Constant Contact is the oldest email marketing tool in our email marketing series, with the first iteration of its software available in 1995, eventually taking its current name in 2004.
The tool is also owned by Endurance International, the same company behind large web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostgator and JustHost.
Constant Contact Review
For this review, I fired up Constant Contact to see how it performs as a standalone tool, and in comparison to popular alternatives.
From here on out, I’ll share my experiences using this software, along with what I liked and didn’t like along the way.
System & Segmentation
Constant Contact, like the vast majority of email marketing tools on the market today, uses a tag-based system to sort and segment subscribers.
For most people, one of the first things you’ll look for in regards to subscribers, is importing your current list.
Constant Contact offers a number of ways to do that, including pasting contacts information directly, uploading a CSV, or importing from external applications.
If you choose to upload a CSV, you can add a column called “tags” to apply tags to respective contacts on upload. You can also add multiple tags, each separated by a comma.
As for actually tagging your subscribers prior to import, you can either do that individually or in bulk.
It’s just a case of checking the respective contacts and clicking the “manage tags” button:
So far so good, but what about automated tagging?
One of the most basic examples of this is adding a tag to subscribers who click a specific link in one of my emails.
Unfortunately there was no option in the email editor that would allow me to do that easily.
The next step was to see if it was possible using an automation workflow, and this is when I quickly discovered a huge hole in Constant Contacts offering…
It doesn’t actually support automation workflows.
In fact, apart from very basic sequences, it doesn’t support automation at all, which makes anything outside of manual tagging impossible.
While tags are a core part of Constant Contact’s subscriber management system, it’s completely lacking in terms of automation. Big thumbs down.
As I just noted above, apart from building a simple autoresponder sequence there’s really no automation features as part of this tool.
Zero. Nada. Zilch.
For me, that’s a major blow to Constant Contact.
When you consider how crucial email marketing automation is in 2017, this is something that I imagine many people would find very hard to overlook.
(FYI: apart from Aweber, it’s the only email marketing tool in this series that doesn’t support email automation workflows.)
Since all I can even talk about here is the autoresponder stuff, I’ll give you a quick breakdown of how that works with this tool.
Honestly, it was terrible.
Adding emails to the sequence required multiple steps for each with significant loading times between transitions.
Changing the order of your emails also requires several clicks instead of a simple drag and drop system.
Overall, it’s just very cumbersome and just not up to the standard most would expect today.
Not much else I can say about it, unfortunately.
If you’re looking to use email marketing automation in your business, don’t bother with Constant Contact.
As hard as I looked, I couldn’t find any reference to split-testing within Constant Contact.
Turns out, I’m not alone:
That’s a post from the official forum dating about about 1 year ago.
While the post is evidence enough that this has been requested by their user base, it’s the top response to that question that tells me a lot about how this company operates:
What’s even more interesting is the official response to that question further down the thread.
If that’s not a cop-out, I don’t know what is.
My guess is that their current platform would need a major rework in order to support split-testing capabilities, and they can’t justify the workload to implement such a feature.
This is the cost of being first to market, I suppose?
I should say, there are workarounds to running a split-test with Constant Contact so you can pull it off if you really need to… it’s just a lot slower and a lot more manual.
If you plan to run A/B tests for your email marketing campaigns and you remotely value your time, run for the hills.
Forms are the gateway to email capture, so it’s no surprise that email marketing providers bundle form builders into their suite.
As for Constant Contact, you can find this under the “List Building Tools” tab.
Creating your form is straightforward, but that’s because it gives you very little control in the first place.
For example, here’s what you get in the way of design customization:
Top it off, there are also no other options when it comes to different form types, such as popup or slide-in.
I wish I could find something positive to say about the forms feature, but I can’t.
Extremely basic form builder with limited design and functionality.
If you’ve been caught up in the page builder hype, it’s likely you’re using something like Thrive Content Builder or LeadPages. If that’s the case, these issues won’t be relevant to you anyway.
Constant Contact offers hundreds of pre-designed email templates for various events, occasions and niches.
These are just a few:
While there are plenty to choose from, a lot of these designs feel outdated, and it was difficult to find many that I’d actually use myself.
Clicking on a template will open the editor, which looks like this:
I was pleasantly surprised by how modern the interface felt compared to the rest of the tool, as well as how easy it was to make changes to my template.
Dragging content elements into my template was painless, albeit a little delayed….
And customizing existing elements, like text, was as a simple point and click. Easy peasy.
It was also really nice to be able to see a mobile-version of the email template, just to make sure it looked good on all devices.
It’s safe to say I liked the editor and it’s clear this is one area of the tool that’s been giving a bit more love.
The templates themselves need a good kick into the 21st century, but the email editor really saves the day here.
Constant Contact integrates with 278 different apps and services, including apps like Facebook, Gmail and Shopify.
