Depending on which side of the line you are, email marketing is either the bane of your life or a necessary evil that turns the wheels of commerce with increased velocity.
Marketing campaigns are often built around a combination of targeted ad placement and an email campaign. They’re used because most people browse the internet and occasionally scan their inbox, hopefully.
Anyone can write an email and launch it at numerous recipients but making it eye-catching enough for people to not immediately hit delete and to track those that might be interested in the message isn’t straightforward.
Constant Contact is a tool for designing marketing emails and those that are follow-ups to other interactions, like e-commerce abandoned carts. And, then track and report on the success, or failure, of that exercise.
It also provides help on growing your contact lists and creating a contact workflow to manage clients effectively.
But, in an increasingly cut-throat market, does Constant Contact have all it takes to succeed in email marketing?
Constant Contact is primarily a web-based tool that allows you to design a marketing campaign using emails that can be based on a wide selection of templates or made entirely from scratch.
Campaigns can be email, email automated, events or surveys. Each campaign type has different input requirements depending on the profile of communication needed; the event system allows recipients to fill out a registration form that you can easily redefine.
What you can’t do is create a single campaign that has more than one type, but you could reuse a contact list for more than one campaign.
Once you’ve defined the campaign and its associated communications, you can import a list of recipients from a wide range of sources and send them out.
To complete the circle each campaign is tracked to determine if the recipients received, opened and even clicked on links within the content.
If this all sounds remarkably straightforward, it mostly is.
The interface is clean and easy to follow, features work as you’d expect, and most marketing people should be able to deliver a campaign and assess its success using this tool.
Probably the most applicable sector for this tool is event planning, as that campaign is the best considered. You can invite people to register, process them to identify those that are coming, and if you are on the Email Plus plan it can even generate ticketing for you.
Its main weakness is that what it generates might be considered spam by the recipient’s email service, and there isn’t any easy way to test for that or a means to make the email appear to be coming from the customer’s domain.
Using a product like Constant Contact in isolation isn’t practical, because nobody wants to type in huge lists of personal details that already exist elsewhere.
To avoid this, and the input errors it would inevitably generate, Constant Contact has a wide selection of integrations that enable contact lists to be sourced from numerous sources.
Some, like Facebook, Gmail, Office 365 and iOS are free, but not all. Connecting to Xero, for example, costs a monthly fee of $9, and the Shopify Connector is $5 per month to use.
Currently Constant Contact lists 444 integrations, so the likelihood is that the one you want is included, the only question will be if it is free or there is a charge for using it?
But we also need to mention that most of these integrations are merely a reorganisation of data into CSV format or similar, and then a subsequent import.
Therefore, should the email address of any contact be changed in Salesforce, for example, then those changes won’t be reflected in the imported list existing in Constant Contact without re-importing. And, as there isn’t a way to selectively replace, that could end up with significant handcrafting for those with often updated data.
Before we talk about the value of this service, we need to talk about the costs, logically.
Initially, you are presented with a choice between two plans, EMAIL and EMAIL Plus start at $20 and $45 respectively.
The Plus service has some extra features, like dynamic content and event marketing, but what’s more important is that each is limited to a specific limit of contacts.
At the lowest price point for either plan, you are allowed a maximum of 500 subscribers, scaling from costs more and having 10,000 contacts costs $95 or $195 depending on the chosen plan.
You can get discounts if you pay biannually or yearly, and extra reductions for non-profit organisations are available.
The largest number of contacts available is 50,000, placing Constant Contact in the small business marketing sector, and not a facility that medium-sized businesses or corporates would normally use.
Whatever way you slice those numbers, the cost per contact is rather high, and you may find that you need to constantly purge contacts that you’ve had little success with to include those with better prospects.
What you are mostly paying for here is a high delivery rate, although if you don’t abuse any email system, those are achievable.
Where it makes more commercial sense if for those in event management, where they have a specific seminar or trade show that they want to invite people and keep them in the loop while they’re attending.
The extra tools included in the Plus plan for this use and other business-specific needs could be invaluable to those involved in those exact projects. And, unless they have an event every month, they could subscribe just for those periods.
If cost is one weakness, then another is the relatively simple nature of the automation that’s possible. What it lacks is branching workflows, where contacts might be divided into multiple outcomes, each of them requiring different responses and processes.
Having triggers for email opening and clicking on links within the email is useful, but those in email marketing are looking for more sophisticated conditional responses that can reduce their workload and increase their success rate.
Without the ability to offer greater workflow control, the price of Constant Contact looks distinctly high, especially when you consider what some lower priced tools offer.
At this price point, you can get some very powerful solutions, like ActiveCampaign, that make Constant Contact seem very niche in its scope.
There is relatively little wrong with this tool if you fit into one of the business models that it supports well, but for general use, this solution isn’t the best value for money.