Today our email marketing guru Liz goes over the differences between email marketing heavyweights: MailChimp and Constant Contact. What she found surprised her. She also lets us know if either can take the place of a full Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).

Sandro references an email list by the Oakland police which can be found at this tweet.

Episode 0291

MailChimp v Constant Contact

Sandro: [00:00:02] Welcome back to Liz and Sandro’s Marketing Podcast. We’re the podcast that helps you small business grow and stay on top of the digital marketing landscape. And we do that through talking about social media, SEO, email marketing, reputation management and so much more. And speaking of email marketing, today our email maven Liz is going to give us a comparison MailChimp vs Constant Contact.

Liz: [00:00:27] So we recently did a comparison on a couple of SEO tools. Moz and Ahrefs. Was a third one in there? SEMRush. Yes that episode got great feedback and I was like “hey let’s do a comparison about MailChimp and Constant Contact.” Those are obviously two of the biggest e-mail marketing platforms on the market right now. Rather than do general pros and cons I looked at each platform in detail and I am organizing this episode into three segments that I think are really important for email marketing so I’m going to talk about: how easy it is to actually build emails. I’m going to talk about how easy it is to organize and segment your contacts into lists and things like that. And then setting up automations: automated emails.

Liz: [00:01:17] I’m going to say right off the bat I was really surprised at how much I liked Constant Contact. It’s probably been a good 6/7 years. Since we have been all in on MailChimp. I’ve used Constant Contact very sporadically over the last 7 years and typically it’s when we have a client who is doing their email marketing in-house or we’re not involved with it.

Liz: [00:01:43] But periodically they’ll have us get in there and take a look at stuff and I think it was maybe even a year ago that I was in there again in a client’s account. And you know I was so frustrated it was that same interface that just it just it just wasn’t good just you know reinforced how much I loved MailChimp. But going through this exercise for this episode, like I said I was really shocked actually. And I’ll get into some of the specifics.

Liz: [00:02:08] So let’s talk about building e-mails first. Both of these platforms have you know the drag and drop / WYSIWYG editor which I find so easy to use. You can add a text block, add a button, an image. All of that is super easy to do. But this is where again I was pleasantly surprised with Constant Contact. Their interface is new. It seems to be just as simple as MailChimp! So I’m really excited about that. One of the other things that I again was pleasantly surprised about with Constant Contact is. . . So I created a new account because it had been a long time since I had my own account and I went to build the first email and one of the things they asked me to do was input my website and they would scan my Web site and build a template based on my website which they did! And it was actually a half decent template! I mean you know if I was really wanting to make it in line with my brand and everything I would have made some tweaks but you know for a small business that’s just getting started with email marketing. I was like, “Wow! That’s a pretty cool feature!”

Liz: [00:03:12] I also really like that Constant Contact has you know some pre-built layouts and they have some other what they’re calling action blocks that I really like. So you can drop in an RSVP for an event or donation if you’re a nonprofits. Yeah, there’s some really good things here that that I had never seen before so I. Like I said I am, I’m liking it. All in all though I think from a from a very high level I think generally speaking both of these platforms offer a very easy way to build emails so if you are again a newbie to email marketing I think you’ll be comfortable with either of these options.

Liz: [00:03:51] So let’s chat about organizing contacts. Both platforms allow you to create lists. Obviously you’re going to start with some simple data like the name and email. Both platforms give you the option to add add more if you have it: address, phone, birthday. There’s a lot that you can add to these platforms but I will caution you and say that yeah you can you can store a lot of info in here but if I do find that these are not full CRMs. You know you’re not going to get some of the functionality that that a true CRM is going to give you. So just keep that in mind and I’ll actually come back to that is at the end of this episode. But building lists in both MailChimp and Constant Contact is very easy. They also both allow you to segment your contacts but this is where I see some differences.

Liz: [00:04:38] So MailChimp uses something called Groups. I’ve played around with this many times. Truthfully I find it to be a little cumbersome to set up once you get in there and set it up and everybody that’s working on the system knows you know how the segmentation is built. You know it it seems to go smoothly but like I said it can be a little frustrating. Again, pleasantly surprised with Constant Contact. They use something called Tags. When I first saw this I was like, “oh my gosh this is so simple is it even worth it? What is this going to give the, you know the e-mail user?” But the more I played around with it and the more I read about it I was like, “oh! Sometimes simpler is actually better!” Because you can tag contacts as you know a VIP customer or someone who hasn’t opened e-mails recently. Some of this you can use when you’re actually emailing. So you can e-mail different segments but some of it can just be strictly for your internal use. And it was very easy to create tags and click people or uncheck people as a certain tag whereas again with MailChimp, more robust, but at the same time a little bit more cumbersome.