How does this square up to other email marketing providers?
In terms of raw volume, it doesn’t compete with the likes of MailChimp, which offers around 700 possible integrations.
That said, Constant Contact is still one of the most supported email marketing tools around.
What I really like about their integrations marketplace is that it also incorporates a review system, so you can just how capable each individual integration is.
As an example, here are the reviews for the Facebook integration:
Despite this particular integration being up to par, I have to give credit for even having this review system in place; you just don’t get with most email marketing tools.
What about Zapier?
Fortunately, Constant Contact is supported by Zapier, effectively opening the door to a number of other integrations and possibilities.
This is one area where Constant Contact benefits from it’s age. With a strong library of integrations and Zapier support, you should have no problems fitting this software into your current stack.
Of course, it’s always recommended you check their list of integrations before subscribing to the service.
Tracking & Reporting
Constant Contact boasts a lot of great tracking and reporting features, which is why I was super excited to dive into this aspect of the tool.
The first thing I looked for was how to enable tracking, and strangely enough, there weren’t any options for it.
Turns out, Constant Contact tracks everything by default, and it’s not something you can turn off.
It simplifies things, sure…. but it’s not always necessary.
Some would argue it could even be detrimental to deliverability, since things like link tracking has been known to set off spam filters, which may not be ideal for a high-priority campaign.
In terms of reporting, one thing you can turn on is something called “Early Results”, which is basically a mini-report that goes to your inbox after 48 hours.
For some, that’ll be plenty as far as open and click rates go, but what about more advanced reporting?
Well, you’ll want to head over to the “Reporting” tab.
The confusing thing about this part is, their website shows that some pretty cool visual reports are available within ConstantContact.
Here’s an example:
Call me stupid, but I couldn’t find anything like that.
In fact, after spending a good 15 minutes clicking through everything I could find under the reporting tab, I can only assume it was taken out.
The worst part is, what’s left of the reporting stuff is very basic as far as statistic go.
This is the activity overview:
And here’s the click map:
It works if you’re just looking for standard reporting features, but if you like to geek out on campaign data, don’t use ConstantContact.
Support & Documentation
Like any software company these days, Constant Contact has it’s own knowledge base.
If you’re looking for a quick answer, this is likely where you’ll head to first.
Being an older tool, it’s no surprise that Constant Contact brings back plenty of results for most search terms. The problem, however, is that most of the results were often irrelevant.
For example, looking for documentation on split-testing, the obvious answer was #7, buried among others.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of info in their knowledge base, but it would be nice if it were easier to find as opposed to taking a ‘spaghetti at the wall’ approach.
Another interesting resource was the ‘Help Center’, which is essentially a collection of product training videos:
I thought these were really well put together and I can see them being super useful for someone who’s just getting started with a tool like this (or email marketing in general).
If none of this works for you, there are some other, more direct support options available.
These include phone support, live chat, community forums, and even social media.
For me, live chat is always a go-to support option and I was keen to see how Constant Contact stood up to my demands.
So, I jumped on live chat support and asked about pricing for 25k, 50k and 100k subscribers. For some reason, they told me to call up and refused to give me an actual answer to my question.
(Apparently it’s that difficult to relay some figures to me about the pricing of their product. What a mess.)
The worst part?
Soon after, the chat agent ended the session without so much as a warning. Not great.
Finally, I’ve mentioned the forum aspect a few times now and it does seem to be reasonably active from what I can tell.
I will say though, the number of comments on many of threads weren’t ideal, even for those posted several days/weeks ago – so there’s definitely room for improvement.
Interestingly, I couldn’t find any real Facebook community, which is somewhat expected with Constant Contact having their own forum.
Still, it wouldn’t been nice to have an unofficial Facebook group, just for the convenience.
Overall I was quite impressed with Constant Contact in terms of support, only a tad let down by absence of any significant Facebook community group.
An Important Note On Verification
There is one final thing (quick) I want to point out before I move onto the next section.
That is, account verification.
For some reason, I was unable to send any emails from my Constant Contact account without having to first call them up and “chat” about it.
My theory is that ConstantContact put a restraint on accounts operating within specific markets. In the case of Authority Hacker, that was online marketing.
I don’t necessarily blame them for that, but it was the only email marketing tool where I had to call up and wait on hold for 30 minutes before I could get support onto it.
But that’s where things got really weird.
Once I got through to the support team, they immediately grilled me on Authority Hacker’s business practice, quoting our content on things like “make money online” and “win X amount of marketing tools”, etc.
The whole vibe was wrong.
I spent about 20 minutes explaining the legitimacy of the business, and why publishing content about making money online is not inherently scammy. (I mean, come on, it’s 2017.)
