Constant Contact is a popular entry-level Web-based service for the creation, distribution and management of email newsletters. It is optimized for non-techies who want a fast, easy answer for low-to-moderate volume email promotions. Over 200,000 small businesses, associations, non-profit organizations and Realtors are said to be utilizing their online service.
While not “hiccup” free, the service fills a market need. I found Constant Contact to be an affordable answer for small organizations that lack inhouse technical resources, but wish to leverage low-cost email marketing to promote their products or services.
Constant Contact provides easy-to-use tools for developing attractive email newsletters, managing email lists, and handling distribution issues (compliance with spam laws, bounces, unsubscribes and filters). It also provides tracking tools and reports for evaluating results. Moreover, they have added the ability to set up autoresponder message for newsletter sign-ups. And of course, you can also schedule a series of emails to a segment of your contact base in an autoresponder-like fashion.
Recently, Constant Contact added two optional upgrades – the abilities to conduct online surveys (with results analysis) and manage events. So, if you are looking for feedback from your customers and prospects, now you can conduct a survey as part of your monthly email newsletter. Want to hold a product or service seminar? Now everything – broadcasting the event, sign-ups, emails to participants, etc. – can be accomplished with Constant Contact. If you have ever created and managed an event, you’ll realize how powerful this canned capability is.
If you are familiar with the features and functionality of any word-processing program, then you can easily use Constant Contact for your email campaigns. They have a plethora of templates, tutorials, guides and “step-by-step” screens which ensure that anyone can create email masterpieces. Email pieces can contain one or more links to landing pages on your Website or even PayPal buttons for direct purchases.
Constant Contact makes it easy to sign up for their service. They offer a sixty-day free trial without a credit card requirement (for up to one hundred email contacts), pricing is attractive (starting at just $15 monthly for up to 500 email contacts, but no limit on the number of emails that can be sent each month), there is no software to purchase or install, and no long-term contract is required.
As with any Web-based interactive service, however, Constant Contact is recommended only for those who have a DSL or cable Internet connection. Otherwise, you may be in for a frustrating experience — it can take a while for your newsletter editing inputs to show up on the browser screen.
The newsletter creation process itself is simple. It involves modifying your choice of several newsletter templates with your own content and images. Constant Contact has worked hard to make this an easy process. In addition to modifying overall appearance (background color, font, etc.), you can customize the content and look of each template section employing tools familiar to any Microsoft Word user.
A word of caution here. There are some quirks. Sometimes, what you want to happen doesn’t happen. For example, I found that font and spacing actions sometimes produced unsought results. Despite an “undo” button, you might just have to close the newsletter editing function, then re-open it to eliminate unintended results. It thus pays to “save’ your work frequently as you go along. But, if you know a little HTML, you can open a “code” window and usually resolve these mishaps in quick fashion.
Here is a hint — copy any text prepared in a word-processing application or copied from a Website to the Microsoft Notepad before inserting it into the Constant Content newsletter template. This will remove any underlying formatting code that could affect your newsletter display.
I particularly like their list import capabilities. Constant Contact offers a downloadable tool for easily importing selected contacts from Microsoft Outlook. Other lists can be imported in.csv,.txt and.xml formats. And your lists can be segmented for targeted email campaigns.
A newsletter sign-up form or button is automatically generated for you. All you have to do is copy its underlying HTML into one or more pages on your Website to promote your newsletter to site visitors. Obviously, you will get more subscribers if you also offer an incentive, such as a free report or discount, to sign-up for your free newsletter.
But Constant Contact is about more than just sending out newsletters. It also allows you to set up email promotional campaigns. For instance, you can modify their templates to promote events, seasonal specials, or product announcements. These can then be sent to targeted segments of your email list(s) along with embedded coupons or links to special offers.
In summary, Constant Contact gets “two thumbs up” for being an affordable, hassle-free solution for low volume emailings (up to a thousand or so contacts). Its ease-of-use, extensive functionality, variety of templates and helpful learning resources make Constant Contact an excellent answer for small businesses and real estate professionals. With Constant Contact, you can quickly launch and easily manage professional-looking newsletters and other email promotions without a steep learning curve or breaking your wallet.