Sandro: [00:05:47] So you can tag people like “Friends of the Owner” or “knows my mom” or something, I don’t know.

Liz: [00:05:52] Yeah or by location.

Sandro: [00:05:54] Oh yeah. If you’re an auto shop I guess you could say “owns a Toyota” “owns a Volkswagen” or. . .

Liz: [00:05:59] Yeah people that are interested in a certain product like these people are interested in sunglasses or these people are interested in our t shirts. Yeah.

Sandro: [00:06:06] Got it. OK. Yeah that’s pretty cool. I have not used Constant Contact in about six or seven, eight years and. . .

Liz: [00:06:13] Yeah I know it was bad really bad.

Liz: [00:06:16] So now let’s talk about automations. Again I will say that both of these platforms are very easy to use the system guides you through the process of creating an automation and actually let me step back and clarify what I mean by automation. So a great example of this would be if someone signs up to your list your General Newsletter List and you wanted to do a series of three Welcome emails. You can write those emails. Build them and using the automation feature set those up to go out you know once a week for the next three weeks it’s a really great feature to have. But yes like I said both of these platforms make it really easy to do this. The system guides you through the process of creating the automation setting the trigger building designing the emails and then setting in your delays so again maybe you know immediately within the hour the first e-mail goes out. A week later the second. And then two weeks later the third e-mail goes out. From what I have tested, I do think MailChimp has a few more options in terms of triggers which is nice. I actually do think that MailChimp is probably a little more e-commerce friendly. I do see that Constant Contact has a Shopify integration. I didn’t play around with that too much. Again I’m a little bit more familiar with MailChimp so I just I know that they’ve got a lot for e-commerce. Things like shopping cart abandonment which is a very regular thing setting up some automations for people who leave things in their cart and didn’t purchase it can be really, really helpful.

Liz: [00:07:50] And then on the flip side from big picture, from as I was playing around with all of us I’m actually sitting here thinking that Constant Contact maybe a little bit more friendly for nonprofits. So it’s something to consider. And you know what I’ll say about that in general, is that, take your time selecting a system. Don’t rush into anything. I had a client that you know I kind of casually mentioned for years, “oh you might want to look at some other systems you know look at some CRM systems and see what might be a good fit.” And next thing I know like all of a sudden that they were using a new CRM system and it was it was bad. It was it was really bad. And they, I know that they spent hours and hours getting it all set up trying to learn it trying to make it work. And ultimately they. . . For now they have actually just gone back to using MailChimp like I think for where they’re at as an organization it’s what they need. We’ll continue to work within the limitations of it and that’s fine. But anything whether it’s an email marketing platform or a more robust CRM system, take your time like, go in and get those test accounts or the free trials and play around with it. You know, upload a test list build an e-mail play around with it see how it’s going to look on your phone. You know different things like that because you don’t want to find yourself three months into a system you’ve invested you know tens or hundreds of hours getting everything set up and it’s you know it’s just not going to work for you. That’s that’s a really frustrating place to be in. So, so do some due diligence upfront and I think you’ll be in a good position to make a selection on the right system that’s going to be good for your company organization.

Liz: [00:09:34] The other thing I will say and this is my experience with CRMs, not just email marketing platforms. No system is going to be perfect. You know there’s always going to be things that just don’t quite work the way you want it to and unless you’re willing to hire a developer and build a custom system at a cost of who knows, $20, $30, $40 thousand dollars. You know, working with a system like MailChimp, Constant Contact like it’s you can work within the parameters and do a lot you can have a lot of great success with email marketing. You may have to make a couple of sacrifices. But, big picture, totally worth it.

Liz: [00:10:10] The other thing I should touch on quickly is pricing for both of these platforms. Both of them are comparable in price especially when you are ready to upgrade and get some of those paid only features. What I will say is fantastic about MailChimp is their Forever Free account. You are limited on, I think it’s 2000 contacts and the number of e-mails that you can send in a month. And you don’t have access to every feature. But for someone who is just getting started with email marketing I love that! That Forever Free like you can get in there play around you know maybe you’re building a business and you don’t come back to email marketing for three months like your account’s still there which is awesome!

Liz: [00:10:46] And that’s probably another reason why for so many years we were placing clients within MailChimp because I was working with a lot of smaller businesses who weren’t ready to invest tons of money into email marketing you know they were just starting to dip their toes into it. As I’m working more and more with larger businesses, you know it’s like yeah OK you know what system do we need there are you know a lot of these systems are pretty comparable in price. Let’s pick one and get going. But yeah I do love that MailChimp has that Forever Free option. I think that’s really nice.