To cut a long story short, I ended up wasting hours of my time on the phone, speaking to multiple support reps, showing examples of the type of email content we would be sending, and ultimately ended up being rejected.
To say I was frustrated is an understatement. I was livid.
It was only when I created a new account for Health Ambition that everything ran smoothly, with no account restrictions or BS rules.
So what’s the takeaway?
If you run a business in online marketing and you don’t want to jump through endless hoops to be able to send a simple email, don’t go anywhere near ConstantContact.
One thing we really wanted to test with all the email marketing tools in this series was deliverability.
As you can imagine, this is quite a difficult thing to test and we spent a lot of time coming on with various ways to do it, but we eventually settled on two separate methods.
- Run the same campaign across all tools and measure open rates
- Use GlockApps to get a more instant, analytical result
I cover our exact process in more detail in the email marketing tools roundup review, so I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in the specifics of these tests.
From our own testing, Constant Contact achieved an open rate of 34.4% in the given time frame.
As for the GlockApps test, here’s a summary screenshot of how it performed in terms of email placement:
To give you a better picture of how this stacks up, I put a table together that showcases and compares the results across all tools in this series.
Here’s what that looks like for Constant Contact:
Aweber is missing some results because they repeatedly refused my import of the GlockApps seed list, meaning I was unable to run the test. Very frustrating to say the least.
Is Constant Contact Right For You?
Now that I’ve covered all the different features and functions of Constant Contact, weighing up the pros and cons and giving my experience along the way — let’s talk about YOU.
As with any tool, Constant Contact isn’t going to be the right choice for everyone, so I’d like to get to the bottom of who exactly this email marketing tool is suitable for.
If you’re looking for email marketing on a budget, Constant Contact’s pricing is at the far end of the scale, and not the end you’re hoping for.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, based on the lowest-tier plan for popular alternatives:
|Tools||Free Plan||1,000 subs||10,000 subs||25,000 subs||50,000 subs||100,000 subs|
|No||$29 p/m||$139 p/m||$225 p/m||$299 p/m||$459 p/m|
|No||$29 p/m||$69 p/m||$149 p/m||$392 p/m||$792 p/m|
|No||$45 p/m||$95 p/m||$295 p/m||$335 p/m||$595 p/m|
|No||$29 p/m||$119 p/m||$199 p/m||$379 p/m||$679 p/m|
|Yes||$49 p/m||$149 p/m||$254 p/m||$429 p/m||$779 p/m|
|No||$15 p/m||$65 p/m||$145 p/m||$250 p/m||$450 p/m|
|Yes||$15 p/m||$75 p/m||$150 p/m||$240 p/m||$475 p/m|
As you can see, Constant Contact is priced much higher than most of the competition, and given the outcome of this review, it’s very hard to justify the additional cost.
The one thing going for Constant Contact here is the 60-day free trial they offer, and while it’s not exactly a free plan, it does have the longest trial duration of any tool I’ve reviewed.
If you’re on a tight budget, however, that’s unlikely to change much over a 2-month period, but even if it did… I couldn’t recommend Constant Contact for the price.
Overall, this should be an easy email marketing tool to cross off your list.
If you’re really looking to hold back the pennies, MailChimp’s free plan allows up to 2,000 subscribers and now includes automations, making it a very attractive option.
Granted, Constant Contact isn’t the most intuitive, but it’s not the most complicated, either.
The main reason for that, in my opinion, is that it’s lacking in many features that would inherently make an email marketing tool harder to grasp.
Usually, that’d be a good thing for a beginner, but in this case I believe some of it’s features and limitations are detrimental to even basic email marketing practice.
The email templates are old and outdated, as is the form builder and tag-manager.
The minute you start venturing into automation (other than a simple autoresponder sequence), you’ll immediately hit a brick wall.
Overall, I can’t recommend Constant Contact for beginners, especially when tools like ConvertKit are easier to use and significantly more powerful.
This is a biiiiig no.
The one thing serious marketers need from their email marketing tool in 2017 is is some killer automation features, and Constant Contact just isn’t up to the task.
No automation workflows.
No intelligent, behaviour-based tagging.
No conditional logic.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also missing any form of email split-testing, as well as possibly the most rudimentary form builder I’ve ever seen. (You can forget popups and slide-ins, too.)
Prior to this review, ConstantContact was barely on my radar and had never even been recommended to me by anyone in my circle.
Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen of this tool throughout my testing, it’s easy to see why.
Everything about it just feels dated, even down to the individual functions and features that ultimately make it much less enjoyable to use over its younger competitors.
The lack of automations, modern email templates, form types, and split-testing leaves what I can only describe as an overpriced barebones email marketing provider.
With easier and, in some cases, more affordable tools like ActiveCampaign, Drip and ConvertKit on the market, I struggle to find any scenario where Constant Contact is the ideal solution.