When I started my business in 2009, I signed up with Constant Contact to be my email solution provider. I had checked out MailChimp, but wasn’t impressed with their interface. It seemed too complicated to create an email campaign. It would have been cheaper to use – you can send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for FREE! But I decided to pay for Constant Contact. (Their prices start at $15 for 0-500 contacts, $30 for 501-2500 contacts. You can save 10% if you prepay for 6 months, 15% for 1 year.)
I’ve been a satisfied customer ever since and even signed up to be a Constant Contact partner. I was able to defray the cost of the email marketing service by signing up my clients. Over the last few years, Constant Contact has improved their services – especially in the realm of integrating social media. But they’ve also added other products like event planning, social campaigns, offers (like Groupon deals) and surveys.
This is all well and good, except that in the last six months, they overhauled their contact management system, and that’s when I started having problems. At one point, my assistant accidentally deleted all of my contacts! Luckily, we were able to get them back, but when I contacted customer support, they admitted there was a flaw that enabled the contacts to be deleted too easily. It was at that point that I decided to investigate MailChimp again.
What I discovered was a pleasant surprise. MailChimp is not the same service it was in 2009. It has changed with the times, for the better. Here’s my comparison of the companies’ key features:
MailChimp is the hands down winner when it comes to creating email campaigns. Why? For one thing, [Tweet “MailChimp allows you to run an A/B campaign so you can test subject lines, from names and delivery date/times.”] Let’s say you want to test a subject line. You then determine how MailChimp should split the campaign, and how a winner should be chosen – such as by open rate, by click rate, or manual. They’ll run a test on a segment of the list and when a winner is chosen, they’ll send the remaining percentage of the list the email according to the timeframe you choose, which can be in hours or days.
Constant Contact does not offer this service. If you want to run an A/B test, you have to divide your list into segments yourself, and set the schedule for when the mail will be delivered. You’ll only be able to tell a winner by looking at the results after all emails are sent.
MailChimp also lets you create RSS-Driven campaigns so you can turn your blog content into a newsletter quickly and easily. The emails are automatically triggered to go out when your RSS feed is updated with new content. You can control how frequently you send out the information as you set up your campaign.
Constant Contact allows you to import RSS content into an email, but it does not send out automatic email messages.
MailChimp even lets you conduct an inbox inspection so you can see your email in your subscribers’ favorite email clients. This helps you ensure it appears pixel perfect and avoids spam filters. This feature is only for testing and doesn’t send an email.
Constant Contact does not have this feature.
Both MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to send test emails so you can preview your campaigns before they go live. Both services will send a text and HTML version, but MailChimp goes a step further and lets you see how your email displays on a smartphone.
Lists / Contacts
MailChimp lets you create segments from your main subscriber lists. You can specify different criteria, such as date added or campaign activity – like opening an email or clicking on a link. What’s great about this is that once you set up the criteria, MailChimp will automatically add subscribers to the segment anytime they meet the criteria.
Constant Contact allows you set up as many different lists of contacts as you want, but you have to manually move subscribers into the different lists. For instance, I used to have a list called “newsletter clicks.” After I sent out a newsletter, I would review the stats and bring up the list of people who clicked on a link. I would check the box at the top of the list to highlight all of the email addresses, and then click on the command, “add to email lists.” A new window would open with all of my lists, and I could select which list to add the email addresses. This process takes a lot more time because I would have to review every email I sent out, where MailChimp did the segmenting on its own.
The final feature that converted me from a Constant Contact customer to MailChimp is that company’s mobile app. I can access my MailChimp account on my smartphone and review reports, lists and campaigns. Constant Contact does NOT have a mobile app.
There are a few other features that I like about MailChimp, but these were the most important for my business. I’d love to hear what you think. Which email solution provider do you use and why? Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!