Sandro: [00:11:17] I just like MailChimp, they’ll give you a high five with a paw when you’re ready to go.

Liz: [00:11:20] Yes! “Campaign Sent” high fives!

Sandro: [00:11:23] And honestly, working with cinemas for the Forever Free, they do brand the MailChimp at the bottom of every e-mail, correct?

Liz: [00:11:32] They do.

Sandro: [00:11:33] And that’s fine.

Liz: [00:11:33] And that doesn’t bother me. I mean I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get in my inbox that still have the MailChimp or the Constant content Constant Contact branding at the bottom doesn’t bother me at all.

Sandro: [00:11:42] I was going to say, our cinema clients they get e-mails from major studios major studios I won’t name but may or may not put out big superhero movies that you’ve seen, that their e-mails at the very bottom still say MailChimp. Like they don’t pay the 30 or 40 bucks.

Liz: [00:11:56] Right, I mean these are billion dollar companies who are just they’re either using the free MailChimp account or they didn’t go in and uncheck the buttons to remove the branding that is so funny.

Sandro: [00:12:07] And Liz going back to your thought on lists. I mentioned this tweet to you earlier and it’s pretty embarrassing: the Oakland Police Department uses MailChimp apparently and they let you unsubscribe from certain lists & they had, it looks like about 15 lists, e-mail lists that you could subscribe to from the Oakland Police Department. But when you go to unsubscribe it asks you “which e-mail list would you like to unsubscribe from?” And it shows you all 15 of their lists. And unfortunately they were segregated by No African-Americans. One, two three of them say no African-Americans! One of them says Democrats Only one of them says Women Only once since Republicans Only. And I get the whole separation of some lists, some of the other lists were by neighborhood or by suburb. Which is fine. But maybe just keep in mind that those lists can be made publicly really easy, is there a way to turn these off?

Liz: [00:13:02] Well and so that’s that’s what I get frustrated about. Related, for me it’s specifically related to group so yeah what you’re talking about is lists and some of that is very visible you have to be very mindful of what you’re naming your lists. You know I’ve as I’ve been in there playing around I’m thinking “oh ok so I could group my my clients by A, B & C clients!” But then they can see that. I don’t want I don’t want my C client to know they’re a C client. I want them to think that they are an A client obviously. And with groups I want to segment people in groups and using wording and terminology that makes sense to us internally. But then again the end user could potentially see that and it makes it really tricky.

Liz: [00:13:43] And yeah my recommendation is to get in there and play around with it and actually see what this looks like on the back end and what the consumer can potentially see and this is what I talk about when I say that MailChimp & Constant Contact are fantastic platforms but this is where they start to fall short of being a CRM that you know can really kick your marketing up to the next level.

Liz: [00:14:05] Again depending on where you are in you know in your business this might be all that you need you may not be ready for a full on CRM but yeah know I’m glad you brought that up because you keep keep in mind that some of this info and especially with GDPR and people you know maybe subscribing to one list or unsubscribing to another like yeah they’re they’re going to be able to see some of that and you’ve got to be mindful. So. . .

Sandro: [00:14:28] Wow, that is a lot and that’s awesome. Thanks so much for this comparison Liz. I never even thought of going back to Constant Contact but maybe there’s a reason for it. Or maybe there’s reason to look at it again.

Liz: [00:14:38] I think so and I think one of the things that I’m I’m at least going to be doing for my business. Maybe we could do this for the podcast as well as I wanted to do specifically for nonprofits. You know what email marketing platform would be best for them? I truthfully wasn’t even thinking about including Constant Contact. And I say that because some of my nonprofits are using MailChimp. And again I see all of these e-commerce capabilities and I’m like, “well that’s not really what we’re doing as a nonprofit.” And I’m seeing that Constant Contact maybe could be good. And I don’t know if I want to do a comparison of MailChimp Constant Contact and maybe one other platform. Again from a nonprofit perspective because because I do think that’s important I think really again considering what industry you’re in as you’re evaluating these tools, you know what’s what’s going to work best for what we’re trying to accomplish? Because the needs of a restaurant or a plumbing company or a nonprofit are so different.

Sandro: [00:15:34] Absolutely and there’s no one size fits all obviously. Thank you Liz and thank you for listening. You will find us wherever you find your favorite podcast including iTunes and Google Play. If you like what you hear, we would love a review. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and you can send us an email if you have a question or any feedback. We love feedback and questions. We’ll give you a shout out and link back to your site. Thank you again for joining us and we’ll see you next time.