understand. Simplicity informs every aspect of the user interface, from the content manager to the email editor to the way that complex actions like running a Facebook ad campaign are reduced to a few simple fields and clicks.
It’s not just that everything looks friendly, either. Ease of use goes bone-deep; it’s almost impossible to name a task that takes more than two clicks, no matter where you start from. In the case of the AI-powered page designer, you’re literally watching your most time-consuming task get finished before your eyes. Taken together, it’s a balm for the small business owner’s anxious soul.
Library of Design Options
Much like the emails, this is a feature that all price ranges offer full access to. The huge variety of templates all look good, and it’s great that they’re mobile-responsive–even better that you don’t have to pay extra to use any one you want. On top of that, they still look good when filled up with your branded content. The library of stock photos is just as extensive.
Not the sexiest feature, but undoubtedly the most important. As Neil Patel emphatically points out, email marketing does absolutely nothing if your emails aren’t getting delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.
And large email marketing blasts are notoriously unreliable, with some services getting up to 36% of their emails caught in spam filters–great if you want to know how the global battle against spam is going, but less great for marketers.
Fortunately, Constant Contact performs very well on this front. In a test performed by EmailToolTester, they delivered 89.74% of emails, coming in ahead of MailChimp, Active Campaign, and MailerLite, and behind only ConvertKit (and not that far behind).
A Wide Range of Features
Constant Contact has gone to admirable lengths to make their service into a one-stop-shop. With the addition of the web page builder, the amazing ease of getting native ads onto Facebook and Instagram, and the very good decision to partner with Eventbrite, you can create a heady buzz around your small business or nonprofit with a single subscription.
Anything you can’t do within the app can be accomplished with one of the 470 or so integrations, though it’s always great to see options like surveys and coupons included in the editor so you don’t need to go third-party.
It can’t be said too many times: it’s a huge mark in CC’s favor that they understand most people would rather be running their business than advertising it. You don’t have to enjoy marketing. But you can make it painless.
Customer support: Overall, the help center gets very good marks. Knowledge Base articles cover almost all basic issues you might have with the service and being able to chat instead of call to get assistance is a boon for the antisocial. If you do have to call, the operators are cheerful and knowledgeable and keep long hours (though not 24/7). You can even tweet at them, which represents a very nice commitment to keeping themselves open and transparent.
Cons of Constant Contact
No Free Membership
You can put Constant Contact through its paces for a 60-day free trial, but once that’s over, you have to cough up. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that the price point compares poorly to alternative email marketing programs–especially CC’s top competition, MailChimp.
In fact, MailChimp, MailerLite, and several alternate email marketing choices do include free membership, and their price tiers rise much less steeply than Constant Contact’s at higher subscriber numbers. Given Constant Contact’s stated mission of helping small businesses compete against big corporations with more resources, such a high price point is a particularly baffling decision.
Automation Is Lacking
Weighed against its competitors, Constant Contact’s automation options are surprisingly lacking. Compared to the dynamic automation workflows that come standard with MailerLite, GetResponse, Drip, and others, CC’s autoresponders feel static and aren’t very adaptable to a diverse customer base.
You can automate responses and schedule emails to be sent at certain times without your input, but the interface for doing so is cumbersome, especially if you plan a series of multiple follow-up emails. When it comes to the current hottest trend in email marketing, the oldest name in the business still has a lot of catching up to do.
Limited Control Options
Welcome to the dark side of simplicity. In striving to make themselves accessible, Constant Contact has taken away a lot of features that deserved to be left in. You can’t create your own email designs, and in order to keep the templates from breaking down, you aren’t allowed to change them very much. While an easy, drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor was the right idea, the rigid templates too often subvert that user-friendliness, leading to Microsoft Word-style frustration when design elements refuse to go where they’re supposed to. Opt-in forms aren’t allowed to be customized at all.
Advanced options like rule-based subscriber segmentation and A/B testing are similarly nowhere to be found–the latter especially aggravating, since there’s no way to see how a campaign will perform without pulling the trigger and potentially burning subscribers. Analytics has taken a hit as well.
Conclusion: Should You Choose Constant Contact for Email Marketing?
Unfortunately, in the current state of the industry, it’s difficult to recommend Constant Contact without qualification. For every one of its best features, something else is frustratingly absent. A dazzling array of templates, but you can’t meaningfully customize them. A library of stock photos, but limited ability to store your own media. Automated welcome and abandoned cart emails, but no way to create automation flows. Reporting on how your campaigns are going, but no way to test how they’ll perform before setting out. Et cetera. Et cetera.
All this might be acceptable–even commendable–if Constant Contact was attempting to fill the “discount service” market space. But their prices quickly climb higher than almost all their competitors. While they’ve had a very good run so far, it’s difficult to see their business growing if things don’t change.
But it’s not all bad news for Constant Contact. They do several things right: event management is a welcome inclusion, and phone-based customer support is awesome in a time when that’s no longer standard. It’s not in any way a bad service; it’s just had the misfortune to be passed by so many better, cheaper alternatives.
Bottom line: If you’re a freelancer or non-profit operator who anticipates a small subscriber list, or if your priority is to be sending out emails as soon as possible after signing up, Constant Contact is a good choice.
If you plan to grow, or if you want more than a surface level of control over your campaigns, look elsewhere.
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